Saturday, 19 January 2019

Hogwarts Express

My daughter, who is mad about Harry Potter right now, gave me a Metal Earth kit for the Hogwarts Express for Christmas. I've built a couple of these sort of kits before but this is probably the most complex, with three frets of etched steel parts, and 8 A4 pages of instructions. 

The instructions suggest cutting the parts out with wire cutters, and bending the tabs with tweezers. Well I don't see how wire cutters can get in to cut the parts out without damaging them, the gaps are too small, so I used a craft knife. The steel is quite hard to cut and a little distortion can occur, but it is easily flattened with smooth jaw pliers. It's also too tough for any tweezers I have to be able to bend the tabs, but a couple of different types of small pliers did the job easily. The parts are very accurately cut and there were no problems fitting them together, except that some were quite fiddly, and although some of the curves were tricky to get right, the instructions are clear.

The result is quite impressive; surprisingly detailed, well proportioned, and very shiny! It's a little odd what details are included. such as tender brakes, and springs behind the driving wheels, which will never be seen. But there is no doubt that the etching is very fine

As you can see it actually fits onto 9mm gauge track - here sat on Awngate's rails. Of course the wheels don't turn (and in any case they are not round, but polygons...). I don't know if that means it is "N" gauge, I suspect it might be slightly over-scale for that, and I don't know how accurately it is scaled either - but it does look "right". The tender gap is huge, which is unnecessary as it is not as though it has to go round corners!

An enjoyable project, and a nice shiny thing to go in the display cabinet.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Another green loco!

Well I must have been a good boy, because Santa brought me another new toy.

Yes, it's one of the lovely Hornby Pecketts. A small loco, but highly detailed and superbly liveried.

It runs well too, although I've only tried if on a few laps of my Son's train-set. One thing I have noticed though, when viewed front on, is that the chimney is not straight. 

Still, it looks good shunting wagons.

Hmm, I seem to be gathering a collection of industrial locos!

Just in case you think I am in danger of simply collecting RTR models, I also got a new static grass applicator. It's rather more professional than my tea-strainer ebay special, and I would hope less likely to give me a shock...

Saturday, 22 December 2018

More on Heljan Manning Wardle Issues

While the inability of my new  Heljan L&B Manning Wardle to run through the PECO 12" radius pointwork of Awngate is a big disappointment, I did say I'd check it out on the newer 18" radius points. So I took it to the club last night and ran it on the new under-construction layout. It did manage to run smoothly through most of the points, but at a couple of them it derailed in the same way seen before - with the pony wheels lifting at the tip of the blades of a facing point.

I realised it seemed to occur taking the left-hand route (whether that was the curved or the straight route), so I looked again at the centring springs. Having tweaked them to reduce pressure in an attempt to help the loco negotiate 12" radius points (as advised by the instructions) the truck was not staying central. I've no tweaked them back to maintain just enough pressure to centralise the truck, ensuring pressure was equal each side. This helped a great deal.

I've also tested the loco on my also under-construction layout Hexworthy, which also has PECO 18" radius points. However despite the adjustments to the pony truck, it would still derail on three of the four points, depending which way they were switched. Eventually I could see no option but to take a file to the points...

The modifications used a small file, and only took a few seconds:

  • At "A" the inside of the blade was stroked with the file to sharpen the tip, taking care not to affect the top edge
  • The recess of the fixed stock rail was also stroked with a file at "B"

The idea is to reduce the amount the blade protrudes from the fixed rail so the flange of the pony wheels cannot ride up on the tip. This, frankly, should not be necessary for any RTR loco, but it does work, and now I can run the loco through all the points. This trick may well work on the 12" points used on Awgate too, but I don't really plan to use the loco on that layout.

That's not quite all the issues though. The couplings point upward, and are far too high to couple to stock, including the PECO coaches.

The club layout has 12" curves and gradients. The loco did manage the curves, which is a relief, but at some points it stopped with it's wheels spinning. These appeared to be at transitions in gradient, or to the super-elevated curves. Some of these track sections probably need adjusting, but it is clear that the loco needs more vertical movement in the pony trucks, which is currently restricted by the coupling extensions meeting the buffer beams or cowcatcher.

So we are getting there, but we're not quite there yet.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Christmas come early, or very late?

Finally, my Heljan L&B Manning Wardle has arrived. To say this is long-awaited is an understatement, it's nearly two years since I ordered it, and it was already later than originally scheduled then.

I know they are not everyone's cup of tea, but I've liked these locos since reading P. D. Hancock's Narrow Gauge Adventure. The model certainly captures the lines of these distinctive machines, the detailing is impressive, and the livery is finely applied.

I fear it may be rather delicate though. The brass pipe under the right tank is hanging free at the rear, and the motion covers drop off rather easily, though I expect a drop of superglue could sort those. The rear cow-catcher appears to be bent upward and outward too. There are some plastic mouldings in the box, I think for brake rigging though the instructions don't mention them, I doubt I shall bother fitting them.

The cab interior is detailed too, though at this angle the distorted rear cowcatcher is clear. The instructions say couplings can be fitted with the loop removed, or the cowcatchers should be removed to allow the loop to be retained.

Running is smooth enough, though I've not been able to run it in properly on Awngate. The problem seems to be with corners, or at least point-work, where the pony wheels derail. The instructions claim the loco can manage 305mm (12 inch) radius curves, but if it derails, adjust the springs on the pony trucks to loosen the tension with tweezers.

Here's the front pony truck, and as you can see I've opened up the springs until they don't make contact at all until the truck is near the end of it's travel. However, so far, this hasn't helped. I've also tried adjusting the spring of the pick-ups (one of which can be seen above the wheel) which apply downward force to the wheels, but neither increasing or decreasing the force has helped.

Hexworthy is being built with 18" radius points so I will have to see how it fares on those, and on the club layout which has 18" points but 12" curves, I'm hopeful it will do better. But so far the performance seems disappointing.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Thakeham in BRM

Thakeham features in December's British Railway Modelling magazine

They've done a good job of presenting the layout feature, with some large photos. I'm rather pleased that my photography was up to full-page prints!

It's an excellent issue for Narrow Gauge and Industrial enthusiasts, with a feature on Chris Donoghue's Compass Point in 009, an Emmet-style GN15 layout, and Six Quarters - a cracking little industrial layout in OO by Oly Turner.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The other side...

Following EXPO-NG, there is an untold chapter in the story of Slugworth & Co. Astute readers may have wondered where the track went when it disappeared through the hole in the backscene. I didn't want to give away too much of Joshua's layout before the show, so I haven't yet shown that the layout is in fact two-sided. So, now it is time for a trip "to the other side".


Right from the start this was planned as a double-sided layout (actually Mum's idea, but Joshua loved it as it effectively doubled the scenic length); and if one side was the factory, the other side had to be the other end of the line. Which logically would be an exchange siding.


The SG track is set a little lower than the NG, with a Hornby bufferstop - removing the clips and painting has made it quite acceptable. The wagon came from the 009 sales stand, complete with 3-link couplings, perfect! The shed for storing perishable goods has been posted before, it's plasticard with clear plastic Wills sheets. We fitted a yellow LED in the roof to give a faint glow inside, hinting at the goods inside and illuminating the dirty clear roof panel.


A wider view without trains shows the coal siding, we've used a different point lever this side. The plastic handle kept breaking off so we've replaced it with wire. There's limited detailing here, for a peaceful atmosphere.


Joshua wanted a lot on his layout, the urban (factory) side with lots of detail, but also countryside. The split side approach allowed us to do that, and although this view is only a few inches wide and deep, I think we achieved his aim. The fence and gate is Dapol, and the animals are from Dart Castings (the cows are Merit and are carefully placed to be difficult to see all at once), but Joshua's trees and blending of the static grass really make this scene I think.


A view the other way with Joshua's new loco, bought from the sales stand on Saturday. We need to fit couplings.


Joshua's first loco, a Roco diesel, with his first wagons, rounds the curve at the front. Joshua weathered the loco and wagons, and fitted the appropriate loads to the wagons. After initial concerns about the poor low-speed running of the loco, I was pleasantly surprised how well the loco performed at EXPO, my attention to the pick-ups, a drop of oil, and the graphite rails have helped immensely. It ran smoothly back and forth all day at a realistic pace. The trees are quite effective at disguising the hole in the sky.


Which brings us through the tree-tunnel into the factory yard. This side is deliberately more crowded and busy, the two sides contrasting and complementing each other. Still, it's amazing that each side is just 50cm by about 18cm (the backscene is slightly angled).

Another idea planned from the start is that the layout will become a continuous run. We plan an off-stage extension allowing an semi-circle of track to link the factory front track (through the green gateway) to the corrugated shed. This will provide a fiddle yard track as well as the ability for continuous running when required. There will be updates as we work on this idea.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

EXPO-NG: The layouts

In part 2 of my EXPO-NG report I'll introduce a few of the main attraction layouts. There were lots of layouts there so this is just a few that caught my eye.


Pen y Graig (5.5mm scale, 12mm gauge) by Barrie Johnston had a real wow-factor. The dramatic Welsh scenery is presented in a deep and tall layout, including a working incline.


At the top of the incline the wagons are pushed by a man - yes, the figure moved along pushing the wagon!


It was good to see Richard Holder's model of Launceston (009) after visiting the prototype this summer. This is an impressive layout that really captured the real thing.


Empire (OO6.5) by Peter Smith makes good use of this small scale/gauge in a surprisingly small space. The scenery is excellent, the small locos really well made, but most astonishing of all, Peter uses radio control. These tiny models have a receiver and batteries fitted into them...!


Coleford (009) by John Wilkes is a layout I've seen before, but each time I see something new. A characterful and delightfully detailed off-beat layout.


I did point out to Chris Ford that the lighting on Orne (009) was not especially useful - but this shot seems to benefit from the odd lighting position giving an impression of the evening train. A less-is-more layout and very effective for it.


I just liked this shot of Pyn Valley Railway (O9) by Christopher Payne, which captures the roadside tramway perfectly.


Likewise this shot of A taste of Aber (3mm scale, 6.5mm gauge) by Blair Hobson paints an attractive scene.

Sadly I gather numbers were down again this year, I do hope the organisers find a way to increase numbers and ensure the show continues, as it's a top quality show for both layouts and trade.

There's a load more photos on the Flikr album, I've noted the layout names, scales, and builder, so do enjoy.