Saturday, 31 December 2011

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'...

Last night I sat at the new workbench and actually wondered what to do!  It's almost as if I'm out of practice...

Thinking back a couple of days, my Dad had shown me his Boxing Day project of building a home for his Modelex rolling road, comprising of a small baseboard, a short running line and his rolling road firmly fixed down.  I had been impressed with his rolling road when he first purchased it and had researched something similar for myself, however being a multi-gauge modeller it would be expensive to buy one in 16.5mm gauge and 9mm gauge.

Enter DCC Concepts, who have devised a nifty re-gaugeable set of rollers that sit on conventional track and can be gauged for 9mm, 12mm, 16.5mm and 18.2/18.83mm gauge track by use of different inserts.  This allows folk like myself to benefit from one set of rollers to suit several projects.  I purchased a set online earlier this year and although I have been able to test them, I hadn't put any thought into how they could be set up longer term.

The Rolling Road being tested by my industrial diesel on the 9mm gauge track.
The set-up above was created by recycling parts of the balsa framed/foam core topped baseboard from the 'Misterton Fen Tramway', hacked about to create a board 14" by 6".  Track takes the form of a length of Roco HOe track given to me a couple of years ago by Jordan Leeds and a length of Peco code 75 that was fished out of a bin last year, left by someone who couldn't see it's usefulness once it was kinked!

Electrical set up, plug in, one switch, simples!
The electrical connections are also salvaged from the MFT, let into the baseboard frame at a point where some damage had occurred to the balsa wood frame.  A slide switch allows the user to switch between the 16.5mm and 9mm gauge tracks.

So far I have only found one problem... the bogie mouldings on some American Bo-Bo diesels don't clear the rollers properly.  It's a good job you can run things up and down the tracks as well!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Test of Time

'Shifting Sands', my O9 representation of a seaside miniature railway, has not operated in over 18 months, in fact I can't think when it was last operated before it went to Cleethorpes for display in 'Rails to the Sands' during 2010.  Although the layout has been home for the best part of two months, I have not had the opportunity to carry out any test running due to other commitments.  However, on Christmas Eve time came into my hands and I was able to remove the layout's cover and see what was what.  Barring a couple of loose scenic items, quickly fixed, there was no damage to the layout and a visual check of the wiring confirmed all was OK.  Out came the stockbox and after an initial quick 'one loco in steam' check, other items emerged to be "tested"...

Operating 'Shifting Sands' perched on it's box-cover on the future  nursery floor.

The layout itself performed faultlessly, I didn't even have to clean the track as 'Shifting Sands' rails have been coated in graphite (from an artists pencil), a trick well known to members of the Gnatterbox Gn15 forum to improve electrical conductivity and reduce the need for cleaning rails and wheels.  There are some cons to this method but nothing that affects a small, level layout such as this.  Some of the loco fleet did require a drop of 'Electrolube' in places to improve their performance, but after a while all was running well.  Sadly the light wasn't too good that close to floor level in the evening and the resultant photos aren't shareable here.

However, a second running session today in daylight has allowed a few more shots to be attempted, and also allowed a different selection of stock to be operated, including some from my 'O9 Heritage Collection' that aren't always seen in operation.

'Intrepid' with coaches built by Clive Mortimer for his 'Great Ouse Valley' project.
What have always been known as the "Romney's" on 'Shifting Sands' are in fact coaches started by prolific scratchbuilder Clive Mortimer for a project called the 'Great Ouse Valley Railway', which Clive started but decided not to pursue several years ago.  I was gifted his half started coaches and finished three of them off, with a lot of rebuilding, as the initial enclosed stock for the layout.  Later replaced in service by my own scratchbuilt stock, these coaches are now showing a few signs of ageing such as warping roofs and a few knocks and chips in the paint.  I am in two minds whether to repair them or conserve them as heritage items!

'Thunderbolt', my first conventional O9 steam loco, with Owen Ryder/Avalon Line coach.
My Owen Ryder/Avalon Line 'Ratty' coach is perhaps a little on the big side for 'Shifting Sands' as it is wider and longer than the home-brewed open coaches, but it is of importance to me in terms of O9 history as it represents the early commercial period and a prototype vehicle as well.  It isn't as smooth on it's bogies as the  stock running on MicroTrains trucks, and has therefore not seen as much service as other coaches.  'Thunderbolt' had become overshadowed by my Pacific 'King George VI' in recent layout appearances, but this simple Bachmann conversion should not be overlooked as a source of scale-outline miniature railway motive power.

And finally....

'Pandora' in the dunes.
I could not resist this shot of 'Pandora' in the headshunt by the dunes.  Happy days....

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas (DIY is Over)

Well here we are, Christmas Eve.  The last major house renovation job of the current projects is complete, the hall, stairs and landing are now fully painted and carpeted with only a few minor finishing touches to add.  A huge sigh of relief was heard when the carpet fitters left yesterday afternoon!  With no major DIY tasks planned for the next few months, I could finally undertake the job that bridged the gap between DIY and model making, creating my new cupboard based workbench.

And here it is:


The eagle-eyed will see that it is a little higher than the artists impression from August, as it became obvious through experimentation that a stool was easier to manage in the space than a chair.  This doesn't worry me, it also creates a good height to stand at for quick tasks.

The basis of the new workbench is a piece of timber furniture board from Wickes, which goes against my recycle-where-possible ethos, but seemed a better option than a piece of contiboard or MDF.  It is certainly solid, more so as it is braced underneath with sections of 20 x 15mm timber, sourced from the 'railway department' stash and bearing 30p price tags from the local hardware store's bargain bin!  The same stash provided 9mm quad bead to go around the edges to catch rogue wheels etc from rolling away.  This is very much a work in progress and is currently being varnished to complete the job.

Finally, from the archives, a 2007 view of the Somerthorpe Miniature Railway...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

In Triplicate

At the Wakefield exhibition last weekend I grew weak at the knees at their legendary club second-hand stall and came away with an N gauge Bachmann Spectrum F-Unit for the agreeable sum of £15.00.  Thinking back to last year's show I seem to recall doing something similar, indeed I may have chosen not to buy two on that occasion...

This style of F-Unit chassis formed the basis of my first O9 loco back in 2003, when I purchased one very cheaply at a Toyfair as the basis of my first steps in O9 motive power.  With a stylish body formed from Dapol railbus and drewery shunter parts I felt that the resultant loco captured the spirit of 1950s and 60s 15" gauge design and wouldn't have looked out of place at Dudley Zoo or Fairbourne.


These were early, perhaps pioneering days for me and much procrastination followed as to what the layout that would inevitably follow would be.  At one stage the whole project hung in the balance but despite a half-hearted plan to sell up and return to 'OO', the blue diesel was not going to be sold.  What eventually emerged was of course 'Shifting Sands', but by the time the layout was complete, the blue diesel had started to look a little on the small side next to 'Cumbria', my Ratty inspired steam tram locomotive.

A rebuild saw 3mm added to the height of the loco with a new frame below the body, and at this stage an Atlas mechanism was installed.  The main reason for this change was that at this time I was using a set-up of old H&M control equipment and the setting required to get the best from the Atlas mechanism matched those used for the Kato 4w chassis found under many of my other locomotives.  The original Bachmann chassis ended up under a 'twin' built for Andrew Blackwell.


Last years chassis purchase ended up under my 'Christmas Project' of a third locomotive. The long term intention for this was to actually replace the original locomotive in the 'Shifting Sands' fleet and allow the original bodyshell to be restored to it's original appearance for display with my older coaching stock.  With the purchase of a further chassis, and another railbus and drewery shunter kit to hand to build another loco, the story is unlikely to end here!