Sunday, September 02, 2007

Progress Report 10 - Minor Developments

This Summer has been very busy, and as a consequence there has been very little time for modelling (see Swiss Rail Tour blog). The garden has had very little attention, other than some tidying and odd bits of planting where gaps have appeared. However, the plants are beginning to become better established or in some cases, too well established, and the railway is blending well into its surroundings. A few general shots of the garden taken this afternoon will hopefully give you an impression of progress.
Taken from beside the through station (still as yet unnamed). In the centre background just behind the shrouded clothes line, is the bridge which takes the upper line over the lower. To the right is the loop around the patio.

Moving to the right, a view looking in the same direction from beside the patio. My (unsuccessful) attempt to model a viaduct can be seen in the centre. The plaster work has proved to be insufficiently durable for the climate of the NW of England!

The 'flyover' with the (unnamed) terminus station (and catflap) in the background.

The corner beside the lean-to, the approach to the terminus in the background (and coal store underneath)
Looking back from the same point, across the patio to the through station. I have no idea why the middle conifer decided to give up the ghost. It certainly won't have been through lack of water this summer!

At the back of the garden, looking towards the 'flyover'. The link for the reverse loop is just visible


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Progress Report 9 - Catching up

A few days' leave at Easter provided an opportunity to complete some outstanding jobs and and run some trains (I now have more than one!).

The platforms for both stations were cast in concrete (see 'How I made the Platforms')

Additions to the stock
A chance enquiry when visiting Bay Models resulted in the purchase of a refurbished LGB Zillertal 0-6-2 loco (22711) which means my loco roster has now reached its maximum for the intended timetable (a passenger train, a mixed train and a goods train).

[Update November 2017]  Ten years ago, three locos seemed like a reasonable maximum - I now have fifteen locos - and plan to make at least another two ....... strange how ambitions change!

More plants
A few more plants have been added:
  • three more dwarf conifers
  • a hebe
  • a couple of heathers
  • some alpines
  • yet another lavender (I keep losing these)

Some ballasting
Some of the cement-based ballast (See Ballasting the track) had been laid during a heatwave and as a consequence it had dried out too quickly. An opportunity was taken to relay some of this using a stronger mix (2 parts sand + 2 parts gravel + 1 part cement).

Cleaning out the stream
The first time the stream was run it quickly ran short of water. When cleaning the pump filter, I noticed that the soil beside the sump was getting waterlogged. It seems I had cut the pond liner used for the stream too short and hence some water was not finding its way back into the sump. It's surprising how quickly a tiny trickle of water seeping from the system lowers the water supply! A strategically-placed piece of plastic cut from a water bottle now steers the water where it needs to go - it is conveniently hidden under the lip of the slab which acts as a spillway into the sump.

<< Go to Progress Report 8

Sunday, April 08, 2007

How did I make the platforms?

The platforms were cast from concrete to precisely fit their locations. After considering a range of options (wood, plastic, tiles), I decided concrete would be the most appropriate - it is durable, cheap and easy to construct.

Two methods were used:
  • for the terminus, the platforms were cast in situ using shuttering. The platforms here are primarily straight so simple shuttering was feasible.
  • for the through station, the platforms were prefabricated using moulds. The platform here is curved throughout its length and hence shuttering would have been tricky.

Method 1 - shuttering
The platform height was set at 3 cm. This was decided by measuring from the trackbed to the lowest step on one of the coaches.

Stage 1
Strips of 3/4" (2 cm) pine were cut to 3 cm sufficient to form the shuttering for one of the platforms. The width of 3/4" provided the right amount of clearance between the coach steps and the platform edge.

Stage 2
The pine shuttering was positioned around the edges of the area to be made into the platform. To accommodate the curves, the shuttering was cut into shorted lengths (approx 15 cm). The shuttering butted up to the sleepers (ties).

Stage 3
A strong mix of concrete was prepared (see mixing the concrete below) - using 2 parts sand, 2 parts fine gravel (Alpine grit) and 1 part cement.

Stage 4
The concrete was carefully troweled into the shuttering and gently tamped down to ensure there were no air bubbles. The surface was smoothed over with a trowel.

Stage 5
The edges of the platform were masked to a width of around 1.5 cm with offcuts of plywood. Sand was then sprinkled on to the centre part of the platform using a sieve ('borrowed' from the kitchen) to add texture similar to tarmac.

Stage 6
When the concrete had hardened to its 'green' state (ie not fully set) the ply masks and shuttering were removed and the concrete was scribed with the blade of a screwdriver to represent stone slabs. The platform was left to dry (covered at night as there was a risk of a frost).

Method 2 - Prefabrication

I initially considered setting up some sort of shuttering in situ, but rejected this as the platforms were curved along their whole length on both sides and I could see no way of reliably fixing it in place - so I opted for prefabrication.

Stage 1A newpaper template was cut to fit between the tracks.

Stage 2
A felt tip pen was attached to a coach (requiring the widest clearance) which was then run along the tracks to mark the optimum position for the platform. As an extra check, other stock was run along the track to see if there was likely to be any snags.

Stage 3
The paper template was transferred to sheets of 1/2" laminated chipboard and pine (recycled from some redundant shelving). This was then cut to shape with a jigsaw. The sections were placed between the tracks to check clearances (by running various bits of rolling stock alongside).

The height of the platform was determined by measuring from the trackbed to the lowest step on one of the coaches (3 cm). Strips of 1/8" ply were cut to 4.5 cm to take account of the platform height and the thickness of the chipboard. These strips were then screwed to the sides of the chipboard templates to form the moulds.

Rather than creating a single mould, the platform was divided into sections - to make the casting process easier, to allow for some adjustment when fitting, and also to allow for expansion and contraction when the platform is completed.

Stage 4
The insides of the moulds were greased (with standard motor grease) to prevent the cement from sticking. Before the cement was poured into the moulds, miniature stone slabs (obtainable from Miniature Brick Bargains - were pressed into the grease along the sides of the mould to act as facings.

A strong mix of concrete was made (2 parts sand + 2 parts fine gravel + 1 part cement - see below) and poured into the moulds. When the concrete was partially set, stone slabs were pressed into it along each platform edge and sand was sprinked on using a fine sieve to represent the gravelly surface of the platform.

Note: The block in the left hand section is to give clearance for a point motor.

Stage 5
When the concrete had set (after about three days) each section was removed from its mould. Owing to the fragility of the concrete, the sides of the moulds were unscrewed rather than attempting to prise or shake them out. The sections were then loosely positioned to check for clearances by running stock along the tracks. They were scrubbed to remove all traces of grease and then the sections were cemented into place and left to set.

How I mixed the concrete
I do not profess to be an expert, but the technique I use for mixing concrete was taught to me by my dad - who seemed to know how to do most practical things. Anyway, it works ..............

Stage 1
Two shovels of sand and two shovels of gravel (Alpine grit) were put on to an old sheet of plywood I've used for many years for mixing concrete.
Stage 2
A shovel full of cement was added.
Stage 3
The ingredients were mixed thoroughly with the shovel.
Stage 4
A depression was made in the middle of the mix and water added. It's important not to add too much water initially as it can wash the cement powder away.
Stage 5
The ingredients were mixed again, adding water until it reached the consistency of thick cream or custard.

[Update April 2009] After two years, the platforms have fared well.

This photo (above) shows the main terminus platform which was cast in situ. No cracks, but a bit slab-like.

By contrast, the bay platform looks quite good. While the cement was wet, I covered the edges with some strips of wood and sprinkled dry sand over the centre of the platform. When the cement had gone 'green' (ie had not fully set) I removed the shuttering and the strips of wood and scribed blocks along the edges with a screwdriver. Once the cement was fully set I brushed off the loose sand and, as you can see, the result is quite realistic - particularly as little pieces of moss are beginning to populate the cracks.

The pre-cast platforms have also survived well. I had wondered if the small tone slabs would become dislodged, but as you can see they are still very much in evidence. A few did become dislodged immediately after the casting process, but none since.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stock update

To complement the open wagon, a guards van has been added to the goods stock. Like the open wagon, it uses a Hartland flat wagon chassis. The superstructure was constructed from wooden lollypop sticks. It was inspired by the Welshpool & Llanfair prototypes.

As can be seen, it has yet to be weathered and needs detailing with handrails and the all-important brake-gear.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How did I make an open wagon?

After some interesting and productive correspondence through the G Scale Mad discussion forum (see - ), I purchased some Hartland Loco Works flatcars and Bachmann metal wheels from Steve Warrington at Back 2 Bay 6 ( ). At £8.00 per wagon (plus £5.00 for two pairs of wheels) it seems a highly cost effective way of getting a chassis. These kits are a joy to construct - they simply click together in under 5 minutes - and come equipped with LGB compatible couplings.

HLW Flat wagon as purchased
From my archives I dug out some drawings of Southwold Railway open wagons (published in the 1979 edition of Model Railway Constructor - pp 194-6).

Modelling to 15mm/Foot - the HLW chassis provides a chassis with a 5'6" wheelbase - spot on for the later versions of the Southwold opens. The overall dimensions of the wagon body are a slight compromise - but then the axle boxes are not quite right either.

Four pieces of 60thou plasticard form the sides and ends of the wagon, suitably scribed to represent planking. The strapping was made from 10 thou microstrip - with rivets formed by cutting discs from plastic mico rod and painstakingly applying them.

A quick spray of grey undercoat, with strapping picked out in black acrylic - then grubby weathering and a load of crushed coal and a spray of semi-matt varnish - results in a passable representation of an open wagon.

The resulting model

Progress Report 8 - More stock

A few days leave over the Christmas / New Year break provided me with an opportunity to devote some time to sorting-out a few outstanding issues.
  • I kit-bashed my first item of rolling-stock (see 'How I made an open wagon')
  • I bought some items of rolling stock
  • I replaced an Aristocraft point (turnout) with its LGB equivalent.
  • A couple of building kits were purchased
  • The patio viaduct has now been 'plastered' ready for scribing (see 'How I made the viaduct').
More rolling stock
In addition to making the kit-bashed open wagon, some judicious bidding on eBay resulted in the purchase of:

  • A Lehmann van with balcony from the same starter set which will be bashed to become a more UK-friendly version, or modified into a guards van using the GRS kit (no longer available)

  • The chassis from the ubiquitous LGB Stainz 0-4-0 which will, one day, become another British outline loco.

Replacing the turnout
When laying the track for the cross-over in the terminus station I was tempted by a 'new' Aristocraft electrically operated turnout which was compatible with LGB. This was duly laid and wired-up. What I hadn't realised was that whereas LGB point motors operate from 16v DC, Aristocraft motors require 16v AC. As I had wired these to work in tandem (ie one switch operating both points), there was immediately a technical problem. Furthermore, after only one season in the British climate the steel screws holding everything together showed signs of rusting. Obviously, the US manufacturers had not anticipated their products being used outdoors anywhere other than California! A pity, because otherwise the point was robust and cost effective. For example, the point-motor includes an inbuilt switch useful for activating isolating sections which is an optional (£14.00) extra for LGB point-motors.

Fortunately, the cement-based ballast in the terminus station had set to a crumbly consistency which was sufficient to hold it in place in some of the more torrential downpours we had experienced since the summer but fell apart when the point was lifted. More significantly, attaching the two wires to the point motor resulted in instant, co-ordinated remote point operation.

The revised cross-over

Some building kits

I was also attracted by the signal box and station building kits sold through eBay by T&M Models. These kits are very cost effective and highly detailed. A visit to Mike Cullen who, it turns out, lives locally resulted in the purchase of his halt kit and a signal box. These will be made-up and positioned in due course (see How I constructed some station buildings). 

 << Go to Progress Report 7