Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Fitting Magnets

Before going much further I needed to fit uncoupling magnets. I find the Microtrains surface mounted magnets work well, but are too long, so I snap them in half before fitting them. They stick up between the sleepers so while they can be disguised as board crossings, it is nice to have hidden magnets in some places.

In the past I've had some success using cupboard latch magnets set below the sleepers, though on Awngate they needed strengthening with neodymium magnets attached to them - I think the plywood baseboard diminished their power too much? Heworthy has a foamcore base so I think they should work well.


The staring point - a pair of B&Q magnets. Bought in packs of 10 they work out quite cheap.


The magnets are popped out with a screwdriver and snapped together, the magnetic field is between the large faces, and two together is wide enough where one would not be. This time I attached the steel plates to the outside as I think this will "focus" the magnetic field at the poles in the same way they do in the cupboard latch, or a steel pin does through an electromagnet.


The completed magnet assembly, and an oblong hole cut through the baseboard under the track. The foam core is at least easy to do this with a sharp scalpel - with plywood the hole would have to be cut first.


From above, the cupboard catch magnet is rear right, under the sleepers, the Microtrains surface mount (cut in half) is front left. At this stage the cupboard magnet seems much more powerful than the Microtrains one, but ballasting may change that.

Now I shall have to do some testing to check they work well, and that I have them in the right places.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Tests with Stones and Windows

Not happy with the moulded stonework sheets, and not having had great results with clay before (except for cobbles), I've decided to experiment with foam sheet - and scribing the stones by hand - as I've seen others do this with impressive results.


The lower piece is a pizza base, the oblong piece on top centre is from a pack of foam I picked up years ago, I think it was marketed by Busch or Faller though I've not seen it since. I've looked for the blue foam others have used but can't find a local stockist. It can be found on ebay or online but can work out pricey with postage, and I fear it may get damaged. Anyway both these foams seem to work OK and I don't need a great deal.

Also shown are the implements I've tried. The right-hand and lower of the centre areas were done with a sharpened HB pencil, but I think the courses are too thick for 4mm scale. I guess mortar is an inch or two thick at most in a stone wall, so well under a millimetre. The upper centre and lower left were done with a 0.5mm propelling pencil, which I think looks better. The top left corner was done with the dental implement but I found the long point difficult to control.

So a promising test, though I suspect my stones are a bit too regular. I gave the test pieces a wash with brown acrylic. Looking at the way this has collected in the mortar courses I think I'd be better starting with a wash of grey, then dry-brushing browns on top. I've seen pastels used with great effect for stone colouring, so I might even give that a go.


I've drawn out the station building, reducing it's length by 20 mm, which I think will look better. It's marked up with measurements - as I can't draw lines all over the foam and rub them out, this will help me mark it out neatly.


The next big question is windows. Top we have a moulding by Dornplas, nice and fine but lacking detail - they don't look like sash windows. On the right is a Wills set, the lower ones of which look really nice - but only two on a fret so I don't have enough and I'd need several packs! Sadly the others, like the Dornplas ones, lack sash detail. Those lower left I picked up from a second hand stall, but I think they might be Peco. They have nice sash detail, though the mouldings are a little thick - I tried thinning one with a fine file but I'm not sure it improved it, just made it wobbly!

I've noticed some nice ones from York Modelmaking - a bit pricey though:

The other option is of course making my own. I've done it before but it's fiddly, and I'm not sure I can do better than these.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rail painting

While thinking about buildings and backscenes, I thought I'd use a sunny afternoon to get a simpler job done - rail painting.

2017-09-17 16.08.14

So the garden became my studio... at least until a very black cloud appeared!

2017-09-17 16.09.19

I mixed up some enamel paint to a reddish brown, based on some photos of track at Amberley.


It makes a surprisingly big difference to the look of the track, though the rail looks rather heavy at this angle. Lots more to do, the sleepers could do with being a little lighter and after ballasting, a thin wash will be used to tone things down.

So, back to thinking about the buildings...


I've got three types of embossed plastic stonework: Wills (left), Slaters random (middle) and coursed stone (right). The question is which is most appropriate for Dartmoor. As a comparison there's a close-up of the bridge below.


The other option is scribing DAS or similar, which I'd rather avoid!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Mock-up Station Buildings

After a few doodles, I spent some time this afternoon with some of Kellog's best quality cardboard and a pair of scissors, creating a mock-up for Hexworthy's station building. It may be the only significant building on the layout so it has to look right, and it has to fit the constrained and odd shape site.


As the end of the line the station building looks relatively large for a narrow gauge line, I imagine it would need living accommodation for the station master (who was probably also booking and goods clerk, and possibly signal man too). It's not grand though, and I've used dormer windows to keep the height moderate and give a Dartmoor style. The line near the bottom marks the approximate platform height.


At one end is a small goods shed, in the preservation era setting this will become the cafe with a glass french door in place of the wooden sliding one, hence the siding stopping well short. I'm also planning to add a canopy to the front of the station building.


From above it fits the site quite well, though I wonder if it is a little long. I may see if I can shorten it about 10%.


This view shows most of the layout with the building sitting in place - quite comfortably I think.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Happy 10th Birthday!


It's ten whole years since I started this blog.

It was a bit of an impulse, as I realised how easy it was (I already had a Google account). I thought that as well as documenting my modelling projects it might help encourage me to make regular progress with them, and I think it has - although like most people I guess my progress ebbs and flows according to enthusiasm, energy, and other commitments. I'll admit to wandering off-topic occasionally, but I've managed to keep posts reasonably regular.

I started with a post about Southon Yard, my shoebox layout, and then Pen-Y-Bryn Quarry. Both these 009 layouts were built as EXPO challenge entries, and I have since built two more challenge layouts - taking the opportunity to dabble in O14, which I'd been hoping to do since my teens. I've really enjoyed these small, detailed layouts, learned a lot from building them and the stock to run on them, and it's surprised me how many people have said how much they liked them, indeed two of them were challenge winners. Thakeham was also my first layout based on (rather than just inspired by) a real place, albeit not terribly accurately!

However the thread running through this blog for the last decade is Awngate, the 009 shelf layout I was planning when I kicked off the blog. It's met the brief of being an interesting but compact and presentable home layout which can be (and has been) exhibited, and only now am I working on a replacement. As a spin off I've learned lots about fiddle yards (!), couplings, achieving good running, exhibiting, and built some interesting locos and stock.

How long this will last I don't know, my fotopic site disappeared while Google changed Picasawebs into the far less useful Google Photos, necessitating a switch to Flikr. But Blogger seems to be hanging on for now, I'm still enjoying the ride, and there should be lots to post about with a new layout brewing. A big thanks to all of you that read this, and especially the helpful or encouraging comments (on or off the blog). I hope you continue to find it interesting!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Shiny and not-so-shiny at the Bluebell Railway

Last weekend we had a family day out on the Bluebell Railway. This is our closest big preserved steam railway, so one we visit fairly often, but it's always nice to ride behind a steam engine.


Our train was pulled by this immaculate BR class 5.


This delightful pre-grouping loco was being prepared outside the engine sheds. Replace the plastic buckets for metal, and the aluminium ladder for a wooden one, and this scene could be 100+ years ago.


No this isn't some kind of tribal dance, or strange version of tennis, but the exchange of single-line tokens between signalman and loco crew.


The SE&CR "P" class locos have a light-railway charm about them that is rare for main line company locos.


Taken from a moving train and slightly out of focus, this picture of a Sentinel is interesting, and not just because I have a similar Hornby model somewhere. Comparison with the railway website picture shows how much it has faded, and it's a good example of weathering on a workhorse locomotive - even on a preserved line. The brake dust, rain streaks, and generally used appearance (without being in any way neglected) is what I was aiming for with my diesels in the last post.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A Duo of Diesels

I've finally (after about 8 months) finished the pair of 3D printed, Kato chassis powered, ex military diesels: the CWR produced Hunslet left) and the Narrow-Planet Baguley Drewry (right). Both are relatively straightforward but tasks like fitting couplings, painting, glazing, and weathering have been completed in occasional modelling sessions.


Fitting the couplings to the Baguley was easy enough, with a slot cut into the buffer block for the Microtrains draft block and plenty left for the screw. There's plenty of space inside for some lead which helps tame the sprightly Kato chassis. Glazing was a little fiddly but templates in the instructions helped with cutting out, the brass etched frames were painted separately and fitted afterwards to hide any join - however I couldn't help getting spots of superglue on the paint, which had to be hidden by a little "dirt".


The Hunslet had no space for the couplings even after I cut a square hole in the buffer beam due to the chassis fitting flush inside, so I made up a mounting block using plasticard stuck to the face of the bufferbeam. Such blocks were common on NG locos and it holds and disguises the coupler draft box, providing something solid for the screw too. 3D printed glazing was provided, it's a little milky with some faint layering visible (and sanding it would make it worse!) but I used it anyway - it's convenient and looks OK. Here you can see I've also finished painting and weathering a couple of RNAD wagons too.


The Hunslet's party trick is the working headlights. The headlight openings were glazed with a drop of Micro Krystal Klear, and the micro SMLED's stuck behind them. The PCB was pushed into the bonnet so the contacts touch the Kato chassis when fitted. The lights work really well, the circuit suggested by my friend Harry does the job of keeping the LED's lit at a constant brightness and reasonably flicker-free, and I think I've got the brightness about right. The circuit meant less space for lead, but I still squeezed a little in around it and it runs fine.


Both locos have been weathered using a little dry-brushing, a dirty wash, and some powders (which may get toned down a little), the idea is to capture locos working in preservation service on maintenance trains - generally clean bodies but with some track and exhaust dirt. They could both do with a driver (and the Baguley could use a representation of an interior) but otherwise they are ready for service. Despite my reservations about 3D printing, I am very pleased with the end results.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A trip on the Ffestiniog Railway

Last week I managed to get over to the Ffestiniog Railway for a family trip along the line. It's still probably my favourite railway, so I try to visit every couple of years or so. Here's a few snaps from along the way.

2017-08-25 13.15.13






Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Domestic Fiddle Yard

I've finally finished the foldaway "domestic" fiddle yard. The idea was to make a slimline, low-profile shelf with a couple of sidings, enough to run the layout at home but being much less intrusive (that is, suitable for the lounge) than the large exhibition-friendly fiddle yard. As is often the way with my projects though it got a bit... fiddly. So it folds up and over the layout - but to clear the ceiling when doing so it's length would be limited, which mean using a point would have meant shorter trains than I'd like. So I've ended up with a traverser, the bonus being there was space to squeeze in a third siding, but at the cost of more complexity in construction.


Of course this was an ideal use for the latching fiddle yard design I built a mock-up for recently. At the end of each track a 2.5mm brass tube "pin" was pushed through a slightly undersized hole in the deck (PVC foamboard in this case) on the track centreline, and a piece of PCB with a matching hole fitted over it with enough proud to solder to.


You can also see that the end of the traverser has a strip of foamboard underneath it forming a reinforcing lip, it fits under the fixed deck preventing the traverser rising - or in this case, falling when upside down. This means the brass pins go through 10mm of foamboard, then protrude about 4mm below.

From underneath the curved strip attached under the lip of the traverser is clear (helped by the printed face of the foamboard - it came from the marketing department at work!), with the three pins protruding. The latch lever is on the left not yet fitted.  A piece of aluminium about 3mm thick has been cut and shaped to a "D" with a notch in the centre of the curve and fixed to the end of the wooden lever, note the red wire attached to the aluminium. Also visible is the spring (from an old pen I think), the bolt for the release lever, and the paperclip that joins the release lever to the latch lever. High tech stuff you know.


Here's the lever in place, bolt pivot at the bottom (with locking nut), and held by a piece of foamboard at the free end so it can slide. The foam wedge attached to the lever presses on the spring so the aluminium latch is pressed against a brass pin or the end stop, the screws allow some tension adjustment.


A close-up of the latch, here it's being held just clear of the brass pin compressing the spring, by holding the release lever (pivoted by the bolt seen on the left) which pulls the latch away.


Above the board with the traverser swung clear the latch can be seen beneath. The traverser is simply moved until the latch catches a pin, and a track is aligned. The release lever is next to the track, pushing it left pulls the latch away from the pin so the traverser can move without jerking (it can be moved away from the latched position with a little force, the release makes it smooth). The PCB not only retains the track at the end of the traverser, but as seen from the position of the isolating break, feeds the near rail, the far rails being connected together via a flexible cable at the pivot end of the deck.


With all track laid a works train prepares to leave the centre track. I reused some track recovered from a fiddle yard years ago, though after spending time removing unwanted solder connections and cutting various bits to length I wished I'd just used a couple of new lengths!


So another over-complicated fiddle yard is complete, but it should work well and does meet the aim of being compact and discrete.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Dartmouth to Dartmoor

A long weekend family break took us to South Devon, always a favourite place for me. We visited the Dartmouth Steam Railway, which doesn't of course go to Dartmouth! Well, not quite. The train runs from Paignton to Kingswear through some beautiful scenery, with views across Torbay.


The ticket includes the ferry across the Dart to Dartmouth. Unusually the railway is operated commercially, and the same company runs the ferry, boat trips on the Dart including the paddle steamer "Kingswear", and a bus from Totnes to Paignton allowing a "round robin" trip by train, boat and bus.


We stuck to the train though, which was long (8+ coaches) and heavily laden - which combined with the steep gradients meant the loco had to work hard. The BR Standard class 4 seemed well able to cope though.


I spotted this interesting pair of wagons - it appears to be a fire-fighting train.


We also visited Dartmoor, and after a cream tea lunch we of course had to climb Haytor. Nearby we found a much older railway, the Haytor granite tramway, though no trains appeared to be running!


There was an ulterior motive to the visit, of which more will follow...

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Disappearing Fiddle Yard

The last couple of weekends I've been building a "domestic" fiddle yard for Hexworthy. If I exhibit it I'll use the large 5-track traverser/turntable I built for Awngate, but while ideal at exhibitions it is big (and frankly, ugly), and the Household Authority has made clear it is not welcome as a permanent addition to the lounge!

All I need at home is a couple of sidings, as I don't really do serious operation. The layout fills the bookcase so the sidings need to overhang (over the printer and hamster cage!). A slimline, low-profile design was needed.


This is the result - a discrete tapering shelf, which attaches to the layout using the same split hinges. OK, the shelves need tidying, but the layout is reasonably neat. But if that is still too intrusive, simply lift the end up...


By use of some paste-table type hinges (left over from a previous incarnation of my son's trainset) the fiddle yard swings up, and over...


Until it is stowed over the layout. When I've made a lighting pelmet for the front of the layout the stowed fiddle yard will be largely hidden.

I had planned to make this a simple deck for a point and a couple of tracks, however this would have meant very short trains if the board was not to hit the ceiling! (Yes, I did check). The front edge track entry position, and tapering front edge, also made a useful arrangement of tracks tricky. However I realised a sector plate would work well - albeit, is more complex to make, especially as it has to hang upside down!


The deck of the fiddle yard is a double thickness of PVC foamboard, the top layer forming the sector plate supported on the lower deck. As seen here a lip was fitted to the rotating edge of the plate in a slot in the deck, supporting it when upside down - and hopefully ensuring no vertical movement of the deck tracks relative to the entry track.

Talking of track, the next job is to lay some!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Off the rails

Last weekend Amberley Museum held their annual Rail Gala, I was there on the Saturday with the Sussex Downs 009 group demo / 009 society stand. There were some good narrow gauge layouts in the exhibition hall, while outside both steam locos operated an intensive service with most of the extensive selection of i/c locos running demonstration trains and generally having fun. There's a collection of photos here.

At lunchtime my son and I decided to eat our sandwiches on a bench at Brockham station, to enjoy the fine weather and the trains going by. This is the mid-point of the line where trains cross, and we watched a goods train set off behind a Hudson Hunslet diesel, before stopping suddenly...


Caught out by the catch point! Oops.


As you can see, the loco is well clear of the end of the rails. Even travelling slowly it takes a while to stop. So, out comes the jack and some big timbers.


And slowly the loco is jacked up to be slid sideways onto the running rails.


"Nothing to see here!"

The passing loop being blocked meant only one train running for a while.


"Problem? What problem?"

Finally re-railed, and with no damage except a slightly bent but functional point operating rod (and perhaps someone's pride), normal service was resumed. Still, it was an excellent demonstration chaps!