Monthly progress

April Progress

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

A pre-Railex run-through with improved lighting, a new train and a new loco, seemingly endless layout jobs completed, the re-painted Pullman fitted with new-style, easy-to-use couplings, figures painted and added to some locos, a couple of figures embedded in Kyle of Sutherland’s landscape (numerous requests for this), a more powerful servo transformer, more attention paid to rolling stock back-to-back measurement, extra pick-ups on locos, continued progress with 1649, and more. Like the curate’s egg: good in parts.

Shuttleworth Train 1959 4760       One of the good parts

This eight-wagon mixed goods was made especially for Railex (thanks, Tim) and paired with Pickersgill 4-4-0 54495 represents a train photographed by F.W. Shuttleworth from several viewpoints at Helmsdale in May 1958.

D8032 180426 4766       Inverness D8032 (also good)

In April 1960 the then new Type 1 D8032 complete with cab side recesses and tablet catchers makes its way light engine through Culrain back to Inverness after helping an ailing north-bound Black Five from Dingwall (well recorded at the time). Thanks, Bob.

Back to the present and I am only making slow progress with 1649.

1649 180427 4763       1649 ready for painting (less good)

1649 now has most of the upper works completed, but lacks brakes and sanding gear. The axles are still removable individually to allow more detailing of the chassis. Time is running out, so I am painting the body as is and will see how things go before painting the chassis.

The pre-Railex trial sequence sheet was highlighted separately for “South Operator” and “North Operator” (thanks to Ian for an example of this from a well-known Devon layout). I am now producing the Railex exhibition sequence with alternative train and stock opportunities. This includes two Restaurant Cars and a Mini Buffet: an ex-LMS Pullman to Helmsdale, a 12-wheel ex-LMS to The Mound, and an RMB in a BR Mk 1 rake to Wick, as well as the ex-HR TPO and other stock which (as with the prototype) change trains between travelling north and returning south. The plan is to have at least 10 trains available, with spare locos, and run different sequences morning and afternoon, weather permitting.

Finally, some Modelu lamps and loco crew are on their way, and I am fitting bogie pick-ups to the last, and most difficult, loco; the tiny ex-HR 55053 with only 2’6” bogie wheels.

Stop Press: the 06.40 Inverness to Wick and Thurso with Restaurant Car for The Mound is on the cover of the May issue of Scalefour News – all good PR for Railex.



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


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