Monthly progress

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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May Progress

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

The addition of hedges, bushes, shrubs and flowers, as well as a few more trees, has really lifted the scenery. This month I’ve taken the unusual step of featuring two photos of the same view, but with different backscenes and an extra bush in the second snapped a few days later. Both were taken under natural light.

Scenery 39 170503 4491       Scenery 40 170512 4504

The first was taken about teatime in bright, sunny weather, while the second was taken at a later time of day in very overcast conditions. I’m surprised how they show such very different moods.

Back at the beginning of the month, Paul Bambrick used “The road south” from Kyle of Sutherland’s Scenic Gallery to illustrate view blocking in his article “How To Plan a Realistic Backscene” in Model Rail No. 235 June 2017. From time to time, Paul includes pictures of Kyle of Sutherland in the “Latest News” section of his Bambrick Studio website. Recent entries include the beech tree view blocker described in “February Progress” and the second of the above two photographs.

In the second half of the month the postman delivered a set of Alan Gibson wheels for 1649 and a Judith/Mike Edge test etch for 40150’s chassis. I re-worked the 5-part mount card backscene I first made in 2015, and experimented with LED strip lights. Then coming up to the end of the month I made two 2’6” cassette tables out of one of the 5’ exhibition tables. The three tables still bolt together into the same overall space as the original pair of 5’ tables for transporting.

Kyle of Sutherland can now be set up with two 2’6” cassette tables (total operating length 15’), one 2’6” and one 5’ table (total 17’6”) or with the two 2’6” tables bolted together at one end and the 5’ table at the other (total 20’ for exhibition).

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April Progress

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

The front of layout view blockers, in conjunction with movable tree modules beyond the railway, create a number of adjacent, or linked, diorama-style views for exhibition purposes (see September Progress from 2016).

Scenery 35 170425 4477

This is the scene between view blockers at the north end of the layout (above left, seen on first completion in “Tree-mendous”, Project Progress, August 15, 2015) and left of centre of the layout (above right, as illustrated in “February Progress”, March 1, 2017).

And here’s the station entrance, the next diorama right (south) of that above.

Scenery 36 170424 4468

I’ve updated the Scenic Gallery with these and several other new photographs.

This recent spate of photography has highlighted the limited number of hedges, bushes, shrubs and flowers on the layout. In the last few days of the month I started doing something about it, and hopefully that will bring to an end the scenic work. Apart from backscenes, that is.

It’s also high time I started a new loco.

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March Progress

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

Kyle of Sutherland has relocated to North Yorkshire.

Settle and Carlisle 170314 4436       Looking west

To the right of the houses in the middle distance, just above the Leeds and Liverpool canal, a road bridge crosses the Settle and Carlisle line. Yesterday morning 60103 Flying Scotsman passed under the bridge on its way north to celebrate the reopening of the through route to Carlisle.

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February Progress

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

It’s been a solder-free month, though I did finish the last of the four, front-of-layout view blockers (see mid-February “Project progress”). A sepia photograph of No 3 featured in MRJ No 253 and here’s the original colour view.

scenery-34-161010-4357       View blocker No 3

I still don’t know what the next loco will be.

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January Progress

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

What will the next loco be?

1649 2 140611       Western Region loco 1649

In June 2014 I tried out my new vee block on a trial pannier tank cross-section for 1649, the last steam loco to work on the Far North line. Last year I bought the 16xx Branchlines kit with a newly designed nickel chassis and a (re-worked?) Nu-cast whitemetal body. Then there’s Black Five 44722, for which I recently completed the Stanier tender, as reported mid-month.

And now there’s 40150, a Stanier 3P 2-6-2T used in the late 1950s and early 1960s, on Georgemas Junction to Thurso trains and occasional piloting duties. There’s a possibility of some etches to kick-start this model.

Whichever loco I choose, I need to complete it, and paint it, to exhibition standards well within the year.

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December progress

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

2015 was the “Year of the Tree”, 2016 was the “Year of the Train”, but what’s 2017 going to be?

54495 Scratch 8 161212 4417       Pickersgill 4-4-0 54495

54495 is now boxed up for transporting to the paint shop to receive its fully lined 1960s livery with the later BR large totem. The buffer heads and springs, screw couplings, and mechanical lubricator drive mechanism will be fitted when it returns. And there are additional small holes in the cab front and footplate in case I get the urge to fit 0.2mm copper wire to represent (some of) the prototype oil pipes. Hopefully the job lot of loco number and shed plates I ordered some time ago, including those for 54495, will then be ready.

The paint shop will also number 54458 and letter the tender in immediate post-nationalisation style, which was applied until 1949. In this form, with its existing well-worn paintwork, 54458 will represent a run-down, early 1950s loco.

44695-tender-4-161231       New Year’s Eve in the Packing Dept

Two Caledonian 4-4-0 locos (big box), two matching CR tenders (rear bottom), one fully-welded Black Five tender from 45473 needing a change of totem to lion-on-wheel (rear top), and one newly completed part-welded Black Five tender body ready for painting with the later BR large totem, with its chassis in primer (front small box). All destined for the paint shop.

The latest Black Five tender, intended for long wheelbase Black Five 44722, has taken almost sixteen years from picking up a soldering iron through to completion and deserves a longer write-up. I’ll post something in “Project progress” later in the month.

Now, 2017 could be the “Year of The ERSA RDS 80” digital soldering station. I bought this second hand from a well-known 0-gauge modeller and all-round good egg (moving up to a 150W ERSA) back in October. I can now tackle jobs that would have been very difficult with my aging 18W and 25W Antex irons. As for the 75W Weller, the bit could only be used where there was plenty of access space. I’ve been contemplating an ERSA for some time, but hadn’t taken the plunge. You get used to particular soldering irons and I was concerned I might not get on well with a change of iron. The RDS 80 has not only made soldering easier and more enjoyable, it’s brought about a step change in my modelling.

However, it finally looks as though 2017 is going to be the “Year of The Train, Again”.

There are some big decisions to take this year, such as which loco to start next. And what to do scenically to make Kyle of Sutherland ready for exhibition.

Happy New Year!

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November Progress

Posted on December 1, 2016. Filed under: Monthly progress |

Here’s the first published picture of a Far North passenger train passing through the model Culrain.


The train is the morning Helmsdale to Inverness with the previous day’s northbound TPO immediately behind the engine and coaches from the previous evening’s Inverness to Helmsdale. From the condition of the Dunalastair IV 54458 and the presence of cattle flakes on Culrain’s loading bank this suggests the early 1950s.

The middle part of last month was taken up with non-Kyle of Sutherland modelling, however I found time to continue with 54495. I rebuilt the complete upper body of the original low-sided brass tender from a Caley Coaches kit with a taller, scratch nickel silver tank and front end.

54495-scratch-7-161201       54495 with rebuilt tender

The loco and tender are booked into the paint shop for January 2017.

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October Progress

Posted on November 1, 2016. Filed under: Monthly progress |

54495 is rolling along nicely.

54495-scratch-6-161031       Soon be ready?

There’s plate work to be fashioned and numerous small details to be added. The smokebox and boiler can be separately removed, which has made the overall work much easier, especially sorting the clearances between the chassis and the footplate. Consequently, 54495’s very free, compensated rolling chassis nicely fits the body.

54495’s tender was originally made some time ago with higher sides than those provided in the kit. Subsequently, I painted it in well-worn, early 1950s condition and paired it with 54458. The second tender, which still awaits a taller nickel tank, will be painted in fully lined BR livery to go with 54495.

And right back at the beginning of the month at the Autumn Model Railway Weekend at Missenden I finished the tree module intended to fill the gap front centre of the layout, as in last month’s progress post.

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    The epic struggle to build a model railway exhibition layout at 4mm to the foot


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