Friday, 15 November 2019

Building a Petite Street - Part 2

Here's two kits prepared for painting, I stick all the small detail parts on a piece of card with blue-tack which makes handling them easier. Leaving the parts separate until after painting makes painting easier, and allows signage to be added to the shop as seen later. On this model I've used whitemetal chimney pots from Dart Castings set in plasticard bases, and here already primed.

The small cottage has a roof made from Wills tiles, and the foam-core "foundation" can be clearly seen. I've also added supports for down-pipes, but not yet covered the walls. The porch roof was covered with a single ply of tissue before being assembled, while the door frame was so fragile it is tacked to pieces of card with tiny spots of contact adhesive.

The other building is a 3-storey shop, prepared in the same way. This also has a tiled roof, with barge-boards from plastic set into the edges. This one has the chimney pots made from the tube supplied in the kit, which is tricky to cut straight but works OK.

The tall shop got a coating of fine sand to represent render, while the cottage got a layer of talcum powder which should look a bit like rough plaster. After this they were given a quick waft of primer before painting.

So here they are after painting and assembly, though there are some details still to make such as gutters, down-pipes, curtains, and possibly flashing, and I've yet to paint the insides black or fix the backs or roofs.

This building looked like a pub to me, so it's become the Hog's Head, with signage printed out and trapped between the layers. I've tried a 2-tone shop front, not sure how successful it worked though. The roof was painted lots of shades of grey-blue and given a dark wash, but was still a little shiny, two coats of Dullcote didn't help (probably too cold in the garage this week) so weathering powder has been used. It's come out a little dark and hidden most of the colours, but it will do.

The cottage has come out well, I'm pleased with the finish of the walls, helped with a very thin brown wash drawn into streaks as it dried. The door frame in this kit fits into the door opening, reducing the apparent depth, I think it works well and I'd like to see that on more kits.

I'm pleased with the finish of the shop too, although it took three coats until I got the colour looking right (after the first couple I realised it had come out magnolia...), then a well thinned brown wash was applied which really brought it to life. Again the shop front was given a 2-tone look with a print-out, which also gave an interior. Hopefully it has the look of a mundane shop in a back-street of an unremarkable industrial town.

Here's the line-up, along with my first kit, showing the range of roof heights, wall and roof finishes that hopefully add interest without looking out of place together.

While I had the paints out the York Modelmaking slates on the bookshop were painted random shades of blue and grey, as I thought they were just too plain. They then got a thin dark grey wash to tone them and increase the shadows. Compared to the same slates on the roof of Hexworthy's station building I think they look much better.

Building a Petite Street - Part 1

More Petite Properties kits on the workbench, this time to form the street at the back of the challenge layout. The terrace houses on the left will come later, for now I'm building the other three as a batch.

Here's the parts of one of the kits laid out - the walls (here already stuck together) and chimney from MDF, detail parts and roof from card, plus printed clear windows, and tube for the chimney pots.

It doesn't take long to stick the laser cut walls together to see how they look.

I decided to replace the card roof with one made from Wills plastic slate, which turned out to be pretty tricky because of the dormers. I used the card as a template, except that I reduce the overhangs, and make a cut-out for the chimneys which I stick to the top of the walls - rather than onto the roof as intended. The edges of the plastic are rebated to allow the barge boards to sit just under the slates. The card sides of the dormers were used, with a strip of microstrip filling the corner of the fold.

Surprisingly I got the new roof pieces to fit well. Ridge tiles use L-section plastruct notched every 4mm.

This one has walls covered in brickpaper, in this case from Scalescenes. Before covering I added a piece of 5mm foam-core board under the floor to allow the building to be set into the landscape later - I wish I'd thought of this for the earlier models. The shop front is assembled, but without framing and not yet attached as it and the other small details are to be painted separately.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Mini Capacitor Discharge Unit

As I mentioned in the last post, I took my part-built 009 society challenge layout to show on the demo stand at EXPO-NG. This layout has solenoid point motors, and I recently posted about my large power-pack, now fitted with two transformers (for two controllers) and a big capacitor discharge unit (CDU) which will power up to 6 points at once. I also have a mini power-pack with a single transformer, much more suitable for micro layouts, but without a CDU it couldn't power the point motors on the challenge layout. I didn't really want to take the larger, heavier power-pack, so could I fit a CDU inside?

I had a vague idea what was needed, but a quick google turned up a useful site that confirmed the circuit diagram. Essentially a diode creates a DC supply from the 16 V AC input, a capacitor stores energy to kick the point motor over when required, and a resistor prevents the solenoids burning out if a switch is left "on" by limiting current flow. My sketch of the diagram is shown below, along with my implementation using a choc-block screw terminal.

What's more I found a diode, a 2200 uF capacitor, and a pack of resistors all in stock, so I gave it a go. The completed home-made CDU is shown below, about to be squeezed into the box. I didn't know where to start with the resistor, so put in a 1 kohm, it worked but took >30 seconds to recharge before it would work again - not ideal! I went down to 100 ohms which was better, but then I thought I could do some maths. I measured the voltage at the capacitor - about 22 V - and reckoned up to 1 A should be safe for the coil, at least for a few seconds. V=IR means a resistor of 22 ohm is the smallest I should use, so I found one and fitted that. The recharge time is now under a second, so perfectly adequate for a layout with just three points.

So the mini power-pack not only provides a single controller from one winding of the transformer, but the other winding now powers the track cleaner, the CDU (22 V DC pulsed), and a 16 V AC supply for any other accessories. The 5-pin DIN socket is for the controller, and the 6-pin DIN socket takes track power, CDU, and 16 V AC to the layout. Also seen in the box is a switch to power on/off the track cleaner, and a thermal cut-out protecting each of the transformer windings.

The track cleaner is rarely used so I could remove it, which would provide space for a "proper" CDU (larger, faster recharging, better point motor protection). However I'm happy with the way the simple CDU works for one point at a time, and with an acceptable recharge time, at least for small layouts.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

EXPO-NG 2019

Last weekend was the Expo Narrow Gauge exhibition. As is often the case I was volunteered to help the Sussex Downs 009 group with the 009 society show-case and demo stand, but also group member Martin Collins had his 009 Llandecwyn layout, so I spent a while helping with that too. I took along my part-built society challenge layout as a demonstration, which generated some discussion, it even got operated from time to time.

Martin had just completed a "Clyde puffer" coaster for Llandecwyn, a nicely built and detailed model that sits well on the layout.

I'd been looking forward to seeing Sandy Shores (009) by Jamie Warne, having seen it develop on the NGRM forum. It's a different, imaginative, and really attractive layout that oozes atmosphere, despite it's small size. It's well modelled and presented too.

I had the pleasure of operating for a while to give Jamie a break, and loads of people commented on how they liked it. In fact I really wasn't surprised when Jamie was awarded the Reinier Hendriksen Trophy, as it was clear this was a layout that followed the spirit of Reiniers work. That's a real accolade and well deserved, congratulations Jamie!

As usual Expo-NG had a wide variety of excellent layouts, and I can only show a handful here. Another favourite of mine was East Works (009) by James Hilton, another small, attractive, and well presented layout but in this case a delightfully simple one, inspired by the Isle of Purbeck clay mining railways.

Charles Insley is a serial layout builder whose layouts have a delightful charm. Ulvaryd Strand (HOe) is the latest, a Swedish lakeside setting.

Derwent Road (O9)by Bill Flude is a little different, depicting a sand quarry line which also sees tourist trains operated by a preservation group, and passes alongside newly built houses (1970's). If that sounds familiar it is inspired by Leighton Buzzard.

David Malton's lovely Abbey Light Railway (O14) appeared at Expo-NG for the second time, this time extended with the loco shed end of the line. The first time 5 years ago I lent David my green Hudson Hunslet to supplement his then limited loco stud, as it was his first exhibition with the layout. Now he has plenty of locos, having modelled all of the locos of the prototype, but thought a reunion would be appropriate.

So above we have my green HH on the right, plus on the left my blue "Thakeham" modified older-style HH. Between them David's model of the ALR's Hudson in near original condition makes an interesting comparison, while an interesting collection of motive power sits outside the shed.

At the other end of the line we have a Lister line-up, my "standard" Lister in the foreground makes an interesting comparison to David's modified ALR Lister, which had a new engine fitted centrally as well as a modified cab. However while the locos may not be "twins", the drivers appear to be!

So once again Expo-NG proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable day, not just for the layouts of which this is just a few, or even the trade and sales stands, but also for the people - I spent a lot of time chatting! If you'd like to see more photos of the layouts click here.

Friday, 25 October 2019

De Graafstroom

One layout stood out at Uckfield, even though it was amongst many top-quality layouts, and unsurprisingly it was voted best layout by exhibitors and public - despite not being on a popular theme but being narrow-gauge, in an overseas setting, and with relatively few trains. The layout was De Graafstroom, in HO (3.5mm ft) scale and 12.26mm (scale 3' 6") gauge, by Vincent de Bode, Peter van der Kooij, and Claude Moinier from the Netherlands.

As you can see the model depicts low-lying Dutch countryside with a river between raised banks, a narrow gauge railway on the far bank, a few dutch houses and "big skies". A very attractive composition I think you'll agree.

The standard of modelling and level of detail is very high - don't forget this is HO.

But the real "wow" comes when you see the bridge lift, and the sailing barge slips gracefully into view. We've all seen layout animations before, but I've not seen something this bold on a layout of this standard in a long time - if ever.

The barge is beautifully modelled. Apparently underneath are motorised wheels, guided by a Faller roadway-style magnetic steering mechanism following a wire in the river, yet this is all so well hidden and smooth and silent in operation that the illusion is convincing.

The trains are well modelled too, based on Dutch road-side tramways. But do you see the swan? That too is animated, slowly swimming up and down the river. That's not all, not seen in these photos a bird (stork?) flies in circles above the scene.

The photos are impressive, but I also took a short video on my phone so you can see the animations:

I found this layout stunning - not just because of the animations, but because everything worked together to be convincing. The animations weren't a novelty or distraction, but a natural part of an attractive scene, which made up a cohesive and well-observed model.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Uckfield Show 2019

Last weekend was the excellent Uckfield show, and this year we had two layouts there - my son's Slugworth & Co and my own Thakeham Tiles. Neither is very interesting to operate so the idea was that switching between layouts would alleviate the boredom! Here we are set up at opposite ends of an 8' table.

It was good to see a number of teenagers from the local high school model railway club taking part - last year they showed their layout, this year they were helping with operating layouts and stewarding. Great to see younger people getting involved and showing such enthusiasm.

As usual there was a range of top quality layouts on a range of themes and scales, but with a particularly good Narrow Gauge influence, a total of 5 of the layouts being NG. A long-standing favourite is David Taylor's Charmouth in O16.5.

Fen End Pit, in SM32 by David Barham, goes one better than Thakeham by using real sand. This is loaded using a working drag-line excavator (Joshua had a go - and it wasn't easy to control!), and tipped into a working conveyor and screen. Oh and the modelling is brilliant too.

Midland in Bristol (O gauge, Richard Ellis) came second in the MRJ/Wild Swan/Ian Rice "Cameo" competition. The detail is superb, and the unified slightly weathered appearance adds atmosphere and realism. That said it is little more than a diorama, operation is very limited and the trains almost incidental, perhaps inevitable in this scale given the limited size, but the modelling is the highest standard.

Another Cameo competition entry is Bottom Works Sidings by Chris Matthews in OO, featuring a steelworks branch and exchange sidings. It's an excuse for grimy industrial locos and freight shunting, plus DC electrics (why not?), but the bleak wintry setting really gives it atmosphere.

Blueball Summit by Andrew Bartlett is a superb example of finescale modelling and scenic work. The viaduct and village below is an impressive centrepiece, but the whole layout is to a high standard. Oh by the way, it's N gauge - but you really can't tell can you? That says it all.

So that's just a few of the good layouts, but there was one more that I'll share in another post...

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Upgraded powerpack

I have two "power-pack" boxes for my layouts, a large one and a small one, and when I take a layout to an exhibition I take both in case of failure - though it hasn't happened yet! However with two layouts going to Uckfield I wouldn't have a spare. The large box was always intended to hold a second transformer, but I had never needed to fit one - well now seemed a good time.

Inside you can see the original transformer on the right - made by AMR it has two 16 V AC and a 24 V AC output, the latter is used for the capacitor discharge unit (CDU) for point motors seen at the rear. One of the 16 V AC outputs is used for a hand-held controller which plugs into the box, the other provides power to accessories and also the high-frequency track cleaner seen in the foreground. The new transformer is fitted rear left, it's a Gaugemaster T1 with two 16 V AC outputs allowing a second controller to be powered. Note the circuit breakers directly fitted to the outputs. The track cleaner has two outputs and could be wired into the second controller, but since adopting graphite it is rarely used so I haven't bothered.

So two controllers can be plugged into the box by 5-pin DIN plugs, and two 6-way DIN outputs each provide the controller output, 16 V AC for accessories, and the CDU output for point motors. Some years ago I posted the schematic below:

The new transformer effectively duplicates this circuit with a second transformer, controller, and output, except that there is still only one CDU feeding both outputs, and I've not bothered to wire the track cleaner to the second controller. It can thus power two layouts, or one layout needing two controllers.

Here are both power-pack boxes together. I made up a new 6-way lead to connect to the layout, my spare was made from single-core telephone wire and I'm amazed it hasn't broken already - so now I have 3 leads. I've also adopted a colour code to make plugging in quicker and easier - blue is the layout connection, red is the controller, tape on the cables and sharpie pen on the sockets.

The small box contains a single transformer (2 x 16 V AC) and a high-frequency track cleaner, providing a single controller and accessory supply in a small package ideal for micro layouts. Until now my small layouts have mostly had manual point control so there is no CDU, but I'm thinking of adding one if it will fit, or removing the rarely used track cleaner to make space.

As well as the new transformer I have a new controller, a Gaugemaster W. Unlike most of my other controllers this is not a feedback type or pulsed output controller, but simply a smoothed DC output, and so is ideal for coreless motors which are becoming more common. Initial tests show it doesn't have good slow speed control - at least of conventional motors - which I expected, but also it didn't maintain a steady speed, so it doesn't seem as good as my other controllers. However it may be better with coreless motors and safer for continuous running.

As you can see I now have quite a collection of controllers. As well as providing a choice of controller type depending on layout and loco type, it means I can always have a spare available for a show. This proved useful at the last Wealden group show when a broken wire caused issues, easily fixed but not something you want to address at the show!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Reviving Thakeham

Thakeham will be at the Uckfield show on the 19th and 20th of this month, so with a couple of weekends to go I thought I'd better dig it out of the loft - where I think it has been for about 2 1/2 years - and check it over.

Despite being stored with silica gel sachets in the storage cover, the temperature and humidity variations in the loft have not been kind to the paper covered walls of this building. I think I used Pritt-Stick to fix the paper and it hasn't proved durable. The roof is also badly warped - this started soon after I made it as the corrugations were stuck on with contact adhesive, which seems to have reacted with the plastic - but even the added "moss" can't really disguise it now.

I figured the only answer was a replacement. Fortunately it's a very simple structure, being little more than a plain end wall and corner of a roof. A new foam-core structure was knocked up to the same external dimensions, though I increased the height of the right-hand wall slightly to increase the roof pitch a little. I printed out a new blockwork sheet from the Scalescenes file (the advantage of Scalescenes), this time fixing it on with a thin layer of PVA. I've found that doesn't cause wrinkles if thin enough, and I hope it will prove more durable.

A new roof was also made, fortunately I had enough of the corrugated sheet left. This time I used double-sided sticky tape to fix it to the plasticard roof structure as seen here, I don't know if that will prove durable either but it shouldn't warp. The strips on the right were stuck underneath at 90 degrees to the roof surface to make a bend-resistant frame.

In place on the layout it fits the recess in the ground perfectly. The blockwork has printed a slightly different colour (the work printers have been changed!) but it looks OK. I'm pleased with the roof finish, which this time actually looks like asbestos. I sprayed it with grey car primer, and liberally sprinkled on some talcum powder, after it was dry (1/2 hour) this was rubbed with a toothbrush, then the process was repeated a couple more times to build up texture and colour variations. Finally a little pale grey-brown weathering powder was applied in a random way.

On the engine shed roof, part of the masking tape felt had lifted showing the white plastic underneath. This was simple to fix with another coat of dark grey paint, working into the crack, then while tacky pressing the masking tape back down.

Then I noticed one of the points was not going all the way over, this was traced to the wire-in-tube under the baseboard flexing too much, and taking up the motion. Sticking a piece of foam-core board alongside the tube to hold it fixed that, with a small adjustment to the wire to ensure the point blades moved fully from side to side.

With that fixed I turned on the power - to find a dead short. So I spent over an hour trying to trace the cause, which is surprising for such a small layout. Eventually after much disconnecting of wires from terminal blocks under the board, and poking with a test meter, I traced the short to this point - the moving blade had shuffled along far enough to touch the fixed rail where circled below. As the blade is the same polarity as the adjacent stock rail, but the fixed rails around the frog are switched with the point movement, a short occurred when the point is set as shown. The fix for now was to push a Stanley knife blade into the gap forcing the blade away from the fixed rail - but I really should think of a way to stop it happening again.

After all that a wire came loose from a switch - possibly due to the test-meter poking - but a dab from the soldering iron fixed that.

So finally I got to test the layout, and of course the stock. The photo below shows my entire O14 collection, although the Lister and O&K on the centre track tend to be kept in reserve. They are very low geared so slow and noisy, but in any case the two Hunslets are prototypical. The blue Hunslet needed a few droplets of oil on the worm gears to get it running smoothly, although it is never the smoothest of mechanisms and has a jerky start/stop. However once the rails had been given a new rub of graphite all the locos were found to be running fine.

So after somewhat more effort than I had envisaged, Thakeham is now ready for exhibition.