Friday 29 December 2017

Christmas projects!

I hope you all had a good Christmas!

I must have been on Santa's nice list, as he's left me a nice pile of projects...


There's one of the lovely new Bagnall side tank kits by Narrow Planet, complete with Minitrains chassis. Then there's two coaches, a fine example by Peco and a flat-packed pack of potential by Meridian. Oh, and a caravan...


Not just projects but some winter reading in these very nice books.


Not railway related, but more making fun!

Happy new year, and happy modelling!

Monday 20 November 2017

Progress with the NS2

I've been making irregular but steady progress with the Narrow Planet NS2 kit I got last Christmas. It's not a difficult kit at all, but I've been tackling it alongside (i.e. in gaps in) other projects. My first step was to blacken the etches, which helps paint to adhere later. I'm using some gun blue applied with a cotton bud.

The etches were sprayed with an etch primer, while the 3D print was given a normal primer (both Halfords). The print was given a little attention with emery paper and home-made sanding sticks (emery paper glued around a coffee stirrer) between each of two or three coats of primer to ensure a good quality finish on the areas that would be visible (bonnet top and sides, and under-frame). Even though it's a top quality print a few minutes work between coats of paint is a worthwhile investment.


The etches were then assembled - here you can see their lighter shade shows the etch primer, compared to the slightly darker shade of the standard primer. They fit well but once again, to get a good finish I filled any gaps (you can see the green filler) and spent a little more time with the emery paper.


As usual the Microtrains couplers took some thought to mount, though the solution proved relatively easy. I drilled four holes in the coupler block at the corners of the slots, put a fine coping saw blade through a hole and cut out the square opening. A similar square opening was needed in the buffer beam behind, making space for the coupling draft box. After painting a wire pin will be passed through the buffer block and coupling to secure it in place.


Handrails came next, and those bonnet panels needed a lot of handles! As the etches are laid over the print they needed drilling out too, with a fine bit in a pin vice. The 0.5mm wire was bent around the flat nose pliers, you may be able to see the mark I made where the width was correct to form the handle to a "U" shape. The strip of 20 thou plastic was used to space them equally from the sides while superglue was applied from inside.


So it just needs the cab roof adding, then I expect another coat of primer before the top coat. I've not yet decided on a colour, though I'm quite tempted by red for a change, as on this NS2f, though the wasp-stripes may be a challenge!


Monday 13 November 2017

WD Hunslet finally complete

This has been a long project, started over a year ago, using the Langley kit for a War Dept Hunslet 4-6-0. However it proved a tricky kit to build because of the extensive modifications needed to the chassis, and in particular the valve gear. Thanks to the help of a friend with spare parts and much advice on the NGRM forum I've made it through, but not without long periods where the project got put aside through frustration. This is how it looked in February:


The body went together with little problem, and proved to be well detailed. I replaced the cab roof with one bent up from thin brass, and added handrails, pipes, and actuating rods from wire. At this stage the body had been blackened in preparation for an etch primer - the blackening doesn't do much to the white-metal, but I think it helps the paint stick. The problem was at this stage it still didn't run smoothly.

Apart from the broken part, the challenges with the chassis were:
- The motor on my chassis lay horizontal, the body needed it to be vertical. It wasn't difficult to change but clearly not all Minitrix chassis are the same
- Once apart, the wheels and gears are a devil to get back together, with the pick-ups too
- The driving wheels are not all the same size!
- Then the crank pins will be out of sync, so the rods will bind. I think I took 4 or 5 attempts to get the chassis back together and the rods to go round
- Much adjustment and fettling was needed to make sure the bits of valve gear don't foul
- The cylinders are a long way forward, probably a mm or so too far, so the valve linkage binds from being over-stretched. Again much fine adjustment, and bending the piston supports back ever so slightly

Finally I've got it complete, and running smoothly without jolts and binds. OK, the Minitrix mechanism is very noisy, but that is normal! But I cannot recommend the kit to the inexperienced.


This view shows the wheels nicely, the trick of carving back alternate spokes and using filler for the balance weights is really convincing - removing one of the big problems with N-gauge chassis of too many too fine spokes. The pony "disk" wheels should probably have more of a profile but it's better than spokes.


After priming, filling, rubbing down, and more priming, a can of Halfords black enamel did the body, with the smoke-box and roof brushed with a slightly more matt black with a hint of grey. Buffer-beams are two coats of red over a coat of white to make them bright, plus brass on the brass bits and gunmetal on the grab handles. A dirty wash was applied to the chassis, footplate, bottom of the boiler, tank tops, with some dry-brushed soot on top and rust in a few discreet places. After a spray of Testor's Dullcote a dusting with weathering powders for soot, ash, and track dirt in the appropriate places finished the job, just leaving glazing (Micro Krystal-Klear), plates and coal to be fixed


The result is a fine looking, hard worked but reasonably well kept loco, and should look at home shunting goods at Awngate or hauling passengers to Hexworthy. It's been a challenge but I'm glad I persevered, and thanks to all those who helped along the way.

Thursday 2 November 2017

Expo Narrow Gauge 2017

Last Saturday was the annual Expo-NG show at Swanley in Kent. This is the biggest annual show in the UK narrow gauge modelling scene, and as well as a selection of layouts in different scales from around the UK and beyond, there is excellent trade support from the specialist suppliers - many of whom are rarely seen at shows. This year the show seemed a little smaller than usual (by a couple of squash courts), but this was down to the layouts present being smaller on average (but no drop in quality or, I understand, number), and fewer entries to the Dave Brewer Challenge - at least compared to last year.


Unusually for me, one of my favourite layouts was large scale, and of an overseas prototype. Mer les Bains (1:32, 32mm gauge) by Peter Smith was full of French atmosphere, with a high level of detail and finish.


Another favourite was Lambton & Verdane Regis Tramway (O16.5) by Stuart Marshall, a freelance street tramway that had a cohesive and convincing feel. I heard this won the Reinier Hendriksen trophy, which I think was well deserved.


Creech Grange (006.5) by James Hilton is a superb if tiny piece of modelling. James has used Busch HOf (6.5mm gauge) mechanisms to model a 15" gauge estate railway, scratch-building loco bodies and rolling stock from a variety of methods including some 3D printed. As an illustration of how small this is, the standard gauge siding is EM (or possibly P4).


Another tiny but detailed layout is Castle Quay (009) by Chris O'Donoghue, which shows how much can be packed into a small space (a wine box in this case) in 009. The tall net sheds set the Sussex coast setting, while the boats started off as souvenirs from seaside shops.


Underhill Town (009) is a larger layout by John Wooden, showing several stations along his imaginary line. The towns were delightfully detailed, but my favourite scene was this beach halt, where the view was downhill towards the sea - an unusual arrangement that worked really well.


Holbeach Estates Railway (009) by Stephen Sullivan captured the wide open spaces of the fens, with the workings of a potato estate railway. The collection of small i/c locos was fascinating, these are tiny in 009.

Now on to the Dave Brewer Challenge, which this year was for a diorama featuring a halt. 5 entries made it, and all were well modelled, so the judging must have been tricky.


Promontorio (006.5) - Danny Figg. Feel the heat!


L'Arret - Coleville-sur-Orme, 1944 (1:35, 17mm gauge) - David Hughes. Very fine modelling, though arguably more military than railway.


Kin Tore Halt (O16.5) - Edward C M Florey. A modern preservation scene, and at least the lack of trains can be explained...


Gibbet Hill Halt (Nn3) - Simon Hargraves. A rural idyll. The realism in this scene is amazing considering how tiny this model is!


Halt at major road ahead (006.5) - Steve Pearce. This was the winning entry. I wonder if it is because it was the only one to feature a complete train, or because of the humour? The scene is just after a farmer's truck collided with the brickworks train, and while the drivers argue, others are trying to catch the geese that have escaped from their broken crates.

So another cracking show, and I could go on with more photos, but this post is big enough as it is. If you've time to browse some more I've posted an extensive collection of pictures to Flikr.

Monday 23 October 2017

Top quality layouts at Uckfield

Last Saturday I set out over the South Downs through gale force winds to the annual show at Uckfield. I've found in previous year's that this show has a record of high-quality layouts, some from far afield, making it well worth the trip, and this year's billing looked just as promising. The venue is not large, but the emphasis is on quality rather than large layouts, and covering a variety of interests - including some narrow gauge. In addition the show attracts some specialist traders that don't do many shows. Anyway, enough waffle, here are some of my favourite layouts...


Denton Brook (O & O14) by Giles Favell, a layout I've watched develop on the NGRM forum. On the face of it the layout is simple, though well executed, however it is brought to life by the working features - working hoist, radio control lorry, and even fully working mobile crane.


These are fascinating to watch and reflect Giles' superb skill in making them work so well, and look so good at the same time.


Arun Quay (Finescale O) by Gordon & Maggie Gravett. Well known for their superb scenic modelling skills, they have returned to Sussex for inspiration to their latest, superbly detailed layout. I like the neat trick of showing the quayside from the landward side, with the river and distant scenery painted on the misty backscene, which is hung an inch or so beyond the quayside "edge" of the layout. Not only does it look natural it saves modelling the water I guess...!


Bridport Town (O16.5) by David Taylor is a convincing and characterful freelance narrow-gauge layout. I've admired David's work since I saw pictures in Railway Modeller years ago, and it was a pleasure to see it close up.


Another characterful layout that is part of a well-thought-out freelance line is Moorton Bottom Yard (009) by Paul Windle, and as well as the brooding warehouses and last-of-the-summer-wine terraces it features a working wagon hoist. Paul is of course an accomplished 009 modeller well known for his locos (I have a few) and scenic layouts.


Six Quarters (OO) by Oliver Turner captures a bleak, winter's day, depicting an NCB coal yard, and is a refreshing change from so many layouts. Everything is weathered and toned down, and the scene just really works. This is another layout I've seen develop online on Oly and Chris's blog, and it was good to see it in person.

All good layouts, worth seeing if you get the chance. And that's not all, I ran out of space here but there are more photos and layouts over on Flikr.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Fitting Magnets

Before going much further I needed to fit uncoupling magnets. I find the Microtrains surface mounted magnets work well, but are too long, so I snap them in half before fitting them. They stick up between the sleepers so while they can be disguised as board crossings, it is nice to have hidden magnets in some places.

In the past I've had some success using cupboard latch magnets set below the sleepers, though on Awngate they needed strengthening with neodymium magnets attached to them - I think the plywood baseboard diminished their power too much? Heworthy has a foamcore base so I think they should work well.


The staring point - a pair of B&Q magnets. Bought in packs of 10 they work out quite cheap.


The magnets are popped out with a screwdriver and snapped together, the magnetic field is between the large faces, and two together is wide enough where one would not be. This time I attached the steel plates to the outside as I think this will "focus" the magnetic field at the poles in the same way they do in the cupboard latch, or a steel pin does through an electromagnet.


The completed magnet assembly, and an oblong hole cut through the baseboard under the track. The foam core is at least easy to do this with a sharp scalpel - with plywood the hole would have to be cut first.


From above, the cupboard catch magnet is rear right, under the sleepers, the Microtrains surface mount (cut in half) is front left. At this stage the cupboard magnet seems much more powerful than the Microtrains one, but ballasting may change that.

Now I shall have to do some testing to check they work well, and that I have them in the right places.

Sunday 8 October 2017

Tests with Stones and Windows

Not happy with the moulded stonework sheets, and not having had great results with clay before (except for cobbles), I've decided to experiment with foam sheet - and scribing the stones by hand - as I've seen others do this with impressive results.


The lower piece is a pizza base, the oblong piece on top centre is from a pack of foam I picked up years ago, I think it was marketed by Busch or Faller though I've not seen it since. I've looked for the blue foam others have used but can't find a local stockist. It can be found on ebay or online but can work out pricey with postage, and I fear it may get damaged. Anyway both these foams seem to work OK and I don't need a great deal.

Also shown are the implements I've tried. The right-hand and lower of the centre areas were done with a sharpened HB pencil, but I think the courses are too thick for 4mm scale. I guess mortar is an inch or two thick at most in a stone wall, so well under a millimetre. The upper centre and lower left were done with a 0.5mm propelling pencil, which I think looks better. The top left corner was done with the dental implement but I found the long point difficult to control.

So a promising test, though I suspect my stones are a bit too regular. I gave the test pieces a wash with brown acrylic. Looking at the way this has collected in the mortar courses I think I'd be better starting with a wash of grey, then dry-brushing browns on top. I've seen pastels used with great effect for stone colouring, so I might even give that a go.


I've drawn out the station building, reducing it's length by 20 mm, which I think will look better. It's marked up with measurements - as I can't draw lines all over the foam and rub them out, this will help me mark it out neatly.


The next big question is windows. Top we have a moulding by Dornplas, nice and fine but lacking detail - they don't look like sash windows. On the right is a Wills set, the lower ones of which look really nice - but only two on a fret so I don't have enough and I'd need several packs! Sadly the others, like the Dornplas ones, lack sash detail. Those lower left I picked up from a second hand stall, but I think they might be Peco. They have nice sash detail, though the mouldings are a little thick - I tried thinning one with a fine file but I'm not sure it improved it, just made it wobbly!

I've noticed some nice ones from York Modelmaking - a bit pricey though:

The other option is of course making my own. I've done it before but it's fiddly, and I'm not sure I can do better than these.

Monday 18 September 2017

Rail painting

While thinking about buildings and backscenes, I thought I'd use a sunny afternoon to get a simpler job done - rail painting.

2017-09-17 16.08.14

So the garden became my studio... at least until a very black cloud appeared!

2017-09-17 16.09.19

I mixed up some enamel paint to a reddish brown, based on some photos of track at Amberley.


It makes a surprisingly big difference to the look of the track, though the rail looks rather heavy at this angle. Lots more to do, the sleepers could do with being a little lighter and after ballasting, a thin wash will be used to tone things down.

So, back to thinking about the buildings...


I've got three types of embossed plastic stonework: Wills (left), Slaters random (middle) and coursed stone (right). The question is which is most appropriate for Dartmoor. As a comparison there's a close-up of the bridge below.


The other option is scribing DAS or similar, which I'd rather avoid!

Sunday 10 September 2017

Mock-up Station Buildings

After a few doodles, I spent some time this afternoon with some of Kellog's best quality cardboard and a pair of scissors, creating a mock-up for Hexworthy's station building. It may be the only significant building on the layout so it has to look right, and it has to fit the constrained and odd shape site.


As the end of the line the station building looks relatively large for a narrow gauge line, I imagine it would need living accommodation for the station master (who was probably also booking and goods clerk, and possibly signal man too). It's not grand though, and I've used dormer windows to keep the height moderate and give a Dartmoor style. The line near the bottom marks the approximate platform height.


At one end is a small goods shed, in the preservation era setting this will become the cafe with a glass french door in place of the wooden sliding one, hence the siding stopping well short. I'm also planning to add a canopy to the front of the station building.


From above it fits the site quite well, though I wonder if it is a little long. I may see if I can shorten it about 10%.


This view shows most of the layout with the building sitting in place - quite comfortably I think.

Thursday 7 September 2017

Happy 10th Birthday!


It's ten whole years since I started this blog.

It was a bit of an impulse, as I realised how easy it was (I already had a Google account). I thought that as well as documenting my modelling projects it might help encourage me to make regular progress with them, and I think it has - although like most people I guess my progress ebbs and flows according to enthusiasm, energy, and other commitments. I'll admit to wandering off-topic occasionally, but I've managed to keep posts reasonably regular.

I started with a post about Southon Yard, my shoebox layout, and then Pen-Y-Bryn Quarry. Both these 009 layouts were built as EXPO challenge entries, and I have since built two more challenge layouts - taking the opportunity to dabble in O14, which I'd been hoping to do since my teens. I've really enjoyed these small, detailed layouts, learned a lot from building them and the stock to run on them, and it's surprised me how many people have said how much they liked them, indeed two of them were challenge winners. Thakeham was also my first layout based on (rather than just inspired by) a real place, albeit not terribly accurately!

However the thread running through this blog for the last decade is Awngate, the 009 shelf layout I was planning when I kicked off the blog. It's met the brief of being an interesting but compact and presentable home layout which can be (and has been) exhibited, and only now am I working on a replacement. As a spin off I've learned lots about fiddle yards (!), couplings, achieving good running, exhibiting, and built some interesting locos and stock.

How long this will last I don't know, my fotopic site disappeared while Google changed Picasawebs into the far less useful Google Photos, necessitating a switch to Flikr. But Blogger seems to be hanging on for now, I'm still enjoying the ride, and there should be lots to post about with a new layout brewing. A big thanks to all of you that read this, and especially the helpful or encouraging comments (on or off the blog). I hope you continue to find it interesting!

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Shiny and not-so-shiny at the Bluebell Railway

Last weekend we had a family day out on the Bluebell Railway. This is our closest big preserved steam railway, so one we visit fairly often, but it's always nice to ride behind a steam engine.


Our train was pulled by this immaculate BR class 5.


This delightful pre-grouping loco was being prepared outside the engine sheds. Replace the plastic buckets for metal, and the aluminium ladder for a wooden one, and this scene could be 100+ years ago.


No this isn't some kind of tribal dance, or strange version of tennis, but the exchange of single-line tokens between signalman and loco crew.


The SE&CR "P" class locos have a light-railway charm about them that is rare for main line company locos.


Taken from a moving train and slightly out of focus, this picture of a Sentinel is interesting, and not just because I have a similar Hornby model somewhere. Comparison with the railway website picture shows how much it has faded, and it's a good example of weathering on a workhorse locomotive - even on a preserved line. The brake dust, rain streaks, and generally used appearance (without being in any way neglected) is what I was aiming for with my diesels in the last post.