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.

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