Grim , Grey, and Grimy


Merrie Englande. The Old Dart. Blighty. The Old Country. Mother England. Pommieland.


If you have gotten to thinking that England is all meadows and Cornish beaches and GWR railway autocrat gliding through the fields…we present the other view. Courtesy of the WA Model Railway Exhibition. The Lord Street Depot.


I can only guess at the location but the time period seems to be the late 50’s to early 60’s. The British Railways logo on the side of the locos gives that away, plus the lorries and vans fit the era. The grime is timeless. I cannot say whether the real English rails scene was as dark as this but I am willing to take the word of the layout builders.


I think it is O scale, and this means the vehicles are 1:43 or 1:48. I admire the good sense of the builders in making sure they are lined and weathered to fit in with the theme. In particular the use of the thin black wash on the beige sedan (Morris? Austin? ) makes it real.


Like a lot of British-themed layouts this one is a shunt back and forth yard with the occasional making up of trains and an arrival or departure to punctuate the day. Very much life as it was seen by the people who lived and worked in these areas – if they were not working on the trains and travelling to other places they did not envisage those other places. I know it is somewhat of a old saw to say that the European’s world was bounded by the walls of his town or his fields for a millennium but at least that makes the modelling of a railway scene a little easier and cheaper for them than the North American layout that tries to do a point-to-point over an entire basement.


This layout had an amazing feature. I’m still not sure if what I saw was what I saw, but I think that the little red lorry shown in this photo was entirely free of any under-ground control. It traversed the length of the layout – up and down the roadway, and seemed free to steer from side to side. When it reached the loading dock at the bottom of the hill it stopped, reversed into the dock, and then eventually ground its way back up the hill into the Lord Street Depot yard. I think one chap was operating it with a 4 channel radio controller like they use for model aircraft, and I’ll bet the motor that drove it was one of the servo motors from an aero set broken out of its casing. The action of the little lorry was absolutely realistic and I found it to be the most attractive part of the scene. Full marks!


Full marks to the designers of the large Lord Street Depot building as well – they incorporated just enough interior detail and bluish lighting to give the impression of a working building. Too many modellers fail to do this, even when the openings are small and the effort to detail the interior would be small. For my 1:18 scale automotive world dioramas I cannot afford to have bare interiors – they would give me away in a second. I do admit to deciding to leave some internal rooms unfurnished if they will never be seen from the outside, but showrooms and offices that open to a window must have some furnishings.


One thing I do hope – that the operators of Lord Street Depot can occasionally be treated to a fresh passenger carriage in Blood and Custard passing through to liven up their day. Rust and grime can dull the soul.






How Does An Atheist Bless You?


Well, it’s not as silly a question as you might think. If an atheist does not imagine or believe in any deity but still wants to give out some sort of non-committal promise that you will be happier because they said so…they have no mechanism in place to project it from. They can’t really promise you kindness from the government because they know what the government is like – and they can’t promise you the fealty and love of other people because the other people might know what YOU are like.

About the best they can do is assure you that they hope you are not run over by a street car. And even this is difficult to promise in Melbourne.

Atheism is a tough row to hoe. All the work of being moral and no relaxation afterwards by killing your enemies in the name of superstition. You might get a chance to kill them in the name of economics or theory or a coloured rectangle of cloth on a pole, but like as not someone will write a book about it 50 years later and try to make you look bad.  It almost takes the fun out of explosions.

The other tough part is there are no feast days for atheism. And feasts involve food and drink. Oh, you can go to the local hotel and order a counter lunch and a couple of pints on Tom Paine’s birthday but no-one puts up a tree or makes presents or takes you into the broom closet for a cuddle because of it. ” Joyeaux No ” as a song has never made it to the charts.

Worst of all is there is no money to be made out of atheism. No cards, no gifts, no food, no booze, no sleigh rides in cold climates or slay rides in hot ones. No-one ever gives money to the No Salvation Needed Army. Even when their lassies are not blowing trombones and tambourines outside the pub.

I tell you, it’s enough to shake your faithlessness…



Get Outa Here! Slowly…


Aha. I have just realised that there is a good way to overcome some of the disadvantage that pertains to car shows -the thing that I complained about in a previous column; the overcrowding of the display lines. I’m not a greedy person – I don’t want it all for myself or all to myself …but I do wish for a clean view of it. Now I think I have it.


Normally I leave most events early. Whether it is a professional society dinner, wedding reception, or siege – it is always better not to be there at the end. I have applied this principle to car shows as well – leaving before the show winds up. Not that I would have to do any of the cleaning – I just take pictures and pixels are easy to sweep up – but I should only be in the way as people started pouring kerosene and match heads into their superchargers and tried to get the engines to turn over. Plus I am worried by robust language and I reckon some of the owners would be utilising it as they kicked the cows…


As luck would have it, the Brockman Port To Whiteman Park Run show wound up while I was there. They gave tannoy instructions to the drivers and waved them off through the gate of the grounds onto a main street. This naturally slowed the stream as they fed into traffic, and in turn presented a nice slow cavalcade to view. Sun position was good, focusing was easy, and the only problem was the occasional intrusion of a fat arse in cargo shorts and a fluoro vest who stepped into the line of sight. There is probably always one at every car show and it might well be him every time…


I noted a similar opportunity last year at the end of the Australia Day car show in Melbourne. There were a number of roads exiting the main park and moving down them was slow for the drivers of the veteran and vintage cars. All the better for the photographer. In the future I am going to bide my time – perhaps even go a little later in the day – and mark well the exit roads and possible vantage points. I’ll still try to get close-up detail for cars as well as lurching crowds will permit but the best clear shot will be as they drive away.


Photographer’s note – tempting as it is to use a tripod for this, I still think a hand-held camera and a fill flash will be best. I’ll be using the pre-focus manual method with everything set as the cars approach a fixed point. It’s always a little experimental as to when to release the shutter when you are using an electronic view finder – there is a time lag in any camera. If you have set the speed, aperture, and manual focus, however, you can sight along the top of the camera housing and fire it instantly when the vehicle comes to your pre-selected point. This also works with 17 pounder anti-tank guns but it is more difficult to use them unnoticed – at least with the Fujifilm cameras you can turn the shutter noise off.


Technical note: These images were taken using the new Fujifilm X-T10 and the 27mm f:2.8 pancake lens. What a sweetie of a combination – light and fast. Perfect for touristing it without weight or bulk. Next best will be the new 35mm f:2 when it is released in Australia.

A Plea From The Car Photographers To The Clubs


When you are planning your next car show, could you please park them a little further apart?

We are thrilled to bits that you will be bringing your vintage-veteran-hot rod-street car-sports car-truck-bus-tank to the park-stadium-exhibition hall-mudflat behind the asbestos works. We don’t mind paying at the door-gate-edge of the car park for the privilege of seeing your prize machines and we want to make great pictures of them.

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We promise not to stand on the running boards like the punters do, and poke the dashboards like the punters do, and scratch the duco like the punters do. We will be respectful.


We will be utterly patient as the tag-teams of lurching punters slowly walk in front of the cars and progressively block the view…never allowing a clear sight of the edges of the cars. We are trained to stand still in one spot until the exact quarter of a second when the mob clears. We are frequently consulted by still hunters and snipers about how to remain motionless. Ninjas envy us.

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But we need a helping hand. If the cars are parked too close together we won’t be able to do them justice. We’ll have to use extremely short focal length lenses and the cars will look distorted as hell. Of course if they are Italian supercars no-one will be able to tell, but the regular British and French sedans will look odd and it will be a dead giveaway.

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Likewise, if you park them with their back to the sun, most of the exposures will look too dark – we’ll end up trying to light the front of the car with a reflector or a fill flash and it will look most unnatural. Again the Flopatelli Snazolla III Supraeformaggio won’t suffer too badly, unless it is the open Monza version with the folding wings. And they look bad in ANY light.


We do appreciate the trust and kindness the drivers show by leaving the passenger’s side window down – the interior shots will be so much better – but if you can’t manage that, it’ll be all right anyway. We can boost the shutter speed to 1/180 second, stop down to f:16, and fire a fill flash up at the headliner from the quarter window position while the camera looks in through the side. It’ll be a little dirty but not too bad. If you leave empty beer cans and dirty novels on the front seat that is your affair.

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In exchange for these small changes we promise to take good pictures of the way your cars look. We will photoshop out the rust holes – unless you are driving a rat rod, in which case we will photoshop more in for free. We will draw a discreet curtain over the state of the interior floor.



The Three D’s – Here’s Hoping

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It is two days until the 2015 WA hot Rod Show opens at the Showground. I have been promised a ticket by a friend and a day off by the wife and I intend to make the most of my chances. What I am really hoping for is Three D’s.

Three D’s? Definably Different Devices. Cars that do not show up in overseas car magazines. Asian, European, British, and Australian cars rodded, customised, and raced. New ideas in metal and plastic.

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I think many of them that are started are never completed…and many that are completed are darned hard work – the parts are not off-the-shelf bolt-ons. There may be lots of strange discoveries for the builders as well – panels that do not do what they might be expected to and marginal engineering in the motors.

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Most difficult of all for the builders must be the definitions and restrictions that might be placed upon the cars by officialdom – and to some extent by other builders who want to maintain a strict definition of a hot rod or custom car. Sometimes these definitions seem to exclude more than they include, and motoring art is stifled. I understand that people like to have narrow categories for sporting competitions, but art is not sport – done well, everyone wins.

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This year I also hope to vary the angles and lighting for my coverage of the cars. I will be working within the restrictions of general spectating rather than special privilege so I daresay there will be some pictures with intruders – however I am a patient man and if  there is a break in the traffic I can generally get a clear view. And there is always the hamburger stand and the beer lounge.

Getting Less For Your Money and Loving It

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It is difficult to sell the idea of minimal living isn some markets – and particularly for some products. This is borne home to me each day in our camera shop and even more on the roads as I drive to work and home again.

I am surprised at this – as I am a a fan of the Bauhaus designs and the minimalist styles of the great Scandinavian furniture designers. Not, I hasten to add, the IKEA people – the more artistic of their forebears.

I can appreciate the house styles of the 50’s and 60’s – and some of the motor car designs of the times. and I wish fervently that they could be preserved for our own use.

Consider – I purchased a small French motor car in 1966. It had a small 1100 cc engine, four wheel independent suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the best seats in any car I have ever driven. More was not needed – more would have been excessive. It had rubber floor mats, a small AM radio, and no air conditioning. I’ll grant you the comfort of the last named in today’s world, but the other two can stand. None of us need 16 channels of pumping bass to go to the shops nor do we need unborn-Persian kitten wool deep shag carpet or leather seats . Not if we live in the real world.

Nor do we need to go 150 km/hr, even if we are rushing to our mistresses in Margaret River – mistresses can wait. We do not need to rush to them in 20 tonne SUV concoctions – there are paved roads all the way. We do not need metallic gold/bronze black $ 4000 paint jobs either – plain light colours will do the trick and not need two surgeons and the Master of the Royal Academy to retouch stone chips.

A light on the front in the daytime may make us safer, but it need only by one light – not an LED sneer or cartoon eyeballs glaring at the rest of the world.

Spoiler? Generally it does – leave it off. Large exhausts? With 1100-1600 cc you don’t need  the tailpipe of a MiG 23.

You can suit yourself if you put a stick family on the rear window – they are cheap enough and harmless enough – even if they do raise the ire of the judgemental. Likewise “Save The Whatever ” stickers. Save away. As long as the stickers are not obscuring forward vision you can make your self as visible and risible as you like. Even the Bundy stickers have a purpose – they enable the cops to see who to target in the pub car park.

In short. Drive less, drive smaller, drive cheaper, drive slower and drive quieter. Drive more carefully, and drive better for it.



Meeting The Criteria At The Car Show




I once met a criteria. Neither of us really knew what to say but we both nursed a drink and talked about the weather. As soon as a group of girls started laughing and taking their tops off I made a polite excuse and drifted over there. I realised later that it must have looked rather gauche but I have always been interested in tops.

The most frightening thing about criteria for me is when they are applied at car shows. ” Pre 1976 cars only” or ” American cars only ” or ” Street rods with Buick front brakes and pin striping on the dash but no skull gear shift knobs only” announcements in the posters tend to worry me. I can see that the organisers want to have a workable number of vehicles for the venue that will please to majority of the crowd, but sometimes it seems as though they are deliberately setting out to get one car only.


I always seek out the unusual at the car shows – the little Jap import that has been turned into a drag car – the old pommie sedan that has become sort of a kustom. The American car that was a mechanical cockroach in 1957 and hasn’t gotten any better since. I look at ’em and I love ’em.

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I know that some people have definite tastes, but I think that there should be room in every collector’s or rodder’s or racer’s heart for the other fellow. I know that my brother-in-law has rodded a Morris Minor ute very successfully and it would be fascinating at a show – I am trying to persuade him to bring it to Perth. It’s not an American car in the pre-67 line but it is a darned clever and relevant local machine – WA to the core. I think it has a place in the scene.

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Likewise I wonder at the business that might exclude an unusual vehicle from a show…and relegate it to a position outside the tapes. Surely it is better to let it in and appreciate the quirkiness if nothing else.

As for the visitors to the shows…well they let me in, so I cannot exclude anyone else. Besides – some of them make me look good.