Monday 31 October 2022

Trains and trams in Vienna

A couple of weeks back I was in Vienna on a rare work trip. It was nice to see loco-hauled passenger trains used from the airport, although it ran as a push-pull unit, rather like the old Gatwick Express I guess. 

The train passed a large railway yard. Not clear from this image I spotted this was a "hump" sorting yard, although the hump was partly obscured by trees as the train passed. I've read about hump sorting yards being introduced in Britain in the 1950s, but I don't think they lasted long as wagon load freight died out in the 1970s, and I've never seen one. 

The yard was vast, the gantries over the sidings are numbered to identify the tracks. It's like a full-size fiddle yard. 

These wagons brought new meaning to a "train of skips". 

I also spotted this traverser. It clearly moves perpendicular to the sidings, but is not recessed into the ground but running on rails at the same level of the track. It looks like it has ramps at either end to scoop stock off the rails onto its deck - rather like a Peco loco lift. 

I managed a couple of hours to explore the city, so I took a tram from the hotel to the centre. The one I rode like most was a modern, articulated type, as seen in many European cities. However, I did spot a few older style trams, clearly still in regular use. This looks like a 2-car unit with a trailer. 

I also spotted what looked like an even older tram sporting adverts for a tram museum. Sadly I didn't have the time to seek out the museum, and I don't know it the tram was in service or giving rides (there appear to be passengers on board), but great to see it running on the normal tram routes. 

The city is very nice, an impressive church and old buildings in the centre surrounded by very grand buildings housing museums, opera houses, and government buildings (including parliament). I'm glad I got a chance for a look round, maybe one day I'll have time for a longer visit.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Uckfield 2022

This weekend I was showing Loctern Quay at Uckfield model railway exhibition. This has a reputation of being one of the best club shows in this area and this year was no different. In fact this year it was bigger than ever with a large upstairs room added to the main hall and two side rooms, all of which were packed with high quality layouts covering a range or subjects and scales, and a good selection of traders too. I was in the upstairs room which I'd thought might be a quiet corner, but the show was busy all weekend (well until the last hour or two of Sunday), so I trust it met the organiser's expectations. As exhibitors we were well looked after, with a good lunch served in strictly timed sittings due to lack of remaining space! An enjoyable show and Loctern Quay attracted interest and nice comments. 

I can't cover all the layouts so here are a selection of my favourites, starting with the narrow gauge interest. 

Abergynolwyn by Tim Tincknell (5.5mm/ft scale 12mm gauge) - showing how it looked shortly after the line was built, with the original engine shed and cab-less locos (and a lot less trees!)

Cox Lumber Company by Alan Bevan & Maggie Clark (On30) - for the geared loco enthusiasts. An unusual subject nicely modelled. 

Sewel by Bexhill MRC (O-16.5), a model of a brewery. 

Blackmoor by Ian Lampkin (009) - based on the Lynton and Barnstaple prototype. 

There was also a demonstration stand by Gordon and Maggie Gravett, which gave a sneak preview of their next French metre-gauge layout. 

So a good range of NG layouts for a general show (including my Loctern quay of course). Now for some of the standard gauge layouts. 

Old Parrock by Paul Rhodes (OO). This small but beautifully finished layout represents a light railway deep in Sussex. 

Wantage by Robin Gay (P4) is a model of the tramway terminus which inspired the track plan I used (adapted and narrow-gauged) for Awngate. It's nice to see a scale model of the prototype with it's tight clearances, unusual track layout and construction, and quirky trains. Some of the buildings and details are not yet finished, so I hope I see this layout again. 

Lananta Quay by Nick Salzman (mm/ft scale 21mm & 14.2mm gauges) represented the GWR in the 1880s with both broad and "narrow" (standard) gauges, with a nice quayside and sailing barge as well as fine models of early railway vehicles, including "singles". 

Copper Wort by Peter Goss (OO) depicts a brewery and its railway set in Burton-on-Trent. Unusually built in an hexagon shape forming different scenes, and set in the early 1900s, it makes extensive use of industrial Peckett locos. This took the awards for both exhibitors and public vote favourites. 

Underpass by Robert Strachan (HO) is an Inglenook shunting puzzle set in LA, USA, in the unusual setting under an underpass.

Blakey Rigg by Paul Greene (S 1:64 scale) represents a bleak location in the North York Moors, and has captured the remote openness very well.

Friday 14 October 2022

Magnet markers

This week I've been preparing Loctern Quay for its outing at Uckfield model railway exhibition this weekend. Being a small layout this isn't especially onerous task, and thanks to the use of graphite I don't need to clean track or wheels, though the graphite is topped up in a few places. However the layout does get a vacuum and dusting with brushes, and a thorough test. All locos are tested including couplings against one wagon, and all wagon couplings are tested against one loco. A few couplings were adjusted, and one wagon which was reluctant to uncouple got a small block of foam positioned to rub against a flange. 

A couple of detail junk items have also put in an appearance. My assistant operators sometimes struggle to locate the magnets, now those on the front sidings are in plain sight but they do disappear when a train is over them, particularly the front siding, and the rear siding magnet is invisible under the track, so they do have a point. I figured a discrete marker by each magnet might help.

The chain I've had in the bits box for decades, I think it must be iron since it is attracted to magnets but it is plated in some shiny bronze-like material that resists paint. I tried applying gun-blue which had little effect but perhaps dulled it a little, so I dropped a length of it into gun-blue solution and left it for a couple of hours. As you can see, that actually worked. 

A length was then cut, roughly shaped, and dabbed with a little matt Modge Podge to see if that got it to hold its shape. That seemed to work, which allowed me to wash over some dark brown, then dry brush a little rust colour, followed by a dusting of weathering powder. The suitably grubby chain was then stuck in place alongside the front siding magnet with a little more matt Modge Podge. It's the first time I've used matt Modge Podge but I've heard it is a good scenic glue, drying without trace, and it seemed to work here.

The rear siding magnet got a couple of old sleepers. These are cut from Peco "crazy-track" with the webbing removed, the sides and ends roughened with a razor saw blade dragged across and rough emery paper, and the hole under the rail fixing filled with filler. They were painted dark "track" brown with the fixings picked out in rust, dry-brushed with pale grey, and then dusted with weathering powder. Matt Modge Podge was used to stick them down too, with a heavy weight to sink them into the grass. 

We'll find out this weekend if the markers help locate the magnets reliably, but hopefully they also add a little visual interest without looking out of place and being discrete as to their true purpose. If you make it to Uckfield - and I hear it will be a great show - do say hello, I'll be upstairs. 

Sunday 9 October 2022

A new fiddle yard for Hexworthy

Hexworthy was designed to use the same exhibition-friendly fiddle yard I'd made for Awngate, but that is large and not pretty, so for home use a compact fold-away fiddle yard was built with a simple 3-road sector plate. It's seen here before the boards were painted grey. The frame attached to the layout with split hinges front and rear for a rigid joint, and the board rotated around the vertically-mounted flat hinges to stow inverted over the layout. 

It worked very well being tucked neatly out of the way when not in use. However, after redecoration and reorganisation of the room the layout is tucked into a 6' space between a wall and a pillar. This means neither the fold-away nor the exhibition fiddle yard fit in the 18-in or so gap. 

My solution is a new home fiddle yard fitted around the pillar, which gives me the extra length needed to hold a train. 

A sheet of 5mm ply and off-cuts of softwood were assembled into this odd-shaped baseboard. It was a tricky board to make as there's no real datum, most of the side protruding above the board while none of the battens are full depth. The end is 3" by 1", the inner battens 2" by 1", and the thinner diagonal batten will I hope help resist any twist. The curved slot is for the sector plate. 

The split hinge alignment and joining method previously used worked well but getting the pin in and out was tricky and involved a pair of pliers, plus it would have required more height to the corners of the board. The club layout has adopted over-centre catches with alignment pins which are really easy to use, so I thought I'd give them a go. I bought packs of each from Station Road Baseboards. 

I got what are described as "bullet dowels" which have reasonably tight tolerance while being easy to fit, just needing a hole through the ends. The problem was I realised the ends of Hexworthy are just 3mm ply over 5mm foam-core board, which wouldn't be substantial enough to hold them, so I stuck blocks of softwood behind the foam where the holes would be. The boards were then clamped together, and pilot holes followed by the 7.5mm holes to take the dowels, the locations of the holes being dictated in part by where I could fit the blocks. The dowels then hammer into place, although where the dowels passed through the foam into the blocks I used a sash-clamp as a kind of vice to squeeze it into place, ensuring it didn't tear the foam apart instead. 

Fitting the catches was also limited by the existing boards, fortunately there are softwood blocks in the corners of the Hexworthy board but existing screws had to be avoided, and the end fascia panel had to be trimmed to fit around the catch. It would be much easier when building new baseboards to think about the locations of these catches first! Nevertheless, catches were fitted both sides. 

You may notice that the dowels and catches are handed, I'll have to adapt the exhibition fiddle yard to use the same attachments and this means only one more dowel set and catch set is needed. 

The new arrangement is much easier to connect and release, especially when reaching behind the layout on the shelf unit. The connection is not as rigid as the split hinge, which allowed one end of the layout to be lifted without any bend at the join, but having got the catches as tight as I could it seems good enough and the dowels make for just as good alignment. 

Now I need to fit the sector plate and tracks, although it might be a couple of weeks. Next weekend Loctern Quay will be at Uckfield, which looks to be an excellent show as always. Do say hello if you're there. 

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Fareham Railex 2022

Last Saturday I took a trip to the Fareham model railway exhibition. I'd not been before but it looked like being a big show, and there aren't so many local shows around at the moment. I was expecting the hall to be busy on a Saturday morning but it didn't feel crowded, perhaps because the large hall had been used to allow wide aisles. There was indeed a good selection of layouts, but here I'll just show the narrow gauge layouts. 

Derwent Road (O9) - Bill Flude

This model is inspired by the 2' gauge railway at Leighton Buzzard which carried sand, and was gradually taken over by a preservation group. Bill's freelance model has both sand and tourist trains (plus the occasional works train) with a similar setting between the road and modern housing, but is modelled to O9 so around 18" gauge. It's a fine model with varied trains. 

Hook Basin (1:25 / 16.5mm gauge) - Richard Williams

A large scale layout in a small space, which offers fine detail and characterful trains. There are two scenes, the wharf on the left where trains of skips are tipped into the waiting barge, and the station scene and engine shed on the right. 

Launceston Steam Railway (009) - Richard Holder.

This heritage railway in Cornwall is faithfully and beautifully modelled, and instantly recognisable to anyone who has visited. The locos and stock of the line are also modelled, including the iconic Welsh quarry Hunslets. 

Bluckless, County Donegal (OOn3) - Andy Cundick

Models of the Irish 3 foot gauge aren't common considering the number and mileage of lines that once existed. This simple station is nicely modelled, as is the loco and stock.

Avyn-A-Llyin (009) - Andrew Bailey

A classic from years ago this busy Welsh layout still looks good. The pier station is novel and superbly modelled, though it would look better in photos with a backscene! Nice to see it again.  

Bergeller Bahn (HOm) - John Laister.

This large layout had multiple levels with trains winding their way through ensuring there always seemed to be something moving, even a yellow postbus on the mountain road. The scenery was dramatic, and the detailing thoughtful - check out the cable car delivery. Having seen photos of the Swiss railways this seemed a convincing as well as interesting model (yes Switzerland is that clean and tidy!). 

That's a fine selection of narrow gauge layouts by any standard, and I have to admit some of the 20 or so other layout were pretty good too!