Sunday, 25 August 2013

Why I failed woodwork

I went to a grammar school that had a definite leaning towards developing practical skills, be they scientific, computing, technical drawing, woodwork, or metal work. they even insisted the boys studied home economics and sewing.

To be honest I pretty much flunked all those subjects, and an afternoon spent in the company of my rusting Black & Decker Workmate has reminded me why. Even when I know what I am supposed to be doing things go wrong, never mind when I'm trying something new.

So the end result is I have one mini baseboard to practice track construction on, and one very doubtful looking 4' x 2' baseboard to form the basis of LM. I might spend tomorrow building a the sector plate board, or at least the basic components of it. oddly I've decided to build the smaller of my two possible schemes. I'm also thinking about flipping it around so the sector plate will be in the corner of the room and the station area will be closer to window light.

If I was continuing with OO the appearance of the baseboard wouldn't worry me too much, after all it will have a cosmetic fascia attached to it - another job for tomorrow if I'm lucky. What worries me moving to EM is whether I've built it with a flat enough top for good running.

Still there is a lot of practicing to be done before I lay any track for real, and Templot to be mastered. If all else fails I'm sure I'll find some use for it,after all it will soon be November.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A wet August bank holiday

Well what a surprise. So what to do?

Having a lie in was number one priority, followed by a list of chores, but after that the aim is to cut the wood for the baseboards of Llanrhaiadr Mochnant, and a smaller board to use for test building my first ply and rivet EM gauge track in thirty two years.

And just for a change I might rebuild the track bed of the garden railway, which hasn't seen a single train run this year.

Meanwhile I have a couple of conundrums to consider.

The first is the bridge.

Now as far as I can ascertain I got the dimensions absolutely right, but it doesn't look it, does it? Now some of this is down to taking photos of a small layout with inappropriate cameras, which is very tempting because a wide angle lens has lots of benefits when trying to take photos inside a very small box. You'll have noticed that in some photos of the station it looks like I've forgotten what a right angle is, but trust me that is mostly down to barrel distortion of the lens used. Mostly. On the other hand this is a very small bridge which wasn't designed for large locos.  Bearing in mind that LM didn't feature a bridge in reality, but one is needed as a scenic break, should I be prepared to go down the "based on" route rather than being strictly prototypical?

The second issue is about lineside fencing.I know I need some, and it should be post and wire fencing, but again what compromises should I make, especially where the "wire" is concerned? In the past  I've used wire, I've used plastic rod and I've  used nylon , but all of them seem to be not quite right somehow. Any ideas?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Grass Grows

I wasn't happy with the grass on the disused platform. Checking back to a photo of Blodwell Junction suggests in real life it the grass was a lot longer and the bushes had encroached a lot more.

So it was out with the Noch static grass again this lunchtime to try and improve the look of things.

This is one of my favourite shots of the layout to date.

I It looks a bit better than this in the flesh. However I do find static grass always ends up looking much lighter than I expect. I still need to add some bushes on the platform, and the join between the grass and the platform edge seems to have become move obvious.

I've added some vegetation at track level as well but that needs cutting back once the glue has dried if only to clear the point rodding. Ah yes, the point rodding. The MSE version is so delicate my eyes have to look for it in the photos of the model, whereas it is very prominent in prototype photos.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Bridge

I really need to darken both the brickwork and the stone. I've also decided I couldn't live with the crude windows in the weighbridge hut. So my question is how do you best remove Glue N Glaze? It seems to be resisting all my efforts to clean the last bits away from around the edges.

Friday, 16 August 2013

I am thinking

I've spent a lot of my life working in Germany, but have never managed to pick up the language, so I have some sympathy with this guy:

Meanwhile I've been doing some thinking of my own about baseboards and whether to go for the small or large version of Llanrhaiadr. After all I need the practice of building as many points as possible to gain confidence, and the large scheme only involves two more of them.
The other thought is about presentation. I would rather look at a model that is 100% scenic than one that it 50% sector table,

But then is there too much scenery in the large version, particularly at the right front? Or rather too much scenic space and nothing interesting to occupy it? Perhaps I could put some cottages there.

Then again perhaps the solution is a hybrid of the two with a  really short sector table that perhaps just replaces one of the points.

I think, once the rain stops, it is time to build the baseboards, print out some track templates, and play trains.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Still more photos

OK, I'm feeling quite pleased with myself after this weekend's final push.there are still quite a few jobs to do, but most of them are the sort that can be done in a spare five minutes.


Just in case you think I spent the whole weekend pontificating rather than modeling.

The hedge is now in place, made from teased out hanging basket liner, sprayed and then sprinkled with foam.

The platform now has a covering of static grass to reflect its disused status, though I'm disappointed that it has come out very bland compared to my test piece, so I need to revisit it. I've also re-foliaged a so-called premium tree.

I suspect I need to build a new version of the weighbridge hut. The window looks OK in the flesh but is revealed as terribly crude in photos.

Talking of which, here are some more photos:

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Baseboards and Basics

When I was a child the family model railways were always built on big heavy baseboards with a Sundeala top, None of them, so far as I can remember, had legs, so they depended for support on whatever was convenient, and none of them consisted of more than one board.

My odd adult forays into indoor model railways have all involved small cameo scenes, and to be honest I have probably gone to the other extreme when it comes to their construction, being quite happy to use card, balsa, plywood and foam board. It is probably best to draw a veil over the fiberglass experiment.

One thing the Apa experiment has taught me is that there is no substitute for having a flat surface that can survive construction and scenic treatments without distorting. That is another way of saying the foam board  baseboard ended up getting so twisted that actually running trains is a bit of a lottery.

So for Llanhraiadr I'm planning to use Iain Rice's relatively lightweight L girder approach using cheap batten timber and a plywood top.In theory this should be simplicity itself to build, but I'm not looking forward to it. If I can get it to work though I've hopefully got a repeatable approach that will take a lot of the fear out of future projects.

The more I think things through the more I think there is too big a gap between what you can do as a modeler buying things in shops and what you have to do if you want to really start modelling something. There is no easy progression it seems. As soon as you want to move from playing trains you have to contend with a whole raft of new techniques, with no obvious or easy order in which to do learn them. Building baseboards, laying track, electrics, scenic work, buildings...all have to be developed in sync.

There must be a better way. If nothing else it should be possible to design a simple baseboard for beginners to build that would include a basic electrical bus.

Taking stock

I never meant to have much in the way of 4mm rolling stock, after all this is just a brief interlude and soon I'll be back to large scale modelling in the garden.

On the other-hand it is odd how you suddenly find the list of desirable vehicles growing. In theory for the period the original diorama is set in I don't need any coaches and a 2MT is the only essential loco.

Taking the wider view though, and presuming the period Llanrhaiadr is set in can range from 1946 to 1976 the list gets a lot longer.

The GEM/Mainly trains 2-4-0  is a necessity because of their association with the Tanat Valley, even though they didn't survive to BR days, and so is a 58XX like 5812. A 45XX has to be on the roster because it is such a delightful loco even if not appropriate for the line.The same applies to the Dukedog.  The first picture I can remember seeing of the TVR featured an open cabbed pannier, and a 57XX seems in order, especially since I already have a body waiting for the High Level chassis. The Sentinel is already set to be my first EM conversion.

Then there is the long list of oddities that ran on the Tanat Valley that originated on other minor railways, plus the BR diesels - a 24, 25, 37 and a Hymek

Coaching stock has to include the last of the GWR  4 wheel coaches plus a decrepit short bogie coach, a Mk1 suburban coach and a Hawksworth brake compo. Hopefully I'll avoid the temptation to follow the cliched route of a B set and  an autocoach. If anyone can provide me with a picture of a Dia. E40 coach I would very much appreciate it.

Oh yes, and a bubble car and an AEC railcar would be nice if we want to presume passenger operation lasted a little longer than it did in reality.

Goods stock? That is something I don't want to think about just yet.

So that sounds like the next five years will be keeping me busy to afford/build/modify that lot.

Something that strikes me is that even though much of this list is supposedly available RTR there is a lot of work involved in making them "fit for purpose" even ignoring the EM gauge conversion.

Take the Bachmann Mk1 brake coach as an example. Superficially it looks quite good., but the :

- roof is far too light a shade of grey
- dynamo on my example, and others I've seen, is glued on the wrong way round.
- dynamo drive belt is missing
- windows aren't flush
- seating is gloss plastic
- brake gear is basic in the extreme
- conversion to EM is doable, but not as simple as dropping in new wheelsets.

I'm sure were a rivet counter I could find a lot more that needs changing. I'm still not sure of something as basic as whether the battery boxes are correctly positioned.

Underlying a lot of the above is the thinking that to be enjoyable any operating sequence is going to have to include a historical progression from immediately pre-nationalisation through to the last BR ballast train

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Whilst the cat is away

So the wife is safely dispatched for the week. She's off to railway heaven, staying within striking distance of  the VoR, Festiniog, Welsh Highland, Tallyllyn and literally on the doorstep of the Fairbourne. Some things are wasted on the wrong people.

Meanwhile I've been opening parcels and what have we got? On reflection I think enough goodies to keep me going beyond Xmas, especially since the fear factor is raising its ugly head again. The Apa experience has been very useful but on reflection I wish I'd started out on it as an EM gauge project with SMP points. Actually if I'd realised they were that cheap then that is exactly what I would have done.

Here. incidentally, is a comparison between the Tillig HO track I used and C+L finescale EM gauge track

What next for the box?

So as the last few posts have made clear my focus is moving away from the current Apa project. That doesn't mean the abandonment of the Apa as a home for layouts.

The current model will stay in existence until Lanhraiadr is in an advanced state of construction, the bulk of my stock has been converted to EM, and I'm happy my skills have progressed to the stage where I can make better versions of the current structures.

Then what? Well one idea is to reuse what I can to build a OO9 cameo. or possibly a OOn3 one. I've also still got the 16mm version in mind. On top of that I quite fancy doing something a little quirky, perhaps a rural tramway of some sort.

Something that I still appeals about the Apa is that it blends into the furniture and that is a worry about building proper baseboards. The simplistic answer is to build a traditional black fascia, but lest be honest that is still going to draw attention to itself.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Quiet Before the Storm

I'm sat here at eleven PM in my home office, having just about finished work for the day. The windows are wide open and I can feel a storm coming.  I can also feel a storm of modelling activity approaching. My darling wife is away for the next week which is a good time to arrange for a few parcels to arrive. In fact one already has, from C+L Finescale, but I'm not opening it just yet.

The combined contents of all the boxes heading my way should be more than enough to kick start my adventures in EM. The one thing I've forgotten to order in time is a set of wheels for the Sentinel from Ultrascale.

In a way this EM gauge goodness actually gives me a fresh impetus to finish the Apa project, and if the weather holds out I'm hoping that by Sunday it will at least appear finished.

So what is in the boxes?  Hopefully the makings of a couple of 4'x2' baseboards for a start, some basics to get me practicing track laying, and a Mainly Trains replacement chassis for the Ratio 4 wheel coach.. Plus a couple of structure kits for a cattle dock and a water tower which are called for by the new layout and which don't seem worth scratch building.

So if I'm about to start building baseboards do I have a final trackplan in mind?

Well yes, well two actually. Yesterday's ruminations about combining the real track plan from Llanrhaiadar Mochant, and two of my other favourite plans, Llanastr and The Art of Compromise have led to two options.

The first is the small space version, though that small space has now extended to 8' by 2' in total, including a sector table/traverser.

The second is 12' by 2' including the sector plate, and takes less liberties with Llanrhaiadr.

You might note that the first 4' of both plans look very similar. In fact the differences are down to some evolving thinking and the idea is to begin with the first plan and then extend it by inserting a middle board. A few things would need adjusting, notably the positioning of the weighbridge and the ground frame. The first wouldn't really be a problem, the second would because it would mean rerouting the point rodding. I might take the easy way out and leave the ground frame off stage for the first iteration.

One consequence of using the first plan is that operation could be a little odd, or interesting, depending on your point of view. Imagine a passenger train pulling in.  By this stage in its history Llanrhaiadr had become the terminus of the Tanat Valley, and only the old up platform was in  use. Given the limited space probably just the one bogie coach would be in view. So the loco uncouples and runs up to the water tower, then runs round back out of sight under the bridge....ah and you see now it doesn't matter whether that is the engine which couples back on to the train or not, because it is out of sight, which frees the original train loco to do something else.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


As you might be able to tell my thoughts are now very much about the next layout, with the end very much in sight for this test piece. By the end of next week I'm hoping to have the bulk of the vegetation in place, and the platform in an overgrown state. That then leaves the signal box to be built as and when.

Meanwhile I've joined the EMGS - or strictly speaking rejoined it since I was a member in my late teens - and ordered a few things to get me started. Nothing too serious, but it does feel a bit chicken and eggish trying to work out the best way to start without incurring a massive expense.

It is half tempting as a test piece to build another version of this layout, but to be honest I think moving up to EM will take up just a little too much space to successfully  fit the same layout in an APA box. However I could fit it on to a bigger baseboard.

The best idea will be to build something that can eventually be incorporated into Llanrhaiadr, but to be honest I suspect the learning curve is going to be pretty steep and the chances of wanting to keep my first efforts are pretty slim.

And then, once again, there is The Art of Compromise which I've already blogged about once. Yet what I failed to pick upon at that time is the the track plan for Llanrhaiadr is essentially the same as that of The AoC,but with the station moved to be on the loop. Of course the interesting thing about TAOC is that the station wasn't on the loop.

Llanrhaiadr 8'x2'
Somewhere between the two is perhaps where the swee-tspot lies, with a bit of Llanastr thrown into the mix

Llanrhaiadr Mawr 6' x1.5'

Monday, 5 August 2013

Signalling Diagram

In the absence of a signal diagram for Llanrhaiadr Mochhnant I thought it would be relatively easy to convert the signal diagram of Llangynog. Here's one I did earlier.

It seems my Photoshop skills are a bit rusty, because it has taken an hour and I really need to start again.

So I did, this time using Anyrail to produce the basic diagram. This is just the basic export tweaked in Snapseed. The next step will be to combine this with the text from the version above, and another version with the switches in yellow so the blue indicates the alternative route. And here we have the finished version:

Why am I doing this? Well I'm enjoying the challenge, of course, but if I ever do build LM it would be useful supporting material for display with the layout. The main reason I'm doing it though is actually to check that I've got the point rodding arrangements right. I think I'm now pretty sure what went where now. Well almost, I'm not sure if I'm right in putting a facing point lock at the up end and that there isn't a second catch point to protect the running line from the loop at that end. What I do know is that there are two sets of point rodding running in that direction.

Friday, 2 August 2013

More on Llanrhaiadr Mochnant

What did we do before Google maps?

Here is the site of Llanrhaiadr Mochnant station

View Llanrhaiadr Mochnant Station (site of) in a larger map

The extent of the station equates to the rough field, with the route of the railway still showing in the tree line and the dark line across the wheat field. The coal yard building is still there and still in use.

I've now mapped the 1912  1:2,500 OS map on to it which should then let me calculate all the major dimensions, and also help in reconciling the various photos. Something I've found particularly problematic is the relationship between the good shed and the main station building.

It is all looking good for a 12ft by 2ft 6in plan.


I was quite pleased with the vintage effect on this photo, especially since it was both shot and edited on my Samsung S3 phone, using Snapseed.

Of course it was only when I transferred the file to the PC that I realised we'd had a bit of a derailment.