Thursday, January 01, 2009

Progress Report 17 - Peckforton Station comes to life

Originally, owing the small size of the local community, I had considered that Peckforton would have only a single siding and no loop. However, after some deliberation, I decided that the station would have to have a passing loop and two sidings - one for local goods and the other for the timber yard to serve the Peckforton Estate's forestry development. With Peckforton being more or less at the half way point between the two termini of Beeston Market and Bickerton (both in the model and hypothetical reality) it makes sense to have a passing loop here (see - A tour of the hypothetical line). The timber yard would add a further dimension to freight traffic operation and the loop would provide additional opportunities for shunting. Eventually, if I ever get around to extending the line, one of the sidings can become the new branch line.

The first stage was to lift the existing track to enable the trackbed to be re-laid. I was pleased to find that the 'dry concrete' ballast was sufficiently crumbly to allow the track to come up with the minimum of effort (see How did I ballast the track?). Once the crusted ballast had been scraped away and swept up, the blocks were lifted and put to one side.

I loosely laid the pointwork and intervening tracks to ensure the blocks were going to be in the right places. Ensuring the loop would be long enough to accommodate the standard length of trains proved slightly problematical for this tight, curved location. However, a strategically placed radius 1 curve (retained from the LGB starter set) helped me squeeze it into the available space.

Relaying the blocks a second time gave me an opportunity to firm-up and level the foundations. This was achieved with a mixture of sand and soil.

As previously, considerable time and care was taken to ensure the blocks were level using a couple of spirit levels. I use one 4 foot long to ensure adjacent blocks are evenly placed, and a short 9 inch one to check each block is level.

The gaps between the blocks were filled with cement to prevent weed growth. I tend to do this after the blocks have been positioned, by stuffing the cement into the crevices using a small trowel and my fingers (suitably protected by rubber gloves!).

With the light fading, I had to cease work for the day and, with frost forecast, I covered the site with a couple of old coats, towels and a sheet of plastic to ensure the frost didn't attack the setting cement.

I started by re-laying the mainline track, to ensure that the new pointwork linked-in with the original trackwork.
The loop was laid next, followed by the two sidings. I used a mixture of Tenmille, LGB and Aristocraft track - using whatever came to hand of more or less the most appropriate length. Although the profiles of the rails differ, the rail heights are the same and hence LGB rail-joiners (or fishplates) were used throughout.

As some of the track was not flexible, I cut alternate webs between the sleepers and, in the case of the Aristo track, removed the screws joining the sleepers to the rails to enable it to be curved to the required radii.

The track was fixed in place with 1.25" chipboard screws screwed into rawlplugs forced into holes drilled into the concrete blocks. Holes were drilled through the sleepers using a 4mm drill, which also marked the place on the block beneath where the hole for the rawlplug should be drilled - using a suitable masonry drill bit.

Experience has taught me to take plenty of time and trouble when laying the pointwork to ensure it is level. I used strips of roofing felt to compensate for slight irregularities in the underlying blockwork and try to avoid screwing the points down themselves as I have found this can distort them unless the underlying foundations are perfectly level. All rails were bonded together with copper wire soldered across the joints ( See - How did I bond the rails?). As mentioned previously, this was achieved with a 75 watt soldering iron which packs out enough heat to melt the solder on to the rails even on a day where the temperature barely rose above zero.

Before I even consider ballasting, the trackwork needed to be tested extensively with all the available stock - a good excuse for a running session!

This has revealed some dead spots electrically (eg point blades) and a couple of places where levelling was needed.

The layout of the pointwork seems to appropriate, but took quite a bit of jiggling to find the most effective arrangement. However, it would have been a lot easier if there had been a wye turnout (radius 3) available or a curved point. Even a radius 1 wye would have been useful. I did consider trying an LGB three-way point but the thought of shelling out around £100 on an off-chance seemed a little extravagant.

Although the layout is mounted about a foot above the lawn, I find a pair of cushioned knee-pads essential. I also use a camping mat for some additional comfort and to keep the dampness of the lawn at bay.

Come the Spring, I will landscape the station and maybe add a building or two. A couple of plants needed to be moved and a low growing dwarf fir needed some drastic pruning. Hopefully, all will survive despite the severe frosts!