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Tech Q&A

Christopher Vine

Describe your latest project.
The book How (Not) to Paint a Locomotive came about because of the immense amount of trouble I had in painting Bongo, a model live steam locomotive which I had built. There is almost nothing published to give guidance and I wanted to achieve a top class finish. Interestingly, there are a large number of beautifully made models but very few are well painted. I wanted mine to have a finish with no bits of dust trapped in the paint and a smooth gloss surface. This is easier said than done.

I had spent six years making the locomotive and the complete process of painting, lining and rebuilding Bongo took two years of frustration, mistakes and wrong directions. But finally, when it was done, I was thrilled to win a Gold Medal at the Model Engineer Exhibition in 2004, and also the Charles Kennion Memorial Trophy for the best finished model in the show.

I received so many comments on the paint that I decided I should pass on the information I had gathered and so the germ of this book was planted. It takes the reader through all the processes to paint an engineering model covering: choice of equipment, making a spray booth, paint selection, preparation, spray painting, hand painting, lining, transfers and more...

Above all, the book tries to put the reader in the position to understand what is going on when painting so that they can work out where they are going wrong and to develop a process which is repeatable and works for them.

I have been completely amazed by the reception the book has had and by the numbers which have sold in just four months. I think I am lucky in that there is very little written on this subject; also, it is applicable to almost all model engineers.


  1. How (Not) to Paint a Locomotive
    $39.95 New Hardcover add to wishlist

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
This is an easy question to answer: my science teacher. He really taught physics and encouraged all his pupils to think about things in a very logical way. He also did fantastic experiments in his lab. As often as not they went wrong, to much hilarity, but he would then take the time to work out what it was that had messed them up.

What do you do for relaxation?
If it is a warm day outside, I either cycle in the hills near where I live, raise steam on the garden railway, or entertain friends and their children. If it is a cold day then I take to the workshop to work on the latest project.

Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
Douglas Adams every time!

What was your favorite book as a kid?
My favorite book when I was small was a very old book called 101 Dangerous Experiments for Boys. I was banned from reading it after a while.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
I suspect some sort of clean power is the most vital thing for making people's lives better, or at least from stopping them becoming very difficult. Nuclear fusion seems to be the holy grail but I think something simpler, like solar direct to electricity (PhotoVoltaic) will be a quicker solution as we can all use it without government interference.

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
What a great question. I think I would love to be Robert Stephenson on the day he won the Rainhill Trials with his new locomotive, "The Rocket," Octboer 8, 1829. He ran at a speed of 30mph and was the fastest person on the planet.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
Physics was easily my best subject as I seemed to have a feel for it. My worst was history; it was just all dates and battles. Now I love history, mainly because of all the fascinating documentaries.

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
Maybe I am a luddite, but all I want my computer to do now is not to go wrong. It is such a waste of time when the internet connection dissappears or the system just gets confused. The best thing about Windows XP is that it has a utility called system restore which usually fixes any problems, but not always...

Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
My favorite museum in all the world is the Science Museum in London. There are hundreds of really old artifacts, from old beam engines to the first steam turbine generators. The first computer chip and stone age skulls which have had holes drilled (trepanned) in them to let out the evil spirits.

Amazingly, some of these skulls have had more than one hole drilled and they have healed over. This means that the patient (victim) lived for quite some time after the "operation." Also, it is clear that these people really were mad or possessed because after a stone age man had drilled a hole in your head, if you were just acting odd, you would start to act straight if he was going to drill another hole!

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