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.