Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Progress Report 39

There have been a few developments since the last report - mainly catching up with ongoing or unfinished jobs.

 Further work has been put into completing the railmotor set. The basis for model is a couple of Ashover coach kits from Andel Models (no longer available unfortunately). The coaches were foreshortened and modified to include a cab for the driver and a bonnet for the engine. I decided to have two railbuses coupled back to back to avoid having to build turntables at each terminus.

The models will be battery powered as I want to have something I can run at short notice on days when I don't want to go through a full track-cleaning session. For more information on the construction of the railbuses see How I constructed a railbus set (pending).

I bought a cheap remote controlled LED dimmer unit on eBay with a view to using this to control the speed of the railbus. Uncertain as to whether it would be able to control the speed of the motor, I set up a text-rig and videoed the outcome (see Controlling a low-volt motor with an LED Dimmer).

Track relaid at Beeston Market
The crossover at the end of the run-round loop at Beeston Market was originally laid with Radius 1 (R1) LGB points. It was always intended that these would be replaced with Radius 3 (R3) points as funds permitted. This is not only for cosmetic reasons but also because some locos find the reverse curve of the crossover difficult to negotiate. This work has now been completed and, at the same time, some of the continuity problems I've been having with other pointwork was sorted-out with my trusty 75 watt soldering iron.

Wagon loads
Having constructed a few more open wagons (see Progress Reports 37 and 38), I needed some loads for them. I felt I had sufficient opens loaded with coal and so wanted loads of general merchandise.

In addition to the mixed load of crates shown previously, I created a load of barrels made from a couple of packs of turned wooden barrels bought from Back2Bay6 suitably painted with thinned acrylic paints.

I have also created a load of bricks, sand and cement, constructed from a balsa block clad in miniature bricks from Miniature Brick Bargains. The pile of sand was another balsa block carved, coated in PVA and dusted with sand. The bags of  cement were fashioned in polymer clay, baked in the oven and painted with acrylics.

There is now an anonymous sheeted load, which was created by draping paper towels soaked in watered-down PVA over a wagon loaded with miscellaneous bits and pieces which had been wrapped in cling film to prevent the PVA from adhering.

And a load of farm machinery, made from various secondhand Brittains' plough models purchased through eBay. Although these are not to scale, I decided that by weathering and rusting them, they might look like some redundant horse-drawn ploughing apparatus.

Finally, there is now a tractor load on one of the the stake wagons. A resin moneybox has been heavily modified (ie its slot has been filled with resin!) and fixed to a scribed ply base. Two baulks of timber from the stick of a Guy Fawkes rocket which landed in the garden (waste not!) were trimmed to size and linked with ropes (bookbinders' thread)

Most of the loads are mounted on scribed plywood bases which allow them to be removed from the wagons for running back up the line as empties.

DCC operated points
I finally wired-up all the pointwork which is in hard-to-reach locations to accessory decoders. Two points leading to the hidden sidings in the porch and two at Bickerton Station throat are operated through an LGB switch decoder (channels 1-4). The other Bickerton point, the two reverse loop link points and the two Copper Mine link points are operated by a Massoth switch decoder (channels 5-7). The point controlling the link to the Beeston Market extension is operated by an LGB single switch decoder (channel 9).

The two 4-way switch decoders have been wired into the original section switch-box (see How I made a control panel) which is located in the porch.

When the railway was originally built, all the pointwork was electrically operated from this switch-box with cables run from each point to the switch-box. When I invested in wireless control, I quickly realised it was pointless (sorry) running in and out of the porch every time I needed to change a point and so the wiring was redundant. By re-routing the wiring from the Bulkeley pointwork to the Copper Mine Loop I was able to position the decoders in the porch as they are not weatherproof. Rather than running another cable, the most remote point for the Beeston Market/Copper Mine extension has had a single point decoder installed.

More figures have been painted (see How I painted some figurines).

I am slowly adding more figures to the railway to create tableaux. The figures for these are being sculpted in polymer clay which is baked in the oven.

My first efforts are a little primitive, but I am slowly developing more skills. This type of modelling is something I can do in the evening while 'watching' television.

Station nameboards
I've had five Coopercraft nameboard kits sitting in a drawer for some time awaiting construction. The kits are provided with white lettering to be fixed on a black background. I wanted cream lettering on a green background. I tried painting the black styrene sheet green and applying the lettering but was concerned that the green paint would peel off over time. I searched high and low without success for green styrene sheet until I happened to come across a single sheet in a bits-box at the Llanfair Garden Railway Show and WLLR Steam gala earlier this month.

The nameboards were constructed for each station as per the instructions, with a hole drilled into the bottom of each post into which a 1.6mm brass rod was inserted.

The rod is inserted into a 5mm rawlplug on concrete platforms or 1.6mm holes on the wooden platform at Beeston Market.

At present the lettering, posts and frame have been left as white plastic, I am considering repainting these cream at some point in the future.

I've been experimenting with Binnie Carmarthen couplings as replacements for the unrealistic LGB hooks and bars.

I'd like to retain some sort of auto-coupling as I am keen on shunting and freight operations. However, I also want couplings which combine realism with reliability. All my stock has had LGB hooks added to both ends. Not only does this allow for the reversal of stock on the line (which might happen if I use the reverse loop) I found that stock would occasionally become uncoupled over undulations in the track if only one hook was fitted. My testing of the Carmarthen couplings has revealed that whilst it is possible for couplings with two bars to be coupled together, only one bar actually engages.

 This raises concerns over possible random de-coupling. I need to run a few more tests to see if this potential problem can be overcome (eg by shaping the wire bar differently or by changing the profile of the hook) before I change the couplings wholesale.

Garden Rail articles
In answer to the editor's (Tag Gorton) plea in the editorial of the previous edition of Garden Rail for articles about 45mm gauge railways, I have penned a couple of articles about the railway. One is a general article about the line and the other is an article covering my approach to freight handling on the railway. These summarise some of the information that is included in this blog but present a new perspective, and the photos which will be included are unique to the articles. I have no idea when the articles will appear, but hopefully you will find them interesting. (See Progress Report 40)

ToDo List
The winter months are usually spent in catching-up with various maintenance and construction jobs. I thought I'd list them here so those of you who are considering constructing your own garden railways have some idea as to what's involved.

Maintenance jobs
  • Repair Hunslet loco and add more weight (see Progress Report 41)
  • Fix Fowler diesel fly-cranks which have become loose on layshaft (see Progress Report 41)
  • (Maybe) instal power-buffers in all locos
  • Lightly weather all locos
  • Lightly weather coaches
  • Re-weather all goods stock
  • Clean coach wheels and check bogies through pointwork at Beeston Castle (see Progress Report 41)
  • Reduce weight of cattle in cattle vans (by drilling holes in their undersides) (see Progress Report 40)
  • Replace IP Engineering cattle truck metal roofs with plastic to reduce weight  (see Progress Report 41)
  • Repair hinges on engine shed doors (see Progress Report 41)
Construction jobs
  • Re-site copper mine further back from the main line and ease the R1 main line curves
  • Construct a branch to the timber mill between Peckforton and Bulkeley
  • Sell L&B vans and either buy W&L vans or bash more LGB balcony vans