Saturday 29 October 2011

Exhibiting Myself

Well it has certainly been a long day. The traffic was kind and we arrived at the EXPO-NG venue a little before 8am, which gave plenty of time to unload and set up. This went smoothly too, and both layouts were set up and being tested by soon after 9am. This left me a little time for a quick look around the show. A big thanks to Simon Wilson and Mark Holland for helping out with operating, set-up and packing up, we rotated between the layouts and breaks which certainly kept boredom at bay!

Simon Wilson mastering the controls of Awngate just before the show opened
Awngate attracted a lot of positive comments, which is nice to hear, and some potential show invites too. The preparation of the locos paid off as the layout ran very well all day, with the only track-cleaning before the show opened. The fiddle yard improvements were worthwhile too. However the couplings were temperamental, with some items of stock refusing to uncouple and some magnets less effective than others, so shunting the goods was a brave move! The passenger trains ran more smoothly though.

Landswood Park set up and ready to operate

Landswood Park behaved well too, with the couplings working as intended about 95% of the time (remember both layouts use the same couplings!), perhaps better magnets? However with only one loco it was guaranteed to cause problems, which it did about half an hour into the show when it refused to go. Having checked the track power I stripped down the loco chassis and fettled the pickups, which seemed to cure the problem and apart from the occasional relapse requiring a poke, it ran fine the rest of the day. The other problem was that a point blade came loose, fortunately it was the "kick-back" to the workshop which I never use, so it could be ignored. Despite the size of the layout, the "inglenook" plan and the easy-shunting made it a pleasant and surprisingly engaging to operate.

This layout generated a lot of interest too, I'd say it provoked more conversations than did Awngate, perhaps because of it's unusual theme and relatively uncommon gauge. There was a good turnout for the box file competition with 11 entries making it, most of which were complete, and showing a good standard of modelling. So I was honoured to be awarded first prize!
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Thursday 27 October 2011

Fiddling around

At home the fiddle yard consists of a 5 inch wide plank on which cassettes can be connected to the layout, however I had previously made an extension that could be bolted on the back to provide extra storage space when there isn't a chimney breast in the way! However after the first (and so far only) exhibition for Awngate it was clear that, despite the extension, there was insufficient space for organising the cassettes. Hence the addition of the "spice rack" shown below, providing space for two train cassettes to be stored above, which was simply knocked up from some offcuts of MDF and hardboard.

The other problem experienced is that when picking up cassettes the trains tend to run out the end. I made up pieces of plastic to slot in, but that was fiddy to do. So I used the same idea I had with the 014 cassette for Landswood Park, by having pivoted barriers at the end. The barriers are cut from a length of plastic section (square in this case), slots cut at the ends of the cassettes, and a pivot made from a length of paperclip wire passed through a hole at one end the barrier and glued under a lip inside the cassette trunking. Simple to make, simple to use, hopefully effective!

Here's a close-up shot of a barrier in the open position. I didn't bother with loco cassettes as they don't tend to roll, and they have less clearance. Also visible here is that the lead track has a couple of whire whiskers just outside the rails, these have been added to help with alignment.

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Sunday 23 October 2011

Locos and Stock

Final preparations are under way for Expo-NG next weekend, with some small jobs being done. One was loads for wagons, as with my 014 stock it struck me that shunting empty open wagons around is both dull and generally unrealistic. I realise so is shunting loads into then out of the same station, but at least the trains look more interesting!

These loads are all quite easy. Coal is a piece of black plasticard to fit in the wagon, with an off-cut of plastic in the middle to space it up close to the top of the wagon. It is not supported all round, a prod with a finger tips the load and it can be lifted out. Real coal of course is glued on top. This photo also shows the carriages, which have had a weathering wash to tone them down and add shadows.

The timber load is made in the same way as the coal loads but with coffee stirrers cut up and glued on top instead. The sheeted object is offcuts of foam-core board with a single ply of tissue glued over it, and painted with enamels. The nearest wagon has various items glued to a removable floor.

A more important job has been the going over of the stock and locos. The stock have had the back-to-backs of the wheel flanges checked - and in many cases adjusted - using a borrowed gauge, I really should get one. All the locos to be used have been had their wheels and pick-ups cleaned, couplings checked, and a drop of oil where appropriate until they ran smoothly and at low speeds. The photo below shows them all lined up at Awngate. Of course this is at least twice as many locos as the layout actually needs, but it adds variety and provides spares!

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Thursday 20 October 2011

Final details for Awngate

I've already mentioned that one of the tasks ongoing over the last couple of months has been the preparation and painting of a number of details. The fun part is adding them to the layout to complete the scene. I really don't want to over-crowd the layout - after all it is a very small layout, and meant to represent a quiet tramway - but it is also an urban scene, and I do want the railway to appear to be serving it's community.

So the details include a few more figures, fire buckets, a platform chocolate machine (can you even see it?), and signs of goods traffic including coal being bagged and loaded onto a lorry. There is also coal in the factory yard and on a (newly made) coal stage, with loco ash nearby. Despite the urban backdrop there are sheep in the field in the foreground, and sharp eyes might spot a rabbit, hare, rabbit, hedgehog, and three birds ...

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Saturday 15 October 2011

Uckfield Show

Uckfield is a bit of a trek cross-country for me but it always proves to be worth the effort. This year's show lived up to that expectation, with superb layouts (no exceptions) and good trade support too. Here are some of my favourites, including of course, the Narrow Gauge layouts. Corris 1930 is beautifully detailed, and Christopher Payne's layouts are always interesting. However one layout that really impressed my was Yeoton Wharf, a mixed standard and broad gauge LSWR layout based in Somerset in the 1870's. Built in 3mm Fine-scale (with 14.2mm and 21mm dual gauges) it featured some highly unusual and interesting period trains, as well as superb scenery.

Corris 1930 - 009 - Rod Allcock
Gravel Bottom - 0-16.5 - Brian Wilson
Brink Valley Tramway - 0-9 - Christopher Payne
Yeoton Wharf - 3mm scale, 14.2 & 21mm gauges (yes, broad gauge!) -
Nick Salzmann. Set in the 1870's.
Superb modelling of an interesting railcar on Yeoton Wharf
A great afternoon out. If you want to see more of my pictures click here.
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Thursday 13 October 2011

A spot of fencing and some gutters

It is the subtle details of a model that make it feel more complete, and hopefully more real. The lack of some details is not always obvious, but the mind knows something is missing. Something I felt was lacking around Awngate station was fencing, even though the line represented is a tramway where the railway had it's own right of way - such as this semi-urban terminus - it would have been well fenced off.

Some digging around in my stock of useful bits revealed some lengths of Ratio fencing. So the field along part of the front of the layout has post-and-rail fencing added, carefully bent to follow the contours of the ground and boundary. Beyond the tree towards the road (on the backdrop) this changes to iron railings, assuming the neighbouring property is a building rather than livestock. Compare the view below to that in the last post. The rest of the front is left as open ground as I like the eye-level views of the trains, I'm assuming the land was bought in irregular-shaped plots and so the boundary there is further from the track.

I've used more of the railings at the back of the station, separating the access path to the houses from the railway property. The Wills railings are moulded in plastic, but are not only as fine as any etched railings I have seen, they don't look as flat as etches, and are not as fragile as you'd imagine. Amazing really. I'm not sure how long the fences at the front of the layout will last though!

You may also notice that the houses have gained guttering and downpipes, after someone on the NGRM forum suggested they would be a good addition. He is right, they do add relief and visual interest to the card kits, although it would have been a lot easier to have added them before the houses were stuck in place! Again it was by bits-box that provided a pack of Wills building accessories, the gutters are half-round rather than hollow and the downpipes a "D" section but for the back of the layout who would know? This is another detail that is subtle, but missed if not present.
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Thursday 6 October 2011

More greenery ...

Yes, I have been busy with trees and grass again - but this time for Awngate. There's not a lot of greenery on the layout, but what there was wasn't that convincing. So I set to with the dilute PVA glue, static grass and the Noch puffer bottle, adding layers of the static grass over the existing flock. I wasn't that impressed with the grass effect on Landswood Park, but over the (slightly) larger areas here it seems to have worked more effectively. I've blended in longer yellowy grass over a greener grass, which I think has been reasonably effective.

The trees were described a couple of weeks back, they have had extra flock added to give variety of colour, and have been planted to create deliberate view blocks to the scene. Hopefully their placement will look natural, add visual interest, and by splitting the scenes may even make the layout appear bigger. A few more bushes and extra texture to the existing ones has helped too.

I have also given the track a couple of thin washes of muddy brown to tone down and colour both the sleepers and the ballast. The darker brown of the sleepers and the grey of the ballast still show through, but the overall tone is much more natural now.

Where the engine shed doesn't (yet) stand I have grassed over the end of the siding, and a large bush from rubberised horsehair and ground foam flock helps to disguise the end of the layout. This corner is barely visible from normal viewing angles anyway, so the engine shed can wait for another time. Anyway, I'm stuck for ideas as to what it should look like.

I think the result is that the greenery is less "flat" and is much more convincing than it had been, and the track blends it better. Next a few more details are in order.

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