Wednesday 29 February 2012

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

Got my timing all wrong today so am having to post this blog away from home.
So here are some odds and ends.
Sejourne Viaduct also known as the Stayed Bridge and Bridge Fontedrouse is a railway bridge allowing the Cerdanya Line crossing at Tet. The bridge was constructed between 1906 and 1908 and is named after the engineer who built it Paul Sejourne. It was declared a historical monument on 30th December 1994. The Little Yellow Train also known as the Le Petit Train travels on the bridge.
Found this model station on the web.
The model is from a French specialist company called ARA productions, and its a model of a PLM (Paris-Lyon Mediterranean) prototype.  It's a combination of molded plastic and laser cut for the details.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God

This is a simple hymn with a simple message - hard to follow but surely, correct.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Man does not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, alleluia
Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Man does not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, alleluia

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Ceramic Gare du Nord - progressing

Slowly, but surely, the ceramic facade is progressing.

Every Tuesday evening for the past 3 weeks I've been working on this facade - it gets wrapped up in between times in a black plastic bin bag which keeps the clay damp and malleable.

A reminder of what I'm aiming at.

And here is a little ceramic HO scale town building that I hope to include somewhere on the layout.

Silver Apples aka Simeon Coxe

Can't stop thinking about what a great evening that was last Sunday.

In a Woody Allen film, I think it was Manhattan, Woody's character is lying on a couch on a Sunday afternoon in a New York appartment musing into a dictaphone about what makes life worth living.

He comes up with things like Louise Armstrong's playing, Cezanne's painting and I can't remember the rest of the list.

And for me, seeing Simeon Coxe on Sunday justified being alive.

Obviously, the higher purpose is to give other people that reason to be alive.  Equally obviously, not everybody would have enjoyed Simeon Coxe.

I regret that I cannot develop this thesis any further.

But here is the extract from the Woody Allen film.

Monday 27 February 2012

Silver Apples

Behind the scenes:

Several weeks ago

10 minutes ago

I hope there's some truth to the statement, one step back, two steps forward. The pile of books is weighing down the test-layout board whose supports are being heightened to accommodate the tortoise points motor - allowing the glue to set under pressure of the weight of the books. The rest of the chaos has no justification. But sometimes it's reassuring to know that behind the scenes there often is a very unprepossessing mess, so I have put the picture in.

Silver Apples

Performance at MONO, Glasgow 26th Feb 2012.

This was a performance I'm glad I saw before I die - it was that special.

The surviving member of the Silver Apples, presumably well into his 60s, is Simeon Coxe III. Here is an extract from Wikipedia. (For some reason, I thought they hailed from California.)

Silver Apples are an American psychedelic electronic music duo from New York, composed of Simeon Coxe III, who performs as Simeon, on a primitive synthesizer of his own devising (also named The Simeon), and until his death in 2005, drummer Danny Taylor. The group was active between 1967 and 1969, before reforming in the mid 1990s. They were one of the first groups to employ electronic music techniques extensively within a rock idiom, and their minimalistic style, with its pulsing, driving beat and frequently discordant modality, anticipated not only the experimental electronic music and krautrock of the 1970s, but also underground dance music and indie rock of the 1990s.

The basic set-up in MONO which is basically a very big cafe was Simeon standing behind some tables on which was a lot of Heath Robinson electrical paraphernalia last seen by me in school physics lab.

Here are pictures from the web of Simeon playing somewhere else.

Here are some fuzzy pictures I took with my phone last night.

The electronic music and bass lines were magnificent. But what really surprised me was Simeon's  voice. Silver Apples are not an instrumental band, they do 3 to 4 minute songs very melodic and poppy in feel AND Simeon's voice is as smooth and tuneful as ever. I was expecting him to have augmented the set up with some younger folk doing the singing, but he did everything.

The sound is a cross between the Magic Roundabout, Dr Who theme tune, techno beats and standard pop music. Hot Chip are obvious descendants in my view.

The average age of the crowd - and it was mobbed - was early twenties. This was not an evening of nostalgia.The reception was raucous. He did two possibly three encores and still the crowd screamed for more.

Simeon himself was charming. He had a huge smile on his face at the end of each song. At the very end he got down from the makeshift-stage and  chatted with members of the audience.

AMAZING COINCIDENCE: At the end of the concert I walked up to Argyle Street to get a taxi and guess what,  a taxi appeared almost immediately from a side-street and printed on its passenger door, the name of the taxi owner J H Simeon!!!!!

Sunday 26 February 2012

Laying HO track - pinning it down

When one is preparing the wiring, working out where the cork underlay is to go, positioning the points motor exactly beneath the throw-bar of the points and generally drilling holes into the baseboard for this, that and the next thing, it is important to have a method for temporarily fixing the track in position. For one is basically experimenting with permutations of track/wires/holes/etc.

At this stage of experimentation, I wasn't keen to screw down the track and then unscrew it so as to adjust it by 2mm and then re-screw it etc etc. Leaving aside the fact that that would entail drilling very small holes in the very narrow plastic sleepers - a recipe for decimated sleepers if ever there was one.

Obviously, pinning down the track with panel pins or gluing it would be permanent.

Up until now I have been using drawing pins, but they are murder on the old finger nails when being pulled out and seem to have a very short half-life -after a few insertions the pin always ending up out of kilter with its head. Also, now that I have the cork underlay beneath the track, the pins don't reach very far into the baseboard itself.

The solution - wall staples. Very firm fixing but easy to remove with a screw driver and no damage to the sleepers - each staple straddles a sleeper.

Silver Apples

Off to see the Silver Apples tonight in Glasgow.

Hoping that I won't appear to be the oldest person there. The last surviving member of the Silver Apples is bound to be older than me since he was mucking about with synthesised music in the 60s when I was simply mucking about with Scalextrix.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Advice for Novices

When I began this project, my idea was to design the layout, buy all the pieces of track and then wire it all up over a couple of weekends.

What actually transpired was that each piece of track demanded huge amounts of skill, knowledge and time to install AND required other items to be purchased in addition in order to get it to function.

A few weekends slid painfully into 3 months.

If I had to start this model rail project all over again, I would begin with a microcosm of the layout - a small test layout on which I could practice all the necessary techniques, and establish which components and tools one required to buy.

Since my layout will be very points-based and will not be a circuit, I believe that the following test layout would allow me to learn everything I need to know in order to build the final layout. Working on the final layout right from the start has proved daunting and discouraging - requiring one to run before one has learned to walk.

It's a simple strip of wood about 1 metre long and supported on 15cm legs. The gap allows one to practise preparing all the underboard wiring and points motors. The track is two branches going into one via one set of points.

Once I've got this working for DC running and then DCC running, I can try out pinning the track down, laying ballast on the tracks, weathering the appearance of the tracks, and even trying out a few scenery techniques.

In fact, I've already gone some way to constructing such a mini-layout, but the idea only occurred to me after three months of fruitless and frustrating struggle with the full-size layout. (See earlier blog - entitled "A plank of wood.")

Felix Mendelssohn  (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847)

A most melodic composer:

No other reason for including this picture, than I like it.

Friday 24 February 2012

Model Rail Scotland

Went to the opening day of Model Rail Scotland at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow - it lasts for 3 days.

My main intention was to buy a few infra-structure items and ask some advice about their use.

I arrived just before opening time - not out of unbridled anticipation but because it suited my own timetable for the day.

I was met by a puzzling site on the concourse of the centre: a load of women/girls in tents. My first thought was that it was some kind of anti-capitalist (or anti-model railway) protest.

In fact, the occupants were fans of "One Direction" queuing overnight for concert tickets.

Perhaps I should have done the same, because when I got inside the Exhibition Centre I was confronted by the completely unexpected site of hundreds of men in anoraks (and one woman) queueing to buy admission tickets. It looked like an airport on a bank holiday.

Once inside, I took only a cursory look at the layouts and headed for Nairnshire Models, the stall run by Nigel Burkin. He really is the most helpful expert. He answered all my questions about re-wiring patiently and drew little diagrams so that I was completely clear in my mind about how to proceed when I got home.

These are the items I purchased:

Crocodile clips to hold items being soldered.

A slightly different design of snap lock connectors (Scotchlock) and the recommended thickness of cable.
A fine metal file to smooth down any excess solder on the rails.

Alternative connectors

As I say, I took only a cursory look at the dozens of working layouts. Seems a terrible thing to say (even arrogant) but I can't get excited about other people's layouts. The charm of a layout, I suspect, is in the eye of the builder - and that will apply to mine as well, no doubt.

DJ Cam

The Beat Assassinated

Thursday 23 February 2012

An Elizabethan

The Humble Crocodile Clip

Got cracking on some soldering this evening.

Discovery 1) thick cable cannot be easily soldered to the rails so reverted to the bell wire as feeders from the power bus. More of that issue tomorrow.

Discovery 2) a crocodile clip is the perfect device for holding the wire tightly against the rail to which it is being soldered.

I've just realised that I am the protypical Elizabethan - as is my brother-in-law.

We were both born in 1952.

I think for a British person it has been a good period to be alive. No wars on our soil, basic economic stability and internal law and order.

Obviously, I've been lucky. Could have spent the last 60 years in Somalia.

The Coldest Season:
Deepchord Presents: Echospace

For utter bleakness, this is the album to play.

Here is an extract from a review in 2007:

 " ....... transporting the listener to a bleak arctic soundscape that is raked by gales of reverberant sound and dotted here and there with frozen columns of bass. A jagged rhythm pounds away beneath the inhospitable tundra, struggling to break through to the surface, while geysers of pure sound hiss and steam their way through the cracks.

Delicately balancing between dancefloor euphoria and deep ambient immersion, the album is rife with tension."

Here is another:

"The Coldest Season opens with an atmospheric storm of white noise; a field recording manipulated by Modell and Hitchell. After minutes of buildup a beat unexpectedly kicks in, panning and evolving constantly. Thus marks the beginning of Echospace's first album and a new direction for dub techno.

The storm is prevalent for the entire duration of the recording, a high frequency hissing offset by killer bass hooks. Just like the minimal cover art is grey and white, the contrast is obvious and delightful for anybody 'trained' in dub techno. Special mention goes to "Aequinoxium" with the most addictive bassline I have ever heard in a track - 13 minutes of relentless sub-marine exploration. "Celestialis" is also a favourite, with glacial bursts added in the first few minutes and the bass gearing up throughout the track. It's the most progressive track on the album - most of them are content on chugging hypnotically onwards."

I remember buying this album. Yes, I actually went into an actual record shop in Glasgow and bought it.

That was in the days when it was a real treat to browse through the record racks and find a little gem. On this occasion, something was playing in the shop and I asked the chap what it was. I can't remember what it was, but he said that if I liked that sort of thing then I would like Deepchord, and I took his advice.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Ceramics update

As I anticipated, last night's session at the ceramics class was exhausting.

Since last week, the great slab of clay from which the Gare du Nord facade is being constructed had been kept moist and supple (basically in its original pristine condition) by simply covering it with a black bin bag (fairly loosely) and placing it in a steel cupboard - just like an office cupboard and not obviously airtight or anything.

This is quite encouraging, it means that one can work on a piece over several weeks, in as long or as short a session as one can manage and simply wrap up the clay to preserve its supple properties ready for next time.

Indeed, the lecturer advised keeping the black bag over the part of the clay that one was not working on during the course of the evening otherwise the rest would dry out.

The task last night was to carve out the pillars (which are in relief) with more accuracy

Start of evening.


Using a craft knife.

Note black bin bag covering rest of clay.

End of evening

And then back into the cupboard covered with the black bin bag for next week.

Love the one you're with

Looking back on the 1960s/70s, I never bought into all the hippy philosophy. I loved the music and I wore the clothes but even I could see that all that free-love business was a load of old cobblers.

Nevertheless, Stephen Still's song Love the one you're with which is a bit of an anthem for ageing hippies has always seemed to me to contain a lot of truth.

Leaving aside specifically  what he probably had in mind, there is something essentially Christian about responding benevolently to the people who surround one at any time: on the bus; in the office; on holiday; in the hospital waiting room; in the supermarket queue; in a traffic jam; in the classroom; in the restaurant.

I would say that I have been a bit guilty about perceiving people that I do not know but who have  been right next to me on a train or a plane or in a queue in the bank in terms of indifference.

As a rule, that probably suits everyone involved, but what if one of these people needed the loving consideration of a fellow human being RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT and I was the only option for them?

Anyway, it's a fairly good song. (Saw Crosby, Stills and Nash in Edinburgh a few years ago - absolutely dire, I'm afraid to say.)

Stephen Stills wrote one on my favourite songs of all time: The Myth of Sysiphus

Here is a pretty good live recording from 1976 - just audio, I'm afraid.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Current position

Let's  summarise the last few months and re-iterate the intention behind this model railway.

1) French HO Scale:

2) Basically a city-scape with a mainline terminus as the centre piece based loosely on the Gare du Nord, but not specifically set in Paris.

3) The foreground buildings will be home-made from ceramic or earthenware.

4) The backdrop will be tapestry - probably long-stitch. (Not my handywork.)

5) The control system will be DCC ie Digital Command Control where there is a computer chip inside each locomotive.


Album: 15 Again

Track: La Notte

One of the great joys (and drawbacks, no doubt) of iTunes and iPods and MP3 players generally is the shuffle facility whereby any track in one's collection can be selected by the system at random.

Last night, this really hypnotic track by Cassius, the 1990s French electronic duo came up.

Monday 20 February 2012

Tiredness and Creativity

Saw this picture on BBC website tonight - it really captures the 'je ne sais quoi' atmosphere of a railway station, albeit in Russia not France. It has motivated me to keep going.

Moved a small step ahead with my test track today and made a plan of how it should be wired; perhaps 'powered' is a better word.

The thick red  and blue lines at the top represent the 12volt power bus from which feeder wires to the track will be taken.

I've elected to put feeds to each separate piece of track and to the points themselves.

And the messier reality:

You will notice that I am using those snap lock connectors which  I eschewed in earlier blogs. Have decided to give them another trial but with thicker feeder wire that I hope won't slip out of the connector. I have also followed the advice of an Australian in a youTube video (I mentioned this in an earlier blog) who threads the feeder wire right through the connector in a U-formation thus being able to get two feeds from each connector - not sure why the manufacturers don't mention this possibility.


Mentioned this singer the day before yesterday.

She has a most unusual voice. Came across a really great song on iTunes: "Spontaneity"and have been playing and re-playing it all day.

It's from her album Kollage. Found the rest of the album mediocre so didn't download anything else.

Tiredness and Creativity

I've come to the conclusion that creative pursuits are often mentally demanding and not in the slightest bit relaxing.

I was very tired before I even started last week's ceramics class. As a result, I couldn't be bothered making the creative decisions about which cuts/brush-strokes/lines etc should be made in the clay to capture the feel of the Gare du Nord facade I've embarked upon. Fortunately, most of the evening was taken up with rolling out the gigantic piece of clay necessary to make the facade.

But tomorrow, I am going to stop work early so that I am not arriving in the class in a harassed state of mind. I want to shape and emboss this slab of clay in a careful, purposeful and artistic fashion. If I'm tired I'll still feel obliged to do something but that something will be slap-dash and non-artistic and just done for the sake of it.

Here's a photo of the basic set up to remind me what's ahead.