Saturday, February 01, 2020

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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Thursday, June 06, 2019

How I constructed a stone embankment from cast concrete

Having made a rake of Snailbeach style hopper wagons (see How I constructed a rake of Snailbeach hopper wagons - pending) and a set of loading hoppers (see How I constructed some loading hoppers from foamboard - pending) for the sand quarry siding, I realised that I needed to find some way for the loading hoppers to be filled theoretically with sand. For a while, I toyed with the idea of constructing conveyor belts or mechanical shovels, but these seemed to be beyond my somewhat limited constructional capabilities so, in the end, I opted for stone embankment behind the hoppers by which means 2' narrow gauge wagons could discharge directly into the hoppers.

The civil engineering aspect of garden railway modelling has always been of great interest to me, particularly working with concrete which seems to me to be an ideal medium for creating durable structures in the garden environment. Having already cast some overbridges (see How I cast some overbridges in concrete), station platforms (see How I cast concrete platforms) and loading banks (see How I cast a loading bank and How I cast loading docks), I felt I was up to the challenge of creating an embankment from cast concrete.

Firstly, I needed to measure up and prepare the site. This entailed uprooting some of the foliage and checking clearances for the loading hoppers.

I then dug foundations for the embankment, using a small trowel. As the embankment wasn't going to be bearing any appreciable weight, the foundations only needed to be around six inches (150mm) in depth.

I then made some shuttering from off-cuts of tongue and groove weatherboard which I had rescued from the set of my local amateur drama society following their staging of a play featuring three beach huts. I could have used plywood, but didn't have any off-cuts to hand.

The shuttering was roughly shaped to follow the contours of the existing rocks. Stonework courses were then marked on the inside of the shuttering.

A hot glue gun was then used to accentuate the mortar courses, thereby creating a mould for the concrete.

As the stonework was going to be 'undressed', the courses and stone blocks were fairly random in size and orientation.

The shuttering was then put into place and held firm with some bracing made from timber wedged against the rails or adjacent rock faces. At this point, I decided to remove a small fir tree which was going to be difficult for the track to circumnavigate. This revealed a delicate miniature rhododendron which had been swamped by its faster growing neighbour. I decided the rhododendron is a far more attractive plant for this spot.

A one inch layer of crushed rubble was put into the bottom of the shuttering, as much to save mixing more concrete as to act as a foundation. A 3:1 mix of builders' sand and cement was made, to which was added a couple of shakes of brown and red cement dyes. This mix was then carefully trowelled into the shuttering and tamped down with a piece of timber.

The concrete was left for two days and then the shuttering was carefully removed. I find it is better to remove shuttering while the concrete is still in its 'green' (crumbly) state provided I am very careful. I was then able to smooth off the top of the embankment (using the back of an old saw) and then scribe the stonework on the upper surface with a nail.

I also took the opportunity to tidy up some of the stonework courses which weren't as clearly defined. I also and carved indents at the ends of the embankment to take the timbers of the trestle which would be needed to support the track.

A 'timber' trestle at the end of the embankment was made from 5mm foamboard - joints reinforced with triangles of 1.5mm thick plasticard and 2mm diameter half-round nail art gems (from eBay) were applied to simulate bolt heads.

The trestles were then painted dark brown, and dry-brushed with increasingly lighter shades of brown to accentuate the wood grain effect. See How I constructed a set of loading hoppers - pending for more information on using foamboard to simulate wood. The trestle was glued into place using Gorilla Glue which foams to fill any gaps.

Peco 32mm narrow gauge track was then fixed to the embankment and chutes made from off-cuts of plasticard to allow Binnie skips to offload into the back of the hoppers.

Inevitably, there were some gaps which needed filling where the concrete hadn't managed to reach.

A small quantity of the 3:1 mix was used to patch up the fissures and, once it had gone green, the stonework was scribed on. 

Once the concrete had fully set, buff cement dye was painted roughly on to the mortar courses ........

......... and then various shades of cement dye (black, brown, red and buff) were painted on to the stone 'blocks' to give a little variation - stone walls are rarely uniform in colour - at least in this part of Cheshire.

Then (of course) the embankment and sand quarry sidings were tested a few times to ensure they came up to scratch!

On reflection, I probably wouldn't add dye to the concrete mix as the natural colour of the concrete could have been left rather than having to paint the mortar courses to highlight them. I would have preferred to have constructed the rockwork behind the siding after the track had been laid as this would have made building the embankment a lot easier. However, I suppose the meandering nature of the embankment gives the impression that it has been constructed to follow the existing landscape rather than vice versa.

I may have to realign the siding slightly, as it is very close to the first loading hopper. This is a relatively straightforward job - far easier than rebuilding the hopper! I need to figure out where the 32mm line will go at the far end of the embankment. I am favouring building another trestle to take it over the end of the siding before disappearing 'off- stage'. I could extend the border beside the stream and run the siding alongside it which opens up all sorts of other possibilities - but that will have to wait for another day!

Over time, the stonework will weather naturally and I am expecting moss and the ubiquitous Mind Your Own Business ground cover to infiltrate the rock face and fill various nooks and crannies.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

How I made brake gear for some HLW based wagons

Having recently constructed a rake of nine hopper wagons based on those which ran on the Snailbeach and District Railways using Hartland Locomotive Works (HLW) wagon chassis (see How I constructed some Snailbeach hopper wagons - pending) , I realised I would need to represent the brake gear - which on the Snailbeach wagons bore on two wheels on one side of each wagon. Many narrow gauge wagons had simple brake gear which only operated on one wheel, so the Snailbeach brake gear was going to be slightly more complicated.

After drawing up a sketch plan, based on the dimensions of the HLW wagon chassis based on drawings of the brake gear in Eric Tonks' book The Snailbeach and District Railways (Industrial Railway Society, 1974)  .......

...... I decided that I would use thin brass sheet, rather than plasticard, for this construction as I thought the flimsy components might be susceptible to damage. Fortunately I had some thin brass shim available in my box of bits and so started marking and cutting out the various components. As I was fitting-out five wagons, I could batch-produce each component.

I started with the brake lever, which as you can see below, was 45mm in length and 3mm, tapering to 2mm wide, with a 1mm diameter hole at the 'thick' end.

I marked-out six levers, drilled them, cut them out and shaped the ends with a file for the five wagons (and one spare, just in case!).

I then marked-out five pivot plates. The dimensions for each are shown on this drawing.

I find drilling the holes easier after marking out these small parts and before cutting them out, as it is easier to hold and position a large piece of brass than several small pieces. The holes, by the way, are 1mm diameter. I could have saved brass by marking these out back to back.

These were then cut-out. I actually used a robust pair of scissors rather than tin snips.

Next, I marked-out the droppers to support the brake operating linkage. As can be seen the droppers were, overall, 31mm x 3mm, with a 1mm hole drilled 2.5mm from the upper end of the dropper. The 5mm divisions at each end are where the droppers will be folded (see below).

Again, the droppers were marked-out, drilled and then cut-out in batches. I needed ten for the five wagons, but marked-out twelve - just in case!

Next, I marked-out the linkages - 30mm x 2.5mm, with a 1mm hole 2mm from one end.

These were marked-out as a batch of twelve.

Finally, the brake shoes were marked out. These were 8mm x 4mm with a 1mm hole drilled in the centre of the 8mm side, approx 2mm in from the edge.

The concave surfaces were filed before each shoe was cut-out - again, it's easier to do this while the shoes are part of a larger chunk of metal.

Now. armed with all the requisite bits and pieces, I was ready to solder them all together. As I don't possess asbestos finger-tips, I drilled a few holes in a piece of 8mm plywood to locate the various components. The holes coincided with the main components shown in the original sketch plan (see above) - two holes in the centre, 5mm apart. Either side of these were another two holes, one ??mm to the let and right, ??mm above the upper hole - and the other ??mm to the left and right, ??mm below the lower hole.

The various components were then tinned with solder at strategic points .....

 ...... before being located via the holes in the jig, using dome-headed, brass escutcheon pins.

Heat was applied to the various tinned joints .......

........ and then excess solder was filled clean with square needle file.

(Note: the guide for the brake-lever was soldered on last of all).

The three pins which had been soldered were then snipped off at the rear.

To fix the gear in place, one hole was drilled in the sole bar to coincide with the lowermost hole in the support plate. An escutcheon pin was then passed through the hole ........

..... and bent over to secure it in place.

This process was repeated with the other two holes in the plate.

The ends of the droppers were then folded over, a hole drilled through the longitudinal member, a pin inserted and then glued into place with superglue.

The guide for the brake lever was then fixed in place with a couple of pins .......

...... drilled and superglued into place.

The gear was then given a coat of red oxide primer ........

....followed by a coat of black acrylic paint with the end of the brake lever picked-out in white.

The wagons were then weathered  ........

......... and recoupled together in their rake and given a few test-runs.

As indicated above, I have constructed different versions of brake gear, dependent on the type of wagon for which they were intended. Some using plasticard components .....

... and others with vee-hangers using a combination of plastic and brass components.

I am intending to construct some single-wheel brake gear systems, based on those of wagons on the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway.

As they say, watch this space!!