Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Revisiting a French beauty

The end of May half-term saw us on a family holiday in France. I couldn't resist a trip to re-visit the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, which I first visited four years ago. This metre gauge line runs from St Valery sur Somme to Le Crotoy via Noyelles sur Mer, around the Somme estuary, with a branch to Cayeux sur Mer. We took the main route again as that was running a steam service, once again with a beautifully turned out loco and train, through peaceful countryside with views over the estuary.


Noyelles is a "through terminus", where the train reverses to take the second part of the line. Last time I visited two trains crossed here, which led to a simultaneous departure in the same direction on parallel tracks. Only one train today (although it did meet a standard gauge SNCF service in the station behind), but opportunity to watch the loco being turned and watered. Apparently this loco dates from 1889, and was built for the constructors of the Panama canal, before being used in Puerto Rico. It is now beautifully restored.

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The turntable at the St Valery terminus is on the quayside with inset track, and this delightful inset turntable that is a real crowd-pleaser, in front of the small but ornate station building. One day I must build a model based on this scene!


There's loads of inspiration for modellers, such as the little rail-car or drasine spotted in the yard as we passed. The tiny set of bogies in front of it are interesting too, I suspect for moving rails when renewing track.


Even the track itself is fascinating, unusually complex for a narrow gauge line, such as this three-way point in front of the turntable at Noyelles. Note the boarding for the crossing.


The scissors crossing must be even more unusual; this connects the two running lines from St Valery (right) and Le Crotoy (left) into the platform at Noyelles. The siding on the left is standard gauge, I've noticed the rail has taken on a different colour.


Added to all of that there is dual-gauge track between Noyelles and St Valery, with the metre-gauge set inside the standard (i.e. not sharing a rail) giving rise to some pointwork oddities. I assume this is so SG wagons can be moved by NG locos.

This is a gem of a line that was well worth a second visit. It's only a little over an hour from Calais so look it up if you are passing! http://www.cfbs.eu/en/

Sunday, 20 May 2018

SWING Narrow Gauge & Industrial show

Yesterday I took Awngate a short trip down the coast to Littlehampton for the SWING industrial and narrow gauge show. I was ably assisted by my chief train driver.


We did suffer some problems with the fiddle yard, the wiper contacts are not working too well. I may have to re-think that, but I don't yet have a better solution. There were also the few troublesome trucks, but mostly the layout performed well, and received some nice comments.

The show was at a new venue, the Littlehampton Academy, which meant all the exhibits were in the same hall, a big improvement over the last venue I thought. The style remained the same, a varied collection of layouts covering narrow gauge and industrial themes - though there was even an Irish broad gauge layout - and good trade support including NG specialists and both 009 Society and 7mm NG Association society sales. I did get a few photos although unfortunately I didn't get a program or list of layouts, so I don't remember the names or builders of most of them.


Both the trophies - voted for by exhibitors, and by visitors - went to this live steam SM45 layout Hambleden Valley Railway. Most live steam layouts are all about the trains with some token scenery, but this was a detailed scenic model railway that happened to use actual steam power, running was smooth and realistic by radio control too. I guess you could say it is more prototypical than most layouts.


Bridge over the Blythe is a model of the Southwold Railway prototype, and a fine example of railway in the landscape modelling, it's hard to believe this is 2mm scale.


I liked this US industrial layout, Red Hook Bay, full of finely detailed scenes and the waterfront is superb.


Another type of waterway, this canal lock on this 7mm scale layout called (I think) Mulldale.

More photos can be found on Flikr here.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Remotoring an armoured Simplex

My armoured simplex, which I built a couple of years back, didn't run very well. Investigation showed that the sleeve on one of the axles had come loose from the axle, meaning the gear could turn on the axle, effectively making it a 2 wheel drive chassis. The sleeve is meant to be superglued in place but it is very difficult to do, and even more difficult to fix, as the axle also has to pass through the chassis holes. Since I can't figure a way to fix the chassis without supergluing it I wasn't sure what to do, until I heard that the Tomix MH-01 chassis can be fitted.


So at Narrow Gauge South I picked up a chassis, as you see it comes with a bright but incomprehensible (to me) box. It also has a "box-van" style body to fit over it, and stickers to cover it which you can decorate, though I didn't use those. Under the toy-like packaging and body is a surprisingly compact chassis. Oddly, it has a frame like a kind of life-ring mounting around it, which is designed to allow some movement - limited rocking and swivelling - of the chassis within it.


I cut a piece of 40 thou plastic (black) to fit within the body of the simplex, and out of that cut the shape of the chassis until it until it was a close fit around the outer frame of the chassis. Small squares built up on packing pieces sit on the corners of the chassis, and smaller off-cuts bear against the side of the motor to prevent it swivelling within the frame. At one end I made a notch for the mounting bolt.


Underneath a couple more pieces of plasticard clamp under the chassis outer frame. There was still a little movement between the chassis and mounting frame, so I dabbed a spot of hot glue in the gap on each side.


The chassis is a neat fit into the body. The new mounting plate slots in at one end, held by a plasticard piece behind the buffer beam. At the other end it is held by the bolt used for the original chassis. I couldn't find space to secure the couplings with a screw so I've had to superglue them in pace, fortunately there's a nice piece of whitemetal just above them to there should be plenty of contact.

I'm pleased to say the new chassis runs well, and it's nice to have the little tin turtle back in service. However I'm still left with the problem of how to fix this Ruston, also languishing out of service. The Minitrix chassis motor has taken to releasing magic smoke every time power is applied, so it looks like it is mortally wounded. It's a difficult chassis to replace though.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Lighting with LED's - experimentation

I've been looking into LED lighting for layouts for some time, with the build of Hexworthy underway. They offer distributed light in a light-weight flexible format, with low power consumption and heat output. There are potential pitfalls though, I've seen layouts far to dimly or unevenly lit, or worse still, with an unnaturally blue light (I've even seen a layout actually lit with blue LED's!).

One problem is that "white" LED's are not often white, the options seem to be "cool white" at the bluer end of the spectrum (6000K), or warm white (3000K) which is much more yellow. I find the cool white is too blue, and while the warm white is more preferable it is rather too yellow - more Mediterranean than British! However I recently found that it was possible to get "Natural white", which at around 4000K is somewhere between the two.


So here's what I bought:
  • Natural White 4000K SMD 5050 LED strip, 60 LED's per meter (link)
  • A 12V 2A Power Supply Adaptor, which should be good for about 2m of LED's (link)
The adaptor came with a socket fitted with screw terminals, allowing easy connection of the LED's. I cut about 50cm of the LED strip and stuck it to a strip of foamboard to experiment.


This assembly was then roughly taped to the lighting beam above Awngate, at a slight angle towards the rear, to see how it looked.


The result looks good, the colour does look "natural" to me, and while far less yellow than the tungsten strips used on Awngate, it does not have the blue tint of cool white LED's. Placement may be better - objects near the front are in shadow - and shadows are a little harsh, but otherwise light distribution looks OK.


The effect in a darkened room looks good to me. I wasn't sure if it was bright enough at first, so how does it compare to the existing lighting?


This shows the layout lit with the LED strip on the left side, and the existing 30W tungsten strip lighting the right hand end (the one at the left end is switched off). The difference in colour balance is obvious, the tungsten light is much more yellow - cheerful and summery perhaps, but less realistic. Brightness seems reasonably consistent to me, although the LED light may be less well spread, and shadows are perhaps a little sharper. So a 12" deep layout may be adequately lit by a single strip of LED's, but using more lights and possibly use of reflectors and diffusers might spread the light better.

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I also got this dimmer switch (link), mainly because it was so cheap. I wonder if it may be helpful if adding more LED lights to dim down to what is needed. Also I suspect that the small power supply I got will do for very small layouts, but I may need to get a bigger power supply for larger layouts. More experimentation to follow, but I am happy with the colour balance of these lights.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

New venue, same format for Narrow Gauge South

Last Saturday I went to the Narrow Gauge South exhibition at it's new venue in Eastleigh, which was handier for me than the last one near Winchester. The format was much the same - lots of NG layouts, a leaning towards 009 but with a variety of other scales, a range of specialist traders and groups, plus the 009 Society AGM (although I admit I skipped that to see the layouts, but I did have my son with me). This sort of event is about meeting people as much as seeing layouts, so a good deal of talking was done, plus some browsing of the trade. It was a big day for my son as he bought his first 009 loco (well, an HOe Roco diesel) for a project we're working on.

However I did manage to get some photos, so in no particular order, here are some of my favourites:


Oresome Aggregates (HOf) - Peter Smith. Superb industrial modelling with an array of interesting locos in a convincing scenic setting, yet this is all so tiny. I've been watching this develop on the NGRM forum so it was good to see it for real.


Berger Hall (Gn15) - Bill Corser. Compact, detailed, and different, with a sense of humour. Another NGRM forum layout.


First (009) - Steve Clulow. Or "I can't believe this is your first...". Nicely done, one of those simple "I could build that" layouts but with great scenery and trains, and runs well too. See Steve's blog for more details.


Vale Quarry Preservation Society (009) - John Bruce. Yes I've seen it before, yes it's small, yet always a delight.


Albion Estates (1:12, 32mm gauge) - Bill Bateson. More detailed large-scale but a different sort of estate railway.


Plaxtol Road (O) - Tim Ticknell. One of a handful of standard gauge light railway layouts invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Colonel Stevens. Lovely atmosphere.


Bryn-Y-Felyn (009) - Matthew Kean. Another Colonel Stevens layout but quite different, WHR atmosphere and trains in a relatively compact layout.


Ryedown Lane (009) - Patrick Collins. Another layout I've seen before but remains a favourite. Also Colonel Stevens inspired. And a lovely loco that reminds me, I've got one of those to build!

There were loads more layouts I could put here, but too many to put in a post, so see the Flikr album for the rest.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Engaging the youngsters

At the WRG show in Lancing last week there was a scenic modelling demonstration by (I think) Roy Hickman, on display was a superb diorama.



As well as that, and demonstrating, he was encouraging people to have a go - including kids. We've come across his stand before and my son has made a (rather good) tree at a previous show. However on Saturday he said he'd been asked if he wanted to make a pond, so off he went. After some considerable time he came back with this...


Not just a pond, or a tree, but a whole garden! My son was (rightly) very proud, and told me that the pond is made from three layers of glass. The bottom is black (I guess that may be plastic), the next brown, then clear at the top. In between is pond weed and goldfish (scrapings of orange wire insulation). The path is egg-shell - painted, then broken and stuck down, then crushed to the crazy paving effect, with scatter to fill the gaps. These are clever tips that I'd never have thought of.

What's more, when my son had finished there were a couple more kids busy building similar gardens. So not only has Roy got a real talent and great ideas for scenic modelling, but to have the patience and enthusiasm to teach kids - and get them interested, engaged, and doing relatively complex tasks - that's something else altogether. He didn't even charge a penny. What a great ambassador for the hobby.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Awngate at the Wealden Railway Group Show

On Saturday I took Awngate along to the Wealden Railway Group exhibition, held this year at the Lancing Parish Hall. As usual it was a friendly show with a good selection of small layouts, and lots of friendly faces to talk to as well. Actually between talking and running the layout I didn't take that many photos - at least, that came out well. Still, here's a few of my highlights.


Nice to see Chris Ford's Art of Compromise, built with a few compromises but it's a refreshing change to the usual GWR branch-line, and would make the basis of an interesting home layout. Chris has managed to achieve his usual less-is-more deserted backwater feel. I think it's deliberate but maybe he just doesn't like adding figures? Anyway, it works. 


Giles Barnabe's Salop Street packed a lot of operational interest into a small space, with a dose of pre-grouping character, another OO layout that is very different to the typical - and I'm sure the better for it. 


I do like Simon Hargraves' sewage works O14 layout, but then I like short trains of skips with small i/c locos. Nice textures too. The photo might have looked better if he'd remembered the backscene though!


Another layout I like and haven't seen for some time is Felsham Lane by Greg Dodsworth. O-16.5 but in a surprisingly small space while fitting in plenty of interest.

There are a few more photos over on Flikr, including the Loo branch (groan).

As for my layout, I had to contend with a few gremlins. A couple of isolating sections didn't isolate - that is they were on whichever way the switch went. Still at least they failed on, dead track is harder to work around. Also some of the wiper contacts to the fiddle yard played up too - yes I should have cleaned them beforehand but they worked in testing! Still neither was fatal and other than some misbehaving wagon couplings the trains ran well enough.

On a more positive note, one of the friendly faces took some serious photos for a potential magazine article - it's flattering to be asked, so I shall have to write something I guess!