Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Coach and some wagons

The upcoming exhibition at Croydon this weekend, to which I am taking Awngate, has pushed me to finish some projects that have lingered on the workbench.

A little while back I briefly featured a coach I'd started building. It's a Five79 kit RC810 for a Dundas Tramway coach, nicely moulded and went together very easily - until I got stuck with the couplings. A bar is provided to attach Bemo type couplings to the bogies, but that wouldn't work with the Microtrains couplings I use. I didn't need them attached to the bogies as the couplings pivot, but the wheels are so close to the end of the body mounting the couplings behind the buffer beam would foul them. So the kit sat half-built while I pondered what to do.

As is often the way with these things the solution was simple. I added a "coupling block" to the buffer beam from plasticard, which provided something to mount the coupling on so it didn't foul the bogies. Such "outboard" coupling blocks were not unusual on narrow gauge stock, even the screw protruding slightly gives the impression of a coupling pin.

The coupling mounting arrangement is clear seen from the underside. In front is one of the four bench seats for the interior - a nice moulding that if available separately, could be put to many uses!

After the couplings were sorted it was a simple job to complete the build and paint it, weathered to a slightly grubby state. It could do with lamp tops, and passengers of course - but for now it is serviceable. It's a moderately tall vehicle but not long, and fits well with on the layout - ideal for mixed trains I think, with a few wagons and a goods brake van.

Talking of wagons a few have been knocking around the workbench - another RNAD van and Bagnal open, plus a couple of opens from the second-hand sales stand, they're less detailed but provide variety. I like NG goods trains to have a mix of wagons.

But I don't like wagons to be too clean! A few minutes work with a wash of acrylic "dirt" and a dusting of weathering powders really tones them down, the opens could now do with some loads. I'm working through fitting couplings, and checking/adjusting them on much of the stock ready for the weekend.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Finishing a pair of locos

It's nearly October, and I've just checked - it was June when I last posted about these locos! They've sat waiting for a few finishing touches, now with an exhibition looming it was time to tie up the loose ends and get them ready.

The Hunslet has been given a working "oily rag" look. This involves washes of acrylic paint over the loco - it seems not to stick to the shiny finish but working it in, and wiping off with a kitchen towel or cotton but eventually gives the right finish. Some subtle use of weathering powder is followed by a coat of Testors Dullcote - after all of which the over-shiny paint finish has just a dull sheen, and the loco has so much more character.

With a crew fitted the motor and flywheel are well hidden, the roof has been attached and couplings fitted. She runs well too I'm pleased to say.

With the Atkinson Walker I've gone for an even dirtier look, for a loco that is less cared for (despite being newer), or that has perhaps been recently acquired from a closed line. The same techniques were used, this time with the acrylic wash being brushed downwards in a rain-streaked fashion. This view shows the rudimentary interior: a representation of the cylinders and a some levers, along with a (leg-less) driver.

The exhibition is the Croydon Model Railway Society show next weekend - if you get there do say hi! I've got some more testing of couplings and stock preparation to do this week, and I'm hoping the new fiddle yard performs well.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


A few more pictures of the new fiddle yard, showing how it's attached to the layout. I'd managed to make it the same width of Awngate (20% by design 80% luck I think), so I was able to use the split-hinge method. These make a very strong and rigid join, provide good alignment, and are quick and easy to join and disconnect.

One hinge is attached to the back of the layout, quite high up, and at the front another was attached lower down - this explains the "pillar" at the front corner. I removed the "wing" from Awngate to fit it - it will be refitted over the top.

The original fiddle yard made electrical contact via wire wipers touching contact pads on the layout, so it made sense to use the same method for the new fiddle yard. I've used strips of brass, though I'm not convinced they are strong enough, but seem to work for now.

Finally a view through the fiddle yard towards the layout, I've allowed plenty of finger space between each track. The front track is aligned, meaning the back of the deck is only just clear of the wall to the right.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Tracks and Wires

With the structure complete it's time to add track to the fiddle yard, and wire them up. The wiring took some thought, given the deck both slides and rotates - the "usual" solution of sliding bolts to conduct power to the aligned track wouldn't work unless there was one for each rail, and that seemed too fiddly. In the end I settled for micro-switches and wiper contacts...

This view of the sliding deck with the rotating deck removed shows the pivot bolt, two micro-switches protruding through at the sides, and six brass pads. The C-shape slot was for passing cables to the deck, but in the end I found that wasn't necessary. The two micro-switches act as a pair to reverse the polarity to the tracks on the deck, a notch in the underside of the rotating deck means one is "on" and one is "off".

Five micro-switches on the sliding deck act to power the aligned track only, which is fed to the rotating deck via the brass pads to the wiper contacts. These are arranged to that as the deck is rotated the tracks are fed from the correct feed - as the rear track becomes the front one, etc. The middle track is split into two "stubs" (e.g. for railcars), so the wipers also ensure only the correct "end" is live. All tracks share a common feed to one rail, which is fed via the pivot bolt - you can see it mounts though a piece of PCB. Strips of PCB across the deck make connecting the wires easy, as well as keeping the tracks in place.

Further PCB strips at the ends of the deck secure the rails firmly. The end of each rail is given a slight chamfer on the inner edge to help in case of slight mis-alignment. The micro-switch rollers give rough alignment as they drop into the notches, but they aren't strong enough to give precise alignment and there is some slack in the construction (!), so a check by putting a finger on the rails is a good idea! There's enough friction that the deck is unlikely to move while a train is moving.

A wide view of the deck, the handles "up" lock the rotating deck to the sliding deck. The stub track on the right end isn't live, but may prevent derailment in the event of an overshoot... though I'll confess both ends don't always align together!

Slid right forward clear of the wall, and the ends of the fiddle yard, and handles "down" form end-stops to the tracks as well as allowing rotation.

There's a fair bit of wire knitting underneath to make this work, and there has been considerable frustration (including a faulty micro-switch, and a couple of misaligned ones) to get it working - but it does actually work now!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Fiddle Yard Structure

Progress with the new fiddle yard has been slow, it is proving quite fiddly and complicated, but it is now coming together. As you can see the structure is assembled - so far it works as expected!

The back panel has gained a couple of shelves which will provide useful storage for spare stock, tools, and coffee cups at exhibitions, as well as adding rigidity. The board has been fitted up to Awngate and the level of the deck matches (phew!).

The slide and twist demonstration. The rotating deck now has a pair of hinged handles - when up they lock the rotating deck to the traverser, when down they provide end-stops to the tracks preventing runaways during rotating.

The underside, which has proved tricky due to the limited depth of the board. The drawer runners are doubled-up to provide sufficient travel, and fitted under the ends of the traverser. I've fitted a number of microswitches - of which more when I've wired them up - but strips of the PVC sheet have proved ideal for the microswitch rollers to run along, so there are strips of PVC running across the board between the traverser and fixed frame.

A close-up of one end showing how the handle holds the rotating deck to the traverser, how the drawer runners are fitted and doubled-up via a small strip of wood, and how the sliding deck slots into the fixed end. Also visible is one of the microswitches fixed to the frame, and the PVC strip under the traverser that pushes against it.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Inspiration: A Small Watermill

Last weekend we visited Batemans - which was the home of Rudyard Kipling, and is now a National Trust property. In the grounds was a small watermill, which struck me as being an ideal prototype for a model.

The building is typically Sussex/Kent in style, wooden clap-board with a tiled roof. The left hand end is presumably the miller's cottage, the mill itself is to the right of the red tree, starting with the doorway that is just visible behind the tree.

Up the path to the right of the mill the mill pond can be seen, a surprisingly small one. The leat or head-race ran some way upstream before joining the stream, but the tail race joined the stream about 50 yards in front of the building.

And looking at the mill from the same spot it can be seen how it is built into the bank that dams the pond, and that the end wall is black rather than painted white - I presume tarred against the damp.

The over-shot wheel; this is a little narrower than the original due to the pipes.

From the front of the building the wheel and sluice can be seen. The pipes were added in the early 20th century to feed the turbine - which is clearly visible. A shaft from the centre of the turbine enters the brick hut to the right, where via a wheel and leather belt, drove a generator. A cable ran to half a ton of batteries in an outhouse by the main house,  allowing ten 60w bulbs to run for 4 hours!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

A Start on the Fiddle Yard

It's slow progress, but just to show I have made some, here's photos of the new fiddle yard under construction. The rather complex design has led to some head-scratching, and a lot of time has been spent marking out and cutting the pieces, but it is now starting to come together.

The frame is 9mm ply (left over from my son's train-set board) forming the back and ends, though due to depth limitations the lower level is softwood.

The deck layers use a foamed PVC material (Palight is the brand name) which came as offcuts from the marketing department at work. It's reasonably strong - as good as ply or MDF of similar thickness, and possibly lighter - while being smooth faced and of course shouldn't warp if it gets damp. And it was free! Small section (10x18mm) timber strips reinforce the edges.

The drawer runners that Awngate used to be mounted on have been fitted to timber cross members. Their travel isn't long enough to allow the deck to slide out to clear for rotation, so they have been mounted in pairs to work together for double the travel. I'm not sure if that will mean too much slack.