Sunday, October 26, 2014

Progress Report 55

Quite a lot has happened since the last progress report. I have finished the ex-Davington Light Railway Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST and played host to a fellow modeller from Australia. I have also made a start on bashing a trio of Bachmann Jackson Sharp coaches into something vaguely resembling the balconied stock which ran on the Leek & Manifold Valley Light Railway. In addition, I have been experimenting with different forms of battery power, partly because the space inside the Manning Wardle was quite restricted. Finally, I have had a go at re-organising the storage in my workshop as things in there were becoming increasingly cluttered - and also I am starting to batten down the hatches in preparation for the onset of winter.

Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST

After a few trials and tribulations, I have at last completed the scratchbuild of my latest loco - an 0-6-0 saddle tank based (loosely) on those which Manning Wardle produced to run on the Davington Light Railway. 

As this railway closed shortly after the end of World War I, I reasoned that one of the three locos was sold to the Peckforton Light Railway - the other two finding their way to Brazil (see How I constructed a Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST locomotive).

Although I have previously scratchbuilt three locomotives, made two from kits and kit-bashed a railbus, I found this particular build to be more demanding than any of the previous builds. This was partly because the extra work involved in making the saddle tank proved trickier than I expected, and also because I ran into a couple of unexpected snags along the way: the Revell filler which I used initially refused to adhere to the plasticard and was susceptible to cracking, and I discovered to my dismay that Evostik is an extremely powerful solvent of plasticard (see How I constructed a Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST locomotive).

Despite these trials and tribulations, I am very pleased with the end-result. Not only does she look quite appealing, I have discovered that the six-coupled wheelbase is extremely powerful when it comes to hauling excessive loads up my 1:40 gradients on the railway.

Here's a video of the loco's first run on the railway (before I had finished all the detailing).

An this video shows her phenomenal hauling capabilities. I certainly did not expect her to be quite so powerful.

I have been really impressed with this loco's slow-running abilities and her responsiveness to the Deltang receiver/controller. Given this and her hauling capability, I anticipate she will become the preferred loco for freight duties on the railway.

Running sessions

 With the mild weather in September and the early part of October, there has been plenty of opportunity for me to run trains out in the garden. A few shots taken during one of the operating sessions to show how the railway and its stock are developing.......
Wynford sets off with a train of full ore wagons from the copper mine sidings
She traverses the recently relaid track on the approach to Beeston Castle.
At Beeston Castle, Loco No. 4 Bulkeley (former Southwold No. 4 Wenhaston) passes with the mid morning Down passenger train
The mid-morning Down passenger approaches Bulkeley as the Down pick-up goods approaches Beeston Market
The Down pickup goods coasting beside the River Gowy on the approach to Peckforton with Loco No.5 Tarporley
The Down pick-up goods leaving Peckforton and approaching the mill siding where she will exchange wagons
The Down pickup goods pulls into Bulkeley as the noontime Up passenger waits to depart.
The noontime Up passenger arrives as Beeston Market
The mid afternoon passenger about to depart Beeston Market as the Up pickup goods arrives
Meanwhile, skips are shunted at the Copper Mine.

Australian visitor

For some time, I've been corresponding with a fellow modeller in Australia, mostly picking his brains on radio control and how to wire up and program Picaxe microchips for the operation of signals and pointwork (see Progress Reports 52 and 53). The website for Greg's own garden railway, The Sandstone and Termite, is packed with useful information and ideas and well worth a visit. When he expressed a desire to revisit the UK to travel on the Welsh narrow gauge railways, I offered my services as a local guide. Earlier this month, Greg and Pauline came over for a couple of weeks and spent around a week exploring the locality of Cheshire and another week in Wales. He risked x-ray machines and border controls to bring one of his locos with him, Nick, a freelance railbus. Over the course of his visit we found time for three running sessions as the weather was particularly kind to us.
Sandstone & Termite Railway railcar Nick shunting at Beeston Market
Nick makes an inaugural run down the line, past the Copper Mine
Old and new railbuses are compared at Peckforton
Nick braves the undergrowth between Bulkeley and Peckforton
On light freight duties beside the River Gowy
Beside the Gowy on passenger duties
The two railcars on night duties at Bulkeley station
 Greg was pleasantly surprised to find that the weather in the UK in October can actually sometimes be clement. Here we see our esteemed visitor, sporting his Sandstone & Termite Railway tee-shirt, assuming responsibilities as Chief Controller at Beeston Market.

 Despite a few early teething troubles, everything on the railway performed well. I'm sure there is a Law of Garden Railway Modelling which says that the moment a visitor arrives, anything that can go wrong will go wrong - and for a while this seemed to be the case. Thankfully, this did not persist for the entire two weeks!

Bachmann Jackson Sharp to Leek & Manifold(ish) coach bash

The passenger coaches which the line presently possesses (see How I constructed coaches from Maddison kits) perform their function very well and although there are only three, this mirrors the level of coaching stock for many narrow gauge railways in the UK (see How much stock did UK narrow gauge railways have?). However, to enhance the railway's operational potential, I have for a while considered acquiring at least another three coaches to allow two passenger trains to operate at times of additional demand (eg market days, special excursion trains). Before constructing the Maddision coaches, I used to run a couple of Bachmann Jackson Sharp balconied coaches which, despite their smaller scale, represented for me something vaguely resembling the stock used by the Leek & Manifold and the Southwold Railways (see Progress Report 11)

A passenger train on the railway in 2008
 For at least five years these coaches have languished in a drawer in my workshop until I came across some drawings of the L&M coaches and did a few quick calculations. I realised that I could produce a foreshortened representation of these coaches if I narrowed the windows slightly and lengthened the balconies a little.
 The bodies needed to be increased slightly in height but as the clerestories were going to be removed this would not actually increase their overall height. I already know that these coaches have no problem tackling the tight curves on my railway and so have pressed ahead with the 'modification' of the first coach.

I am presently about halfway through bashing this coach and am using this as a learning-curve for bashing the other two. Two coaches will be opens and the other will be a brake end.

Battery power

Although I am relatively new to the world of battery power and radio control I have already accumulated a fair amount of experience in constructing battery powered locomotives and experimenting with various combinations of radio control devices (see An Introduction to battery power and radio control). Given their power-to-weight ratio, I am now convinced that li-ion batteries are the most cost effective and efficient way of powering garden railway locomotives. There are some risks associated with this form of technology (as witnessed by recent fires aboard aircraft and the occasional horror story about mobile phones bursting into flames), but given that most portable technology is now powered by li-ion batteries (including the laptop computer on which I am writing this blog), it would seem that the vast majority of li-ion batteries are sufficiently reliable to be considered for this application. However, I still have a couple of locos which are powered by NiMh batteries but have recognised that there are better options than normal off-the-shelf rechargeable batteries.

18650 Li-ion

As mentioned above, one of the difficulties I encountered with modelling the Manning Wardle saddle tank loco (see How I constructed a Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST loco) was finding room inside for the batteries. My usual source of power; the 12v blue lithium-ion batteries intended for CCTV applications (see An Introduction to Battery Power and radio control) were too large to fit into the confined space ......
........ and there was no way I would have been able to squeeze ten NiHh 1.2v AA (or even AAA) batteries in. After discussing various options with fellow modellers on the G Scale Central forum, I invested in some 18650 style 3.7v li-ion batteries. These cylindrical batteries are what many laptop computers use inside their battery packs and so there is a ready supply and a wide variety of types available. However, even in my limited experience, I have learned that you do tend to get what you pay for. Some of the cheaper, so-called high capacity 18650 batteries do not live up to expectations. The first set of these batteries I bought for a modest sum claimed to be 5000mAh (ie they would power a motor running at 1amp (ie 1000mA) for five hours.

When I did a discharge test on them, they averaged-out at 1.5Ah (ie 1500mAh) - considerably lower than that claimed. I then opted for some more expensive, branded (Samsung), batteries from a reputable supplier. These were labelled as 3100mAh and when tested were not far short of that capacity.

Another aspect which I have appreciated needs to be taken into account is whether the batteries are 'protected'. Li-ion batteries can be damaged, or worse still can catch fire, if they are under- or over-charged. To ensure this doesn't happen, protected batteries include a small circuit board which cuts off the charge or stops the battery from discharging if the voltages fall outside the accepted safe levels. The 18650 batteries I am using in my latest loco are unprotected and so I make sure that I charge them carefully using a balance charger and regularly check their discharge with a small battery checker.

This plugs into the balance charge socket and the LEDs show green if the batteries are OK and turn to red (and the buzzer sounds) if they drop below 3.3v. When running, I leave it attached to my loco but remove it when I store the loco.

NiMh low self-discharge

One of the most irritating aspects of normal NiMh rechargeable batteries is the speed with which they lose their charge when not being used. Many's the time I've wanted to have a quick impromptu operating session and been unable to use the locos powered by NiMh batteries because they've needed charging. My Australian friend alerted me to low self discharge NiMh AA batteries which can be obtained from Hobbyking for quite reasonable prices.

These batteries seem to be holding their charge very well. I've detected very little drop in power even after a loco has been in storage for a couple of weeks.

Workshop revamp

Partly inspired by the arrival of my house guest from the colonies, I felt it was time to re-organise the storage in my workshop. Some of the odds and ends which I had accumulated had outgrown the space allotted to them and there were times when I struggled to lay hands on a material or component needed during construction. I had previously organised some of my tools by fashioning a rack .......

...... and so now invested in some storage containers from our local pound shop ..........

...... and constructed a storage unit for larger and longer materials.

Previously, trying to use the conservatory for its intended purpose of sitting, chatting and admiring the garden had not been a pleasant experience. Now it is at least possible.

Preparing for winter

The station buildings have now been brought inside. Previously I had left these out throughout the year but at the start of this year I had realised how dilapidated they had become.

After spending some time re-gluing and repainting them (see Progress Report 52), I decided this was one job which could be avoided, or at least postponed, by storing the buildings inside during the worst weather. If I do need to have some buildings in place during the winter, to take pictures or video, then it takes only a few minutes to re-install them.

To Do List

There is always something which needs to be done on a garden railway - which is really what makes the hobby so interesting. My present and ongoing list comprises: