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Boats, Planes and Trains

I must admit to enjoying almost all aspects of model making. Like most teenage boys in the 70s, I was obsessed with Airfix kits. Pocket money was index-linked to the price of a series-one kit, but I also got to make magnificent examples of the mouldmaker's art like the 1:24 Spitfire, Stuka and Harrier as well as the SR.N4 hovercraft and mighty Saturn V 'moon rocket'. Sadly only a few of these remain in a dusty loft, but I have few models made more recently and with, I hope, a little more skill. I also had the Tamiya XR311, perhaps the first off-road electric R/C car kit - though with only two wheel drive add an extra pair of cells and it had a good turn of speed and performed impressive rolls!

My Dad's obsession was planes, but has been making radio-controlled boats for decades. I must admit that not a lot beats seeing your own scratchbuilt model out on the water - especially when it can run rings around the shop-bought ones :-)

I haven't had great success with aeroplanes, they seem to have either an affinity with the ground, or an ability to disappear over the horizon. Still, I've had a few successes, not least restoring a 'diesel' engined free-flight model made by my father-in-law in 1956 and seeing it circle over Sutton Park in lazy circles.

Two of my favourite modelling subjects, the British Power Boats 'Whaleback' air-sea rescue launch and the SE5a WWI fighter both carried the lewis machine gun as armament. Curiously I could not find a reasonable representation of a Lewis Gun that was suitable for 3D printing. I did find a detailed drawing on the web, from Savage's the North-American company who made the gun under licence. They made versions for both UK and US ammunition.

The STL model is not heavily detailed but is dimensionally accurate.


3D Printable Lewis Gun


The STL below is to at 1:4.75 scale - the scale of the printed out drawing I worked to, which gives a barrel length of 147mm. To adjust for any other scale is easy, simply divide 4.75 by the scale required and use this number (as a percentage) to scale the STL in your slicing program.

Example, I needed two 1:16 scale guns for my ASRL model:

4.75/16 = 0.296875 so in Cura I scaled the STL to 30% of original size.

For 12" (1:6) action figures like Action Man, scale by 79%.

Lewis gun three prints


To print the STL without support, place two copies on your build plate and rotate them so each one has a different side of the gun uppermost. Check the z-height of the model, then set the z-position of both copies to half this figure. This will give you two prints which can be glued together along the centreline.

Use a small layer height (e.g. 0.1mm) for a good finish on small sections and consider using a small nozzle (0.1 or 0.2mm) for printing it at small sizes.

 Printing to scale



Tamiya 1:35 Panther with R/C

PanzerKampfwagen V (sd.kfz171) Ausfurung A

This is the first plastic kit I have posted here. As a teenager I built a huge number of plastic kits, mostly Airfix (my pocket money was 'index linked' to the price of a series 1 kit). One of my favourites was the Panther Ausf A, not least because the version I had contained a twin motor gearbox, operated by a remote handset. Not radio control - this was a battery box with four wires grouped into a cable that operated the motors.

 Tamiya Panther Ausf a


I have been trying to track down another of these kits since finding the remains (less gearbox and tracks and many small parts) of the original in my Dad's loft, without success. there was part of the chassis including two of the three metal axles and several wheels, the upper body (less most of the glued on details) and an almost intact turret. The colour scheme was dark yellow overpainted with brown and green squiggles, weathered with a black wash.To be honest, when freshly completed it must have been one of my best finished models!


In the optimistic hope of finding the gearbox on another search of the loft, I bought the modern version of the kit - so far so good it was clearly the same and had all the moving parts. In fact it wasn't modern at all - it was identical!


Tamiya Panther Ausf A rear view


A final search, right down the end of the loft and in the last but one box I saw the battery box with four heavily encrusted Ever Ready batteries. I optimistically pulled on the wires - and out came the gearbox! To cut a long story short, everything fitted, but the motors needed some TLC and the gearbox needed ultrasonic cleaning, re-oiling and running in. the tracks are rather tight and don't sag, so I added side skirt armour to hide this, as well as a few minor details. I painted it with Tamiya acrylics, then weathered it with Lifecolour washes. I don't like the overdone weathering so popular these days, preferring to aim for a look like in a genuine WW2 photo as below:


Contemporary WW2 colour photo of a Panther Tank


Even this machine is rather cleaner than mine! the plan is to convert the tank to radio control. Even with modern kit its a big challenge to fit everything in. I have fitted a servo to raise and lower the gun, but at the moment the turret rotation is sticking. I also need to fit a two-channel ESC for to drive the motors.

One little extra touch - the spare roadwheel on the turret is from the original model, well over 35 years old!

Here's a video of it running using a two-channel cheap non-proportional board from Amazon, but I've finally ordered a pair of ESCs, so watch this space.



Panther 3

Barr Beacon is the highest point in Birmingham and the Black Country, supposedly there are no higher hills between there and the Ural, heading East.

Today it was smack on the approach to Birmingham Airport, so as there conditions were bright and clear, if a bit hazy, I had to see if I could do a bit better than  trying to snap the Vulcan in dull overcast conditions.

I am pretty happy with these three images, all taken with a Nikon P520 bridge camera. The first two are Airbus A320s, not sure what the Air France plane is yet.

Lufthansa Airbus A320

Lufthansa Airbus A320

Ryan Air Boeing 737-800

Ryan Air Boeing 737-800

Air France Airbus A320

Air France A320


This is my little model railway, a 00-gauge layout just four feet by two. It has some pretty vicious tight curves, but with fully electrified points and plenty of decoupling sites it's great fun for shunting with a small loco. My main aim was just to get some practice in making cardboard buildings and landscaping. It was all great fun, but now I struggle to find the space for even this small layout. The lovely maroon loco has now been drabbed down into BR black, just to keep the pedants happy!

Dapol / Airfix Pug

The Dapol/Airfix 'Pug' is a static model, but adds character

Scratch built railway buildings and re-painted wagons.

The Coal Staithe and Signal Box are both scratch built

Stub Mandrel's van, parked up in the small light industrial yard.

Stub Mandrel's van, parked up in the small light industrial yard.

Booth Rodley 15T crane, Dapol Airfix model.

The Airfix/Dapol kit of the 15T Booth Rodley crane is only correct for the prototype, but it makes a lovely model.

Railway Water Tower

The Water Tower is a very simple structure, but was a rewarding build.

small workshop building.

Finally, a small workshop building.


One of the favourite locos for visitors to the Bluebell Railway in Sussex is Captain Baxter, an 0-4-0 tank locomotive of diminutive size. The locomotive was originally used by Dorking Greystone Lime Works. Numbered 3 and called Captain Baxter, the little tank loco was built in 1877 by Fletcher Jennings & Co. at their Lowca Works in Whitehaven.

The loco was joined the Bluebell Railway in 1960, was restored for 1982, and has been fully overhauled in 2005, and it is now capable of hauling small passenger trains. A wonderful little chunk of the past.

I find it hard to believe, but I took this photo back in the spring of 1989 when I had two weeks off between jobs! The film used was Fujichrome Velvia, a wonderful transparency film, which shows incredible detail, even if you view the image below full size, it is still reduced 40% from the original. Taken with my wonderful Pentax SP1000 using an unbeatable Helios 58mm lens from a Zenit TTL.

0-4-0 tank loco Captain Baxter at the Bluebell Railway in 1989

Captain Baxter at the Bluebell Railway in 1989