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, May 13, 2018

Progress Report 72

Over the winter, understandably, most of the jobs I undertook on the railway were indoor ones but I have also managed a few outdoor jobs as and when weather permitted. Developments since the last Progress Report include:
  • finishing off the water mill and sluice gate, 
  • landscaping the area around the mill, including the provision of a mill stream, 
  • starting construction of the sawmill for Peckforton Station, 
  • ballasting the re-aligned track near Bulkeley, 
  • constructing two new small diesel locos from kits, 
  • experimenting with replacements for LGB couplings 
  • reprogramming the receiver in Loco No.1 to provide auto station stop, 
  • and making some videos for fellow modellers on how to reprogram and adjust the outputs from various Deltang receivers.


Water Mill

The water mill is now more or less completed (see How I constructed the water mill). The sluice gate has been installed (see How I constructed a sluice gate) and the area landscaped to include a mill stream and the planting of a dwarf rhododendron which will eventually grow into a small tree.


The main structure for the sawmill is now finished using a range of materials; wood, aluminium foil, brass channel and copper tubing (see How I constructed the sawmill).

Work is progressing on the interior, constructed from various sized sections of strip wood and all manner of 'reclaimed' materials.

 I am in the process of bashing a plastic model of a beam engine into something vaguely resembling a mill engine which will eventually be connected to the machinery via a series of pulleys 3D printed for me by a fellow modeller.

Permanent Way


After eliminating a hump in the track on the approach to Bulkeley station, adjacent to the junction for the copper mine branch (see Progress Report 71), it was some time before I got around to ballasting it. I used my now preferred method, three parts horticultural grit to one part cement - brushed into place while dry and then soaked with a watering-can rose.

Rolling stock

I realised that all the accounts of battery and radio control installations on my blog were quite complex as they also included wiring up lights and/or soundcards. I therefore decided to construct a couple of basic diesel loco kits and keep the radio control installations as simple as possible.

HGLW diesel loco

 I opted for HGLW's most basic loco body (LB1) and their Deluxe 4wd chassis - for a total of around £40.00. The kit was very easy to construct and the battery and radio control installation very straightforward (see How I constructed a HGLW diesel loco kit).

 IP Engineering Albert

The IP Engineering basic diesel loco kit was slightly more expensive at £45.00, though I needed to spend another £8.00 for Delrin chain and sprockets to provide 4 wheel drive. Without it, the loco has quite limited hauling power. The kit was quite straightforward to construct and battery and radio control installation relatively easy. (see How I constructed an IP Engineering Albert loco - pending)


 I have retained LGB style couplings on all my stock because I really enjoy shunting and so I need couplings which are easy to couple and uncouple, are reliable and, most importantly, are cheap. However, LGB couplings are unrealistic and obtrusive. For a long time I have been exploring alternatives but failed to find anything which met all my criteria. 

However I have just reached the conclusion that, rather than looking for alternatives, why not use the LGB coupling principle but find a way of making them less obtrusive. After a bit of experimentation, I have made some couplings from a piece of brass and some wire which seem to fit the bill.

At present, these are just prototypes, but they do seem to work OK and so I am planning to install them on several items of stock so I can give them a thorough testing. The advantage is that they are compatible with LGB style couplings and so I should be able to convert the stock in batches rather than having to refit all 75 items of stock at the same time.


Peckett Loco No.1 has been a stalwart of the line since the early days of its Anglicisation (see How I constructed a Peckett loco from a GRS kit). I thought it would be interesting to re-program a couple of locos to stop automatically at each station as they trundled around on days when I had visitors or when I was gardening. Loco No. 1 has now been reprogrammed (see How I reprogrammed a loco for auto station stop - pending).

Various Deltang video guides

Programming an Rx102 for latching on/off outputs

Reprogramming an Rx102 to provide triggers for sound cards

Adjusting servo throws from an Rx102

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

How I detailed my HGLW diesel loco

Having recently built a Houstoun Gate Loco Works (HGLW) kit and got it running with radio control in a day (see How I constructed a HGLW kit), I then set about detailing it.



As you can see, although it was running by the end of the day, it was not exactly looking pretty.

I cast about the net for some inspiration and, although not a direct comparison, the Amberley Museum's Fowler loco, Peldon, looked as if she was close enough to offer me some ideas for detailing.
Source: http://www.amberleynarrowgauge.co.uk/peldon.htm


For the loco to become a useful member of the Peckforton Light Railway's roster, she would need to be equipped with LGB style couplings. I know they are not the most realistic type of coupling, but I do a lot of shunting operations on my railway and I have not yet discovered a suitable replacement for them which is as reliable and cheap.

To accommodate the couplings, the buffer beams on the chassis needed to be slotted to approximately the right height. This was achieved with a razor raw and Stanley knife.

Next, the mounting blocks for the couplings needed to be fashioned. I discovered that a piece of 25mm thick stripwood, plus to pieces of 3mm thick plywood would allow the couplings to be mounted at the right height. These were drilled with a 3mm hole for a bolt.

A 3mm hole was also drilled in the chassis plate for the bolt .....

..... and passed through the layers of mounting block  ........

...... to allow the coupling to be bolted into place. I discovered that Hartland Loco Works (HLW) couplings were more suitable as the springs on LGB couplings fouled the wheels.

The couplings were mounted to stand out by 4mm from the chassis buffer beams to give room for the buffer beams on the loco body.

The buffer beams on the body were slotted to take the couplings, .......

......  so the body could be slid into place over them.

Finally, Binnie Engineering medium sized Carmarthen couplings were glued above the LGB couplings as dummies to disguise the presence of the LGB couplings and to give the buffer beams a more realistic appearance. Cambrian Models plastic rivet heads were also glued on to the buffer beams for cosmetic effect.


The kit came with some aluminium mesh for the radiator grille but scrutiny of various photos of 'Peldon' revealed what looks like black vertical tubes with cooling fins behind the grille. As it would be hidden behind the grille, I decided that a simple representation of this would be sufficient.

Six 30mm lengths of 4mm diameter Plastruct tube were cut as was a 40mm x 40mm piece of 1.5mm thick black plasticard. Lines of plastic solvent adhesive were placed on the plasticard sheet ......

 .... and the tubes fixed to them.

The 'radiator' was then given a couple of coats of Halford's grey primer, followed by a couple of coats of Halford's satin black.

After the loco body had been painted (see below), the radiator was glued behind its opening at the front of the bonnet (with superglue)........

...... and the mesh trimmed to 30mm x 30mm to fit. This was sprayed with grey primer and a couple of coats of Halford's Rover Brooklands Green before being glued into the aperture.


The exhaust pipe and silencer on Peldon is quite prominently positioned on top of the bonnet. To represent this, two short lengths of 3mm copper tube were cut (one 60mm long and the other 20mm long). In addition, a 40mm length of 6mm Plastruct tube and a 38mm piece of 4mm plastic rod was cut. I piece of flattened copper wire was wrapped around the top of the longer piece of copper tube and soldered into place. The ends of the copper tubes were bent through 90 degrees (after a piece of brass rod had been inserted to stop the tubes from kinking).

3mm holes were drilled into the ends of the 4mm plastic rod and the copper tubes inserted and glued into place with superglue.

 The exhaust was given a couple of coats of grey primer followed by a couple of coats of satin black. ......

..... before being weathered with matt acrylics and glued in place on the loco bonnet.


I had originally intended to paint the loco maroon (hence the original primer coat of red oxide), but after giving her an initial coat, I changed my mind. The body was rubbed down and given a couple of coats of Halford's grey primer (after the apertures had been masked).

After filling, rubbing down, another coat of primer, more filling and rubbing down, and another coat of primer, she was given a couple of coats of Halford's Rover Brooklands Green.

The buffer beams were given a couple of coats of Plasti-kote Insignia Red.

The loco was then lightly rubbed down and given a couple of coats of Halford's clear varnish and the roof given a coat of matt black acrylic paint.

Grab rails

The grab-rails are essentially two 35mm long pieces of 2mm thick brass rod, bent at each end.

2mm holes were drilled in the cab sides to take the rails ........

..... and 2mm brass washers were threaded on .......

...... before being glued into place with superglue.


I am pleased I decided to paint her the same colour as the rest of my loco stud - I don't think I was influenced by Peldon's colour scheme, but who knows.

I think the details have complemented the model well - and given her a sense of identity. I might still add some more details, particularly inside the cab which is, at present, a bit stark. The driver (Jon's People) needs some controls and gauges, a brake standard and maybe a seat. There also needs to be a bit of clutter, such as an oil can, toolbox and starting handle.

I was delighted with the kit which was extremely easy to build and provided a good canvas on which to express some individuality. I might add some lead to improve adhesion but I have given her a test run and was pleased to see she sould pull six wagons with ease. Given that she will be assigned to shunting duties at the sawmill, it is unlikely she will be required to haul anything greater. Once the weather improves, I will have a proper operating session and shoot some video of her in action.

Friday, April 27, 2018

How I constructed a HGLW loco kit and installed radio control


I realised recently that I haven't actually described how to install Deltang radio control equipment in a basic kit-built loco. Having looked around at various kits, I opted for a simple diesel loco kit from Houstoun Gate Loco Works. Apart from their simplicity, I like option to have a 4 wheel drive chassis. I was also impressed that the kit arrived the day after I placed the order for it online.

The kit comprised two packs; LB1 loco body kit and the Deluxe 4wd chassis kit - for around £40 in total.

The Chassis

I decided to start with the chassis. The kit was unpacked and checked ......

..... and checked against the illustrated instruction sheet.

The laser cut MDF sections were separated from their fret and tidied up with a sanding-block.

Following the instructions, the spreader, sides and base were glued together.

 Although PVA adhesive was recommended, I opted for medium viscosity Superglue as I wanted the glue to set fairly quickly (I sometimes also used an accelerator spray to decrease the setting-time).

The buffer-beam ends were added next.

Then the axles were tackled. The washers and bushes ........

...... were threaded on to the ends of the axles .......

...... and the axle assemblies slotted into their housings on the chassis.

The polyeurethane belt was left loose at this stage to avoid stressing the axles.

To fix the bushes in place, the first layer of the axle box mouldings was glued into place.

Followed by the second layer .........

...... and the final layer.

Finally, the spring hangers were glued on.

This process was repeated three more times for the remaining axle-ends.

The 4-wheel drive belt was then looped over the pulleys ......

...... and the brake gear glued into place.

The mounting rings for the motor were glued together, using the motor to ensure they were properly aligned.

The motor and rings were then slotted into the hole in the chassis plate ........

..... and the motor positioned so that its worm meshed appropriately with the worm wheel on the axle.

The motor was then screwed into place.

A 3v battery pack was then connected to the motor to check the chassis was functioning properly.

The Body

The kit comprised a couple of laser cut MDF frets, a couple pieces of perspex, some mesh, and three pre-cut pieces of thin ply for the roof and window surrounds.

The MDF sections were removed from the frets and tidied-up with a sanding block.

Following the instructions, the cab front was glued to the sides of the engine compartment.

These were then glued to the running plate.

The front was then added .......

The engine compartment top cover was then glued into place.

I then glued the cab sides and loose-fitted the cab-back.

 The roofing bars were then glued into place ......

..... and once the glued had set (with help from the accelerator spray), the back of the cab was removed.

The window frames were then added to the front window .........

...... and the rear window.

At this point (ie before painting), I decided to add some louvres to the sides of the engine compartment. My mate Greg in Australia had sent me some louvred metal sheet intended for fly screens.

A couple of 52mm x 30mm pieces of louvre were cut out .........

....... and glued to the sides of the engine compartment, using medium viscosity Superglue, with a lead weight used to hold each piece in place while the glue set.

A 40mm x 45mm piece of mesh was cut to size .......

...... and glued into place behind the opening at the front of the engine compartment.


The body was given a gouple of coats of Halfords red oxide primer and once dry, the interior of the cab was sprayed with a matt cream acrylic spray (after masking the rest of the body with masking tape).

This was the reason I had left the back of the cab unglued as painting the interior of the cab would have been tricky.

The inside of the cab back was also sprayed cream.

The cab back was then glued into place. Squadron White Putty filler was applied to the various cracks and crevices and then smoothed off with a sanding block. 

The roof was then fitted into place, using rubber bands to hold it down while the Superglue set.

In the meantime, the chassis was given a couple of coats of Halford's grey primer, followed by a couple of coats of Halfords satin black (the motor, axles and sheels were masked to avoid them becoming gummed-up with paint).

The electrics

I decided to use a single 3.7v 18650 lithium-ion battery as the power source. The motor is designed to run from a 3v battery pack and the Deltang receivers require at least 3.2v. In addition, Deltang receivers are designed to operate with li-ion batteries and, by default, include low-voltage cut-off sensing to ensure that they will not excessively drain li-ion battery packs. Li-ion batteries become permanently damaged if their voltage drops below 3v.

I figured that a single 18650 li-ion battery would comfortable fit into the engine compartment above the motor and so three pieces of 5mm x 25mm wide stripwood were cut, two pieces 25mm long and one piece 66mm long.

These were glued together to make a bracket for the motor. Two 3mm holes were drilled midway along the longer piece to take a strap for the battery.

 The battery was strapped to the bracket and the bracket test-fitted to check clearances.

A 6mm hole and an 8mm diameter hole were drilled into the base of the chassis 15mm from the front edge of the chassis. A 2.1mm DC socket was fixed into the 8mm hole and a miniature SPDT toggle switch fixed into the 6mm hole.

They gave sufficient clearance underneath for the leading axle, gear and pulley system.

The switch and socket were wired up ........

....... using my preferred wiring circuitry. I decided a battery protection board was not necessary as I was only using one cell, the polyswitch would help protect the battery from short circuit and the LVC (Low Voltage Cut-out) feature of the Rx65 would guard against over-discharge of the li-ion cell.

The Deltang Rx65 receiver/controller was strapped to the side of the battery bracket with a couple of cable ties.

The polyswitch fuse was soldered to the negative tab on the battery .......

.... and the additional wiring on the RC Trains Accessory Wired Rx65b receiver was tucked away for future use. This wiring will eventually be used to trigger sound effects on a soundcard and also provide directional lighting when I get around to fitting it.

The receiver was then bound to one of my Deltang transmitters and the loco was taken outside for testing.


There is still more to be done. I want to add more detailing to the loco and she is sadly in need of a decent final paint-job. However, I am pleased that I managed to complete the loco and get her running in a single day. The kit was extremely easy to construct, thanks to the well through-out tab system for aligning the pieces. The mechanism sounds noisy and so I might need to fine tune the meshing of the gears to see if that reduces the noise.

As indicated above, I will probably add a soundcard, though the rumble from the gears actually sounds quite diesel-like. She will probably potter around the timber yard at Peckforton which I anticipate will be quite busy as wagons of raw timber are shunted to be off-loaded by the gantry crane (to be constructed) and finished timber loaded into open wagons.