Wednesday 30 December 2015

Christmas is a time for receiving...

Well Christmas is much more than that of course, but I did receive several excellent gifts of relevance to this blog!

I had an airbrush as a teenager but after a couple of cans of propellant I gave up. Having read George Dent's book (which I was given for my birthday) I thought it time I tried again. This time having been given a compressor and a more suitable airbrush I feel better equipped - looking forward to giving it a try! I also got some Vallejo paints to use with it.

My first Peco R-T-R product, one of their lovely coaches. I'll admit it isn't really at home at Awngate though!

Other gifts included a couple of RNAD wagon kits, a Knightwing kit for an Atkinson steam lorry, and a guillotine cutter - which should be useful for plasticard.

Christmas has included much time spent with family around the country, but so far no modelling. I hope you enjoyed yours, and wish you a happy new year!

Monday 21 December 2015

The Night Mail

Recently it was my Son's Birthday. He's been asking for the Mallard for some time, so despite being surprisingly tricky to find right now (it had to be blue, apparently) we managed to get him one. While ordering I discovered Hornby still do the Night Mail coach. Now when I was a kid I remember playing with one at a friends, thinking it was so cool, but never got one myself - so I had to get my son one!

This is based on the mail coaches that used to run along the main-lines, picking up mail, sorting it, and dropping it off all without stopping, speeding through the night. That sounds exciting, but the reason I'd thought it so cool was that it operates; it is supplied with some small red mail-bags, a track-side hook and reception bin. Ramps fixed in the track actuate levers under the coach causing it to grab the mail-bad from the hook with a plastic "net", and drop it in the reception bin with another plastic "net".

Well as I can't show that with photos, for the first time on this blog, let's try a video:

All great fun - and yes my Son likes it too! 

Not much actual modelling to report recently - the run up to Christmas always seems so hectic. So Happy Christmas, and back to modelling in the new year! 

Friday 20 November 2015

Last Train to Evaleight

Expo-NG was billed as the last showing of the Upsands Downs & Evaleight Railway, so it was appropriate to run a last train along the complete line. Thus towards the end of the show an unusual consist was formed at Upsands Harbour, with 8 coaches it was double the length of a regular train. It was both double-headed and banked by three Hunslet 2-6-0 tanks rather similar (but very slightly smaller) than those on the Tralee & Dingle Railway.

Shortly after leaving Upsands the train comes to Gryndene Halt.

The lead loco proudly carries a suitable commemorative headboard courtesy of Narrow Planet.

At Wharf Cut (if you are thinking that station name is missing an awful pun, the W has fallen off the sign) the special train passes a quarry train returning from the brickworks, presumably for the last time. Of course the train is too long for the loop, so other trains had to be diverted to the fiddle yard to clear the line.

The viaduct is usually a good place to photo a train, but this one doesn't fit in shot.

After the final tunnel the special train passes the brickworks, where the battered diesel shunter is parked up. Here we just get a glimpse of the banker loco just exiting the tunnel, but the strain of three mechanisms started to trip the controller so the banker was decoupled here.

Crossing the level crossing on the curve into Evaleight, the railway PW depot is in the foreground.

Entering the station, with the goods yard to the left.

The "last" train actually managed a few trips up and down the line by the end of the show.

So what now for Evaleight? Well there are no immediate plans, but a new smaller and more easily transported layout is being planned. Meanwhile the smaller modules (Evaleight and Upsands) may still get exhibited individually, subject to sufficient estate cars being available, and there is a proposal to rebuilt parts of the layout to allow a smaller version to emerge - so not all of it will get sold or broken up.

Monday 2 November 2015

EXPO NG 2015

It was a long weekend. We set out soon after 3pm Friday to pick up the layout, which filled a van, two estate cars, and a small hatch-back, with no space to spare. The convoy then set off - in search of a suitable dining place! Refreshed we resumed the journey to Swanley and started the unloading and setting up. With my 8-year old Son I had to leave for the hotel first (it was in any case a very late night for him!), but we were back at 8am to finish the set-up.

The layout ran reasonably well despite a few niggles, and occasional chaos when we got confused over the sequence. But the testing and practice paid off, and we kept things moving, though over lunch-time lack of operators meant the brickworks and quarry were "mothballed".

So show viewing time was limited, but I did get an hour or so - and I was pleased to see Ynys Gwyntog (in O14) by the late Bob Barlow, editor of Narrow Gauge and Industrial Railway Review. I missed seeing Bob, although I'd only met him briefly on a few occasions and exchanged emails, he was always bubbling with friendly enthusiasm. It's great to see he was a truly accomplished modeller too.

This model of  the Talyllyn Railway in 1865 (the year it opened) in 5.5mm scale, 12mm gauge, by Tim Ticknell, is unusual and fascinating. We're used to seeing Talyllyn and Dolgoch preserved and shiny, or decrepit and just holding the line together, but in brand-new condition in a relatively bare landscape makes an interesting scene.

I'd been looking forward to seeing Creech Bottom (009) by James Hilton since seeing it on-line, and in Railway Modeller a few months back. It has just as much atmosphere in the flesh, and Jame's superb loco collection looks right at home. It just shows that simple can be so very effective.

I've been watching Tom Dauben develop Isle Ornsay (009) for some years and it now looks largely complete - though Tom would point out there is a lot still to do. The scenic work is top notch already though, and I don't think I have ever seen sea modelled so convincingly as that. Even without a train this scene is full of interest and character.

I could go on, there were so many excellent layouts, but instead I'll point you to the full set of photos I've uploaded. I got a lot of pictures, partly to compensate for having little time to look at the layouts, but some are rather hurried. Apologies if I saw you but didn't have time for a proper chat, or just missed you, but even so it was good to see so many familiar friendly faces.

Finally, Peco had been entrusted with Heljan's prototype Lynton & Barnstaple Manning Wardle 2-6-2, due to be released as the first mass-produced ready-to-run 009 loco sometime next year. Andrew Burnham obviously decided it needed to be demonstrated on a layout, so it appeared at Evaleight:

My shots are not great as first I was the wrong side of the layout and had the backscene in the way, then found the viewing side was packed with people wanting a good look! Anyway despite being without livery and appearing to have had some demanding testing already, it looked finely detailed and seemed to run very smoothly. I'll have to start saving....

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Preparing Evaleight for EXPO

This coming Saturday is the EXPO-NG show, one of the highlights of the narrow gauge modeller's year. And the Sussex Downs 009 group have been busy preparing for some months...

The Upsand Downs and Evaleight Railway is an extensive layout built by members over several years, though it was largely completed some 10 year ago. It is a whole-system model with two termini, a couple of intermediate stations, a quarry and a brickworks which provide the reason for the line. It can be operated to a sequence which reflects the traffic on such a line, so trains run with a purpose.

It is modular in design so that each of the stations can be exhibited on it's own or with part or all of the rest of the layout, though it has only infrequently been exhibited in it's full form. The truth is it takes a lot of effort and a van (plus several cars) to transport to exhibitions, and a good turnout of operators to do it justice, so usually a small part of the layout is shown. But it's still difficult to exhibit and with fewer members able to dedicate the time needed to exhibit it, and our van-owning member trading it in for a car, the group is planning a new exhibition-friendly layout.

So EXPO-NG this year is being billed as the layout's final showing, although parts may get re-factored into a smaller layout this is the last time we'll be running the whole layout. Since it is rarely assembled completely we've spent the last few months checking it over and test-running. We've run through the whole sequence several times (serious stuff this, playing trains...!), and I've even brought my son to a couple of club-nights to train him up as an operator.

Having had no part in it's building I can say I think this is a cracking layout, superbly detailed, and there are few layouts seen at exhibitions that show a (near) complete railway system, so it is quite special. If you are at EXPO do look out for the layout (I believe we're in one of the squash courts off the main hall) and say hi.

Sunday 18 October 2015

A trip to Uckfield

In the peak of the exhibition season is the Uckfield show, one that stands out in my eyes as somewhat above average. And I don't just say that as I took Awngate there last year! The focus is on interesting layouts with good scenics and stock, in a variety of scales and themes, that are inspirational and enjoyable no matter what your particular interests are.

There were so many layouts I liked it was hard to narrow it down to a few favourites. One was Heybridge Wharf by Mike Corp, a 3mm scale (14.2mm gauge) light railway in Suffolk, it packed a lot into a small space and looked superb.

Oldshaw in P4 (Alan Bevan & Maggie Clark) shows that a "modern image" (well, 1980's) theme can have character and operational interest in a compact space. The appearance was just the right level of weathering and subtle tones without looking decrepit and depressing. And while I'm not usually taken with DCC sound the noise of that class 37 shunting reminded me of hearing ICI trains from my Geography lessons.

Obbekaer is a finescale HO (P87) layout by Geraint Hughes is based in Denmark, so a railway system I have no knowledge of. But again here is a simple concept of a passing station, beautifully executed with interesting details. This was my son's favourite, so to have captivated an 8-year old without fast exciting trains says a lot.

Rolvenden (Robin Gay) here modelled in P4 is a prototype that is well known, but not easy to model as convincingly as this. The fine trackwork of P4 really does add to the light-railway character, and the locos and stock recreate the quirky trains of the real line.

Now what scale would you guess this is? I'd be happy with a model of that quality in OO, but this one is 2mm finescale, and as you can see below the layout is tiny - the scenic area is about 2' 3" long - and was built to be carried in airline hand-luggage. On top of that the subject is a real place - or at least a small part of the Kyle of Lochalsh, the lighting and backscene really set the feel of a misty Scottish harbour.

I'd better stop there but really all the layouts were excellent, and there was good trade support too, the only problem being that it was rather crowded on Saturday morning! You can view more photos and more layouts at this link.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Taking a ride by model train

On Sunday afternoon we happened across the Worthing and District Society of Model Engineers running an open day for their 5" gauge railway. They hold public running days a couple of Sundays a month from April to October, and have a selection of nicely made and kept locos to give rides around the track.

These little locos are not only superbly detailed models, but surprisingly powerful too. As well as the 5" gauge there are rails for 3.5" and 2.5" gauge models.

The track is raised with carriages that passengers sit astride, and loops around the field twice in a folded figure-of-eight format. Going under the bridge (which is taken at speed ready for the gradient beyond) which has rather limited clearance was rather exciting for someone as tall as me! During our visit four trains were circulating, kept safe by a proper block signalling system with 3-aspect colour lights.

Good to see they have a sense of humour too. If you don't get this, it goes back a few years.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Awngate at the Croydon Show

So, how did it go? Well, the new fiddle yard did play up on the Saturday. After some confusing symptoms, I think the main issue was just the nut coming loose from the pivot bolt, which is also an electrical connection. It certainly worked fine on the Sunday, and was much easier to use under exhibition running than the cassettes it replaced.

The layout ran well though with little attention. The new locos got plenty of running, and other than some couplings playing up (despite extensive testing some will always misbehave) there were no stock issues.

The show was nice and friendly, with a good selection of layouts. I do like Portchullin by Mark Tatlow, the scenery is superb and it has real atmosphere, despite being a P4 standard gauge diesel DDC with sound layout!

Narrow gauge was well represented, with 5 layouts in total. Puero Pasco in On30 by Giles Barnabe is a little different, being based on an imaginary Caribbean island, making for rather busy operation.

John Thorne's 009 layout Bottle Kiln Lane is always popular at shows, and is packed with little details.

There are more pictures here.

Now with the layout back home and set up in the dining room I've reverted to the compact version of the cassette fiddle yard. I don't operate intensively at home, and my wife had made comments about the larger fiddle yard...

Tuesday 29 September 2015

A Coach and some wagons

The upcoming exhibition at Croydon this weekend, to which I am taking Awngate, has pushed me to finish some projects that have lingered on the workbench.

A little while back I briefly featured a coach I'd started building. It's a Five79 kit RC810 for a Dundas Tramway coach, nicely moulded and went together very easily - until I got stuck with the couplings. A bar is provided to attach Bemo type couplings to the bogies, but that wouldn't work with the Microtrains couplings I use. I didn't need them attached to the bogies as the couplings pivot, but the wheels are so close to the end of the body mounting the couplings behind the buffer beam would foul them. So the kit sat half-built while I pondered what to do.

As is often the way with these things the solution was simple. I added a "coupling block" to the buffer beam from plasticard, which provided something to mount the coupling on so it didn't foul the bogies. Such "outboard" coupling blocks were not unusual on narrow gauge stock, even the screw protruding slightly gives the impression of a coupling pin.

The coupling mounting arrangement is clear seen from the underside. In front is one of the four bench seats for the interior - a nice moulding that if available separately, could be put to many uses!

After the couplings were sorted it was a simple job to complete the build and paint it, weathered to a slightly grubby state. It could do with lamp tops, and passengers of course - but for now it is serviceable. It's a moderately tall vehicle but not long, and fits well with on the layout - ideal for mixed trains I think, with a few wagons and a goods brake van.

Talking of wagons a few have been knocking around the workbench - another RNAD van and Bagnal open, plus a couple of opens from the second-hand sales stand, they're less detailed but provide variety. I like NG goods trains to have a mix of wagons.

But I don't like wagons to be too clean! A few minutes work with a wash of acrylic "dirt" and a dusting of weathering powders really tones them down, the opens could now do with some loads. I'm working through fitting couplings, and checking/adjusting them on much of the stock ready for the weekend.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Finishing a pair of locos

It's nearly October, and I've just checked - it was June when I last posted about these locos! They've sat waiting for a few finishing touches, now with an exhibition looming it was time to tie up the loose ends and get them ready.

The Hunslet has been given a working "oily rag" look. This involves washes of acrylic paint over the loco - it seems not to stick to the shiny finish but working it in, and wiping off with a kitchen towel or cotton but eventually gives the right finish. Some subtle use of weathering powder is followed by a coat of Testors Dullcote - after all of which the over-shiny paint finish has just a dull sheen, and the loco has so much more character.

With a crew fitted the motor and flywheel are well hidden, the roof has been attached and couplings fitted. She runs well too I'm pleased to say.

With the Atkinson Walker I've gone for an even dirtier look, for a loco that is less cared for (despite being newer), or that has perhaps been recently acquired from a closed line. The same techniques were used, this time with the acrylic wash being brushed downwards in a rain-streaked fashion. This view shows the rudimentary interior: a representation of the cylinders and a some levers, along with a (leg-less) driver.

The exhibition is the Croydon Model Railway Society show next weekend - if you get there do say hi! I've got some more testing of couplings and stock preparation to do this week, and I'm hoping the new fiddle yard performs well.

Tuesday 22 September 2015


A few more pictures of the new fiddle yard, showing how it's attached to the layout. I'd managed to make it the same width of Awngate (20% by design 80% luck I think), so I was able to use the split-hinge method. These make a very strong and rigid join, provide good alignment, and are quick and easy to join and disconnect.

One hinge is attached to the back of the layout, quite high up, and at the front another was attached lower down - this explains the "pillar" at the front corner. I removed the "wing" from Awngate to fit it - it will be refitted over the top.

The original fiddle yard made electrical contact via wire wipers touching contact pads on the layout, so it made sense to use the same method for the new fiddle yard. I've used strips of brass, though I'm not convinced they are strong enough, but seem to work for now.

Finally a view through the fiddle yard towards the layout, I've allowed plenty of finger space between each track. The front track is aligned, meaning the back of the deck is only just clear of the wall to the right.