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.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Adding magnetism

Being designed for shunting, the challenge layout needs uncoupling magnets. This was taken into account when designing the track plan; the sidings are straight with space for the magnet at the entry. I've used the Microtrains magnets, which sit above the baseboard between the rails - visible, but not overly obvious. However they are rather long; I have found the can be split in half by clamping in a vice and giving it a sharp well-placed tap, resulting in two magnets of a more manageable size.

Below you can see three magnets placed to allow "inglenook" shunting. The problem is uncoupling the incoming train - the rear track is long enough for the wagons but not long enough for them to be pushed past a magnet to allow them to be re-coupled! So another solution was devised, which sits below the yellow-brown paper seen top-right.

OK it looks a bit Heath-Robinson! The magnet is on the left, next to the point motor, it is taken from a cupboard catch, and sits in a hole in the baseboard so it is just below sleeper level protected by the paper layer. The magnet sits in a frame made simply from plasticard. You can also see a dowel and a piece of wire (paperclip!) linking it to the magnet-holding frame, which should become clearer in the next photo.

Here the magnet can be seen swung away from the baseboard. The plastic frame that holds it is pivoted around a simple bolt from a bracket glued to the baseboard. The wire links the pivoted frame to the dowel, the linear movement of which swings the frame up and down. The two screws in the dowel act as end-stops against the block of wood.

The dowel runs right along the baseboard to the far end, set low enough to clear all the other under-baseboard mechanisms and wiring. It is now surprisingly busy under here!

At the end the dowel protrudes just enough to be pulled - pulling on the dowel raises the magnet to the track, pushing it back in lowers the magnet. The dowel is close to but just around the corner of the baseboard from the control panel for convenient operation at this end of the layout.

It seems to work well in testing despite the basic construction methods, and should allow an incoming train to be uncoupled, without preventing an outgoing train from coupling up. I guess the same approach would work with a servo, or possibly a slow-action point motor, allowing retractable magnets to be used on a larger layout.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Paint and Light

Having added the back-scene, wing panels and lighting rig, the next step is to get out the paint and make it all presentable. The external surfaces of the layout used the same grey primer (Wilkinsons) as used on Slugworth and Hexworthy. And I mean the same paint, I bought a second tin to do Hexworthy but the original 1 litre tin from Slugworth had plenty left, and now it's done a third layout too! It does require two coats with a light rub-down in between but the slightly satin grey gives a good finish.

Sadly the pale blue paint used for the back-scene on Slugworth had run out, so I popped to the DIY store to find something similar, but without much luck in the wood paint ranges. The original tin was actually a left-over from the bespoke colour mixing service, from the bargain basket, actually an emulsion paint for walls but I had used it directly on the wood back-scene of Slugworth and it had worked fine, with a nice matt finish. So I checked out the bargain basket of left-overs. There was a 1 litre tin of "blue hoo" which was the first shade of blue from white - basically white with a blue hint - not quite blue enough, but it was £2.50 so I picked it up, along with a couple of tester pots of a light blue emulsion - these were then mixed in to make my own shade of pale blue!

The result is a very pale matt blue, and works well for a hazy sky background. I don't plan anything else on the back-scene, just the low-relief buildings. Ideally the back-scene would curve around the rear corners but that was impractical in this small layout (particularly due to the sector plate and buildings), but with a plain background the corners are not obvious.

I'd removed the switches from the fascia for painting, before refitting I stuck a new print-out of the schematic diagram on with pritt-stick. Two versions had been drawn (in MS Word) - one with the outlines of the switches and marking-out lines, used for drilling holes, and this one without. The clear plastic was screwed on and the switches refitted through the holes from behind. The result looks tidy and is easy to follow (I hope) while being simple to make. Of course on testing it I'd got two of the switches swapped, but that was soon rectified...!

The final task for layout presentation was the lighting, again I used the left-over strip of "natural white" LED's used on both Slugworth and Hexworthy - full details can be found here. I have found that arranging the LED's to point straight down is not as effective as pointing them backwards. The lighting beam is arranged to sit an inch or so forward of the front of the layout, and angled so the inside of the fascia - where the LED strip is attached - is pointing down as well as back. Even so it seemed there was lots of light towards the rear and on the back-scene but items at the front were not so well lit, so I added short additional strips attached to a mounting at 45 degrees to the fascia - this means they are pointing down and back at about 20 degrees to the vertical. The mountings were knocked up from plasticard - quick, cheap and easy, but I had to take care soldering the wires to the strips!

The wires were then run back under one of the pivoted support arms to a socket, which was secured under the "tab" that rests on top of the end of the layout when the lighting is folded down. The socket accepts a standard wall-wart power supply.

So here's the finished layout "structure" seen from my standing eye level, and I've placed the buildings so far to get a feel for the scene. The folding legs lift the layout closer to the viewer, the back-scene cuts out background distractions, the lighting illuminates the modelled scene evenly, and the top fascia and side panels frame the scene, hiding the lighting and ends of the back-scene. All simple elements to add to a layout but really improve it's presentation. There are other ways of presenting a layout, but I would argue that some kind of backdrop and lighting are essential if a model is to be appreciated.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Buildings progress

Last time I posted about the "Brown & Sons" warehouse it had the brick paper applied. Having increased the depth the supplied card roof wasn't going to fit, so I made a new removable roof from black plasticard on triangular formers, with new barge-boards too. I then realised the roof formers fouled the back - which is of course in the centre of the roof-line - so had to make a new back too.

I thought the large slates by York Modelmaking would work well, and I had some left over from Hexworthy station. Although pre-cut and self-adhesive it is quite time consuming to apply. Having learned from the station I fitted the barge-boards first and fitted the slates over them. Finally I could add the painted stone details, doors and windows. The interior is painted black, I'm not planning interior details, though I might get around to fitting gutters.

So here is the line-up of buildings so far, the bookshop I made earlier in the year plus the three new warehouses.

I've been planning the other buildings, despite the small size this layout needs a lot of them. I've been making simple card mock-ups, such as this warehouse - I thought a barn-style building with a curved roof would be interesting, but it took three attempts to get the size and shape looking right.

Unlike Goldilocks, I decided the middle size looks "just right" in-situ. Just need to build it properly now.

Not just that, but I've just taken delivery of four more Petite Properties kits...!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

While on Holiday recently we ventured West from Minehead, up the steepest A-road in Britain, and over Exmoor to Woody Bay, to visit the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway. This well-known railway is one I've wanted to visit for some time, even though there is (currently) only a short length of line operating.

The preservation group have not only recently completed the replica build of "Lyn", the Baldwin 2-4-2 that ran on the original line, but also recreated a rake of the original coaches. Both the loco and the coaches are built to a high standard - even interior details of the coaches - and are kept pristine.

The station and grounds are also nicely restored and well kept, yet the atmosphere is friendly and informal, the tea room is a marquee for example. This is still quite a "young" preserved railway, but has big plans to reopen many miles of the old line. I wish them well.

It also has to be said that the setting is quite beautiful!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Back-scene boards, legs and lighting rig

I prefer a layout to have a back-scene, even if it is plain, it is rather like framing a picture. On the face of it adding boards to the back and ends of the challenge boards is simple enough - 3 sheets of ply (left over from Hexworthy) cut to size, and joined by strip-wood at the corners outside the ends. I also added "wing" strips to neaten the front edges.

However as usual I couldn't help but complicate matters, because I also wanted to add lighting, and some short legs to lift the model above table height. I figured it would be nice if both legs and lighting rig were attached to the board, and hinged out for use...

The result works well enough, but it was rather fiddly to achieve! The lighting rig hinges up for more height, and will hopefully have LED strips behind it that shine down on to the layout, the angled pelmet should be useful for that. It is supported by flaps that hinge down and sit on top of and act as an extension of the side wings.

A close-up of the lighting rig supporting arm shows the hinge and the support piece. When folded down the lighting pelmet overhangs the front of the layout, hopefully it will be useful as a support for a protective cover in due course.

To locate the support I simply used a small piece of dowel as a peg, that sits in a hole at the top of the back-scene/wing support, it's enough to stop the lighting rig collapsing.

The legs are made in pairs and are bolted at the top to the back-scene supports, the bolts also act as pivots. These bolts will have washers and locking nuts, once the board is painted/ A third bolt is added to hold the legs in place, and will have a wing nut. Note the power socket is now in place too.

With the locking bolt removed the legs rotate 180 degrees and stow up the ends of the layout, the locking bolt is fitted back in another hole to hold them in place.

The photo below shows the layout from my eye height, it looks neat enough despite my dodgy woodwork, and takes seconds to set up and stow away. It should work well at exhibitions, which is just as well as it already has an invite...!

Now it all needs painting. And I need to get on with some buildings.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

West Somerset Railway

We recently had a family holiday in Minehead, coincidentally (!) this was very close to the terminus of the West Somerset Railway. Minehead station is right on the sea-front between the town centre and the Butlins holiday camp. (I discovered Morrisons car-park is adjacent to the station throat, I think this is now my favourite supermarket car-park!)

It's a long line but we only travelled as far as Watchet, a pretty little fishing port with a short walk from the station to the harbour. This was originally the terminus of the (then broad gauge) branch until it was extended to Minehead, and was once busy with harbour sidings.

The line seemed quite popular, with three trains in service of about 8 coaches each, and they seemed busy enough. Some nice big locos in service too, and looking well kept.

Back at Minehead one loco seemed to be undergoing repair, conveniently opposite the platform!