Midlands MEX 2015

The Fosse Way Steamers

The Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition has been a regular event on the calendar for nearly 40 years and I went to this years show on Friday. The journey was uneventful and once off the motorway quite a pleasant drive through the Warwickshire countryside. The weather was cloudy but dry, a good thing as some of the exhibits are outside including the Fosse Way Steamers (pictured), the Gas Turbine Builders Association and the South West Truckers who seemed a bit lonely in a corner by themselves.

Back inside there were some 50 trade stands and an almost equal number of club stands with 4 large Competition and display stands rounding things off. I have to report a severely dented wallet due to overindulging at some of the well stocked trade stands, note to self – buy less tools! There is plenty of catering at the show with a couple of outside stands and the inside mezzanine restaurant. Over the four days there are a number of free lectures covering such varied subjects as Hobbing Gears, Silver Soldering, Sheet Metalwork, Steaming Model Boats and Foundry-work to name but a few.

The following photos show just a few of the thousands of items on display. No special reason for the choices other than I thought they looked good at the time. Click on the image for a larger version.

The three stationary engines were all on the competition stand. The first is a model of Galloway’s non-dead-centre beam engine by Brian Brown which claimed a 3rd prize in its class. The Stuart No.9 engine was “highly commended” and the last engine is I think a Georgina over-crank engine but I missed the label and can’t credit the builder. There were a good number of small stationary engine models at the show many based on castings from the likes of Stuart’s and Brunel Steam Models. I am still working up to completing my Stuart Victoria.

Next up, another three models from the competition and display stands just to illustrate the wide range of modelling interests represented at the show. True Briton is a fine example of model ship building by Terence Orton, a passenger clipper ship colloquially a “Blackwall frigate” built in 1861 and employed carrying passengers, cargo and convicts to Australia and New Zealand. The detail on the model is very fine even down to the copper plates on the hull. It is a pity that the security alarm wire detracts from the display but I suppose it is a necessity. The loco in the centre is one of Giancarlo Mastrini’s fantastic models. I have seen these at other exhibitions and my photo doesn’t really do it justice. It has gained a few plaques on the base but someone should kindly point out to Signor Mastrini that the Duke of EdiMburgh is probably having a quiet chuckle at the spelling error! By way of something completely different the stirling powered desk fan by E.K. Morris is a nicely finished and probably useful machine.

All of the club stands were packed with interesting items, the Northampton Society of Model Engineers display I thought very good. Equatorial sundials are unusual but I counted three at the show, I think all from the same design by Roger Bunce that appeared in Model Engineer some time back. This particular version was by David Fieldhouse and Chris Orchard. The model beam engine was one of a group, on the Kingsbury Water Park Model Boat Club stand, by Mick Hill. A nicely finished engine from an internet plan (I will have to find that one).

On a vaguely agricultural theme the next three photos are: A 2″ scale Fowler ploughing engine, one of a pair complete with a 6 furrow balance plough. The two engines are called Iris May and Sarah Jayne but that’s about all the info I have on these magnificent models. In the centre is Keith Wright’s 1/3 scale Economy hit & miss engine seen here driving a scratter mill. The engine ran well and was in action throughout the day. Last up on the Hereford Society of Model Engineers stand was Brian Palliser’s model of a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer video link.

As usual at these exhibitions the train enthusiast is well supported. The Leicester Society of Model Engineers had a largely railway oriented display, the central loco in this photo is a rather good 3.5″ gauge 9F – Evening Star with a supporting cast of well made rolling stock. Centre is a delivery van which caught my eye on the Guild of Model Wheelwrights stand, as usual an excellent selection of unusual models. 1st prize winner in it’s competition class is Jersey Lily a 5″ gauge model of a Great Central Railway Atlantic locomotive owned by David J. Bailey.

Finally the items I bought: A new keyless drill chuck for the drilling machine from RDG who always have a good selection at the show. I bought one of these for the lathe last year and thought it was well made at a reasonable price so I got another, much easier than playing with chuck keys. I have been using a drilling vice on the mill and though it was about time I got a proper milling vice. This is a 75mm jaw width 8900 from Warco, the only thing is it looks huge on my tiny mill, I may have to get a bigger mill to go with it! Silver soldering with my plumbers gas blowlamp just doesn’t work well so I treated myself to a proper torch by Sievert which I purchased from CUP Alloys (not the propane cylinder though). Last but not least a new belt sander to play with, a BDS460 from Warco, I will need some fine belts though the one that came with it is a bit quick. I will eventually get round to a bit of a write up on the sander to add to the workshop section.

Update November 2015 – review of the BDS 460 Belt & Disc Sander is now online.

LED Mill Light

I have seen a number of articles where enterprising mill owners have fitted LED lighting to improve workspace visibility. Often these utilise LED ring lights that are intended for automotive use and a smaller number using flat panels also used as replacements inside vehicles. I couldn′t find a suitable ring light but came across some very cheap LED flat panel lights on Amazon. I ordered a few to play with and at £1.25 each including postage from Hong Kong it wouldn′t be much of a loss even if I couldn′t make something useful.

I used bits and pieces that I had in the workshop to make a suitable cover and frame to protect the panel but you could probably just cover it in clear tape to provide a bit of protection. The panels come with a foam sticky pad on the back so they can be fixed to any flat surface. Unfortunately there is no such surface on the mill where I wanted to put the light, just a large recess on the underside of the head. I made the panel to be a tight fit into this recess. A small piece of 6mm clear polycarbonate sheet made the front cover with a similarly sized bit of styrene sheet for the back. The frame was from some left over plastic soffit trim but any U shaped plastic moulding would do

The panels come with a selection of “ends” to suit various vehicle lamp styles, these were not needed as I soldered the power lead directly to the board. Just to really confuse me the original red wire was the negative and the black positive, fortunately the boards seem to have a degree of protection built in! The parts are simply the black styrene back the clear polycarbonate front (it still has the protective paper on in the photo) some spacers also from polycarbonate and the frame. I cut the frame just using a tenon saw and a mitre box so they don′t join up too well. Basically just stick the spacers round the edge of the back sheet leaving a gap for the wire, stick the LED panel in the middle. The frame just clips on and holds everything together. Drill a hole in the edge of one of the frame pieces and thread the power lead through it before soldering the supply to the board.

With a bit of adjustment to the width of the light it was a tight fit in the recess under the mill head and at the moment it is just wedged in. It may need some better fixing method if the vibration works it loose. The power is from a 12v plug in supply (Wall Wart) it needs to be DC so I couldn′t use the existing 12v light supply. As can be seen it gives quite a bright light, it is supposed to be warm white but it′s definitely on the blue side.

Bristol MEX

The Bristol Model Engineering and Hobbies Exhibition is one of those annual shows that I have never managed to visit. As the price of petrol has fallen (a bit) I decided to make the 220 miles round trip at the weekend. I am pleased to say it was a very worthwhile journey. The venue was the Thornbury Leisure Centre just north of Bristol, easy to get to as it is close to the M4/M5 junction and plenty of free parking once you arrive.

The exhibition uses all four of the main sports halls with further exhibits outside. From the free guide I reckon there were about 100 stands split roughly 60/40 clubs and societies to traders, a very good mix. Unlike some model engineering shows there was a wide variety of related hobbies from R/C planes and helicopters through trucks and cars to the more usual model trains and boats. I even saw a stand devoted to quilting and needlecraft complete with sowing machine.

main hall
The main hall

The halls were very spacious and well laid out, there seemed to be plenty of room to move about and even enough space to take photos despite there being plenty of visitors. The main hall had a spectators gallery, where the photo was taken from, which is adjacent to the restaurant so it was quite nice to recover from the journey with a coffee whilst getting an idea of the layout below.

Wheelwrights Stand
Guild of Model Wheelwrights

The Guild of Model Wheelwrights had an extremely interesting and varied stand with many fine examples of their work on display. I was particulary impressed by the selection of farmyard machinery by Brian Young, two of his exhibits below (click on the image for a larger version), together with a fine artillery piece by J. Walford.

It would be impossible to show something from every stand so the photos below are things that particularly cought my eye and where my photographic skills didn′t fail completely. I can get out of focus shots even with a fully automatic camera!

rough pup engine
5″ gauge quarry hunslet – “Rough Pup”

The exhibition is hosted by the Bristol Society of Model and Experimental Engineers and they had an excellent display and workshop stand in Hall 2. One of the items on their stand which caught my attention was a fine model of a Quarry Hunslet Engine built by P. Bayliss (click on the image for a slightly larger view). The original 0-4-0 saddle tank is one of the “Alice” class engines built for use in the Dinorwic Slate Quarries at Llanberis by the Hunslet Engine Co. of Leeds.

As lunchtime approached I sampled the outside catering and had a look round some of the larger exhibits and the working traction engines. A couple of societies and private exhibitors accounted for about 10 traction engines in steam and there were a number on static display at the Model Steam Road Vehicle Society stand in Hall 1.

The J.M Glorie Belgian Street Organ was entertaining the outside diners with a good selection of music and was one of two mechanical organs on display. I think the monkeys are probably deaf by now! Close by on it′s trailer was a fine example of a modern steam yatch “Zara Finn” being exhibited by the Steam Boat Association of Great Britain. Just to demonstrate the variety of exhibits across the way were couple of “hit & miss” engines. The photo is of an Amanco Hired Hand popular both with full size collectors and with model engine builders.

Large Meccano Excavator
Meccano Marion 204M Super Front Shovel

Back inside the South West Meccano Club had an interesting display and the Marion 204M Super Front Shovel by Peter Evans brought back memories of my boyhood Meccano set where the picture on the box was always bigger and better than anything that could be built with the contents. Perhaps I should get a new set? This was quite a big stand with some novel uses of the Meccano construction system, even to include Richard Smith′s very good model of an LMS 4-6-2 loco “City of London” which sadly my photographic skills failed to capture. The club link though takes you to a page with the loco.

The three images above are a couple of my particular interests, that is stationary steam and hot air engines. The first image is from the Stirling Engine Society with more low temperature differential engines than you can shake a stick at. These engines are fascinating and definitely on the list of “must build one day”. Close by was a collection of engines by Anthony Mount, an authority on stationary steam and model builder par excellence. The centre engine is a Garrett & Sons twin compound engine. The two vertical column engines are a Ferrabee Column engine from 1862 which was built this year and at the rear a Benjamin Goodfellow Overcrank Engine 1851. The display could have been set out a bit better as there was plenty of space on the table.

In Hall 3 the South West Truckers had a large display area where you could practice driving an “artic” round the streets of their layout. The model R/C trucks in 1/14 or 1/16 scale were very detailed and immaculately turned out. Also in Hall 3 were the Surface Warship Association who won “best club stand” with their display. Next to the SWA stand was Jack Snary with his Spithead Fleet Review through the ages. This is consists of about 600 ship models all in 1/1200 scale representing some 30 years of modelling, there is so much to see and so much information it would take all day to do it justice.

Fowler Ploughing Engine
Fowler BB1 Ploughing Engine

The final picture was taken on the Stroud Society of Model Engineers stand. This is a fine 2″ scale model of a Fowler BB1 ploughing engine. The name plate on the model is Sarah but the index plate on the front comes back to the real engine which is called “Horsa” needless to say one of a pair the other being Hengist. Both the full size engines are in preservation. This was the last photo I took before setting off home having spent an interesting and pleasant day at the exhibition. If you would like to see more photos I can recomend the Model Engineering website.

Windows 10

Windows 10 Start Screen
Windows 10 Start Screen

The “Get Windows 10” icon appeared on my desktop some time ago and about a week after the official release date the upgrade downloaded itself onto the computer. I had played with the preview program on an old laptop so I was aware that there could be problems so rather than run the upgrade on my main PC I did a trial run on the laptop.

The laptop originally had Windows 7 but then Linux and most recently the Windows 10 Insider Preview. I reloaded Windows 7 from the original recovery discs and used a downloaded ISO on a USB stick to upgrade to Windows 10. Getting the ISO for the USB was straightforward just go to Download Windows 10, select 32 or 64 bit and the media creation tool will make a bootable USB drive for you. The upgrade was surprisingly quick and everything worked first time, the drivers all appeared to work and the serial number from the old Windows 7 automatically activated the new install. I decided then to do a clean install on the laptop just to see how that would go.

I formatted the drive and did a clean install from the USB stick. Everything installed first time without difficulty except for one Intel chip driver which went astray but it was soon found and downloaded. Windows upgrade ran almost at once and found a couple of updates and that was it. The laptop whilst old is still quite a good spec but I keep it mainly in case the newer desktop suffers a major outage. I spent some time exploring all the settings which are easy to find from the start menu and quickly discovered that Windows 10 wants to connect you to the world. Being a bit of a dinosaur I am not keen on “clouds” and “social media” and being permanently “connected”, so I spent some time switching the modern era off!

Start Menu
Start Menu

Everything appeared in order and I quite like the look and feel of the new Windows so I played with the start menu and set about customizing that. My version of customizing was basically to remove all the apps and leave just a few useful live tiles like the weather and news but it is quite easy to add and remove programs. A program is dinosaur speak for an app. You really do want to check all those option switches though, otherwise you could be supplying the neighbourhood with downloads via any open WiFi networks about.

A Bit of a Pane

Once happy with the laptop I let the main PC upgrade from it′s downloaded file. I was still a bit wary as this is a slightly more up to date desktop PC that came with Windows 8 but no media and no “product key”. All the software details are held in firmware (UEFI) on the motherboard so you can′t do a clean install until an upgrade has been activated, then hopefully the details are logged on Microsoft′s database somewhere. The upgrade from 8.1 went well and everything was working, all the old programs functioned the desktop personalizations were all there and I was quite pleased. I was busily disallowing everything when Windows Update found some new updates. I rebooted…

To cut a long story short No WiFi, well I could see my router but Windows kept saying “Cannot Connect To This Network”. I can report that the Windows 10 trouble shooter is about as much use as a chocolate teapot, indeed as it was in previous incarnations. I reloaded drivers searched the web (using the laptop) for updated drivers but nothing wanted to work. Fortunately the Windows 10 installation had activated so I was semi confident that if I reset the PC it would remain as a legitimate install. A reset basically leaves all your files and programs intact and reinstalls Windows. I took a deep breath and pressed the button. The reset took much longer than the upgrade did. Windows came back replete with WiFi and then began the pain of reinstalling all the programs. The reset doesn′t delete programs from the computer but they are no longer installed. Anyway I had some of the more useful programs back in place when Windows Update tells me it wants to restart (you can′t turn it off but you can alter when it does restarts). Reboot and… no WiFi, the air is now turning a somewhat deep shade of blue.

Belated Brainwave

One more go, this time a clean install of Windows 10. Fortunately the computer has an SSD, which I added, for the operating system and all the programs, data and photos are on another drive. This makes it a little easier as the SSD can be repartitioned and formatted without losing anything useful. You can probably tell where this is going by now, a clean install of Windows 10 and everything is working, one update later and the WiFi disappears. I now have no idea how to get this going save a long ethernet cable up the stairs when the somewhat addled brain remembers that I have an unused USB WiFi adaptor in the workshop. Five minutes rummaging later I have a TP-Link TL-WN822N 300MBPS WiFi adaptor plugged in and working. There is an upside to this as the TP-Link adaptor is much faster than the built in Lenovo card and I can now get in the region of 90 Mbits/s over WiFi which aint half bad. Another hour resetting switches and installing programs and everything is working as it should be.

So eventually with everything back to normal I have checked all my old software and am pleased to report that Geomagic Design works so that I can produce drawings. XAMPP works so that I can test bits of the website without the need to upload files. I have yet to reinstall Adobe Photoshop Elements or Premiere Elements as Adobe always loads a stack of unrequired sneaky software that wants to run all the time. I have been playing with the GIMP which is a free image processing program which seems to do most things I need albeit a little differently. I usually have a few browsers loaded for testing purposes and the new Microsoft Edge seems to work happily alongside the others although it hasn′t seen much use yet. Libre Office provides for all my office type needs and works as does Notepad++ which I use for editing the website.

The Other PC

I have another PC in the workshop which is useful for checking drawings and looking up the odd bit of data when working on a project. Just to keep all the computers singing from the same songsheet I upgraded this as well. I used the same USB stick to upgrade rather than a clean install. The workshop PC is connected to the interweb but being some way from the house the WiFi signal has to crawl across the garden to get there, so the USB was much quicker than downloading about 3GB of data. This was an upgrade from Windows 7 and everything went smoothly. All my old settings were retained, all the old programs worked even the screen background and taskbar layout remained as they were in Windows 7. I must say I was quite impressed especially as the WiFi remained working and that′s how it should have been for my other desktop PC. Still I suppose with a million and one possible variations of hardware, software, drivers amd devices something is bound to go awry with such a massive worldwide software extravaganza, it’s just annoying that it was on my system. I still had to spend quite sometime though finding all those switches and disconnecting myself from modernity.

Some of Those Switches!

All in all the upgrade was OK spoilt only by the WiFi driver problem, at least I assume it′s a driver I haven′t got to the bottom of that yet. I expect that at some stage a new driver will appear and the system will connect again but I am not really bothered as the new WiFi adaptor is much quicker.

My first thoughts on Windows 10 are that it is an improvement over 8.1. I like the style and the return of the start menu suits me much better than the Metro tiles of 8.1. Windows 10 seems stable thus far and my old software works without problem. My only real dislikes are the way it wants to connect and be online all the time and I would like an option to remove the lock and login screens which are a bit unnecessary as I am the only user. Just remember to go through all those option switches (yes, I know I am repeating myself).

Have I turned Cortana on? I think not, I have enough trouble with a mouse and keyboard without the damn thing talking to me.

Elmer’s Metric Standby Engine

I have added two new pages detailing the construction of my version of Elmer’s Standby Engine (No. 19). Elmer Verburg designed many small engines and published his designs in a book “Elmer′s Engines” in 1989. The book is out of print but I have seen copies available through Amazon for £200.00 up. Fortunately most of the book is available online from john-tom.com.

Elmers Metric Standby Engine
Elmers Metric Standby Engine

All of the original engines are designed with imperial measurements and the Standby Engine is quite small so I up-scaled it and redrew the plans using metric measurements. I slightly altered a few bits but essentially it follows the original, just a bit bigger. The re-drawn plans are available in the article as a PDF and can be printed onto 4 A4 sheets. I got a bit carried away with the photos and there are about 70 of them so I split the build over two pages so that download time isn′t too slow. I also experimented with HTML5 video for the first time and added a short clip at the end showing the engine running. The two new pages are in the Models tab of the menu which has, to say the least, been sparsley populated since I first set up the website.

Elmers Metric Standby Engine – The static bits.
Elmers Metric Standby Engine – The moving bits.

Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

Spent Sunday afternoon at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre just outside Aylesbury. The centre covers about 25 acres and has something for everyone. Part of the site is used by the Vale of Aylesbury Model Engineering Society (VAMES) who have several permanent layouts in different scales from garden railways 32mm up to 7¼”. There is plenty of free parking at the site and a very good refreshments area serving snacks and hot meals. There is of course a gift shop ready to lighten your wallet for the usual selection of must have memorabilia.

There are several “special event” weekends throughout the year and this weekend there was a model traction engine rally organised I think by VAMES. There were quite a few engines about steaming merrily from the main car park along the road to the model railway area about ½ mile. Unfortunately the weather was less than kind and there were very few visitors about to take rides and a few exhibitors dropped the fire and packed up early. Apparently Saturday was much better both weather and visitor wise. Still there were some fine examples on display.

4" scale traction engines
4″ scale traction engines
Ruston PRoctor Steam Tractor
Ruston Proctor Steam Tractor

Neatly parked for a photo opportunity three 4″ scale models. Two Foster′s “Lilian” and “Lesley” and a Ruston & Proctor steam tractor. The Ruston looks to be a different scale but the original was only some 12′ long, probably one of the smallest traction engines made.

Racing for home Swanscombe & Beattie
Racing for home Swanscombe & Beattie
No.30585 well tank "Beattie"
No.30585 well tank “Beattie”

Providing nostalgic rides for the day were the 2-4-0 Beyer Peacock well tank No.30585 “Beattie” and the 0-4-0 Andrew Barclay saddle tank No.699 “Swanscombe”. It is possible that I have misidentified 30585 as it seems to have been regularly moved about, refitted, renumbered and re-liveried over the years.

GWR Castle Class No. 5080 "Defiant"
GWR Castle Class No. 5080 “Defiant”

Seeking refuge from the wind and squally showers, the main visitor centre building is light and airy and houses a large display area set up like a couple of platforms, the very pleasant restaurant with plenty of seating, the gift shop, toilets and play areas for the the kids. I assume this building was once an engine shed as one of the current displays is a full size loco and tender a GWR castle class engine No.5080 “Defiant” (ex Ogmore Castle). There is a traverser at the rear of the building which explains how the engine and carriage displays can be brought in and out.

foden steam wagon
foden steam wagon
through the picnic area
through the picnic area

Back outside the VAMES area was fairly quiet but still a couple of engines running and the Foden steam wagon had made it’s way there from the car park. The ground level tracks make their way past a pleasant wooded area set out with picnic tables but no one was brave enough to try outdoor dining today.

There are plenty of static displays outside, London Underground District Line stock, South African Railways 3′ guage loco. The 6989 Wightwick Hall Restoration Group are based here and depending on what they are doing at the time you can view their progress on the loco. Also based at the centre are the 7200 Trust restoring one of GWR′s 2-8-0 heavy freight tank locomotives.

buffer depot "Romneys" and weather
buffer depot “Romneys” and weather

The centre also has a museum in the “Buffer Depot” with many interesting displays of rolling stock, equipment and small artifacts. A full size W.H. Smith bookstall set up as it was on the platform at Chalfont and Latimer Station. Just outside the museum are a number of remaining “Romney” huts which were built on site by the Ministry of Food around 1941 as food stores, one of a number of such stores just outside London.

A good day out despite the weather, well worth a visit if you have an interest in railway history and preservation or just like train rides.