Wednesday 10 January 2024

Making Tracks III - Milton Keynes

Over the Christmas break I visited family, and just down the road at Blakemere Village (a collection of craft shops and other attractions) Pete Waterman's "Making Tracks 3" model of Milton Keynes was on show.  

The scale of the model is, of course, impressive. This is not a small station, with 6 platforms, and set against a backdrop of modern office blocks. I've only passed through Milton Keynes station on a train so can't say how accurate the model is. 

Full length West-coast mainline trains are dwarfed by the layout. The multiple tracks and DCC operation allow a prototypically intensive service, so you don't wait long to see a train. Around the back long loops held an array of trains, shuffling up while awaiting their turn to depart. Visitors were being encouraged to have a go at driving trains using a tablet. 

Much of the layout is just track with a little scenery, this is a layout to watch the trains go by. There were a variety of trains providing interest and colour, including some unusual trains and a few steam trains, as well as those more typical of the West coast mainline. 

Despite the size of the layout and limited scenic development beyond the tracks with operation being the centrepiece, a lot of work has gone into the detailing. Look at the complexity of the catenary, the forest of (working) signals, the finesse of the fencing, streetlamps...

The track itself is nicely painted and ballasted (although real ballast tends to be dirtier I think!), with the AWS ramps and other trackside paraphernalia (no I don't know what they all do) modelled. Oh, and a snowman, 

The snowman wasn't the only festive decoration, this nativity scene enhanced an office car park. Santa's sleigh was also spotted in another car park (but no reindeer). 

An enjoyable visit to an impressive model exhibited in quite an intimate setting. Rather than the vast space of Chester cathedral that it was built for, it occupied a barn-type structure, I understand the model had been shortened to fit, though I couldn't tell where. While visitors were trickling through, it was not at all crowded so it was easy to wander around and view the layout from all angles. Pete was even chatting to visitors. Hopefully, as well as attracting enthusiasts it will have been seen by many casual visitors, including families, and maybe some of those will take an interest in railway modelling. 

Thursday 4 January 2024

Ashover coaches Part 6 - completion

In the last update the Ashover coaches had been painted. I applied a brown enamel wash sparingly to the bogies, underframes and steps, and in places allowed this to wick up into the match-boarding grooves, mainly on the ends. The result is subtle and barely noticeable, but does soften the black and give a clean but used look. Then, a spray of matt varnish was applied. 

In parallel I painted a selection of Faller seated passengers using artists acrylics, mixed on the palette on the go, I don't find these paints as nice to use as enamels and the result is rather crude, but it was a fast method that gave acceptable results considering they will be visible only through the windows of the coach. I used deliberately varied colours to ensure they could be seen though!

The next step was glazing the coaches, a slightly tricky and involved job, complicated by the open windows! I used 0.5mm clear styrene which was protected with a peel-off layer both sides, I removed this after cutting to size and just before fitting to avoid scratches and fingerprints, then stuck in place with Humbrol Clearfix which doesn't fog the glazing, dries clear, and excess can be removed easily with a cocktail stick as it dries. The glazing is fitted behind the sides so not flush, which is noticeable at the open windows but only on close inspection. The ends with open doors used thinner clear plastic. 

Then the passengers could be installed, sitting on blobs of contact adhesive. A couple of ladies had diverted to the Hexworthy station cafĂ© but there were enough for 5-6 people per coach, sufficient to suggest occupancy. 

The bogies had their couplings fitted. Some had been prepared for Microtrains couplings already, so these were attached with a cut-down screw. The rest have Greenwich couplings fitted, they're not my normal coupling and I found them fiddly to make up, though it got easier with practice. They needed a couple of bends in the shank to bring them from under the bogie to the correct height. To ensure they are securely fixed I drilled a hole through the bogie and inserted an L-shape piece of 0.5mm wire inverted so it protrudes below the bogie, and slotted one of the holes in the coupling shank (opened out slightly) over the wire as I superglued it to the bogie. The wire "peg" should take the lateral shear force.

You may be wondering why the couplings are different at each end of the coach! I want to run them with my existing kit-built locos fitted with Microtrains couplings, or the ready-to-run locos now available which have standard 009 couplings and are difficult or impossible to fit Microtrains couplings to. By having a pairs of coaches with different couplings at each end, either coupling type can face outward from the set. The fifth coach has Greenwich couplings to make a rake of three either coupled onto or between the pairs. 

Finally, the roofs were fixed with matt Modge Podge, this is sticky enough to hold them and yet easily removed without damage if needed, while being easy to clean up and leaving no trace. And so the five coaches are complete and ready for service on Hexworthy. Three fit the platform with space to spare (four don't, but there may be space for a 4-wheeler), while two fill the bay. The livery looks great, and they fit well with a variety of locos. 

I didn't quite manage to finish them ahead of the Bachmann models release, and missed my own hoped for deadline of the end of the year by one day. But that doesn't matter. I know my models are unique, not just in livery but the details such as handrails (which appear moulded on the Bachmann model) and open windows, and of course the brake conversion (well, that's not totally unique as my friend Tim did his first!). Most importantly, I'm pleased with the way they have come out and I expect they will provide useful service on Hexworthy.