Bad news and good news

It is unlikely that regular contributor Mark Ellott will have a story for the next anthology. Not impossible but very unlikely. He has had some very bad news of his own and will need time to deal with it.

As bad news goes, it just doesn’t get any worse than that. I have never lost anyone so close and so young and can honestly say I have no idea what he must be going through now.

I have offered condolences of course but I never know what to say in this situation. I try to stay silent for fear I will say something inappropriate or try to crack a joke to ease the tension. But then staying silent is seen as not caring, which isn’t the case at all, so it’s a no-win one. The shutting up is probably the best option though.

My own beliefs about what happens after death are generally not well received by any group anywhere so it’s best I just keep quiet about that too.


The good news is that the anthology has eight stories already (three of them are me, I’m not going to be the last minute one this time) and there’s over a month to the deadline. It’s set to come out a little after Easter but the Easter theme is not fixed. Easter is a tough one to place a story into so it’s an ‘anything goes’ (within reason and legality) like the first one.

Plenty of time for a cover too. I’m drawing a cover for Lee Bidgood’s book, there have been a couple of out-takes but I now have a canvas and my old Windsor and Newton inks, the ones I used to draw cartoons, and am practising that ancient ability once again.

This is good news for me, as is my rekindled interest in model building and railways. I had lost interest in pretty much everything except whisky for a few years back there but the down-spiral is now on the way back up. Oh I still like whisky, I just don’t finish bottles of it nightly any more.

I am not buying brand new railway stuff unless I can find it very heavily discounted. This only happens with older models and sets that can’t be fitted into the new DCC control system. Controlling multiple trains looks pretty cool but it sounds like too much work for me. I prefer multiple controllers where I know which dial runs which train and there is no danger of collision. I can concentrate on shunting while another train runs around a loop. I know it won’t hit anything.

Maybe that makes me a Luddite but it’s supposed to be a relaxing hobby. Being, effectively, a signalman at a major railway junction is not a relaxing thing. It’s like being an air traffic controller but you can’t instruct one train to go higher to miss running into the back of another one. They can’t swerve out of the way either.

Mostly I get job lots on eBay. These go cheap because they are often a mix of things. I bought 20-odd wagons for £20 recently and almost all of them are in excellent condition. Two of them are ‘Yeoman’ mineral hoppers. I can’t use those. They run in long trains of the same wagon and are pulled by an engine in Yeoman company livery. They are no good for my usual GWR mixed freight trains.

So I’ll put them back on eBay. From the auctions I followed on those wagons it seems they’ll sell for about £10 for the pair which gets back half of what I paid for 20 wagons and I still have 18!

I also have some Hornby Dublo from the mixed lots. Good quality stuff but the couplings don’t match anything else so either I change the couplings or I sell them. Changing couplings is hard on these because they have cast metal underframes that are hard to modify.They aren’t doing well on eBay at the moment so I’ll save them for later.

I’m moving to Kadee couplings because the standard Hornby ones look like Volvo bumpers and if you want to remove one wagon from the middle of a train you need the fingers of a Rubik’s Cube champion.

Engines, I look for non-runners or spares and repair. If the valve gear is hanging off, forget it. If there’s a bit of bodywork damage or it just ‘doesn’t run’ I can often fix it. Well, look – you want a new one, be prepared to shell out £100+ for a little tank engine. Risking a fiver or a tenner on a non-runner is well worth it on that scale. Besides, most of the non-runners just need the wheels cleaned or have been over-oiled. They are running fine in a matter of minutes.

Some are listed as ‘untested’. Sometimes that’s true. People get a job lot at auction, they have some trains in there, those people have no model railway and can’t test them. The eBay mind, though, immediately thinks ‘you tested it, it doesn’t work, you don’t want to admit it’.

Easy test – what else are they selling? Mostly railway models or just random stuff? If the engine is the only railway item in their lists then they are probably telling the truth.

I bought a Fowler 4F from a seller I fully believe didn’t know how to test it (touch a 9V battery to the wheels for most old ones). It looked like it had been dropped; needed a new funnel, repairs to cab roof and tender, easy. I paid under a fiver for it and it ran perfectly first time. Repairs are under way. Then a repaint and a new number and it’s a coal train header for me.

If you’re going to railway-up on eBay, beware of brake van syndrome. Everyone has too many of them. They are in most job lots too. Also brake-end coaches – one per train is all you need, two (one at each end) if it’s a long train. Many people sell one open coach and one brake end together. Then there are occasional American ones – I have two Triang caboose cars from job lots, one in near perfect condition, but nobody wants them.

It is hard to sell brake vans and brake end coaches because you don’t need very many. So avoid job lots full of brake vans – you are not going to turn a quick buck reselling them.

Coal trucks, well, everyone needs loads of those. If you have a childhood train set in the attic with lots of coal trucks then get it on eBay. Look at the average 50s/60s train. One engine, maybe 40 or more coal trucks, one brake van. The coal trucks are what sells.

Take the prices off. If you stopped railway playing before 2000 you are going to be shocked at modern prices. I was, when I sold off my N gauge to pay bills some years back. I had a set of six Pullman coaches I’d bought for about £20 the lot in the 1980s. It sold for over £80 and at the prices of the time, someone got a bargain!. I wish I had never bothered with share dealing in those days and just stocked up on toy trains. The returns would have been far better. Probably too late now though, modern prices are already daft and a crash in the toy train market must surely be due.

I saw an N gauge engine on sale for £120 new. More if you wanted DCC fitted. It’s about 12 cm long – a pound a millimetre! No thanks. I’ll stick with the old stuff, no fancy remote control, which costs so very much less.

I have also invested in magnifiers which will help with the smaller scales. There was a time when I could focus on things about an inch from my eyes but those times are in the past forever. Magnifiers let me get back to working on that tiny submarine I once drilled a 1 mm hole through so I could put a smoking captain in the conning tower. The good part is that in the meantime, LEDs have become so small it’s going to be a lot easier to light his pipe now.

Yes, it’s a ramble. A babble of inconsequence. I don’t like deaths. They remind me of my own mortality and – especially – that of my children and that’s scary as hell. And I have never been able to cope with them.

But ignore all I’ve said and put your thoughts Longrider’s way. He needs your support now.

5 thoughts on “Bad news and good news

  1. Pingback: Missive From ‘Merica: HAI Snow! – Library of Libraries

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