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CONFESSIONS OF A MODELMAKER ! - Scratchbuilding. - More Practical Help - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Tue May 14th, 2013 06:50 pm
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allan downes
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MR PRITCHARD, THE FOUNDER OF PECO PRODUCTS.

He was once to have said to the late Cyril Freezer, editor of the RM back in the good ol' days that "Allan Downes is the only person that has ever made me laugh" - must have been my haircut...

Anyway, before he opened up the Peco Modelarama, he had me drive over 150 miles in a borrowed and beat up old Austin 1100 that wouldn't start without a push - yes, you know what's coming don't you ?! where he said he had a proposition for me - namely to relocate me to Devon and spend the rest of my life building layouts for his planned Modelarama which I consequently turned down because "Devon was too wet" and my wife had never heard of Seaton.

However I agreed to built several buildings for the automatic 'O' gauge shunting layout that was a first of its kind and his pride and joy - and have it ready for the grand opening of the Modelarama one saturday morning in the winter of that year.

So, after Mr P - I always called him that while he just called me  " Mr Downes How Much Is This Going To Cost Me" - and his son, Micheal who now runs the show, gave me a push start in the 1100, in the pouring rain, out of the car park and to the top of the hill that swept down manically at an an almost vertical and suicidal angle into Beer and IF you missed the 12 foot thick walled barn that stood between you and Seaton, you could finaly make the M whatever motorway, Bristol, then High Wycombe, and finaly home.

A month or so later, and with the models made, I turned up in Peco's car park late one friday night to make sure that I would be there on time the next morning for the grand opening - and slept in the back of - this time -  a 420 G Jag that also wouldn't start either - all 2 ton of it !

The next morning then,  I was awakened by a ford escort - and about as  far as Mr P was ever prepared to go regarding company directors cars - where I opened the back door of the car and shouting across  to Mr P and son as I unfolded myself off the backseat with wild hair, my tie facing backwards, my shirt tails adrift and fluttering in the wind, with one shoe on and the other that has never been found since, as Mr P enquired of his son in a voice fraught with fear "Who is, and what on earth is THAT ?!" 

However, when he found out that I had slept in the freezing cold in the back of a beat up old Jag (Which incidentally he did'nt realize that within the next few hours or so,  he would be pushing it also to the top of the hill !) he then said  "Good gracious, just LOOK at you, have you had any breakfast Mr Downes How Much Is This Going To Cost Me?  " and when I told him I hadn't he said " Then I will cook you some"....wait for it, wait for it...."That's IF I can find out where the kitchen and canteen is" !!!

Anyway, he found it eventually remarking "I knew it was around here somewhere, I just wasn't sure exactly where so, will eggs and bacon do you Mr D H M I T G T C M?" and then after we sat in his office discussing my fee and no sooner had I priced the first item, a goods shed, he said in a very company directorish voice "Absolutely ridiculous, here give me that list !" and promptly trebbled all my prices then said, and you just are not going to believe this  "Ah Mr Downes, you haven't included tooth paste" !!!!!

Yes Mr P, a truly exceptional man that started off with a 'bucket and spade' kiosk on the Seaton Sea Front !

 

 

 

 

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 Posted: Tue May 14th, 2013 08:26 pm
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Ken
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A really nice read Allan and it certainly brings back those good old days; thanks for sharing it.

Ken.



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 Posted: Tue May 14th, 2013 09:33 pm
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allan downes
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Ken wrote: A really nice read Allan and it certainly brings back those good old days; thanks for sharing it.

Ken.

Thank you, book signing tomorow, 10.30 sharp!

Cheers, more to come.

Allan.

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 Posted: Tue May 14th, 2013 10:14 pm
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allan downes
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ONE SUNDAY MORNING, A PEDESTRIAN CROSSING AND A POLICEMAN IN CHARD.

I was lost - and something that I managed to do quite magnificently, and without the help from anyone, whenever I went to Devon in search of Mr P and Peco Products.

I had just delivered a load of buildings - in ANOTHER battered and borrowed old car that had a vital organ missing, namely the handbrake - and parked facing the absolute opposite direction to where I was supposed to be going on a pedestrian crossing, and went into a paper shop to beg for directions (That way you don't have to buy anything) and when I came out a wall of flesh as wide as it was high posing as a policeman, leapt out of a doorway, glazed eyes and frothing screaming "Gotcha!"

"Hmm, so you have " I replied  "How can I be of help, a banana maybe?"

"That's not funny, you're parked on a zebra, you're nicked! - where's your licence, your name, your address, hair cuts like yours aren't allowed in Devon, and what are you doing here anyway?"

I've just delivered some buildings to Peco and I'm on my way home - sir"

"Well, just keep going matey and you'll end up right up back at Peco again - anyway, what buildings, hold on a minute, Allan Downes did you say ?"

"Yes" I squeeked in a voice tainted with hope.

"Not the one that writes all those articles surely, you're my HERO, my only HERO!!!!!"

"Well officer" I perked up with even more hope in my voice  " I really am  pleased to hear that, it's not every day I become a hero and especially on a sunday, in fact I usually try to avoid becoming a hero altogether because I've heard that being one can either get you killed, or get you a medal,  or both, and, as in this case, get you nicked"


Then fishing about in his top pocket he produces several photographs of a layout that he was building - "Well what do you think of that hey ?!"

"Brilliant" I lied as he walked a way shaking his head and mumbling  "Never, who'd have thought that, my hero, mumble, mumble, mumble" then just as I was about to get into my car and celebrate my new found status as a hero by getting even more lost than ever, he swung around and shouted "HEY! HOLD ON! I FORGOT YOUR TICKET!!" 

 

 

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 Posted: Wed May 15th, 2013 02:28 am
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Marty
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:mutley
Keep 'em coming.



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 Posted: Wed May 15th, 2013 07:26 am
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Spurno
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priceless.



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 Posted: Wed May 15th, 2013 09:25 am
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ddolfelin
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I was in contact with Peco a few years back, working on a "Scratchbuilders' Kit" which would comprise useful sprues from various other kits.
It went well until someone there stated that they 'already have it covered with their present offerings'. (!!!!)
Perhaps I should have borrowed one of your cars, Allan.

Enjoyable anecdotes, thanks.



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 Posted: Wed May 15th, 2013 10:44 am
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SRman
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Great stuff, Allan. 

That brought back memories of trying to push start a Mark VII Jag (not mine, I hasten to add!). There were 20 of us pushing and we still couldn't get it to anything over a slow walking pace. Eventually it took a Morris 1100 and a Cortina combined to jump-start the Jag.

:mutley


I would love to be able to build things to your standards but, failing that, I can say that your work has been, and is, inspirational.

:cheers



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 Posted: Wed May 15th, 2013 11:14 am
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katwigan
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Allan, more years ago than either of us would care to remember I recall contacting the printing department at the factory where I worked and asking did they have the little punchings from the time cards. "Sodding Millions" he replied,"You've been reading Railway Modeller haven't you?"
He sent me some! Do you know how many 'Sodding Millions' there are in a cubic foot? Do you want any??????
Kevan

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 Posted: Wed May 15th, 2013 12:49 pm
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allan downes
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ddolfelin wrote:
....Perhaps I should have borrowed one of your cars, Allan.

Enjoyable anecdotes, thanks.

 Well today it's a 5 litre V8 Mercedes S Class - but even that has a story!

A few years ago I left the M40 onto a slip road and as I got to the juction to turn right the engine cut out and wouldn't start.

So, up turns a police car and out jumps two burly motorway cops who ambitiously decided to push me clear of the junction and onto the hard shoulder across the road - the Merc refused to budge.

After an urgent radio exchange, out comes another patrol car, another two burly policemen, and still the Merc wouldn't budge.

So they wave down this buiders van and now we had four policemen, what looked looked like a plasterer and what looked like a Gorilla - and STILL the Merc would't budge - then one of the policemen had a brilliant idea - "Try starting it sir, and see what happens"

I did, it fired up instantly and it's never happened since ! 

 

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 Posted: Thu May 16th, 2013 01:05 pm
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allan downes
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THE INDESTRUCTABLE DAVE ROWE.

Often me and the late missus, the eternally gratefull Mrs Downes that at times would rather have been eternally gratefull to someone else other than me and Rock Hudson in particular, would spend a weekend with Dave and his immensley talented wife, Shirley Rowe where they would , by way of entertainment, find an impossiple outdoor activity like getting out of the car, walking round it once only to collapse exhausted back into the car again if the weather was fine, and even if it wasn't.

So one fine sunday in 90 gegrees of heat,  we all headed of for the wilds of Dartmoor - just to look at some old stone tramway that only Dave wanted to look at, so off we went - no water, no sandwiches, no map and, where I was concerned, no enthusiasm for dying in the middle of nowhere in the middle of England in a place called Devon.

Now Dave Rowe is the only man that I know who never drank, I'm not talking about beer, I'm talking about anything - he just never got thirsty, period - which also meant that we had no water with us and were going to die in search of some old tram track, or whatever, or wherever.

Anyway, several hours, and even more several miles later, and not a sight of  another human being anywhere, never mind some ancient old tram track, we ended up in a disused and flooded Quarry with the rusty jib of an old crane sticking up out of the murky green water - but what the Hell,  it was still WATER!

So in went Downes, head first, fully clothed, couldn't swim but who cared, drowning was better than dying of thirst, swallowing gallons of water on his way to the bottom, somehow floated back back up to the surface again, somehow made it back to the car, somehow made it back to Wycombe, where he spent the next month spitting out teeth as they systematically fell out of his head one by one like fallen tombstones. 

A gum virus picked up while almost drowning in some obscure Quarry in the middle of nowhere was now emptying his head of teeth  at an amazing rate of knots!

And still is. 

 

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 Posted: Fri May 17th, 2013 11:13 am
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allan downes
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A DYING BREED:MIKE SHARMAN.

The only man I ever knew that could hit you in the ear from 50 yards across an exhibition hall seething with people with a wodge of chewed up paper launched from a 12" steel rule in order to distract you long enough while Dave Rowe 'adjusted' your exhibition stand.

This was the Cardif show way,way back when Sharman sold wheels that were a revelation at the time - they were actually round - while Rowe spent most of his time plotting and scheming his next assault on my stand, and this particular day was his ultimate triumph - Doctoring Downes' Plan Books that were on sale on my table while I 'dealt' with Sharman in his 'Punch & Judy Taent - HIS idea of an exhibition stand !

A very respectable and obviously very wealthy and very retired couple asked if they could look through my books as the husband was considering buying all three publications with the intention of building a model railway - so the lady picked up the first book, smiling and impressed she pointed out several aspects then suddenly, as she turned to the center page she let out one almighty scream, hurled the book at me, called me the most perverted and filthiest swine in South Wales and stormed off out.

Rowe had planted the center spread out of a girly magazine into the top copy of Downes Plans No 1  showing a full 'you know what frontal' in all it's blossoming glory!!

 

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 Posted: Fri May 17th, 2013 11:24 am
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allan downes
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katwigan wrote: Allan, more years ago than either of us would care to remember I recall contacting the printing department at the factory where I worked and asking did they have the little punchings from the time cards. "Sodding Millions" he replied,"You've been reading Railway Modeller haven't you?"
He sent me some! Do you know how many 'Sodding Millions' there are in a cubic foot? Do you want any??????
Kevan

Not if I can help it Kevan, but thanks all the same !

Cheers.

Allan.

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 Posted: Mon May 20th, 2013 06:55 pm
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allan downes
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 Here lies a mystery. The ONLY place this photo will upload is onto here!!!!

Anywhere else and it's classed as  "None permitted file" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Todays technology, takes some beating eh?


But watch out Bob, there might be some sort of spy data encrypted in those wonky glazing bars
, and the very wonkiness of which I wanted to explain! 


And possibly a future tale for the confessions of a model maker - written from a very cold hut in a very cold part of Siberia...
 





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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2013 04:40 pm
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allan downes
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Sheffield show,70/80s? Collin Massingham (MTK Kits), Graham Beaumont (Jidenco) and me (biggest chancer in the buisiness!) at the Osset stand (Plaster cast building moulded sections, brick, stone tiles etc)

Conversation as follows.

Assistant "Can I help you please sir?"

Me "Yes, do you sell much of this, it certainly looks very good?"

Assistant "Do you know Allan Downes who writes for the RailwayvModeller?"

Me "Yes, why?"

Assistant "Well he uses it all the time and we sell him loads of it, would you like to place an order sir?

Me "Most certainly, I'll take a dozen of each, or better still, all you've got"

Assistant "Really, good grief! can I have your name please, then address?"

Me " Allan Downes, obviously you already have the address"

Assistant "Well, er yes of course, well you know how it is, would you like a cup of coffee instead?"

Me "No, but you can let me have a sheet of everything to try out"

Assistant "Of course Mr Downes, are you sure that just one sheet of each will be enough - sir?"

Me "Well of course, after all I should know as it's  like you said, I use it all the time - right?" !!!! 

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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2013 08:41 pm
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allan downes
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1970s standing outside Puffers,North London, waiting for it to open, in the window for sale, loads of my buildings, all second hand, source unknown.

Big Chris, the owner, and Dave King of Crowline arrive to open shop. A conversation starts and goes like this.

Big Chris: "Morning Downsie, seen the new models in the window ? - new supplier, knock you into a cocked hat, come on in"

Me:"Right Chris, here's the deal. Hand me down that church and a Stanley knife and I'll show you something"

Big Chris:"First show me what, and why do you want a Stanley knife to show me it?

Me:"Cos I'm going to cut the bottom out and if my name, date of build and time taken, isn't inside, I'll buy the lot AND pay double the price - you on?"

So borrowing a knife from Dave King, the resident loco builder and true gentelman to boot, I sliced out the bottom of the building and guess what it said inside?!

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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2013 08:49 pm
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allan downes
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And that church.



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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2013 09:16 pm
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allan downes
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'FINGERS' ELLIS.

Margate Show, 80 something.

Downes on a Demo stand, empty stand next to mine, up turns what looks like a member of  the Margate Maffia, two hours late with a beatifull woman in tow and both laden down with boxes.

Me:"You're a bit late mate, but I can see why!"

Fingers: "Well I've been dreading this moment, me having to sit next to you, my hero and only bloke who I know that aint either a gangser, wants to be a gangster, or was a gangster"

So, two hours later I had finished bricking this 18" tall chimney out with chads - individual bricks - when Fingers turns to me and says

"Now all that needs is the factory name painted in white lettering starting from the top somewhere and working down"

Me: "Great idea mate, but pray tell me, whoe's gonna do that, Piccaso?!"

Fingers: "No, he's dead mate,  which now leaves me" at which he grabbed the chimney and before I could stop him, he had painted, freehand, the most beautifull lettering WIDENING towards the bottom spelling out "Mattera & Sons Chemical Works - this man was truly amazing, an unsung hero and about the nicest bloke you could ever wish to meet, but, in my eyes, still a 'gangster' and I STILL call him Fingers to this very day !

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 Posted: Wed May 22nd, 2013 09:23 pm
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allan downes
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And that chimney.



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 Posted: Thu May 23rd, 2013 09:18 am
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I just love these stories of yours Alan so keep 'em coming. 

In fact I can't help thinking that a few of us could have some similar things to relate regarding our own occupations, me for example, as being an itinerant modern jazz musician I've experienced all sorts of "fun" during my travels and on gigs.   Anyway, if anyone reading this is interested let me know and I'll start a new posting.

Ken



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