Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Paker's Lock Up and Harper's Yard

I thought these two small low-relief warehouse kits from Petite Properties would work well at the end of the challenge layout. I assembled the laser-cut parts with tape to see how they fitted.

I'd originally planned the taller Parker's Lock Up at the rear, with Harper's Yard at the end, but the low doorways of the latter didn't work with the track running into the building.

Swapped around the taller doorway of Parker's is ideally sized for 009 stock, but note that I've reversed the parts so the big door is to the left of the personnel door to suit the track plan - easy to do at this stage. Harper's works just as well alongside the rear track.

As Parker's would be at an angle to the back-scene I fitted an extension to one side wall cut from stiff card, which was very simply fitted to the back wall as shown. A similar wall extension was also fitted to Harper's. Also the assembly of Parker's was modified as the instructions suggest fixing the sides to the rear, then fitting the front, but this makes the fitting of brick-paper more difficult. I fitted the sides and floor to the front, assembling dry to the rear wall to ensure it would fit, then fitted the brick-paper to the front and sides. Having the rear removable at this stage makes dealing with the window and door openings easier.

Once the brick-paper was fitted the building was given a spray of Testors Dullcote to ensure a matt finish. The doors and lintels were painted separately and fitted later. I didn't use the cills in the kit, adding brick cills from the brick-paper sheet instead. A new roof was made from Wills slates, cut to fit the angle with the back-scene, and with barge-boards from plasticard - those in the kit are not long enough to reach the ends of the roof. The ridge is L section plastic with lines scored every 4mm. If the big doors look wonky here it's because they are loose, they will be fixed open on the layout.

Harper's Yard also got a new main roof from Wills, this time tiles, with the ridge from L-section plastic with microstrip ridges added every 5mm, and new plastic barge-boards. The lean-to has a corrugated roof from Slaters sheet over the card roof and barge-board from the kit. The lintels and cills were fixed in place, then painted. 

After the experiments I settled on sand for the pebble-dash render. The walls were coated with PVA glue spread evenly, and sprayed with a water mist to keep it soft, then the sand sprinkled on. I have to admit it took 4 coats of paint - the first was patchy, the second came out green thanks to a Humbrol tin that didn't match the colour of the lid, the next had shiny patches and the final wash didn't get rid of them all. So I dusted the surface with a pale grey weathering powder and sealed with a coat of Testors Dullcote, and perhaps by accident, I was happy with the result!

Both buildings had the insides painted black before the doors and windows were fitted. The corrugated iron roof has lead flashing from newspaper coloured grey with a sharpie pen.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Buckeye couplings for the Bachmann Baldwin

I recently picked up a Bachmann WD Baldwin which should be a useful loco, but I need to fit couplings to match the Microtrains "buckeye" type I use on most of my 009 fleet. Unfortunately Microtrains don't make a version to fit the NEM coupler pockets fitted to this loco. I had hoped to remove the couplings and fit standard Microtrains into the recess, but I found the recess was about 1 mm too narrow for the Microtrains draft box, and the shaft in the centre too large to pass through the coupling. As this part of the loco is cast metal and close to the chassis I couldn't see how to open it up without risking damage.

I did some searching. Dapol "Easi-shunt" buckeye couplings fit NEM sockets, however they are quite pricey, and from what I have read online they are not compatible with Microtrains. Bachmann make their own "EZ-mate" N-gauge buckeye coupling for the US market, and although there is no NEM version, from pictures it looked like the mounting was very similar to that used for the NEM bracket in the Baldwin loco. As they were reasonably priced I ordered some to try (type 78503).

Comparing the "EZ-Mate" buckeye above to the coupling removed from the Baldwin the pivot with "whisker" springs appears very similar. So on to fitting to the loco...

The guard-rail is removed from the front and rear with the tiny screw, which also frees the coupling. One of the guard rails appeared to have stuck in place (paint?), a little work with a knife and gentle leverage freed it. The EZ-mate coupling then just replaces the coupling and the guard rail and screw replaced.

However, the trip pin fouls the track, and the coupling droops - it is too free to move vertically.

So to restrict vertical movement a piece of plasticard was cut to fit the coupling recess with a 2 mm hole to clear the pivot shaft, and acts as a spacer or washer to support the coupling. The photo shows the rear coupling, and you can see graphite powder (Kadee lubricant) to help free movement. Once assembled the height of the trip pin was checked - is should just clear a piece of 10-thou plastic placed on the track. It was still a little low so the trip pin was pushed up through the coupling by about 1 mm. 

As you can see the result is couplings that match the height I set the Microtrains at (which I think is about 1 mm lower than they should be for US N-gauge), and despite a slightly different design, couples up with them and look similar. Coupling seems quite reliable, uncoupling is a little less so as the Bachmann coupling seems more reluctant to swing over a magnet than the Microtrains. I've tried to ensure they are free to swing, and if the spring is any more slack they wouldn't centre, so I'm not sure why. However testing suggests they work reasonably well. The delayed action is rather hit and miss as even if they uncouple, the Bachmann EZ-mate often doesn't swing far enough to not re-couple.

So maybe this won't work for reliable delayed action shunting, but the conversion to couplings that are compatible with the Microtrains was relatively easy and didn't involve any non-reversible changes to the loco. Assuming other Bachmann 009 stock uses the same coupling mounting, I should be able to use the same EZ-mate couplings for easy conversion of those too.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

A coach from the kit pile

Before my operation I figured I might be able to do some modelling while recovering, so to make that as easy as possible I sorted out various projects into some fruit trays, including easy tasks like plastic wagon kits, making and fitting couplings, through more complex repairs, adaptions, and detailing jobs. It means I have a choice of activities depending on what I feel up to, and without having to go looking.

A relatively easy pick this week is this Welsh Highland coach from Dundas, which I figured would make a good preserved-era observation coach to run on Hexworthy. The kit is good quality and went together well, with just a little flash on the bogie mouldings that was easily cleaned. The instructions could have been clearer on how the seats went together, but I figured it out in the end. I decided not to fit glazing first as the instructions suggest - as that would make painting a real pain - but I can see cutting the glazing to fit each window will be the most fiddly part of the build.

As you can see I did "open" some of the drop-frame windows by cutting away the upper part of the frame and gluing in a piece of microstrip at the part-open level. This isn't hard to do and gives the coach life. The day after assembling the body I found the sides bowing in already, so added some strengthening from 40-thou plastic, though I can see they won't help the fitting of glazing!

Underneath the bogie securing nuts work loose quickly and will need fixing with glue. I'd prefer to see a captive nut in the floor myself. I trimmed the step support slightly to ensure plenty of bogie swing, and fixed Microtrains couplings to the floor with a piece of packing. As the couplings pivot and are sprung they work well body-mounted.

Another kit from the pile assembled, and awaiting the paint shop!

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Brown & Sons

My plan with the challenge layout is to frame the scene with buildings. Making model buildings takes a lot of time, but I was impressed with how easily the Petite Properties kit I recently built went together, using brick paper, and gave a good looking model. So I will be using a few more kits from the Petite Properties range on this layout, and have started by ordering three different warehouses.

The warehouses are close to the tracks so it is important to see how they fit before proceeding too far. I've started with Brown & Sons, which will hide the exit to the traverser. The laser-cut MDF parts fit together accurately, and are assembled with PVA.

The problem is the kit has a solid back and floor, but I need the building to cover the traverser when it is furthest forward. It wasn't hard to cut away the floor and part of the back wall with a piercing saw, so that there is space in the ground floor to clear the trains.

The building shell is placed on the layout to check clearances and how it looks. Although a low-relief building I have used the waste part cut from the back to make the upper part of the left-hand wall appear to be full depth.

Another view showing how the exit track might be disguised. I decided to raise the warehouse slightly to improve clearance for the trains, and as there will be a track in front of it and I wanted the floor close to rail height. A layer of mounting board was fixed under the walls, and a strip under the door lintel to lower the door height the same amount. Another layer of mounting board provides a floor to the doorway. It may get another layer of card below the scenery if required.

The shell is then covered with brickpaper over an even layer of PVA. This was printed from one of those from Wordsworth Model Railway, though I noticed when applying it the bond isn't correct for an older building. Shhh. There are some odd lines through this print too, but I don't think they will be noticeable. The window openings are cut out and folded back around the openings, but the arched tops will be stone.

The detailing parts from the kit are laid out ready for painting - stuck to a piece of card with double sided tape so I don't loose them! There are stone trim strips but only for the front of the building, I cut pieces for the end walls using part of the roof - I'll be making a new roof - and scored them to represent stone blocks. I took the opportunity to part open one of the doors too.

So that one is ready for the paint shop, and needs a roof making. I'd like some of the buildings to have a rendered finish, so have been experimenting with techniques to represent it using pieces of foam-board. As you can see I've tried pepper, sand, and talcum powder sprinkled onto PVA glue.

To compare them better they've been given a coat of grey paint (though a grey-brown would bee better). Each has a slightly different texture, I'd be interested any any thoughts...

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A new challenge

A couple of months back a 009 society challenge was announced in the 009 News, to build a layout using two modular baseboard kits from Norfolk Heath Works. This means a total size about 2' 6" by 11" with a sector plate in one corner, and an option of a dropped front to the other board. The challenge runs until next March.

Of course I sketched a few ideas for fun but with no real intention to take part. One idea did grab my imagination though, based around a quayside/wharf with warehouses and other buildings surrounding an "inglenook" track plan. Most of the buildings would come from the Petite Properties range, after my experience of building one of their kits recently, and they fit the scene well. The layout would be front/end operated and could have a simple back-scene and lighting bar for an attractive display.

I like to check ideas with a full-size plan, so drew out the baseboard (on just 4 sheets of A4 paper) and printed some Peco point templates. The original idea used Y points for their shorter length - I know the set-track points are shorter but they have dead frogs, which I wouldn't want to use on a shunting layout. It seems to work but I wasn't happy with the arrangement of the tracks.

Using  left and right hand points for the sidings looks better, but there is still a severe reverse curve to the Y point which looks odd, and will be a pain for operation.

Using just right and left hand 12" radius points gives straighter sidings and more practical operation, though there's now a reverse curve into the fiddle yard. I think this is a better compromise, and pulls the tracks forward making more space for the street at the back. Oh, and it looks like I have these points in stock - found in the garage, recovered from a previous layout.

The benefit of a full-size plan is to check clearances. As you can see the headshunt and the sidings will take 3 wagons easily, and 4 at a push - small wagons will be required! The Petite Properties shop gives some perspective, and road vehicles confirm the street will work.

I still didn't intend to actually build the layout at this point, it's just a fun exercise. After all I don't need another layout project. But then I had to have an operation, and knew I'd be recovering for a while, so maybe a small table-top layout would be good therapy?

So here's the pair of baseboard kits, loosely assembled - they are not yet glued but the parts fit together so well they hold together. Before assembly I need to drill and cut some holes, but I'm not yet up to using power tools so that will have to wait. I've transferred the track-plan to the boards with only minor adjustments. I'll permanently join the boards (2' 6" is hardly large enough to warrant splitting) so the points can be placed over the join.

Before I start I need to decide on point control. With this type of small layout I'd normally choose wire-in-tube connected to slide switches for frog switching, the photos show how this could be arranged for front operation. However there really isn't space to route the wire-in-tube to the points, so I don't think this would work.

Another approach would be to use dowels under the baseboard which could protrude through the fascia as represented by the coloured pencils here, and have a wire connecting them to the point tie-bar. The slide switches could also be connected to the dowels under the board to switch the frogs and limit movement, this is similar to the method I used for Thakeham (though that used wire-in-tube too). This could get fiddly to arrange though, especially with some tie-bars at an angle, and the dowels could be a bit of a reach for end operation.

The other option is to use point motors, and a search of the garage has turned up three SEEP motors. As shown here they should fit under the points without fouling bits of baseboard, and could be easier to arrange than manual mechanisms. There's a bit of extra wiring and it means I need to use my larger power-pack for the layout, which has a CDU - or build a simple capacitor unit into the layout. It also raises the question of where to put the switches, there's no space for even a small panel in the fascia (there could be up to 4 isolating switches too). I could use an external box, mounted on the end of the layout, or on a wander-lead to  go in front. Alternatively the switches could be distributed along the fascia next to the points, but as above that might be less convenient for end operation.

Lots to think about...

Light duties

About three weeks ago I had to have an operation, which means I'll be recovering for a few weeks. However over the last week since being back home I have started some modelling - having lined up some easy tasks that would not be physically taxing.

First up was some wagon kits - three of the recent 009 society kits, two wooden bodied opens and a flat/bolster wagon, to join the iron sided wagon I built already. These are nice easy kits for relatively small freelance wagons with good proportions, so I will look out for some more of them. I've also made a batch of couplings and fitted them to all 4 wagons, plus to the digger wagon.

Another easy job was the scribing of stonework for the walls around Hexworthy. This just uses a pencil in the styrofoam. Photos of stonework in the area and the actual bridge were used to get the right style as best I can.

Here's one of the river bank retaining walls in place, with the wall to the road in the distance.

The bridge and wall to the road, the stonework is larger in the bridge walls.

At the other end of the layout is this small culvert over a stream. I'll have to get the paints out to complete these walls.

Before the op I'd cut platforms from 3mm foam-board, marked out from a paper template. I think the platform surface should be paved around the station building, but I'm not sure how to go about this best. I'm considering individual plastic paving slabs but I'm not sure on the size, or pattern. Here I've cut large slabs 3' x 2' (12mm x 8mm) - the same size as the pavement in our street - and smaller ones 2' x 18" (8mm x 6mm). The smaller ones probably look better though would be more tedious to lay, but the bigger ones work better along the platform edge where I expect a substantial paving slab would be required. I guess they go length-ways along the edge, but which way to lay them over the rest of the platform?

Monday, 8 July 2019

Wagons and a digger

Back in March (at the Alexandra Palace show) I made a pair of wagons to carry a mini digger using the 009 society RNAD flat wagons, as a preserved railway permanent way train to run on Hexworthy, and I've only just got around to painting them.

To add interest to my usual wagon grey I thought the ends would look good picked out in yellow, and suits the PW train. The ramps were also yellow, but well distressed with rust and gunmetal as they would be, having a digger drive over them. The wagons got the usual dirty wash, some dry-brushing and a dusting of weathering powder before a spray of Dullcote matt varnish.

The digger also got a dirty weathering wash, using a cotton bud to add streaking. This was used over the windows too, cleaning with the cotton bud, while a brown wash covered the tracks. Pipework was touched in black, with gunmetal on moving parts, and dry-brushing for rust and bare metal - such as on the shovel. I added weathering powders too, but I've not varnished as it would fog the glazing.

The digger can still be removed and posed - it is held with a small magnet - but I've had to glue the ramps and packing timbers along with the jackhammer attachment onto the match truck. It took me a couple of attempts to arrange these in a realistic manner.

While the paints were out I completed this wagon built from another 009 society kit, which I'd also built back at Alexandra Palace. It's iron bodied so for a change I went for a red/brown oxide colour, and weathered as a coal wagon. It's a nice size wagon - small but not tiny - and I've a couple of wooden ones to built, but I might have to get some more.

I just need to fit couplings to these and put them into service. That digger might have work to do at Hexworthy.