My name is Martin B. I’m a retired Police Officer who works part-time ‘doing woodwork’. I describe it as such because I do all sorts from hanging doors (my least favourite job) to making bespoke furniture and my ‘hobby’ recently evolved into laser cutting and etching (more of that later!). I first became interested in woodwork at school and although I run a successful woodwork business, I always laugh to myself when I recollect the fact that I failed my woodwork ‘O’ level!
I first became interested in model engineering when I was 8 or 9 years old when I made my first ‘Airfix’ model. At this time, I lived in North Shields on the mouth of the River Tyne and so had a natural leaning toward model boats. I got my first radio-controlled fibre glass and wood kit at the age of 12. I remember it well because while cutting the decking out using my father’s ‘Black and Decker’ jigsaw I managed to cut straight into my index finger which was underneath gripping the deck!! My next project was a scratch built wooden North Sea trawler called the ‘Launch Out’. I got the plans from ‘MAP’, although I couldn’t leave it there, I had to modify it and called it Nimrod. I developed an interest in HO/OO scale trains as well and built a 12’ x 8’ layout complete with a scale model of the Tyne bridge. Later on, I went back to model boats making a wooden clinker-built North Sea sailing coble.
I started making wooden artefacts in my spare time around 1982 which quickly developed into a fully paid-up hobby. Over the next thirty years I ploughed any profits into upgrading my workshop so that, when I retired in 2010, I had a fully equipped workshop! I had purchased an 8’ x 4’ CNC router kit and this was incredibly interesting using a computer to directly shape wood and cut! However, the kit was not very good and so I replaced it with my pride and joy: a 600mm x 900mm laser engraving and cutting CNC machine, I absolutely love this machine spending hours on the computer designing and produce various wooden artefacts.
I stumbled across the Bracknell Railway Society out of necessity! I had a set of specialist board clamps and I managed to strip the threads being a bit over zealous! I used to walk past the ‘Model Trains’ walking our Beagle dog and I thought to myself, if those chaps can make fully functioning live steam models, I’m sure they could repair these clamps! I wasn’t disappointed, an excellent job was made of repairing them.
I remember standing there talking to ‘The Chaps’ and I said, ‘how do you go about becoming a volunteer’, some wise-guy immediately replied, ’you just have’ and that was that. I spent a couple years volunteering helping out with track maintenance, grass cutting and the like, but I really caught the bug on running days, I was so surprised by the amount of interest from the general public and how much joy it brought to the kids and adults alike.
I pondered making my own locomotive for quite a while, live steam never entered my head as I do not possess any skill or knowledge of metal-working, however, I got to thinking that an electric locomotive was built in a very similar way to a model boat with ribs, stringers and an outer skin (just the other way up!). I took the plunge in November 2019 and purchased a Class 37 frame, bogies and motors kit following advice from ‘The Chaps’. I then spent the next 15 months creating my pride and joy ‘Avro Vulcan XH558’ (37424).
I was very fortunate when one of ‘The Chaps’ took me under his wing and helped me with all thing metal and electric! I learnt how to turn metal, silver solder, mill metal, and design such as working out individual spring loadings. I later learnt all about diodes, relays, speed controllers and the like.
I really have caught the bug now and am contemplating making an A4 Pacific Class (Kingfisher), not in steam but using electric motors in the tender!
I suppose my recommendation to others interested in Model Engineering is to get stuck in and have a go, join a club and support them, they will support you!
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