Monday, 28 December 2015

Biog: Howard Love

Howard is another stalwart of the 3mm Society, a member since 1969 and a regular competitor and winner of the AGM "Ralph Murfitt trophy" buildings and structures competition, having won it 8 times. 

How did you get started in 3mm scale?

I have always had a preference for smaller scale models. I was born in London during the War and had a typical modellers’ childhood; clockwork Hornby, Rovex/Tri-Ang, with excursions into card Micro models, Airfix, and model Aircraft.

When Tri-Ang introduced TT3 in the 1950's it was a size that suited my parent’s house and I soon purchased a Jinty and some lengths of Wrenn and Welkut track. To me it still is the “Goldilocks” scale; not too big, not too small, but just right. I continued modelling during my student years, mainly layouts of small branch lines, as was the custom of the 1960's.

I originally joined the 3mm Society in 1969 purely for the “Mixed Traffic” magazine after having seen publicity in the model railway press for the new Local Area group being set up in Manchester. So I was very surprised one day by Derek Samson knocking at my front door and inviting me to the group meeting, which I continued to attend for many happy years. 
Howard (l) and Iain Rice (r)
Okehampton c.1981

What gauge do you model?

12mm gauge because of my stock built over the years being compatible with the Tri-Ang that I started out with. But if I was starting out in 3mm over again I would opt for 14.2mm finescale from the outset - the gauge/rail ratio is so much more convincing. I think that future developments in our scale will probably be in that direction. 

What period do you model? 

Generally I model the GWR circa 1920, but not dogmatically. I'm quite flexible on the period, having a range of locos and stock dating from about 1890 to the 1930's. I'm also building up a collection of LMS, and SR locos with their trains. 
The architecture on my layout is based on the late Victorian/Edwardian period, as are the figures, with a fairly neutral pre 1920 style of clothing.
The figures are individually sculpted in Milliput and Bruce Hoyle (of the 3mm Society) cast them for me. There must be several hundred on the layout by now, with more yet to be added. 

You bring a unique artistic and architectural eye to your modelling, how did your method develop?

I started out studying Art and Design at Art College. Throughout my career I have always worked in associated areas, initially advertising and book illustration, followed by twenty years in teaching of both children and adults and latterly as a free-lance artist in England, and now in France. A lot of my commissions were for large highly-detailed house portraits, and a range of architecturally-correct ceramic models. 
Modelling buildings has developed over my years working in 3mm. As I wanted to build larger layouts including villages and towns I had to develop methods to enable me to do this as there were no commercially available products. (With the exception of BIlteezi 3mm scale card kits, which appeared on just about every 3mm layout!) Home-made designs failed to convince me and I progressively turned towards using photographs of actual buildings and making my own drawings.
I found printed brick paper too flat and plastic sheet brick work too rounded and the mortar lines exaggerated. So I started scoring 1mm lines in shellac-prepared 1mm card (left-over mounting board.) After the horizontals I added some vertical score lines. An overall brick colour was then applied, not as a flat surface but with subtle colour changes. Individual bricks were then picked out in a range of related colours and tones. Windows and door frames are cut from 0.5mm card, pre-painted and cut out with a sharp craft scalpel.
Most buildings are box structures, but if I find them too flimsy I reinforce them with internal partitions. Lintels and sills are added as separate layers. The fun part for me comes with cutting out and applying all the "tiddlybits", such as decorative mouldings, plinths, window details, signboards and assorted lettering. Glazing material comes from the plastic boxes that delicious French pastries come in.
This is finally followed by weathering. I remember post-war London as being almost in black and white or dull sepia. Together with the horrific air pollution of the late Victorian period this has lead me to use a toned down and subdued palette of colours - less Downton Abbey, more Ripper St, crossed with Peaky Blinders!
I then photograph the model in daylight. When viewed on the computer I can examine the differences between the original and the model, to see what modifications could be made. 

Are there any individual buildings that you are particularly proud of?

Without a doubt the model of my wife's family home in South Chorlton, a large Victorian building which was the local undertakers. I examined various old family photos and a series of drawings done by my wife as a young art student.
Conversations with family members gave me further details about the garden, rabbit hutches and the coffin-making work shop and I made very detailed scale plans before starting construction.
The model was a “thank you” for her patience and support towards my hobby (sometimes more like an obsession!). Over the years we have always managed to find a house with a spare room or space for a layout. She is also my sternest critic, coolly pointing out any errors or weaknesses I have tried to overlook.
Another favourite is a model of a dilapidated barn, based on one that we renovated many years ago. In fact I've modelled most of the houses we've ever lived in!

How did you come to be in France?

Various factors came together in the early 1990's leading to a general disenchantment with life in the UK and the 18% mortgage rates of the time. At the time we already had an old farmhouse in the isolated backwoods of southern Brittany which we used as a base for holiday "indoor camping", so with early retirement and a small pension we decided to opt for a simpler lifestyle and use the farmhouse to continue doing freelance work and base ourselves in France. 
The house was very primitive by modern standards, and generally still is! But the past 25 years have been a very interesting and rewarding experience. Unfortunately this means I normally work in isolation with few contacts with other modellers, apart from the annual excursion back to the UK to attend the 3mm Society AGM. One particular feature of the house is the old cowshed, which now houses my layout.

The Cowshed layout.

The Cowshed Layout, AKA Long Acre Road, is the latest and perhaps the last of a long line of layouts down the years in modelling 3mm. After dissatisfaction with end-to-end branch lines, I headed towards continuous-run type layouts.

When we first moved here the farmhouse had a large back shed, 40ft x 15ft, where I rapidly started on an ambitious layout; four track long runs in the style of Sonning Cutting, with a large junction station, and in the central length a long branch line, a terminus, and a clay wharf with jetties and ships.

It was great fun watching long double headed passenger or goods trains vanishing off into the distance. Unfortunately this layout was destroyed overnight during a violent storm when the roof of the shed was ripped off and timbers, masonry and slates rained down on the layout. Some of the buildings survived purely by chance, but I was finding wagons and coaches in the garden for days later.
After a pause of a few months Ann suggested that we could convert the cowshed, (part of the main building, and conveniently next to the Kitchen) which would give me 21ft x 21ft. Preparatory work included knocking a doorway through a three foot crumbling stone wall to gain access and it was six months before I was able to start work on the baseboards in the year 2000.

The layout is standard 12mm gauge, using Society track and hand built points (based on C&L 16.5 plans, reduced down by 25%). The 40 odd points are controlled by the 'push pull' system with built-in polarity switches, or at a distance using the old but reliable H&M motors. (Many thanks must go to Bruce Smetham for his expertise in wiring up the layout using Cab control.)
To the right of the lifting bridge as you go in there is a double track, brick-built viaduct, running some 16 to 17 feet  almost along the length of the room.
In front of the viaduct is my version of a Victorian/Edwardian high street in a small market town, with a Town Hall, Hotel and Pubs and numerous houses and shops.
To the right-hand side of the front past the canal the buildings become more industrial with factories and warehouses. At the rear, behind the viaduct is another raised area, almost 8ft long, representing more industrial developments with a track and a couple of sidings. Like many areas of the layout, this is still being developed.
Continuing left leads to the board containing the principal station. At the end, and behind the viaduct, there is a small park, almost hidden. 
On the other side of the road is a row of Edwardian semi-detached houses next to a church, constructed from a modified 4mm scale Bilteeze kit.
The Station building is an enlarged version of Much Wenlock, with the usual associated buildings, goods shed, stables, engine shed coaling stage etc. 
A spur  in front of the engine shed leads to the site of a future gas works. Large tin cans currently crudely represent the positions of future gasometers.
Further to the left, against the corner are rows of terraced house backs, based on Bilteeze card kits, with added weathering and detailing. Multiple tracks lead from the station to the third side of the room, containing eight storage loops for complete rakes of passenger and freight stock.
After completion of the storage line baseboard I decided to add an extra narrow board in front. This board was dropped about 6 inches to allow me to build a six foot long Brunel wooden viaduct. This gave me the chance to extend the independant branch line.
To complicate matters further I have added a replacement brick viaduct under construction, showing the building of brick arches with their wooden formers, using reference from early Victorian photographs.
The fourth board is a rural landscape. On leaving the tunnel the mainline double track and the branchline cross a pair of bridges over a river, the branch line crosses over a latticework bridge and the mainline over a girder bridge. The station is based on Abbotsbury.
Over the past 15 years the layout has reached a fairly advanced state, but is still nowhere near finished. The range of locos include commissioned pieces by Iain Rice and by a friend. Other locos are built from kits in white metal, resin and etched brass and a few scratch built. 
Coaching stock has been built over many years and the current range of stock is mainly based on Etched brass kits from various sources including Worsley Works and 3mm society kits. There are a couple that were home etched items made as experiments many years ago. The freight stock is unremarkable, again plastic and etched kits and some modified Tri-Ang. I have also built a rake of outside frame parcel vans from card.

What aspect of modelling do you find particularly satisfactory or rewarding?

Every model, be it loco, wagon, coach, building or whatever gives me satisfaction (after the trials and tribulations of the build!). The excitement of starting a project, and the relief of finishing it gives me the motivation to go on to the next one.
Each model has it's own little part in the overall “master plan”. If I become stuck or frustrated during a project I move on to something else for a while, and then come back to it later.  Although I live physically out of contact with other modellers, it is nice to have the virtual community of the on-line 3mm Society e-group as a source of advice and discussion which has often pointed me in the right direction. 

Do you model in any other scale apart from 3mm, or outside model railways?

A little, and then mainly only for friends; I built an O gauge diesel shunter in card, which actually looked quite tidy when it was finished, Abbotsbury Station in 4mm, and a rather complicated LNER Suburban Station in 2mm.

I also dabbled a bit with a small EM gauge shunting layout to explore 4mm scale, but this didn't develop further, and a long time ago I briefly tried a garden railway but this was cut short by moving house.
I find there is enough variety of subject matter in building a layout, apart from the railway aspect, such as the vernacular architecture, road transport, which includes buses and lorries, and horse drawn vehicles, to form a separate hobby.
I can imagine myself being completely sidetracked into building hansom cabs, steam driven lorries, open deck buses and trams! But I try to discipline myself to concentrate on the needs of the current layout.
The destroyed layout had clay loading wharves, so I had built a small steam cargo vessel, a small paddle steamer, and a sailing barge. This was a new area of modelling for me and I found it a delightful change from what I had been doing previously.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in 3mm scale?

I would suggest starting with a basic plastic kit to get the feel of the scale, followed by making up small modules using standard or finescale track to see what suited your level of skill. I've always started by reading about a new area of interest in books or magazines, and by talking to as many people as possible to get the benefit of their experience in things such as chasis construction, or different types of gear boxes. All of my models are based on plans, and photographic reference material.
Apart from some school metalwork classes which I had in the last century, some engineering training would have been welcome. Chassis building requires much higher levels of accuracy than I am accustomed to when just chopping card.

Theory is all very well, but only by doing it, and accepting that your first efforts will probably end up in the bin, do you progress. I have had to learn by practical experience, and trial and error. As an old teacher once said to me about motivating pupils, "Success breeds success" Seeing a new scratch-built loco or a rake of coaches running around the layout is deeply satisfying.

If I lent you a magic wand, what product for 3mm scale would you magic into existence?

My magic wand would lead back towards the time of white metal kits, this was a technique that I feel was under-exploited. The early loco kits were simple models to construct, but capable of being detailed to a reasonable level. Alan Searle’s model of the 45xx loco indicated what could be achieved in white metal and requiring only moderate modelling skills. I feel that there is a gap in the market between the basic cast models and the more demanding and complex etched-brass. I imagine that in the near future hi-definition 3D printing will play a major role in kit production, probably as hybrid kits combining etched or resin components as it may not be the entire solution.

More patience for myself would also come in handy!

God is in his Kingdom, and all's right with the world.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Warley MRC 2015

The Warley National Model Railway Exhibition, held annually at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) in Birmingham, is the UK's premier model railway exhibition with over 90 layouts, society and trade stands from major and minor manufacturers, publications, traders, dealers and demonstrations of every conceivable scale, gauge and technique. 
Held over the weekend of 28/29 November 2015 with over 10,000 visitors on the Saturday, 3mm scale was very well represented with an entire section comprising of the 3mm Society Publicity stand, 5 layouts and Andrew Shillito (New Products Officer) and Peter Bennett (Publicity Officer) giving practical modelling demonstrations and chatting with the public. 
The layouts proved popular and drew sizeable crowds of onlookers, with Steve Fackrell showing "Teignford", 
Paul Hopkins with "Redford Junction",
Jim Barry and David Wheelton with "Norton Folgate & Aldgate Hill", 
Tony Briddon with "Billton Goods",
and Eric Large with his retro Tri-Ang TT layout.
Steve Flint, editor of Railway Modeller magazine, took particular interest in "Algate Hill" taking a number of photographs prior to opening on the Sunday, could there be a feature in a forthcoming issue perhaps?
Being on "the other side of the counter" at shows, interacting with the public, peoplewatching and overhearing conversations is always an interesting experience and there are several themes that re-occur time after time, for example in spite of all the signage a good number being under the impression that they are viewing "N" scale models!
Particularly heartening is seeing the number of families and youngsters at shows, demonstrating that there is hope for our hobby with at least some of the next generation taking an active interest. One young chap of about 10 years sat down at Peter's demo table with his first question being "Can I help?" An active conversation about modelling then followed with a very involved and well-informed discussion about diesel loco classes, "D" prefixes and the introduction of TOPS. His Dad stood by with a bemused expression throughout; "Don't look at me, I dunno where he gets it from!" were his parting words.
Perhaps the most entertaining questions of the day came firstly from a chap who, after several minutes spent closely examining the display case containing Andrew's finely-crafted models, looked up and asked "Do these actually work, or are they for display only?" (Andrew's retort was very measured, all things considered...) Or the lady, on seeing Peter intently focussed on shaping a very small component, asking "Are you filing your nails?" Only inadvertantly, madam.

Tony Briddon's pre-production test build of the new resin-body 4F 0-6-0 kit (under development by Ron Shuttleworth) in particular drew a lot of interest and comment, it will no doubt prove a very popular kit when released next year.

But the most persistent opinion voiced, and one that is heard in various guises time and time again, is: "It's a perfect scale, not too small and not too big - it's a pity it died out." - with all the evidence that you could wish for to the contrary being right there before their very eyes!