Monday, 30 November 2009

Transporter of Delight - Update

The Iveco transporter continues to forge along, unlike its real life counterpart that once again is in bits up at Doncaster, much to the dismay of the mechanics who are trying to bolt it back together again. Presumably our accountants are also eagerly awaiting the subsequent bill with much enthusiasm. Still, that’s what happens when you have it ‘serviced’ for three years by an alleged mechanic who struts about his yard in cowboy boots and a Stetson. Yee hah!

The model is coming along nicely with most parts complete, so time for an update on the story:

Chassis Unit

The Actros and Iveco components have been seamlessly joined, if you don’t look too closely. The engine is nice and clean, but to maintain a degree of authenticity, I’m not changing any filters until 2012. The ladder glued to the front bumper is to allow access to the front overhang of the top deck, although it rarely sees any use as you need to be a cross between a contortionist and high wire trapeze act to strap down cars at this point.

Cab Bodyshell

Awaiting decals. That’s it.

Body Decks

This wasn’t the easiest of paint jobs, given the amount of nooks and crannies that managed to avoid each successive coat of paint. As the lorry is a UK model I had to add safety rails to the top deck, because that nice Emma at Health & Safety is worried that I’ll fall off the side – presumably roll off in my sleep when taking forty winks in the summer. We don’t call it the sun deck for nothing, you know.


The original trailer was a double-decker, but we don’t have any of those, and just use single deck trailers like this. Not that I can actually use them, given the enthusiasm of the Nottinghamshire DVLA to find fault with my class one driving skills. Driving too close to parked cars – my arse. Hitting a car is too close. Missing it is a success story is in my book. And given that I was in narrow high street lanes at the time, if I’d strayed over the white line for a bit more space then no doubt I’d have been done for impeding the flow of traffic, which is what happened the previous bloody time! There’s just no pleasing Civil Servant box tickers these days. As my instructor told me after the last attempt, “You have no problem handling or driving the truck. You just can’t pass the test!” Surely one should cancel out the other? But not in the world of pen-pushers, it would seem. Anyway, I’ll leave that there, or it might just come across as sour grapes. Which I’d be happy to deliver to the DVLA for Christmas, but only in a rigid.

Where was I? Oh yes, the trailer - consequently a bit of surgery was required. A nice touch is the separate loading ramps, which can just been seen poking out the rear, painted aluminium. The correct numberplate for the Iveco has been added as well.

Cab Interior

Home from home. It looks a bit messy, but I’m assuming that I’ve just come back to it after a day off, and Carl took it out yesterday. Yes, there’s a prototype for everything. I followed the real thing as closely as possible, hence the tan coloured seats, driver in company colours and various detailing bits, such as my workbag, flask on the dash and the red battery charger for starting cars with flat batteries (most of them). Items such as the road atlas, hi-viz jacket hanging on the rear bulkhead (I don’t wear it as it doesn’t match my outfit), newspapers, clipboard and paperwork come from the excellent Ten Commandments HGV detailing pack. The same pack also provided the tax disc and operators licence that are attached to the windscreen, an incredibly fiddly job, but really makes a difference to the completed model.

All that’s left is applying the decals that I knocked up using Crafty Computer Papers’ waterslide decals – however, I’m waiting for the delivery of varnish before this can be accomplished.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

I’ve been itching to try out my new Fuji camera, and today provided the perfect opportunity – the start of the Nene Valley Railway ‘Santa Special’ season of running days. The weather was appalling when I woke up with a very heavy downpour over Grantham, but the forecast sounded reasonable – and to give the camera a work out, I didn’t want summery conditions anyway.

Rather than hike across muddy fields to my usual haunts, I decided to take the bike out for a run and stick to the many cycle paths around Ferry Meadows. However, the recent sustained rainstorms that hit the south (Peterborough is the south as far as I’m concerned) had drenched the park as well, so in a very short amount of time I was wearing large amounts of Ferry Meadows en route to the railway.

The Nene Valley Railway puts a lot of effort into its Santa Specials. The foreign coaches are used, with four Danish open seconds coupled to the luxury Orient Express Wagon Lits for first class passengers, and make an impressive rake. Presumably Santa does the Wagon Lits, whilst the riff-raff have to make do with an elf or two. To avoid run-rounds and shunting on the tight turnarounds, the train is top and tailed with class 14 D9516 on the Peterborough end, and 73050 City of Peterborough at the Wansford end. Three trains would run today (5 in the run up to Christmas) and I planned to shoot all of them, in both video and still mode to see what the results would be like.

First stop was at the river bridge in Ferry Meadows Park, as this spot allows photography of a long stretch of line. I was trying out continuous shooting here, plus changing exposure settings to account for the weather – at this point the sun was out, but dodging between passing clouds so that one minute it was bright light, then straight into dark shadow. Great stuff. This shot shows the tailing loco as it trundled past:

And from the same location, the full 10X optical zoom of the camera took a great crisp shot as the train crossed the bridge.

For the return trip with 73050 leading, I ventured down to the Golf Course level crossing for a spot of video, in order to catch the train rounding the bend. I have to say that the results were less than impressive, and didn’t match stills quality at all. The video quality was considerably inferior to the Samsung’s effort as well, shot at 640 x 320 resolution, as always:

Back on the bike for the next train; the sky had cleared and there were some fantastic low-sun conditions that would make for some great lighting. There is a lovely spot of line just made for these conditions, but it meant abandoning commonsense and going cross-country on the bike. Fortunately I’m no stranger to making daft decisions, so I headed off regardless. Now here’s a thing: if we can have four-wheel drive for off road cars – well, Tesco’s carpark at least – how about two wheel drive for bikes? I negotiated a bridleway that seemed to be six inches of pure mud, and the back wheel was sliding all over the place, as well as lurching alarmingly from side to side threatening to tip me off. It was a relief to get to get to the end, where a small footbridge connected with the fields I planned to set up in. Except that I’d forgotten all about the stiles – oh goody! Manhandling a muddy bike over two stiles in late November is about as much fun as it sounds.

Of course, after all this dirty and time consuming labour, the clouds returned to obscure the sun, the train was 15 minutes late and the video quality was diabolical. So that was well worth the effort then.

For the last run of the day, I chose Mill Lane overbridge. The sky was by now very dark, and the first rain was beginning fall. This was actually quite useful in a way – the poor light would be a good test of the camera, especially as I’d be pointing it downwards into a cutting in low light. I tweaked the exposure – having stepped up from point-and-shoot, I’m learning on the job – and set to continuous shooting again just to see what would happen. And the results are in:

Not bad at all, the moving train has a little motion blurring evident, but quite acceptable pictures overall. As it would only be half an hour before the train returned on the last run home, I decided to stay for it, and cycled down to the river bridge again. The rain had been umming and erring about starting properly for the last 20 minutes, and now decided that yes!, time for a downpour. Any normal person would have packed up and headed for home, but normality and I rarely see eye-to-eye. I poured myself a coffee, finished the Custard Creams and stayed put.

The last shots would be video; this time not using the zoom in movie mode as the results with it on are pretty dismal. Some rain fell on the lens, but didn’t cause too many issues with the film – this was the best piece of video all day, but picture quality falls far short of the Samsung - although, conversely, the soundtrack is awesome!

Overall conclusions for the day: I’m very impressed with the photographs from the test results, especially the zoom and low light. These are very pleasing quality, and a big step up from the Samsung. I’d like to try some night time shots as well. Video was a disappointment in terms of quality – the Samsung definitely outperforms the Fuji in all areas except sound. There was no wind noise today – possibly because there was no wind to speak of – and the audio of the train is clearly defined. Fortunately I plan to carry both cameras in the Grumpy Git bag – along with the even more important flask and box of biscuits – and I’m looking forward to the next outing. But first, I need to get these trousers into the washing machine …

Now where did I leave the hosepipe?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Cut, Shunt and Vote For Your Favourite Dancer

It’s been a hectic time on the Grumpy workbench.  The buildings that I mentioned below have been painted up and despatched to Warley Exhibition with The Apprentice on Saturday morning for display on the Ten Commandments stand.  I’m no fan of Warley at all; it’s too big, too busy and crowded so that you can’t see anything and it costs around a tenner to leave your car in a carpark somewhere in Somerset – leaving you with the choice of a hike that Sir Ranulph Fiennes would think twice about, or a bus ride with 150 bobble hats, none of whom have ever watched a Lynx commercial and thought, ‘Eh up, deodorant -what a great idea!  Not only will I smell nice, some bird will drop her knickers for me.’  Or have I misinterpreted the ad?  Of course, this could easily backfire at Warley, and Pete Waterman would drop his … no, no, no, let’s not go there.  Anyway, based on bitter and aromatic previous experiences, I decided not to go.  Other duties beckoned over the weekend – a trip to the Nene Valley that I cancelled due to inclement weather conditions (fair weather photographer and proud of it) and Christmas shopping, after Zoë Ball cheerfully woke me up with the news that the great event is a mere 34 days away.  In case you’re wondering, Zoë was on Radio 2.  She didn’t bring me my Weetabix in person and casually drop Christmas into the conversation.  Maybe next year.

Modelling has made good progress lately, and along with the buildings I’ve now got umpteen coats of primer and gloss white onto the Contikits train, ready for application of the livery itself.  I’ve also made progress with the car transporter, seeing as I had the aerosols out.

The chassis of the Actros truck has been cut, and the Iveco artic unit underframe has had similar treatment in order that I can cut-and-shunt the Iveco cab onto the truck itself.  Joining the two bits together was tricky, as there wasn’t much material to work with, but it seems to be holding so far.  I just hope that I measured everything correctly, as there’s no going back now.  I usually measure after I’ve cut and discovered that the parts don’t fit.  The basic body and chassis components have been primed and painted into company colours – fortunately we have a pretty basic livery that is easy to reproduce.  My boss has helped me out here, because he won’t pay to have my Iveco done up in our flash new company vinyls, which would be a bugger to make and fit as they’re the wraparound variety.  Consequently, all I need to create are some straightforward lettering sets.  The boss doesn’t see any return on spending five grand on a truck that breaks down every fortnight.  My argument that if I’m stuck on the A1 causing a 12 mile tailback, then why not get the company name out there as free advertising doesn’t seem to have gone down particularly well.   Especially as I’ve altered the contact telephone number on the cab, so when people ring up to complain or make enquiries, they find that they’ve voted to keep Ali Bastion on Strictly for another week.

I’m not entirely as daft as I look.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Walls Are Closing In

Following the success of the low relief factory buildings that I demonstrated at Peterborough Show, the casting man at Ten Commandments has been busy creating new additions to the range. And Dave has been equally busy posting them down to me so that I can have them painted ready for – er, this weekend. Seeing as they arrived yesterday, I can say that the chances of this being done are as remote as me remembering to water the plants at my friends’ house while their fridge, I mean they themselves, are away on holiday - see my other blog.

The building extensions are all modular add-ons to the existing buildings, allowing many permutations to be modelled. The photo shows the new pieces:

Plain brick wall ‘filler’ pieces.
A half two-storey section.
Full size roller shutter door section.
A single story outhouse or office piece (pictured against an existing factory section)
A single storey window section – to create additional floors on top of existing units
A lean-to section.

I don’t know whether to start painting these, or go and water my friends’ plants. As it’s dark and cold, I’ve decided to go downstairs and watch Waterloo Road. Can’t please everybody all the time!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Chop Suey Express

As winter draws closer, thoughts are turning to various modelling projects that I have lined up. I have the car transporter project I mentioned here, but at Peterborough Exhibition, Dave handed me three biggish boxes with a fiendish grin and said, “Here’s something to keep you busy.” That sounded ominous, and upon opening the boxes, I discovered why.

A while ago, I resprayed and created promotional decals for a four car ‘N’ gauge commuter train set for Geoff and Alison at Contikits. They wanted a livery that would promote their business on a train operating on their layout. This was a bit of challenge as promotional liveries can be hit or miss, plus the design would need to be clearly visible and legible – not so easy in ‘N’ gauge. I'd previously worked on an 'N' Gauge lorry for them, so it made sense to utilise the branding that had been designed for that vehicle and maintain a corporate image:

A passenger train is quite a different proposition to a truck, however, and creating something dynamic and interesting posed a problem. I therefore applied both brain cells to the matter. Contikits, as the name suggests, are Continental model railway specialists and have an attractive logo consisting of a signal arm with a stylised ‘CK’ emblazoned on it. That would need to be worked into the design, and the livery created around it.

The coaches are double deckers, and at one end, each vehicle has a large blank space that could be filled with – something. A smaller blank panel resides at the other end of the coach. Okay. The basic colour of the cars would be white in order to take the decals, and to make them modern and contemporary, I decided on a diagonal upsweep at each end, in different colours. The sets run in fixed formation, so each upsweep would match the upsweep of the adjacent vehicle as shown in the photos.

The slogan I decided on would be ‘All Around The World With Contikits’, which summarises the business quite nicely. To reinforce the idea, each large blank panel would be filled with an iconic view of a different continent. The small blank panel would receive a globe made up of flags of the world. The concept was that the completed train would present a clear corporate image and show the origin of the product range in a visually interesting way.

So far so good – the train was completed and despatched to Perth Exhibition. “Oh, it’s great, can I have another one?” After retrieving the bullet from my foot, I agreed. Which brings us back to Peterborough, and when I opened the boxes, this is what I found:

Oh goody! Two four car rakes and a locomotive! I can’t wait! The coaches are planned to be basically a repeat of the first set; but I’ll need to do something different with the loco. I think. I’ll let you know.

Why the odd title, I hear you murmur? Well, the train is the Kato model of a Hong Kong Kowloon – Canton Railway double-deck through train on the Hong Kong – Guangzhou route. Really. Just take my word for it while I put the car transporter back in its box.

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