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Rail Franchising in terms that even small children can understand.

Congratulations, you’ve built yourself a natty new model railway. And now you want to play with some trains. Well tough shit, cos that ain’t going  to happen.

Daddy says that you can’t own the track and operate trains (apart from the track-cleaner once in a while).

Daddy has decided that the right to run trains will be auctioned off to your friends. They will pay him, take all the fun, and blame you every time something goes wrong.

But its not that simple. A while ago, Daddy sold off all your trains to four of your friends: Angelo, Evan, Peter and Freddie. Freddie ended up with most of the goods wagons and a large number of the the locos. The other three got all the passenger stock, grouped by type.

Freddie is allowed to play with his trains, as he won’t affect the fun of anyone else. The others, however, are allowed to own them but not play with them.

Daddy has decided that he’ll allow Francois, Dietrich, Hans, Hikaro, Richard and an a lot of others to play with the trains. But, they have to make sure that Daddy, Angelo, Evan and Peter all get some fun. Daddy wants his fun guaranteed. With ice-cream.

So, Francois rents some trains from Angelo, Evan lets Dietrich use some stock, and Peter lets Hans and Hikaro play a bit. Each sets their own price. And it is steep. Its ice-cream, with raspberry sauce.

So now, for example, we have Francois paying Angelo for the train, and also paying you to use the track. And both of you have to pay Daddy.

Then, Freddie turns out to be really called Friedrich, and he convinces a lot of the other children to let him play with their passenger trains. He then stop playing and lets his dad take over.

Francois, Hans and Hikaro then get bored and let their dads take over.

We are now reaching a situation when the fathers of the other children are now playing with your model railway, and taking all the fun.

Richard, however, stuggles on. Despite two massive messes he somehow seems to keep control of two of the best lines. He had a bit of a wobble when part of his playing was to be taken away, but he cried to Daddy and was given it back. Richard also plays with toy spaceships.

Along comes Jeremy. He decides that he wants you to have control of of your own railway and all the trains. Everyone, for some reason, thinks this will be a bad idea.

GUCOCO A8 DIY Printer Assembly

So now I’m the proud owner of a 3D Printer. To be specific, its a GUCOCO A8 Prusa i3 DIY 3D Printer and according to the the Amazon listing it looks like this:

On delivery, however, it looks like this:

Still, it did say DIY on the tin, and I enjoy a bit of a challenge, so I’m hoping this will be fun. I’m sure it will be, as the instructions are in Chinglish. I’ll be referencing these instructions as I go (where needed), so I’ve uploaded the manual as a PDF for your perusal. Open that rather than the included .DOC file, as I’ve had to reboot every machine I’ve tried to read it on. So…

Before we go any futher, please note: I am not an engineer, technician, 3d printing expert, experienced kit builder (well, apart from model railway building kits), or in any way a competant person. If you’ve read the progress of my Raspberry Pi Dalek, then you’ll know not to expect miracles here.

I did once build a 2D plotter from scratch, but that was nearly 30 years ago, back when I was young, clever, optimistic, and able to see properly.

Firstly, go and find/buy a small amount of Blu-Tac (or smilar). You will find it useful for temporarily holding the M3 nuts in place in the various frames while the screws go in. Later you might want to use Milliput to secure the nuts in place., as they do tend to rotate if over tightened.


Step 1 A1 Main Frame Installation

Parts (as it doesn’t relist them in each stage – we are not in Ikea territory here):

  • 3 – M3 Washer
  • 4 – M3 Nut
  • 6 – M£x16mm Screw
  • A1 – XZ Frame
  • A2 – Left Side Frame
  • A3 – Right Side Frame

There are 6 screw/washer/bolt sets to put in, and their locations are fairly obvious.

The photos in the manual are ok, and there are no major pitfalls, apart from over tightening. Don’t worry if it looks like the frame is slightly on the wonk, as it will straighten up later.

Step 2 A2 Main Frame Installation


  • 5 – M3x8mm Screw
  • 21 – Dupont Cable
  • 23 – Power Supply

What isn’t clearly shown is that the PSU should be mounted OUTSIDE the frame. And you’d best check that the 110/220v switch is set to the correct voltage. Get it wrong and there will be a loud bang, and possibly a fire. It annoys me that the frame has a swirly cut-out that suggests a fan output, yet the PSU has a blank flat face adjoining it. And no, I didn’t put the PSU on backwards.

Don’t connect the mains power cable yet, as it will just get in the way.

Step 3 A3 Module Installation

  • 28 – Control Board
  • 5 – M3x8mm Screw (4)
  • 9 – Fan Column Support (4)

These go in the bottom 4 holes on the Left plate. With the PCU facing OUTWARD and the right way up!

Step 4 Wire Connection

  • 21 – Dupont Cable (again).

It goes off the rails here and goes on about parts used in the next few steps.

In English… Take the power cable from the PSU and connect it to the Red circuit board. Remember Red is Positive and Black is Negative. But if I have to remind you of that, then you should have given up just before the ordering stage. It also suggests connecting the mains cable (again), but it just gets in the way.

Step 5 Assembly of P Module

  • 6 – M3x16mm Screw (6)
  • 4 – M3 Nut (6)
  • 3 – M3 Washer (6)
  • 22 – Short motor cable Y
  • P Module

This is an arse-pain.  As this is a vital step, you can’t just mung it and hope for the best.  You WILL end up hanging the frame off your knees and swearing at the cat in a whole new variety of permutations of curse words if you get the wooden grommits on the wrong side of the frame. And you’ll need an M3 spanner or some pliers to help tighten the nuts on the wooden grommits. Only after that ordeal can you look at plugging the wires in. Oh boy.

Aside from the Blue wires, it doesn’t really explain which is which.  Which is nice.  So here we go…

So after this step:

Step 6 Assembly of A4 Module

  • 6 M3x16mm Screw (3)
  • 4 M3 Nut (3)
  • 3 M3 Washer (3)
  • 22 Short motor cable Z1
  • A4 module

Straight forward, but fiddly. On mine, the Z-axis limit switch was not bolted on, so I had to fix that.

By now the board should look like this:

Steps 7 and 8 are messed up

Steps 7 and 8 have the same instructions, so I did this instead.

Step 7 LED Display Assembly Method

  • 6 M3x16mm Screw (3)
  • 4 M3 Nut (3)
  • 3 M3 Washer (3)
  • 13 LED Module Cable
  • LED Module

No real issues here, so…

Step 8 Assembly of A5 Module

Basically, you’ll need to fit the A5 motor to the Right side of the fram, much like the A4 motor. This one doesn’t have the Z-axis switch though…

  • 6 M3x16mm Screw (3)
  • 4 M3 Nut (3)
  • 3 M3 Washer (3)
  • 22 Short motor cable Z2
  • A5 module

See photo:

And the circuit board now:

Now we should be back on track

Step 9 Q Module Assembly Method

  • 2 Threaded rods (2)
  • A4 Left and Right top plates
  • 6 M3x16mm screw (4)
  • 4 M3 nut (4)
  • 3 M3 washer (4)
  • 1 Smooth rods (2)
  • 22 motor cable (X)
  • Q Module

Oh deary deary me.

Take the Q module and stick the smooth rods through the outside holes. Then thread the threaded rods through  the threaded holes.  About half way for now. Then line up the L&R top plates with the rods and bolt them in. The motor should be on the Left side hanging backwards on the frame.


“Adjust the distance between the left and right bearing of Q module, and move the screw locking ring NO8 to the connected area of screw rod NO8 and A4 plate and fix the scre locking ring.”

I have no idea what this is refering to and there were no parts.  This bothers me.

“Align and insert the the flexible coupling M5 and A4 module with extrude side of the motor on A5 module. As ashown in picture 25, adjust the difference between left and right side of Q module. to prepare for the next correct assembled. Adjust the outer fringe’s horizon distance or both screw rod NO2 at nearly 320mm which is described as picture 27. The fastenin screws of the coupling of the fixed motor above are shown as picture 26.”


So picture 25 (and 26):

Pic 27:

I measured the distance and it was “nearly 320mm”.  And I think it means “push the flexible couplings onto the motor stubs as far as you can and then carefully and tighten them up then make them level”.

Then connect the red cable to the circuit board and use the short motor cable (X) to plug in to the board.

So now the board looks like this:

Step 10 Print Head Assembly Method

  • 6 M3x16mm screw (2)
  • 3 M3 washer (2)
  • 4 M3 nut (2)
  • Print head (L1 L2 L3)

Ok, so… Unbolt the 2 long bolts throught the cooling fan, and the assembly will come apart.

There are 3 bits:

L1 (The bracket, and extruder)

L2 (motor unit)

L3 (heatsink and cooling fan)

So now take the L1 unit and bolt it to the cross-peice of the Q Module. Of course the instructions don’t say which of the mounting holes to bolt into, but from the photo provided it looks like the bottom ones.  Plus if you used the top holes, the printhead would be able to smack straight in to the hotbed!

Now put it back together just how it came apart.

There is a veritable Rat King of wires coming off this assembly, which you’ll need to tie up with the handy cable tidy.

The end of this unholy tangle needs to be plugged into the circuit board.

But, Houston, we have a problem! There are two fan sockets to plug in to, and only one fan!

Above, we see the connector plugged into the socket suggested by the supplied pic of the board:

Luckily this is confirmed in the 29 minute build video:

That connection signifies almost the end of the build. There is only one thing left to do, and that is to connect up the highly dodgy and unsafe mains power lead.

How can that power cable be legal in a country where we aren’t even allowed to wire up our own plugs anymore? Thinking about it, the device doesn’t have a power switch, or CE approval, so plugging it in will invalidate my house insurance. But, I’ve welded stuff in the kitchen without burning the place down, and I’ve got a fire extinuisher somewhere, so what is the worse that can happen? Death, that’s what.

So, given the choice  twixt Death and the chance to print my own Daleks, the power lead gets wired in.

Before that, just a quick aside on UK wiring colours.

  • Live is Brown, but used to be Red.
  • Neutral is Blue, but used to be Black.
  • Earth is Green/Yellow.

So given these terminals and the colours of the wires,

it should be, from left to right, Red, Blue, Yellow. And it is.

So close the laughable safety flap…

… and get ready for POWER UP!

Almost. Manually crank the left and right screwed rods down so that the head is just above the plate, and move the plate around to level level it using the 4 wingnuts in the corners.  Then adjust this bolt sothat it maked contact with the Z-axis limit switch:

You’ll be fine tuning this later.



Slightly worried that there isn’t actually a card inserted, but it changed to “Card removed” after a short while.

And don’t peel of the blue tape like I did. Oops. But it was crumpled anway, and I’ve got loads of making tape laying around.

Assembly done! Shakedown and test printing to follow.


Going Straight: On the Wrong Track

The pilot episode of “Going Straight” (sequel to “Porridge“) was the  show that started me off on finding errors in TV shows when it came to their depiction of railways and trains, and Stafford.

According to Wikipedia, the plot of this episode is: “Fletch, having been paroled, makes his way home from prison. On the train, he bumps into Mr Mackay and an old friend.”

This is going to be a brief one, as I have no intention of identifying the coaches used, just highlighting errors.

I apologise in advance for the blurry nature of these screen-grabs. Things weren’t exactly HD back in 1978.

07:48 That’s a Deltic!

Yes, the blurry yet unmistakeable front end of a BR Class 55 Deltic, undisputed Kings of the East Coast Main Line in the late ’70s. Here we have the slight problem that anyone travelling from the fictional Slade Prison in Cumbria to London would be on the West Coast Main Line, which at the time used different locos.

07:55 That carriage looks fake

Ok, so I said I wasn’t going to start carriage spotting. I lied. Anyway, those seats look like school chairs, and the camera position would be about a foot outside the the carriage. Otherwise it doesn’t look too bad. It is a bit short though, and the windows are too far apart.

(aside: “26p for a beer!” Tartan Bitter!)

12:52 “This is Stafford, this is Stafford”

Indeed it is! And it looks as grotty today as it did then. Thirty years, and the main change is that those signs have been replaced. Multi-million pound refurbishment my arse!

As far as I can make out, the loco is BR Class 86 86221 , but someone will point out my error if I’m wrong. Clearly not a Deltic though, and certainly WCML not ECML!

13:03 Running though the tunnel.

Hold your horses! A tunnel? At Stafford Station? Such a thing has never existed! The main reason for this is that the station lies too close to the flood level that about 10 minutes of rain will bring.  On a good day, the park (opposite the station) becomes a boating lake (important note: do not take an inflatable dinghy out on the flooded park – the police will get involved and it will not end well).

And the Manchester Evening News advert? Not ’round here mate.

13:48 This is what a real carriage looks like!

Filmed on filmstock, not the video tape used for the fake carriage above.

Fast forward to…

22:42 “Watford Junction”

First thing to notice is that the loco has changed. I *think* this is BR Class 86  86208, but that loco doesn’t seem to have gone into service until 1979 (same for 86221 above).

Anyway, the mismatched locos weren’t the point of this. The point is, Stafford Station doesn’t have a tunnel, didn’t have one in the ’70s, and TV producers still don’t pay enough attention to detail.

(See posts about Doctor Who and Railways for more guff).