Friday, August 15, 2014

Progress Report 54

This has been a quiet month so far, since my last progress report. A major maintenance task completed, some refurbishment and the continuation of a couple of ongoing projects. Although not directly related to the railway, I also visited the Isle of Man for the first time, taking the opportunity to ride on the narrow gauge railways still in existence (see IMR, MER, Groudle Glen, Douglas Horse Tramway, Great Laxey Mine Railway and Snaefell Mountain Railway) and to walk the trackbed of the Douglas to Peel line as part of my continuing quest to visit and travel on every narrow gauge railway in the UK (with a gauge => 12"). (More detail on each railway to follow on my narrow gauge railway blog)

Relaying trackbed

For a while I have tolerated an uneven section of track leading into Beeston Castle station from the direction of Beeston Market. Eight years ago, when I originally laid this track which runs parallel to the hedge at the head of the garden, I had to dig through the roots of the shrubs and trees which formed the hedge. Over the years, the roots appear to have grown and spread, lifting some of the blocks and undermining others making the trackbed into something resembling a roller coaster. I felt it was time I remedied this situation before it became more severe - already some of the locos were struggling to cope with the increase in gradient in one particular section.

The first job was to lift the track along the offending section and then prise up the concrete blocks.

I also dug out the soil between the two sections of track in this area as I was finding that the roots for the hedge underlying this bed tended extract the moisture leaving the plants in it scrawny and under-nourished. After hacking at the roots and levelling off the ground beneath the intended trackbed, using a spirit-level with a 2cm thick block under one end to help ensure the gradient was consistent, .......

....... I infilled the bed with good quality compost with a high peat content to hopefully improve the moisture retention of the soil. Pieces of sandstone were arranged alongside the lower section of track and randomly in the bed. I then replanted it with a mix of dwarf conifers, hebes, heathers and ground-cover.

I realigned the trackbed to include a slight curve, whereas previously it had been straight. This helped to avoid one of the more stubborn tree roots and at the same time made the track a little more interesting.

The track was then fixed to the blocks with screws and rawlplugs at intervals. The track was flexed to follow the new alignment and a small section cut and inserted to allow for the increase in length.

The track was then tested with some rolling stock which I know can be temperamental.

 This video attempts to show the difference between the previous trackbed and the present

 To complete the installation, I decided the track needed ballasting.


My previous approaches to ballasting have been only partially successful (see How I ballasted the track). Whilst the combination of cement+sand+gravel with watered-down PVA adhesive has up to now been the most long-lasting but I had found it difficult to maintain consistency. In some places the ballast was fixed down well whilst in others it had been washed away by the elements.

After relaying some ceramic floor tiles in the kitchen I had half a bag of tile cement remaining. I'd found the previous tile cement had been very effective, adhering to the old tiles extremely well. I figured it was the mix of fine sand and adhesive in the tile cement that provided a far more effective bond. If it works for tiles, why not for trackwork?

As with my previous approaches, I dry-mixed the tile cement in equal measures with potting grit.

This was then trowelled on to the track ......

..... and brushed into place with a 1" paintbrush.

The ballast was then watered with a watering-can to which a few drops of washing-up liquid had been added to help break down surface tension.

In addition to the newly relaid section of track, the adjacent track .........

...... and other sections where the ballast had been washed away...........

..... were also re-ballasted.

A few more shots, now the tile cement has had a chance to harden off (around two weeks after the ballast was applied) ......
The track beside the stream just outside Peckforton Station towards Bulkeley.
The approach to Peckforton from Beeston Castle
The cross-over between Bulkeley and Bickerton (looking towards Bulkeley)
The approach to Beeston Market
A close-up of the approach to Beeston Market

Time will tell whether this approach is more enduring than my previous attempts, but early signs are that it has a tougher finish which will hopefully protect it from the worst of the weather. The true test will probably be the extent to which it survives the frost in the winter months.

Davington Railway 0-6-0T scratchbuild

Progress with this build has been steady and slow. Most of the bodywork has been completed, though I am still awaiting delivery of a smokebox door casting from GRS - seems there's a backlog for this particular item.

The chassis is slowly taking shape. I've spent a while trying to work out how to complete the motion. The coupling and connecting rods which are supplied for the Piko chassis are, shall we say, 'chunky' and do not really look that prototypical. Another factor is that the connecting rod is designed to fit on to the rear drivers rather than the centre drivers as is the case with the Davington loco. Furthermore, to allow the chassis to negotiate sharp curves, the centre fully flanged drivers are given considerable lateral movement, which lead to all sorts of complications when trying to fit the motion. In addition, the holes for the crank pins are enormous - around 4.5mm diameter, which is fine for chunky coupling rods but extremely difficult to accommodate with rods which are closer to prototypical.

 Inevitably, I have had to make a number of compromises. The coupling rods are slightly over scale in width and the cylinders are further out from the frames than they should be - but, having learned some lessons from the construction of the motion for the Southwold Sharp Stewart (see How I constructed a Southwold Railway Sharp Stewart 2-4-2T), I am reaching the stage where I can start moving on to final stages of adding the batteries and electronics and the detailing prior to the first visit to the paint shop.

I am still in the process of tweaking the motion which is why the bolt used for the crank pin on the centre driver has not been cut to length. I have yet to run the loco through the tightest (R1) curves on the railway to see if I need to provide even more lateral movement for the coupling rods.

Crane match truck

I have added a little more clutter to the match truck for the mobile crane.

 The two loco jacks and the tools are whitemetal castings from Garden Railway Specialists (GRS), the coil of rope is a piece of garden twine, the chain is from Cornwall Model Boats, the toolbox is made from a piece of balsa wood with pieces of bent paper clip for handles and the baulks of timber are pieces of 8mm square stripwood stained with wood preservative.

Stream maintenance

The stream (see How I constructed the stream) requires ongoing maintenance each year usually to clean the pump filter of accumulated detritus and to remove debris from the cover over the sump (See Progress Report 7). Having done this I discovered on reconnecting the pump that the hose had split where it leaves the sump. The hose was severed and I attempted to rejoin the two pieces with a union. Because the pipe had split beneath the outlet of the waterfall it was extremely difficult to push-fit the union into end of the pipe. No matter how much grunting and heaving I did, the pipe would not slip over the lip on the union which helps prevent it from becoming detached. Eventually, judicious use of a hair dryer softened the plastic pipe sufficiently to allow the union to slip inside. The stream is now once again fully functioning and in fine flow.
The 'sump' (a plastic dustbin) showing the pipe from the pump -
the union is just under the lip of the waterfall.
The stream in full spate - the trestle to the mill siding in the foreground,
mainline to the rear
The mainline (recently ballasted) and the mill siding with stream between -
eventually there will be mill buildings for the siding to serve
Close-up of the stream at the same location