Thursday, May 28, 2015

Progress Report 59

We were blessed with fine weather through April (the sunniest since 1929 - coincidentally when one of my favourite narrow gauge railways closed - the Southwold Railway) and so there have been more opportunities than usual for me to get out into the garden to carry out a few jobs.

I have made a start on constructing the 32mm gauge feeder line to the Copper Mine (the Peckforton Mine Tramway - PMT); I completed the stone embankment for the PMT, relaid the tracks at the crusher shed, repainted and weathered the 32mm gauge diesel loco and made some more rolling stock for the PMT.

At Beeston Market station I have; moved the engine shed, embedded and ballasted the tracks, constructed a cattle dock, and made a start on the coal yard.

The Peckforton Mine Tramway

The trackbed

 After changing the configuration of the sidings at the Copper Mine (see Progress Report 58), I decided it was time to figure out how I was going to use the 32mm track and rolling stock which I have been acquiring (see How I added radio control to a small diesel loco, How I constructed a 32mm gauge barrel wagon) to act as the new feeder railway for the crusher shed and loading chutes.

Rather than disappearing immediately into the hedge as the non operational Gn15 feeder line did previously .....

...... I decided to make more of a feature of the feeder by bringing if to the front. Supports were fixed behind the main line between the Copper Mine and Beeston Market station and the trackbed fixed on top.

I decided that it might be useful having a 2' gauge line running to Beeston Market which could well have had a small industrial railway bringing sand from the sand quarry which was located behind the cattle market. Visually, it could therefore serve two purposes - acting as a feeder for the Copper Mine at one end and as a feeder for the sand quarry at the other.

At present, the far end of the line to the Copper Mine just disappears into the undergrowth behind Beeston Market station. Eventually, I will extend this behind the station yard and maybe lead it down to a sand and gravel pit and/or possibly the canalside.

The track has been laid and ballasted used some bird grit which included red pottery shards. I felt this would be appropriate for a line which transported red sandstone spoil.

I'll probably tone it down a bit with a thin wash of black/brown cement dye (see below).

The embankment

To carry the line over the sidings at the Copper Mine, I decided that the miners would have made use of the sandstone they were tunnelling through to construct an embankment (in the same sort of way that slate miners built their embankments from slate debris in North Wales).

The embankment took a while to construct (see How I constructed a 'stone' embankment ) - the stonework was made from balsa wood which was subsequently hardened with a wet rot treatment product, painted with acrylics and then sealed with matt varnish.

This will be left outside throughout the year, so I will be interested to see how the treated balsa survives the ravages of the weather.

The bridges

 A couple of bridges are needed to carry the 2' gauge railway over the 3' gauge Copper Mine tracks. By coincidence, the bridges would also act as scenic breaks for the 'hidden' link line between the Copper Mine and Beeston Market station. This link allows full skip wagons to be exchanged for empties - thus giving the impression that empties travel Down the line to the Copper Mine and return loaded (see Freight Operations on the railway and How I weathered a rake of tippler wagons).

So far, I have built one bridge over the sidings at the Copper Mine. I opted for a simple plate girder bridge (see How I constructed a plate girder bridge - pending) using a Wills Vari-girder bridge kit intended for 00 railways. I had intended to build a rickety wooden bridge, but there was insufficient room below for the struts.

 Some Plastruct I-beam cross members were added and I'm toying with the idea of adding a couple of longitudinal beams to support the tracks plus a couple of Plastruct members to stiffen the structure more.

It will eventually be spray-painted with Halfords grey primer and then weathered and rusted.

The crusher shed tracks

The original Gn15 railway split into two on the gallery for the loading chutes - one side to allow ore to be fed to the chutes serving the crushers in the shed, and the other allowing spoil to be loaded into the hoppers on the main line.

There was insufficient room for this arrangement to be replicated with the 32mm gauge track and so a single line would have to serve both jobs. To avoid having to heighten the canopy, I decided to lower the tracks by doing away with the sleeper bases. The rails were soldered to a row of brass panel pins knocked into the wooden sub-structure.

 First one rail was soldered ........

.......and then a simple gauge (35mm wide) was used to mark the position of the second row of pins (32mm gauge plus the width of the rail). The second row of pins was then knocked in.........

.... and the second rail was soldered to these pins. A couple of short lengths of 4mm OD brass tube were then soldered to the end of each rail to help with the alignment of these rails to the rest of the system.

The freelance diesel loco (Linda)

I have previously described how she was modified to radio control and auto-shuttle mode (see How I converted a small battery diesel to radio control). I decided she needed to be further detailed, painted and weathered.

She was given a coat of dark green acrylic to which a small amount of talcum powder had been added to dull the gloss finish. Rusty patches of varying shades of brown were stippled on and a length of chain glued on - assuming that this would be used to tow skip wagons from awkward corners.

A new driver (from ModelTown) was painted with acrylics (primed in black and then dry-brushed with gradually lightened tints of the base colours). In deference to his age, I decided to fashion the Blutak blob by which he was attached to the seat into a cushion. The petrol can which disguises the fuse was painted with acrylics to resemble a BP can, a picture of which I found online. By the way, the Deltang Rx65b receiver/controller automatically detects the voltage level of the li-ion battery and cuts-out when it falls below its safe level of 3v, thus offering a further measure of protection.

Some weathering powders were then added to the chassis and around the engine compartment - and then she was given a couple of light coats of matt varnish from an aerosol to seal everything.

Rolling stock

I am slowly accumulating rolling stock for the tramway which is proving to be a lot more cost effective than it was for the 45mm gauge mainline. The wagons which will be used on the tramway will be small in both size and in number, and I'm finding that kits for appropriate models are fairly cheap (around £10). So far, I have constructed a barrel wagon (see How I constructed a barrel wagon from a £10 kit) .........

and three skips (see How I constructed a Binnie skip wagon - pending).

 They have been finished in Halfords red primer and will be heavily weathered and rusted - as you can see the skips have already been distressed with the heat from a candle flame to add a few dints.

I will probably invest in a few more skips, a couple of small passenger wagons from the same source as the barrel wagon, and maybe a brake van of some sort

The Simplex loco (Emma)

This is presently under construction, being made from an IP Engineering kit. The parts are mostly made from whitemetal and, rather than using epoxy resin as I have done previously, I have opted for low-melt solder for its construction. I am finding the use of solder to be a lot less problematical than I expected and quite enjoying seeing the model slowly coming together. When it has been completed, I will share my experiences in another posting.

Beeston Market Station

Extending the station

The boards holding the station were extended when I created storage sidings in the garage (see How I created some storage sidings in the garage). This has enabled me to lay out the sidings in a more realistic way than previously, when the goods yard comprised two short parallel sidings with no space between for loading and unloading.

Although still cramped, the goods yard now comprises two longer sidings, plus a carriage siding.

The rather severe R1 points which led into the sidings have now been replaced with Trainline R2 points. I would have used R3 (either Piko or LGB) but I have had the Trainline points knocking around for some time and felt this was an ideal place to deploy them.

The original two short sidings have now been replaced with a single siding serving a cattle dock (see below) and one of the R1 points has been used to create a short siding off the link to the Copper Mine, serving the Permanent Way Department at the back of the layout. The siding at the front of the layout serves the Engine Shed (see below).

The Engine shed

The two-road engine shed was constructed in 2011, from plywood and coffee stirrers (see How I constructed an engine shed). Until I extended the station, the engine shed was crammed in beside the run-round loop at the end of the station.

After extending the station, I toyed with the idea of keeping it at this end of the station by doubling the track leading from the run-round loop, but this would have impinged on the goods yard, so I decided to move it to the opposite end of the station by adding another couple of sidings off the main line.

This entailed the widening of the baseboard at this point and the installation of an R3 point (Piko) in the mainline and an R2 point (Trainline) leading to the shed.

Once the track had been laid and tested it was embedded in coloured concrete (see How I ballasted Beeston Market station yard)

When I added the cattle dock (see How I constructed a cattle dock from Jigstones mouldings), I decided to change the layout of the sidings for this area - and at the same time added a siding to serve the coaling facilities (to be constructed) by the engine shed.

Eventually, I will add a coaling stage (see How I constructed a coaling stage - pending) and water tower (see How I constructed a water tower - pending) between this siding and the engine shed roads.

The cattle dock

I toyed with a few ideas for the construction of this feature before opting for Jigstones mouldings. I had moulded the sections several years ago with no particular aim in mind awaiting the occasion when they would be needed. As it turned out, I had just about the right number of mouldings to complete the cattle dock - so maybe fate intervened (see How I constructed a cattle dock from Jigstones mouldings).

The stonework was dry-brushed with acrylics, the railings were made from brass rail and brass rod and the gates adapted from GRS paling fencing.

Embedding and ballasting the track

 Rather using my usual dry-mix method of track ballasting (see How I ballasted my track), I tend to embed the track at stations in a wet-mix of concrete. Not only does this, I feel, better resemble the type of ballasting which was used in the stations and yards of narrow gauge stations, it also helps to keep loose stones out of point mechanisms.

There was a lot of new track to ballast at Beeston Market (see above) and so it took three portions of my ballast mix to cover the tracks - and even then there are some sections adjacent to the platforms which I left for my dry mix method.

Once the cement had set, I then used a dry-mix approach, blending sifted soil, sand, bird grit and crushed coal.

After the glue had set, I felt everything looked a bit too stark and artificial and so gave the whole area a light wash of brown and black cement dye to tone it down.

I must admit to being very pleased with the outcome.

For more information on my approach see How I ballasted the track at Beeston Market.

The coal yard

Work has started on the coal yard at Beeston Market station. The coal bins have been made from thin pine stripwood and balsa, suitable shaped, filed, scraped and drilled to represent recycled sleepers.

 The wood has been treated with wet rot hardener (as with the embankment above) and will shortly be stained, painted and weathered with acrylics.

Crushed coal of various grades will be added to the bins, together with an office, coal sacks, weighbridge and general clutter (see How I created the coal yard - pending).

Next on the Agenda

There is always something to do on a garden railway - I doubt it will ever be finished. This suits me fine because, although I enjoy running trains and carrying out various freight manoeuvres and shunting operations, if I didn't have at least one construction project on the go I'm sure I would become bored. My present to-do list covers around three A4 pages and so I am likely to be kept busy for some time yet to come. Here's a flavour of the jobs awaiting my attention:
  • Finish off the Simplex loco
  • Lightly weather all locos and passenger stock
  • Lettering for coaches and wagons
  • Lighting for station areas
  • Complete the semaphore signal radio control equipment for the remaining four stations
  • Add sound to the locos presently without it
  • Finish off the viaduct
  • Give personalities to the staff and passengers using local census data
  • etc
  • etc
  • etc

Saturday, May 16, 2015

How I made a 'stone' embankment

 32mm gauge comes to Peckforton!

For various reasons, I am in the process of adding a 32mm gauge tramway to the Peckforton Light Railway - to tranship ore from the copper mine workings to the crushing shed and the loading hoppers (see Progress Report 59).

When I constructed the half-relief mine buildings for the Copper Mine (see Progress Report 45 and How I constructed the mine buildings - pending), I installed a non-operational Gn15 feeder railway to supposedly transfer ore from the mine workings to the loading chutes and crusher.

 However, after a chance purchase of some 32mm gauge track at the Llanfair Garden Railway Show (which coincides each year with the Welshpool & Llanfair Steam Gala) I've now changed my plans. The feeder is being converted into a 2' gauge operational mine tramway.

A couple of small diesel locomotives have been acquired (see How I converted a small diesel loco to radio control and How I constructed an IP Engineering plate frame Simplex) and I am in the process of constructing some rolling stock (eg see How I assembled a barrel wagon).

Recently, I modified the trackwork for the sidings at the Copper Mine (see Progress Report 58). This has meant that the sidings are now separate from the main line.

While doing this work, I decided to make more of the 32mm feeder line. Instead of the 32mm track disappearing behind the mine buildings as the Gn15 track did, I would send it towards the front, to run for a while parallel with the main line. However, this would require the construction of an embankment and a couple of bridges.

The embankment

The first task was to decide where the railway would run, and then construct the foundations for the embankments. These were made from offcuts of old treated 1" thick fencing panels. The main embankment was 3½" wide and 8" high, with a kink at the end to lead the track over the sidings towards the crusher shed.

Initially, a smaller wall was also constructed to support the other end of the bridge, but this was later enlarged when the track layout at the mine was changed (see Progress Report 58 and above).

Following the lead given by the sadly missed Peter Jones in his excellent Making Model Buildings for Garden Railways, I decided to make the stonework cladding from balsa wood. Rather than the random stonework used on Peter's buildings, I wanted a dressed stone look and so cut some 3/16" thick balsa wood into 10mm wide strips

Each strip was then bevelled along the sides using a craft knife.

The end was then bevelled with a triangular needle file which was then used to file notches across the length of the strip at roughly 2cm intervals.

I wanted the stone blocks to be irregular and so their lengths varied from 5mm to 25mm.

I could have varied the widths as well, but decided to keep things simple. The blocks were then separated from the strip with a razor saw.

Using exterior PVA, I then started laying my courses of stone on the wooden embankment foundation, starting with the topmost course and working my way down the wall.

I left a gap or around 2mm between the courses and between each adjacent block. This is larger than would have been on real wall, but I wanted to make sure there was sufficient space for the grouting to adhere (see below). Starting at the top of the wall also meant that I would get a full width course at the top and if necessary the lowermost course could be narrower. I figured this would look more prototypical as the lower course would be embedded in the ground.

Where the blocks reached the corner of the wall, I made them protrude slightly and bevelled them to try to make a sharp edge.

The courses were then continued along the next edge of the embankment.

On the wing of the embankment wall which would support the bridge taking the 32mm line over the mine sidings, I cut and glued a 1/4" thick strip.

 On this edge, rather than bevelling, I butted the edges. Less tidy, but a lot easier to achieve.

Once all the stonework was completed (about three days' work), I let the glue dry off ready for the grouting process.

I used flexible interior/exterior 'wide' grout which I happened to have left over after laying some floor tiles in the kitchen. This was mixed up to a consistency like single cream. This is runnier than I used on the floor tiles as I reckoned the balsa wood would be more absorbent.

This mix was spooned on to one embankment wall (while it was lying flat) ......

..... and then spread out using a tile squeegee. I made sure, as much as I was able, that the grout penetrated into all the crevices by spreading it in several directions across the wall.

Once the grout was in place, it was left to dry.

About an hour to an hour and a half later, while the grout was still in its 'green' state, I used a plastic tile grouting tool to recess the grout in the gaps between the blocks.

I then turned the wall over and grouted the opposite wall, using the same approach.

I left the embankment wall as couple of days to ensure the grout had fully hardened.

I then, 'textured' the walls, by prodding the blocks randomly with the point of a small Phillips screwdriver.

 This proved to be very time-consuming, but I felt the effort was worthwhile.

I felt the stonework looked a lot more like the dressed sandstone seen on several buildings and structures in my locality.

  I then applied Ronseal Wet Rot Hardener with a paintbrush to walls. This resinous liquid soaks into the balsa and the grout and, once dry turns them into something resembling hard plastic.

The walls were soaked in the liquid with a broad brush ........

.... and left (in a well ventilated room) for the stipulated six hours for the hardener to dry.

I then dry-brushed a base-coat of reddy-brown acrylic paint over all the walls.

For the uninitiated, dry-brushing is a technique much favoured by the war-gaming fraternity. The brush is dipped into the paint in the normal way, and then most of it is wiped off again - so the brush is almost dry (hence the name). I used a fairly broad brush (bought from a craft shop for applying paste).

The brush was then lightly wiped across the surface of the wall. I tend to do this diagonally to avoid running directly along the line of the the mortar courses.

And then across the other diagonal.

Applying several light coats .......

Until the wall was covered uniformly.

But, of course, stone walls are seldom, if ever, uniform in colour ........

........ and so, once dry, individual stones were picked-out in varying shades and tints of the red sandstone colour (and some yellow sandstone which in this area seems to end up looking grey) with a small paintbrush.

I figured that after a while in the great outdoors, the colours would fade and weather naturally and so gave the walls only a light weathering by dry-brushing some lighter tints and some darker shades over the surfaces of the blocks.

I then gave the embankment a couple of light coats of matt varnish to seal them.

The finished embankments were then screwed into place on the mine sidings board .....

 A layer of roofing felt was glued on top and the track was then screwed in place.

The track was then tested. At present, there are no bridges between the two stone embankments, but this will be remedied soon (see How I constructed a small trestle and a plate girder bridge - pending)

The mine tramway and the sidings have yet to be properly ballasted and weathered using the same methods I have used for the mainline trackwork (see How I ballasted my track ) and at my stations (see How I embedded my tracks in concrete).

As ever, there are always more jobs to do on a garden railway!