Monday 31 December 2012

Train Set Season

You may remember a couple of years ago I built a train-set for my son. He's gained a couple of locos and some wagons, but for a recent birthday we gave him some more track, and also another train set (a second-hand bargain from a show) for Christmas. This means a bit of work adding a second circuit to the board, but this is the season for train sets.

First job was to remove the existing track. It was laid in the garage in November 2010 when the temperature was well below zero, as a result when brought in the house the rails expanded, although the track didn't move the curves had a negative camber! When released the diameter of the oval expanded by about a quarter of an inch. I then had to plane off the no-more-nails type glue, as it hand't worked well, this time I stuck to track pins. Hint: Hornby pins are larger than PECO, but strong enough to go into plywood.

The job was made more complex because of the folding board, this means the track needs to be cut at the board joint and soldered to small brass screw heads to ensure secure alignment. Also every rail needs a wire to bridge the gap, laid above the board because of the double-skin board design.


Further complications are that Hornby and PECO have different geometry for their curved points (I was using various points bought cheap at shows or off ebay), and the size of the board didn't allow two standard straights between curve and board joint. This restricted point placement, and meant I couldn't use the power feed tracks - I just wired back to a terminal block connector for easy connection of controllers.

This shows the final layout, as you can see I had allowed for the extra tracks when I painted the board, and there was space for the outer platform and siding. I Think I got the maximum number of tracks on for maximum fun! All points are within reach of one side of the board too. With two controllers I can now play with my son!
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Wednesday 12 December 2012

Putting the brakes on

Some of you may know Mike Beard, who has been describing on the NGRM-Online forum the re-build of his own Egger coaches, a more extensive rebuild than I have tackled. He mentioned to me a while back that he was looking at 3mm Scale Model Railways products for detailing the coaches. But it was a pleasant surprise to find a pair of brake handles in a Christmas card - thanks Mike!

Of course coaches like this usually did have brake standards on their balconies. They didn't take much fitting, and as you can see from the rather poor photo below, they do add more interest to the end of the coach.

The size is spot-on too, so Mike was onto something looking at 3mm scale, but surely the poor 3mm scale people would need a stepladder to put the brakes on?
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Friday 30 November 2012

Above The Footplate

This time of year brings many distractions from modelling - half term, family visits, a child's Birthday and party to organise, and of course the big day later in the month that seems to require so much preparation! So progress with the Skylark has been in stops and starts, but here's where I'm at anyway.

The Kato chassis I am using has quite a low profile, but the boiler casting is cut away to clear a motor, this was just visible as there is a gap between the tanks and the boiler. So I filled the gap with plasticard, then stuffed the boiler with lead. I've also cut out the opening on the inner tank side to match the outer, and spaced the sides with plasticard - there was about a 15-thou gap along the tank top. The sides were filled with lead too. As you can see the cap side openings have had the "door" removed (the prototype did not have a door) and the edges chamfered.

Preparation of the parts like this does take time, but once assembled on the chassis it is worth it. The cab rear has also been extended below the bunker with plastic. The cab is quite visible so I will have to make some representation of the firebox and backhead.

Side-on the arrangement of the side skirts, tiny inclined cylinder, and the "pony" wheel appearing under the rear frames, all seems to work quite well. The trailing wheel should be behind the cab step so it is a bit too far forward, but it looks OK.

The tank fillers require a rounded handle on top, however I thought they looked better upside-down with the locating peg filed to a rounded shape- see the one in the foreground, than on the left is unmodified. Another job was to drill out the chimney top.

The chimney was a pig to get vertical, even after a long time adjusting the fit with a small file. 5-minute epoxy does give time to check it from all angles as the glue sets, using a square, even so I think it might not be quite right!

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Saturday 24 November 2012

Exciting Developments in 009

Exciting news from the Warley show at the NEC today, PECO have launched a range of ready-to-run 009! They've chosen the Lynton & Barnstaple as the prototype, and a pair of wagons (a van and an open) will be available in the new year. Coaches will follow later in the year.

There has been much speculation about this on the forums recently after rumours leaked out, so it is great to see there was truth behind them! However I've been thinking for some time that RTR 009 was becoming more and more likely, these days production runs appear to be much more viable at lower volumes and a substantial collectors market has fuelled all sorts of rare prototypes being produced for the main scales. Warley also saw more RTR "O" gauge announced, with sub-£300 locos, this would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

While the majority of products are aimed at the steam-diesel British Rail era, I think there are an increasing number of modellers without nostalgic links to standard-gauge steam, and the range of subjects for model railway layouts is widening all the time. For many their experience of railways (especially steam ones) is based on preserved lines, books and other media, and that can just as easily mean narrow-gauge. I'm sure interest in NG has increased in recent years with plenty of NG models in the magazines and at exhibitions. 009 offers a lot to modellers: the detail and scenic scope of 00, but with compact trains and sharper curves allowing a decent layout in a small space (just look at mine!) - ideal for a home layout. It is also easy to add a narrow-gauge "feeder" or tourist attraction as an aside to a larger 00 layout, and for collectors (for whom running models is not important) 009 models can sit alongside 00 in the display cabinet!

You may be thinking - why the excitement, these are just wagons and coaches, but surely many are put off 009 by the need to kit-build locomotives? That is very true, although the Roco and Minitrains products could make a convincing preservation-era layout with these products. However I think we have a chicken-and-egg situation here, manufacturers will have been put off 009 for fear that a loco would not sell without suitable stock to pull. Now PECO are denying they are looking at making a loco, and to be fair making locos is something PECO rarely do, but there are still rumours of an RTR loco being a possibility. I'm more confident of that than ever, if the new releases sell well then surely manufacturers will look at 009 from the saturated 00 marketplace and think there is an opportunity!

Meanwhile, hats off to PECO for a brave move, and I wish them well. I'm sure there will be some wagons on my wish list next year, the coaches may be too long for Awngate - but they do look nice!

Monday 12 November 2012

Anyone for Pizza?

The Dave Brewer Challenge at EXPO NG this year was for a "Pizza" layout, that is one of no more than 2 ft (60cm) in any direction. These generally result in a simple circle of track (I don't recall if that was a stipulation), hence the "Pizza" label! 

As you will have no doubt figured out already, I'm a big fan of these challenges, and like micro-layouts generally. However I'll admit that Pizza layouts don't generally hold a great appeal to me, they can be tricky to make realistic and can be rather predictable, I see their main purpose to serve their builder; as an exercise, experiment of new scale or technique, or a useful test track. That is not meant as a criticism of the genre, just that I find part of the appeal of micro layouts is the challenge of an interesting and workable track-plan fitted into a realistic setting, the Pizza has less scope for this.

This year though the challenge entries were of the usual high standard, and demonstrated some original ideas and superb skills.

The winner of the challenge was Southern Cross Sand & Cement, by Des Trollip. This 009 layout features a sand and cement plant (as the name suggests), and with a siding and a spur off-scene it could be described as a fully operational layout. However it is the detailed industrial buildings and plant, and well observed colouring, that makes the layout stand out.

Train Set for Christmas by Daniel Figg caught my eye as being particularly original! It uses a dolls-house scale of 1:12 (I think) with "T" gauge - the Japanese produced 3mm gauge trains. I reckon that is around O gauge to scale? I believe this won a Junior Award. Inspired!

Chapel Mills is a well modelled and somewhat more typical pizza in 009 by Chris Seago.

However my favourite, and a layout I have watched the development of on the NGRM-Online forum, is Four Seasons in O9 by Chris Dack. The name is taken from a type of pizza of course, but Chris has taken it literally - and modelled the same scene in each of the four seasons. I admire his dedication in this - I'd be bored by the second scene! He has really captured each season well - check out details such as the level of the river, and the size of the log pile, as well as the colouring and scenery. Chris has even mounted the circular layout on a motorised base - the viewer can press a big red button, which makes the entire layout rotate to the next scene.





That's enough of a menu I think. Slow progress on the Skylark but hope to have an update soon. 

Tuesday 30 October 2012

EXPO NG 2012

I did manage to make the annual pilgrimage to EXPO NG on Saturday, for once not involved with exhibiting a layout, challenge entry, or demonstration stand. In fact due to family visitors I thought for a while I wouldn't get to go at all - but negotiated a morning "pass", and given this is one of very few large Narrow Gauge modelling events of the year it was worth it! So I didn't have long to chat or browse the trade stands much, but then when I have been exhibiting at the show I don't get long to look round either, so I focused on the layouts and took lots of pictures.

A layout I've seen before (at NG South) but had a little more time to look at this time, was Castle Wharf Kendal - a superb 009 layout by Ian Kirkwood. The scenic setting and surrounding buildings appear so natural and all blend together, with understated but well observed details. The trains also blend in well, the locos and stock looking at home on the layout.

Not many layouts can have so much character in a view without any trains - or indeed track - visible. This layout was awarded the Reinier Hendriksen Trophy, well deserved in my opinion!

I have been following the building of Giles Favell's new layout, "End of the Line", with 014 and 0 standard gauge, on the NGRM forum. Giles' last layout - The Loop - was a favourite of mine, and his latest work already is too! In principle it is a simple layout, showing a 2' gauge railway transshipment to standard gauge, but the "USP" is the road lorry. Yes indeed - this is a fully working, radio control truck. Watching the little Lister tip its skips of coal into the (working) conveyor, which loads the truck, then both truck and train depart the scene - the truck of course reversing onto the weighbridge on its way - is simply sublime. And quite hard to actually see through the crowd! Giles won the David Lloyd trophy with this layout.

One thing that EXPO-NG does well is to bring excellent layouts from Europe. Briquetterie St Aubin in 1:24 scale, 16.5mm gauge by Jacky Molinaro, is a great example. I really like the simple but interesting track plan and operation, and the "vertical" element offered by the track zig-zagging up the hill. The backscene blends well, and of course the scenics, buildings and stock are well done and natural. I'm getting lots of inspiration from this little layout!

Another European layout was Vroonen, an HOe Dutch tramway layout by Dick Van Beek. Dick has modelled the town buildings and street scenes full of detail and with interesting viewing angles, such that for me, the trams were only minor actors in the scene.

You can see the whole set of my photos here - be warned, there are quite a lot! For once I got some good shots, and there were a lot of good layouts to photograph. I've not even mention the "Pizza" challenge layouts - perhaps another post!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

A little bit of skirt...

Apologies for the title on this post, and to all those who don't find what they expect within it!

For those that are still reading, I am of course referring to the tram skirts for the Skylark. Using the cheap and reliable Kato chassis means it's diesel outline frames and incorrect wheels need hiding, and since Awngate is supposed to be a tramway tram-skirts are completely appropriate. My supposition is that the tramway company approached Kerr Stuart for a "standard" loco rather than order a bespoke (hence much more expensive) tramway loco, and simply had them add skirts around the moving bits.

They are made from plasticard, which is straightforward enough, although it has taken a little while to get the proportions right. The box section represents the skirts, with an extension for the front frames.

Looking at photos of Skylark locos the cylinders appear very small. Indeed at 12" stroke by 7.5" bore they are small! I reckon that would make an outer diameter of around 12" over cladding, or 4mm, but I only had 3mm diameter tube. So I cut a slit in the back, and pushed a strip of plastic in, widening it to about the right diameter - at the front at least! The back is flatter, but that makes them easier to stick to the frames, not being the full depth is not really visible and indeed is helpful as the frames are further out than they would be.

A little extra detail - bolts on the ends of the cylinders, and access hatches for maintenance of the motion - and the skirt/frame/cylinder assembly is glued in place with epoxy, along with the buffer beams. The result works rather well I think, hopefully the rear wheels appear as the pony wheels under the rear frames. Right, now on with the body...

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Saturday 20 October 2012

Spectacular Scenery at Uckfield

The Uckfield Exhibition always has a good standard of layouts, and this year I was particularly keen to see Crumley and Little Wickhill, the 009 layout of the Hull Miniature Railway Society. I've seen it in print and online, so it was great to see it for real. If you've not come across it before, it depicts a narrow gauge railway in the Pennines as it runs up the side of a valley, then reverses and climbs up the other side. The layout is a huge triangle with viewing from the two short sides, looking down and up the valley.

The layout is a fantastic example of a railway in a landscape, and gives the viewer the impression of looking down the dale from a nearby hill! The scenery is spot-on and instantly recognisable as Northern Britain, with desolate hills and green valley, rocky streams and stone built walls and barns. The layout is worked properly too, in the above picture the train is approaching Crumley (left) from Little Wickhill (just about visible in the far distance). Trains appear to go places, and while there are two stations, and sometimes three trains on the layout, it does not appear crowded or contrived.

Trains reverse at Little Wickhill as the line climbs the valley. Here the train on the left is held at the signal while descending into the station, while that in the distance has left the station and passes the cleared signal on it's way to Crumley. The layout owes as much to theatre as model railways, presented with black surrounds and curtains to shut out the background and control the viewing angles, and effective lighting to present the scene.

Looking down the valley to Crumley - and making use of the telephoto lens on my camera (not often needed for model railways!) trains can be seen passing at Crumley. On the left is the loco shed, one of the small tram locos will take over the down train for the tramway section, while the large tender loco will wait to take over the next train for the steep gradients up the valley.

There were other layouts too! This is Stoating Bank by Oly Turner, a very simple, compact, but unusual 00 layout set on a National Coal Board private line. It features a simple junction of two lines on opposing gradients, with a couple of sidings, various industrial and ex-BR locos appear and disappear with the occasional wagon. However the scenic setting - of a cold winter's day, with a light dusting of snow and frost, and accentuated by cold, dull lighting - really gives it extra character. Why don't we see more winter layouts? And not just Christmas-card deep snow!

Another layout with stunning scenery was Totnes, in 2mm scale, by John Birkett-Smith. This model used the full potential of the scale to model the whole of Totnes station (GWR) and the surrounding town, river, and even the castle. More amazingly it was done to a level of detail that few manage in 4mm scale! It was a shame it was hard to see the details towards the middle and rear of the layout, and there weren't many trains running when I saw it, but it is still one of those layouts that makes you go ... Wow!

So that's just three layouts, I could go on more ... but if you are interested, here's a link to the best of my pictures. Once again a great show with some inspiring scenic layouts!
Uckfield Model Railway Show 2012

Friday 12 October 2012

Larking Around

I did buy a can of primer last week, but I haven't got any further with painting the coaches, instead moving on to another project! This is the Chivers kit for a Kerr Stuart "Skylark" that I got last month, along with a Kato chassis. On the face of it this is a reasonably straightforward white-metal kit that should fall together over a few evenings, right?

So here are the main parts, nicely moulded on the whole with just a little flash. It is always tempting to see how with a little extra work the end result can be improved, for example here I couldn't help thinking that the cab-side doors were a little unlikely and would look a whole lot better opened out - you can see I've done this to the right hand side already.

The more immediate challenge is fitting the kit to a chassis it was never designed for. Actually it isn't too hard, the footplate needed the opening extending under the smokebox, and the chassis having it's plastic footplate and side detail cut back to slide into the dummy rear frames of the kit. There were also some bocks cast under the footplate to sit on the Ibertren chassis it was intended for, which I have had to cut away, and with a little fettling the chassis slides into place.

The Kato chassis is low but long, and protrudes under the smokebox, the front support to the boiler has needed a recess cutting into it. On the other hand, much of the "missing" boiler that would have fouled the motor of the Ibertren could now be reinstated! I should point out that I will be building this as a tram loco, and the chassis will be completely hidden behind skirts.

Another minor improvements is to the fit of the buffer beams, if slotted under the footplate as intended the rivets fall too low and the bufferbeam is very close to the rail. The best solution seemed to be mitring the join, as shown  here. I've also had to open out square holes to take the Microtrains couplings I use.

Well I'm a few evenings in already and so far I have just cut and filed lots of metal, and sliced my finger and thumb open. You know that rule about always cutting away from you?
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Sunday 7 October 2012

Coaches - Final Detailing

The last few evenings have entailed the fiddly detail work that complete the coach, it takes time but it is enjoyable and well worth the effort. As "freelance" coaches there is no prototype to copy, which means looking at photos of similar coaches to figure out what the details should be - in some ways this is more of a challenge than copying a prototype!

So the balcony railings have lost the spikes and gained a plasticard "wooden" rail instead, I've copied the prototype step from the last post to the other 7 corners, and made a stab at the under-frame truss rods. The vertical supports are in fact solid across the coach - cheat I have seen others do and is virtually invisible from normal viewing angles, while making them strong enough. The truss rods are brass rod with a short piece of wire insulation representing the tensioner.

Moving on to the roofs, I decided that oil lighting was the most likely and fortunately I had some spare Parkside Dundas sprues with some on. The take a little cleaning up but look OK, and save some fiddly work! Two per compartment looked far too generous so I stuck to one, and I quite like the unequal spacing on the brake coach.

A cruel close-up of the brake coach shows how the under-frame and steps look - not too bad I think. I'm particularly pleased with the detailing around the guards compartment door, hopefully it now doesn't just look like it was scored into the side of the body.

Another close-up showing the ends of the coaches, the steps, and buffer-beam overlay. I'm rather pleased with the way the balconies have come out. I've yet to fit the couplings - in fact I haven't cut the Bemo style couplings off one set of bogies yet.

Talking of bogies, they are too modern really but since they are barely visible I can't see the point of changing them. I've also omitted brake gear - I'm not sure what it should look like and most of it won't be visible either. I did think about fitting vacuum hoses but the castings I have domintated the balcony ends, I'll look out for something smaller. So for now I think they are about ready for primer, which will show up any imperfections.
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Thursday 27 September 2012

Progress with the Balconies

The next challenge was to fit the balcony railings to the ends of the coach in a sturdy manner, so they don't fall off when handled. I also wanted to be able to leave the roofs off until the coaches are painted and glazed, so ideally the railings should be affixed to the body and chassis only. The solution I came up with is shown in the photo below: the

The bottom of the corner posts fits into "feet" on the steps, which should appear to be extensions of the end frame of the chassis. The tops of the wire corner posts bend through 90 degrees under the roof, they then bend downward into a piece of plastic fixed into the inside of the coach body. The photo below shows the recesses cut into the underside of the roofs to clear the wire.

I'm pleased with how the look with the roof on, and they certainly seem well attached - even at this stage, without glue. I'm still to deal with the spikes, they will be removed and replaced with a plastic strip representing a wooden handrail.

Also visible above is my "prototype" step. The original steps were too fragile and long gone, so I need something more sturdy, this "solid" plasticard step (which doesn't show up well in the pictures) is certainly solid, the issue is ensuring sufficient bogie clearance. With some trimming of the end of the bogie and careful position of the points the coach is easily able to negotiate 12" radius Peco points, so it looks like this should work.

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