Friday, 31 May 2013

Oh Bother

You know it is going to be one of those days when you don't get to bed until the early hours because you've been chasing a deadline, and then you get woken up by the wife's poodles jumping on the bed and then having a little "accident" on it

Despite the deadline I was looking up some more photos of the Tanat Valley yesterday. The more I looked the more I realised the ballast I've used is just very very wrong. Although labelled light grey on the jar it is really very dark (mislabeled by Carrs?) and the granules aren't as small as I would like. The size is really noticeable when some gets stuck on a sleeper or on a rail.

No problems I thought, I've got some chinchilla dust in the shed - thanks to a recently deceased small rodent - so I'll lay that on top and problem solved.

Excerpt the dark ballast really shows through, and so far is proving rather resistant to my so far subtle attempts to lighten the colour. I have a horrible feeling I'm going to have to resort to a blast of Halfords grey primer, then spend ages re-weathering the sleepers and rail.

I would post a picture, but at the moment it is all rather too disheartening.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


I had a reward in mind for myself if I made the planned progress on Saturday, and since I did, here it is:

Showing up all the flaws
A Bachmann 45XX , so that at long last I actually have a GWR loco. The last one I had was a Triang "Albert Hall" back in 1968. The small catch is that as far as I know this class never ran on the Tanat Valley and really a 2MT 2-6-0 would be more appropriate, or a 58xx. On the other hand I've lusted after one ever since the original Lima version came out.

The coach is equally unlikely to have seen service on the TVR, being a Bachmann suburban Mk1. You'll be glad to hear I have flush glazing on order for it.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Getting Carried Away

"So" said the step-daughter  "is that it or are you going to do something else?"

Given my rate of progress it is jumping the gun to be thinking about the next project, but I have been giving it some consideration.

The easy route to take is simply to build a new EM gauge version of this model, embracing all the lessons learnt to date, reusing anything I think is of sufficient quality, and pushing the envelope slightly out of my comfort zone. It would allow a before and after comparison to be made, after which the before would be consigned to the bin. But what if I were to consider a layout, rather than a diorama/shunting plank?

New Radnor is one obvious choice, not least because the line is relatively local to my old home in Herefordshire.  Then there is Blodwell Junction itself,rather than my truncated version, or the terminus of the Tanat Valley at Llangynog.

Like many of my generation of railway modelers there is also the attraction of Roy Link's "Art of  Compromise" design.

Where I think I'm actually heading is towards Llanrhaiadr Mochnant, which became the terminus of the line after the closure of Llangynog. I think a design based on this period would have potential.

Plan created in AnyRail 4
Actually the trackplan itself is very close to that of Llangynog when it was first opened, which is useful because Lloyd's book includes the original signal diagram.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

What a difference a day makes

I had been hoping to get to Railex this year, not having been able to go last year.

Unfortunately during the week someone stole my wallet with all my credit cards and the cash I'd earmarked for spending at the show, so that idea went out the window.

The good news is it meant I had a day at home on a Saturday when the wife was working and I wasn't, and that I decided to prioritse work on the layout.

I had a list of things I wanted to get done by the end of the day. Now anyone looking back through this blog will realise that I'm notoriously bad at keeping to my self imposed deadlines but for once I didn't do too badly.

It helped that on the Friday before work I finally fixed the point operating mechanism with a replacement DPDT switch - you don't need a DPDT for the electrics but generally they are larger than SPDT switches so provide sufficient mechanical throw to operate the point blades. A couple of quick remedial dabs with the soldering iron and I was back with a fully operational layout, meaning Staurday could be devoted to scenics.

I'd also used Friday evening to make a start on the replacement for the road bridge. The original version was built from card and scenic papers. I quite liked it but a decision to go for 3d corrugated textures on the goods shed and platform shed made me worry that the 2d look would be too obvious, so I swapped over to using Wills sheets. If anything these have more 3d texture than I would like.

Anyway by the end of Saturday the  components of the new version were complete and painted, and I just need to assemble them. I'm not 100% happy with the colouring of either the stone or the brickwork but I think that just needs a bot of tinkering to sort out. Overall I think it is an imporvement.
Note that the various components of the bridge are yet to be joined and are just leaning against each other
The next thing you might note is that finally there is some ground cover in place. Shaping the polystyrene block to form the landscape was a bit messy since having dug out my hotwire cutter I couldn't find the resistance wire and had to resort to using a fretsaw. next time I'm going to use foamboard formers instead so that I have a little more control. The ground cover itself is hanging basket liner teased with a dog metal grooming brush. The great thing about this material is that it is thick enough to use to give more structure to the landscaping and also that joins are easily disguised. It needs mowing with scissors and then it form the base for further scenic treatments.

The Base Toys lorry converted to a flat bed
 On my wishlist for purchase at RAILEX was a replacement body for my Base Toys lorry. Since I couldn't go I bit the bullet and very quickly fabricated a flatbed  for it. In the background you'll see a platform is in place, and on it is a little balck shed....

The usual facilities

This is the shed/urinal that was found, in some form or another, at the end of most platforms on the Tanat Valley. I'm afraid I miscalculated a few things when assembling this one so it is destined for the scrap bin, but  building it was a useful exercise. This is the building which forced my hand to move to 3d sheets rather than printed paper because although there are some excellent corrugated iron textures available they wouldn't work for the free standing walls of the gents.

Minimum space modelling
Finally here is an aerial shot showing the current stat of play. From my perspective the great thing is that from now on everything that needs to be done is easily broken down into jobs that can be fitted into a couple of hours here and there. I need to finish off the ballasting after I put in the point rodding,  rebuild the gents, finish the signal box and build the goods shed and put down textures for the platform and the goods yard. Incidentally since the layout is set after the end of passenger services the platform is going to be modelled in an overgrown state. The black shape is a weighbridge. i'm still undecide about whether or not to go ahead with that idea because the shed would obscure the view of the signal box from "the ideal viewing position" Then the backscene needs to be finished. A grab shot lat last night included some odd shadows that have made me wonder about putting a suggestion  hills onto the backscene rather than sky.


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Windows of Oppourtunity

By now you will have gathered I have a mental block about the signal box.

Or rather that I had one.

After work today it all started to fall into place and in just under thirty minutes I' managed to assemble the front windows to the box.

OK not the tidiest job ever, but I was making it up as I went along, and this is only meant to be for the mock up version of the box.

I even went so far as to cut out the front wall, though I'm not happy with how the arch windows line up with the bricks on the Slaters sheet so I'll need to redo that tomorrow.

I even managed to make some progress on the layout as well, so all being well tomorrow I can put in the point stools, another job I'm dreading, and put in the platform.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


I had an interesting trip to the opticians last week that highlighted two issues with my eyes that I've slowly becoming aware of. Nothing earth shattering and both correctable but it explains why I've been struggling recently.

I'll add it to my list of excuses for limited progress.

Having said that plans for the signal box have progressed quickly and if I can get a few hours to myself in the next few days I'm ready to have a stab at it. Two things have raised my confidence.

One is that I'm now convinced that the original design was by Dutton, and that the box that was at Barmouth South and is now on the Llangollen Railway is of a very similar design. That means I've got a much better feel for the way it was constructed, and confirms that I was right to be suspect about the drawings in the Wild Swan book.

Secondly I threw together a Wills weighbridge kit so that I could experiment with the use of artists pencils to quickly produce reasonably effective brickwork.

I think it worked OK, so I'm now happy to proceed with the base of the signalbox.

Monday, 6 May 2013

That Scary Signal Box

Actually officially it is a ground frame I believe, despite being considerably bigger than the ubiquitous Ratio GWR signal box, Signalling has never been my strong point but I presume the designation means that it was either not permanently manned and/or that it had to be released by a token of some sort.

Anyway thinking about building it has taken up a lot of time when I should actually have been doing some modelling. I've still got three or four alternative approaches in mind. Probably the obvious way forward is to build a maquette using brick paper or whatever so that I can stick in on the layout and at least get on with the scenery around it. Then I can build a more detailed effort later at my leisure.
A mock up of a mock up, if that makes sense

I have been experimenting, and the key success has been the use of a scrawker to scribe glazing bars in clear plastic and then filling them in with paint. This has been much more successful than my earlier attempt where I just used a knife to scribe the bars. Clearly the scrawker removes enough plastic to allow the paint to fill the groove reliably and consistently.

I'm going to rebuild the road bridge as well, since I wasn't comfortable with the clearances of the first version. In theory that should be an evening's work. Which evening is another matter.

Friday, 3 May 2013


I've always been open that this initial version of the layout is meant to be a testbed, and so I've also always been open to the idea of changing my mind about the approach to take as construction proceeds.

Whilst I've been getting progressively happier about the various brick, stone and corrugated  paper textures I've been tracking down I've also been realizing that the need to combine these with some 3d elements, and their position relatively close to the front of what is anyway a very shallow layout means I'm going to be better off reverting to my old technique of using Wills plastic building sheets, with the transparent corrugated sheet used where the prototype buildings require both sides to be visible,

I'm going to use a slightly different approach for the signal box. I'm going to combine parts of the Ratio kit with the textured and pre-coloured brick sheets made by Redutex and available in the UK from Model Textures. The range available betrays the European origins but the brickwork is very good indeed.