Today saw the end of the Autumn Railway Modellers Weekend at Missenden Abbey. as is now the custom I attended with my son, now 17, for a few days of locomotive kit construction. This year the numbers of kit constructors was down, with people being seduced by the laser cutting, scenery, weathering and electronics side of the hobby. This meant there were two small rooms of us loco builders, we were placed under the care of new boy Tony Gee in a room with 5 other 4mm modellers, whilst next door Kevin Wilson presided other a collection of 3mm, 4mm and 7mm modellers.
This year was a first of us, we both had kits from the same manufacturer, High Level. I had a little Black Hawthorn 0-4-0 industrial tank to put together and Daniel had his Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0, he had made an aborted start on a year ago on this but stopped due to lack of the correct size wheels. Both of these kits proved to be superb pieces of design that went together with no modification. Extremely well thought out kits with a great level of design. Daniel progressed well with his 0-6-0 frames, adding large amounts of dummy inside motion detail and brake hangers.
HIs soldering has always been a little heavy handed, but is improving no end, with help from Tony and others, not to mention the benefits of more practice. Having a good kit to work on has help boost both his skills and confidence.
I on the other hand took by frames to the point at which I really needed to paint behind the wheels so that they could be fitted before the remaining detail. The frames themselves are rather substantial Nickel Silver etches with some very nice brass overlays that fit beautifully around the axle bushes. The inside motion on this little 0-4-0 was somewhat simpler and because I was building it in OO I am unable to fir the firebox.
So having taken the frames as far as I wanted by Saturday evening I turn my attention to the superstructure and build the smokebox and firebox areas. Very pleasing curves and some lovely little details around the bunkers.
These two kits have proved to both of us the value of working on something that has been so well designed, it is very tempting to buy some cheap, secondhand kit from the 70's to get started with. However this might well prove to be a false economy as it is hard to tell if the poor results are due to poor kit design or lack of ability. I would not say that the High Level kits are easy beginner kits, but they certainly remove one variable from the equation.
Away from these two models we also had an interesting time dropping in on the laser cutting and observing first hand the results one of the other modellers in our room could obtain with his brand new resistance soldering unit. It was the first use he had made of it and he achieved some really stunning results on some siphon sides, building up, multiple layers of overlays. I even managed to have a go with it myself, which was a dangerous thing for my pocket I think - I new have one of these on my modelling wish list!
As for Tony he proved to be a knowledgeable, entertaining and extremely helpful tutor, he even brought along some really nice locos that Peter Denny scratch built in EM before I was born. Some amazing techniques when you consider the age of them. It goes to show how inventive good modellers can be when the materials are not available and how spoilt we are these days. Also thanks to Tony for bringing along a ready built Black Hawthorn for me to look at. I hope we see more of him at these weekends.
Now we have to wait for the spring for the next Missenden weekend, hopefully we can find a time for a family modelling day or two between now and then so that we can make some progress of these fantastic little locomotives.
Thanks to Chris Langdon and all the others that organise these weekends and to the various tutors that impart wisdom and bad jokes!