Thursday, 12 March 2020

Loctern Quay stock and operation

Once I had completed Loctern Quay and taken photos for submission to the competition, I had a little over a week to prepare for its first exhibition. Now I have plenty of locos, Loctern needs three for full operation but I didn't have a problem finding enough to cover with a few spares...

It is nice that Loctern Quay is quite a different theme to Hexworthy, and locos that may not look at home in a preserved setting can find a home here, such as tramway (skirted) locos. As a shunting layout good slow running is important, particularly for the shunting loco - three of these locos use Minitrains chassis which give very good running.

Most of my wagons are grey, similar looking, and other than some different loads, not easily distinguished. To make shunting more interesting I wanted to increase the variety of wagons, so built up these four kits I had in stock. The two on the left are 009 society kits, nice and small. The L&B van is a Parkside kit (an old one from a friends un-built pile) in passenger stock green since it has vacuum pipes. The lovely little gunpowder van from Narrow Planet is tiny, but as yet I haven't figured out how to fit couplings...

The rest of the fleet are existing wagons, selecting a range of wagon styles, and adding variety with distinctive loads. Some are resin castings from Anyscale Models, some items from the bits box, and a couple of tarpaulins thanks to a creme egg. I spent some time checking and adjusting couplings to make sure they work reliably, and other than a couple of troublesome trucks they did at the show.

The last job was to create a way to make operation interesting. I took a photo of each wagon, and printed out a simple card for each of them which was then laminated. There are cards for 18 different wagons which allows some spares, in operation 12 are on the layout, of course if a wagon is swapped out the card must be swapped too. The display board is simply made from foam-core board making them easier to see and follow, like those things you get in Scrabble. At each end there is a pocket to store cards for wagons in the fiddle yard (off stage) or to be left in the yard, while the cards for the train to make up are displayed in the centre.

So operation goes as follows:
  1. A train is pushed into the rear siding from the sector plate, the loco decoupled and parked between the buildings
  2. The cards for the wagons in the train are shuffled with those in the "Yard" pocket. Four cards are drawn and placed on the display board "to dispatch" in a random order
  3. The shunting loco in the head-shunt is used to make up the new train in place of the old, which is made more challenging by the constraints of the siding and head-shunt lengths, and because all the wagons do not fit in the front two sidings. Indeed if too many wagons enter a siding the uncoupling magnet makes them tricky to get out!
  4. When complete, the shunter withdraws and the train engine couples up and takes the train back to the fiddle yard
  5. The cards for the wagons in the departing train are swapped for those in the "Off-stage" pocket, and the procedure repeats from step 1...
Initially we had just 3 wagons left in the yard but in practice we found 4 wagons in the yard as well as 4 in each train worked best, adding that little extra challenge. At home if a train does not need to go to the sector plate a train of 5 wagons can be "dealt", for more of a challenge, but this means the uncoupling magnet for the train loco is under the first wagon.

So after a busy but productive few days here's the layout on display at the show. The fold-out legs and lighting were easy to set up and worked well. As well as the wagon card display there's a short description of the layout on the right. The operator sits to the left front of the layout which allows easy operation and interaction with viewers, indeed the wagon cards encouraged interaction - viewers were invited to pick cards at the appropriate time, and having done so I found they lingered longer to see the train made up.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Wealden Railway Group show - Lancing

Yesterday was the annual show by the Wealden Railway Group in Lancing. Although a general show the group promote small layouts, and narrow gauge featured so I will round-up a few of those here.

A favourite is Vale Quarry by John Bruce, a 009 shunting layout that is very nicely modelled and runs beautifully.

The gate closes to limit the train length when shunting. The locos are characterful too.

Greg Dodsworth's Felsham Lane is a very compact yet surprisingly interesting O16.5 layout.

Stuan House by Ian Roberts is inspired by the railway at the Dalmunzie Hotel in Scotland.

Built in the unusual scale of 1:32 (which uses 16.5mm gauge to represent 2' gauge) it includes nicely built models of the Simplex locos and carriages, and features prototypical loads... not a model for vegans!

Then there was Rainbow Rock... and why not? Yes it isn't a serious layout but it was well crafted and imaginative, and popular with the kids!

This small friendly show was ideal for a first showing of Loctern Quay. I have spent the last week or so preparing (which I will post more on later) so I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

The wagon cards and operation worked well, and it proved interesting to operate too. It was also nice to get lots of positive feedback and interest from visitors. Other than a couple of troublesome trucks there were no issues.

So a good show, and a successful debut show for Loctern Quay.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Lock, stock and barrel

Loctern Quay is now finished! In fact it was finished a few days before the deadline for the 009 Society competition, thanks to a big push over the last few weeks. Anyway, with my entry now in, here are some pictures of the final result.

As displayed with short legs and lighting, I got a name for the fascia from Vinyl Lettering Online, which finishes it off nicely. The paint, lighting, and name are all as we did with Slugworth & Co.

A general view across the yard, with the final details and a few people in place. I found some old Tiny Signs packs, and got carried away with the enamel adverts - which suggest the building in the centre is a newsagent and tobacconist, although we can't see the front.

The other end of the yard, a pleasing composition I think. I've aimed for signs of life but not too busy, as befits a backwater.

The other end of the layout. Perhaps it could use a tree right at the end, it's a bit abrupt right now, but it would have to be a carefully selected/made tree to fit.

One of my favourite views, even without trains!

The first exhibition for the layout is this Saturday, held by the Wealden Railway Group in Lancing, West Sussex. It's always a good friendly show, so do come along if you can

The past week or so I have been busy with wagons, checking couplings, etc., so i hope I will be ready. More on that soon.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Hiding a fiddle yard in plain sight

What's this? A minimalist micro layout? A photo-plank?

It is of course the sector plate fiddle yard for Loctern Quay. Because of the scenic arrangement it would not be completely hidden, and bringing the backscene in front of it wouldn't work well on such a small layout, so I thought I would disguise the presence of the fiddle yard - that is, hide it in plain sight.

From above the sector plate is seen, though the scenic dressing ensures it does not stand out, while the brick wall disguises the hard edge of the sector plate and the void beyond it. The embankment and trees ensure there is no empty space and draw the eye away from what would be a bare corner. This does of course mean that access to the fiddle yard is tricky, but operation doesn't require access to the trains, and the sector plate is moved by the dowel protruding from the front of the layout.

From the front, even an unusually close and high viewing position, the subterfuge works quite effectively. With the sector plate pushed back to access the front track a train can just about be seen on the rear track, but that's OK, perhaps there's a siding behind the warehouse?

The wall moved! Perhaps there was a land-slip? With the rear track lined up there is a small area of bare board just about visible. However, painted brown (with a bit of graphite to help smooth movement) and with the wall hiding much of it I don't think it is obvious.

From the other end of the layout the buildings, water tower, and tree do much to hide the transition to fiddle yard. What can be seen of the sector plate does not stand out thanks to the ballast and grass, while the embankment and trees behind fill what would otherwise be an empty void.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Book Review - Works Trams of the British Isles

I've just finished reading a book a little different from my usual - "Works Trams of the British Isles" by Peter Wallis.

I'm not particularly a tramway enthusiast - well not the urban passenger-carrying type, usually electrically powered, that are featured in this book. While they are very nice, to me all the trams look the same after a while! But the sub-title "A survey of tramway engineer's vehicles" got me intrigued, I do like unusual and quirky rail vehicles, and this book is full of them. All sorts of tramway vehicles are included - stores vans, tower wagons, snow ploughs, open and tipper trucks, even a crane; and I was surprised at their variety and the number that are found in this substantial book.

When I say "reading", it is really a picture book with detailed captions, so isn't heavy to read. The book is roughly divided into applications, although some of the vehicles had multiple uses so there is some overlap. The pictures are generally well reproduced and the book feels good quality.

As I am not a tramway enthusiast there were acronyms and terminology used which I was not familiar with, such as the initials of tramway companies. It would have been nice to see them expounded on first use, or a separate glossary. Also, most of the photos were undated, I'd have liked to see an indication of the year each was taken. However, they are minor quibbles, on the whole the captions were informative and surprisingly detailed.

This is a somewhat different book then, a bit of a niche, but of interest those who like unusual rail vehicles and not just tramway enthusiasts.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The river

The clue is in the name - Loctern Quay has a quayside, and that means water - I've chosen a river. I've not modelled water since I was in my teens and back then sloshing some gloss varnish about was the accepted method - to be fair it looked OK for mountain streams, but had a tendency to soak up the banks. These days there are many different products available to model water, so I did some reading up on what might be best for my flat, dirty, deep(ish) river.

I settled on simply using acrylic gloss medium - in this case "Modge Podge" - having seen some youtube videos that showed it gave the sort of result I was after without looking too difficult (or time consuming, or expensive). I used an offcut of foam-core as a test piece, and found:

  • It is thick and sticky - it won't run off the edge of the board so no need to "seal" the area, nor wick up the banks. 
  • But it also won't settle smooth, it will show brush strokes (so use a fine brush) and is hard to lay flat and smooth (see the left end of the test piece - I wonder if diluting it would help it settle more smooth?)
  • Ripples are really easy to make by dabbling with a brush - but the size of the ripples depended on the size of the brush
  • It could be applied quite thick - a good couple of millimetres - and sets clear within 24 hours, further coats can be added to thicken it. I didn't try pouring it.
  • It was easy to do and looked very effective!

The base of the river is simply the MDF board, which I painted to look like deep river water. My first attempt was too green, so a tried a muddy brown. That looked too like mud, so went to a dark almost black with a hint of greeny brown, but blended this into the muddy brown towards the bank and quayside as though the water was getting deeper. Happy with that result, I worked out where to place the sunken barge and wildlife.

Next to apply the Modge Podge, thickly with a largish brush then dabbed into ripples with a smaller brush, working it carefully up to the banks. This is just before the barge and birds were placed into the wet Modge Podge. The foil you see at the bottom was arched over the "water" while it was drying to prevent anything landing on it.

I am very happy with the finish, I think it looks just like I was hoping it would and wasn't as difficult as I had feared. The light glares off it a bit in this picture, but it definitely looks "wet"! I've only used one coat and I don't think it needs another, but I guess I could add a thin coat if it ever lost it's shine.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Growing trees

Moving up (literally) from the grass and undergrowth comes the trees. I had in stock a pack of Woodland Scenics tree "armatures", which could be considered as flat-pack trees as the plastic moulding is completely flat.

The idea is they are twisted and bent into a three-dimensional tree. I found dunking them in hot water for a minute or so made that a little easier, and it was helpful to hold the trunk below where I was bending with a pair of pliers, but the concept works well.

The result is surprisingly effective. The best technique is twisting the trunk working up the tree, which spreads the branches in all directions, but as some trees were to be against the backscene they needed the branches bending towards the front or sides, away from the back. With a little thought the branches can fill the 3-D shape in a balanced way.

I then painted the plastic as it looked a bit, shiny plastic. I used a dark brown enamel wash dry-brushed with a mid-grey, and although at a distance it doesn't look that different it does take away that plastic look.

I used commercial foliage products - Woodland Scenics on two of the trees, and Heiki on the other. This is cut into small irregular chunks and teased out - particularly pulling the top and bottom of the flat material out to form more 3-dimensional shapes. I stuck the now fluffy foliage to the branches using matt medium ("Modge Podge" matt) rather than PVA, which dries invisible.

The trunks have a small peg protruding from the base, the idea being they can plug into a moulded "root" base to stick on a flat board. Of course I want to plant them into the ground, but the short peg wasn't enough to secure them, so I drilled a 1mm hole into the end of the peg and super-glued in a length of wire (straightened paperclip).

Here's the two at the back of the layout, with a nice open feel to them, and a good shape and size. On the left I've used a couple of the trees my son made for a school project using twigs and rubberised horsehair stuck on with hot glue. The best ones were used for Slugworth & Co., but these were revitalised with extra flock and planted in the corner, which they fill quite nicely. Just visible on the far right is a commercial tree I found in stock - it's a bit of a "lollipop" but fills a gap and isn't very visible!

The other tree sits front and centre, creating a view block - not least to hide the fiddle yard exit, as seen here - and to make the middle of the layout feel less empty. However, whether it is too much in the way remains to be seen! It could make operating tricky by blocking the view of the uncoupling magnets, so for now it is pushed into the hole but not glued.