Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sunshine on the Ffestiniog

Last week we visited the Ffestiniog Railway, as we try to every year or two. For me it is one of the most interesting railways in the UK and many years ago, as a teenager, I volunteered on the track gang. Unusually though this visit was in glorious weather - clear skies and bright sun making for excellent views of the scenery, though while sat at Pothmadog the coaches were getting uncomfortably hot!

We usually start our journey at Blaenau and there we met David Lloyd George, trying to blend into the slate walls in a strange unlined grey (had Blaenau been under more typically local weather it may have been hard to spot!). I understand this is due to the winter overhaul over-running though it may be a homage to the early years of preservation, where the first Double Fairlie returned to service in primer.

This being a 3-train timetable day we passed Merddyn Emrys leading Linda at Tanygrisiau - why double-heading was necessary I don't know, but Linda seems to be crewed by children!

And Earl of Merioneth at Tan-y-Bwlch.

The new Porthmadog station layout now allows for two trains to be there simultaneously, so providing a glimpse of Garratt 138 running round it's train before departing for Caernarfon.

Looking back across the cob it can be seen how much it has been widened to provide space for the new island platform (the left-most line is on the original formation). The new signal box and signals are attractive, while the wider platform and changes around the station building area make it a much more spacious and attractive area for visitors. I have no idea what those odd sheds are on the platform though...?

DLG had to add a tenth coach for the return trip, the trains certainly seemed well filled. And with such superb views, such as this one of Snowdon from the cob, it is easy to see why!

There are a few more photos here, and why not plan your visit?

Friday, 18 July 2014


I picked up some of the new 009 Society kits for Royal Naval Armament Depot (RNAD) wagons a while back, and last Friday I was putting one together, trying to figure out how the brake gear went together.

Saturday Morning I arrived at Amberley to set up Thakeham Tiles, and what is right opposite? A handy prototype!

I'm glad to say I got the brake levers correct; the instructions are a bit ambiguous in this area but a picture speaks a thousand words they say...

The complication is that there are levers on both sides, which both go to the right when facing the van, and both operate the brakes on both sides. This means that the linkages to the brake blocks are the opposite way round on either side, linked via a shaft across the wagon, and one of the levers needs it's rotation reversing. As you can see in the picture below the lever this side operates the shaft with a cam arrangement, and the left-hand brake linkage is at the top of the shaft.

Not so easy to view because of an adjacent wagon, but on the other side the lever acts directly on the shaft, and the right-hand brake linkage is at the top of the shaft.

While I was at it I got a shot of the end detail, with steps and handrails.

Meanwhile outside, a demonstration train was running with more ex-RNAD stock, including open wagons with ends, and a brake/passenger vehicle.

More on the actual model when I get time to progress it!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Thakeham at Amberley

I spent this weekend at Amberley, with Thakeham Tiles at the model railway exhibition held as part of the railway gala weekend.

The exhibition is a nice little show, with a reasonable selection of (mostly small) NG layouts spread around various buildings. It was nice to see some developments at Richard Glover's Sand Point.

However the models play a supporting role to the real narrow gauge trains. There are steam locos, resident and visiting...

A wide range of industrial NG locos and trains...

Which all line up for a parade mid afternoon...

Not forgetting of course, the pleasure of rides behind a steam loco!

The weather defied the pessimistic forecast and the sun shone. It was also good to catch up with old friends, so a good weekend all round. You can see a full set of photos here, and read more about the Amberley narrow gauge museum on their website.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lofty Business

You may have noticed that my modelling output has been rather limited the last few months. Partly this is because sometimes I do a lot, sometimes I don't. It is a hobby after all, and after the EXPO challenge last year it is nice to not have deadlines. However another factor is that we moved house at the end of last year, and while the new house doesn't need a lot of work, there have been more DIY jobs than usual to content with.

One such task has been to make usable space in the loft. Like many houses built in the last 50-years it has a low-profile roof with pre-fabricated roof trusses, which combined with extra insulation makes the space difficult to access and no use at all for storage.

The first task was to make a floor for safe access. Some pieces of chipboard from an old chest of drawers were fixed to the few planks at the top of the ladder, but I didn't want to remove any insulation. So I got some 4"x2" timber from a local timber merchant, who cut it to 4' lengths too, these are then screwed on top of the joists between the insulation and could then support 18mm chipboard flooring. This provides crawling space (no room to stand!) but allows air to move above the insulation.

Next up was to provide storage space. I had a load of old bed slats which were cut and screwed across the outer "vee" of the trusses as seen above. More chipboard recycled from old furniture could then sit on top of these to provide a shelf. The shelf is about 18" deep and the trusses are around 18" apart (though it does seem to vary!). Having just dismantled a built-in wardrobe I have now fitted out about half the loft in this way (the water tank makes the rest of the space more difficult to access).

Now I suppose this space could be used for a model railway, but it isn't really ideal. Apart from the temperature variations, poor light, limited space for humans, and the difficulty of getting any layout in or out, it isn't a sociable place to be! Nonetheless it will help by allowing stuff to move out the garage (you know, Christmas decorations, spare bedding, all those railway mags and anything else that probably isn't needed but isn't ready to be thrown away), meaning perhaps one day I'll have enough space there to build a layout!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Methodist Exhibition

The South Downs 009 group were invited to show a layout at an exhibition at a Methodist Church in Patcham, we thought a small straightforward layout would be easiest so I volunteered Awngate. The organisers had a small but good variety of layouts through a couple of rooms, and provided a very welcoming atmosphere making for an enjoyable day. It did seem very quiet though, it would have been nice to see a few more visitors through.

Here's Awngate in exhibition mode, with Martin looking relaxed at the controls. Or perhaps he is pondering which switch to press...

A sneaky view behind the scenes showing the trestles, vital mug-shelf, and the power box hanging beneath. Martin must be concentrating on a shunting manoeuvre, having moved in close for a good look! We ran a couple of mixed trains which needed the wagons shunting, so providing more interest for us though at a higher risk of coupling-stress. Generally things went pretty well though.

Behind us was this super HO German layout "Bahnhof Laufenmuhle" by Alan Peacock, which I've admired before.

Little Teisleigh in OO by the Brighton Model Railway Group is a GWR branch, with added minerals.

This model of the Brighton Volks Electric Railway in G1 is often seen at local shows, the models are very fine and there interesting displays about the prototype, though I think it would be nice if a little more scenery were present as the 36' length is mostly table-top with a track on it.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme

I heard about the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme through an NGRM forum posting, and once we'd decided our holiday this year would be in Northern France I was determined to pay a visit. The meter gauge railways around the Somme estury towns opened in the late 19th centruy and a fair milage has now been preserved. We took the train from St Valery sur Somme to Le Crotoy via Noyelles sur Mer, there is also a branch to from St Valery sur Somme (though not at the same station!) to Cayeux sur Mer.

Waiting for us at the quayside station in St Valery is this elegant locomotive with a train of bogie carriages. It's a 230 (or 4-6-0) tank engine built by Cie de Fives-Lille in 1909, quite a big powerful beast.  It seems we picked a bank-holiday weekend to visit and the trains were crowded, parking was a nightmare, and they really need more than one toilet at the station!

A couple of hundred yards down the line we passed the "town" station which serves the branch to Cayeux sur Mer. It is timetabled to be run by railcar or diesel but, perhaps due to the bank holiday crowds, this delightful 2-6-0T (130 in French!) Corpet built in 1906 was on duty.

Noyelles is the junction with the SCNF main line, and also the mid-point passing station of the line from St Valery to Le Crotoy. It is also a terminus, and trains from both ends of the line reverse here. Looking back as we left the train to St Valery can be seen departing over the scissors crossover, the tracks run parallel for a few hundred yards. The far right track is dual gauge, standard gauge rails straddle the meter gauge, this runs all the way from Noyelles to St Valery.

At Le Crotoy the loco takes on water by the shed at the end of the line. The main depot and workshops are just outside St Valery, but the trains start from both ends.

Leaving Noyelles on the return journey the two trains, having reversed in the station, depart in turn then the second overtakes the first. This appears to be "stage managed" to allow passengers to see the other train, and just for the fun of it! The locos have swapped trains during the proceedings, perhaps to get back to the correct shed for the night?

Back at St Valery the loco is turned on the inset turntable on the quayside, in front of the station building, which also acts as the release to the loop. The turntable is electrically operated from a control panel (near the parking meter on the left). I don't really know why they bother though as this is the only turntable on the line! This loco is a Buffard 031 (0-6-2) of 1910, and was designed to run cab-first for visibility on and by the road.

Despite the crowds we had a great trip, the locos and coaches are beautifully restored and kept, and it's a nice ride. For more pictures check out the album. If you are in the area (it's only an hour from Calais so even possible on a "day trip") this line is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Fettling Thakeham

In the run up to the SWING show I had Thakeham set up for a practice. I had forgotten how fiddly it was to load the wagons without derailing them! The magnetic stick works fine, but to get the load into the skip and off the magnet requires a steady hand and a careful twist of the stick. Then I had a cunning plan...

It's a simple sheet of black plasticard set carefully to just clear the back edge of the skip wagons, which stops them being pushed or tipped off the rails. Since the wagons are always propelled under the hopper there's no issue of clearance for other stock. However it does make the process of loading them much easier: the magnetic stick is used to push the load down into the sip, then slid forwards, as the wagon is held by the plastic the load is pulled from the magnet, and the stick can be lifted away.

Also while testing I was not happy with the way the O&K loco ran, it's always had a grinding noise when running in one direction and occasionally seemed to stick, so I stripped it down to apply drops of oil to the gears. The construction of the chassis means that without the body on the layshaft driving the rear axle (under the driver) is free to rise up. I wondered whether the body was not restraining it enough, so I folded a small strip of bass and superglued it into the recess in the top of the chassis so it holds the layshaft in place.

With the chassis now able to be tested without the body it ran smoothly, so I added the body, only to find it wouldn't then move at all! Slackening the bolts off allowed it to move, but the grinding noise was louder than ever, so it was clear the body was catching. There is a recess in the footplate to clear the worm gear seen above, using a burr in a mini-drill I deepened and widened it as shown. With the body refitted and the bolts done up tight the chassis ran without any grinding.

That said, it's still hardly a quiet chassis, none of my O14 locos are, due to the low gearing and metal bodies. The bigger wheels means it can do a reasonable speed without the motor screaming as the Lister (with similar gearing) does. But it does run reliably and slowly now, and spent Saturday alternating with the Hudson Hunslet running on Thakeham.