Monthly progress

March Progress

Posted on April 1, 2018. Filed under: Monthly progress |

Less than two months to Railex and I still have a very long list of jobs.

A top priority is to get the locos to run well. 1649 has benefitted from another session with the maestro (thanks, Allan) and I’m gaining experience all the time. 57587 now has added pick-ups and runs as well backwards as forwards. Especially when I bent the vacuum pipe alongside the valance out of the way of the coupling rods, ditto the middle steps. 54458 has been fitted with suppression and has had extra pick-ups fitted.

54458 180331 4738       A first for bogie pick-ups

A capacitor is soldered between the motor terminals and the inline resistors are connected to a piece of 4-track stripboard – I really should do this sort of work on first building a loco: retro-fitting is much more difficult. I have left the middle two tracks for future use, though I am not at all sure for what purpose. The new PCB pick-up pad sits between the bogie frames above the rear axle, and a trial set of pick-ups is soldered in.

The stripboard was then used as a junction box, as with 1649, to connect to the two pads (bogie and drivers), and the bogie pick-ups were shaped to bear on the back of the wheel rims. So far, so good.

The two Dornoch coaches are slowly coming along. They will be seen at the very front of the layout in the bay siding and consequently need more detail than stock viewed further back.

The layout is now set up at exhibition height in its short form with 2’6” cassette tables ready for a practice operating session early April, by which time two special deliveries will have arrived. I will let you know.

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February Progress

Posted on March 1, 2018. Filed under: Monthly progress |

Holidays in the second half of February limited overall progress, but I first found time to work on increasing storage space on the cassette tables. I’ve mocked up a shelf system, initially for the 2’6″ cassette tables, out of ply and aluminium strip with the added benefit of also being able to display stock behind Perspex at exhibition.

KoS Mk 4 180301 4736       Cassette table improvements in progress

Meanwhile, I took the plunge and swapped new for old Mashima motors on 1649.

1649 180212 4728       Back to basics

Discussions with Chris Gibbon of High Level confirmed there are differences in bolt spacing in some old motors, and the new motor fits much better. It’s also less bulky. I tested the latest configuration in Devon (thanks, Ian) on a layout-in-progress based on a well-known Devon prototype. 1649 runs much better forwards than backwards until I can add an improved motor restraint.

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January Progress

Posted on February 1, 2018. Filed under: Monthly progress |

January Progress (Monthly progress!,1/2/18)

January was devoted to 1649 in the hope that it will be completed for Railex. It had its first comprehensive field trials near the end of the month on Allan Smith’s ex-GWR layout, which were very successful (with Allan’s help). I’m now in course of improving and simplifying the wiring, and I’m also considering a change of motor. More about that soon in Project Progress.

I did, however, take a little time out in the middle of the month to improve the trackwork on Kyle of Sutherland. My rolling stock has certainly benefitted, and stock that was previously troublesome is now running much better.

All of this has given me more confidence for Railex, which now seems very close.

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December Progress

Posted on January 1, 2018. Filed under: Monthly progress |

Last spring and summer seem a long time ago.

Scenery 44 170914 CL
“A shady corner of the station yard” (courtesy Chris Langdon)

Back then I was rounding off the scenery and getting the layout ready for exhibition. The presentation was modified to allow either 2’6” or 5’ cassette tables, and the height in either case could be table top for home use or 4’3” for exhibition. Being able to set up a working layout at home was an important step to improving the operation, and Kyle of Sutherland was successfully exhibited in November.

2017 was the “Year of the Train, Again”, but didn’t really live up to its name. The objective was to ensure we had enough trains, and particularly locos, for Railex 2018. It started well with the two 4-4-0s going into the paint shop, but I delayed and delayed making a start on a new loco. It just didn’t seem so important while the Craven Area Group had locos, coaches and wagons to spare and there were so many other things to do. I finally decided in December that my next loco should be 1649, a GWR (BR) pannier tank for the 1960 Dornoch branch train, and made a start in the second week of the month.

1649 171231 4662       End-of-year mock-up

At the beginning of last year I said that whichever loco I make next, I need to complete it, and paint it, to exhibition standards well within the year. Of course, that didn’t happen, but after just over three weeks work, I’m not far off a basic working loco. The bodywork involved lots of trial and error developing the geometry for the smokebox, boiler, panniers and cab: the fabricated front and rear tank brackets helped with the heights. The boiler/firebox (bottom right) is only seen under the tanks in sideview on this prototype, the rest is hidden under the top plating (next job) joining the panniers, other than a sliver of firebox poking through. The chassis has a working and tested motor/gearbox driving the rear axle, the six hornblocks are in, the prototypically jointed coupling rods are ready to go, and all it needs is wheels. And don’t forget that bunker.

PR has been steady throughout 2017 with magazine articles and pictures, website appearances, and reblogging. Recently, Chris Langdon’s photo (above) was shown in Scalefour News, and a limited edition 2018 calendar from Missenden Abbey Railway Modellers features Kyle of Sutherland for May. The first video clips of the layout were made at the recent exhibition.

And what of 2018? Of course, it has to be “Exhibition Year”.

So, Here’s to Railex 2018 and a Happy New Year to Railway Modellers Everywhere!


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November Progress

Posted on December 1, 2017. Filed under: Monthly progress |

An exhibition certainly highlights the flaws in a layout. After the dress rehearsal at the beginning of the month, we all sat down and talked over how it had gone. I then took a break from modelling for a whole week.

KoS Mk 3 3 171104 Ian Johnson

In summary, I think the presentation is getting there, but the operation could do with improvement. I’ve  now done some of the work, though I expect the majority of it will have to wait until after Christmas. Meanwhile, an unusual visitor was spotted passing through Culrain.

Unusual Visitor 171104 Ian Johnson       D6327 returning clay empties to Cornwall

I am very grateful to Ian Johnson (Grogley Junction) for both photographs.

Paul Bambrick continues to support the layout with a couple of pictures, and some encouraging comments about the landscape techniques used, in Latest News 12th November of, and a black and white picture of 54495 back in July. All good PR for Railex.

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October Progress

Posted on November 1, 2017. Filed under: Monthly progress |

The updated presentation format for the full height, full length layout is complete.

There’s a new proscenium arch and facia panel, new signage and display material, and a mix of “warm white” and “cool white” LED strip lights. Kyle of Sutherland is now ready for a pre-Railex dress rehearsal, which takes place in a few days’ time.

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September Progress

Posted on October 1, 2017. Filed under: Monthly progress |

Lots of different issues have occupied my time this past month: coupling/uncoupling, derailments, staging, lighting, and overall operability.

The shunter’s pole I tweaked a couple of months ago, and various other poles I’d worked on, were taking too long to couple up, and I felt I needed a better version for exhibition use. I looked again at W.A.M. Barter’s article in MRJ No 21 and made two much better ones, mounted them in pin chucks for ease of use, and scrapped the earlier versions. The cassette/train preparation time has come down. I continued to fettle and improve the rail joints and to regularly clean the track and wheels.

It was well into the second half of the month before I achieved no derailments in a complete 6-train A plus B operating sequence, and towards the end of the month the Craven Area Group of the Scalefour Society came round to operate Kyle of Sutherland. I fitted a makeshift proscenium arch and taped up two lots of LED strip lights for comparison; one “cool white”, the other “warm white”. Altogether it was a big improvement on the July operating session, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

KoS Mk 3 1 170926 4570       Why is the train not moving?

Right at the end of the month I did a job that’s been on my list for ages and installed a “train alert system”. That’s a grandiose name for an LED at the Culrain North end of the layout, and a repeater on the Router panel at Culrain South. Instead of shouting to the north operator “you now have control and can carry out the next train movement in the sequence”, the south operator sets the Router and alerts the north operator by switching on the LEDs. The repeater LED on the Router acts as a reminder to the south operator to switch off when the train movement is complete, and to re-set the router.

The next milestone at the beginning of November is to operate the layout to a 10-train A- and B- sequence at full height with full length trains on 5-foot cassette tables. An interim milestone with 6 full length trains might be advisable.

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August Progress

Posted on September 1, 2017. Filed under: Monthly progress |

There was slow but steady progress towards a reliable layout with work on coach underframes, coach bogies, bogie mounting, etched screw couplings, cassettes, rail joints, and the Router.

I now have a tried and tested 6-train A- and B- operating sequence. After A, followed by B, the stock is back where it started ready for the next A plus B, and so on.

I would really like to do some loco building, say 1649 or 40150, but I foresee a similar month in September, working towards the next Craven Area Group operating session.

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July Progress

Posted on August 1, 2017. Filed under: Monthly progress |

Passengers for Bonar Bridge would have been surprised to see this Cravens twin unit with “Welwyn Garden City” on the destination blind.

Scenery 43 170725 4551

The Craven Area Group of the Scalefour Society had their first operating session with Kyle of Sutherland towards the end of the month, and brought some of their own stock along. I’ve committed to producing a printed operating sequence for next time.

There was lots of activity this month leading up to the operating session: making more cassettes, de-bugging the layout, checking and fettling locos and stock, and improving the scenery. I made new pick-ups for 54458, 54495 and 57587, using tips from Karl Crowther’s MRJ article on the making of a GWR 517 class (I think this was mentioned in the Scalefour Society Forum by Paul Willis), such as drilling holes in the PCB pad to hold the motor leads while soldering. One key to success was getting the right pick-up pressure on the wheels.

During the operating session, my shunter’s pole was not much use. It was based on an article by W.A.M. Barter in MRJ No 21 from 1988, but I obviously didn’t make a good job of it. A few clues from members of the Craven Group led me to a much improved version, which now works. That’s just as well: the exhibition sequence for the layout demands regular coupling and uncoupling of stock, particular locos. To that end, I’ve fitted over-scale screw couplings on the rear, or tenders, of locos rather than the easy couplers I was contemplating.

I also had an article in Issue 137 July 2017 of The True Line, the journal of the Caledonian Railway Society. “A Tale of Two Caleys” described the building of the Dunalastair IV and Pickersgill 4-4-0s, showing how the lessons learned with 54458 were applied to 54495.

When this post comes out I shall be detailing coaches at the Missenden Summer School. Slainte! (pronounced “slansh” with a long “a”)

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June Progress

Posted on July 1, 2017. Filed under: Monthly progress |

The last south passenger train of the day calls at Culrain about seven fifteen in the evening. The Restaurant Car, which earlier in the day travelled north to Helmsdale with the HR TPO, now returns to Inverness. The TPO will return the following morning.

Train 19.15 Mid 1950s 170628 4519      Evening departure for Inverness

The newly applied lion-on-wheel symbol is just visible on the fully welded Stanier tender of 45473, which corresponds with the time period of the red and cream coaches, while the full brake behind the engine is in non-passenger coaching stock livery. The part welded Stanier tender, awaiting the building of a second Black Five, sports the later large BR totem to allow a change of time period to maroon coaches.

At the beginning of the month I learned a very important lesson during a visit to see the large, EM gauge South Pelaw & Stella Gill Flatts layout in Middlesbrough: it takes a determined and concentrated period of check/correct/review to prepare a layout for exhibition. The 20’ x 30’ South Pelaw is housed for 3 months in a large, open-plan area of an office building. It’s not planned to be exhibited for another year, a good clue for Kyle of Sutherland.

Kyle of Sutherland is currently going through a similar process in its 15’ home-based configuration with 2’6” cassette tables at either end, rather than 5’ exhibition tables. The train lengths may be restricted, but what a lot I’ve learned and applied. There’s hardly no aspect of the scenery, electrics, track, cassettes and rolling stock that hasn’t needed some sorting out.

Early successes include the LMS D1720 coach Sc6735M, which used to repeatedly derail near the south entry point to the passing loop. I blamed the MJT torsion bogie gummed up with paint, preventing it rocking smoothly. Not so: the culprits were the cosmetic side frames catching on the solebars on the point’s curves. The temporary cure was to raise the height of the bogie by the thickness of one washer. In the longer term, I will look more closely at the depth and position of the side frames. I suspect some other coaches could exhibit the same problem. All rolling stock is currently going through a programme of checking the back-to-back and overall weight.

I’ve been testing 54458 and 54495 on their return from the paint shop. In the final stage of modelling I removed their motors and worm drives while leaving the High Level gear boxes in place. This has allowed me to push and pull them around the layout with a small diesel shunter to check their running. Out of interest the shunter has over-scale, “easy couplers” at either end, which get round the problem of using the very fiddly scale couplings on Kyle of Sutherland’s rolling stock. Well, I found out more than I bargained for: the steps of both locos fouled several feet of the Up platform. The solution with 54458 was a combination of cutting back the wooden platform edging and supporting joists and bending back the steps. I’m not happy with the latter part of the remedy as it noticeably alters the appearance. I had the same difficulty with the bogie steps of the HR TPO and in this case I reduced the width of the step treads, which looks better. I’ll mull things over before addressing 54495. Even though the two locos only weigh about 90 gm without motor, tender and any added weight, they ran very smoothly throughout the layout and I may simply keep oiling and running them in this way for a while before replacing the motors.

The 10 train exhibition sequence planned for the layout involves uncoupling engines, turning and replacing them at the other end of the train. I’m minded to install easy couplers at the rear of all locos. As a result of this concentrated period of operation I’ve come up with some further ideas to improve the layout’s “ease of use” for other operators. There are also some train movements precluded by the design of the layout’s electrics. That’s more to think about.

I now understand the benefit of having a comprehensive set of specifications for all aspects of the layout and its stock. I’ve taken particular notice of the standards employed on St Merryn, the P4 exhibition layout built by the South London Area Group of the Scalefour Society. I’m constantly surprised how even the smallest departures from standard can cause derailments in P4.

All this confirms I’ve put loco building on the back burner. I’m first going to concentrate on proving, and maybe improving, the layout with my current stock of five steam and two diesel locos.

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