Motorising Corgi OO Gauge Blackpool Trams

This is a guide to motorising the Balloon and Railcoach Blackpool trams made by Corgi, using the motor units made and sold by Connexions2011 on ebay (There is no direct link to the specific unit, as eBay items are ephemeral, so you’ll just have to go by the photo to identify the item you need).

This may seem like nothing more that a re-write of their instructions, but it includes my observations and thoughts on the process as it goes along.  With photos.

What you will need

A Balloon or Railcoach model.

For this I’ll be using the Balloon tram.

A motor unit

(Photo taken from the eBay page – to help you identify the correct unit)

Some tools

  • 3mm Phillips screwdriver
  • A scalpel
  • A Dremel (or cheap Maplin copy)
  • A straight bit of OO track
  • Milliput
  • Superglue
  • Somthing to keep the bits in – I use a Bold 2in1 detergent box – its the perfect size:2016-10-27-08-48-07-hdr

So here we go…

Start by taking out the screws A, B and C.


The lifeguards at the ends should just pull away.  Put everything you’ve removed in the storage box. And assume that from now on you’ll be doing the same with everything you remove.

Next get the Dremel (or cheap Maplin clone) out, and drill around both of the metal poles between the wheelsets with a 1mm bit. Make a better job of it than I did.


You can now prise the base plate off by inserting a thin blade under each end of it, twisting slightly, and dropping the wheelsets on the floor. You’ll be wanting to pick them up.

Now you should have some twisted melted plastic bits stuck to the ends of the poles.


By a combination of whittling, grinding, and frantically twisting with a pair of pliers, these should come off an allow the whole tram to fall apart.


At this point you might want to do any dressing up of the top deck that you have planned, such as painting the floors, adding seat upholstery and mounting figures. I’m not doing that on this one.

Now you should have the roof unit with two poles sticking out from it.

balloon-step1eThese have to be removed, but take a lot of wiggling to do so. You might want to unbolt the pantograph/trolley pole mounting to avoid damage. If you do so, remember to re-attach it afterwards, just to avoid the screaming later on.

For now put the upper deck diecast part, upper glazing unit and upper seating area to one side. We’ll get back to them in a while.

Take the lower seating deck, and pull out the steps.



This is where we get destructive. We need to cut out a large area of the lower seating area. This is also where I deviate from the suggested instructions. The suggested idea is to re-mount the outer wheelsets. I’m not doing that, so I’m cutting the mounting points out and running the tram as a four-wheeler. This is in an attempt to get the tram to negotiate a tighter  curve than a 12″ radius.

I’ll get back to that in a moment, but for now let us deal with the upper deck sections, lower deck casing and lower deck glazing part.

Glue them together so that they all fit. Superglue is good.


Now we get to the nitty-gritty. We need to make the motor unit fit into the lower seating deck area in such a way that

If you are squeamish about poor workmanship, stop reading now, cos its going to get really ugly.

Cut out enough of the lower deck to fit the motor in:


Fit the motor from below:


Now get it in to place to that the wheels are clear of the plastic and its got this much clearance:


At this point you should be marking out where to drill mounting holes and brackets and things of that kidney. So I just decided to hold the ends in place with lumps of Milliput:


These pics also show that the ends of the baseplate and life savers have been refitted.

Now all that there is to do it put the already assembled upper section on top of it, and have a look at it:



You can hardly tell that there aren’t bogies under there!

And thats it!

Gilneas – The City That Blizzard Forgot

Back in the long long ago, the before time (ok, December 2010), Blizzard released World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and everyone got all excited as they usually do. Then people got upset that their favourite race/class got downpowered, then they became happy that they could fly in the old lands for the first time, and that kept them busy for a while.

Alliance fanboys played rolled up Worgen characters and played their way through the new dedicated starting area.  They were amazed to see an amazing cod Victorian-Gothic land with some fantastic architecture and landscape, and of course, big fucking werewolves.

From the brooding darkness of Gilneas City, to the grandeur of Greymane Manor, the Gilneas starting zone is wonderful. It is a series of well thought out quest chains, stunning cutscenes, and… well then it ends. The character getting shuffled off to Rut’theran Village on Teldrassil, and Gilneas is never spoken of again.

Unlike the Goblin (and later Pandaren) starting areas, which are off on separate islands that can’t be returned to, Gilneas is on the Eastern Kingdoms mainland. You can go back there, but it most will have no reason to. There are no quests, no NPCs, no… anything, except a stunning and forgotten zone.

This makes is idea for roleplaying in, and, if you are in to such things, modifying to add quests and NPCs (but that is a subject for another day).

So… onward…

Get to Gilneas!

Well, to put it bluntly, one does not simply fly in to Gilneas.

Horde characters have a flightpoint at The Forsaken Front in Silverpine Forest, which is just north of the wall. (You might be lucky enough to have the Forsaken Forward Command flightpoint in Gilneas itself, but its not guaranteed).

The closest that Alliance players have to offer is Chillwind Camp in the Western Plaguelands, which is a long flight/run over/though Hillsbrad away.

Because of this faffery, if I were to be modding Cata WoW to add new content in Gilneas, I’d make it suitable for Level 60, as by that level the characters can fly in to it. Or, I’d make portals to get there. But I’m clearly not doing that as it is Against The Rules.

No matter how you get there, get there if you can.

Gilneas City

For now I’m just going to look at Gilneas City itself. The surrounding zone is the subject of another time.

So I suppose we should start with a map.


The city, as you can see, is roughly circular and split in to five areas, which I’ll look at in turn, highlighting all the usable buildings and other features of note.

Merchant Square


  • 1-10 denote open doors leading to small single room areas, large enough to hold maybe one NPC and some clutter.
  • 11 is a small graveyard.
  • 12 is the ruined market square.

If I were doing anything here, I’d put traders in the buildings and the square, and maybe a mourner at the graveyard.

Military District


  • 1  leads to a cellar full of cannons and cannonballs.
  • 2 and 3 lead to stair up and over the the roof, connecting to each other.

Greymane Court


  • 1 leads to a tunnel that exits out in the main zone.
  • 2 & 3 are entrances to a small inn like building with a bedroom upstairs.

Cathedral Quarter


This area is a bit dull. There are no buildings to enter, just two large areas full of tents with Alliance banners by them.

Light’s Dawn Cathedral


The Cathedral is just one large room. Maybe you could stage a rock festival in here, or even a wedding.

The End

So there’s your quick tour of Gilneas City. I’m sorry there are no actual screen shots, but if you want to see it go visit it yourself.





Actually GECM is dead after all

I recently decided that I was going to restart  the Canal maps website, and add railway maps to it. Well now I’m not going to do it.

The reason for this is that I’ve found a number of sites which have stolen my original data and failed to give me any credit for it.  One of them took my Merseyrail data within 24 hours of my publishing it.

So I’m not going to waste my time anymore.

Conspiracy Theory Top Gear Brexit Bollocks

OMG!!!!! Did anyone else spot the number plate of the Rolls Royce that Chris Evans drove in the Top Gear episode last sunday? BRX522T!!!! This was clearly an attempt to brainwash the common folk to vote for the Brexit Campaign, even though it was shown three days after the vote! This plate was assigned to the car when it was first registered in Newcastle in 78/79, and Evans has owned it for a few years. This just goes to show how far back the conspiracy goes.

shitstir copy

A non-story started by me, just now… shall we see how it goes?

Model Railway Arduino Signals – Design

As previously explained, I’m working on the use of an Arduino and an old laptop to control the points on my very small N Gauge model railway. Well, I’m also going to control the signals too.

Working on this track plan:

Simplified Garwick Track Plan

I consulted my tame signalling engineer (some say that he once completly ruined the brakes on my MG Montego, and that he spends his spare time writing cod-1950s hard-boiled detective story versions of his work, but all we know is that he’s called The Sig), explaining to him that all the lines were bi-directional. He put on his thinking-trilby, sharpened his crayons, and came up with this idea:


(Only the signals inside the box are to be modelled. The ones outside it are off-scene, and therefore just implied to be there and functioning.)

So, 6 signals. As I only had six remaining outputs left on the Arduino, I decided on 2-Aspect light signals.

And, lo, these were on eBay:


Six of them for £19 incl shipping, actually from (yeah, it says 5 on the website, but all the eBay listings show 6 of them).

Nominally they run off 12v but are plenty bright enough with 5v from an Arduino supplied to them. Plus, if you tie the Green line to 5v and the Black to GND, putting 5v up the Red line from the Arduino will switch the signal from green to red. This is counter-intuitive to me, as surely the signals should fail-to-Red, not fail-to-Green?

No, matter, it still make the wiring easier.


Eagle-eyes will spot the the lights are the wrong way up.  Ah, well, it’s too late now.

Next… build up the control board for one pair of points, and one signal as a test.


Salami Shrinkage?

I bought a Peperami this morning. I shouldn’t really, as the high salt and fat content will make me die. They are smaller now!


Or so it seems…


Hi Tony,

The weight of Peperamis haven’t changed for years. Indeed we are making them shorter and wider, because we are producing another brand (which is shorter and wider, but also 25g) as well and we would like to simplify our production process, but we definitely keep the usual 25 g net weight.
All the best,
Your Peperami Team
So now you know.

Managed Motorways


The problem with this 4 lane running smart motorway guff is that its fine until someone breaks down.

Normally with 3 lanes and a hard shoulder this isn’t too much of a hassle, but with 4 lanes it means that you suddenly lose a 1/4 of the capacity for a short distance causing an instant bottleneck. Sounds brilliant so far. An utter blinder of a plan.

Now imagine this scenario: Poor little old Mrs Thingy in her aged Micra breaks down and gets as far left as she can. The fat controller in the watch-box is busy scratching his knackers and doesn’t spot this hazard immediately. An over-hours HGV driver, distracted by an overdose of Redbull and barnyard pornography also fails to spot the hapless lady in time. Thus her small car is briefly turned into a a metal and flesh death-ball, punted down the carriageway at speeds it has previously never reached. Itchy balls + Redbull + beastiality = dead pensioner.

Can’t possibly happen, right?

Not seen the video of the truck belting down the motorway with a Clio stuck to its front bumper?

On buying an old Fast Ford Part 2

In Part 1 I described searching for and buying my ridiculous car. That was the Wedding, I suppose, and this is the Honeymoon.

You always need a good run in a car to get a good feel of it, and I was planning a run down to Dover (from Stafford, in the Midlands), when we had the sad news that yet another my Aunt had passed away. The funeral was to be in in Drummore in a couple of days time.

Drummore, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a quiet picturesque little fishing village at the southern tip of that bit of Scotland that looks just like Mr. Burns’ face which also happens to be the most Southern part of Scotland.

It is also 280 miles from where I live.


It is also a 6-7 hour drive, despite what Google think. So, off I set, stopping only to collect my sister in Preston on the way.  Through wind, and rain, and what seemed like an entire lake falling from the sky in Cumbria, we got there about thirty seconds after the hearse.

And this point I need to mention my driving style. I don’t drive slowly. If I did, I wouldn’t have bought the ST170. I like to think that I drive like a racing driver, but I probably don’t. A motorcycle racer once told me that I drive a van like he rides a bike, but he was pissed.

When I’m driving, I have a sound in my head. It is this…

Anyway, following our brief funeral visit, during which we treated to all the wamth of the Top Gear crew in Alabama (really, it could only have been worse if I’d had “All Jocks are Jock-Straps” painted down one side of car- some shit keyed it all down one side and booted the front wing in) we got the shit out of Dodge and went home.

The suspension handled the shit Scottish backroads with no problems, despite one of the tyres being a bit below pressure. I was starting to detect a slight moaning noise at 90, which elevated to a high pitched screaming at 110, but that turned out to be the passenger.

So, nearly 600 miles and 14 hours almost solid driving without a big hiccup. I went to Lancashire again a few weeks afterwards, ventured to Donnington Park twice (not to run it on the track, sadly), and pissed about playing in the lanes with Brian May in my head.

And then the warning lights started to come on…

On buying an old Fast Ford Part 1

Back in June ’15 I started looking at buying a car. I’d been carless for a few years following the great Golf disintegration incident, and decided that I had enough money and was fed up of walking to the shops.

I set myself an absolute limit of £2000 to buy and insure the thing for a year, and started looking for something that fit the bill.

I had in my mind that idea that I could get hold of a MK1 Focus, or MK3 Mondeo, as I knew them to be solid cars. Also I wanted an estate. I would have taken a grotty Transit at the right price, but thankfully none came up.

The estate car reasoning was sound in my mind. Why buy a saloon car when I’ve have to get a mate to help me move something large? Plus, my Dad had a lot of Ford estates, and what was good enough for him is clearly good enough for me (which I why to this day I still feel the need to own a Bedford Beagle van).

So I started looking in the papers and round the local shonky used car dealers from a suitable car. I nearly bought a Merc estate, even though it was bronze, just because the number plate ended in PNE, but it was an automatic and I hate those. I also looked at a Suzuzi “RASCAL”, but it turned out it was more rust than metal.

Eventually I asked my friends on Facebook for advice. And that is like chucking a disloyal secretary into a pirhana pool.

“Don’t buy Ford, buy a Golf!” came the cries from one side. “Get an Astra!” from another. These were ignored, as I’ve killed two Golfs and two Astras. Then a voice from the past, an old school friend mentioned that his friend had a decent Focus for sale. It turned out to be a dark grey 5-door hatchback for £1000.  I thought it was a bit pricey, but then he said “It’s and ST-170”.

At that point parts of my body started tingling that really shouldn’t have. I was going to have that car. I’d wanted an ST-170 since I first saw one in 1992, and finally I was going to get one.

It was akin to the idea of Claudia Schiffer re-enacting that 1998 Citroen Xsara  advert in my flat (apart from the stairs, as I don’t have any). If you don’t know the advert in question, here is a version I made of it years ago:

Yeah I really don’t like the Picasso.

So, I trekked up to Blackpool to look at the car, secretly knowing I was going to buy it even if it only had three wheels. As it turned out the car was in really good condition, well maintained and a really decent drive. It went like stink and was really comfortable.

Ok, so the windows were etched with a different ID than the number plate, but that happens when people have a Vanity Plate fetish. I like to think that P999KEL was registered to a WPC called Kelly, but it probably wasn’t. And there was a really embarassing sticker on the arse-end.


The HPI checks had all come though, it had a fresh MOT, and my insurance came though. I handed over that stack of cash and set off home back to the midlands, happy as pig in shit.


At this point, I’d like to point out that without the twatty Nuremberg Trials sticker on the back, and the very small ST badges, this looked like a normal Focus. This is what I like about the MK1. It is not was a shouty and loutish as the MK2&3, and in dark “Magnum” grey it blends in to traffic. This is not a “hey, look at me” car, but an “I look normal but can easily get past you if i wanted to” car.

Side issue here, but the MK4 Transit was a similar stealth machine. Ok, it looked like a cross between ED-209 and a box, but when empty could out accelerate any small boot-spoilered hatchback and handled like a car: see that little German woman on Top Gear for more details.

So, that was the wedding. Next comes the Honeymoon, and after that the acrimonious split into separation and divorce. I’m still hoping that won’t happen though.


moan, moan, flippin' moan