Thursday, 5 November 2015

Biog: Tony Seal

Tony is a long-standing and well-known member of the Society, partly due to the 11 years he spent as Membership Secretary between 2004 and 2015, partly for the astounding 18 times that he has won the AGM "Cuckmere Trophy" competition as a carriage-builder par excellencebut also for having published the carriage construction handbook "Flatpack Coach Kits & What I Do To Them" in 2003. 

How did you  first come to be involved in 3mm?


I didn't choose 3mm, it chose me. In 1961 my wife produced a son, so for his 1st birthday I purchased £10 of second-hand stock from a shop in Paisley. Just by chance it turned out to be TT, consisting of the usual mix of Tri-ang stock and I still have them! But, I'm afraid my son never got interested in model railways, preferring tanks and military vehicles, together with the usual Airfix aircraft to hang from his ceiling. No wonder he joined the Royal Marines.
But anyway, during the next few years I added to this collection from a shop in Singapore that just happened to have little yellow boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. And being Singapore the ceilings are unusually high to be able to get the fans in and therefore the air circulating…


Yes, I joined the Royal Navy on 12th September 1955, came out on 20th January 1979 and was based in Singapore from 1962 to 1965. I have just attended our 60th reunion, over 30 turned up out of 200, not bad considering Anno Domini and us being scattered all over the world. Two came from Australia and one from the USA.

So your initial modelling was literally “all at sea”?

Yes! Modelling on Her Majesty’s Grey Funnel Line is fraught to say the least. I served on HMS Cleopatra, Danae, Eskimo and Fearless. Being Fleet Air Arm I spent time on 703, 738, 771, Pilotless Target and 829 Squadrons.

As the Flight Electrical Senior Rate I had charge of the Torpedo Body Room which was equipped with a decent sized workbench which was ideal. (Modelling also kept me away from the mess bar on some evenings.) 

The only trouble came when on passage; Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres were announced and I was so preoccupied that I didn't hear the pipe.
Somewhere in Chile there is a very bemused dockyard matey/scrap merchant, trying to work out what to do with a 4F boiler backhead, which disappeared off the workbench and into the scuppers after one particularly violent hard-a-port.
So I effectively became a 3mm modeller by default and have continued with the scale ever since, going into kit building as I discovered such things after returning home and joining the 3mm Society in 1974. The only other scale I have ever used was O Gauge tinplate in my extreme youth, but when I joined the Royal Navy my mother gave the lot to the church jumble sale. Gnashing of teeth!

What period do you model, and why?


1930’s Southern Railway, I was born in 1939 and was brought up in South London with rail lines all around Lewisham. However, they were almost exclusively EMU lines, so the only steam I saw or heard was the daily pick up/transfer goods, usually an ex-SECR C class 0-6-0 and then mainly at night.
SECR Birdcage brake, built for Bob Barnes
LBSCR D1 0-4-2T
However, from the end of the war I spent between 2 and 4 weeks on the Isle of Wight every year and revelled in the railway system over there. My parents took advantage of the Luggage In Advance system to get the family trunk delivered to Sandown, then we took the train down from Waterloo, again all EMU. Later, I joined the Church Lads Brigade and the St Mary's CofE Old Boy's school club and spent the 4 weeks in various bell tents. All within walking distance of the Bembridge Branch, until they closed it, then later across the flood plain fields to Brading.
LSWR 6-wheel bogie full brake
LSWR Emigrant stock
My early memories are therefore of black everything, so I like things set a bit earlier which was much better with a bit of colour, and clean!

What gauge do you model in?

All my layouts and stock are built to 12mm gauge having started with Tri-Ang TT, so now having over 500 items of rolling stock life is far too short to re-wheel or re-gauge them all.
LSWR K10 4-4-0 (Jidenco kit)
SR Maunsell corridor stock
I mainly use the old GEM 12mm gauge track and points in the viewing areas of my layouts, it may be old but it is very robust, can be used to good effect and is still relatively easy to find, even to the extent of finding mint and boxed new-old-stock. For the hidden areas I use anything that’s available as well as a cassette system.

Do you model anything other than 3mm scale model railways?

My first love is London Transport buses, my Father worked for London Transport out of Old Kent Road garage from the late 1940’s and then out of New Cross after the trams stopped running in 1952. I cycled all over London and the Home Counties (the bike was a fixed wheel type) until I had visited every garage belonging to LT, Central, Country and Trolleybus. I have built up  a collection of 1:76 models of Buses, Trams and Trolleybuses to total over 100 with at least 70 still to build (eBay is a wonderful invention!) and they range from 1909-1969, so from "Old Bill" to the end of LONDON TRANSPORT in full on the buses. I had forgotten how many variations there were before the RT and Routemaster standardised everything.

What do you find particularly rewarding about 3mm scale?

The main reason I have continued with 3mm is that I enjoy building things as opposed to just buying RTR boxes off the shelf – and 3mm provides for that in spades! These days I tend mainly to adapt kits to produce otherwise unavailable vehicles. I find that very satisfying. 
SR weedkilling train, ex-LSWR loco tender
SR weedkilling train brakevan

How did your specialist skill with coach building develop?

SR Maunsell corridor open
You become aware that you are perhaps not half bad at something when you start winning trophies - and that started after I completed my time for pension in the RN and joined the Civil Service at the Aircraft & Armament Experimental Establishment Boscombe Down, swapping the blue suit for a white coat and carrying on, being now in charge of the Avionics Workshop.
SECR 3-car set built for Bob Barnes
Pullman 6-wheel bogie "Cleopatra"
Over time I have built something like 500 coaches, a couple of hundred as commissions for other people, and the rest for myself. I get a lot of satisfaction with building SR sets, if I have built them well. 

This is shown when you step back to look along the set and all the coaches are of the same height and are all riding in the same plane. After all, a loco and to some extent a wagon is a one-off, therefore your train will have no uniformity, whereas a rake of coaches has.

Do you have a layout for running your creations?

I have been fortunate in being able to construct a fully insulated and heated loft conversion with proper staircase access and fitted with Velux windows to house my layout, workshop and study.
GWR Fruit D van
LSWR and S&DJR horse boxes
My present layout is my fifth (the first being an MPD, the second a circuit with a Terminus to one side, the 3rd a branch terminus in a shed and the 4th was a representation of Guildford to Havant main line. (John Bateman, a fellow Society member, said "Blimey! Clapham Junction!" when he first saw it) but is still in the embryonic stages. When up and running it will extend to some 40 feet of double track mainline. It portrays the line from Havant through Fratton to Portsmouth & Southsea. The only building so far on the layout is Havant Station, which was salvaged from my second layout.
GWR Iron Mink (on loan to SR during WWII)

If I loaned you a magic wand, what 3mm product would you magic into existence?

The only thing I would like to see is an internal corridor wall supplied with each coach kit where appropriate. That is perhaps the most tedious thing to do; measuring, marking and cutting out individual plastikard corridor walls and partitions for each coach, often of different configurations. That’s the whole trouble - there’s no such thing as standard!
Tony, thank you very much for taking the time to share with us and we look forward to seeing your latest creations at the next 3mm Society AGM in Burton on Trent on Saturday 14th May 2016.


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