Sunday, 23 January 2022

A pane of a job

As I am trying to clear a few unfinished projects from the workbench I thought I should finish this Welsh Highland coach, which I'd assembled way back in August 2019. It had actually visited the paint shop soon after, but the job of cutting and fitting the glazing looked tedious, the clear plastic was included in the kit but needed to be cut to fit the recess for each window. It was last summer before I made a start, but it was indeed tedious, progress was slow and the project stalled again until I decided it really deserved to be finished. 

Using my callipers to measure the size and to score onto the clear plastic helped but each pane had to be checked and trimmed several times before it fitted. The recesses allowed just a fraction of a millimetre around each window so poor cutting would result in gaps, or the glazing not fitting flush and flat behind the openings. Each piece was then glued around the edges with Micro Krystal Klear (though my pot is drying up which didn't help) and placed in with tweezers. There are different sizes of windows, and those at the ends have virtually no frame at all, making cutting and fitting difficult. While excess glue is clear and can be removed, the glazing seems to mark easily and unfortunately has gained many visible scuffs and scratches, but at least the job is finally done!

Underneath, the bogies didn't seem to move as freely as I'd like, the contact area being quite large and only allowing rotational movement. The solution is simply a thin strip of plastic either side of the pivot bolt, which reduces the contact area and friction, and allows the bogie to rock slightly. Setting the strip at one end of the coach lengthways and at the other across the coach allows sufficient flexibility in the bogies without allowing the coach to rock from side to side. 

The bogies are fixed to the captive bolts with a nut and washer, but the nut would soon come off with the movement of the bogies. I applied glue to the bolts before adding the nuts, I used the Micro Krystal Klear since it was on the workbench but PVA would do as well, this provides enough hold to retain the nut but it could be removed if force was applied. I also stuck pieces of roofing lead sheet between the frames to add a little weight. 

Finally the roof was fixed with the same glue, which can be prised apart if needed - such as when I get around to fit passengers! At least the glazing doesn't look too bad at normal distances. Although I'd applied subtle weathering when I painted the coach, it doesn't seem to show in these mobile phone photos, though it does look effective to the naked eye. 

Sunday, 16 January 2022

A brake van for the PW train

I've been trying to work though a couple of unfinished projects. One is this 009 Society kit for a Royal Naval Ordinance Depot brake van, which I actually started back in the summer while demonstrating at the 009 Society stand at the Amberley rail gala. The body went together easily enough though I took time to make sure the corners went together nicely, the frames at the end of each side are fragile. 

The kit has a nice interior too, with benches and a central brake stand, so the roof has been left off to facilitate painting. However, those delicate sides were clearly going to bow inwards and needed support. The kit sprue provided suitable material to cut a couple of sturdy braces from - cut slightly oversize and filed to be a tight fit. 

I fitted the handrails after the exhibition, always a slightly fiddly job but they do look good. That was as far as it got for months, but looking to clear the part-finished jobs from the workbench this looked a quick win. So I fitted the underframe and wheels, and added mounting blocks for the couplings. 

The brake blocks proved more challenging. First, with the wheels in place they couldn't be fitted around the wheels - the flanges prevented them sliding in from behind, and there wasn't space to fit them between the wheels and the floor. So I prised the wheels out and stuck them - but once the wheels were back in they didn't rotate! The wheels touched the supporting part of the brake blocks. The solution was to remove the wheels, cut away part of the brake block support plastic to clear the wheel, and refit again. Fortunately, for the second axle I could trim the brake mouldings first! The final job was to fit the steps, left until last as they might have been vulnerable in construction.

The little brake van will look good as part of the permanent way train on Hexworthy, though the loco looks like it needs dusting. First though, the roof is still loose for painting, the wheels have been removed (again!) as have the couplings, and it is heading for the paint shop. 

Monday, 3 January 2022

Upnor Castle

As an easy post-Christmas project I looked out a 3D printed loco kit I got for my Birthday last year. It is a model of Upnor Castle on the Ffestiniog Railway which was produced by the Merseyside group of the 009 society in memory of Roger Christian, a long-time member of the group who inspired many with not only his modelling skills but his willingness to encourage others, through articles in the 009 News and Railway Modeller, many exhibition appearances, and the 009 Society groups, along with Stan Williams. When I was a young 009 modeller Roger and Stan were a great help and encouragement to me. What a great idea to produce a model in his memory.

The loco is finely detailed and appears to have a good finish, comes with a separate roof and interior, and was supplied with a Kato 109 chassis. This model had a partially broken and distorted cab step, Stan had warned me before dispatch. There are no instructions, but clearly the Kato chassis would need shortening to fit the body. 

I cut of the balconies leaving the chassis much shorter than the body, it fitted neatly in but I felt the body sat too high. I cut off the clips and a strip from the "shoulder" of the chassis alongside the motor which allowed it to sit much lower, but the chassis rocked fore and aft. I added strips of 40-thou plastic to the flats at the corners of the chassis allowing it to sit level. Finally, plastic end-stops added in the corners of the loco frames stop the chassis moving fore and aft within the body. The chassis is held loosely vertically in the body, though it doesn't fall out I may use blue-tack or a spot of glue to hold it in place when finished. 

The next job is fitting couplings. Opening up the buffer-beams for the Microtrains couplings was easiest with a saw, since the 3D printed resin is sawn and files cleanly but isn't easy to cut with a knife. I passed a fretsaw blade through the slot and opened out the hole, then cleaned up with a file. I drilled a hole for the retaining screw, and made a recess in the bottom of the buffer-beam for the screw head. 

I spent some time checking the body and cleaning up blemishes, which I guess are from the support structure during printing, and were mainly on the bottom of the frames and footplate, and around the window openings. The deformed step was easily superglued back together, and I glued plastic strips across the back of the cab handle recesses which were open into the cab. I also thinned the back of the cab back where it meets the roof, and the back of the protrusion below the cab roof, as it initially sat a little forward with no overhang to the rear. 

Now I need to get some primer to continue, the first coat will show how smooth the surface is though it appears pretty good.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

A Fairlie good Christmas

The release of the ready-to-run Double Fairlie by Bachmann just a couple of months ago took 009 modellers by surprise. I built a Langley kit in my teens though it no longer works too well, and compared to the Bachmann model it looks rather crude. The Ffestiniog Railway is a long favourite of mine, and so a Fairlie had to be on my Christmas list! The model is superb, highly detailed with a fine paint finish, and I'm sure it will look good pulling a train into Hexworthy, even if it isn't in Wales...

As well as the Fairlie, I was given a rake of Peco skip wagons for Christmas, and another item of rolling stock...

A fine model of a 6-wheel brake coach by Hornby. OK, I might not have a layout I can actually run this on, since it is standard gauge, but I do have a collection of industrial locos so I will have to build one someday, won't I?

The coach even has lighting - wave the magnet block over the roof to turn them on and off, very neat. There is some light bleed through the plastic sides, I'm sure a little paint over the inside will fix that when I get around to fitting passengers. 

My modelling output has been pretty slow this year (OK, almost non-existent) but perhaps next year will be more productive? 

Monday, 6 December 2021

Book Review - The Snowdon Mountain Railway

The Snowdon Mountain Railway is unique in the UK being a rack railway, climbing steep gradients using a gear on the rack. While it is a well-known 19th century narrow gauge steam railway in the heart of North Wales it is quite different to all the others in purpose, design, and equipment - all the steam locos are Swiss-built and somewhat unusual. As such it is perhaps rather overlooked by enthusiasts. 

Peter Johnson is a prolific author of books about narrow gauge railways including several in North Wales, and in this book he gives the Snowdon railway the same type of detailed history. From its inception and unusual birth (without act of parliament), the opening day disaster (!), the early days of tourism, survival of two wars, through increasing popularity in the late 20th century to being a major tourist attraction, the story is fascinating and at times unexpected. The story also includes the key people involved in the railway and its changes in ownership, its equipment and infrastructure, and operation. 

The hardback book has 260 pages packed with well reproduced photos - mostly period, and some quite dramatic - accompanying the well-written text. There are also maps of the area inside the covers, and reproductions of the maker's drawings of the original locos, carriages, and track. While it may not be a definitive history or a modellers handbook, it does contain everything you would expect of a narrow gauge railway history. 

I've never travelled on this railway despite having holidayed in the area, but having read its fascinating history I do hope to in the future. It may be very different to other narrow gauge railways in the UK, and operates more as a commercial tourist attraction (which it is, and always has been) than a heritage railway, but it does have its own character. This book reveals that character, and does so in an interesting and engaging way. This is a book worthy of a place on an enthusiasts bookshelf, but will also be enjoyed by a wider audience as so many will have experienced the railway and have fond memories, and perhaps as a talking point on a few coffee tables too. 

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Book Review - Narrow Gauge Panorama

Following on from his first book a couple of years ago, roving narrow gauge enthusiast and photographer James Waite has compiled another delightful picture book of narrow gauge railways - Narrow Gauge Panorama - Steaming Along The Rustic And Narrow. 

The formula is just like the first book, packed full of high quality and beautifully composed photos from around the world featuring narrow gauge steam, and each with a detailed and informative caption with brief details of the locos and railways featured. While there are some typical loco portraits, most of the photos show trains in the landscape. The book works its way through 50 countries around the globe covering mainly preserved steam operations, although a few include working industrial railways. The hardback dust-jacketed book of almost 300 pages provides high quality reproduction for the photos on glossy paper. 

So, as with the first book, this is a great addition to the library for those who enjoy steam railways and narrow gauge railways, whether as an attractive coffee-table distraction, inspiration for travellers or model makers, or indeed for the railway interest within. 

Saturday, 30 October 2021

Uckfield Exhibition 2021

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Uckfield exhibition. This is always a good show, with a high standard of layouts and good trade supports despite the modest venue, so I was happy to see it go ahead this year and am pleased to report the format and standard are as good as ever. Chris Ford noted some "fingerpoken", there were some running issues on a few layouts when I was there (Saturday morning) which I guess reflects this being the first show in a long time for most layouts. All the layouts were excellent, but here are a few of my favourites. 

Axebridge (009) - Paul Windle

The only 009 layout present and Paul is a bit of a "frequent flyer" to this show having brought several layouts over the years. This little quayside looked nice with some operating potential too. 

Clearwater Harbor (On30) - Steve Waterfield

This American NG layout has a really pleasing harbour scene and lots of detail, with frequent trains too. There may be a few of the usual HOn30 cliché's but there's plenty to engage the viewer.

A favourite feature of mine is working unloading, here the Bachmann side-tip cars are used to fill the barge, which even rocks gently in the water as the gravel tips in. However, the barge will take a while to fill since there's a flap in the bottom discharging it as fast as it fills!

Llawrglyn (EM) - Richard Loydall

Models of the Cambrian railway are rare, this mid-Wales might-have-been layout is set on that small pre-grouping operation. The superbly finished and lined loco along with the variety of wagons looked great in the open and understated scenery. 

Wadebridge to Padstow (2mm finescale) - John Greenwood

We holidayed in Wadebridge a couple of years back, and as soon as I walked up to this model I recognised the town. This part of the station is now mostly supermarket and car park, but to the right the town centre and river bridge looked spot-on. The many buildings were finely modelled, the trains beautifully finished, and the track looked good too. Yet amazingly this is in 2mm scale. 

And there is more too... as well as the accurate-looking model of Wadebridge, the track continued to another layout part, where it curved around an estuary over a bridge and into a model of Padstow. Here the details looked more unfinished, with some bare mock-up buildings and limited detail, but it still captured the atmosphere of the place. The river bridge is impressive, and the roll-up (canvas?) "water" novel and convincing, except a few places at the edge where it didn't sit right. Together these two stations made a large layout, built to a high standard. 

Sherton Abbas (7mm scale, 31.5mm gauge finescale) - David Stone

It is not often that O gauge layouts are presented "cameo" style with a decent backscene and lighting, Sherton Abbas was not only presented well (other than the lighting failing to light the front of stock on the front siding - a common issue), but the scenery and composition worked really well too. Although GWR is not an unusual choice for a branch terminus, it was set in an earlier period which provided interesting trains, and very nicely modelled they were too. 

Newton Heath Works (7mm scale, 31.25 and 16.2mm gauge finescale) - Mike Baker & Martin Finney

My favourite layout at the show was also 7mm scale, but it did include narrow gauge. Based on the Isle of Purbeck clay systems around Norden the model depicts clay being transferred from narrow to standard gauge, and a processing works. The layout is very simple, but the setting which incorporates elements from real locations is well composed, full of atmosphere, and well presented too. This layout won the Model Railway Journal "Cameo" competition, and I can see why.

It's another layout featuring working tipper trucks, here feeding a standard gauge wagon.

Both standard and narrow gauges have engine sheds. The buildings are all based on real ones, as is the unusual bridge carrying the NG over the SG, although they are taken from different places. 

Overall a great show, and another encouragement that the exhibition circuit is slowly opening up post-Covid.