Tuesday 20 December 2016

Internal Combustion for the future generation!

Last Christmas my Son was given an Airfix kit for an Internal Combustion Engine, and last weekend we finally got around to building it. It's a pretty big box, and like all Airfix kits, is full of plastic moulded parts - the smaller ones on sprues. We found a pair of side cutters ideal to remove them. Also included is a pack of screws and a screwdriver for assembly, no glue required for this kit! Most of the parts assemble and work in the same way as in a real engine, which is both educational and exciting, the engine block is clear while some parts are moulded in different colours so they can be seen operating.


The engine stands on a base containing batteries and a speaker for the sound effects, while round the back there is a motor fitted as a starter/flywheel assembly to turn the crankshaft and make the bits go round. There are also "spark plugs" which flash at the point of ignition.


Assembly took a good couple of hours which my Son seemed to enjoy, judging by his enthusiasm, and he was rather proud of the result. The instructions are straightforward and include a good explanation of what the parts represent, and how the real engine works, while for the most part the kit seemed very well designed and made, although the screws (which are self-tapping) were rather stiff to put in, and I had to help tighten them using a slightly larger screwdriver.

However, the spark plugs are not marked for which cylinder they should go in, meaning they could be assembled to flash at the wrong point in the cycle. This seems odd given the detail of the design of the kit elsewhere, for example the cams are marked for position and orientation and slide onto a D-section camshaft so they work correctly, while other parts had to be correctly aligned to slide onto their shafts, there is even a "timing tool" to ensure crank and cam shafts are correctly phased. Since engines are my business I looked to see when the front (No. 1) cylinder was at top-dead-centre firing and inserted the plug that flashed then, and seeing the model followed convention of 1-3-4-2 firing order, inserted the rest in turn to match.

Nonetheless, it's an impressive kit that's a must for all young aspiring engineers and petrol-heads. But you want to see it working, don't you?

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Uckfield Show 2016

A little while back - well, 6 weeks ago - I went to the Uckfield Model Railway Exhibition. This, as I discovered a few years ago, is always an excellent show with good quality layouts and a range of useful traders.


Star of the show for me was High Stamley (009) by Paul Windle. Paul is well known as a master builder of 009 locos (I have a few in my collection), but also builds superb layouts. This one may not have a lot in it, but is full of atmosphere - here the loco sits along side the road, the water crane swings out.


Even the road vehicles operate on High Stamley - that's an idea I'd like to use one day.


Castlederg (0012) by Andy Cundick is a model of the station of the Castlederg and Victoria Bridge Tramway in Ireland. A fine example of prototype modelling, and another side of Narrow Gauge modelling.


I do like Portwenn (O-16.5), now owned by Si King - and good to see it in safe hands.


A stand-out layout was Brixham Bay (N) by Kevin & Judith Cartwright. To be honest the trains are a small part of the well presented layout, the buildings and backscene are superb and detailing - including the planes overhead - really sets the WWII scene. It even gets dark - with fibre-optic stars!


Finally Wadebridge (2mm Finescale) by John Greenwood, although incomplete it looks great, and clearly will be of a consistently high standard despite the size.

That's just a selection - there are a few more photos to enjoy here. But I'm sure it gives a taste of the quality of the layouts.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Dave Brewer Challenge - Tuning Fork Layouts

In my post about EXPO-NG last week I missed out a substantial section of the exhibition, the Dave Brewer Challenge layouts. Some years the challenge attracts a handful of entries, this was clearly a more popular year as there were 18 entries that made it to the show. The brief was a "tuning fork" layout - that is, a single point - with a size restriction of course, and yet there was a great variation in the layouts, and the range of imaginative settings. Some had finescale standards or obscure gauges, some had working features, some had stunning scenery, some characterful dereliction, some good presentation. Undoubtedly the standards were high, and judging must have been tough...


The winner was Creag Dhubh Summit in 009 by Ted Polet. As well as meeting the challenge, this serves as an extension to Ted's well-known Craigcorrie & Dunalistair layout based in Scotland, the layout represents the terminus of the branch to the summit of Creag Dhubh. You might detect that it is heavily inspired by the Snowdon and Isle of Man mountain railways, and the combination of a convincing premise and superb scenery make it a worthy winner.

This shot shows Creag Dhubh Summit linked to the extension/link piece "the ridge" that links the challenge entry board to the rest of the layout; these two sections sit over a fiddle yard on Ted's home layout.


Runner-up was The Scrapman Cometh, an O14 model by Pete Wilson. Capturing the dereliction of the end of the working slate quarries in North Wales, it featured a working stub point for double-flanged wheels - clever, as well as characterful.


One of my favourites was Beta Cables, this model based on a real factory with a 3' 6" gauge line was modelled in 4mm scale, with 14mm gauge, by Stuart Brewer. So a technical challenge, with prototypically unusual locos and stock, well executed and smartly presented too.


Lost River Logging Railroad in HOe by Peter Smith depicted a US logging scene, with a well detailed sawmill and even logging line track with round-log sleepers.


For more originality and technical difficulty, look at Rantners Wharf in 009 by Roy Jamson. It featured a working swing bridge with interlaced / gauntlet track through the elongated point.


While Letter to Goathorn (in 7mm scale, 26.25mm gauge) by Peter Hollins had real water!


Weston Zoyland in 009 by Toby Hollins-Jones was based on the preserved pumping station. I've never visited but the layout perfectly captured the scene from the photos I've seen. with suitable exhibits - even steam from the chimney of the stationary engine. An impressive model, and as I understand, built by a teenager.

I've not space here to show all 18 so I must stop there, but you can see them all here. I'm sure you'll agree that once again the EXPO challenge has successfully demonstrated the broad nature of narrow gauge, and a high standard of modelling. 

Sunday 30 October 2016

EXPO NG 2016 - The Layouts


Another EXPO NG, and as usual, a great day. Thakeham ran without problems, which is always a relief, and received many nice comments. I'd been concerned my son wouldn't be up to helping out, as he'd been suffering a rotten cold, but fortunately he was sufficiently recovered to come, and again was a great help with operating the layout - which meant I got time to look around in breaks between operating. At least at EXPO operating never got too monotonous as there was often someone to talk to, so thanks to those readers who introduced themselves (which just proves there are readers too!).

The show had many great layouts - of which a few are shown below - but also some of the best trade support of any show, for narrow gauge interests. I did find time to pick up a few bits and bobs that will make their way into future posts I'm sure!


My son's favourite layout - and probably mine too - was L'Aubraie (7/8" scale, 45mm gauge) by Bernard Junk. It featured a working excavator to fill wagons, which were then tipped into a waiting lorry...


However it was the incredible detail that made the layout stand out, and that was done with a level of humour...



The Corn Mill (009) by Henk Wust, Derk Huisman, and John & Jane Jacobs, had impressive scenery.


Up The Line (O-16.5) by Kevin Hughes was a detailed and atmospheric depiction of the War Dept Light Railways of the Western Front in WW1.


P'tit Train se la Haute Somme (009) by the Association des Modelistes d'Amiens Longueau is a model of the line of that name in North-East France. Impressively presented, it was like a series of paintings, but the trains moved.


Grindley Brook Wharf (009) by Tim Ellis is already a favourite of mine, and deserving winner of the Reinier Hendriksen trophy for best freelance layout.

I could go on, but I'll overload this post. So do browse the 70 photos I've put in an album for more quality narrow-gauge inspiration! As for the Dave Brewer Challenge, well that was almost an exhibition in itself, so I'll come back to the entries in another post!

Friday 28 October 2016

Thakeham Hunslet and preparing Thakeham for the return to EXPO

So last night, after some burning of midnight oil over the last 3 weeks, I completed the Hudson Hunslet.


The last week has been painting and weathering - which I'll come back to in another post. The blue came out a little darker than I expected, but looks good, and I'm happy the loco is recognisable as the unique Thakeham example!


The layout was of course completed years ago, but I have still made some minor changes. For example the old man walking his dog didn't really seem to look at home, and in dark clothes was easy to miss. I've since found this plastic figure, which I've painted up in brighter colours and equipped with a dog lead (brown paper!), I think she looks much more natural.


I also wasn't really happy with the the tree at the front of the layout - a home-made effort, the shape of the trunk wasn't right. For speed, and frankly because it looked better than any I've made, I bought one at the Uckfield show to take centre-stage. My tree was moved in front of the engine shed, where it seemed more at home, and the weedy trunk and branches less obvious. While at it I've improved a few bushes and added some grass tufts.


While building the loco I carried out some clearance tests - fortunately the cab missed the bridge handrails (not by much), and fitted the buildings. Some plastic was removed from the tipping mechanism, but the main issue was the long overhang of the cab meant the wagons stopped short of the tipping dock. So the track needed extending about an inch. The rails were unsoldered to slew them parallel to the "wing" of the layout, the last sleeper removed, and a piece of copper-clad inserted extending all the way to the end of the new additional length. I've soldered rails on too, though I'm not sure they are needed - it's the overhang that's the issue. A new and more substantial buffer stop was soldered up and a foam block protects the loco. The copper-clad track is self-supporting but I added a block of wood to protect it.


I've even made a few extra sand "loads" for the wagons, and adjusted the collecting bin for them. So other than a few last-minute checks and packing up, I'm ready for EXPO-NG tomorrow. If you're there do say hello, you'll find me opposite Narrow Planet, just round to the left as you enter the hall.

Friday 21 October 2016

Thakeham Hunslet - Adding The Details

After a few long evenings I've finished the Thakeham Hunslet ready for painting.


One problem I had was fixing the chassis. At first it was a tight fit where the motor fits through the footplate, but that was working loose and the bolts that held the chassis together were holding the footplate up, so it wasn't really held securely. I made up plastic ends to the chassis that are held on by the bolts as well as epoxy, these not only provide a platform for the body but have "wings" that allow holes for securing screws. Under the footplate more plastic was added to rest on them, and allowed a couple of self-tapping screws to take hold. Result, it may be crude but the chassis is secure!


Up top, I've got rather carried away with the detailing. Having such good reference photos it was hard not to, and with such an open bonnet area the detail can be seen, so bits of plastic, microstrip, wire, etc. were used to represent the visible parts. The castings for the radiator, engine, clutch, fuel filter, and coupling block have been used from the kit, but the bonnet had to be made to fit.


I even reproduced the levers and rods that form the modified cab controls. The kit does include the controls for the "standard" loco as built, but the modified Thakeham loco controls were easier to make from plastic and wire. So the driver has hand throttle, clutch foot pedal, two levers to select gears and a ratchet lever for the hand brake.


Engine bay details added include the starter, alternator, and batteries, though the latter are separate for ease of painting. I've added some rivets from glue, though they may be a bit over-size. They aren't too obvious though, like those on the prototype.

Last week I was discussing the model with Chris Ford, and whether I could find a suitable driver. The next day he passed me some figures. As he'd predicted, the plastic figure was somewhat of a midget, but this whitemetal chap looks just right - though being so far from the wheelbase I was worried about weight distribution. In fact the engine, radiator, coupling and other castings make the front so heavy (OK the bonnet is stuffed with lead too) that the addition of the driver, even so far back, nicely puts the centre of gravity between the wheels. He's got a pin up is posterior though, to make sure he doesn't slip off the seat!

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Thakeham Hunslet Progress

Earlier in the year I mentioned starting on a model of one of the Thakeham Hudson Hunslets, using the Nonnesminstre kit as a basis. I'd prepared a motor bogie, and assembled the frames and footplate. In July I managed to take measurements of the prototype thanks to the helpful folks at Amberley.

Then, out of the blue, I was asked if I could take Thakeham Tiles to EXPO-NG as another layout had pulled out. Since Thakeham was built for the EXPO Dave Brewer challenge three years ago I'm delighted that the organisers think it worthy of showing again, in it's own right, as it were. However it struck me that if I was going to build a Thakeham loco to run on the layout, now is the time!


So the dimensions were translated to a scale drawing, albeit at 1:40 scale to match the kit (slightly over scale for 1:43) and a couple of tweeks to match the kit frames. Then it was time to start cutting plasicard to see if I could get the cab looking right. I find calipers invaluable for marking up plastic; as well as setting and transferring measurements, they can score a faint mark which with pencil rubbed in, becomes the cutting guide.


The cab sides are 20 thou plastic with the roof, floor, front, and rear from 40 thou. The windows were a challenge, the beading is formed from micostrip, which is then shaped with a fine blade and emery paper to give a rounded appearance. It's a little over-scale but they are a distinctive feature so needed to be present. Glazing has been cut to fit, and put away for later. Getting the tapered front to the cab to fit together was tricky too.


The next challenge is the bonnet. The prototype has an extended bonnet from the original loco, so the kit component wouldn't work. An inverted tray was made from 40 thou plastic, with a triple layer top for shaping, and internal bracing. Once the curve looked right, a sheet of 10 thou plastic was fitted over, warm water helping the shaping. As with the prototype this finishes short of the cab, sitting on the fuel tank.


So the outline shape comes together, so far it looks OK but there are a lot of details to add. Nothing is assembled yet.

As a reminder, here's the prototype. You can see how open the internals are, with just some linkages and cables filling the space behind the engine, which adds to the challenge of a convincing model!


Monday 26 September 2016

WD Hunslet - Valve Gear

After a summer of very little modelling, for various reasons, it's been nice to get the modelling tray out and pick up a project I started a while back. This is the Langley kit for a War Department Hunslet 4-6-0, which fits a much-modified Minitrix 2-6-2 chassis - those modifications being the most complex part of the kit!

So far I have successfully dismantled the chassis and cut the block to shape, moved the connecting rod from the middle to front wheelset, attached the bogie and front frame, and started re-assembly. The cylinders move forward, and this leaves the con-rod and valve gear at a bit of a stretch, while the tab on top of the slide rods glues under an outrigger.


Except here's the problem. The mechanism binds, and I'm certain it's because where the crank pins are furthest from the cylinders the valve gear is pulled tight, and just won't go any further. I suppose I could shift the cylinders back a mm or so, but I don't think that's right. Also the plated metal valve gear means the tab on top of the slide bars doesn't want to stick to the whitemetal outrigger, even superglue gives way. Plus the bottom of the valve gear is frighteningly close to the track.


So on the other side I've modified the outrigger, trimming the back of it so that the shiny tab sits on top of the rear "shelf". It will still need gluing but it is held more securely. This will be hidden by the side tanks too, so big blobs of epoxy might be in order. The result is the slide rods are lifted at least 1mm relaxing tension on the valve gear at full travel, and giving more ground clearance too. I've also rotated the cylinder slightly closer to the horizontal to line up with the slide bars - I think they look closer to the prototype pictures, plus that moves the face of the cylinder back a fraction.

So far so good, I'll do the same to the right side and see if it rolls freely. But I've already spotted another question...


The cab front and back-head has a slot for the motor, except the motor is too wide to fit. Unless, as shown, the motor is rotated 90 degrees to the vertical - where with a little filing it should fit. However the instructions don't mention this, and as the rear plastic support would need removing, and new connections making to the pick-ups as well as a means of stopping the motor spinning, I'm sure it would be if that were intended. Given the motor will be inside the cab either way I see little advantage, so I'll probably be grinding away a lot of whitemetal!

I will finish by mentioning the wheels, as N-gauge wheels don't look good on a 009 model. As well as filling the front wheels to make prototypical disc wheels, I've added balance weights to the drivers from filler.  But there were still way to many spokes, and cutting some away would be very difficult without damage. I decided to cut back alternate spokes - they are still there, but recessed so they are less visible, The remaining spokes will be highlighted when painting hopefully giving the impression of a 6-spoke wheel (the prototype had 7, but close enough) rather than 12...

Saturday 24 September 2016

Worthing Exhibition 2016

I enjoyed a visit to the Worthing model railway exhibition with my son today. I'll start by being a little controversial: at first I found a lot of the layouts a little uninspiring... perhaps it's because my tastes are a little off-beat, perhaps because there was no narrow gauge (I made it 10 OO, 1 EM, 3 N, and 1 O, which could be considered a poor balance), and arguably a rather narrow range of themes (BR steam dominated). Maybe a lot of club layouts, which can tend to be unadventurous - and a number of them are widely seen. However I should say it wasn't a lack of quality, the layouts were a high standard, and the selection probably appealed to most visitors. There were a couple of layouts with over-loud DCC sound which quickly became tiresome, which I moved on from pretty quickly (when it can be heard across the room it is definitely overdone!) , a shame as the modelling was good on both. Anyway, here's a few of my favourite shots, click on the pictures to see them larger.


I did like the simplicity of Foldham (OO, Mike Denwood), which showed that a compact and easy to build layout could be attractive. Details like the burnt out shed gave it life.


Kayreuth (N, Ian Hogben) is a German crowd-pleaser layout full of cliches and trains (and trams) whizzing by. But it is well built and detailed, giving it character beyond the commercial parts that make it up, such as this well-modelled motorway (autobahn) contraflow.


New Bridge Street (OO, River MRC) is compact and well detailed, with a strong setting (London), this street scene caught my eye.


Pevensey Beach (OO, Pevensey Bay MRC) is a nice layout, but it is the station concourse that really caught my eye. The detail of the building and canopy is well executed, while the cut-away building showing the parcels office interior is an unusual (and brave!) move.


Summer Springs on the Cut (OO, Andrew Knights) is already a favourite of mine. It's an idyllic and well-modelled scene, which will hit a chord if you ever read Arthur Ransome.

So that shows I did find quality and inspiration. The trade support was good too - some good second-hand stalls (good for my son to spend his pocket money), and my usual favourite (Squires - I always find something I need!), plus some specialist traders as well as the bigger shops.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

A Sentinel... or two?

Every now and then a model comes along that you can't resist, even though it doesn't suit your layout - or even fit the track! Well, look what I've got:


It's a Hornby Sentinel. I do like a small industrial loco, especially with outside frames and whirly rods, even a diesel! This type dates from the early 1960's and some are still in use I believe, so could be suitable for a wide span of periods, although the livery may be a bit modern for earlier times. It's actually an incredibly well detailed model, down to the sand pipes and windscreen wipers - and for that it's very good value. I've not yet had chance to run it, I'll have to persuade my Son to get his train-set out this weekend...


I have to confess it's not the first Sentinel I've got - I have one of the steam vertical boiler locos too. Two generations of industrial shunter, now where are those plans for a shunting layout?


Sunday 4 September 2016

Another Month...

..Another of my locos on the front of the 009 News!


The article though is by Martin Collins about the Sussex Downs group layout, the Upsand Downs and Everleight Light Railway. The photo was taken at EXPONG by Mich Thornton, where I'd placed my then recently completed Hunslet in front of the engine sheds (most of the club locos were in use with the entire layout in action). It couldn't haul any trains due to different couplings, but added a bit of interest. The loco on the right is one of Martin's Varikits, and like the Hunslet sits on the Minitrains F&C outside-framed chassis.