Sunday, July 26, 2009

Progress Report 24 - The Copper Mine Loop

With sunshine forecast coinciding with a day's leave it was time for a little more civil engineering. To improve operational realism I had decided a loop was needed to enable trains from the copper mine to pass through Bulkeley station (see How the Line will be Developed and Planning an extra loop).

The site for the new loop

The route was first surveyed, using a couple of R3 points to decide the best places to link the loop into the existing track formation, then the trackbed was dug out.

From previous experience (see below) I made sure the underlying ground was firmed-up well before the breeze blocks were positioned and levelled. Actually there needed to be a gentle 1/60 gradient which was determined by making sure the bubble of the spirit level was just touching the mark at one end.

Digging out the trackbed foundations

After checking, and double-checking for 'level', the gaps between the blocks were filled with a 4:1 (sand:cement) mix of concrete using my usual 'manual' method (see Peckforton Station comes to Life).

The blocks in place before concreting

Normally I would leave the concrete several days to harden but the forecast for the next few days was bad and my leave was of finite duration, so after a couple of hours I laid the track. This was fixed to the blocks using a hammer-drill, rawlplugs and screws. I was using-up odd pieces of track I've accumulated and so you may notice that this loop includes one 2m length of brass Tenmille track, one 2m length of brass Aristocraft track and two 60 cm lengths of LGB stainless steel track. I've not used the latter before and so will be interested to see how it fares and whether it will take solder (I suspect not!). Note: I use LGB track joiners (fishplates) throughout, finding they join the different types of track together with no problem (see Peckforton Station comes to Life)

The new loop

When the weather improves (it's pouring down today), I will bond the rail joints with solder and wire jumpers. After a suitable period of testing, it will be properly landscaped and ballasted. The points will be controlled remotely using a point decoder. Incidentally, the kink in the track in the cutting is deliberate. Apart from finding the alignment of the mainline was improved if I repositioned the leading point, I though the kink gave the loop a more 'industrial' look. I'll see how it works out in practice.

Dealing with sunken blocks
In my rush to lay the first lengths of track back ion 2005, I did not spend enough time firming-up the ground underlying some of the breeze block trackbed. As a consequence a small number of blocks (around eight in total) have sunk. In a couple of cases, this has been by less than a centimetre but I found there was one stretch where three blocks had subsided by around 2.5 cm. This was particularly significant as these blocks were in the middle of a gradient, so rather than there being a uniform 1:40 slope, there was a slip dip, followed by a short 1:20 rise.

Rather than removing the blocks, firming-up the ground and replacing them, I decided to adopt a different approach. In the past, where I have relaid the blocks, the ground subsided again and so I had to repeat the process. This time, I left the blocks where they were and raised the track above them until it was in the correct line.

This entailed removing the original screws and replacing them with longer (2") ones. This approach allowed me to adjust the height of the track quite precisely.

Once I was happy with the alignment, I packed wet concrete (a 1:4 cement:sand mix) into the gap between the track and the blocks with my usual rubber-glove protected fingers approach, finishing off with a 1.5" paintbrush. A mixture of small stones and sand was sprinkled over the wet cement and the whole lot left to harden off.

The new 'raised' track, loose ballasted

I've now used this approach on two other sections and so far, am very happy with the outcome. I will let you know how it works-out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Progress Report 23 - Then and now

I was browsing through some of my old pictures of the garden from 2004-5 before and while the railway was first being built and thought it might be interesting to see how things have developed.
(NB - Click on the images to enlarge them)

What follows is a series of shots taken in 2004/5 and now, for comparison.

A view of the back of the house.
The lean-to is now in place and the railway has taken over this corner of the garden.

The small terraced area of lawn was levelled leaving a much smaller raised bed area in the corner of the garden

and the ramshackle arrangements of sheds was replaced with a new shed and trailer tent store, discretely hidden behind a hedge of leylandii.

This next series of three photos show a panorama taken from the top corner of the garden (beside what is now Beeston Castle station).
This first shot shows how the landscaping has altered the previously boring expanse of lawn.

Swinging to the left, we see the raised bed (holding the stream) which separates the house and path from the rest of the garden.

And finally, swinging further to the left we see the lean-to and just catch a glimpse of the 'train-flap' which allows stock from Bickerton station to run into the storage sidings.

Another panorama of three shots shows the view from the other top corner of the garden. Here we see the foundations for the lower loop have been cut into the lawn and the turf removed.

Here we see how this area has been landscaped and Peckforton station built into this corner of the loop. The viaduct is in its 'parked' position allowing access to the patio in the centre of the lower loop.

Swinging the camera to the right in the 2004 photo, you can see the recycled window units propped up against the conservatory, ready to be used for the lean-to. In the 2009 photo you can see the recently erected lean-top greenhouse and the extension to the railway which was cut into the hedge on the right.

The 2005 shot shows the lean-to now in place to allow work to start on the raised beds (once the rubble and mixer have been removed). The 2009 shot shows Peckforton station is now well established.

In the 2005 shot, the sandstone cladding has been added to the raised beds in the middle distance and the leylandii hedge comprises litle more than saplings. By 2009, the hedge is well established and the beds are well populated.

In the reverse of the above image, in 2005 the leylandii saplings are clearly in view while the trackbed for the lower line has been laid and cemented into place. By 2009. the apple tree provides shade for the seating and the foliage obscures the track on the left. This shot was taken by thrusting the camera through a gap in the leylandii hedge.

Here we see a general shot across the garden. Bulkeley station is on the immediate left, Peckforton is in the middle distance, Beeston Castle is top left and Bickerton in adjacent to the lean-to.

Following on from the above, Bickerton station is in the background beside the leant-to. In the 2005 shot, the sandstone cladding is being added to the breeze-block retaining walls. By 2009, none of the cladding has fallen off and the vegetation has been become well established.

How I Anglicised an LGB tank wagon

The raw materials
A bog-standard tank wagon (the least well detailed and cheapest) was bought on eBay:

and a kit of bits was bought from Garden Railway Services (GRS)

Shortening the body
Firstly, the wagon was disassembled which involved unscrewing six screws:

One end of the body needed to be shortened to match the other end and leave room for the uprights. This was achieved with a few strokes of a craft knife:

The tank was sprayed with Plasti-kote grey primer (the standard colour for all my goods stock)

Modifying the chassis
I also removed all vestiges of the brake gear using a razor saw (I now wish I had left one brake block in place) as per the Welshpool and Llanfair.

Adding the tank stays
First, the two baulks were trimmed and glued to the ends of the body:

The uprights were then glued together and added to the ends, and the two upper baulks were glued in place.

Holes were drilled in the sides of the chassis and the upper baulks and the wires provided in the kit were superglued in place.
Finally, I decided to snip the heads from four suitably sized bolts, added a nut and superglued these to the ends of upper baulks. I ought to have done the same for the diagonal ties but decided there was insufficient room.

All the added paraphernalia and straps across the top of the tank were then touched up with black acrylics.

A nice little job which can be completed in an afternoon and to my mind is well worth the effort.

Update - 9/3/15

 Since completing this wagon, I have converted another tank wagon (using square section Plastruct and wire - see Progress Report 37) and weathered both wagons.