Tuesday 14 December 2021

Big Jim, and Little Big Jim, on the KWVR

Given how many garden-sized model railway projects I, Ben, have been building over the last few years it's perhaps surprising that we've only recently started building a proper garden railway for them to run on.  We managed to get the track down over the spring once the lockdowns eased, and after a bit of testing (alright, play) we found ourselves needing an extra locomotive.  Not the end of the world, as it would mean another project to try and get into Garden Rail magazine, but the budget was tight and I wasn't quite sure what to model.  As members of the Worth Valley Railway, it seemed fitting to have something based on one of their machines, and a chance spot of a suitable donor loco online led to making a model of fleet stalwart "Big Jim".

"Big Jim", more correctly no.5820 of the United States Army Transportation Corps, is an American-built s160-class.  These wartime locomotives were built for use throughout Europe and further afield, and "Big Jim" was bought back from Poland to the KWVR in the 1970's, becoming a regular member of the fleet.  My childood books on the KWVR were full of shots of this brutal-looking engine, but it was out of use when I first started visiting the line from the mid-2000's.

Happily, it was restored to use in the early 2010's, and it's a favourite for both myself and Younger Child.  There's something wonderfully Wild West about the loco, with it's chime-whistle barking away.  Building a model of this loco in some form has been on the cards for a while, and the garden railway was the perfect excuse for cracking-on with it.

I spent quite some time therefore in the Spring getting prototype pictures of the loco, from every possible angle, to get the details right.

...which included from the bridges at Haworth to see the roofline.

I'll go more into details of the build on the model making blog, but here's a couple of pics;

The donor model- a Lionel Ready-To-Play gauge 2 (ish) toy, from the same range as the Hogwarts Express set I rebuilt for a project during lockdown.

After re-gauging the model, I cracked on with modifying what is a well-made toy, mainly with custom-designed parts done on the laser cutter (the yellow and white plastic).  Other bits were well and truly robbing the spares box for odds-and-ends; for example the dark blue extension to the front of the boiler is the top off a mayonnaise bottle.

Shooting pics of the finished model was trickier; the garden railway at the in-laws isn't finished enough to use as a suitable backdrop, so I ended up doing the pics in my own back garden with some track resting on some hanging basket liner.

Then just as I was getting the model finished, the KWVR rostered "Big Jim" on service trains... which gave me an idea.  I reckoned I could get in a location shoot, incorporating the real loco with the model.  I toyed with taking the pic actually at one of the stations, but I guessed the red-tape and health+safety forms would be pretty prohibitive. We've shot pictures on a station before, which needed an escort, health and safety briefings, and all sorts besides, and that was an out-of-use station on a line with no trains running that day.  Trying to set up a model on the platform of an active station, with passengers waiting, didn't entice as a prospect.

I'd need a spot where a low wall would allow me to set up some track, and shoot a forced perspective photo.  The above spot, near Damems, was the first choice, but there were two problems; first the undergrowth had grown considerably since this shot was taken back in the early Spring, and secondly, there was problem of having to carry a load of stuff quite a long way from the nearest parking space.

The reserve location was up at Oxenhope, where a low wall would give me somewhere to set up a board with the track on.  Still a fair slog from the car, but I mugged my Father-in-Law to assist.

I'd only have four trains on one day to work with (the varnish was still drying on the model on the Thursday, and the shoot would have to be the Friday which was the last day the loco was scheduled for that week). Two boards were set up, pre-covered in hanging basket liner and some LGB gauge one track. I added in the coaches from the Hogwarts set too.  The lighting wasn't terrific in the morning, but the weather was due to deteriorate by the time the sun would be on the right side of the line in the afternoon.

It did the trick though, and the article on the conversion has been featured in the January 2022 issue of Garden Rail, out now.  A fun project, and an unusual photoshoot; I haven't done location pics with miniatures for quite a while, and certainly not one incorporating a real locomotive in a forced perspective shot. I didn't get the scaling quite right this time (though I am happy with the shot), and it might be one to return to at a later date.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Port Eden; a (fictional) seaside miniature railway.

Over the summer I (Ben) ended up getting involved with a model railway competition being run by Hornby, to build a summer/holiday-themed layout.  They set a trackplan and size to work to, and left the rest up to the entrants.

I'll post something bigger and more detailed on the build on the Model Making Blog in March 2022, when the layout is getting a feature in the magazine British Railway Modelling.  For now, because it's got a mini-feature on the World of Railways Virtual Exhibition this weekend, a mini-post here on the blog on the layout...

After umming and ah-ing a bit looking for an idea at the start of the project, I returned to a concept I'd used for a couple of projects for previous competitions; a fictional seaside miniature railway at an equally fictional resort somewhere in Cumbria in the 1990's; Port Eden.  The above was the second iteration of the project (the first was in a model project at Uni).  The above one was an 8-inch square diorama, modelled in 1/32nd scale.

The concept got a second run for another competition build, over the winter of 2020/2021, this time in 1/10th scale.

So having returned to the idea, I worked in G scale but with Hornby 00 track and trains to represent the miniature railway, and fulfil the rule of the competition to use Hornby rolling stock.

All the trains were rebuilt, and the figures and details were cobbled together from Playmobil, eBay purchases, you name it.  It was done very much on a budget, and in a bit of a rush.

Photographing the layout was a bit of a nightmare; I'd wanted to shoot the pics outdoors for natural light, but I was having to isolate with Covid, and it was manky weather outdoors anyway.

It had a mini feature in the exhibition, and as I said, something rather more detailed will go up on the other blog next Spring.  I'll also post something on some of the research trips to get visual inspiration for the model-making.


Friday 3 December 2021

Ceramics on show at the "Scion" winter exhibition, Cupola Gallery, Sheffield

Just a mini post on the blog tonight; Amy is participating in an exhibition, the "Scion" winter group show at Cupola Gallery, in Sheffield.

We've been showing with Cupola off and on for well over a decade now.  It really is a fantastic gallery, and a great spot for art in the North.  This is actually the third time we've had work with them this year, but the first 3D/Ceramic work for a while.  Though it's only a couple of smaller pieces, it's lovely to be invited to show with them again; Cupola always puts on an excellent group show, and there's tons of fascinating artworks to view at these events.

The "Scion" show is on from the start of December to the 8th of Jan, at Cupola Contemporary Art, Hillsborough, Sheffield.  Details on the website;


Wednesday 1 December 2021

KWVR September 2021 Gala

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Mixed-Traffic Gala took place back in September, and we did a few days linesiding and riding the trains, making the most of the event happening on our doorstep.

There was a bit of trickiness on the Friday with the pre-booked tickets, though the staff sorted it out admirably.  It did mean missing the train we'd originally wanted, and a bit of waiting around at Haworth.  20031 seen arriving when we could finally get on.

Keighley later in the day, with shunter "James" on the vintage-stock shuttle to Ingrow.  Shame the weather had dropped off a bit by then.

As a railway we've been visiting for years, finding new angles has been proving tricky.  So something a bit experimental here, at Ingrow.

The Saturday was rather nicer, with a bit of sun and blue sky.  The Ivatt tank seen running-round at Keighley in the morning...

...and the Oxenhope Yard Pilot, the Hudswell-Clarke, at Ingrow later in the day.

Our Rover tickets got us entry into the excellent museums at Ingrow, always worth a visit.

Sunday saw me doing a bit of line-siding, mainly to try and get some shots of the visiting Railfreight-liveried class 26, seen here near Ingrow with the vintage stock.

On the goods out of Keighley a little later in the morning.

The Railway-Children-liveried L&Y loco on the goods.  It had been relaunched into traffic in the summer, but we were in Wales at the time and didn't get chance to see it.  The Gala provided the first opportunities for some photographs, and yes, the colour scheme really is that bright in real life.

I managed some shots in print; there was a chance one of the Class 26 pics would have gone in, but another photographer pipped me to the post with the Railway Magazine.

I also got a shot in the KWVR's house mag.

I did however get an earlier shot from Damems back in the summer into Trackside, a pleasant surprise.

Here's an oldy from the re-opening trials earlier in the year, but I'd missed this issue at the time, and found it in the archives at Vintage Carriages.


Sunday 28 November 2021

Inflate-Deflate 2021

One of those projects of mine (Bens) that keeps on going, and going, is "Inflate Deflate".  Having originated as a studio shoot, then a location still-life, I got some gallery interest off some underwater shots relatively recently, as well as an exhibition of a number of the still-life shoots for an open call back in summer of 2021.

  I'd planned to shoot some more pics so I had a slightly wider body of work to choose from.  The underwater pics are a fun one to do as a project because I can combine the shoot with a family day at the beach.

This time around, I managed to acquire a bargain selection of bits from a closing-down seaside shop, to bulk out the props.  For a project that is increasingly becoming about single use/disposable plastic/ seaside tat being wasted, most of the inflatables in the props box have ironically been in use for at least a decade, so we're getting plenty of value out of them.  That said, I thought it wouldn't hurt to bulk-out the choice on the cheap.

The selection for the shoot on the day, with The Childs inspiring much jealousy amongst the nearest kids.

Though the sky was a little bit overcast, the conditions actually in the sea were rather nice, with the mottled light effect whilst the sun was out in the morning.  

Also demonstrating why this beach is so nice to use for this project; ridiculously calm sea and shallow too, about as safe an environment to not only shoot pics but have the kids messing around with floats.

The shots were done with our, now somewhat basic, underwater Compact.  It's getting a bit long in the tooth now, but we don't want to overspend too much on new kit that we wouldn't get to use much.

There's no real plan to these shots, just aiming for something abstract and unusual.  There's a lot of trial and error, because you can't easily see the screen on the back of the cam, and it chews through battery charge like a devil.

The shoot turned out... generally ok.  It would have been better if the sun had stayed out, but it clouded over after an hour which meant some of the pics turned out a bit flat.  We did manage a couple of hours of shooting alongside the kids playing, but it was getting trickier to shoot as the beach got a lot busier (there's something to be said for either coming out of season, or when the whole country isn't 'staycationing' in North Wales).  

A morning of work resulted in enough shots for the potential future of the project (another local gallery has an upcoming open call this project would be suitable for).

We also got a bit of grief off some other holidaymakers that turned up later in the morning, who were having a go at The Childs for playing in the sea with inflatables; the kids can swim, we were constantly with them, and the water was calm on an incoming tide, only up to their waists.  Nevertheless, a very posh and interfering adult couple made some very snide and angry remarks to any family whose kids were actually playing in the sea.  The woman actually snatched the ball off us, saying floats and toys were only for swimming pools.  Someone else was making loud comments about how we were killing the planet with plastic rubbish.  In the end we got sick of it all and left.

So that's the shooting done for this year on the project; there had been a plan to get some improved shots of the night-time still life pics on the beach during the half-term, when it should have been quiet, but Wales was not only still busy, but the weather was too appalling for night shoots and thus that's all for 2021 on this long-runner of a project.  Should be a big enough body of work though for sending off for these gallery open calls though.