Monday 21 February 2011

The Lister Build begins

So with track made, laid and wired, and a couple of wagons to experiment with couplings (and set their height), it is time to start on the big Christmas pressie, the Lister RT locomotive.

Now my wife might not be that impressed with it, preferring the steam locos as produced by Paul Windle, and she has a point that it isn't the prettiest loco ever made! However to me these little industrials have bags of character. For starters the fact that it looks like a lawnmower, and far too small to be motorised! In fact a lawnmower isn't so different, Lister were making factory tugs like this, a useful tool in pre-forklift days, when some customers asked for a version to be put on rails and the Rail Truck variant came about in 1928. Ideal for lightly constructed lines they were popular for peat bogs and factories, and I think it would have been an ideal loco for a farm/estate railway.

In the box are a good clear set of instructions, lots of black tissue paper containing shiny brass parts, an etch, bags of wire and other parts, and the ready-assembled milled brass chassis. More on the chassis later ...

Most of the kit is made up from lost-wax brass castings. Here are the castings for the mainframes, buffer beams and ballast weights, and the footplate (upside down). As can be seen there is a considerable amount of metal to be removed from the casting process including those arches on the frames, which also show some slight mis-moulding along the top edge where they chamfer to fit the footplate. Nothing a spot of filler won't fix later, but the crisp detail of the cast parts is superb.

As a result I have spent a lot of time lately in the garage at the bottom of the garden hunched over a mini-drill with a cutting disk. The instructions suggest a piercing saw and a file, but I'm impatient! The frames and footplate required some serious fettling to get a good fit but it is worth the effort. A number of holes for details have had to be drilled out too, which is slow as brass is very hard! (well, I usually work with plastic or whitemetal!).

The biggest challenge so far has been opening out the ballast weights to make pockets to mount the couplings. Fortunately they are hollowed out at the rear, but there was still a large amount of metal to remove. I drilled two adjacent holes and opened them out to form an oblong, squaring out with a file, a slow job.

The instructions suggest using a mini blow-torch to solder the frames to the footplate but I don't have one, I'd burn myself if I did, and my 25W iron would never heat up this mass of metal sufficiently for a good soldered join. So I have used 5 minute epoxy ("Araldite" or in this case the B&Q equivalent!) which has the advantage of giving me enough time to adjust to ensure all is square. I assembled one side and end, then the others when hard, blu-tak is very handy here! In this photo the holes for the couplers can be seen, along with the vertical hole for a wire pin to secure them.

Here are some of the lost-wax cast details along with the etched parts used to make up the bonnet. Bending that bonnet piece took a while but I am pretty pleased with the result. More soon ...
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Wednesday 16 February 2011

Couplings in 0-14

There are three coupling types commonly used in 0-14:
  • The prototypical link and pin, indeed the KBScale products come with the coupling pocket, a link and a pin. While highly realistic, I can see this leading quickly to insanity on a shunting layout!
  • The Greenwich coupling as commonly used in 009, with a little work these can be built into the skip frames so the loop of the coupling attaches to a peg on the frame of the next wagon, indeed KBScale sell parts for this.
  • The Microtrains "Buckeye" coupler, the use of which was described by Roy C Link in the Industrial Narrow Gauge Handbook.
Couplings are a personal choice and we all have different priotities, so there is no right answer, and in this scale probably no significant popular choice either. I don't have the patience for the scale links and pins, and personally I'm not keen on the loop-over-pin type couplings (like the Greenwich type) having used DG's for some years in 009. They are prone to getting bent and seem to need constant adjustment, and for reliable operation they work best with loops at one end of the stock only.

That leaves the Microtrains type which I have also used in 009 and found them to be reasonably robust, getting repeatable auto-uncoupling takes some fiddling with magnets but overall I prefer them, so I have chosen them for my 0-14 adventure. Their downside in this context is requiring space for mounting the "draft box", and while they are prototypical for some railways (partiularly American) they were hardly ever used on industrial narrow-gauge in the UK.

Fitting them to the KBScale wagon chassis is as described in the Roy Link manual, although the design of the coupling draft box has changed slightly. The bottom edge of the curved frame and lower part of the centre channel is cut away where the coupling needs to fit, and filed flat. A hole is drilled to take the Microtrains mounting screw, and the coupling screwed into place. I should cut off the protruding screw really.

This shot shows one wagon with the couplings fitted, to which I had strengthened the frame with plasticard offcuts although I don't now think it is necessary, and another having the couplings fitted showing the recess created to mount the coupling.

I have made a couple of useful gauges to assist setting up the couplings. The first is a block that sits on the track to set the height of the coupling, simply made from plasticard the "finger" needs to slide tightly under the coupling mounting created on the wagon. This is about 7mm high, although so long as they are all the same height the actuall height is irrelevant! Hence always using the same gauge. The second is a piece of 10 thou plasticard to sit on the rails, the iron tail of the coupling is adjusted to just skim the top, meaning it will not foul on points etc.

The result is reasonably tidy although it does mean the wagons are quite far apart when coupled, of course in reality the oval frames are the buffers and would touch, with a single link to couple them. I can live with that for the convenience of auto couplings. The next challenge will be fitting the couplings to the loco ...

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Wednesday 9 February 2011

Track and wires

As I mentioned last time the points are controlled via wire-in-tube from slide switches mounted in the front corner of the board. Because of the cramped space and the short runs to the points this was fiddly to set up. Once the tubes had been stuck in place with a hot glue gun the points could be stuck down with Bostik.

The rest of the track was reasonably easy to lay, the copper-clad PCB strips cut to suitable lengths with side-cutters and stuck down with Bostik, the rail pre-cut and curved before being soldered in place using the KBScale roller-gauges. I used PECO rail joiners (fishplates) on the standard code 80 rail including insulating ones where the points face each other, as the track will be buried this won't get seen. Metal fishplates were soldered to ensure conductivity - it has never been a problem for me but once the track is buried that's it! Finally gap the copper clad sleepers and check with a multimeter.

As you can see the wiring is in place too (apart from connecting up the socket). Grey for the rear rail, blue for the front, and black for the switched rails (frogs or vees). There is also an isolating section at the end of the front-right siding, as it looks a good place to park a loco if I ever want to. Not very likely but it would be hard to add it later ...

Wires go to the most convenient place to attach to the track, and will all be hidden by buildings at the end of the layout or buried under the farmyard surface. They meet in a terminal block that will also be inside a building. The wires and point control tubes are all stuck in place with a hot glue gun: quick, easy and strong.

This close-up shows how the point control switches have been screwed in place with miniature screws, and how the operating wire is attached through a hole in the switch. Also seen is the wiring for switching the point frog (vee) rails, note that the switched feed for the first point also feeds the switch for the second. At the side of the opening (finger hole!) is the microswitch for the isolating section, I had run out of space for a proper switch.
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Saturday 5 February 2011

Preparing the box

Although for various reasons I was unable to start work on this project before Christmas, I did do some planning and thinking as to how I would build a layout in a box file. As you will have seen Christmas did bring lots of goodies, but before embarking on the loco and stock I thought it best to start by laying some track. The last few weeks have been quite productive, with the three points built, but for now back to the, erm, baseboard!

I decided against laying a board within the box file, as it would rob precious depth, potentially resulting in more difficulties with the buildings. I will be raising the ground level up to rail height anyway which should strengthen the bottom of the file, but the track is to be laid straight on the bottom, which like the lid and spine is made from stiff card. However the "front" and ends of the file are in fact 5mm chipboard.

First the rivets holding the sprung paper-clip were drilled out to remove it. Two openings were then cut into the left hand end of the box (one for the entry line, one for the low-relief workshop which will have a line run into it), by drilling big holes at the top corners and opening out with a power jigsaw. Another opening was made to allow access to switches at the front corner, and a hole drilled to take a 6-pin DIN socket, my standard power connection.

The rules specifically allow the front to be folded down to improve the view, which is a good idea as otherwise the view would be rather restricted to the "helicopter" position. However I thought removing the whole panel would weaken the box significantly, so I have cut away a large section with plenty at each end, and 5mm at the bottom, to maintain the strength. This section will be re-attached so that it hinges down. I have sealed the cut edges with a couple of coats of thinned PVA glue, and will paint them black for neatness in due course.

It will now be obvious why I could not have any part of the points protrude below the baseboard! Here the wire-in-tube that will operate them can be seen, snaking back to the miniature slide switches mounted to some offcuts of wood. The switches will be operated through the opening, and as well as switching the track power to the frog/vee of the point, their positive action will hold the point blades in position.
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Wednesday 2 February 2011

The Boxfile Plan

The idea of building a layout in a box file is not new, I remember reading about an 009 layout in two joined box files in a magazine back in the 90's, and it was probably not the first, although micro-layouts seemed less popular back then. Phil Parker pointed out the Double-O Gauge Association ran a boxfile competition a few years back, and I should say I really admire Phil's own Melbridge Box Co.

Designing a successful micro-layout is not easy, particularly with such tight constraints. Of course "trains" must be short, curves and points tight, and operation will be limited. However while the layout may be a gimmick (let's face it, it is), I want the model to be serious - that is I want (reasonably) interesting operation that is not un-prototypical, a setting that is plausible and not too contrived, and of course to build it to the best standards I can manage. Even with some experience of such small layouts that is a tall order!

The size of the box file and the rules are not the only constraints to the layout design. While the Hudson "Type 1" curves are very tight (93mm radius), allowing for very short points even in 7mm scale, they are not ideal for shunting over and limit stock to the shortest possible, so "Type 2" (260mm radius) are preferred. Experience has taught me to allow enough straight in sidings where coupling and uncoupling is to happen! And while the lead track or "cassette" can be fixed to multiple openings in one end of the box according to the rules, I don't find moving a cassette "interesting" operation, so prefer that to be used only for changing stock

Most industrial 2' gauge lines were built for one traffic, e.g. quarried sand or aggregate, so operation is not always interesting. Also while NG may be ideal for a cramped site, many industrial sites and quarries sprawled over large areas. So what prototype could provide a plausible and interesting setting? Well, regular readers may remember my post about Narrow Gauge in a Farmyard - nearly 3 years ago I found this hand-worked line at Tatton Park Farm in Cheshire, and postulated that it would make an interesting layout assuming locos were used!

The plan I settled on is essentially an Inglenook (3 sidings that can form a shunting puzzle) with the addition of a kick-back. This is the same as I suggested to Phil for his Melbridge Parva layout, and indeed used for my own Pen-Y-Bryn Quarry, as it is a versatile plan for a small space. Here the line enters under an archway (similar to Tatton but much smaller) and splits into sidings serving different parts of the farmyard: a feed store, livestock shed, stables, and a heap of coal (for the dairy as well as domestic use). The kick-back is the blacksmiths, also used to stable and repair the loco(s).

The next task was to mock up the buildings - cereal packets were cut up and stapled to approximate shapes. Being new to 7mm scale I needed to visualise how big the buildings would be, and check clearances. You can see I changed the design of the buildings along the rear slightly, but all seemed to work. Of course the upper parts of the buildings will need to be removable to allow the lid to close.

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Tuesday 1 February 2011

Here we go again!

I mentioned in my post about EXPONG last October that the challenge for 2011 sounded interesting, it is to build a layout in a boxfile. The trouble is I have a weakness for this kind of thing, just look at Southon Yard and Pen-Y-Bryn Quarry - you could say I have "History". It didn't help that even my wife thought it sounded interesting, and for the next few weeks I was doodling ideas.

The "Dave Brewer Memorial Challenge" is detailed on the EXPONG website, however the rules are pretty straightforward. The model (narrow gauge of course) is to be built into a boxfile such that the lid can be closed, and "sticks" of track (or "cassettes") may be added to one end to facilitate operation.

I thought I'd like to do a 2' gauge industrial railway, the sort with small internal-combustion locos and skip wagons (or variants built on their frames). This is tricky in 009, but there tempting me at EXPO was the KBScale stand. As I have mentioned I have long admired the Roy C Link range of industrial 2' gauge models in 7mm scale, 14mm gauge (now in the KBScale range), and the boxfile seemed an ideal opportunity for a mini-project to dip a toe into the waters of a different scale. However I must confess I do enjoy designing and building micro layouts too, and the deadline and silly limitations of the boxfile (let's fact it, it is a daft idea) is good fun.

Now I happened accross an empty boxfile (well it is now), and so out came some track templates (photocopied from the Link manual) to see what could fit. This sort of layout is best planned full-size, it's the only real way of knowing what will fit, however I did find a novel way of "drawing" them. I photographed the paper template plan with my mobile phone, then used an "App" to doodle all over them; here are a couple of ideas I came up with.

The first uses the boxfile as the inside of a factory, with tracks entering through a door, and some dirty windows looking out to grey sky along the back - kind of a reverse of the normal approach! Sidings inside the building could serve a boiler-house, a door through to "Goods Inwards", and a loading area. Battery loco's might suit this best, so a short kick-back to a charging/servicing point has been squeezed in.

This idea is for a railway serving a nursery (the kind that grows plants, not Kindergarten), and yes there is a prototype for this at Poppleton near York. In this concept the greenhouses are served by tracks (O.K. they are only one wagon deep in reality) for taking fertiliser in, and plants out, while next door there is a store, and boiler-house requiring coal. The tracks exit left though a gate in a tall wall to another part of the nursery.

Next time I'll reveal the plan I chose ... and it is neither of these!
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