Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Progress Report 47

An almost unbroken spell of sunshine for around three weeks has led to quite a few running sessions and more than a few spells of continuous running while we've had barbecues or simply lazed in the garden. However, I have also taken the opportunity to finish off a couple of jobs and spend some time trying to sort out others.

Loco No. 4 Bulkeley

As mentioned in Progress Report 46, I have been working steadily on scratchbuilding a body for loco No. 4 - Bulkeley, based loosely on the Southwold Railway No. 4, Wenhaston. This was my first venture into building a steam outline loco but I used the skills I had acquired in building the Fowler diesel and rolling stock such the the cattle wagons to construct her largely from plasticard (see How I constructed an 0-6-2T Manning Wardle locomotive). The build was fairly straightforward though I did run into an unforeseen problem when she developed wheelspin on what seemed like insignificant gradients. I eventually tracked this down to the lower end of the bracket supporting the valve gear which was rubbing on the track. This was solved through the addition of an upper support bracket.

For a while, I was uncertain as to the livery of the original Southwold Railway loco - there seemed to be some ambiguity in the books on the SR which suggested she was lined out in light and dark green and yet the photos of the loco I had unearthed show no evidence of lining. After making an enquiry with the Southwold Railway Trust, I discovered that when delivered from Manning Wardle, she was lined.................

....... but when she entered service she was painted in plain dark green livery which she retained throughout her working life. However, towards the end of her life, her livery faded and her works livery started showing through.

My model has now entered service on the Peckforton Light Railway and for the moment she is sporting the line's livery of Brunswick Green (or in her case, Rover Brooklands Green from a Halford's rattle can aerosol). I am trying to decide whether to line her out in gold as with the line's other locos or whether to leave her unlined as a homage to her Southwold origins. You'll notice that I've positioned the loco's number beneath the nameplate as in her Southwold days.

She also has acquired a bespoke driver, made from oven hardening clay. I wanted to represent a driver or fireman passing over a token or just leaning out to watch the loco's motion. He's reasonably detailed though it looks as if his face has met with an unfortunate collision somewhere down the line.

The loco was my first real venture into battery power and after a few teething troubles I am steadily being won over to this form of power. However, I am also upgrading my DCC powered fleet (see below) to improve their reliability.

Adding DIY Power buffers to DCC locos

As all my track-powered DCC locos are designed around LGB 0-4-0 motor blocks it's inevitable that they experience problems when running slowly over the plastic frogs of pointwork. Last year, I invested in a Massoth Power buffer and added this to one of the locos to evaluate its effectiveness (see Progress Report 37). I was extremely pleased with the outcome and vowed I would equip all my locos with one. Despite its relatively low cost (under £25), having retired, funds are not always readily available and so when I came across an article in the French railway modelling magazine, Voie Libre, explaining how a modeller had added his own power buffers to his 0n30 locos, I researched the subject and found out how it can be achieved for as little as £2.50 per loco (see How I added DIY Power Buffers to my Locos).

 All my track powered locos are now equipped with power-buffers and, because I was hard-pressed to find a suitable location for the buffer in my Fowler diesel, I adopted the technique used in the original article and added the capacitor to the footplate to represent an air cylinder.

Working on the gearbox of the IP Engineering diesel loco

 I spent a day or so trying to build my own gearbox to replace the one supplied with the IP Engineering diesel kit, Jessie (see How I constructed a battery powered diesel from a kit). The gearbox as supplied used plastic gears and after only a very brief period of test running these became stripped of their teeth. I bought what I am hoping are more substantial metal gears from Cambrian Models but found that their 20:1 gears are not a direct replacement as the overall dimensions differ. I therefore attempted to construct my own gear housing from brass.

Whilst this worked to some extent, I found that as soon as even a small load was placed on the loco, the gears slipped (though only in reverse, the mesh was fine as long as the loco only travelled forwards). I am now attempting to construct a more reliable gearbox, building on the knowledge I've acquired so far and drawing on the expertise of a friend who has more metal working experience.

Improving the keyfob control on the railbus

After some interesting discussions on the G Scale Central forum about the merits of using a cheap 12v LCD dimmer unit to control a motor.

It seems that the unreliability which I had encountered over the speed control of the motor could be greatly improved through the simple addition of a diode across the output connections - see the excellent online article by Dave Bodnar.

I have disassembled my railbus (see How I constructed a railbus) and have duly wired in the requisite diode.

 At the same time I decided to replace the array of AA battery boxes I had used previously with a single 12v Li-ion battery pack which would take up considerably less room. Unfortunately, the pack which I had bought from China via a well known online auction site ceased to function and so I have been unable to test my newly adapted control board. Furthermore, I am growing increasingly concerned with the IP Engineering gearbox which at 16:1 does not provide sufficient torque to power both cars and I am assuming will ultimately strip its gears (see above). I am therefore investigating an alternative approach to powering this vehicle and will post an update when I feel I have made some progress.

More running sessions

 As indicated above, the weather has provided me with plenty of opportunity to run trains. I have continued to use my original freight handling computer program (see Computerised freight operation)  but have discovered that the freebie software I used to create the freight handling program will not work on Windows 7. I have fortunately found another programming environment which is not only free, it will create standalone programs to run on PC, Mac, tablets and smartphones (Livecode - which is based on the original Mac program - Hypercard). Once I have completed the re-programming I am hoping to be able to distribute various versions for others to use.

In the meantime, here is a small taste of some of the moments drawn from recent operating sessions.
The Down mid morning passenger approaching Bickerton
No. 2 Beeston on the afternoon Up passenger crosses the River Gowy between Peckforton and Beeston Castle
The daily pickup goods arrives at Bickerton with Hunslet No. 3 Bickerton
The pickup goods departs Bickerton on its way up the line towards Bulkeley
Shunting at Bulkeley
No. 3 emerges from the Copper Mine branch running light after delivering a fuel tank wagon
The Up pick-up goods approaching Peckforton where it will cross the Down afternoon passenger
 Now I have managed to sort out the slow running of the locos (see above), I take great delight in relaxing from time to time in a strategically placed garden chair as I watch each train slowly threading its way through the undergrowth from station to station. There is something very satisfying about seeing a train which I have created going about its business.

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