Sunday, August 17, 2008

Progress Report 15 - Beeston Castle is developed

As you will see from Progress Report 14, in addition to building the extension to Beeston Market Station and the copper mine, I also took the opportunity to add another passing loop and create Beeston Castle Station. Not only will this enhance the realism of operating the passenger and goods services, it will also provide a second passing loop for those days I simply want to run trains around the main circuit in opposite directions - maybe one day under computer control - one day!

The corner in which Beeston Castle is now situated was always one of those areas with which I have long been dissatisfied. A well-meaning relative had given me a few monbretia bulbs which had rapidly spread to not just fill but to engulf this corner. First job was therefore to attack it with fork and spade and remove all traces - though I suspect there are bound to be a few bulbs lurking in there somewhere.
The axe was needed to attack the roots from the stump of a poplar tree which had once occupied this corner.

I decided that, as I was going to erect Beeston crag and a representation of Beeston Castle I needed some sort of foundation to support the piled-up earth. Two paving slabs were sunk, side-on, into a bed of concrete and had their corners lopped off with hammer and cold chisel.

I still call them 'breeze blocks', but I am assured by the builders' merchant they are hollow concrete blocks. However, these were next laid roughly along the intended line of the passing loop and levelled carefully with a spirit-level. Fillets of concrete were then forced into the gaps between them to firm them up and to prevent weed-growth.

Next came the interesting bit, laying the track. As previously, this was fixed to the block with rawlplugs and screws. All rail joints were bonded using copper wire and my trusty 75 watt soldering iron - what a useful investment that has proven to be!

Chunks of sandstone were positioned behind the blocks and bedded in concrete to hold back the soil and to provide a natural looking backdrop to the station. Clearances were checked using the widest stock ........
.... and a few test trains were run. Fortunately, the loops proved long enough to accommodate the longest planned trains - though I do have some fine-tuning to do on the pointwork - I made the mistake of soldering a wire too close to the plastic frog on the point leading into the station from the bridge and have unseated one of the point blades. However, nothing that can't be fixed with a file and some roofing felt to raise up the frog.

Lastly, while the weather still held, I took the opportunity to lay the foundations for the castle itself by building-up the crag on top of the hill and creating a rough stone wall with fragments of sandstone and some cement. I must admit that it is a bit of an insult to the craftsmanship of Medieval stone masons, and will need to be attacked with a wire brush when the cement goes 'green', but it is beginning to look like a ruined castle - of sorts!

The exposed bits of the slabs will be hammered off with the cold-chisel and more foliage will be added - probably some dwarf heathers. Also, a representation of the gatehouse will be created at the foot of the hill - probably when the platforms are added.

Tidying up poor track laying.

Whilst I had the track-laying tools out, I took the opportunity to re-lay some of my least impressively laid trackwork below Beeston Castle station. I try, where possible, to avoid joining flexible track on curves. I don't have a rail bender which might enable me to add consistent curves to the ends of the rails: curving the ends is impossible by hand! Anyway, by all accounts, these are quite tricky to use. I'd made the mistake of trying to save time and money by putting a joint on a curve, and as can be seen, it was not that successful. Most stock ran through it successfully, but from time to time, a wagon would fall foul of it.

My solution was to cut back the offending sections of track either side of the offending joint to the nearest straight sections and put in a length, suitably curved (in the middle), to fill the gap.

Peckforton Station
I also took the opportunity to lay the foundations for Peckforton Station. I still can't decide whether to put in another loop here or simply to have a halt with a single siding. I'm toying with the idea of putting in two sidings, one for general goods and another to a timber yard. The Peckforton estates are into forestry in a small way and I could justify adding another lineside industry to add interest and increase opportunities for freight handling.

The Tenmille track which was removed for Beeston Castle Station will readily provide the two sidings - all I need is some more pointwork. Something for the Christmas list???

Unfortunately, work beckons and so there is likely to be a lot less activity over the next few months - but this summer has been quite productive.