Saturday, 30 April 2011

Return to Littlehampton

A sunny bank-holiday weekend with Grandparents staying, what better than to pop along the coast to Littlehampton for a stroll along the promenade and a ride on the miniature railway. If this is sounding familiar, it is because it is only 8 months since I posted about the 12 1/4" gauge Littlehampton Miniature Railway. However it seems a lot has changed since then...

Yes, the loco is different, and so are the coaches! Chatting to the driver revealed that the line had changed operators over the winter (the track is owned by the council), and that the current owner had hired in the loco's and stock. Clearly some work had been done to the track and infrastructure too.

The line now has two "toastrack" style coaches with roofs and air brakes, and a rather attractive Bo-Bo bogie diesel, it has a resemblance to the BR class 17 "Clayton" I think! OK so a steam loco would be nicer, but if it is a diesel it might as well look like one, rather than pretending to be a steam loco when it plainly isn't. I couldn't find any builder's plates but the stock had the style of Alan Keef to me, which would be logical and the point levers were certainly from that firm.

At the Mewsbrook Park end of the line there had been some changes. The tunnel had gone (unsafe clearances apparently) as had the footbridge (which went nowhere anyway). The track had been relaid and re-aligned, and the layout of the shed changed, including removal of the turntable from in front. There were still turntable releases at the end of each station loop, and the new loco was a very tight fit for length! Indeed work was ongoing and the driver chatted to a man in an orange coat who was "fettling" the trackwork. I nearly suggested copperclad sleepers and soldered construction would be easier!

There is also now a website at including operating dates. Although a little on the pricey side for a short run, it is a very pleasant line and I wish the new operators well, I'm sure we'll be back again to see how they are getting on!
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Saturday, 23 April 2011

The end of the sky

I have been thinking for some time about how to make the boxfile's lid stay upright. It has to be able to close to meet the competition rules so fixing in place is not an option, string would stop it falling back but not forward, and there was no space for folding brace pieces, nor anything much to attach them to. So I came up with the idea of using removable end-pieces that support the lid as the backscene, while also continuing the backscene around the ends of the box.

I made the end pieces from some foam board, a sort of stiff but lightweight plastic board I got from the marketing department at work (it is used for promotional signs). MDF would have done just as well. As you can see I cut them to a curved top profile (while together so both have the same curve), this lessens their intrusion while providing an effective backdrop.

These pieces have to be removable of course. They attach to the lid by the simple means of a potruding screw that pushes into a slot in the lid, the slot is angled to help prevent the end falling sideways. A couple of pegs (made from offcuts of plastruct tube) are fitted into the bottom edge and locate in holes in the top edge of the boxfile ends. The photo below might make this clear! I also fitted magnets to help hold the ends in place, but in practice they have little effect. The result is that the ends are quick and easy to fit, and hold the lid in the vertical position effectively.

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Saturday, 9 April 2011

Alexandra Palace Show

A couple of Saturdays ago I was manning the 009 society stand at the Alexandra Palace show. This is, by model railway standards, a BIG show, although a bit of a pain to get to by car. The big attraction of the show to me was the wealth of trade support, right through from Hornby, Bachmann and the largest model shops, down to the smaller suppliers and manufacturers. I went equipped with a shopping list and got most of what I needed! There were a number of good layouts too of course, although to my mind they catered mostly for mainstream modelling interests and especially BR-era steam, that is probably in line with the interests of readers of British Railway Modelling magazine which sponsors the show (I've often thought it should be called British Railways Modelling), although it would have been nice to see more variety of genres. Layout of the show for me was Rowlands Castle, set in Hampshire in 1944 it not only features well modelled and nicely running SR trains, it has superb scenery, and fascinating detailing with the troop build-up to D-Day overrunning the sleepy village.

There was some narrow gauge, including right next to the 009 society stand John Thorne's superbly detailed Purbeck.

Back on the 009 society stand, as well as a new display cabinet and a demo layout, there was space for a modelling demonstration. I continued making the coaches I started at EXPONG (I couldn't very well make 014 wagons could I?!), and also made up a number of Microtrains couplings (I use these for both 009 and 014). This generated quite a lot of interest, perhaps surprisingly for what is not the most exiting part of railway modelling!

So here is a picture of the jig I have made up to help with their assembly, from offcuts of plasticard. At the back one part of the coupler arm is held while the iron tail is fitted with pliers. In the middle there are slots to hold the draft boxes while the coupling arms are assembled into them (upside down). The "dirt" visible is in fact the graphite lubricant that is liberally added, the tiny spring is then inserted on the end of a scalpel blade as seen on the left. Finally the top of the draft box is clipped on (well, it becomes the bottom!). The tray at the front of the jig is useful for tipping out the parts on to!