Friday, November 13, 2015

Progress Report 62


 This time of year is always a bit slack in the garden. With trees bordering my garden, and hedges and shrubs in the garden itself, the railway gets covered with a layer of leaves throughout the autumn. During the occasional running session at this time of year, I can find that within ten minutes some sections of track get covered with leaves again after having been cleared, and so I tend to avoid extensive operating sessions - even when the weather is mild.

The permanent way has, however, received some attention since my last report - the track has been re-ballasted at Bulkeley and some minor adjustments have been made around the railway where running has become somewhat unpredictable.

On the lineside, work has started on producing the four water towers needed for the railway - two at Beeston Market, one at Peckforton and one at Bickerton.

On the rolling stock front, since my last progress report in September (see Progress Report 61), my attention has been focused primarily on adding sound to some of my locos and all my locos are now housed in a display cabinet when stored in the house.

I have also prepared some beginners' guides to Deltang radio control, which I hope will be useful to those venturing into this fascinating and very satisfying aspect of our hobby.

 Permanent way

Just like the real thing, track ballasting is an ongoing process on my railway. Although I like the way my track steadily becomes overgrown with groundcover plants such as Mind Your Own Business (Baby's Tears) and moss, from time to time I decide a section needs its ballast replenishing - usually where the groundcover is less rampant and the existing ballast has become eroded.

The track at Bulkeley Station had lost most of its original ballast and so needed attention.

The first job was to hoick out the moss, soil and remnants of the original ballast. This was done with a flat bladed screwdriver and a stiff paintbrush.
Once this had been done, a mix of sand, tile cement and alpine grit was spooned on and then dry-brushed into and around the track.

This was then 'watered' with a watering can, into which a few drops of washing-up liquid had been added. Normally, the detergent is sufficient to break down the surface tension of the cement mix, but for some reason this particular brand of tile cement resisted all moisture.

Eventually, I had to stipple the water into the cement with a paintbrush to ensure that the water had properly wetted the mixture. I have no idea which this particular brand was so resistant to being mixed with water, unlike the my previous experiences with tile cement. 

However, despite the additional work involved, the ballast eventually looked the part and was left to harden for a couple of days.


A start has been made on producing the four water towers needed by the railway. I decided that two water towers would be needed at Beeston Market, one at the end of the platform and one beside the engine shed. Another tower would be needed at Peckforton; the station about half way along the line. The fourth tower is destined for Bickerton, the furthermost terminus of the line.

After searching for commercially produced towers and kits, and deciding they were prohibitively expensive for my restricted railway budget, I then cast about the net for photos of suitable prototypes. Eventually, I homed in on the tower on the West Lancashire Light Railway - a delightful little narrow gauge railway which I have visited during one of its annual galas (see The WLLR entry on my Narrow Gauge Railways Blog).

Whilst I liked the tank, I decided the towers on my railway would have been constructed either from the local sandstone or, in the case of the tower at Peckforton, from wood as there is a timber yard at Peckforton Station.

I started with the tower at Peckforton as my prototype. The tank was constructed from 2mm thick plasticard - the circular brace being cut from a plastic test tube and the bolt heads supplied by Cambrian Models.

The pipework was made from three sections which were in a pack of novelty drinking straws. The support strut and valve operating linkage was fashioned from brass rod and a length of chain.

The wooden tower was constructed from stripwood 'sleepers'.

The water tower now just needs painting, staining and weathering.

Unfortunately, I ran out of bolt heads and so construction of the remaining three water tanks has been put on hold while I await fresh deliveries. There were a lot more bolt heads (ie 80) than anticipated  - even though I simplified the design from the original.

Rolling stock


Until now, my locos have perched precariously on the edge of various bookshelves in the living room and study. I decided not to store them in the garage where my rolling stock is housed (see How I constructed storage sidings in the garage), mainly for reasons of security. I also felt that storing them in the conservatory where I have my workshop was inappropriate, given the wide variations in temperature which it experiences. And so, they are stored in the living room - where also any visitors to the house and I, can admire my handiwork (such that it is). My wife suggested that we purchase a display cabinet (she's probably fed up with the stock littering the bookshelves) and so we are now the proud owners of one of IKEA's best-known items of furniture - a Billy Bookcase - with glass doors.

Hopefully, this will also stop the dust from accumulating on the models while they are not being used.


Having recently experimented with making my own sound system using a cheap greetings card sound module (see How I used a Greetings Card module to produce sound for my Simplex diesel), I decided to explore other options for adding sound to three more locos.

Technobots / Alan Bond Programmable Soundcard
Having already installed an MTroniks / Peter Spoerer digital soundcard in my IP Engineering Jessie loco (No. 8 - Wynford) - see How I added a sound module to a diesel loco, I decided I wanted a different sort of sound for my other large diesel - Fowler No. 7, Tollemache). I happened across the Technobots / Alan Bond programmable soundcard which was developed for the model boating fraternity. What impressed me was its ability to reprogram the sounds, and so I invested in one.

It took a little experimentation to interface the card with the receiver, but the loco is now equipped with quite distinctive sounds (see How I installed a Technobots programmable soundcard in my Fowler diesel)

MP3 soundcard
 When I made a video of a day in the life of Peckforton Station, I dubbed the sound of a Model T Ford on to the video for the arrival and departure of my Ford(ish) Railmotor. I really liked the appropriateness of these sound effects and so was determined to find a way of replicating these sounds when I equipped the railmotor with a sound system. Having had a couple of MP3 sound units in my Project Box for a couple of years, I felt this was an opportunity to make use of one of them (see Using an MP3 player to provide sound for my Railmotor).

The sound files were edited using the marvellous open source sound editing program - Audacity - which is as easy to use as a word processor.

Alan Bond digital soundcard
Finally, after corresponding with Alan Bond over the installation of his programmable sound card in my Fowler diesel, he kindly invited me to test-run one of his latest creations, the FE101, a soundcard which uses digitised recordings of real engine sounds. He equipped me with a card on to which the recording of a Simplex locomotive had been recorded and I installed it into the small IP Engineering railcar which is used by the permanent way department on my railway.

For more information see How I installed an Alan Bond FE101 digital soundcard in my IP Engineering railcar - pending

Operation and Control

Operating sessions
With the continuous battle against falling leaves, operation tends to take a back seat at this time of the year. However, before the onslaught of arboreal detritus, I did manage to get a couple of decent operating sessions in, making full use of data from my freight handling program

I tried to use some slightly different vantage points for this video and show a variety of train movements.

Once the 'leaves on the line' situation became too dire, I switched my attention to providing guidance on my blog for others in the use of Deltang radio control equipment. The equipment supplied by Deltang is extremely versatile and the receivers which are designed for use with garden trains are packed full of features. They can also be reprogrammed, enabling them to be tailored to the needs of individual modellers. However, the sheer volume and sometimes the complexity of the information provided on the Deltang website can be quite daunting for those starting out with Deltang equipment and so I decided to produce a series of guides.
  1. Getting started with Deltang radio control equipment for garden trains
  2. Making use of the output pads on Deltang receivers
  3. Programming Deltang receivers
To complement the final article which I have just completed, I made a short video showing how receivers can be re-programmed using a Deltang Tx20 transmitter.


Having been out in the garden today, shooting a short burst of video and sorting out various maintenance jobs, I've now reached the stage where I'm preparing for over-wintering the railway. The station buildings were taken inside today, and I've cleared the majority of leaves from the line to avoid a build-up of rotting vegetation. In a couple of weeks' time, when all the leaves have been blown off the trees, I'll prune back the more vigorous shrubs and mow the grass for the last time before the spring. I find the winter months to be somewhat depressing, though I am hoping we get a decent fall of snow this year - so far in the railway's history, I've got only one fairly short length of video footage of the railway in the snow!


The Controller said...

Hi, what ballasting mix ratio did you use? I have lots to do at Brookwood Station as my previous attempts have been poor (mainly my fault), so would like to put down a good mix. Cheers

Ge Rik said...

I tend to make it a fairly stiff mix of 1:1:1 - ie equal proportions of cement, sand and grit. The tile cement which I've found to be most successful (BAL Rapidset Flexible) seems to already have sand as part of its mix and so I now go easy on the sand. I did try another (cheaper) type of tile cement but couldn't get the water to break through the surface tension, even with plenty of detergent.