Saturday, 7 December 2019

There's always Plan B...

There is a piece of training we deliver at work where at one point we explain how the system warns you if you are about to take a "destructive action". Layout planning doesn't always do this for you but having spent a good few days doodling, brooding and examining, it became clear that extending 'Beck Bridge' might be a destructive action too far and that I would have to up the game for plan B. Whatever that was...

Plan B is envisaged to be based on the corkboard-esque board that was in service as the "new" test track, albeit then on the mk2 version. Whilst this worked satisfactorily, I was torn between leaving it in bare boards form, some low-level scenic work or something more layout-like with backscene boards etc added. 

It also became apparent during my recent coupler clinic that as a test track it took up too much desk space to be able to work on the item being tested. So I have replaced it with a smaller version, constructed from oddments during my initial workshop investigations into the 'Beck Bridge' rebuild.

An off-cut of ply 18.75" x 4.25" forms the top surface with framing from window beading strip that once graced a real 15" gauge carriage. A coat of varnish makes it all look a lot better than it really is and Peco track and MicroTrains uncouplers were recovered from the bigger version to create a two short sidings holding two wagons each, which is enough for testing purposes.

Which of course frees up the original board to potentially rebuild as plan B! There is an option to break out of the desk-sitter mould and extend the board by another 8" to the left if required and a potential extension could include a dropped area for a water feature, but probably not another bridge!* Track layout possibilities include recreating the mk1 version of the test track;

or adopting the basic idea from the 'Beck Bridge' extension; or even a new take on this plan that I drew up 15 years ago before going down the 'Shifting Sands' path....


*and yes, I have thought of recycling the bridge off the diorama...

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Hidden in Plain Sight

In my last posting about a potential plan to extend 'Beck Bridge' into a thin micro layout, I was torn between hiding a sector plate off-scene to close off the loop or making it a scenic feature. In the recesses of my mind another idea from Neil Rushby came back to me, from an article in the August 2008 Railway Modeller called 'A Scenic Sector Plate', about trying to hide a sector plate in plain sight.

The Ministry of Daft Ideas now seems to have developed a 3D visualisation department complete with a suite of items for planning purposes to see if this could be applied to the Beck Bridge rebuild.

This looks quite effectively hidden but not as cramped as when I mocked-up a hole-in-the-sky hidden version. Whilst the sector plate is aligned to the back road (which would be the "normal" position) the water tower hides the fact that the front line is disconnected. The structure alongside this is nominally styled after a phone box but could equally be a portaloo or even the TARDIS...

From the wider angle the result is also reasonable.

This is all working towards the formulation of my plans, there may be a totally separate 'Plan B' to also consider but that is currently an un-developed theory!


Sunday, 24 November 2019

Onwards from Beck Bridge

Since building the 'Beck Bridge' diorama it has spent most of it's time sat in a cardboard box either in the workshop or railway cupboard. The only times it has seen the light of day was for the 009 Society exhibition in Mansfield and for a daylight photo-shoot, producing shots such as this.

I've spent some time lately pondering what to do with it in the longer term as it doesn't really suit as a photographic set in the same way the 'The Headshunt' does. Now the Ministry of Daft Ideas came up with a few crazy ones including incorporating it into a continuous run. A sketch exists but I'll spare you that!

However, a post about "picture frame" scenes on the NGRM Online forum sparked an interesting thought, could 'Beck Bridge' be incorporated into a narrow, picture-frame style layout? Using a print out of the overall view I sketched a few additions, then scanned this in and composited the original picture back in...

The idea is to add to the right-hand end, doubling the length from 14 to 28 inches. This would be a fairly destructive act but I think achievable due to the way that the frame is constructed. Trackwork would have to be reworked to remove the KB scale dummy rail joiners that would stop smooth running and as part of this process I would actually lift some of the existing track and replace it with a point that feeds a short loop for a station.

I've sketched in a loco-length sector plate at the end of this hidden by the wing and most likely on a bolt-on board. A few commentators have suggested that this could be made fully scenic or be fully scenic and a turntable. I'm not fully sure about that element yet, I have a theory about making the scene seem longer by not visibly closing off the loop. I also like the idea of the loco vanishing for a few seconds and reappearing on the other line. Neil Rushby's 'Isle of Avalon Tramway' was in my mind, where a traverser was hidden in an overall roof and engine shed to great effect (seen here in new ownership). I didn't sketch in a roof but it is a possibility....

To the left-hand end a cassette fiddle yard would be added as a separate board.  Short trains such as my Exmoor tank and a couple of coaches could be operated effectively on this set-up. We shall see what develops as there are a couple of alternatives to consider as well...


Saturday, 9 November 2019

Coupling Clinic

One of the advantages of the desk-sitter test track is that it allows for some tinkering and testing of couplers as well as locomotive mechanisms. A lot of the MicroTrains couplers on my wagon fleet have been added as a necessity but never actually used very much for real shunting. Getting them in a fit state to do so can involve a little fettling of drop-arms and plenty of 'Grease-Em' graphite lubricant. 

Of course this only works if the couplers themselves are in a good state. One of the bogies on the van in the picture had been equipped with a Kadee knuckle spring rather than the correct MicroTrains one. I vaguely recall doing this at a time I was short of springs and it worked to an extent but not to uncouple! Replaced with the correct item it was a problem soon resolved, although the idea is a good one of you have couplers in use that you don't want to uncouple accidentally.

So far about 10 of the Shifting Sands and extended fleets have been seen to, the result being much more reliable coupling and uncoupling. This all informs future layout planning....


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Without a Loop

Unable to run to Humberston station this season the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway has been operating a half-line service between Kingsway and Lakeside stations. At Lakeside a problem presents itself as the through platform (3) has no loop and the former terminus platforms (1 and 2) have lost theirs. A pattern of operating has been developed that avoids reversing empty stock or shunt-release.

On Monday 28th October, in bright, low, light I was able to record the sequence using the LNER O4 2-8-0 and the ex Bush Mill Railway 'DA1'. Here the O4 approaches Lakeside station entering the passing loop.

The train draws to a halt before the point that splits the line between platform3 (where DA1 is waiting) and platform 1 on the right.

The guard uncouples the locomotive from the train.

The O4 draws forward into platform 1 as the guard prepares to change the point to allow DA1 to move onto the train.

The guard signals to the driver of DA1 as it moves towards the train.

DA1 draws the train forward into platform 3 to terminate.

With the train in platform 3 the O4 backs out of platform 1 and moves forward onto the train.

The train is now ready to depart back to Kingsway. After departure DA1 will be moved back up the platform to repeat the sequence for the next arrival.

I do like to record these movements in the hope that at some point it will prove inspirational to a layout project, almost anything is possible!


Saturday, 2 November 2019

Did I just see that on TV?

I know that the Great Model Railway Challenge TV series isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I have watched the second series with interest, and it is fair to say that amongst the odd themes has been some good modelling and more time dedicated to the participants explaining what they have done.

Catching up on the final I discovered an interesting project from Team Grantham called "Fun of the Fairground". The scale wasn't really mentioned but it certainly wasn't 1/76. I did spot the combination  described as a "miniature train" of an N gauge Peppercorn Pacific hauling modified Peco Lynton & Barnstable open wagons carrying overscale passengers.

It might not be O9 but it's probably as close as we'll come to seeing it on TV for a while...


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Cardboard Caravan

I've been doing a fair bit of thinking and research lately in to what shape any future potential layout project will take (I'm not really close to knowing in case you're wondering). A couple of weeks ago I followed a link posted on the NGRM Online forum for a 7mm scale cardboard caravan kit from and having seen the largely cardboard 'Moxley' layout at the Sheffield exhibition decided to see what could be made of a downloadable card kit, all in the name or research!

Here's the result, and it wasn't as quick to achieve this as you might think...

Having downloaded the kit and read the instructions I promptly decided to largely ignore them. They say to print it on 160-180 gsm card but I chose to use lightweight matt photopapaper as it has a much smoother surface. This was then stuck to card of undetermined weight but likely 200 gsm+, using an acid free glue stick. Once dry I then opted to emboss the corrugations in the caravan sides and ends to give a little texture. To achieve this without damaging the prints I printed the relevant parts again on plain copier paper and overlaid this carefully on the parts, then went up and down each line twice, avoiding the windows and doors.

Of course this is pretty hard to photograph once embossed, you can just see it around the door here.

You might be wondering why I left the windows and doors alone. Well, the kit includes a full set of separate parts to overlay on top of the sides to reproduce the frames on a real caravan that sit proud of the sides, but they repeat the printed window detail that is represented on the sides. I had other plans.... I did not stick these parts to the card as per the sides, but cut out the centre of each frame and then carefully stuck each group of windows to clear material (possibly an old overhead projector transparency) using Johnson's 'Kleer'. Once dry I was able to cut out each door/window with a frame and glass, the effect of which can be seen here posed on the printed side. The idea is to get a greater sense of depth.

As can be seen, by this point I had cut abandoned the intended style of construction of folding up the floor/sides/ends and adding formers and a roof, as I felt that would produce something rather flimsy. Instead I opted to cut out the parts and use them around a more substantial supporting structure, made from 1.5mm mount board and treated with Button Polish (shellac). This included internal formers to hold the roof in place and strengthening triangles to reinforce the joints.

I had simplified the roof profile from that printed in the kit as it didn't look quite right and it was much easier to create a simple shallow radius. Underneath the printed box that represented the chassis framework in the kit was replaced with a lattice cut from card and more sections of mount board.

In a fit of laziness, and a desire to move on what should have been a simple card kit build that was taking a lot longer than expected, I sprayed the roof and underside of the structure with grey primer. The next day I added all the printed parts and then some carefully folded corner strips from the matt photo paper to hide the corner joins. Once these were dry I ran a pencil over them to tone down the brightness. I then carried out what could have been a ruinous exercise and gently wafted a can of Humbrol acrylic matt varnish over the painted and printed parts to help seal the print and tone it down a touch. This almost went too white but it is generally OK. Once dry I added the window and door units using double-sided tape.

I find that the contrast between the matt of the sides and the gloss of the glazing and the sense of depth between the front window frame and the printed panel behind is almost enough to hide the fact that the interior is not modelled. It would certainly work as a background model and my thinking is that this and the other caravan kits in the range would be very suited to creating a caravan park behind a wall/fence/bush as part of a backscene, using the sides and ends as flats but employing the embossing and window techniques used here.

I've opted to halt at this point until I decide what to do with it. You may have spotted that I've not added any wheels or the jockey wheel, I was thinking of raiding my 4mm scale vehicle wheels to assist with these.