Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Introduction to the blog


This blog describes ongoing progress in the development of a G gauge Garden Railway from its inception to the present day.

NEW - Loco No.1 gets sound

When I became interested in building my own garden railway I spent a considerable amount of time (and money) on books, videos, DVDs and scouring the internet for information, ideas and inspiration. When I eventually started construction I used some of the ideas I had discovered, but also experimented with my own approaches. This blog outlines how I have gone about constructing my own garden railway. My aim is to provide the sort of information I was looking for when I was getting started and also to share what I've learned (or 'borrowed' from others). I've tried to include a few 'How I ........' postings interspersed with occasional 'Progress Reports'. I do not profess to be any kind of expert - what I offer here is an opportunity for you to metaphorically look over my shoulder to see how I have gone (and am going) about this fascinating hobby.

As this is a blog, the various posts are presented in reverse chronological order (ie the most recent first). To see a categorised list of contents go to the Blog Contents Page.

If you are thinking about building your own garden railway then why not join the 16mm Association or the G Scale Society - you'll get plenty more advice and opportunities to visit other peoples' garden railways
. Alternatively, browse through the G Scale Central website - there's plenty more guidance here and an opportunity to sound out the views of others through the G Scale Central discussion forum.

The Blog

The advantages of blogging are that it is immediate and uncomplicated when creating and uploading information. The other, of course, is that with Blogger it is free. The major disadvantage is that I have minimal control over how the postings are presented. The blogging system adds the most recent information to the start of the blog, hence the postings appear in reverse chronological order (most recent first, oldest last). Whilst there is a list of postings on the right hand side, it's not particularly easy to see what is there. This introduction is an attempt to provide you with a contents list of the postings organised into categories so, hopefully, you see if what you are looking for is presented in this blog. To ensure that it always appears at the start of the blog, I update its content and set its presentation date into the future each time I add a new posting.

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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Progress Report 75

A couple of months have passed since my last progress report. Developments are tending to slow down a bit as we head towards autumn, and the weather has not really been conducive to running trains in the garden. However, I have managed to tackle a few jobs and keep up work on ongoing projects.
  • A tree adjacent to the railway has been removed and another one topped
  • Two new sidings have been installed
  • I have been experimenting with making my own point levers
  • The water tower at Peckforton has been improved and properly installed
  • Two new closed vans have been added to the goods stock roster
  • Two open wagons have been converted from cheap G scale gondola wagons
  • Work is progressing on replacing LGB couplings
  • I have installed one of the latest receivers from Deltang


We have lived in this house for nearly forty years and my railway has been in existence for around fourteen years now and some of the plants which were planted during those time periods have matured and, in some places, outgrown their original purpose. A conifer which I planted to mask the sheds twenty six years ago (I counted the rings) is one such example. It was adjacent to the track and its roots had undermined the trackbed, requiring remedial action on a couple of occasions. As the tree was now nearly forty feet tall and the sheds are only around seven feet tall, I decided it had to go.

Similarly, the apple tree adjacent to it had grown to about the same height but, rather than removing it entirely, I reduced its height by half. I then spent a couple of days reducing the pile of logs and branches to six inch lengths to fit into two wheelie bins and my log store.

There was one casualty from this exercise. Despite having covered the two concrete overbridges beneath these two trees with heavy baulks of timber, I managed to break the parapet on one of the bridges. Frustratingly, this happened after the trees had been felled - the end of a pole I was using to dislodge a branch brushed against it. Fortunately, it is a clean break and so should be easy to repair.

I might re-landscape this area as more light will penetrate this previously gloomy section of the garden and so there may now be more diverse opportunities for plant growth.

Permanent Way

 New sidings

After visiting Bursledon Brickworks during the summer (see My Narrow Gauge Railway Blog), I was intrigued by the brick-making process and so decided to carry out some historical research to see if there was any brick-making in the locality surrounding the setting for my railway. Unsurprisingly, there was, but what I found unexpected was that there was also a boneworks adjacent to it - see Tattenhall Road Boneworks.
Tattenhall Road Boneworks - Source: http://www.tattenhallhistory.co.uk/tattenhall-road-boneworks/
This set me thinking. The more lineside industries I could provide for my railway, the greater justification there would be for it to have remained open during the Depression of the 1920s and 30s. Having previously laid an additional siding at Beeston Castle (See Progress Report 74) to free up the old siding to serve a brewery, I scouted around the garden for more likely sites for sidings to serve lineside industries. The first site I chose was at Bulkeley Station. It as a relatively easy process to add an additional siding to the passing loop, as I had done at Beeston Castle Station.
and after.

I used my now tried and tested approach to tracklaying and ballasting, as outlined in these posts - How I lay my track and How I ballast my track.

The second site I chose for a siding was on the approach to Bickerton Station at the bottom of Gallantry Bank. This required a little more civil engineering and a small amount of stone masonry.
The site - with stonework removed in preparation (Gallantry Bank to the left and Bickerton to the right)
The trackbed in place.
Foundations for the stonework dug
Stonework in place
Track laid
Track ballasted
Beeston Castle Station to the left. Bickerton Station through the bridge.
 I am trying to work out where this siding would actually have been located on my hypothetical railway. Because it lies on a stretch of the line which is used twice for the journey from one end to the other, it could either be located roughly half way between Peckforton and Bulkeley or it could be located between Bulkeley and Bickerton, just outside Bickerton Station. The former would make for some interesting shunting operations while the latter would entail some additional shunting when the train reached Bickerton Station. I have also got to decide what industries these new sidings will serve. One could serve the Boneworks and the other the Brickworks, but the one above looks as if it is entering a sandstone quarry - yet another lineside industry.

Point Levers

I have never been a complete fan of LGB manual point levers. For one thing, they are not very realistic and secondly, I find they have a tendency to become clogged with earth and debris after a year or so and so cease to operate reliably. I managed to purchase some secondhand point levers made by Bertram Heyn, which are excellent ......
Source: https://modell-werkstatt.de/weichenhebel-feldbahn-fuer-lgb-weiche-doppelschwelle

...... but at €20 each, I felt my budget would not run to replacing all the levers on my railway with them, so I set about making an alternative, which I could afford.

My version is not as elegant, but seems to be functional.

I have yet to perfect the design. The geometry of this simple lever is actually quite complex, as I have discovered. Even a 1mm variation in the distance between the fulcrum and the linkage on the arm can make a considerable difference to how it performs. 

However, I am pressing on with my experiments and will report back via the blog when I feel I have perfected my design.


The only progress I have made in this area has been to properly site the water tower at Peckforton Station (see How I constructed a water tower) and add a filler pipe for locos.

Rolling stock

Closed vans

Having bashed an LGB US Style box car into something more appropriate for a UK based narrow gauge railway (see How I bashed a US Style box car), I happened to come across an advert for box cars produced by Newqida. These seemed very reasonably priced (under £20 new) and so I decided to explore their potential.

Although the original is quite large for normal UK narrow gauge purposes  .........

....... I found that the judicious use of a razor-saw and craft-knife resulted in something which was passable for deployment on my railway.

The kind donation of a body-shell from a fellow modeller, when bashed and mounted on an HGLW chassis, resulted in another similar van.

For more information see - How I bashed a Newqida van

Open wagons

Buoyed by the success of these tow bashes, I turned my attention to a couple of US style gondolas which has been languishing on my shelves for around ten years. As can be seen, like the Newqida vans, they are somewhat over-sized for my railway.

These two wagons have now been heavily modified and look far more appropriate for duties on the PLR.

For more information see - How I converted two cheap US style gondolas into open wagons

New couplings

I am steadily plodding away with replacing all the LGB style chunky plastic couplings on my rolling stock with finer handmade alternatives. Some of the locos have had to have much larger buffers installed to allow for the overhang of their buffer beams when propelling stock through small radius pointwork .......

..... I have also mounted buffers on swivelling arms on the coaching stock, for similar reasons.

I will write-up the design and installation process for the couplings when I have finished installing them and had an opportunity to give them a thorough testing.

Operation and control

Although I am no longer running RC Trains, I try to keep abreast of new developments with radio control systems and Deltang in particular. The introduction of a new version of the ever popular Deltang Rx65 receiver and the introduction of the new, higher power Rx66 receiver provided me with an opportunity to test-drive each of them.

The new Deltang Rx65c receiver is slightly smaller than the Rx65b and has fewer output pads, but it embodies all the features of the previous version and aims to be even more reliable.

I have installed one into one of my locos and test-run it and, so far, all seems well. I will give it a more through testing and report back.

The new Rx66 is a much chunkier beast but is designed to handle much higher currents than the Rx65c (up to 6A).

I've bench-tested this receiver and it seems fine. I will install this in a loco later and report back.


I have just noticed that the tally of visitors to my blog has now exceeded half a million since I started logging hits in 2010! Many thanks to all those who have shown an interest in my humble mutterances over the years.

Here's to the next half million!

Monday, September 17, 2018

How I bashed a couple of cheap US style gondolas into UK open wagons

Recently, I bashed LGB and Newqida box cars into something more appropriate for my UK-based narrow gauge railway (see How I bashed an LGB box car and How I bashed a Newqida box car). I then remembered that I had two very cheap US style gondola wagons which had been sitting on my shelf for about the last ten years while I figured out what to do with them. If I could modify box cars, why not gondolas?

Wagon 1

I decided to start with this wagon because it was going to be the most challenging. The previous owner had painted it green (quite badly) and so I would have to contend with that as well as the modifications.

 As can be seen in this photo, the biggest discrepancy in the wagons was their size, when compared to one of my existing open wagons.

 The chassis was joined to the body by four screws, one is each corner.

These were removed .......

..... and the body separated from the chassis.

The first job was to modify the body - as this would dictate the way in which the chassis would need to be changed.

As with the Newqida van, I figured that if I removed the endmost panels on the sides of the wagon, it would reduce its length without losing the detailing of the centre doors. My trusty Xacto razor saw was pressed into service. I use a razor saw as it tends to be easier to keep the cuts straight.

Once the sides had been cut, the cuts were linked by a cut across the base.

Thus, the end panel could be removed.

This process was repeated at the other end.

The end faces were then cut from the end sections, using the mouldings for the corner braces as a guide..

The process was repeated for the other end.

The next job was to reduce the height of the sides. I decided it would be best to remove three planks from the middle of the sides, to enable me to retain the mouldings for the catches on the topmost plank. The first cut was two planks down from the top.

 The second cut was another three planks lower down from that.

Thus, the middle section could be removed, .......

..... allowing the upper two planks to be joined to the lower two planks.

However, the diagonals would no longer line-up and so these mouldings were carefully removed......

by scraping them away with the blade of a craft knife.

The ends were easier to reduce in height. Three planks were removed from the top.

I had noticed that the green paint had not adhered to the plastic particularly well and could be removed with a scraper.

The base, sides and ends were attacked with craft knife blades until most of the offending paint had been removed.

And so, reconstruction of the body could begin. I discovered that the plastic used for the bodywork could be bonded with standard polystyrene cement, and so the ends were attached first, ...... 

...... followed by the sides.

Inevitably, some of the joints needed to be tidied up with Squadron White Putty filler, .....

..... and the holes where features such as vacuum pipes had once been attached were similarly filled.

 In addition, the diagonals on the doors needed replacing, using 1.5mm thick plasticard.

I now turned my attention to the chassis. It was now, clearly, too long. I realised the wheels now needed to be moved closer to the ends of the wagon body and so .......

.... the buffer beams were removed, ........

..... as was the end section of the chassis.

The chassis was still 24mm too long and so this was removed from the centre of the chassis to enable it to fit neatly under the body.

I retained the buffer beams, but added some cosmetic nut and bolt heads from Cambrian Models. I had to use thick superglue to attach them as the plastic used for the chassis was not receptive to polystyrene cement.

The body was given a couple of coats of Halfords' Grey Primer from a rattle-can aerosol .....

... and the raised mouldings of metal fittings were painted with black acrylic paint.

 The chassis was then re-attached to the body with screws - this was partly because of the uncertainty over the effectiveness of glues on the two types of plastic and also so the wagon would be easily taken apart if further modifications were needed.

 Cosmetic brake gear was added (see How I make brake gear for my wagons - pending).

.... and my own variation on LGB couplings added.

 At this stage, I felt the wagon was finished and so took it outside for a few photos. However, it looked slightly out of proportion and so ........

...... I added another plank, from plasticard, to partly cover the solebar.

Somehow, this seems to give the wagon a better balance.

Unlike the other open wagons on my railway, the doors on these wagons appear to be hinged vertically so the two doors would swing open like barn doors. On all my other wagons, the whole side is hinged to swing downwards. There is therefore greater need for a lower plank on which would be mounted the hinges. The lower plank is probably not necessary on this wagon, but I feel it looks better - and besides, it's my railway!

I am quite pleased with the outcome. The newly bashed open wagons look much more at home with my existing rolling stock.

... though they do look a bit too new and so will shortly become weathered to make them more careworn and slightly dilapidated.

Wagon 2

Rather than going, step-by-step though the bashing process followed for the second wagon (which was much the same as for the first), I decided to shoot a time-lapse video showing each stage of the construction.

This wagon has a slightly different design to the other and so I decided to make it in the style of a curved-end open wagon, such as those which were found on the Southwold Railway.

I actually prefer this one. It somehow looks better proportioned.


I am pleased with the way these two wagons have turned out. Having been sitting on my workshop shelf over the years, I had contemplated selling them but decided they would not fetch a great deal; they were cheaply made and I felt of limited appeal. However, they now look quite at home on my railway which, in its imagined history, bought up redundant stock from other narrow gauge railways which were closing during the Great Depression. I have tried searching for prototypes on which they might have been based and drawn a blank  - so maybe they were actually constructed in the Peckforton Light Railway's own workshops from bits they had lying around.

I will keep my eyes open to see if any more of these wagons turn up on eBay. They were made by Echo Toys in the 1990s and were included in fairly cheap train sets with plastic track such as those designed to run around the base of Christmas trees.

I have found one wagon advertised on the USA eBay website (where presumably there was a bigger market for this style of model) and, although its Buy It Now price of £6.10 seemed quite reasonable, the £26.00+ postage charges were slightly off-putting.

I'll keep looking though.