Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Lighting with LED's - experimentation

I've been looking into LED lighting for layouts for some time, with the build of Hexworthy underway. They offer distributed light in a light-weight flexible format, with low power consumption and heat output. There are potential pitfalls though, I've seen layouts far to dimly or unevenly lit, or worse still, with an unnaturally blue light (I've even seen a layout actually lit with blue LED's!).

One problem is that "white" LED's are not often white, the options seem to be "cool white" at the bluer end of the spectrum (6000K), or warm white (3000K) which is much more yellow. I find the cool white is too blue, and while the warm white is more preferable it is rather too yellow - more Mediterranean than British! However I recently found that it was possible to get "Natural white", which at around 4000K is somewhere between the two.

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So here's what I bought:
  • Natural White 4000K SMD 5050 LED strip, 60 LED's per meter (link)
  • A 12V 2A Power Supply Adaptor, which should be good for about 2m of LED's (link)
The adaptor came with a socket fitted with screw terminals, allowing easy connection of the LED's. I cut about 50cm of the LED strip and stuck it to a strip of foamboard to experiment.

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This assembly was then roughly taped to the lighting beam above Awngate, at a slight angle towards the rear, to see how it looked.

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The result looks good, the colour does look "natural" to me, and while far less yellow than the tungsten strips used on Awngate, it does not have the blue tint of cool white LED's. Placement may be better - objects near the front are in shadow - and shadows are a little harsh, but otherwise light distribution looks OK.

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The effect in a darkened room looks good to me. I wasn't sure if it was bright enough at first, so how does it compare to the existing lighting?

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This shows the layout lit with the LED strip on the left side, and the existing 30W tungsten strip lighting the right hand end (the one at the left end is switched off). The difference in colour balance is obvious, the tungsten light is much more yellow - cheerful and summery perhaps, but less realistic. Brightness seems reasonably consistent to me, although the LED light may be less well spread, and shadows are perhaps a little sharper. So a 12" deep layout may be adequately lit by a single strip of LED's, but using more lights and possibly use of reflectors and diffusers might spread the light better.

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I also got this dimmer switch (link), mainly because it was so cheap. I wonder if it may be helpful if adding more LED lights to dim down to what is needed. Also I suspect that the small power supply I got will do for very small layouts, but I may need to get a bigger power supply for larger layouts. More experimentation to follow, but I am happy with the colour balance of these lights.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

New venue, same format for Narrow Gauge South

Last Saturday I went to the Narrow Gauge South exhibition at it's new venue in Eastleigh, which was handier for me than the last one near Winchester. The format was much the same - lots of NG layouts, a leaning towards 009 but with a variety of other scales, a range of specialist traders and groups, plus the 009 Society AGM (although I admit I skipped that to see the layouts, but I did have my son with me). This sort of event is about meeting people as much as seeing layouts, so a good deal of talking was done, plus some browsing of the trade. It was a big day for my son as he bought his first 009 loco (well, an HOe Roco diesel) for a project we're working on.

However I did manage to get some photos, so in no particular order, here are some of my favourites:

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Oresome Aggregates (HOf) - Peter Smith. Superb industrial modelling with an array of interesting locos in a convincing scenic setting, yet this is all so tiny. I've been watching this develop on the NGRM forum so it was good to see it for real.

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Berger Hall (Gn15) - Bill Corser. Compact, detailed, and different, with a sense of humour. Another NGRM forum layout.

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First (009) - Steve Clulow. Or "I can't believe this is your first...". Nicely done, one of those simple "I could build that" layouts but with great scenery and trains, and runs well too. See Steve's blog for more details.

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Vale Quarry Preservation Society (009) - John Bruce. Yes I've seen it before, yes it's small, yet always a delight.

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Albion Estates (1:12, 32mm gauge) - Bill Bateson. More detailed large-scale but a different sort of estate railway.

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Plaxtol Road (O) - Tim Ticknell. One of a handful of standard gauge light railway layouts invited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Colonel Stevens. Lovely atmosphere.

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Bryn-Y-Felyn (009) - Matthew Kean. Another Colonel Stevens layout but quite different, WHR atmosphere and trains in a relatively compact layout.

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Ryedown Lane (009) - Patrick Collins. Another layout I've seen before but remains a favourite. Also Colonel Stevens inspired. And a lovely loco that reminds me, I've got one of those to build!

There were loads more layouts I could put here, but too many to put in a post, so see the Flikr album for the rest.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Engaging the youngsters

At the WRG show in Lancing last week there was a scenic modelling demonstration by (I think) Roy Hickman, on display was a superb diorama.

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As well as that, and demonstrating, he was encouraging people to have a go - including kids. We've come across his stand before and my son has made a (rather good) tree at a previous show. However on Saturday he said he'd been asked if he wanted to make a pond, so off he went. After some considerable time he came back with this...

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Not just a pond, or a tree, but a whole garden! My son was (rightly) very proud, and told me that the pond is made from three layers of glass. The bottom is black (I guess that may be plastic), the next brown, then clear at the top. In between is pond weed and goldfish (scrapings of orange wire insulation). The path is egg-shell - painted, then broken and stuck down, then crushed to the crazy paving effect, with scatter to fill the gaps. These are clever tips that I'd never have thought of.

What's more, when my son had finished there were a couple more kids busy building similar gardens. So not only has Roy got a real talent and great ideas for scenic modelling, but to have the patience and enthusiasm to teach kids - and get them interested, engaged, and doing relatively complex tasks - that's something else altogether. He didn't even charge a penny. What a great ambassador for the hobby.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Awngate at the Wealden Railway Group Show

On Saturday I took Awngate along to the Wealden Railway Group exhibition, held this year at the Lancing Parish Hall. As usual it was a friendly show with a good selection of small layouts, and lots of friendly faces to talk to as well. Actually between talking and running the layout I didn't take that many photos - at least, that came out well. Still, here's a few of my highlights.

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Nice to see Chris Ford's Art of Compromise, built with a few compromises but it's a refreshing change to the usual GWR branch-line, and would make the basis of an interesting home layout. Chris has managed to achieve his usual less-is-more deserted backwater feel. I think it's deliberate but maybe he just doesn't like adding figures? Anyway, it works. 

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Giles Barnabe's Salop Street packed a lot of operational interest into a small space, with a dose of pre-grouping character, another OO layout that is very different to the typical - and I'm sure the better for it. 

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I do like Simon Hargraves' sewage works O14 layout, but then I like short trains of skips with small i/c locos. Nice textures too. The photo might have looked better if he'd remembered the backscene though!

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Another layout I like and haven't seen for some time is Felsham Lane by Greg Dodsworth. O-16.5 but in a surprisingly small space while fitting in plenty of interest.

There are a few more photos over on Flikr, including the Loo branch (groan).

As for my layout, I had to contend with a few gremlins. A couple of isolating sections didn't isolate - that is they were on whichever way the switch went. Still at least they failed on, dead track is harder to work around. Also some of the wiper contacts to the fiddle yard played up too - yes I should have cleaned them beforehand but they worked in testing! Still neither was fatal and other than some misbehaving wagon couplings the trains ran well enough.

On a more positive note, one of the friendly faces took some serious photos for a potential magazine article - it's flattering to be asked, so I shall have to write something I guess!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Awgate exhibition prep

With an exhibition coming up for Awngate some preparation was needed. The large exhibition fiddle yard relied on brass wiper contacts to the layout, while this works fine for the small slot-on home fiddle yard they proved vulnerable and unreliable for the larger one. So I'd decided to add a wired connection.

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As you can see, both layout and fiddle yard had an RCA audio socket fitted, which have 2 coaxial connections and are easy to solder wires to. They screw into thin panel material so I had to mount them in some plasticard and screw that in place. The connection is then made with a short lead; the lead and sockets can be bought cheaply. My plan is to fit the same connector to Hexworthy and to Hexworthy's home fiddle yard too, to maintain fiddle yard interchangeability.

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The layout got a good vacuuming, to get the dust off the scenery (surprising how it builds up) and spiders off the fiddle yard (from storage in the garage). Then some extensive playing testing was endured to check everything worked. Running was surprisingly good* without cleaning the track thanks to graphite previously applied, however I've added a little more graphite to make sure.

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*If you don't believe me I've posted a video of a loco (with an old style N-gauge chassis) running slowly when I hadn't cleaned the track or added more graphite, or in fact run the layout properly for many months!

As for the exhibition, well if you are near Lancing this Saturday drop in to the Wealden Railway Group show and say hello!



Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Getting stoned

In the last post on the station building I'd decided to cut out recesses behind all the windows to take the frames to a suitable depth. It took a while, but once complete I assembled the walls around the core of walls and floor.

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The next step - following the small practice pieces - was to start scribing the stonework. For this I simply used a 0.5mm propelling pencil, which gives a suitably fine mortar course. I used some photos of Dartmoor buildings to give an idea of size, shape, and irregularity. Even so I had to concentrate on making the stones look realistic, not like graph paper or the strange "squashed cushions" it is all too easy to end up with. I was given some good advice by Daniel Caso on the NGRM forum - "draw the stones, not the mortar lines" - and by ensuring I drew around every stone I found they looked much better.

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Did I say this took ages? Short bursts in evenings worked best, but it was over 2 weeks until I finished all the walls.

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Next up was the roof - and it turned out to be a tricky shape! I used black plasticard, and made it in one piece with lots of bracing. It will be glued down eventually, but it will need to be removable for a while yet. The dormers were, er, challenging...

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Finally, I've made a start on the painting. I've made a start with a coat of grey acrylic mixed with PVA glue, the aim being to seal the surface and strengthen it, and also ensure no white shows. The plan now is to dry-brush colours over the stones, and possibly lighten the mortar with a light wash, but to be honest I'm making it up as I go along, and hoping it works!

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Saturday, 3 February 2018

Panel games

Here's another of my control panels. Not one of my layouts though, but the latest project by the Sussex Downs 009 group - and at about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, the largest I've made.

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The principles are the same as most of my layouts though, DC "cab control" (two controllers) through colour-coded sections, which are mounted along with point switches on a mimic panel. The panel is a sheet of 2mm aluminium onto which is mounted a printout of the diagram, and covered with a sheet of clear plastic - 20 thou sheet in this case due to the size, but thinner packaging plastic does smaller panels. So, now we just need to wire it up.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Foam walls

It's been a while since there's been any actual modelling from me on here, but things are picking up after a slow period. I actually made a start on the station building before Christmas, and cut all the main walls out of the foam. Marking out was done by laying the drawing over the foam and sticking the point of the scalpel through at the corners of the windows etc. Much easier than trying to mark out on the foam, there's no rubbing out possible here!

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The foam is from a pack by, I think, Busch - I bought it years ago from goodness knows where, and found it in one of the many boxes of things that will come in useful one day (see?). It's about 3mm thick and has a stiffened back, a later of paper I think, though it still seems pretty flimsy for making buildings. I considered making a foamcore board inner but the walls would be waaay to thick, so I've gone for a core of walls and a floor to give strength. There can't be a ground floor as I'll need to put windows in later.

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(The card around the edge is because as first cut, despite my measuring and calculating, it didn't fit in the walls right!)

Talking of windows, I got some rather fine ones from Smart Models - I think they're laser cut. They come in 3 layers to make a sash, though in the next couple of photos I hadn't stuck them together so they may look a bit wonky.

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However the thickness of the foam sets them too far back, it didn't look right to me. The wall thickness may be prototypical (probably less), but usually windows are closer to the outer face of the wall. So on this test piece I cut out a recess from the rear about half way through the foam, putting the window nearer the outer edge - it's fiddly, trying not to cut right through the foam and get an even recess, but the result looks so much better.

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You can see my practice stonework too, though I'm thinking that is too regular and square for Dartmoor stone.

So here goes, cutting recesses for every window and door. I used a piece of plasticard as a guide to cutting straight and consistent slots.

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More soon...

Monday, 22 January 2018

Thakeham Hudson Hunslet article

In print again!

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The latest issue of Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modelling Review has my article on building the Hudson Hunslet Diesel - a model of the prototype used at Thakeham. It's always an honour when my work is worthy of making it into print, and especially a magazine featuring such high quality modelling as this one. The editor, Roy C Link, has done a great job of presenting the article, and the rest of the magazine has some top class articles too.

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