Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Narrow Gathering in the Downs.

Last Saturday, deep in the Sussex Downs, there was a gathering of enthusiasts of narrow gauge and industrial railway models. I'd been asked to bring along Thakeham Tiles to join a number of other small layouts and models. Amongst the chatting, jelly and ice cream, I did get a few photos.

I've been following the development of Chris O'Donoghue's Compass Point on the NGRM forum, so it was nice to see the (unfinished) layout.

Chris Krupa's Sapple Marine (I think!) is small and beautifully executed.

"Roving Reporter" Mick Thornton filled a table with his kit-bashed stock, which is an inadequate term to describe the models that show superb skill and ingenuity in their construction. Here's a line-up of Irish style railcars, mostly built from the old Peco/Merit plastic bus kit!

Simon Hargraves brought his Brightwells Pumping Station Tramway, a 009 layout that has been dormant for years and is only now being completed. It's a small, simple layout that folds in half, with the hinges cunningly hidden by the road-bridge. But it still has character and interest.

And it certainly amused my son for a while... Rent-an-Operator anyone?

There were many other excellent models too, all in a great day out. You can see more pictures here.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Plas Halt - A School Project

Whilst sorting stuff post-move (yes I know it was 9 months ago!) I came across this model made as part of a school project. I was already a narrow-gauge railway nut by the time I was at secondary school, so wherever possible I picked railway related projects for my coursework!

I think this was a "Design & Technology" project, which involved planning how the Ffestiniog Railway could increase it's service frequency. I worked out from train graphs that another passing place would be needed, and that Plas Halt (a mile or so south of Tan-Y-Bwlch) would be suitable, so then I designed the "new" station there. This is of course all fiction, but good fun and earned me a good mark, and it's not often you could say that about school coursework!

As a centre-piece of course I had to build a model! Much as I'd have liked to make a working model of the whole station, the more practical and achievable approach was to model just the area around the station building, accompanied by maps and diagrams. In fact I even made a site-visit (on my own, by train, which at the age of 15 was rather exciting) to take measurements and photos of the site (must see if I still have the pictures).

Anyone who has been to Plas Halt will realise it consists of a stone hut and short platform next to the single line as it runs along dry-stone wall clinging to a steep hillside. My plan assumed a passing loop line could be cut back into the hillside to form an island platform, with a new station building built on the site of the existing shelter. A public footpath crosses the line here, and while much of the hillside is dense woodland, behind the station there is open ground for sheep grazing.

The model was built on a plywood base under the track, with sides and ends cut from plywood to the profile of the hillside, essentially an open-frame method. The track is PECO 009 of course, the stone wall is Slater's embossed sheet capped with small pieces of real slate, while offcuts of plasticard were cut up and wired together with thin wire strands to make the slate fences seen in the area.

The building was made from plasticard and Slater's embossed sheets, even today I am quite proud of it, despite the roof warping slightly. The design features a waiting room (on the footprint of the existing shelter), with a fireplace. To operate the passing loop and block instruments a signal box is placed alongside, doubling as a ticket office (single-manned for efficiency), and equipped with a kitchenette and toilet. Between the two stone-built rooms is a waiting area, covered by a roof that spans the whole structure.

I even modelled the interior!

Sadly I'll have to break up the model, but it was nice to remember the project, and I'm sure that building can be found another home someday.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

More fun in the sun at Tinkers Park

You may have noticed that I haven't done much modelling recently, but I have made the most of the weather visiting a few real NG lines! And so it was with the Tinker's Park rally this weekend, a friend and I took our 7 year old boys along to have fun riding the 2' gauge "Great Bush Railway (we couldn't decide whether it was the railway or the bush that was "great"), two miniature railways, and a steam traction engine.

There were no visiting locos this year, but a passenger train was run by the O&K 0-6-0 "Sao Domingos", and Motor Rail 4wDM "Wolf".

In addition there were three halls of model railways, quite a good show though not a great deal of NG. Lots of traders too, mostly of the new and second-hand 00 variety.

Despite a threatening cloud it was a fine day, and a good day out with the kids.

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!