Sunday, September 26, 2010

How I assembled a GRS Hunslet loco kit

As mentioned in Progress Report 31, I was able to purchase a Hunslet kit from Garden Railway Specialists with money which was raised by my colleagues as a semi-retirement present. I have long coveted this kit and many moons ago I was fortunate enough to purchase an LGB OHO loco (similar to Otto) for a very competitive price on eBay.

Disassembling OHO

My first task was to strip down OHO to reveal its chassis. Fortunately, LGB locos are usually held together with screws. Firstly, the screws holding the steps were removed:

 ........followed by the two screws under the front of the cab.......

 ..... and the two screws at the rear of the cab.

At the same time I also removed the couplings. Although these do not hold the parts of the loco together, I prefer to strip loco chassis down as much as I can.

The cab, simply lifts off the chassis.

Next, the boiler was tackled. The two large screws beneath the loco were removed........

.....followed by the two beside the cylinders.

This released the boiler, firebox and smokebox assembly, together with the lead weight. The chassis was now revealed in all its glory.

Constructing the kit
For me, the first stage of construction was the footplate. The GRS instructions are somewhat vague over the way in which the stepped footplate actually goes together and, in fact, I took three goes at it before I figured out what worked. The first step (in my final approach) was to glue the spacer across the front of the cab footplate - the piece across the gap in the middle was later removed to accommodate the LGB chassis.

The sides and the buffer beam were then attached to the front section of the footplate. (The buffer beam was later removed as I decided to reshape it and also to fit it around the coupling hook).

The two halves were then glued together and the sides added to the rear cab section. The whole thing was fitted over the chassis to check for clearances.

To allow the footplate to fit snugly, the cylinders were removed (two screws) and the mountings for these were cut down using a razor saw. 

As it turned out, I cut them down a little too enthusiastically and had to build them back up again with three laters of plasticard. If I was to do this again, I would be more measured in cutting down the cylinder mountings (ahh.... the benefit of hindsight!!).

At the same time I removed (with a razor saw) the mountings for the valve mechanisms from the ends of each slider.

 Next, came the interesting bit. I test fitted the cab to the footplate and removed a small cut-out from the front of the cab to allow it to fit over the chassis.

The boiler/saddle tank sections were superglued together (after some filing and sanding to remove the moulding blips).

The smokebox was then attached.

The superstructure was then test fitted on the footplate to check for clearances.......

..... and small cut-outs were removed from the rear of the smokebox and the front of the firebox to fit over the chassis.

Next, the whitemetal details were cleaned up with a file and glued into place with superglue. Again, the instructions are not too clear but hopefully most of the parts are more or less on the right place - though I think the firebox door is hung on the wrong side (ie it's upside down).

Similarly, the chimney, safety valves and whistle were added to the boiler and smokebox.At the same time, some filler was applied to fill some dints in the casting.

Having learned from previous experience (see How I made a GRS Peckett loco kit), that retro-fitting decoders is a pain in the proverbial, I drilled and filed out the back of the boiler........ take a Massoth L (identical to an LGB) decoder....

Similarly, I decided it was time to work out where the weights would go. I cut OHO's weight into two segments (with a hacksaw and much grunting)...........

 ...... and positioned the larger chunk on a piece of plasticard inside the saddle tank (above the decoder) ........

....... and glued (with epoxy) the smaller chunk inside the firebox, leaving room beneath for access to the decoder when the whole lot is finally glued together. The larger chunk was expoxied to the sheet of plasticard.

To ensure that the handrails would be level, I carefully drew a line along the sides of the saddle tank by balancing a ruler atop another and drew a line.....

....then measured 10mm above this and drew another line. Two 2.2mm holes for the handrail knobs were drilled 10mm in from each end of the tanks.

...and the handrail knobs were then superglued in place, with a length of handrail loosely fitted to ensure they would line up.

Similarly, the handrails for the cab were fitted, 5mm in from the doorway.

The whitemetal fittings (sandboxes, springs and buffers) were glued to the footplate. The buffer beams having been shaped and glued in over the couplings.

Incidentally, the front coupling needed to be moved forward 12mm to protrude sufficiently. It was simply screwed into the mounting further forward.

The various parts of the loco were now effectively finished and ready for painting.
 Painting and finishing
Painting is my  least favourite part of the modelling process - to my mind, it offers the greatest potential for error and maybe even disaster. With this loco, I decided that I would paint the various parts separately before fitting them together. The interior of the cab needed to be painted first anyway as this would have been impossible once the model was completed.

Two coats of grey primer followed by two coats of matt black were applied to the firebox and can interior, using Halfords' rattle can aerosols.

At the same time, I completely stripped down the chassis and gave that the same treatment. I did not want a red chassis.

The chassis was reassembled and the wheels painted with black acrylic and the motion picked out in red acrylic.

Everything was given a couple of coats of grey primer and then the cab and saddle tank were sprayed with Humbrol acrylic Brunswick Green and the footplate bruch painted matt black (acrylic) and the cab roof and smokebox sprayed with satin black (acrylic). The inside of the cab was painted cream and the buffer beams painted with Humbrol red enamels.

 Once the paint had hardened off, lining was applied using Trimline lining tape (see How I lined my locos with Trimline tape).

Name and number plates were glued on with Superglue

and waterslide transfers were applied to the buffer beams.

 The black areas were masked off and the everywhere else given a couple of coats of acrylic varnish to seal the lining and the transfers

A few minor details were added (eg a driver) or touched up (eg the buffers) and then the body was mated with the chassis.

A few more details need to be finished off (eg glazing the spectacles, some light weathering), but No. 3 is now ready to join the growing fleet.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The garden

To complement the previous posting, here are a few shots of the garden as a whole. You may want to compare these with the photos taken last year (see Progress Report 23 - Then and Now) which shows how the garden has progressed since the beginnings of the railway.

I've tried to achieve a natural look in the garden, choosing plants which are appropriate for the railway with small leaves and an appropriate shape - heathers, dwarf conifers, hebes, a few alpines and a mix of Mind you own Business and Corisican mint for ground-cover. The back garden faces North and for much of the year is in the shade of the house. Also, the subsoil is clay and as I had to dig down in places to subsoil layer to landscape the garden, some plants struggle to survive. I tend to buy (or am given) plants and grow them on the Darwinian principle - the fittest (ie best fitted for the environment) survive. I am not a confident gardener and maybe some of the plants and shrubs now need to be removed and replaced as they are beginning to dominate. However, in the summer when the sun shines it is quite a pleasant and tranquil retreat. A friend commented that he felt it was a garden with a railway rather than the alternative, which I took to be a compliment.

In this photo, Beeston Market Station is to the left, looking along the laurel hedge (which was trimmed to accommodate the extension). The hedge was established over 25 years ago when a belt of large trees overhung the garden and very little else would grow there. One day I might consider replacing it with something more in keeping with the railway such as box or lonicera, which can be trimmed to represent the landscape. When the line is in operation the lurid green plastic tarp is removed (this corner gets very little sun and so the track tends to accumulate a slimy gunge of rotting leaves if left uncovered), and the swing bridge is swung out across the sheds in the background.
Looking back the opposite way, with Beeston Market Station in the distance and the Copper Mine in the middle distance. The new veg raised beds are on the left as is the greenhouse which can just be seen behind the runner bean plants.
From the same position, turning to the left, looking across the back garden, Peckforton Station is in the middle distance, Bulkeley Station is on the left, behind the clump of silver foliage (Alyssum?). This is heavily pruned each autumn but as you can see it bounces back with enthusiasm.

A closer view of the patio around which the railway runs, with Peckforton Station to the right. The silver foliage here is lavender. I experimented with different types of lavender, hoping that one of the dwarf varieties would take a hold - unfortunately the only one which took is a vigorous woody stemmed vareity which buries the station in the summer. Again, this is pruned back in the winter.Between the two conifers is a dwarf rhodedendron. I now have a couple of these around the garden and am impressed. They are very slow growing and have delicate bell shaped flowers. The leaves and structure of the plants are highly appropriate for garden railways.The conservatory doubles as a workshop which I find extermely handy during operating sessions. Inevitably I have to carry out a few running repairs, tweaking couplings, realigning wheels, etc..

Swinging round to the left, a view of the end of the garden. Beeston Castle Station is just behind the conifer in to the right of the clothes airer. The elaborate looking bird feeding station was necessary to foil the local squirrels which used to demolish any feeders which I put up in the trees. The domed 'squirrel baffle' certainly lives up to its name. The feeders are constantly visited by the local birdlife to the extent the feeders need replenishing every two to three days. Among the regular vistors are goldfinches, tree creepers and from time to time a lesser spotted woodpecker. The bed on the left is problematical. During the summer it is in full sun and the roots from the hedge behind draw the moisture from the soil very quickly. I have tried various apline plants assuming they would thrive in this environment but the only ones which have survived have been campanula and a type of house leek (sempervivum). I've coaxed a couple of heathers but they are somewhat gangly specimens. I may try digging this the whole bed out and laying down some manure to see if that improves water retention.

A closer look inside the workshop which occasionally doubles as a conservatory - and this is after I have tidied it up! All I can say is my wife is very tolerant. Although it tends to get overly hot in the summer and cold in the winter, I can open the doors or put on a heater and quite happily whittle away and make a mess without upsetting the whole house. The workbench was a dressing table chucked out by my daughter and the spray booth (on the left) is a cardboard box with the top and one side removed. It's positioned by the door so the fumes can escape. When I've finished spraying, it folds up and tucks in behind the bench. I'd love to have a purpose made workshop, but there isn't really anywhere it can go.