Thursday, 31 December 2015

Goodbye 2015

The end of another year is in sight and it has been a very different year for me. Some things went according to plan but a lot of things didn't go quite as anticipated.

The year got off to it's usual relatively promising start with a decent run of work from my former employer. Portishead was ticking along quite nicely and I had the traditional maintenance visit to Urlay Nook, but come April everything dried up. 

By June, things were looking a little desperate and the money was about to run out, so I had to start looking at alternative options. Out of the blue, some agency work arrived on the scene and over a two month period, I enjoyed five weeks contract work at the BMI Werndale Hospital acting as site engineer. One positive that came out of this was the opportunity to get my name on the books for a bank job in Materials and this has been a rather fun and enjoyable stopgap. I have continued to work with a lovely bunch of folks and although it is hardly a full-time job, it has kept a few ackers rolling in on a regular basis, and I have managed to maintain friendships forged during my contract time there.

A few other options I looked at didn't materialise...the driving job for Boots, a self-employed engineering post with Photo-Me and working as a parcel courier didn't come to fruition but after two attempts, I did manage to find a part-time position as a Customer Advisor with B&Q.

Funnily enough, I rather enjoy B&Q. I know it's not exactly 'challenging' and it is only minimum wage, but it does keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. With the Festive Season push, the overtime has been plentiful and they have kept me gainfully employed. Rather a pity, then, that the powers that be intend to close down our branch at the end of April and give us all our marching orders.

Looking forwards, I guess I have another four months of earning potential there, but other bright spots are already appearing on the horizon. There is the sniff of a few weeks work in Singapore doing what I do best, and talks of maintenance work here in the UK.

I dare say I'll get through this year just as I managed to get through the last. The office is pretty much finished now, and the project for 2016 up at The Manor is to set up the wood and metal shops and to help facilitate the relocation of a Public Footpath that is causing some issues, and to help get the new extension on the Manor up and doing for Mrs E. That will also mean sorting out trackways and site infrastructure and although it has diverted attention from the Eco-Tipis plan, it may turn out to be a net benefit in the overall scheme of things.

We'll see how things pan out. In the meantime, thank you for following the trials and tribulations of Retrotecchie over the last 12 months, and I hope you continue to enjoy my musings in the year ahead.

Wishing you a calm, peaceful and prosperous 2016.


Saturday, 26 December 2015

Humbug Alleviated

Oh joy of joys. Christmas heralded the arrival of a new addition to the LEGO train set. A 60050 City Station, courtesy of the Hobbit. That took care of a couple of hours on Christmas morning and by tea time, the LEGO City Passenger train had two stops on it's oval of track.

I have the original 2011 series station, the 7937. The new one is bigger and in many ways better. The snack bar is pretty good, but it's the LEGO shop on the platform that really does it for me!

Friday, 4 December 2015

LEGO Musings

I'm bidding for more train-related bits on Ebay and I have two shipments from Bricklink (one from France and one from Finland) inbound.

I really need to get a decent ladder, clear out the attic and get the layouts set up. On my 'stuff to do' list, it ranks at #143!

Completely Off Track

Or, to be technically accurate, on track. Stepping sideways for a moment, one of my guilty pleasures is LEGO. Specifically LEGO trains. I have a huge collection spanning 50 years, from the late 60's to the present day.

Things have changed from the early primitive days to the very complex and expensive sets of today with vast amounts of detail and a huge number of parts.

Track systems have changed several times, from the early 4.5v and 12v blue tracks and white sleepers, via the later grey tracks and dark grey sleepers and the later 12v systems, to the 9v track system (similar to Hornby type tracks) to the current Power Functions dark bluish-grey all-in one moulded tracks.

Older blue and grey tracks are pretty much compatible with each other (they fit together and track geometry is the same) and the 9v and PF track is compatible for fit and geometry. Without a little 'hacking', the two types of system are incompatible with each other. A 4.5v 1960's train will happily run on 2010 track and vice versa because track pitch (gauge) is the same but that is as far as it goes. Battery trains will run on any kind of track, 12v trains need the centre conducting rails for their power, but 9v trains can only run on 9v track, which makes them the 'odd man out'.

When LEGO changed from the blue to grey rails, they created a slightly different mould for the tracks, allowing an 'intermediate' sleeper to be fitted mid section to create a far more rigid track construction less liable to give way under stress and derail a train.

Well, it seems the very old blue tracks can also benefit from the intermediate sleepers to a huge degree. The rails do have a central 'pip' underneath them which secures the additional sleeper at exactly the right place. In all my years of playing with the trains, I had never even considered this, but it is such a simple modification that I don't know why it never dawned on me to do it. Once I get all my old track back up from Surrey, I will indeed deploy this looks visually better too. I just need to buy about 500 2x8 white plates in order to be able to do it. No rush...another 50 years should see it done!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

More Tatting

Skirting fitted in loo.

Cladding of partition wall finished. A slightly worrying meter reading on the charge controller. We've had no sun for over a week so the batteries are getting a little low for comfort.

Access panel for 12V services. Just some final tidying up of the wiring needed.

Door and frame given it's final coat of gloss paint.