Tuesday, 30 October 2012

EXPO NG 2012

I did manage to make the annual pilgrimage to EXPO NG on Saturday, for once not involved with exhibiting a layout, challenge entry, or demonstration stand. In fact due to family visitors I thought for a while I wouldn't get to go at all - but negotiated a morning "pass", and given this is one of very few large Narrow Gauge modelling events of the year it was worth it! So I didn't have long to chat or browse the trade stands much, but then when I have been exhibiting at the show I don't get long to look round either, so I focused on the layouts and took lots of pictures.

A layout I've seen before (at NG South) but had a little more time to look at this time, was Castle Wharf Kendal - a superb 009 layout by Ian Kirkwood. The scenic setting and surrounding buildings appear so natural and all blend together, with understated but well observed details. The trains also blend in well, the locos and stock looking at home on the layout.

Not many layouts can have so much character in a view without any trains - or indeed track - visible. This layout was awarded the Reinier Hendriksen Trophy, well deserved in my opinion!

I have been following the building of Giles Favell's new layout, "End of the Line", with 014 and 0 standard gauge, on the NGRM forum. Giles' last layout - The Loop - was a favourite of mine, and his latest work already is too! In principle it is a simple layout, showing a 2' gauge railway transshipment to standard gauge, but the "USP" is the road lorry. Yes indeed - this is a fully working, radio control truck. Watching the little Lister tip its skips of coal into the (working) conveyor, which loads the truck, then both truck and train depart the scene - the truck of course reversing onto the weighbridge on its way - is simply sublime. And quite hard to actually see through the crowd! Giles won the David Lloyd trophy with this layout.

One thing that EXPO-NG does well is to bring excellent layouts from Europe. Briquetterie St Aubin in 1:24 scale, 16.5mm gauge by Jacky Molinaro, is a great example. I really like the simple but interesting track plan and operation, and the "vertical" element offered by the track zig-zagging up the hill. The backscene blends well, and of course the scenics, buildings and stock are well done and natural. I'm getting lots of inspiration from this little layout!

Another European layout was Vroonen, an HOe Dutch tramway layout by Dick Van Beek. Dick has modelled the town buildings and street scenes full of detail and with interesting viewing angles, such that for me, the trams were only minor actors in the scene.

You can see the whole set of my photos here - be warned, there are quite a lot! For once I got some good shots, and there were a lot of good layouts to photograph. I've not even mention the "Pizza" challenge layouts - perhaps another post!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A little bit of skirt...

Apologies for the title on this post, and to all those who don't find what they expect within it!

For those that are still reading, I am of course referring to the tram skirts for the Skylark. Using the cheap and reliable Kato chassis means it's diesel outline frames and incorrect wheels need hiding, and since Awngate is supposed to be a tramway tram-skirts are completely appropriate. My supposition is that the tramway company approached Kerr Stuart for a "standard" loco rather than order a bespoke (hence much more expensive) tramway loco, and simply had them add skirts around the moving bits.

They are made from plasticard, which is straightforward enough, although it has taken a little while to get the proportions right. The box section represents the skirts, with an extension for the front frames.

Looking at photos of Skylark locos the cylinders appear very small. Indeed at 12" stroke by 7.5" bore they are small! I reckon that would make an outer diameter of around 12" over cladding, or 4mm, but I only had 3mm diameter tube. So I cut a slit in the back, and pushed a strip of plastic in, widening it to about the right diameter - at the front at least! The back is flatter, but that makes them easier to stick to the frames, not being the full depth is not really visible and indeed is helpful as the frames are further out than they would be.

A little extra detail - bolts on the ends of the cylinders, and access hatches for maintenance of the motion - and the skirt/frame/cylinder assembly is glued in place with epoxy, along with the buffer beams. The result works rather well I think, hopefully the rear wheels appear as the pony wheels under the rear frames. Right, now on with the body...

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Saturday, 20 October 2012

Spectacular Scenery at Uckfield

The Uckfield Exhibition always has a good standard of layouts, and this year I was particularly keen to see Crumley and Little Wickhill, the 009 layout of the Hull Miniature Railway Society. I've seen it in print and online, so it was great to see it for real. If you've not come across it before, it depicts a narrow gauge railway in the Pennines as it runs up the side of a valley, then reverses and climbs up the other side. The layout is a huge triangle with viewing from the two short sides, looking down and up the valley.

The layout is a fantastic example of a railway in a landscape, and gives the viewer the impression of looking down the dale from a nearby hill! The scenery is spot-on and instantly recognisable as Northern Britain, with desolate hills and green valley, rocky streams and stone built walls and barns. The layout is worked properly too, in the above picture the train is approaching Crumley (left) from Little Wickhill (just about visible in the far distance). Trains appear to go places, and while there are two stations, and sometimes three trains on the layout, it does not appear crowded or contrived.

Trains reverse at Little Wickhill as the line climbs the valley. Here the train on the left is held at the signal while descending into the station, while that in the distance has left the station and passes the cleared signal on it's way to Crumley. The layout owes as much to theatre as model railways, presented with black surrounds and curtains to shut out the background and control the viewing angles, and effective lighting to present the scene.

Looking down the valley to Crumley - and making use of the telephoto lens on my camera (not often needed for model railways!) trains can be seen passing at Crumley. On the left is the loco shed, one of the small tram locos will take over the down train for the tramway section, while the large tender loco will wait to take over the next train for the steep gradients up the valley.

There were other layouts too! This is Stoating Bank by Oly Turner, a very simple, compact, but unusual 00 layout set on a National Coal Board private line. It features a simple junction of two lines on opposing gradients, with a couple of sidings, various industrial and ex-BR locos appear and disappear with the occasional wagon. However the scenic setting - of a cold winter's day, with a light dusting of snow and frost, and accentuated by cold, dull lighting - really gives it extra character. Why don't we see more winter layouts? And not just Christmas-card deep snow!

Another layout with stunning scenery was Totnes, in 2mm scale, by John Birkett-Smith. This model used the full potential of the scale to model the whole of Totnes station (GWR) and the surrounding town, river, and even the castle. More amazingly it was done to a level of detail that few manage in 4mm scale! It was a shame it was hard to see the details towards the middle and rear of the layout, and there weren't many trains running when I saw it, but it is still one of those layouts that makes you go ... Wow!

So that's just three layouts, I could go on more ... but if you are interested, here's a link to the best of my pictures. Once again a great show with some inspiring scenic layouts!
Uckfield Model Railway Show 2012

Friday, 12 October 2012

Larking Around

I did buy a can of primer last week, but I haven't got any further with painting the coaches, instead moving on to another project! This is the Chivers kit for a Kerr Stuart "Skylark" that I got last month, along with a Kato chassis. On the face of it this is a reasonably straightforward white-metal kit that should fall together over a few evenings, right?

So here are the main parts, nicely moulded on the whole with just a little flash. It is always tempting to see how with a little extra work the end result can be improved, for example here I couldn't help thinking that the cab-side doors were a little unlikely and would look a whole lot better opened out - you can see I've done this to the right hand side already.

The more immediate challenge is fitting the kit to a chassis it was never designed for. Actually it isn't too hard, the footplate needed the opening extending under the smokebox, and the chassis having it's plastic footplate and side detail cut back to slide into the dummy rear frames of the kit. There were also some bocks cast under the footplate to sit on the Ibertren chassis it was intended for, which I have had to cut away, and with a little fettling the chassis slides into place.

The Kato chassis is low but long, and protrudes under the smokebox, the front support to the boiler has needed a recess cutting into it. On the other hand, much of the "missing" boiler that would have fouled the motor of the Ibertren could now be reinstated! I should point out that I will be building this as a tram loco, and the chassis will be completely hidden behind skirts.

Another minor improvements is to the fit of the buffer beams, if slotted under the footplate as intended the rivets fall too low and the bufferbeam is very close to the rail. The best solution seemed to be mitring the join, as shown  here. I've also had to open out square holes to take the Microtrains couplings I use.

Well I'm a few evenings in already and so far I have just cut and filed lots of metal, and sliced my finger and thumb open. You know that rule about always cutting away from you?
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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Coaches - Final Detailing

The last few evenings have entailed the fiddly detail work that complete the coach, it takes time but it is enjoyable and well worth the effort. As "freelance" coaches there is no prototype to copy, which means looking at photos of similar coaches to figure out what the details should be - in some ways this is more of a challenge than copying a prototype!

So the balcony railings have lost the spikes and gained a plasticard "wooden" rail instead, I've copied the prototype step from the last post to the other 7 corners, and made a stab at the under-frame truss rods. The vertical supports are in fact solid across the coach - cheat I have seen others do and is virtually invisible from normal viewing angles, while making them strong enough. The truss rods are brass rod with a short piece of wire insulation representing the tensioner.

Moving on to the roofs, I decided that oil lighting was the most likely and fortunately I had some spare Parkside Dundas sprues with some on. The take a little cleaning up but look OK, and save some fiddly work! Two per compartment looked far too generous so I stuck to one, and I quite like the unequal spacing on the brake coach.

A cruel close-up of the brake coach shows how the under-frame and steps look - not too bad I think. I'm particularly pleased with the detailing around the guards compartment door, hopefully it now doesn't just look like it was scored into the side of the body.

Another close-up showing the ends of the coaches, the steps, and buffer-beam overlay. I'm rather pleased with the way the balconies have come out. I've yet to fit the couplings - in fact I haven't cut the Bemo style couplings off one set of bogies yet.

Talking of bogies, they are too modern really but since they are barely visible I can't see the point of changing them. I've also omitted brake gear - I'm not sure what it should look like and most of it won't be visible either. I did think about fitting vacuum hoses but the castings I have domintated the balcony ends, I'll look out for something smaller. So for now I think they are about ready for primer, which will show up any imperfections.
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