Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Running snags and a coupling challenge

The modelling mojo seems to have been in short supply in recent months, but from time to time a few minutes shunting Loctern Quay proves a good distraction. However, I've noticed the little Bagnall frequently stalled at a couple of places. I'd checked the wheels weren't dirty and the rail head had a good coat of graphite, and other locos didn't stall in the same place. In the end it just needed some careful attention to see the first issue...


The cross-head guide rails just touch those bolts on the point lever base enough to lift the loco very slightly, so the wheels loose contact with the rails. Once spotted the solution was simple - cut off the bolt heads with a scalpel - and smooth running without stalling was achieved.


The other place was the point inset in the crossing. Again close inspection revealed that part of the inset "timbers" was lifting just to the left of the frog (in the facing direction), this was enough to lift the lightweight Bagnall but didn't bother heavier whitemetal locos. A spot of glue pushed under the lifting end and weighted down returned the timber to just below rail level, and smooth running resumed here too. Mind you, this photo shows the loco could do with dusting!


Another job was to fit a Microtrains coupling to my new Decauville. This was tricky because the couplings have a large draft box which I normally set behind the buffer-beam, but as you can see from the underside shot below, the chassis precludes that. In addition, I couldn't see how to remove the body without damage. I managed to cut a square hole in the rear buffer-beam to recess the box slightly, then built up a supporting bracket around it from black plasticard. It's rather large, but some prototype NG locos had similarly large coupling mounts, and a touch of paint will tone it down. It does at least work, even if the overhang is rather large.


I still need to do the front, I'm more worried about that as a messy job will be more obvious. However, one coupling is enough for Loctern Quay!

Monday, 12 October 2020

Over-size Ruston

 I recently got another toy - the Hornby little Ruston shunter suits my interests in industrial locos, and is ideal for small layouts. I'm also rather partial to some wasp stripes!


It is tiny - but of course, it isn't actually 009, so I don't have a layout to run it on! For now it will join the growing collection of industrial OO locos, the irony of this little OO loco is that it is smaller than several of my 009 locos. 


Despite being small it is a finely detailed model, though no doubt someday it will get a little weathering to bring it to life more. The open cab could use a crew too, but is clear of motor. 


It comes coupled to a truck for additional pickups, though it more than doubles the length of the loco. I'm well used to 4-wheel locos in narrow gauge models so I don't see the need for that, so I will have to figure out how to disconnect it at some point. I'll also need to fit the couplings. However, without a layout, there seems no rush...

Monday, 14 September 2020

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway

 Another book by prolific NG railway author Peter Johnson has recently been published, this time on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. 


The hardback book is similar in style to Peter's other recent books on the Vale of Rheidol Railway and the Corris Railway, all three share a common factor - they all came under the ownership of the Great Western Railway, and these books are expanded from some material that was compiled in Peter's book on the Great Western Narrow Gauge Railways a few years ago. 


A substantial portion of the book deals with the various proposals to build a railway to Llanfair, and how the successful scheme came about, including the local and central government funding. The periods under Cambrian and Great Western control are then covered. The nature of a book based on research of documents of a historical time means much of the content comes from official minutes and records, with some operational details and limited personal perspectives. 


There are plenty of photographs which are reproduced well, including some recent photographs, and some covering the preservation era, but most are period photographs. Sections of photographs covering for example locomotives or rolling stock are interspersed between the chapters. A map and gradient profile is included inside the covers, while some period maps are included giving detail of the main station layouts. There are no stock drawings though, which modellers like to see. 


The later part of the book tells the story of preservation to the present day. This is a nice end to the book, but this is a big story in itself which by necessity is covered only briefly. Key events and developments are noted, but by comparison to the original building and early operation of the railway this is clearly a whistle-stop tour. 


So this isn't a "definitive" work on the railway, but it is a good quality book with good photos and detailed but readable and enjoyable text. It tells a story of a rural railway with basic facilities that served its community for around 50 years, then after a difficult transition to preservation, has flourished as a characterful tourist railway. Whether it is a line you know well or not, if you like narrow gauge or minor railways then I am sure you will enjoy this book. 



Saturday, 29 August 2020

East Somerset Railway and SS Great Britain

Despite the current situation we recently managed a "stay-cation" in Somerset. I realised the East Somerset Railway was not far away, so we booked a visit.


It was nice to enjoy a steam train ride for the first time this year. The railway had various COVID measures in place; the use of compartment coaches kept family groups isolated from each other, and although the train was busy platforms were not crowded, so it felt pretty safe. Getting photos of the loco meant some awkward dodging of people to maintain social distancing though. 


I've never visited this line before and although a small operation with a short line, it was well organised and presented. Of course the loco was shiny but the carriages and station were well kept too. 


The loco shed area was open for viewing a short walk from the station - of course I had to take a look. Outside was this nice little Andrew Barclay saddle tank.


And this Sentinel diesel, a 6-wheeled version but I have a very similar 4-wheel Hornby model tucked away for a future project.


We also visited the SS Great Britain - not a railway but engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great Railway engineer. It was the longest ship in existence when built, an early iron ship and an early adopter of propeller propulsion, so quite radical in her day. Being a passenger liner made her quite different from many preserved warships, an interesting visit. 


Afterwards we walked along the quay, where some of the railway tracks that once served it are preserved. Sadly no demonstration trains were running and the "M-Shed" museum was closed, but I did find this line-up of nicely preserved wagons.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Loctern Quay in Railway Modeller!

 

Loctern Quay is in the September 2020 Railway Modeller. I have to say the 4-page article shows it rather well! 


Friday, 31 July 2020

Decauville

Another month has gone by and despite the current semi-lock-down I've not managed any modelling to report. Normally this time of year would feature a visit to the Amberley railway gala, but that of course was cancelled along with every other railway gala and exhibition. What's more, although some preserved railways have been able to open with some kind of service it is unlikely I'll be visiting many this year. So I have prescribed myself some (mail order) retail therapy...


It's a Minitrains Decauville "Progress" 0-6-0 tank, which I rather like the look of, but missed the first batch. I chose the red as I think it suited this loco best, and although it may be a little on the small side (I guess it is HO, but Minitrains can be variable in scale) I think it looks quite at home on Loctern Quay. I expect it will be seen hauling passengers to Hexworthy in due course too.


Like all Minitrains locos it runs smoothly, albeit with the motor and flywheel visible in the cab from some angles. I will have to get a (short) loco crew to distract from it. However, my biggest challenge will be fitting Microtrains couplings with their large draft box, and no space behind the buffer beams. 

The above photos were taken on my phone, and look somewhat bright - the red loco looks quite orange. By contrast the photo below was taken on a "proper" camera and I think is closer to true colour, here you can also see the working headlight. 


Tuesday, 30 June 2020

More stonework, slates, and slabs at Hexworthy

Since my last post I have revisited the stonework of the bridge and walls, touching in some stones with lighter shades of brown to lighten and increase the variation in tone. I think I overdid the washes to unify the colours which were too dark. The effect is subtle, probably the tone could be a little lighter still, but I am much happier.


Looking at photos of the real bridge I decided to add some lichen using dry-brushing of mint green paint, yes that really is the colour seen on the real thing (see the last post), and a hint of darker moss green at the base. 


The little culvert also looks lighter now.


The station stonework looked a little "fresh" by comparison, so I went over the mortar with more weathering powder/talc mixture but this time slightly more brown in colour. It is surprising the effect this has had in changing the tone of the building. I also painted the roof 


You may notice a few other changes to the station. 

I painted the roof - after finding building Loctern Quay that the York Modelmaking slates although grey paper, benefited from painting, I used the same approach here. Individual tiles were picked out in a few shades of grey-blue, then the whole roof given a wash of mid grey - this colours any remaining tiles and tones it all together. Perhaps the variation is too much here, but to me it looks much better than the plain uniform grey before, and hand cut slates can vary in colour much more than modern manufactured slates. 


The platforms last seen being laid from individually cut slabs has been painted. I started with a waft of Halfords grey primer, painted a similar grey with a slight hint of beige, then picked out a few slabs in slightly different shades - much less variation here though. A wash of thin beige and more weathering powders to fill any gaps finished the job. 

The other change is the addition of the canopy, made from some valance I had in stock (possibly Slaters) and plasticard, it has wire (paperclip) rods set into it that poke into holes in the foam building walls through into the foam-core of the intermediate floor. Although just a push-fit for now as it needs painting 


A little way to go with the ground coverings but the station area is starting to take shape. 

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Stonework at Hexworthy

Unlike many I have been fully occupied of late - I'm not complaining, but modelling time has been more limited than expected. Slow progress has been made though with the stonework around Hexworthy - scribing and painting. The wall and bridge had been cut from foam (polystyrene pizza bases) for some time, finally I have scribed the stonework into it. 

The small space behind it looked empty, there's supposed to be a road and another wall, so I added a second wall behind it. As you can see from the close-up this wall is far too close, the road is only about a scale 3' to 4' wide, but from normal angles this isn't obvious so I hope the subterfuge works. With a gate, and a few trees and bushes hanging over the wall the transition to flat back-scene should look more natural. I've also added a water tower, actually a resin casting from Anyscale Models; a nice size tank and the stonework matches well but it was rather low, so I made a coaling platform for it to stand on. (Ignore the brass weight holding the wall upright in place for now).


One area I am unsure of is the painting of the stonework. I used acrylics with a grey coat mixed with PVA to strengthen the foam, onto which individual stones were picked out, unified with a thin wash, then the mortar added from weathering powders mixed with talc. The effect looks OK, but it is perhaps a little dark, and looks much darker brown than the station.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/W6nhyG]IMG_3520

The real stonework colour of course varies with ambient lighting and weather, moss and damp, so hard to say. 


The roadway is also foam, with talc sprinkled over the wet grey paint. It's not come out as well as when Gordon Gravett does it...


The little bridge has also had the stone treatment. Again, I think too dark?

Monday, 11 May 2020

The Vale of Rheidol Railway

Just as lock-down got under way I got a new book by Peter Johnson - The Vale of Rheidol Railway.


This is an unusual narrow gauge railway, unlike most Welsh lines it's main traffic has always been tourist passengers. Yes it did carry goods and minerals when built, but tourism was the main driver for it's construction, and what kept it going through five different owners - including British Rail, who didn't close it but kept it running into the 1980's. Although it had a limited variety of locos and stock compared to some lines, and perhaps takes less of the limelight, it is an interesting railway in beautiful scenery.


The book is written in Peter's usual chronological story-line style, similar to that used in his recent book on the Corris railway and before that, his books on the Ffestiniog Railway, and the Great Western Narrow Gauge Railways. The latter book did of course cover the Vale of Rheidol since the GWR was one of it's owners, but in this book Peter is able to go much more deeply into the history of the line - which starts with the early proposals, takes us through construction and early years, ownership by the Cambrian, British Railways/Rail, and into private ownership in recent times.


There are many photographs giving a flavour of the line through the ages, including a few in recent years, although the majority are period and therefore black and white.Reproduction is excellent, the book is of good quality and the text is clear and well written. Peter is able to make history interesting and easy to read. Modellers may be disappointed that there are no drawings of locos or stock (though there are some excellent photos). There are some maps but the only track-plans are period documents showing the changes at Aberystwyth, and while there are lots of photos of the trains and scenery there are surprisingly few of the stations or facilities (perhaps unsurprising for a tourist railway).


So like the Corris book this isn't a definitive volume, but it is a complete story of the line to date, an enjoyable read and a good pictorial record of this attractive railway. So a good way to spend some time in lock-down!

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Loctern Quay is a winner!

Just got the latest 009 News...


Loctern Quay is the winner of the 009 Society competition!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Platform Paving

It was waaay back at the end of July when I last posted about progress with Hexworthy, when I had cut the platforms from 3mm foam-core board, and was experimenting with the idea of paving using individually cut "slabs" of 40-thou plasticard.


So with Loctern Quay finished, time to get back to making paving slabs. I lightly sanded the slabs for a  less smooth surface, and cut it strips, marking them by scoring with the calipers to ensure they are consistent and parallel. I then used my cheap "chopper" to trim them to length, the red quadrant on the right is being used to clamp a piece of plastic to act as a stop so all the pieces are cut the same length.


The large slabs are 3' x 2' (12mm x 8mm), and smaller ones 2' x 18" (8mm x 6mm). I used the large ones to line the edges of the platform, including the bay, while the smaller ones fill in the surface around the station building. They are stuck down to the foam-core surface (which is a thin layer of card) with Bostik impact adhesive. The rest of the platform will be gravel (sand) for variety, and to save time!


I decided to run the paving parallel to the station, which saved fiddly half-slabs. I was left with about a 2mm gap to fill with part slabs, so I cheated and trimmed it back to the whole slab! I made a step for the door to the goods shed/cafe too.


In the close up you can seen I've done a little more sanding to the surface after laying the slabs to give texture, yet there is still a slight unevenness and irregularity that looks quite effective. I'm quite pleased with the result and it didn't take as long as I thought it might. It just needs painting now.


You can also see the stonework face of the platform, which is simply embossed into the edge of the foam-core board. From this angle it looks like the platform is lifting slightly, though some heavy books on it when I come to glue it in place should sort that.

Friday, 17 April 2020

British Steam Locomotive Builders

British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe, and published by Pen & Sword, is a pretty hefty book. It's about the size of an old family bible, and pretty heavy too, but with 700 pages of fine print it is full of information. It provides an index of British steam locomotive builders from the earliest days of experimental machines, through the Victorian era and into the Grouping, up to the days of British Rail.


Although a new release from Pen & Sword it is actually an old book, originally printed in 1975 as steam locomotive building came to an end - except of course in preservation or tourism, which is excluded. As well as the railway companies themselves, locos were built by many independent companies which are listed - from those that built just one loco and most will never have heard of, to those more familiar names such as Hunslet, North British, and Beyer Peackock, that built many thousands for domestic and oversees use. That of course includes narrow gauge locomotives as well as standard, and even broad gauge, and locos for industrial and minor lines as well as main lines and public railways.


As such the level of detail for each company varies from a few paragraphs, some have tables listing all locos built, for others this would be impossible and their output could fill a book on their own, but main types and developments are listed or described. Railway company works are listed by site. As well as tables, the book is peppered with photos showing a few locomotives built, though of course these are just a tiny sample. The text does document some of the key developments in technology by some of the loco builders, and how they evolved through mergers and acquisition to form new companies. I cannot say how complete it is, no doubt some small loco builders could have been missed, but I would guess it is as complete as any such volume could be.


As a reprint of a 45 year old book and because of it's size, printed on ordinary book paper (i.e. not glossy), the photos are not of high quality. I guess the printers did not go back to the originals. However, this does not detract from the usefulness of the book, which is intended as a reference and interesting study of the loco builders. There is an index which looks potentially useful.


My interest in narrow gauge means I was familiar with a number of loco builders, so I found this very interesting - but was still surprised at the number and variety of loco builders in the "golden age" of steam locomotives. Perhaps it's not light reading and yes it is more of a reference, but if you have an interest in steam locomotives this is well worth having, browsing, and keeping for a spot of research.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Resurrection

Easter is about Resurrection and new life, so here is a story of bringing new life to old locos. A few weeks back a friend having a clear-out gave me a box containing a couple of non-working Minitrains Baldwins, and a pile of bits, suggesting I might be able to make a working model from the parts. In the box were two spare chassis (one broken), three spare motors (only one with a gear), a cut-about body, and other parts.



An initial test confirmed neither loco moved, though both buzzed. On dismantling the first loco I found the motor didn't turn freely, I'm not sure why, but I fitted one of the spares that seemed to work. The wheels and contacts were cleaned, gears cleaned and lightly lubricated along with the axles, and then it was reassembled. It ran, but very slowly. Replacing the motor bushes didn't help, so I chose another motor. Now it ran well - a little noisily, but reasonably slowly and well controlled, not bad for an ancient mechanism. That said the 5-pole motor and decent gearing should provide good slow running. Even the headlight worked.


With one loco working I turned to the second. On dismantling it I found the chassis cracked through at the front axle, I think the plastic footplate was holding it together. I used one of the spare chassis to rebuild it, but crank-pins fell out and the wheels appeared to be out of quarter too. Quartering wheels isn't my strong point, and I've struggled with coupling rods and geared drive being out of sync before, but after some fiddling about I got it assembled so it seemed to turn freely enough. With the motor back in it ran, it's a bit more rough than the first loco and seems to stick occasionally - I'm not sure whether it is a pick-up issue or some binding, perhaps the quartering isn't quite right, but it may be OK on a continuous run.


And to show how they work:


Apologies for the dodgy camera-work, I'm no good at holding the camera, driving the train, and switching the points all at the same time! The better running loco goes second by the way.

So a pair of Minitrains Baldwins brought back from the dead. They don't really look at home on Loctern Quay, they are more likely to join my Son's growing fleet serving Slugworth, he's keen to repaint one.