Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Year Ahead and Behind

It is that time of year when Blogger shows you a full 12 months of posts down the right hand side of the page and you click on January to see what has changed since then.

From this

To this

Quite incredible progress, I'm sure you'll agree.

Of course in reality there is a big difference between a RTR 16.5mm turnout and a hand built 18mm gauge one, although I still think that the Tillig track has much to recommend it. All the same if I have a regret now it is that I didn't build Apa in EM.

However, I did build Apa, and it is more or less finished and time to mover on to the next project. With careful choice of camera angle and some post processing I'm quite pleased with how Apa turned out.

So what did I learn in 2013?

A lot was about observation and layers of seeing. There are elements of the overall mix that make up a convincing layout that perhaps I hadn't realised were important before, perhaps because I hadn't consciously observed them when looking at the real world.  I'm amazed how I can still find things in photos of the TVR that are blindingly obvious once you've noticed them.

One result of this is that I'm much more aware of track work, point rodding signal cables and other things of that ilk. In the past I've know they were there, but only in a vague sense that they were part of the picture.

Colour is something else I think I understand a  little better than I did before but I still struggle to produce the colours I want first time around, as evidenced by  the multiple repaints of the goods yard and the stone bridge. One major investment I'm making this year, to benefit my photography as well as my modelling, is to shift to the consistent use of 6500k lighting in the study.

Looking Forward to 2014

I've also got  a much better idea of the skills  I need to develop before building a proper layout, which helps set the agenda for the next intermediate project that I'm planning for the next eighteen months or so.

Top of that list is to shift the emphasis towards track and  a few key items of rolling stock. the scenics can sort of take care of themselves although I do want to build new versions of all the buildings.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Playing Around in Templot

Now how did that happen?

Printed out and with the TVR goods shed  placed on the plan it still seems to work, though the narrow clearance in the loop doesn't look right.

Which leads on to this iteration. The turnouts are B6 except fir the one to the goods shed that is an A5 but still gives a minimum radius of  42" that I hope will just about be acceptable for shunting with a 14XX.

To make it believable will mean some scenic tricks and obviously the small TVR buildings are going to help. Having just measured up the  load space in the new car* I guess  I can go up to 18" baseboard width if I can keep the weight down.

My mind tells me the best approach is to flip it over so the goods yard is at the front and to place the platform on the loop, but my heart wants to keep it this way and keep to the "bitsa" station idea I used on Apa, bearing in mind in theory there shouldn't be any passenger services except the odd brakevan special.

*That is if she doesn't crash it again - a week old and it is already in the body shop.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Lessons of the Point - Part 1

So much has been written about how to build points that you would think there was nothing left to find out for yourself. As a beginner though that is part of the problem. Such is the volume of what has been written that it is hard to filter out the essentials you need during the nerve wracking exercise of building that first point. Much that is written is also influenced by the unconscious competence of those writing it.

In my professional life this is something that is exercising much of my time at the moment. How do you distill the wisdom of experts into a form that allows the less experienced to follow their advice and get short term results that are satisficory whilst also providing a foundation that doesn't constrain future development.

So here are my initial notes on building that first EM gauge point using the C+L system . I will hopefully update it in the light of the next five I have to build in the coming months. Mostly it is litany of the mistakes I made, and needs to be read in conjunction with much of that good advice which is out there.

Choice of construction

I'd built a few copperclad turnouts in OO9 a long time ago and was tempted to make a start using that method in EM gauge, using the SMP kits. I might still buy one to try since they are so cheap. To be honest if I need to build a single slip, a feature of so many Iain Rice trackplans, I think I would go that way until I've built up an awful lot more confidence. The other appealing aspects of copperclad are speed of construction, which can also equate to speed of learning, and the ease with which mistakes can be rectified with the touch of a soldering iron.

So why did I go for the C+L system? Well I already had a stash of EMGS ply sleepers so I thought the TimberTracks base would be a good visual fit, I wanted to use steel track, and I know that on the finished layout I wanted to use the correct pattern of chairs and retrofitting them on to a copperclad point sounded like hard work. In retrospect I don't think it would have been since the C+L chairs are very easy to cut in half. There is also this alternative from  PH Designs that could be worth investigating.

My one concern with the C+L route was the need to get it right first time without that get out of jail free card of a dab of the soldering iron. In a post that is going to be littered with cliches I have to admit that turned out to be a red herring. Not only does the system allow some time for adjustment before the bond sets but it also proved quite easy to correct mistakes either by refloating the chair with more butanone, or by slicing it off and putting on a new chair, either by flexing it on to the rail or slicing it in two and applying the halves separately.

It appears there might be supply issues around the TimberTracks bases, and since most of the turnouts I need are going to be built on Templot templates this might have proven to be a bit of a cul de sac. Something else I hadn't realised, though I guess it was obvious, is that that the template provided with the C+L kit doesn't match the timbering of the TimberTracks base, which made life more difficult than it needed to have been when it came to using the template as a reference. Once I'd realised that I actually produced a rough template using TRAX 3, which allowed me to extend the rails beyond the length of the turnout, and then copied over the  relevant information. I made a mistake in doing this so I have one less slide chair on  one side than I should. .

The C+L kits are a good starting point (sorry) especially for those like me who struggle to find their way around the C+L product range and website. However they certainly aren't cheap.  I was also under whelmed by the instructions which seemed rather dense and in need of a lot more illustrations in place of words.

The common crossing must be a big part of the cost of these kits, since they are £16 to buy by themselves. If that wasn't incentive enough to learn how to make your own I'll also add that I manged to break the common crossing in my kit, which isn't surprising given the amount of handling it got as I played around with it, as any beginner is wont to do. Re-soldering it proved to be a trivial job and another confidence booster. So building my own in future is definitely a skill I want to develop.

My overall conclusion is I'm going to stick with C+L chairs on timber sleepers, but use Templot templates and in the longer term make my own common crossings.

Before Beginning

I think this is an area that many experts don't address from a tyro's perspective.

I cannot emphasize enough that building your first turnout to prove to yourself that you can do it is NOT the same as batch building turnouts for a layout. A workflow that works in the latter case can be full of pitfalls for someone in the first situation.

In particular in retrospect I wish I'd had a complete list of instructions to follow which also included notes on what was essential to get right at that stage and what would fall into place at a later stage.

Now I thought I did have a complete list of instructions. In fact I thought I had several complete lists. But I didn't. Not complete as in the old WW2 US Navy approach of designing everything so it could be operated by a farm boy from the Midwest.  Some things that were missing because the author obviously thought no builder could be stupid enough to not do it, others appeared out of construction order. I suspect much of what I write in the next few weeks will be on the subject of tiebars, but they are a prime example. In books and articles they are almost always referred to as an afterthought, but they aren't. In fact in many cases the author ends with a casual "Now fit the tiebar" . So I got to the end of building my point and realized that the inadequate provision I'd made for fitting a tie bar was going to be a major handicap.  OK, it was easy enough to fit something that worked, but not the sort of tiebar I'd been planning to fit.

A quick diversion here about one of the reasons why I'm building my own points. It was at Warley a few years ago and I was watching a really nice OO9 layout. I was really impressed until the CLUNK as a Peco point underwent the quantum change from being set from one road to the other. It wan't just that unrealistically sudden switching that ruined they illusion for me, it was that that it drew attention to that area of a RTR point that we all like to pretend doesn't exist.

Anyway a complete list of instructions is a must, so I'm going to create my own for next time, including a lot of copying and pasting so that things appear in the right order, and with the use of

large bold type

to remind me of things I'm likely to forget, like drilling holes fro the dropper wires or  not tinning the underside of rails before I've slid the sleepers on.

And I'm going to include tick boxes to make sure I've done what I should have done before proceeding to the next stage.

Incidentally I built an A4 turnout for my first attempt. This was influenced by the remote possibility that I might replace the track on Apa with EM. If I had done it would have  looked like this

Gauge conversion thanks to Photoshop.Once again I forgot to check the state of the fence, but trust me it has now popped back into shape thanks to the elastic "wire"
However I wouldn't recommend that choice. As is so often the case with modelling a smaller prototype is harder work and the tight radius makes this quite difficult to build accurately.  I think a B6 would probably be ideal.

Apart from compiling the list of instructions the other thing I should have done at this stage is to remove the chairs from their sprues and put the left and right handed ones in clearly distinguishable containers. This would have saved a lot of time later.

One other big takeaway from this stage, and it was the cause of some of my problems, is to decide whether you are building it in situ, or for installation elsewhere, and whether or not to ballast before laying the rails. I'll explain in my next post....

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Making My Point

So, unbelievably, here it is. My very first EM gauge point. The last point I made was in OO9 with copperclad sleepers and was a million miles away from this. Oh yes, and my eyesight was better in those days.

OK it looks untidy and I know there are a host of faults with it and a few things that I need to finish of but overall I'm quite proud of myself.

Underneath there somewhere is a C+L kit on a TimberTracks base, though built on a template from TRAX

I've learned an awful lot in building it, and discovered that some things I thought were going to be really difficult just fell into place. The real difficulties I faced have all got solutions. The one big question mark I have is around the tiebars. I didn't use the C+L versions  because they aren't right for the TVR and at the moment I just have a piece of copperclad doing the job. I have a practical answer to how to make a functional below baseboard tiebar involving the usual mix of dressmakers pin, tubing and fibreglass strip but it would be nice to have an option to build a surface mounted version that approximated to the GWR pattern

Since I'm writing this on Xmas day whilst the rest of the family watch Downton the finishing touches and the next round of thinking will have to wait for another time. I promise I will spill the beans (or superglue) on some of the things that I got wrong.

Big thanks are due  to Geoff for giving me the encouragement and practical advice to get started.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Serious Learning

I know I haven't yet revealed what went wrong with my point building exercise. I'm waiting until it is finished and I can report on all my mistakes en masse.

But that, after all, was the point of the exercise - to make mistakes and learn from them, and, to a lesser degree, to learn what worked and use that to build confidence.

Looking back on Apa Valley it was primarily an exercise in getting my confidence back,getting my modelling back to where it was in my OO9 days. As it happened I tried out a few things that were new to me, but that was never the main purpose.

I'm very aware though that the next project, and the things I'm trying out on my test board as well, is about moving into new territory. That means I'm going to have to get used to making more mistakes as I get out of my comfort zone. Some of those will be mistakes of execution, some of design, and some the result of failing to observe and research the prototype properly.   That probably means progress will be slow even by my usual snail's pace, and also thinking the design through so that I can replace anything that doesn't work.  If at the end anything is reusable then that will be a bonus.

In total contrast to Apa the focus is going to have to be at track level and on operation. That means getting to grips with Templot and settling on a workflow for turnout construction that suits me. I'm suffering from a surfeit of advice and techniques at the moment and whilst all of it is very useful I need to settle on what works both for my simple mind and in the context of how I'm building the layout. I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time peering at photographs looking for things that I'm sure would jump out at other people. Examples: The interlacing of sleepers, the joggling, the use of  concrete blocks and tie bars, the point rodding runs....all the things that if I build one way I know will be proven wrong by a photo I've had all along. That though is the whole point.

Then there is the operational side, the regauging of stock to EM, the building of a least one decent chassis and the changeover to S&W couplings. Not to mention settling on a reliable way of operating finescale turnouts and a an appropriate approach to building the baseboards

All of which should keep me busy in 2014

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


By now you might be expecting to see a photo of my first attempt at building an Em turnout.

Draw your own conclusions from the absence of a photo.

To be continued...

Friday, 6 December 2013

Two Plans

Llansilin Road

So these are the latest versions of the two plans.

First the modified version of Llanrhaiadr Mochnant based on the valuable  input from Richard Ough.

Perhaps the most obvious visual change is the move of the catch point at the up end of the loop. I've also dropped any hint of the second platform.

Then the modified version of TaOC, which isn't any more, because thanks to a suggestion from Kane the plan has shifted to being based rather more on Easingwold East but still with the station at the entrance to the scenic section and the goods shed at the down end.

Of course now the penny has dropped that since building this new compact design, provisionally called Llansilin is going to take the next eighteen months to two years then by the time I get to build Llanrhaiadr I might have enough space available to build it to fit a larger space so I can revert to a more spacious and authentic version. After all the kids are bound to leave home some time, aren't they?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Of Trees and Track

I'm always fearful that my posts about the design of the next layout might give the impression that I'm not actually doing any real modelling.

So here are the meager fruits of this weekends work.

I'm not sure but I think this is my first ever completely scratchbuilt tree. The wire was from the scrap box and rather thicker than that normally advocated. You can see the bare armature, coated with hot glue, in the current header photo of the blog. I sprayed it with Plastikote Manhattan Mist stone paint, which is one of those handy products for adding a bit of texture in all sorts of situations.

The tree is intended to disguise the sharp bend in the backscene behind the station building, and seems to work for that purpose.

This is certainly the first hand made track I've tackled since my OO9 days. In those days I used copperclad sleepers. For this I've gone back to riveted ply because that's what my disastrous attempts at EM track building in my teenage years used, and I wanted to lay that ghost to rest.  I'm not actually planning to use this technique on the layout itself, but I wanted to make sure I could do it if I decide I need to use rivets rather than C+L chairs to strengthen the points. Oh, and I had some FB rail I wanted to make use of.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Compromising Design

Few classic layout designs can have been both so inspiring and frustrating as Roy Link's "The Art of Compromise" in the October 1978 Railway Modeller.

I know I keep coming back to it on this blog, and I know others do as well.

I think, from a personal perspective, it is time for me to take a critical look back at that original article

The inspiration comes from the possibility that in a 6ft by 1ft space you can build a model that is "a subtle blend of the diorama... and a working layout" that is a "moderate operational unit itself" and that "incorporat(es) details not normally found on the average model railway"

Remember this was back in '78.  Lichen is king.

Roy's coloured illustration  accompanying the article is  itself inspirational, but so is the fact that the design could, in those days, be built using the readily available Prototype Models card kits, incorporated just about all the features of a typical branch line station except an engine shed, and had an interesting track plan that separated the loop from the platform. It is no coincidence that the same issue included an article on South Leigh station, again with a  track plan illustrated by Roy. South Leigh of the few stations designed on those lines. A subtle twist Roy added was the gentle curving of the track with hardly any of it parallel to the front edge of the baseboard.

So far so good.

The frustration sets in when people realise that Roy designed the layout with that tool most of us have some where - the optimistic pencil. You know the one, it allows you to draw that turnout in to fit a ridiculously small space and connect up two pieces of track without the need to check that the tangents align. The same pencil that convinces you that because there is clearance between a lineside feature and the centreline of the the track that you've drawn then there will still be clearance when the track is actually laid.

On top of that there is a presumption on the part of the reader, though never mentioned in the article, that a layout in the RM designed to use kit built buildings is probably one also designed to be built using Peco track.

I think that is probably the first pitfall people come across. I've spent hours in the past trying to come up with a workable plan using code 75 Streamline and this is still the closest I can get.

Actually perhaps it isn't that bad. I think it needs that one curved turnout to maintain the flow of the loop. However it certainly doesn't allow as much room for scenic development as Roy drew on the plan.

Roy also suggested the model would be suitable for operation by the then new Lima 45XX as well as a Metro Tank or a 14XX. That was certainly part of the appeal when I first saw the plan, even if it took me another thirty five years to buy the 45XX.

In reality though the use of anything bigger than a 14XX is a step too far to be practical.

I suspect as well many who have been attracted to this design because it has so many elements of a "proper" branch line terminus have been tempted to push the plan a bit too far  themselves by adding other features like an engine shed or a proper signal box. They then either decide it can't be done, or expand the design to fit in  a larger space.

Reading the article from today's perspective it is also interesting to see that the suggested baseboard construction was extremely traditional, including a Sundeala top.

So if the design is only marginally feasible in OO why am I still pursuing it as an option for an EM gauge layout?

Well first of all the 6ft by 1ft size has a very specific value in that it means it could fit across the length of my desk in the study.  That also means I could work on the layout in decent light. The possibility of using several small lightweight baseboards also means I'm going to be able to turn them around and over to get at things. Apa Valley has already taught me how important and useful that is at this stage of my learning curve.

Modelling the Tanat Valley brings another key advantage. The station buildings on the TVR were all quite compact, and the goods sheds road loading bay is at the end not the side, so you don't need to allow for as much space alongside the goods shed. That alone possibly saves a couple of inches of width.

There is the small issue that this isn't a track plan the TVR would have used, but it does contain elements lifted from individual stations. For instance the combination of the overbridge, platform, signal box and start of the loop is pure Blodwell Junction

As for the use of EM, well, we've already established that this is a track plan that needs hand built track, and I think, using Trax, that it just about works.

The observant will already have spotted that this involves exactly the same amount of track building as Llanrhaiadr Mochnant, whilst probably demanding a higher degree of accuracy. My other concern is that building small areas of scenery is actually more challenging than building relatively large ones. There is still scope to ease some of the curves, though the way Trax draws things on screen paradoxically seems to make things less smooth the further you zoom out. However the final decision to build will depend on a detailed design in Templot.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Cost of Compromise

I'm sat here enjoying one of those lovely late autumn, early winter days where the light is just right to take the camera out for a bike ride. Or, to sit down and make a serious start on the scary art of track laying.

It is is so so tempting to get the camera and bike out, but since my darling wife has gone out shopping for today perhaps it is time to take the soldering iron by the bit (I've done that a few times in the past) and get practical.

So I have done, though it being around fifteen years since I last built any track, and thirty since I last dabbled in EM, I'd forgotten how much preparatory work I had to do. Which is why I find time now to pause and reflect whilst the sleepers are steeping in point stain solution.

In a reply to a comment from Geoff I mentioned that I was struggling with the geometry of Llanrhaiadr Mochnant. A late night yesterday has seen some real progress made on that front. I'm still not sure how to reconcile all the photos but I've worked out some of the subtle curvature involved although at the cost of increasing the baseboard width to two foot. 

The apparently simple modification of swapping the in use platform from being on the down line to being on the up line of the loop has had an awful lot of knock on effects including the need to presume some alterations to the geography and history of the line. I'll share more on that when I post the next version of the track plan.

In the meantime I've started laying some track on the hastily constructed test baseboard. I'll spare you the photos for now, but being unable to resist the urge to place some OO gauge stock and the buildings from Apa on to it to see how it looks has made it rather obvious that I've subconsciously built the first couple of feet of "The Art of Compromise" 

At this stage we need to add another compromise into the mix, which is our new car. Somehow I've been persuaded that after a few years of running around in a comparatively spacious Merc A class that  we should buy another Toyota IQ before they go out of production at the end of the year. As the non-driver in the family I feel a little railroaded into this, but there you have it. Anyone familiar with the IQ will recognise that one description that can't be applied to the luggage space is "spacious". Not that that should matter, of course, because in theory the layout doesn't need to be portable.

If I did go down the route of building TAOC it would still be an intermediate step to LM. Llansilin Road would be the obvious Tanat Valley station to adopt to suit with a  few elements of Blodwell Junction thrown into the mix.

Lets see how the track building progresses this week.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

New Additions

I've finally managed to pick up a couple of 14XXs off ebay, one GWR Airfix and one BR still in a GMR box.

Both are destined to have Mainly Trains detailing kits applied to them, and one at least will end up on a Comet EM gauge chassis. The other might end up being retained in OO form at least until Apa Valley ends up in the bin an Llanrahaiadr Mochnant rises from the ashes.

In shots like this the photographic backscene actually works

Until then I've been getting a few jobs done post Warley. I've changed the line of the wooden fencing so it doesn't obscure the signal box in photos and made a start on adding foliage to the trees at each end. The stove pipe on the signal box is now a more realistic height and the area where the rodding comes out of the frame room has been tided up. I still need to leave a saucer of milk out for the cat though.

The layout in its entirety 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Warley 2013 - Or Bye, Bye, Albion Yard.

Why do we go to model railway exhibitions?

Can someone remind me which layout this is?

I wonder how many answers there are to that question, and also how many of them survive close scrutiny.

I think the most honest answer I got today was from the chap who'd come up from Devon for the day and claimed, when I met him in mid afternoon, not to have seen a single layout because he'd spent so long chatting to people.

It is purely coincidental that I met him at the bar, and that they had run out of anything that might be properly considered beer.

I'm still thinking of my own answer.

In the past I'm fairly certain I would have said it was to see for myself layouts I'd been impressed by  in magazines, and to learn from other modelers.

There is still an element of truth in both of those points, though I've lost count of the times I've been disappointed by a layout that looked stunning in carefully stage designed photos and many times in the past any learning I've done has been by observation, not by engaging in anything more than the most superficial conversation.

I have to say that I find operators more and more willing to chat as I get older. I wonder if that is because layouts have become generally more reliable giving the operators more bandwidth, or if it is a generational thing. Certainly the heritage layout on display seemed to involve so much effort to operate that interaction with the audience was non-existent. Incidentally where but at a show like this would I get a chance to spend fifteen minutes discussing my tyro point building fears with Norman Solomon?

Show are also a great place to pick up bits and pieces from specialist traders, especially those small items that would attract relatively high p&p charges. Most of my purchases were related to track building and the switch to S&W couplings. What I forgot to buy were the underfloor bits and bobs for the MK1 coach. It was good to meet the people behind Lcut Creative as well, and to discuss their design philosophy.

It is easy to forget that a perfectly acceptable reason to go is to actually enjoy just looking at the layouts. I have to say though that every year I go to Warley I get the feeling the layouts I most enjoy watching aren't the ones that appeal to the masses.

So what about the layouts this year?

Frankly I thought they were disappointing. So rather than last year's quite comprehensive review I'm going to focus on three layouts in particular, with a few honourable mentions for others.

Let me get the three negatives out of the way first.

Paul's pre-Warley blog about backscenes should  have printed out and handed to the builders of most of the layouts at the show. The lighting at the NEC is interesting at the best of times, but when combined with a lack of decent backscenes it makes photography a real chore. Hence many of the photos that follow are tightly cropped, and I've converted them all into black and white.  I'm not sure whether no backscene is better or worse than a bad backscene that looks like an afterthought. This isn't just about photography either. It is hard to immerse yourself in a layout when distracted by things in the background.

Secondly, is it now compulsory to have so many working lights scattered around a layout, all set at maximum intensity so that it looks like a Xmas tree?

Thirdly why do layouts have to be crammed full of cameos and things going on? Mike Cougill wrote a thoughtful piece on the power of empty recently.

Selsey was a good example of this. I really struggled to find a shot that didn't include something that I was meant to find interesting or amusing. Every individual item was modeled to an impressive standard but the sum was less than the parts. I eventually found an area at the back of an engine shed that was relatively low key.

The OO9 Glyn Valley Tramway layout demonstrated this tendency as well. This is a line close to my heart and has been on my to do list in O16.5 ever since Stephen Poole bought out what is now the Peco GVT loco kit, and Roy Link published his GVT in 8'x10' plan in the Modeller. This layout caught some of the atmosphere quite well, but wherever you looked there wasn't just one thing going on but several. and the overall impact went from being a model of a prototype location to being just another hackneyed OO9 layout. Again I managed to get just one shot that avoided the worst excesses. Even so a traction engine and a steam lorry are in shot, though the horses don't seem bothered.

Cameos can work. Take this for example from one of the layouts whose name I've forgotten. Though even then I think it only needed one of the two pairs of figures to be effective. Don't get me started on extremely low relief factory buildings as backdrops.

Rolvendon at least used the cameos to evoke a time and place, as with the hop growing scene.

At times wandering around the layouts I thought it was like so much that has been achieved in the last thirty years has been forgotten. At the same time it was sad to hear so many people dismissing Borchester Market on the grounds that "anyone could do that now". I don't think in its current condition the layout quite captures the full Dyer legacy, but the one thing it clearly does is represent a working railway.

A good example of what the typical modeler of today could expect to produce was the simple Aldbury Town, although if you are going to use P4 I would query the use of so many kit built buildings

In the past those of us in the UK used to envy continental modelers the quality of the out of the box products they had available, but deride their toy train approach to layouts. Year after year I think Warley shows how outdated that view is and as usual many of the layouts I spent longest  looking at were not of or from the UK.

I was particularly impressed with  aspects of Thanasee-Cabusart although it was hampered by the narrowness of the baseboards.

Now for the three layouts that I went back to time after time. Conveniently two of them were co-located, and not only that they were models of the same prototype. I'm referring, of course, to Peter Kazer's Corris, and Rod Allcock's OO9 Corris 1930. I still remember how blown away I was when I first saw Peter's model and in many ways I think it is still one of the finest narrow gauge layouts ever built. But gosh, how it needs a backscene when at an exhibition like this. Rod's version, and his locos, show how OO9 has matured and is a brilliant interpretation of the real life Corris to make a visually appealing layout. It is a pity they were forming two sides of an L so it wasn't possible to see them both together at the same time. Had I been more structured I would have tried to take  similar views of both layouts for a comparison. Peter's version dominates the photos simply because it was easier to get up close to.

So that leaves one layout to discuss, which was my favourite of the show, and the title of this post has already given that away. Since this was supposedly its last appearance I've left it quite late to see Albion Yard  for the first time. I'm glad to see it lived up to my expectations . When a layout is already so well photographed you might question the point of trying to take photos of it in the less than ideal conditions of an exhibition hall. But I couldn't resist!

And finally perhaps my favourite shot of the day:

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Ready for Warley

Obviously I'm not exhibiting!

Hopefully though I'll get to Warley again this weekend. I have been known to forget the show is on before now.

I promised myself that I would get the signal box more or less finished before then, so here it is.

As usual things that looked OK at one stage have managed to warp, shift, unglue and generally mess themselves around behind my back.

The guttering got twisted when I fixed the roof down, I'm glad to say that overnight it has sprung back into shape. I do like the Ratio product.

I really must straighten the fencing, which still isn't glued down and blend in the bridge. Under natural light the stonework has some nice subtle colouring  but it disappears under any artificial light. It needs be a bit browner anyway. The Glue 'n' Glaze in the windows of the AEC seems to have gone a bit matt as well.  The finials need another coat of paint. The stove chimney is taller than it appears here, but rechecking photos should still be a lot taller.  

Retrofitting the Wills point rodding wasn't easy but I know how to do it better the next time. I must straighten that FPL cover. The combination of the square Wills rodding and the round MSE doesn't look right and I might still replace the MSE with Wills for consistency.  The one Wills component that I found jarringly overscale visually are the curved cranks. It is pity some signal pulleys aren't included. I've struggled with the etched versions on the market and would love to know of some alternatives.

Still I'm generally happier with it than I was earlier this week. Guttering, finials, and the safety bar in front of the windows have all improved it, I think.

All the above are mobile phone pictures so they do distort quite a few things. In the flesh the arrangement of the weighbridge and the box works better, with the weighbridge providing a clear foreground and the box snapping into the background.

This shot has a more natural perspective. I'noticed when I took this that I'd forgotten to put the tree back in. I took it out allow so I could work on the signal box area. Having now put it back in again I've realized it is another of those individual elements that have a big impact on the composition of such a small scene.

I don't need to mention that none of the interior is visible, do I?


Look what dropped through the letter box this morning.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Interior Dialogue

It appears that a little known international legal convention requires that all signal boxes modeled in scales of 4mm and above should have a detailed interior.

An even less well known sub clause allows exemptions from using the kits intended for the Wills and Ratio signal boxes under exceptional circumstances.

This applies even when said signal box is:

- at the back of the layout
- has no interior lighting
- has window panes smaller than any other building on the layout.

I thank m'learned friend Iain Robinson for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A Question of Logic

I've had my thinking hat on again, in another attempt to synthesize Lanrhaiadr Mochnant and The Art of Compromise to produce a version that won't take up too much space in the office.

Point rodding in blue

Compared to earlier versions I'm planning to swap the viewing side over, so the goods shed will be at the front, as it is on Apa. Compared to the real LM the big changes are the replacement of the level crossing with a bridge and moving the main platform  to the down side of the loop. A quick reminder that in any case the model is going to be set both after passenger working ceased in 1951 and after LM became a terminus in 1952. Changing the level crossing for a bridge means I have to decide where to put the motley collection of sheds and the weighbridge. I suspect I won't reach a final decision on that until I place some mock ups on the baseboard. I don't think there is actually an obvious on scene location for the weighbridge that makes sense . A couple of other bits of the jigsaw have now fallen into place, including where the iron mink stood that was used for additional storage in the yard.

The jigsaw I'm not so sure about involves the points and signalling, because some of the edges of the puzzle are missing. Literally so when it comes to photos.

You might need a pen and paper for the next bit....

What I do know is that the LM lever frame had twelve levers, and Mike Lloyd records ten of them being in use at some point in time. I'm fairly certain that four levers were for signals. I know that three sets of point rodding ran along the downside of the line and I'm presuming two of those operated the points at 7 and 8. I'm guessing that point 8 at least had a facing point lock, which could account for the third rod, though the onlyTVR  FPL I have a photo of, at Llansilin Road, appears to have been operated off the same lever as the point.

Is it possible that point 7 didn't have a FPL because passenger trains wouldn't have used it in the up direction, or would it have had an economical FPL? In that case though wouldn't the FPL' for points 7 and 4 have been of the same kind, so why would they need rods from the lever frame?

Two rods pass under the loop, one of which then runs along the down platform towards the cattle dock siding. I think this continues to the catch point on the cattle dock siding. The second one, I presume, controls the catch point on the goods shed siding.

Three sets of rodding run alongside the up platform. One crosses under the loop at the end of the platform and controls point 5, so I'm guessing the remaining two control point 4 and its FPL.

That by my calculations comes to eight sets of point rodding, and four signal cables.

So the next question is what levers would have controlled what, and how would the interlocking have worked. Using TRAX 3 this is my best guess so far

It seems to work for most of the obvious movements and conflicts I can think of. When/if I get around to building it I'll be using DCC so at least I'll be able to amend things. Any advice and observations at this stage though would obviously be more than welcome.