March 31, 2015

"BRWS Ltd Update #3 - Of J15s, cabbages and Kings…"

Goodbye March! It's been a tough old month. I started my new job on the 23rd and I am loving the change in work stream. I have to work very hard over the next few months and really concentrate, so the change to monthly blogs is an advantage for sure!

So I started the month with a simple enough task. I had to change my Hornby J15 into something more personal to me, and one which no one else had done yet. One with a stovepipe, suitable for my layout set in 1946-49. I scoured books, magazines and online to find one...

So the most obvious change was to the chimney, which was a straight swap for an Alan Gibson turned brass stovepipe chimney. I simply removed the plastic Hornby one with pliers - surprisingly not damaging it (it can be re-used for something else I suspect - an industrial steam engine?) and glued it down onto the boiler.

The cab and tender sides were then shorn of emblem and numerals, using a glass fibre pen worked carefully with a little water.

This image is a composite of two pictures showing the difference between my J15 as bought, and modified. The stovepipe chimney is more obvious as a result. A further change to the model was the removal of the smokebox numberplate from the smokebox door, which was removed using a scalpel and a thin, edged file to finish.

The body shell and tender body were removed, and gloss black sprayed over the top. I have been using standard plasticote paints for some time with plain black models, and the reason for this may become more clear later on. I used press fix HMRS transfers for the number and lettering.

No.5398 was a Stratford based example that retained its stovepipe due to wartime austerity. I managed to find a number of pictures of this locomotive and it was clear to me it would be the only one suitable for my needs at this time.

You can see here that the lack of a stovepipe and removal of the smokebox numberplate really transforms the look of the model. But it is in weathering and adding a crew that I find Hornby's J15 really comes alive...

I used Tamiya weathering palettes to get the overall finish I wanted on the tender frames and locomotive chassis, before dry brushing a variety of Humbrol enamel paints over the top, and sealing the whole model with a few coats of Gamesworkshop's Purity Seal varnish finisher.

The result is a model which has a nice, unkempt look and will fit in nicely amongst the other models I am working on at present.

The crew is from Bachmann and have been weathered to match the locomotive. I do like the pose on this fella, watching the road ahead.

Adding a lamp indicating a K class goods train rounds things off.

I am slowly getting there with this vision of having set trains and train engines for my layout. I hope to have a lot more updates next month (I've been saying this for a while).

- - -

On an entirely different note, I notice a lot of hullabaloo on a few infamous websites regarding a certain product announced last year (which I also felt was controversial at the time). Here's a little hypothetical for you all to mull on, and bear with me whilst I explain further later on...

If a bank said to a consumer...

"That product you ordered? We're cancelling it, you won't be able to buy it from us now".
"But you can have it from an appointed representative of us, in a nice new box".

"Oh, and it'll cost £30 extra for the trouble of reordering".

 ...we would hear no end of complaints about the bank's behaviour, clamours for heads to roll, who thought that up, and a general agreement that this is not good business practice nor is it fair on the consumer.

So why do I bring up this example? Hattons announced practically the same scenario this week, via email, for their model of King George V to be manufactured by DJ Models, and for all orders they had taken to be cancelled, directing their previously potential customers to STEAM instead to buy a now more expensive product.

As a loyal Hattons customer, and looking at both sides of the story, I feel it is only right to say that I have only ever received excellent customer service from them. Delivieries, returns, and pre-orders, they have never put a foot wrong with me.

However I feel, looking from the outside in, that this could have all been handled very differently. Good customer service is looking at what might potentially inconvenience your existing customers, and being pro active in not looking to appease them but to genuinely help them in a positive and constructive manner: and where things have gone wrong, putting them back on track.

It is very interesting to note how customers, who have in some respects been let down and now have to consider their order and its new cost, are being pilloried for their disappointment in various locations. Are we no longer allowed to question the quality of customer service, just because it happens to take place in the model railway world?

I can't help but feel disappointed on two fronts here. Firstly that such a situation still happens: and asking myself would it really have broken the bank to simply ask the customers of that model at Hattons if they wished to have their order transferred to STEAM, and if they still wished to proceed at that new advertised price? It would have only taken an e-mail or an update on the Hattons website.

In my view that would have been the right and fair thing to do, rather than cancelling all the orders as they have done.

On a different (but somewhat related!) note, I can see that Hornby have put a few sound files out for their TTS fitted King, due later this year, in addition to photographs of the model rapidly taking shape.
It looks excellent, and for my money, is going to eclipse the recent Heavy Tanks and Star by some way. As well it might, being designed post "design-clever" and on the back of the recent excellent Peppercorn K1 and J15.

- - -

Oh, and one update for fans of The British Railway Stories. Book Two - Great Western Glory - is getting close to entering the artwork stage. The book is now finished and being readying for printing before being sent to Dean Walker, our artist, for illustrating.

Exciting times! I have also promised a new set of films featuring a few familiar faces…but more on that another day.

Until next time.

March 18, 2015

"Hornby J15 - quick peek at some modelling…"

I thought I'd share a few photographs of my first Hornby J15, which has been modified extensively. These photographs appeared on MREmag today, and will be the subject of my big blog at the end of the month.

The fireman keeps a sharp look out whilst the driver nurses no.5398 home...

One of the few J15s fitted with a stovepipe chimney as a wartime austerity measure, she still carries shaded lettering and NE on the tender...

She's seen better days, but she won't be withdrawn for almost another decade, despite her looks!

She simmers, waiting for the signal, with a K class goods train.

And that's yer lot for now...

March 15, 2015

"Of forums and websites"

One particular model railway forum is celebrating its tenth birthday today, and I felt, having been passed a link to a thread on said forum, that some right of reply was needed today.

Over the ten year period of that model railway forum - whose name I will not give as I have no intention of adding to it in any constructive way in future - has seen lots of very positive, very welcome developments, in addition to some lovely moments of support and genuine help for others in need or distress.

I feel that the early and mid years of that forum were its best, forming a cohesive atmosphere where modellers and collectors alike were able to indulge in debates and discussions about modelling. It was a positive atmosphere and many positive things happened.

However, all of this positive energy came, not from one man (as has been intimated strongly) but from a large group of individuals, who, time and again put their own money into the coffers to keep that forum running and to support its creator in the original intention of making a decent forum for the discussion of and development of model railways.

To that, I have this to say to the current management.

You should not forget where you have come from, and the individuals which have helped you along the way: you should be humble, and respectful, and whatever you may think of people now, remember that every single modeller who shared their work with you helped get you where you are today.

You should be grateful for the help and support you have had, and the fact that people were willing to share their work freely with you, in the knowledge that they were genuinely helping others and not contributing directly to a corporate entity.

You should be grateful and be publicly grateful for the monetary support that many individuals - even those with not a lot of cash at the best of times - have donated directly to you in order to pay for the facility you now manage on behalf of a business.

You should also be mindful of the fact that labelling those - and all of those - who have left your forum as "crazies" and making asides such as this in your anniversary thread - does you no favours.

In fact, being the bigger man and paying tribute, not to the forum software you have used over the years, but to those who have helped you get where you are, would have put you up a few estimations in many people's views.

It might have gone some way to perhaps alleviating many of the complaints and concerns that have been put directly to the management and owners of said forum. In fact, dare I say an olive branch and some humility would have gone a long way to, if not healing wounds, then continuing down a path where mutual respect and civility could have been the order of the day.

In short, it would have been the right thing to do, and you would have reaped many benefits from it.

Now, for my part, I am one of those individuals who supported the forum in question in its early days through to its formative mid years before the takeover. Last year I was "moderated" for various reasons, one of which was for being, and I quote directly, "polite with intent".

Despite many attempts to assess what exactly that means, and what comments in question were "breaking rule 9", I was left with little to go on and understandably frustrated with the process and the manner in which moderating action had been taken.

After much discussion over a six week period with a senior member of the editorial team, I chose to walk away completely and have done so, save for tying up a few loose ends here and there where others had asked for my help or I felt I should do the right thing and say a few words.

I made several requests in my dialogue with that senior member (who I feel was doing an admirable job in light of the rock and hard place scenario he had been placed into, in my view unfairly by the other staff member), the details of which I was asked to not divulge publicly, so I will not.

I respect the confidentiality of that agreement though I understand and have been provided proof by others that this is not the case on the other side.

Doing the right thing is not just about looking at things all from your own point of view. Looking at both sides of the story and making a balanced, and if possible, as unbiased as possible decision based on the facts of the matter, is doing the right thing.

When you are the head of a forum, or a magazine, or a website, you have a duty of care to your consumers that you act in an appropriate fashion and with professional behaviour. If your customers have concerns and air these, in whatever fashion, it is for you to rise above it and present a professional air.

I do not have any regrets in walking away from that forum, and in fact my modelling has not suffered from it. In fact, by keeping to my blog and on Facebook, my modelling has improved in quality and in its breadth to the extent that I have a new layout taking shape with many new interesting models and projects to be run on it.

I am happiest being able to contribute in small ways elsewhere, not least MREmag whose three day publishing per week suits me down to the ground. I enjoy writing in to the letters page and debating with people there. It is good fun and a number of very useful posts have been made in response.

Far from sending the "crazies" away to another location of the inter web, I find that MREmag has a very active and very knowledgeable number of readers and contributors; and Phil Parker's calm editorial style puts it above a number of other sites. Long may it continue.

For those who may not have visited MREmag, please do so and enjoy reading it.

Until next time.