Balancing a model boat

Building a model boat is a long-term project that can provide major results once complete, giving you something to be truly proud of.

Unlike a train or car, a boat is a much more intricate design as it needs to be able to float on water and not topple over when the engine is full flow. Getting the right materials together is a starting point but one of the most important aspects is ensuring that the balance is spot on. This is a make or break decision and something that needs to be thoroughly thought out before any action is taken.

While many modellers do not test the balance of the boat until it is complete, it is advisable to take a moment to adjust with additional weights wherever possible. The last thing you want is for your completed, varnished and painted boat to simply capsize as soon as you let it out into open water, it will result in having to go straight back to the drawing board and thus ruining months of hard work.

The basics

The buildings of a boat is fairly straightforward with the model including a short prop shaft that is as a small as possible in order to maximise the torque. Once this is achieved then you can start at looking at how you can make sure the boat is balanced. Firstly, the engine needs to be situated at the back of the boat, which reduces the distance between it and the propeller.

Place the boiler in the middle as the water level can change throughout its use. This is important as if the boiler is on the port side it can become unbalanced as water levels fluctuate. The next step is to simply balance it on the water and see how it sits, this is a hugely trial and error phase so you need to be able to assess which parts may need additional weights.

Varying factors

There are numerous factors that can play a part in whether or not the boat will float and not fall over at the first attempt. The stern is a component that needs to be counterbalanced. Due to its heaviness it will need something else on board to compensate. In the past modellers have opted for either pebbles or stone weight but they can move about so sand may be more appropriate or, if you are confident it will stay balanced, cement can also work.

Another factor that can affect the boat's balance is the propeller torque. This can play a part in the boat rolling and needs to be addressed before the model is completed. In real boats, with the propeller is rotating clockwise there will be a slight anticlockwise opposing force potentially causing a tip. This can be combated by putting the driver's seat on the starboard side to offset the rotation, the same method can be applied to models.

Remember, weight distribution is absolutely key if you care to make a boat that will stand the test of time and not just capsize at the first opportunity.

Preview: South West Model Show

Following the festivities of Easter and the extended weekend away from the workplace there is always a lull when returning to work.

However, May provides people with not one but two bank holidays ensuring they can recharge their batteries over a long weekend. With the weather picking up around the UK it could be the perfect time to get out of the house and enjoy a day out somewhere. The first bank holiday weekend (May 3rd to 5th) sees the annual South West Model Show being held at Bath & West Showground, Shepton Mallet in Somerset.

The show is a huge favourite with modellers, with organisers expecting over 10,000 people to attend the two-day event. There is something for everyone with pretty much every type of model covered with a range of exhibitors demonstrating their latest models as well as a number of old favourites. A host of top names will be in attendance giving their expert advice on how people can get the best out of their own collections.

Events such as the South West Model Show provide opportunities to gain inspiration for building a layout or adding equipment to a growing collection. There can be many things that people simply have not thought of before or simply did not have the know-how to do so. For example, exhibitors of model railways will be able to provide advice on how to build an intricate layout or even recreate a scene from the British countryside.

However, the South West Model Show is not just about railways. Visitors will also be able to see models take to the sky, power their way along the water and tear up the road. As Mamod rolls a new marine engine off the production line, enthusiasts may be interested to see the other nautical models on display.

There is set to be a dedicated model boat hall set up at the event along with a boating pool. Organisers explain that there will be a series of demonstrations from some of the "finest radio controlled scale model boats in the south-west".

Organisers are also delighted to welcome back the team responsible for the model airplane displays which will run throughout the weekend. A host of top name pilots such as Ray Watts, Jason Pinnell, Tim Rowe and Toby Black will be on hand to show visitors the prowess that these scale models have in the air.

Back on the ground there is a return of the The Southwest R/C Truckers club who will be showing off the latest trucks and providing a series of demonstrations along a specially designed track. Visitors will be able to view a host of radio controlled cars which were a big hit at the 2012 event.

The fun kicks off at 10:00 BST on Saturday (May 3rd) and will remain open until 18:00 BST, while on the Sunday (May 4th) it will close at the earlier time of 17:00 BST. Prices are £13 for adults, £5 for children under 15 and under 5's go free while two-day tickets are available for £22. All tickets can be purchased on the door but visitors can take advantage of a discount by purchasing online.

Family tickets group bookings and discounts for club members are also available.

Bringing the marine engine to life

The marine engine is the latest model to come off the Mamod production line but it has been a labour of love to get to this stage.

It was an interesting choice to revive the marine engine, which had proved popular in 1940s and 1950s but support and intrigue had dwindled since then. However, recent years have seen an increase in demand and repeated calls for the marine engine to be reintroduced, as modellers looked to move away from the traditional railways and back on to the water.

For Mamod it was not just a case of bringing back the original engine, a completely new strategy was required to ensure that the marine engine was a success. So it was a case of heading back to drawing board and planning out a design that would appeal to the company’s customer base that were becoming increasingly nautical.

Getting started

Although it may be stating the obvious, the way a marine model is designed is much different from one that can be used on land. Mamod needed to choose materials that were not prone to react with the water. The company opted for brass and stainless steel as opposed to just normal steel as that is too reactive to water.

Focus on remote control

One of the key selling points Mamod wanted to create was a remote control. Engineers determined that the model could prove more successful if collectors could drive their boat on open water, without the need to be good swimmers to simply retrieve it. The remote control posed another challenge to the design of the model and the engine needed to be adapted to fit the common type of servos.

Designing the engine

Once it had been determined what materials to use and how to integrate the remote control function, Mamod engineers then went about designing the marine engine itself. One of the main factors was the prop shaft and how it would be attached. Should the engine be installed horizontally it would require a traverse attachment whereas vertically means the prop shaft needs to go backwards and out the stern.

The former is the most preferable way of constructing a boat engine but it is not widely used. The main concern of the designers was ensuring the crank shaft was as low as possible, if this is achieved then the prop shaft will not need to be angled in order to reach the water and avoid a loss of efficiency.

Mamod to chose to build a much thicker crank shaft than standard models to compensate for the lack of a fly wheel. A bigger cylinder was introduced which ensured more steam could pass through and therefore generate more power. However, to offset this Mamod needed to use a vertical boiler which is much more efficient at reheating coils.

As engineers were aware of the importance of the hull, the base plate of the marine engine needed to be narrow so it could fit. This was an arduous process with a series of redesigns of the configuration of the components.

However, this intensive labour of love eventually bore fruit when Mamod was finally able to unveil the finished product.

Brunel engines steal the show in Peterborough

Crowds flocked to Peterborough Arena on Saturday (April 12th) to attend The 16mm Association National Garden Railway Show.

The event celebrated everything model railways and saw over 85 traders and exhibitors attend to share their expertise and insight with enthusiasts. While there were hundreds of different models on display there was one group of engine that stole the show – Mamod’s Brunel engine. The Brunel Vertical Engine has long been a favourite among collectors and Peterborough provided the perfect location for it to be promoted once again.

While most of the talk before the show was of the upcoming Telford Train, the Brunel was once again a popular item with many collectors eager to get their hands on the model. Three Brunels were purchased throughout the course of the day while another collector picked up a Mark II model from the Mamod stall and the Telford was on display for the first time in its new format.

Mamod engineers have been working hard to finally get the “runaway train” ready to be sold and this was just a taster of what is to come throughout the rest of the year. There was much interest in the new designs of the Telford and visitors were intrigued to see the proposed slide valve when it is completed. However, the company admitted that there are some teething problems with this design so it could be a while before the full version is launched.

Away from Mamod, there were a whole host of electric and steam trains on display. Traders and exhibitors managed to create a wide array of impressive layouts which drew in various enthusiasts. Alongside the electric and steam models there was also a number of wooden train kits that featured various carefully designed engine and carriages.

The focal point of The 16mm Association National Garden Railway Show was a train named Alice. This Quarry Hunslet Locomotive is the sister engine to Holy War and was built in 1902 and worked at Dinorwic Quarry in Wales until 1960. Like with many steam trains, the dawn of the electric and diesel era put an end to Alice’s use as a working steam train and has been subject to restoration projects for a number of years.

Bala Lake Railway volunteer worker Chris Scott is the person responsible for bringing Alice back to her former glory. Mr Scott purchased the remaining parts of the train in 1987 and spent years working at Ffestiniog Railway restoring Alice and in 1994 the engine returned to steam. It is still used today by Bala Lake Railway as well as being toured around the country at various events such as The 16mm Association National Garden Railway Show and other regional demonstrations.

The Peterborough show was hailed a success by organisers and it also gave an opportunity for some of the younger generation to join in with model railway collecting. With various clubs signing up new members, youngsters are being able to start themselves off with a hobby that can last a lifetime.

Luton Model Railway Club recreates Great Train Robbery

It is perhaps the most infamous incident of the UK’s railways and it has now been immortalised in model form.

The Great Train Robbery was one of the biggest heists in the country’s history as a gang of robbers, led by Bruce Reynolds, stole £2.6 million from a night train travelling to Glasgow through Buckinghamshire.

Now the Luton Model Railway Club has brought the famous tale back to life with an impressive layout. The club explained that while they did not condone the actions of the men involved, the event is “part of the national consciousness”. Members of the club have recreated the scene of the crime complete with bags of money being unloaded from the Royal Mail train and robbers making their getaway with the stash.

The robbery was a carefully planned move and saw gang members stop the train on a bridge between Linslade and Cheddington at 03:00 BST on August 8th, 1963. They broke into the High Value Package coach, stealing 120 mailbags with over £2 million in used banknotes, equating to around £41 million in modern day money.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery and it was even immortalised in a two-part BBC drama, starring Jim Broadbent. The group believed that the significance of the milestone was enough to recreate the incident in model form.

Nigel Adams, member of the Luton Model Railway Club, said: “We have tried to portray this event in a sensitive way, taking due regard for the injuries sustained by the locomotive crew on the night.”

“The diorama features sound and lighting effects to portray the account of the event. There are 15 figures on the display, although we have taken care to present them as just that – figures on a model.”

The display was on show at Stopsley High School, Luton on Saturday (April 12th) and will be at the National Festival of Railway Modelling in Peterborough in October.

Dorset model railway looking for a new home

Building a model railway is a labour of love and can take years to craft but, for some, there comes a time to say goodbye.

This is the case for David Hough, from Ferndown, Dorset, who, after years of painstakingly putting together his nine feet by 12 feet model railway, is ready to give it up to a loving home. The layout sits in a purpose built shed at the bottom of Mr Hough’s garden but with a move to a new house in the works, he is relinquishing his beloved train set.

Bournemouth Echo reports that Mr Hough explained there simply will not be enough room for his model railway in his new abode and he is looking for either a worthy charity or school that will be able to accommodate it. The layout was originally donated to Portfield School for children with autism but due to a lack of funds, the facility was unable to purchase a special hut to house the layout.

Speaking to the news provider, Mr Hough said: “I hope it might be used for the benefit of a local worthy cause. It has given me pleasure in building it and I would like to see it give pleasure to people less lucky than myself.”

The former College of Air Traffic Control instructor has crafted a narrow gauge railway depicting the Cornish south coast. It depicts the stunning views that people can enjoy when travelling around this part of the country. The railway has provided Mr Hough with hours of enjoyment following his retirement ten years ago and was even a part of his life shortly before the end of his career.

Mr Hough’s story is yet another example of how with some time and care, people can craft some really special model railway layouts in the comfort of their own home.