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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Monday, August 13, 2018

Progress Report 74

A month or so since my last report (see Progress Report 73) and quite a few developments.
  • I have completed a boiler house and water tower for the sawmill at Peckforton
  • I have constructed a loading bank for Bulkeley station
  • I have constructed the ruins of Beeston Castle
  • I have added a siding to Beeston Castle Station
  • I have started construction of fruit boxes for the loading bank
  • I have converted an LGB US style box car into something more appropriate for the PLR
  • I have written-up the construction of the IP Engineering Albert loco kit
  • I have pressed ahead with the development and fitting of my LGB coupling replacements
  • I have purchased and deployed camouflage netting to help disguise ugly backgrounds when filming or photographing scenes on my railway
  • I have had a couple of very satisfying operating sessions


 Boiler House and Water Tower for the sawmill at Peckforton

After finishing the sawmill (see How I constructed the sawmill and How I detailed the interior of the sawmill), I realised that the mill engine powering the equipment at the sawmill would need a boiler to generate steam. Although, in reality, it would have been unlikely that an elaborate structure would have been used to house the boiler, I decided to make a fairly substantial structure from PVC foamboard using the skills I had acquired when constructing the water mill (see How I constructed the water mill from foamboard).

I am in the process of making a smoke unit for it so that, intermittently, smoke will emerge from the chimney (see How I constructed a smoke unit for the boiler house - pending)

 To accompany the boiler house, I realised I would need a water tower. Again, I opted for something quite substantial as I reasoned that it could also serve to replenish locomotive tanks as Peckforton is the midway station on the system. PVC foamboard, plasticard and the barrel from a ball point pen were pressed into service to make the tower (see How I constructed the water tower at Peckforton station - pending).

The water tower and boiler house need to be properly bedded-in to the locations at the station, but they do seem to fit the bill quite nicely.

Beeston Castle

For more than ten years, Beeston Castle has been represented by a cluster of small sandstone pebbles concreted together. These have now been replaced by a gatehouse, a representation of the walls of the outer bailey and some walls of the inner bailey, carved from a couple of Thermalite blocks. For more information see How I constructed Beeston Castle from Thermalite blocks.

I am now in the process of adding more detailing at Beeston Castle Station to, for example, allow passengers to access the site of the castle.

Loading bank at Bulkeley

I have always assumed that one of the prime sources of traffic from Bulkeley station would be fruit-growing - eg see http://billpearson.co.uk/foodmap/CheshireApples.html

To assist with the loading and unloading of apples and soft fruit, I felt a reasonably substantial loading bank would have been required, and so I cast one in concrete:

For more information see - How I cast a loading bank in concrete.

Fruit boxes

To hold the fruit, I needed some fruit boxes. These were kindly donated to me by a fellow modeller who had some laser-cut frets surplus to his requirements. I am in the process of acquiring more 1/24 scale apples to load into them but my original source seems to have run out. I may have to resort to making my own from Fimo.

Permanent Way

New siding at Beeston Castle Station

A new siding has now been added to the passing loop at Beeston Castle. The old siding at Beeston has always been rather short - accommodating no more than three wagons. The new siding should be able to hold up to seven wagons. I am trying to decide whether to add a lineside industry to the siding - either a brewery or a dairy.

Rolling Stock

 Anglicisation of a US style box car

These days, I don't often add more rolling stock to the roster as my railway has more or less reached its capacity. However, I have had an LGB US style box car sitting on my shelves for a couple of years and, after using it as a test-base for the development of my LGB replacement couplings (see below), I decided it was about time I resolved its ignominy and let it enter service.

Before .........

..... and after.

For more information about the conversion see How I anglicised an LGB box car

IP Engineering Albert loco

Since my last Progress Report, I have completed this little loco, by adding some detail and giving her (or him?) a paint-job.

For more information about this build see - How I constructed an IP Engineering Albert loco from a kit


 As mentioned in my previous Progress Report, I am in the process of replacing all the large (and to my mind ugly) plastic LGB hook and loop couplings on my rolling stock with smaller alternatives. I have decided to retain the hook and loop style of coupling as I want something with is simple, reliable, cheap and compatible with LGB couplings. I couldn't afford to replace the couplings on all 75+ items of rolling stock with realistic models of couplings and so opted for a much cheaper alternative, which is compatible with LGB couplings to enable me to replace them over time rather than all at once.

I am now about 2/3 of the way through converting the rolling stock and have had a couple of operating sessions using a mix of couplings. There are a few teething problems, particularly when linking the new couplings to LGB couplings, but overall I am pleased with the way in which the new couplings are faring. For more information see How I constructed my own LGB style hook and loop couplings - pending


Camouflage netting

The range of photos and videos I have been able to shoot on the railway has been restricted in the past because I have considered the house, garage, sheds and fencing to have been unsuitable backdrops. I did experiment with using blue screen superimposition to hide backgrounds, but was never really convinced by the result (see Progress Report 73). A fellow modeller suggested using camouflage netting to disguise unwanted backgrounds. I duly invested in some and am so far quite pleased with the results.


 ..... After

The netting seems to be more effective if it is a fair distance from the camera and/or is viewed through foliage in the middle distance.

Less effective .......

...... more effective

Operating sessions

As indicated above, I have had a couple of full operating sessions since the last Progress Report to, among other things give the now couplings some rigorous testing.

For this session, I used my two ex Southwold locos to handle the bulk of the traffic

And this one employed principally my Bagnall 0-4-2T and ex Davington Manning Wardle 0-6-0T. In this video the mix of new and old couplings is clearly visible from 1:50 to 2:10.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How I constructed Beeston Castle using Thermalite blocks

Beeston Castle station on the Peckforton Light Railway is supposedly situated adjacent to the entrance to the ruins of Beeston Castle (see A tour of the railway). Since Beeston Castle station was constructed, ten years ago, my representation of this illustrious piece of medieval architecture has been a mound surmounted by an insignificant 'temporary' cluster of sandstone pebbles cemented together (see Progress Report 15).

Replacing this with something more worthy has been on the agenda for some time and now has at last been accomplished.

Before starting work, I considered various ways in which the walls and towers of the castle could be represented - cast concrete (eg see How I cast two overbridges in concrete), foamboard (eg see How I constructed the water mill), carved expanded polystyrene or carved Thermalite blocks. I was alerted to this latter technique by my good friend and fellow modeller, Greg Hunter - http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/satr/hebel.htm (Hebel is the equivalent of Thermalite in Australia).

Before starting work, I prepared the site by laying some concrete foundations for the walls and the gatehouse. I used my usual mix of three parts builders' sand to one part cement.

While this was setting, I bought two standard sized Thermalite blocks (215mm x 100mm  440mm) from my local builders' merchants (approx. £1.50 each).

One of these was sliced in two longitudinally with an old panel saw (it had lost a few teeth and so was no longer usable for wood, but ideal for this job).

One of these halves was shaped irregularly with the saw ......

....... and then cut into smaller pieces appropriate for the site. These were then scribed with an old flat bladed screwdriver and a pad-saw blade.

This process was repeated until sufficient wall sections had been completed.

For the towers of the gatehouse, two six inch wide blocks were cut from the second Thermalite block.

A card template (6" diameter semi circle) was used to mark out the shape of the tower ......

..... and it was roughly shaped with the panel saw.

This was then tidied-up with a flat-bladed rasp.

The battlements were marked out on the top of the tower (roughly 1" square) .......

..... and then a series of holes drilled to a depth of 1" using a masonry bit.

Holes were also drilled in the back of the tower to meet the vertical holes.

The top was then prised off with the flat bladed screwdriver.

The battlements were then tidied up with the rasp and the screwdriver. Mortar courses were scribed near the top of the tower.

Holes were drilled and linked between the mortar courses to represent arrow slits.

Mortar courses were then scribed around the rest of the tower ........

...... and then vertical lines were scribed to create blockwork.

The completed sections of wall were then test-fitted on site.

The bridge section between the two towers was shaped. To reinforce the joint between the sections, a couple of short lengths of rail were inserted into holes and then the bridge section was glued into place using exterior PVA.

The blockwork on the walls were then coloured using cement dyes, diluted and brushed into place with a small paintbrush.

The walls were then concreted into place using my usual mix of concrete.

When the concrete was half-dry and still in its 'green' state the mortar courses were scribed between the sections of wall.

In some places the blockwork colouring needed to re-applied. However, the outcome seemed to be a lot more impressive than what preceded it.

When all the concreting has set, I will give the give the structure a liberal coat of masonry waterproofing compound to help the Thermalite resist the ravages of frost damage.

However, for an outlay of under £5.00 overall, I think this structure is great addition as a backdrop to the station.