Monday, 23 May 2016

SWING 2016

Last Saturday I headed over to Bognor to the SWING exhibition, which has now established a reputation for having a good selection of industrial and narrow gauge layouts. Though I think it has struggled to keep the same small and friendly feel in the larger venue, it has allowed more layouts - and bigger ones too, such as the live steam 16mm scale.

Strangely I still like the small ones best though, like Compass Point by Chris O'Donoghue in 009. It packs in a lot of detail in a small space, and achieves that atmosphere that is impossible to define.



Chris Ford and Nigel Hill's ultra-simple and quite different Morton Stanley is also full of atmosphere, following the "less is more" route in 7mm scale.


Abbey End is David Malton's O14 model of the terminus of the Abbey Light Railway in Leeds, though sadly now closed. Despite being a simple prototype David has captured the woodland setting, with the varied and colourful stock, and achieved a fascinating model


Portwenn is a delightful 7mm scale layout with an attractive quayside, now in the new ownership of Simon King I hope it gets to more exhibitions.


Simon Wilson brought Wangford, just part of his Southwold Railway layout in 009. As this board is normally at the back of the layout it is nice for it to be more visible, and the simple set-up with a fiddle yard each end allows a procession of trains through the station.


Those are just a few of my highlights - you can see more photos here. Trade support was good too, with some narrow gauge specialists as well as both the 7mm NGA and 009 society sales stands. Not that I got much time to browse with my Son nagging, however he really enjoyed making a tree for his layout as guided by a very patient chap on one of the demo stands - a nice touch - and the ride-on train too.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Motor-Bogie Rebuild

At Sparsholt I spotted this on the 7mm NGA stand:

Branded Keykits I guess it's pretty old, but it looks like a Wrightlines motor bogie, which is currently unavailable (like much of the Wrightlines range, sadly). It's essentially a Tenshodo motor bogie replacement, but with a Mashima motor mounted with it's widest dimension vertical to allow the wheels to be pushed in to 14mm gauge - very useful given the number of 7mm scale kits that utilise the Tenshodo unit. This one had crudely fitted pick-ups, mismatching bolts and a broken wire - but the motor turns when it got power.

It didn't take long to dismantle. I checked and adjusted the wheel back-to-backs, and found some M2 bolts that were a good fit - the nuts are secured with Araldite. I moved the PCB down away from likely body fitting and closer to the wheels, and attached new pick-ups from phosphor-bronze strip - which I find much springier and more effective than wire. With the motor refitted, wires reattached, and keeper plate bolted in place the unit was running.

Now I know these things can be a little fast, with relatively high gearing, but a few lumps of whitemetal on top slowed it a little. The motor seems to run quite hot too, I don't know if it could do with more airflow. However it dos occasionally stop at low speeds, seemingly at the same spot, and I think more of a mechanical bind than pick-up issues - though I can't see anything wrong with the gears. I'm hoping some running in will help.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Print a wall

Joshua's train set is getting regular use, but he's keen for it to look more realistic - which means finding ways to hide the plywood and gaping holes between the levels. There's a lot of board to cover, and very specific size gaps to fill, so the Scalescenes retaining wall and tunnel mouth kits seemed the best option - as being economic and flexible. I printed out a couple of copies of each, bought a sheet of mounting card, and made a start at the front of the layout where the tracks pass by the high level station.

The Scalescenes prints give an excellent finish - the colouring and detail is spot on. I used a laser printer which I think gives a more robust (damp and light proof) finish, albeit slightly shiny - though a coat of matt varnish could address that. However what you really get is a kit to make a kit - the print-outs need sticking to card and carefully cutting out before even starting assembly. This all takes time, is rather fiddly - and I'm never sure what glue to use. PVA can cause wrinkling, so I use Pritt-Stick on the sheets of paper - but it really isn't very sticky and can lift at the edges.

The benefit is the freedom to adapt the kits. For example the set-track curves and track spacing, combined with the overhang of modern coaches like this Voyager, meant the tunnel openings had to be much wider than any of the suggested shapes. No problem - though I was running out of space to fit a large enough opening, so it is rather tight...

At the other end the loop off the inner track cuts acutely under the station, making a very tricky spot to present realistically. I found some Wills vari-girder mouldings in the bits box, which made up a suitable looking beam. Supports, walls, and parapets were made up to fit and dressed with the Scalescenes prints to match the walls. The result works well, although the Voyager won't clear that innermost track!

Thus the front of the layout looks much more realistic and is a good spot to watch trains go by. Now this is a train-set and is to be played with, so I haven't taken as much care in places that I could of to get edges sharp and disguise paper and card corners. However it's still taken me a good few weeks, on and off, to complete this 4-foot long wall and three tunnel openings, but there's a lot more of the layout needing walls and three more tunnels. I think I'm going to have to think of some short-cuts!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Narrow Gauge South 2016

Last weekend was Narrow Gauge South, held at Sparshotl, Winchester. I was helping my friend Martin Collins with his layout, Llandecwyn. It's very much Ffestiniog inspired, though set in the next valley south, and features slate wharves, and gravity trains, with Double-Fairlie, small Hunslet and de Winton locos.


It's not yet finished, and being primarily a home layout it isn't an ideal shape for exhibitions, but the quality of the scenery and stock is superb.


As usual the show is scattered through a number of class-rooms, which disguises it's size, as they contained nearly 30 NG layouts, as well as several specialist traders (and both 009 and 7mm NG society sales stands). The event hosted the 009 Society AGM, but I didn't go preferring to play trains and look at the layouts (it's the quietest part of the day!). With such a selection it's tricky to pick highlights, but I do love the character and finely modelled stock of Tim Ellis' tiny Grindley Brook Wharf.


Chris O'Donohughe's Compass Point is another small layout packed full of detail, and atmosphere. And a little humour too.


This was the last showing of Isle Ornsay for my friend Tom Dauben, even though it is not quite finished the scenery modelling is quite superb, but the layout has now been sold. Hopefully it will continue to be exhibited.


However there was undoubtedly one layout of the show for me. I've been a fan of Ted Polet's Craigcorrie an Dunalistair - a slice of Scotland built in Holland - since I came across it in the Peco book of Narrow Gauge which I found in the Library when I was 11. This was the first time I've seen Dunalistair, and the last time Ted was showing it, so it was a real privilege.


The modelling is to a high standard, but it is the cohesive nature of the layout (of which this is just a small part) with a fictional history, and a fleet of stock to match, that makes it a convincing example of freelance modelling, and such a popular model too. The harbour at Dunalistair is a particular feature, and as Ted spent many years at sea, it is superbly modelled.


To see more photos - of Dunalistair and the rest of the show - click here.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Thakeham at Steyning

It was a short drive over the sunny South Downs hills to Steyning, where Thakeham was quickly set up at the Wealden Railway Group show. With the information board I think it made an attractive display, and being shown just a few miles from Thakeham a number of visitors were interested in the local connection. As usual, kids were fascinated by the "unloading" of the skips, and a few even had a go pushing the lever. I'm pleased to report the layout performed without issues.


This year the show was held in a larger hall than before, which meant more space in the aisles (which have previously been somewhat cosy!), and some larger layouts, but all fitted the club motto of "Layouts you can live with", that is they are home-built and kept in modest spaces. Thakeham certainly fits that description...


So does Simon Hargrave's tiny folding 009 layout, surely an answer to anyone believing they don't have space for a layout! It is superbly modelled and surprisingly uncluttered, given it's modest size.


This nicely done industrial layout was shown by John Bruce, who I know better for small 009 layouts.


Thunder's Hill was one of the larger layouts, a fine exercise in 3mm scale, modelled to a high standard. The station is reminiscent of the Sussex style, including those of the Bluebell Railway.

That's just a taster, all the layouts were excellent, and you can see more photos here. As usual the relaxed show format - with a free hot drink for visitors - made for a friendly show.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Thakeham comes out to play

Thakeham will be at the Wealden Railway Group exhibition next Saturday 2nd April, in Steyning. So I've retrieved it from the loft and removed it's cover to check it out. A bit of dusting and a vacuum was in order - some sawdust from fitting the cover mostly - and in some places the printed paper block-work has bubbled, but it's minimal and not normally noticeable.


I've applied a fresh rubbing of graphite to the rails and test run, which revealed a mystery short circuit when the points were thrown. After some investigation it was found to be a point blade that had shifted along to touch the frog rail - this is a problem as the blade is electrically connected to the stock rail and the frog is switched. Forcing a blade into the gap shifted it back, I'm still thinking of a more permanent solution.


That aside running was smooth and problem free. I will need the super-glue to a couple of details that have fallen off though. However while it was out I took the opportunity to take some photos on my new camera, using a tripod and playing with the manual settings. I'm rather pleased with how they have come out.


I've been asked to provide some information about the prototype and the model, and exhibition organiser Andrew Knights shared some photos he'd taken of the railway shortly before it closed, so I put together a display using them along with photos I'd taken of the locos now at Amberley, the site today, and the model under construction. The board is simply two cork-boards attached with a pair of small hinges I'd put together some time ago for something my wife was involved in - I knew it would come in useful again!


If you get along to the show do say Hi...

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Using Map Data

Recently a work discussion about getting map data - in that case the altitudes for a route - resulted in a colleague pointing me at this website:
It didn't take me ling to think of non-work uses too. As a teenager I doodled many track plans, and often schemed out "might-have-been" railways on Ordnance Survey maps. I'd attempt to check contour lines crossed against distance to ensure they weren't implausibly steep, but it wasn't reliable and as I was often planning Narrow Gauge lines through hilly landscapes the gradients would have been pretty severe.

So I plotted one of my favourite schemes using the website, clicking points onto the map, the "Terrain" view gives contours which help. The string of co-ordinates produced can be copied from the box below the map which I pasted into a text file, then imported into Excel. Plotting the latitude and longitude and placing a map picture behind the plot is a quick way of drawing the route - the Excel plot can be stretched either way so I made sure the two end points were correctly positioned on the map, the rest will then be correct. Click the images to enlarge them.

That's rather fun but the data allows much more analysis - easy enough in excel, even if it is rather like the day-job! This site gives the formula for distance between co-ordinates, so of course gradient can be determined (change in height over distance). However for that I used an adjusted altitude - representing the track height after civil engineering - and calculated the deviation of that from the ground, i.e. the magnitude of the earth-works. The gradient can often be eased by increasing the height of embankments and cuttings, but for a Narrow Gauge line the balance would be in favour of less costly earth moving and more gradient. It's worth bearing in mind that a delta of a couple of meters can be regarded as negligible, and since my route is often running along the side of a slope, it only represents a few meters deviation of route - or of inaccuracy of my mouse-click on the map! I did go back and adjust some points to get a better route.

So here's my analysis. This line does have severe gradients - 1 in 44 for a sustained period, with another at 1 in 37 at it's worst - but these are not unusual for NG lines (the Welshpool and Llanfair has a section at 1 in 29) and are a good excuse for short trains! That does mean the earthworks are minimal, though an embankment or viaduct up to 25 ft (8m) tall is required to cross a valley just beyond Scorriton, and a 25 ft (8m) deep cutting is needed at Holne - both are plausible for this kind of line. A bridge across the West Dart is also needed near the end of the line, but at a point were that would be relatively easy.

This plot shows the altitude of the line (black) with the terrain (green), and also the gradient as a percentage (so 1% = 1 in 100, 3% = 1 in 33).

So I have a plausible route for an imaginary line, and I'll tell you about it's history another time!