Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How I constructed some Gn15 skips from Smallbroook kits

Why a 15" gauge feeder?

The copper mines which provide the main rationale for the Peckforton Light Railway are served by a 15" gauge railway system. There is a clear reason for this choice of a 'minimum gauge' feeder line for the Peckforton Railway. In my hypothetical history (see A history of the railway), the local landowner and keen engineer, Lord Tollemache, was the main driving force behind the development of the mines and the railway. I've assumed he would have been very familiar with the 15" gauge Eaton Railway which had been constructed a short distance away from Peckforton on the Duke of Westminster's estate by the pioneer of minimum gauge railways, Sir Arthur Heywood. It seems reasonable that Lord Tollemache would have experimented with a minimum gauge railway to both serve his estate and to negotiate the narrow galleries and tunnels of his copper mines.

The location

Having just completed the buildings for the copper mine (See Progress Report 45) I felt the need to construct a short stretch of Gn15 railway to represent the transportation of the ore and spoil from the mines to the crushing shed and the loading chutes. This, of course, would require some rolling stock. I had previously acquired a loco, a tub and a flat wagon through a well known online auction site but needed to source some appropriate looking skips.

 I had considered making my own but eventually decided I needed the time this would take to devote to other projects on the railway. The most appropriate models seemed to be those provided by Smallbrook Studio. Whilst these are designed for use on 0n16.5 railways, Smallbrook suggests they are equally appropriate for Gn15 - which indeed they are!


 The kit arrives complete with all fixtures and fittings, and a well explained instruction leaflet.

The resin castings inevitably require some tidying to remove flash, this was achieved with a couple of needle files.

 After suitably sized holes (2.5mm and 0.8mm) were drilled in the ends using the marked centres, brass panel pins were inserted and fixed in place with Superglue for the pivots for the skip .....

 ...... and a suitably bent piece of copper wire was inserted to act as the lifting handle.

 Once the glue had set, the excess was snipped off and filed flat on the inside of the skip tub.

 The two pieces of the chassis were then filed and glued together. The lower half of the chassis is weighted with lead shot which has been embedded in the resin - hence its spotty appearance.

Although the instructions suggest applying the paint at this stage, I decided to add the two squares of plasticard which are provided to make the coupling pockets on the chassis sub-base.

I then filed off the pinpoint bearings on the end of the axles for the wheelsets which again are provided in the kit.

The chassis and the skip tub were then given a couple of coats of Plasticote red oxide primer and then the axle mounts were reamed out with a 2mm drill held in a pin-chuck before the wheels and axles were clipped into place. The couplings were assembled and pushed into the pockets ........

......... and then the wagons were suitably weathered and rusted in my time-honoured way (see How I weathered a set of LGB tippler wagons).

 They have now entered service and, although their use on the railway is purely cosmetic; I am not intending to make the 15" gauge line operational; I do have tentative plans for the construction of a Gn15 indoor railway to represent part of Lord Tollemache's estate and copper mine railway which I can easily imagine wending its way along the Peckforton Ridge. It seems that, once bitten by the railway modelling bug, there's no known cure!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Progress Report 45

Eastertime and April usually marks for me the beginning of the operating season on my railway. While I do sometimes run the occasional train during the winter season, I tend to wait for the warmer weather to have full-blown, timetabled operating sessions.

Over the winter, I have carried out routine maintenance of stock, buildings and track, but I have also taken the opportunity to engage in some more intensive construction projects.

The Mine Buildings

These have taken far longer than I expected - mainly because as I reach each stage in the construction process, I decide to add just that little bit more detail.

The mine buildings comprise three sections - the workshop ......

....... the crushing plant ......

......... and the minimum gauge feeder railway and conveyor (See How I constructed a hopper and Minimum Gauge Railways - a short history).

I've used this project as an opportunity to test-bed a range of construction techniques. As you can see from the photos, I'm not far from the completion of the the project - though I know from experience that the fine detailing and titivation can actually take far longer than anticipated.

To help with painting and weathering the buildings, I've been roaming around the locality with my camera to find suitably weathered structures (see Weathered Buildings - photo gallery). Whilst rusty corrugated iron has proved relatively easy to simulate, ...........

........... I'm still struggling to accurately represent the silvery-grey of weathered wood.

The hedge behind the copper mine sidings has been cut-back and the sub-bases for the buildings have been fixed in place. So, once the buildings are completed all I will have to do is position them and do some landscaping to blend them in.

 Hopefully, if we get a spell of decent weather the project should be completed within a week.

Update:  Since writing the above I've more or less finished the mine buildings. Just some minor titivation and tidying (and giving everything a final couple of coats of clear matt varnish). A few additional photos I took today when the sun was shining.
The copper mine complex with loading hopper, crushing plant, workshop and offices
The minimum gauge mine railway and loading chutes

The loading hopper and conveyor
The office building
The copper mine sidings during a quiet period

Milk churns

Whilst waiting for the paint to dry or the glue to set on the above major project, I decided it was time I got around to finding or making some milk churns. As my railway is fictionally set in rural Cheshire which has long been noted for its dairy farming (and of course its cheese making), it seemed clear that milk would be a principal source of traffic on the railway. In the early 1930s, when my railway is set, milk was transported almost exclusively by galvanised milk churns - and until the mid 1930s, these were generally of a fairly uniform 17 gallon conical design. Over the years I've bought a few off-the-shelf models but have decided I really ought to make my own - given the number I will ultimately require and the cost of buying them.

I've eventually found a reasonably reliable way of constructing my own by modifying a children's plastic party toy. I will use one of these to act as the master for a mould and cast the rest of my requirements from resin. (See How I made some milk churns)

Bespoke figures

Having accumulated quite a number of readymade figures from various sources, I have now reached the stage where I need a few figures in specific poses which I've not been able to find commercially. I've therefore started sculpting my own figures in oven hardening polymer clay.

My first efforts were singularly unimpressive but, with perseverance, I'm slowly turning out figures which bear some resemblance to the human form. I'm still struggling to make the faces look less slab-like but, no doubt, practice will make perfect!

I am now using spare moments when there ain't much worth watching on the telly, to sculpt more figures. Hopefully, my skills will improve with experience!

The Garden

The weather has been atrocious so far this year and this, together with a bout of ill-health, means that I have not had a great deal of opportunity to tame the garden. In previous years, Easter marks the beginning of the running season and by now I would have been fighting my ongoing battle with the undergrowth (see Undergrowth = overgrowth). This year, very little seems to have started growing and a continuation of overnight frosts has prevented me from doing some of the concreting which I had planned (see How I built the raised beds).

However, I have been able to keep the tracks clear (with minimal effort I must admit), prune back some of the more vigorous plants which threaten the right of way and plant a couple of miniature rhododendrons which I found on offer in a cut price shop.

One of my next jobs is to make and inventory of all the (surviving) plants in the garden and be a little more systematic in how I go about planting out the garden.

Routine maintenance

As with all railways, there is an ongoing regime of maintenance and repair. I've rewheeled some of the wagons with some metal wheels which I came across when reorganising my storage drawers, and cleaned the wheels of all my locos and lubricated prior to the new running season.

The track seems to have survived the winter well, I don't seem to have suffered any subsidence of the trackbed though the frost has managed to penetrate some of my sandstone cladding. This has occurred only where I have not put coping or top-stones along the upper edge - a salutary lesson.

Some of the fencing panels which are beneath overhanging vegetation have rotted away and will be replaced shortly and one support-post has rotted away where I had not continued the concrete above ground level - another salutary lesson (see How I extended the railway). This will require digging-out and replacement once the weather improves as it supports the swinging end of the swing-bridge.

This year, I'm really going to have to do something with the viaduct. The cladding which I experimented with has mostly fallen off and although the underlying plywood structure is sound, it probably won't be long before this starts to deteriorate. As this structure needs to be moveable to allow access to the patio, I am considering various options to keeping this lightweight.