Monday, 25 August 2014

Upgrading a train set

A weekend visiting family usually means a break from railway modelling. However this time my wife told me to pack my tools! Our 10-year old nephew wanted some scenery on his train set, so it turned out to be three days of modelling...

A while back his Mum had been looking for somewhere to put the railway, including the loft which wasn't suitable, so I sketched an idea for a baseboard that folded down from his bedroom wall. It turns out my sister in law is an excellent carpenter, so next time we visited things were up and running. My nephew has since built some downloaded card models, and laid some roads. Now he'd also been given some buildings and scenic items, plus some extra track.

My first job was to repair a broken lead from the wall-wart transformer to the controller, so out came the soldering iron. Then came the track; a long siding ended in a point and two short spurs, which was not very practical. I suggested a couple of alternative options, my nephew chose both, so we were off to the local model shop to buy another point. As it involved a kick-back siding we got some wire and a switch, so it could be fed from the adjacent track. Also the station needed a platform on a curve, so a Metcalf kit was purchased too.

With the sidings laid and wired, the controllers were screwed down too, then we added some hills in the front corners with some polystyrene and PVA soaked newspaper. The next day we painted them green and added scatter. He'd been given some nylon "static" grass but didn't know what it was for, fortunately I'd brought my static grass applicator, so we added plenty of that too. The platforms took a surprisingly long time over a couple of evenings, the awkward shape didn't help, but the kit is flexible enough to be built to almost any shape.

There remains of course plenty of things that can be added: fences, trees, bushes, backscenes, more buildings, figures, details, etc. That grey circle is to become a pond. However the trainset has progressed to a model railway, and should provide plenty of fun to it's owner. Now my son is asking when we can start building his new trainset...

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.