Sunday 29 April 2012

I've got a sinking feeling...

Yes, sorry about the title, but I have been asked to put together a model of the Titanic. It's a bit different from the usual models I make, but it's a plastic kit so the methods of construction are quite familiar. The story of the Titanic is fascinating as well as tragic, and there has been a lot about it recently - this being the 100th anniversary of its maiden and final voyage.

The kit consists of a hull, a bag of motorising parts, and three sprues of moulded parts ranging from the decks to the tiniest of ventilators. To be honest I was surprised at the number of small parts, particularly given the small scale of this model - a person would stand 2.5mm tall. Looking at it another way this model is around 15 inches long, if modelled to my usual model railway scale of "00" (1:76) it would be almost 12 feet (3.6m) long, longer than a full-length express train. That really gives me an idea of the scale of the size of the Titanic, and how it would have been seen in 1912. No wonder they thought it unsinkable.

As you can see I have made good progress with the superstructure although there are a number of parts left to fit. The exploded diagram at the top of the instructions shows how many small parts are in each step, there is another page of those diagrams on the other side! However the next step is to tackle that small bag of bits in front - fitting the motor!
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Wednesday 25 April 2012

The Engine Shed Completed

I didn't publish any pictures of the completed engine shed on the layout before Sparsholt, mainly as I didn't have time,  so here are a few. As you can see from a normal viewing position it blocks the exit nicely, and with a Glyn Valley Tramway loco filling the doorway you can see how it ended up this size! Not very clear at this angle, but there is a brick wall around the right-hand side of the shed to hold back the ground.

Pleasingly the details are just about visible through the open doors, provided I don't actually park a loco in there of course! I only used two of the figures from the Wills pack, just enough to add some life without over-crowding the scene. After all it's a loco repair shed of a small railway, not a factory. The card floor has just the right texture for cement, and the inspection pit looks OK, even though it is only a scale 18" deep. The building was bedded into the layout with my usual plaster/sand/powder paint mix which works well here for compacted ash, plus some scatter along the walls.

With the roof removed the detail can be seen better, although the workbench against the near wall can't! The drive shaft was fitted to the building and the lathe, pillar drill, and motor to the floor, so the drive bands had to be made and fitted (from brown evelope paper) after the building was stuck in place, a rather fiddly job.

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Wednesday 18 April 2012

A Model Castle

This may not be the usual type of model featured on this blog, but a little girl turns three tomorrow and needed a suitable cake! A Princess Castle seemed to fit the bill. Most of the work is down to my wife, but my model-making experience gets called upon to help with the final decoration. The figures (Peppa Pig in case you were wondering) came from her toy-box, but the rest is edible!

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Monday 16 April 2012

Exhibiting at Narrow Gauge South

Here's a photo of Awngate set up at Narrow Gauge South. The set-up is reasonably straightforward: assemble two trestles and beams between them, place layout on top and push in fiddle yard, attach leads and power up! There are advantages to such a simple layout, not least being packed up and driving off just 25 minutes after the show ended...

Anyway the day went well, everything worked as it should apart from some reluctant couplings and the new magnets being rather too powerful it seems! Anyway, more on that another time. Many thanks to Simon Wilson for assisting - operation gets tedious after an hour or so, so it is good to alternate, and we both had time to see the rest of the show too in between "shifts". And what an excellent show it was.

Right opposite us was a complete contrast in terms of size and subject, even though it is also 009 Bron Hebog is a model of Beddgellert on the WHR as it is today. Even incomplete it was impressive, and when it is finished to full depth (three times it's current scenic depth) it will achieve the "Railway in the landscape" look. The stock is also prototypical and expertly modelled by Rob Waller - see more on his blog here.

It was also good to see Isle Ornsay by Tom Dauben, even at this early stage of construction it is clear to see it will be a superb layout when finished. I have been following progress so far on Tom's website and the NGRM forum, and he is building the layout to a very high standard. In particular his portrayal of coastal rocks and stone sea-walls from plaster casting promises to be very realistic. Tom has researched the proposed narrow gauge line accross the Isle of Skye and built up a false "history" of the line assuming it was in fact built. It was this that earned him a Certificate of Merit award at the show.

Ryedown Lane, by Pat Collins, is a super little layout I have been following on the NGRM forum. It is based on Colonel Stevens practice, and Pat has got the style of the structures and the atmosphere spot-on. The layout is a similar size to Awngate, but has a spacious rural feel so feels quite different.

I'd seen Castle Wharf Kendal (by Ian Kirkwood) in the 009 News, and really admired it's character, so it was nice to see it for real. It was surprisingly compact, something many people say of Awngate, but like Awngate the urban surroundings help frame the railway giving justification for the cramped layout.

Nettlecombe by John and Jane Jacobs is famous for it's superb buildings and scenery, so no apologies for there being no trains in this picture! It was the first time I had seen the layout but was amazed by not just the lovely buildings and detail, but the extent of the scene. Not just a handful of cottages, but a whole village...

St Braydon by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories MRC was a huge and impressive 7mm scale layout based in Cornwall. The buildings and scenery were beautifully modelled and instantly recognisable as Cornwall, the detail was nicely observed, and the operation and stock interesting, yet it had a sense of fun too and I'm sure it is popular with kids and families.

I could go on, as there were many more excellent layouts, but this post is long enough as it is so I'll leave you with those appetisers, and point you on to the rest of the photos here.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Preparing for Narrow Gauge South

With Awngate being exhibited at Narrow Gauge South at Winchester this coming weekend, things have been getting a but frantic. I've got this week off work, the idea was to have some family days out, but between the rain showers and my daughter having chicken pox, outings have been somewhat limited. This has meant I've caught up on the progress I had hoped to make by now.

One job I have been meaning to do for a while is to try and get the station roof to sit correct, as it has a habit of pinging off the support legs which lean inward too far, making the roof sit too high. It may not be obvious, but it looks wrong to me. The solution was to drill a hole in the top of the support post and insert a piece of stiff wire (paper-clip), as shown above. Not so obvious is that the roof (upturned in the foreground) has a similar hole for it to locate in. This is just enough to hold the roof and support together securely, as shown below.

The engine shed has been painted and detailed, at least as much as I can for now, but more on that another day. While bedding it into the scenery I tried out a new toy - this static grass applicator bought off ebay for £10. All right, it is just an electric fly-swat mated with a tea strainer, but for that price it was worth a try, and first impressions are that it works well. Now a £100 branded device might be better, I don't know, but it is a lot better than the puffer bottle and a fraction of the price of the brands...

Further to the experiment with magnets in the last post, I have fitted the ends of the train cassettes with pairs of magnets beside the track. The idea is that as the loco stops on the non-powered loco cassette, the magnet uncouples it from the train. Some manual shuffling may be required but it should be much easier to separate the loco than before. As the magnets are at the rear of an outgoing train there should not be unwanted uncoupling.

I have also been cleaning wheels and testing locos, as well as checking everything is ready. I must find the drape to hide the trestles ... anyway, still lots to do. However if you can make it to NG-South this weekend (it promises to be an excellent show as always) do come and say hi!
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Monday 9 April 2012

A tale of two magnets

You might remember a little while ago I bought some magnets:

The idea was to use them to replace some of the cupboard catch magnets under the track on Awngate, as some were not working very effectively. To space them sufficiently far apart I used a steel nut that happened to be a suitable size.

 The magnets were then affixed under the track in the existing hole, having removed the old magnet. The picture below shows the new magnets and nut (right, the blu-tack was holding it while the glue set), with an old pair of cupboard-catch magnets (left). The difference in size is apparent!

Sadly this didn't work as well as hoped, although the couplings swung over there wasn't enough pull to separate them when coupled. Also it had proved tricky to centre the magnet under the track. However my experiments on the workbench had shown good results with the magnets to the sides of the rail, so I cut away the ballast and the ends of one sleeper outside the rails just enough to slide a magnet in. This went down to the baseboard, as the track is laid on 1/16-inch cork the magnets on edge sat level with the foot of the rail.

The picture below shows how unobtrusive this is - the front and middle tracks have had the new magnets fitted - again one has blu-tack to hold it as I made the hole too big. This proved to be much more effective than mounting them under the track. They have since had a few grains of ballast on top and to fill any gaps, and have been painted to match, blending them in nicely.

If these work better in-use than the other cupboard catch magnets I might replace some more, it wasn't too hard to do. In any case, it's useful to know for future reference, as no baseboard holes are required.
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Friday 6 April 2012


The forecast was fine, so what better family day out than a trip to Hollycombe? I've known about the place for some years, so it was nice to finally get there. It describes itself as a "working steam museum", and has a collection of steam traction engines and rollers, a fairground of mostly steam-powered rides, and of course a steam railway. Well, three actually! A short standard-gauge line, a 7 1/4 inch miniature line, and a more extensive 2-foot gauge line.

The pride of the line is "Jerry M", a Hunslet 0-4-0ST that originally worked at the Dinorwic slate quarry in North Wales, one of a pair used to shunt the lower level it is somewhat bigger than the typical "Quarry Hunslet". I built a model of this design many years ago, so it was nice to see one for real.

The standard gauge line seemed to be under redevelopment, and wasn't giving rides, but there was an interesting steam tram loco on display.

The miniature line has this interesting loco, I think it is based on the style of the Heywood 15-inch gauge "working" miniature lines. In which case at about 1/2 scale it is a miniature model of a miniature railway...?

The funfair was huge fun too, with a collection of historic fairground rides. Most were steam powered, and all were superbly kept. Several were being worked by steam provided by a "portable" boiler, so their own boilers were out of action, which makes sense in terms of maintenance but the experience was no less authentic. I think our favourite was the big wheel.

I've not even mentioned the traction engine ride, or the other displays including old farm equipment. There are lots more photos, which you can see here. The kids loved it, we all had fun, a great day out.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

The smell of paint...

A good few evenings have been spent over the paint pots recently, and the shed has acquired some colour.

I tend to do painting in batches, so before starting I assembled the whitemetal workshop details, and gave them a light coat of Halfords primer.

Here is the painting tray ... you may spot some other projects in the paint-shop too, more on those shortly!

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