Monday, 8 July 2019

Wagons and a digger

Back in March (at the Alexandra Palace show) I made a pair of wagons to carry a mini digger using the 009 society RNAD flat wagons, as a preserved railway permanent way train to run on Hexworthy, and I've only just got around to painting them.

To add interest to my usual wagon grey I thought the ends would look good picked out in yellow, and suits the PW train. The ramps were also yellow, but well distressed with rust and gunmetal as they would be, having a digger drive over them. The wagons got the usual dirty wash, some dry-brushing and a dusting of weathering powder before a spray of Dullcote matt varnish.

The digger also got a dirty weathering wash, using a cotton bud to add streaking. This was used over the windows too, cleaning with the cotton bud, while a brown wash covered the tracks. Pipework was touched in black, with gunmetal on moving parts, and dry-brushing for rust and bare metal - such as on the shovel. I added weathering powders too, but I've not varnished as it would fog the glazing.

The digger can still be removed and posed - it is held with a small magnet - but I've had to glue the ramps and packing timbers along with the jackhammer attachment onto the match truck. It took me a couple of attempts to arrange these in a realistic manner.

While the paints were out I completed this wagon built from another 009 society kit, which I'd also built back at Alexandra Palace. It's iron bodied so for a change I went for a red/brown oxide colour, and weathered as a coal wagon. It's a nice size wagon - small but not tiny - and I've a couple of wooden ones to built, but I might have to get some more.

I just need to fit couplings to these and put them into service. That digger might have work to do at Hexworthy.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Backscene Part 2

Although fitting the back-scene had appeared to go well, after a few days I noticed a ridge in the middle. I'm not sure what went wrong, but probably I'd not kept enough tension on the paper while sticking it down. Attempts to smooth it down didn't work, in fact they seemed to make it worse. From some angles it wasn't too obvious, but from others it was - and once I'd noticed it I knew it would always bother me.

So after mulling it over I decided I wouldn't be happy with it, so ordered a replacement, only one of the two sheets was needed as the short right-hand piece looked fine. The question was how to make a better job of fitting it at the second attempt, especially as experimentation on the old piece showed the print is damaged by masking tape.

I decided on a 2-step approach. First I applied PVA glue to the first inch of the backboard, I don't know how well it will hold the plastic-backed print (experiment on an off-cut suggests sufficiently), but it did allow the back-scene to be positioned carefully and adjusted, checking the edge is neatly against the fixed piece and it unrolls straight.

When I was happy with the position the glued inch was weighted and left overnight.

Back out in the garden with everything (including the rolled back-scene) masked for the spray glue. This time my wife helped, while I  unrolled the back-scene carefully keeping it straight and under tension she smoothed it down a little at a time with a cloth, working away from the glued edge.

And it worked, a week on there is no sign of ridges or bubbles. The lesson I think is that tension must be kept evenly on the paper while applying it, and it's a two-person job to do properly.

The join between the two pieces is much neater this time too, here it will be partially disguised by trees but it isn't that obvious. It isn't nice deciding to re-do a job, but I'm glad I did.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Down-pipes and details

More progress has been made with Hexworthy station building. The barge-boards have been painted, first grey - a similar shade to the slates, ensuring to cover the edges and there is no white visible. The colour was then painted on, but leaving the top edge grey to disguise the fact it is outside the slates, rather than under them. Although a bit of a cheat this has worked well, and it is certainly not obvious that the barge boards are not quite where they should be.

The other obvious change is the down-pipes are now fitted, having been painted matt black (along with the gutters) and super-glued to the walls. I confess I didn't bother with gutters and down-pipes at the rear of the building as it will be very hard to see. The chimney pots are also painted and fitted, though the chimneys have yet to be glued in place.

Not so obvious but internal walls are now fitted, and floors prepared. The interior is mostly painted grey for a "shadowy" interior, but the booking hall, ticket office and goods shed have pale walls and brown floors in case they are more visible.

At the other end the toilet block roof is painted - matt grey covered with talcum powder is ideal for felt. A down-pipe has been fitted going up inside the fascia board, with a hole drilled in a corner of the flat roof suggesting the drain.

The heating fuel tank is a Bachmann item, and has had a dirty weathering job so is ready to be planted, it will probably be partially hidden by bushes and flowers in due course.

I've been pondering how to finish the roof, it looks to consistent and clean, so I put together a small test piece - imagine it in quarters. The right-hand half was given a dirty black-green wash of well thinned enamel, but this has just darkened the paper slates. The lower half was treated to a mix of black and grey weathering powder, brushed over and into the cracks, I think this is much better at disguising the (slightly oversized) cracks and giving some variation of shade.

I picked up this container for the yard some time back, but while the paints were out decided it needed weathering - heavily. I rubbed off some of the lettering with a fibre-glass pencil, then gave the whole thing a wash of black-green enamels, wiping off any excess with a cotton bud and causing downward rain streaks. This collects in the detail nicely. A little rust was dry-brushed on, particularly the corners and outer corrugations, and the door closing bars. Finally a little weathering powder and a spray of Testors Dullcote to seal and it is ready.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Hexworthy - station building details

It seems a long time since I posted progress on Hexworthy's station building, but alongside other projects I have been chipping away at finishing it off. Starting with the top down, I needed chimney pots, and having trailed around the Alexandra Palace show searching, they are something that seem surprisingly difficult to buy. In the end I decided to just use plastic tube, a basic approach but seemed to work well on the Petite Property kit I built.

I've a cheap and cheerful chopper tool which rarely gets used, but it worked well here, with a steel square used as a length gauge, and made chopping a dozen pots to the same length straightforward.

The base is a couple of layers of 40-thou black plasticard, with holes punched in the top one and opened out to take the pots. Simple in theory but tricky to get all the holes lined up and without distorting the plastic too much, and the pots all in straight, however it seems to have worked out well enough. Once solid the tops were all levelled by sanding.

With hindsight I should have fitted the barge boards, then slated over the top edge of them, but I didn't so I used thin plasticard (10-thou) and tried to not make it too obvious that they don't sit under the slates. Cutting them to get the angles neat takes time but I think the result will work. The 3mm wide boards hide any gaps under the roof nicely, though I'll have a challenge painting them without getting paint on the slates!

The gutters are a cheat, they're a strip of 40 thou black plastic with the front lower edge rounded to a curve with a scalpel and emery paper. Hint - do this before cutting the strip. The rear of the strip is stuck under the edge of the roof with about 1mm showing. The gutter is obviously solid rather than hollow, but no one will see, helped by shaping the end of the strip to a small "D" shape.

This shot reminds me I'm not happy with that roof valley. Again with hindsight, painting the roof valleys lead grey would have been a great idea before slating it, now I'll have to think of a solution.

The toilet block has gained a roof too, a simple flat roof with edging boards, and covered in strips of masking tape to represent felt.

Finally for now, down-pipes are made from 1mm plastic rod, with support brackets stuck on from microstrip. With a few to make I used a simple jig, double-sided tape on a piece of glass, and marks on masking tape. High-tech it isn't, but when making multiple parts it does help. These will be fitted after painting, though I confess I've not bothered with gutters and down-pipes for the rear.

Now somewhere I have a nice moulding for a station canopy valence, but can I find it now I want it? I'm still pondering whether the station needs a canopy, but as a preserved railway station (especially in an area with a reputation for being wet!) it probably should have one.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Bachmann Baldwin

This is an excellent time for 009, with several ready-to-run models now available, including locos from Heljan and Bachmann as well as several suitable Minitrains locos. I got a Heljan Manning Wardle because of my early narrow gauge inspiration - the Craig and Mertonford, and because they are elegant locos. The WD Baldwin is, on the other hand, not a pretty loco, and maybe I'm shallow when it comes to choosing my NG locos, but it is a versatile choice for a model - hundreds of these locos were built and they ended up on many railways around Britain, and indeed the rest of the world too. So actually on a freelance narrow gauge line a Baldwin will look at home, but the Manning Wardle will forever be associated with the Lynton and Barnstaple.

So when I spotted Rails of Sheffield were selling the Bachmann model at a bargain price I thought it would be rude not to get one. This is the Welsh Highland Railway version, in plain black. It looks very finely detailed, cleverly designed with daylight visible under the boiler, and blackened valve gear (hurrah!). It runs well too, though not as smoothly as the Heljan - I suspect the coreless motor doesn't like my controllers - but it does stay on the track which is more than can be said for the Heljan loco out of the box!

Since I'm not modelling the WHR I'll loose the "590" on the side (any suggestions how to get it off?), finishing as a generic black loco - perhaps with a nameplate - will mean it will look at home on any model set from the 1920's onward. I'll probably dull down the black a little, it looks a bit plasticky to me, but  only lightly weathered to serve as a preserved loco on Hexworthy, while still passing for an industrial loco if I need it to. At least that's the plan. It won't be easy to paint though with all that detail, and no apparent way to separate the chassis, so might need some thought first.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

North Wales Narrow Gauge

Back in half term week we spent a few days in North Wales with some friends. Of course no trip to that area is complete for me without a visit to the Ffestiniog Railway. Although I'm a member of the FR society I only get to visit every couple of years or so.

We joined the train at Blaenau Ffestiniog, where Merddin Emrys was looking in fine shape.

The sun was shining at Porthmadog, where Garratt 138 was preparing to depart.

Also Linda was giving footplate rides for charity. It's nice to see her gleaming in the sunshine, as one of my favourite engines.

We passed David Lloyd George at Tan-Y-Bwlch, in a classic FR scene.

Since we were staying at Rhyd Ddu it would have been rude not to ride the Welsh Highland Railway, and why not since it was typically Welsh weather!

I still love the ride into Porthmadog, over the Britannia bridge and down the street.

Out and about we also saw the Llanberis Lake Railway, though didn't have time to ride it. Here's Dolbadarn passing Dolbadarn Castle. I'm really looking forward to the Bachmann models of these popular little locos.

And a quick snap of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, though not the best angle. I'd love to ride this line, but it is very expensive, and has to be booked well in advance at busy periods. So we walked up the hill instead.

So an enjoyable time in one of my favourite parts of the country. Beautiful scenery, and lots of steam trains. What more could you want?

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Book Review: The Southwold Railway

Another book review: The Southwold Railway, 1879-1929.

I love books about obscure and characterful railways, especially narrow gauge lines, and the Southwold ticks all of those boxes so perhaps it's no surprise that I enjoyed this book. It's a classic book of the type too, a good quality hardback with an attractive dust jacket, and covers the history of the railway including the various proposals, building, operating, the route and stations, and the locos and rolling stock, so it is everything you would expect.

There are three authors listed: David Lee, Alan Taylor, and Rob Shoreland-Ball, and the introduction sets out how their work has come together. Rob is the main author, building on and including the work of David and Alan. This can mean there is a little repetition in places where the subjects of different chapters overlap, but the book is logically structured and presented, and easy to follow, with a consistent style.

Actually the text is well written and easy to read, and a good balance is struck of interesting detail without becoming dry. The photos are well reproduced and captioned, and clearly referenced in the text - a nice touch. There are plenty of maps, diagrams, and drawings too - including of course locomotives, stock, and some buildings. There's even a chapter on operation which describes train consists, and how shunting took place, a topic that could easily become dull yet does not. So there is plenty of detail for modellers and enthusiasts, but the story of the railway told in a way that even non-enthusiasts would find easy to follow.

Although a good friend of mine has modelled the Southwold Railway it is a line I knew little about, this book has introduced me to the railway with enthusiasm, and I have to say the love the authors have for the line, and keeping the memory of it alive, shows through. The book finishes with a summary of the Southwold Railway Trust, what they have achieved and their plans for the future.

So if like me you enjoy reading about long forgotten railways, you will like this book. It manages to be a historical record while remaining engaging to read and showing warmth for it's subject.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Goodbye Awngate, hello Hexworthy

A big event happened at the weekend. Awngate has moved on to a new home. It's been growing on my mind for some time that I would have to dispose of the layout in order to make room for Hexworthy, I just don't have space to keep it safely. So when someone at an exhibition last year commented how they'd love to buy it if I ever sold, I said I'd give them first opportunity when the time came. And that time has come.

These are the last photos I took of the layout in the condition it sold, with the original cassette fiddle yard. I have to say I've been very pleased with the way Awngate turned out, an excellent home layout with plenty of operating interest in a small space, and has shown that a small well-presented layout can reside in the house, it has also proved a good exhibition layout.

In fact it was my first "proper" exhibition layout, rather than a micro or Expo challenge, and although primarily intended as a satisfying home layout it was designed with exhibitions in mind. The plaques show it has attended a good number - including some of the top NG shows - though I think there's at least one plaque that never got attached, and a few shows without plaques. Who knows, the new owner may exhibit it too.

Awngate was also the seed that started this blog, with the idea that blogging as I went might encourage me to make better progress. I think that's worked, and it's been great hearing from people who say they read about the layout on the blog. It's also nice that many people have commented at exhibitions or online about how they like the layout - that's a great encouragement.

So maybe I should feel sad about moving on from Awngate, but I don't. I've had my enjoyment from building and showing it for the last 11+ years, and I am happy that someone else can get some enjoyment from it, rather than it deteriorating, being broken up, or worse - ebay!

Meanwhile the shelf in the dining room has been filled by Hexworthy. Out with the old, in with the new. Hopefully this will mean faster progress with the layout?

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Adding light to Hexworthy

I've already described making the lighting pelmet, which was then painted along with the layout itself. A little secret, I've already described the lights too. Last year I got a strip of "Natural White" (4000K) LEDs to experiment with, with this embryonic layout in mind. However in the event it was my son's micro layout Slugworth that got to use them first. That did show the lighting was very effective and a good colour balance, and only used 1m of the 5m length, so I had plenty left for Hexworthy.

The strip is self-adhesive and can be cut at the marks every 3 LED's. Easy enough, but it didn't stay stuck to the ply even though it is painted, and even after a layer of PVA was tried first. The solution was to spread contact adhesive over the wood, then when it was tacky stick the self-adhesive strip to it. So far that seems firm enough.

The "holy grail" of lighting a "cameo" shelf layout like Hexworthy is even lighting, including right to the front of the layout. It's difficult because we want the lighting neatly tucked out of sight in the pelmet, but really it needs to be high up and well out front - where the viewer is. LED strips are good at distributing light with minimal shadows but putting them right over the models only lights them from above. I chose to add the main strip towards the back of the pelmet bar, putting it about 2" or 3" back over the layout facing down, then a second strip split between the front fascia facing backwards, and the underside of the beam facing downwards but right at the front of the layout. Hopefully this puts plenty of light at the front. Ideally the strips would be at an angle facing the layout, but I couldn't find an easy way to do this. A hot glue-gun was used to cover the ends of the strips, securing them and protecting the soldered joins, and also to secure any loose wires.

The view of the whole beam shows the arrangement of strips, plus the foil I pushed into the front edge to hopefully reflect and diffuse any stray light. The strips were joined by soldered wires, taking care to match the "+" and "-" marked on the strips (I hadn't thought of this when sticking the strips down so some are the other way round, not a problem as the wires can be crossed provided polarity is matched), and joined by a terminal block at one end. I added 5.5x2.1mm DC connectors to both ends of the pelmet - because it might be useful being able to plug the power in at either end - and bought cheaply as a pack of 10 pairs I might as well use them! These connectors have screw terminals but no way to secure the socket in place, so a big lump of hot glue is used, along with a couple of screws so they can't pull away.

As there is more lighting than Slugworth I thought Hexworthy needed a bigger power supply. The LED's use about 1A per meter, not knowing how many meters I'd use I went large and got a 6A supply - plenty as it happens, but I'd rather know it isn't overloaded. It wasn't expensive, and a sealed plug-and-play unit is convenient. I was disappointed to find it fitted with a 13A fuse though (the mains side is rated at 1.5A), I've swapped for a 5A for now as that's the smallest I had in, but will find a smaller fuse.

All plugged in, and we have light.

In situ in the dining room, and with the building in place, the light is bright - actually, maybe a bit too bright. There is a reasonable amount of light reaching the front of trains on the station track, even with the lighting bar in the flush position, though as expected moving the lighting bar forward really helps with light on trains on the front siding. I don't think any further light will be needed at the back of the layout.

When I bought the light strip I also got a dimmer switch, being ridiculously cheap and thinking it might come in useful. The easiest way to try it seemed to be to attach in-line plug and sockets, and fit between power supply and lighting.

It's not easy to illustrate the difference with a photo, which exposes for the amount of light, but it does allow the light to be dimmed without affecting the distribution or colour of the light. Incidentally it doesn't dim all the way to off, but switches off from a low brightness. The dimmer allows the light to be adjusted to the light in the room, but I may yet experiment with just dimming the rear strip while keeping the front strips brighter.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Hexworthy Back-scene

In my previous post I'd described how I'd taken the back-scene photos and created a panorama.

I'd come across through members of the NGRM forum, who do custom back-scenes as well as a range of standard ones, so I contacted them with my big picture and carefully measured dimensions. John at Art Printers was most helpful, discussing the best way to crop/stretch the panorama to fit the layout and other edits (he could have created the panorama too if I hadn't already). We ended up with a little cropped from the ends, and a slight vertical stretch to the final image. When I was happy the back-scene was printed and dispatched immediately. I chose the premium option which is more hard-wearing, and I thought the price was very reasonable and the service excellent.

The back-scene was printed to the dimensions I requested, but with a small margin, which I trimmed easily with a scalpel, using books to keep the rolled paper flat while I did so. Because my scene went over one roll of paper I needed a join, which I had arranged to be towards the right-hand end where I expect to use more trees. It did give me an off-cut of blank back-scene paper for a trial run, so I found an off-cut of board in the garage, took it outside, sprayed the glue on, and stuck the blank paper on. I know that sounds weird, but it prepared me for how the real thing would go!

The next step was to dry-run the back-scene, and check it fitted. I needed to trim where it fits under the bracing at the ends, and figure out exactly where the two pieces joined. I marked the join with a pencil line. The next thing to think about was how to stick it on straight and in the right place... the dummy run had showed that the glue was strong, and although the paper could be pulled away gently if not firmly stuck, there wasn't much hope if it had been pushed firmly down.

I decided to hold the back-scene like a scroll, holding against the baseboard so it is level over the back-scene (layout on it's back) , line it up to a mark, and press down. So I put a clear mark in a place that would later be hidden, about a foot from the end.

The dummy run had also showed that the spray glue got everywhere, so the rest of the layout not already masked up from painting was masked up, including the top edge of the back-scene board, and the layout set outside on it's back on the trestles - also masked as best I could. Then a last check the board is clear of lumps and debris! The glue is simply Wilkinson's own brand as that's all they had. It was sprayed liberally over the back-scene board, including up the end boards right up to where they meet the "wings" at the ends. The glue instructions say to cover both surfaces, but that would't be practical so I just sprayed the wood, and to wait 5 minutes before sticking together - but I had a lot to stick, so gave it just a couple of minutes before starting with the longer back-scene.

And a few minutes later the job is done. Despite my best efforts the longer scene is very slightly skew, and has risen about 3 mm by the far end, but it fits and looks fine, the gap at the bottom will be hidden by scenery. Wit hindsight a second pair of hands might be helpful here, to ensure it is held in line with the baseboard and pushed down at the same time. The shorter piece was butted up to the first piece and fortunately the join is quite neat. Best of all the premium paper has gone on smoothly, without wrinkles or bubbles or tears, and is stuck firmly - even in those curved corners. Overall I'm very happy with how that went!