Monday, April 25, 2016

How I enlarged the station area at Peckforton

When Peckforton Station was first constructed (see Peckforton Station comes to life), I decided it would have two sidings, unlike the other intermediate stations which had only one each. This would enable me to include a timber yard for the newly established forestry on the Peckforton Estate. In this photo, the timber yard siding is on the left.

 Looking from the opposite direction, it is in the top right corner of the photo.

Since 2009, this siding has proved adequate, but over the years, more timber wagons have been acquired and recently, another four were added to the stock roster.

The single siding at Peckforton was now no longer capable of holding all the rolling stock which might need to be accommodated. I therefore decided an extension was needed. A quick survey of the area led to the conclusion that the station area could easily be widened and a second siding added.

Pointwork was roughly laid out over the intended area which was then marked out (with some of the plastic logs from the timber yard). In effect, the concave curve of sandstone walling would need to be made convex.

A trench was dug along the line of the new wall. As it would not be bearing a great load, I made it the width and depth of the spade blade.

The affected track was lifted and the old sandstone retaining wall was removed. It proved more substantial than I expected and the dainty hammer and chisel which I had used to start the job made way for a sledge hammer and pick-axe - very therapeutic! Most of the sandstone blocks were rescued, but some of the smaller bits, plus some of the old concrete, were used as rubble to line the bottom of the trench.

This was pulverised with a lump hammer to provide a firm foundation.

 A 3:1:1 mix of sand, gravel and cement was mixed, poured into the trench and then tamped and smoothed off with an offcut of timber.

 While the concrete was still wet ........

.... the bottom row of sandstone blocks was embedded into it, thus ensuring a firm foundation. This was left overnight and the following morning to allow the concrete to harden off.

Topsoil was then back-filled behind the blocks and trodden down to a level about the depth of a breeze block below the original trackbed.

 A breeze block was then positioned on the new section and levelled, using a spirit level, with a mix of sand and soil.

 Once a datum level had been established, a couple of blocks were laid to support the passing loop ......

....... before another four blocks were laid for the new siding.

The track was laid temporarily to check the alignments. I decided some adjustment was needed and so the original point leading into the passing loop was moved further back by about 20cm.

A further two and a half blocks were then laid alongside the four to support a second siding. The second row of sandstone blocks was then concreted on top of the first row to bring the walling up to the level of the blocks. Concrete (a 4:1 mix of sand and cement) was also forced in between the blocks to help prevent weed growth and the bind the blocks together. I used my fingers (clad in heavy duty rubber gloves) for this as I've not yet found a tool which will beat their dexterity at this task. And besides, it's much more fun.

The concrete was then left to harden overnight. The following morning, while the concrete was still in its 'green' state, a wire brush was used to tidy up the face of the sandstone walling, removing any concrete which had strayed on to the rocks' surfaces.

Once the concrete had set sufficiently (it could probably have done with another day to dry off - but rain was forecast), I started laying the track. 3mm dia. holes were drilled in the sleepers and a 6mm dia masonry bit was used to drill holes into the breeze blocks to take rawlplugs.

The track was screwed down to the blocks with 1¼" No.6 brass screws.

The geometry of the passing loop and the goods siding needed to be 'tweaked' slightly to enable them to be aligned with the new pointwork. At the same time, the distance between the tracks at the end of the loop nearest the camera was widened as, in the past, this has proved to be too tight for some rolling stock.

Once all the track had been laid and fixed into place........

..... it was tested.

More extensive testing needs to be done with a wider range of rolling stock and all locos to ensure there are no unexpected snags (once the weather improves), and then the whole station area will be ballasted using my combination of wet-mix and dry-mix ballasting techniques (see How I ballasted the station area at Beeston Market).

Overall, the extension took four days - including the concrete drying times. Fortunately, I beat the weather which has included heavy rain showers every day since the extension was complete.

I have now created sufficient space alongside the sidings for a representation of a sawmill to be constructed. In my imagined history for the railway, the forestry which was created by Lord Tollemache on the Peckforton Estate was extended to become a flourishing industry providing pit props and finished timber. Felled lumber would also be brought to the mill from the surrounding area - by rail of course.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Progress Report 64

This post marks the tenth anniversary of my blog. A lot seems to have happened since I first started recording the outcomes of my efforts - see Progress Report 63

I always look forward to Spring in the garden. This time of year is particularly enjoyable as the plants haven't yet started growing vigorously and so it doesn't take quite so long to prepare the railway for a running session. Back in the days when my locos were track-powered, preparations for the first running session of the season would take a good two to three hours with track being laboriously scrubbed clean, dead-spots on the track being traced and repaired and the undergrowth being cut back. Now, all that is required is some light trimming of the undergrowth and maybe the trackbed being packed or levelled in places - around half an hour's work.

Because I started my new online business (RC Trains) at the start of January, a lot of my time has been creating and maintaining the website, sourcing items of stock, designing and making transmitters and responding to enquiries. As a consequence, I have made less progress with construction and maintenance on the railway than normal. However, some progress has been made, which is worth reporting.


 Many years ago, when we first moved into the house, the garden was overlooked by a row of trees. Very little would grow beneath then and so we planted a laurel hedge, which doesn't seem to mind being overshadowed. About ten years ago, the trees were removed (after a gale blew one down, narrowly missing the house). Whilst I was sorry to see the trees go, I was grateful that the risk of unplanned house demolition was reduced. The extension was constructed in this hedge (see How I built the extension) but I have always wanted to replace the laurel with something with smaller leaves. Having discovered that lonicera is extremely easy to propagate, I put a few trimmings into some seed trays last autumn and every single one took root. These have now been deployed to fill some of the gaps at the front of the laurel hedge.

Over the next few years, I intend to plant more and more lonicera and as they become established I will gradually remove the laurel so that eventually the laurel will have been replaced by lonicera.

Permanent Way

Having travelled across the country from Cheshire to Cambridgeshire to pick up a battery loco from a fellow modeller (see below), I felt the need to buy a few more items to make the journey even more worthwhile. Four timber wagons (see below), five lengths of Tenmille track and two LGB R3 points were also acquired. On return, I decided that the timber siding at Peckforton Station needed to be extended in some way to accommodate the new rolling stock (see How I enlarged the timber yard at Peckforton - pending).

As can be seen, the timber yard siding was fairly short (top right in this photo).

 There was little room to spare at the station and so I decided to engage in some civil engineering. Foundations were laid for a new rock wall .......

.... and the station area was widened to accommodate two longer sidings.

At the same time, the goods siding was also lengthened slightly and the distance between the tracks in the passing loop was increased - sometimes wider items of rolling stock fouled each other at the Beeston Castle end of the loop.

The track still needs to be ballasted. This will be done once the track has been thoroughly tested to ensure it is properly aligned and reasonably level.

Rolling stock

Bagnall 0-4-2T Loco

As indicated above, a new loco has joined the line. Despite asserting some time ago that I would need no further locos, when a battery loco constructed from an early GRS (Garden Railway Specialists) kit was offered for sale on the G Scale Central forum, I couldn't resist it.

It would appear that the loco is based (loosely) one one of the Bagnall locos which was built for the Southj African Rustenburg Platinum Mines Railway in the late 1940s and early 1950s. One of these locos has been preserved by the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway..........

and another has recently been rebuilt for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
There are some obvious differences - the gauge (2' v 3'), outside v inside frames, the shape of the bunker, the motion, etc, but the loco is still an attractive addition to the line.

 The loco has been stripped down, rubbed down ........

......... and is in the process of being repainted.

Eventually, she will sport the PLR's green livery and some additional detailing will be added, such as a representation of the firebox backhead.

I've decided that, at this stage, I will not rebuild the chassis and the motion, but this may be tackled at some point in the future.

The existing 27mHz RCS radio control system will be replaced ........

............ with my default 2.4gHz RCT/Deltang system (see below).

New timber wagons

 While purchasing the loco, I decided that my journey from one side of the country to the other would be more productive if I also bought some of the rolling stock which was also on offer. Four neat little LGB feldbahn timber wagons caught my eye.

After being stripped down, the main body of each wagon was given a couple of coats of Halford's primer from a rattle can aerosol. They were then reassembled and given a test run or two on their new timber sidings.



As indicated above, I have now set up my own small online business constructing and selling radio control equipment based on the very successful Deltang 2.4gHz system. So far, I am marketing three different styles of transmitter. These are now in use my railway, as they embody developments which I feel enhance the appearance and performance of the original Deltang transmitters.

The Tx10, is the most basic transmitter which I have decided will be most useful when young visitors come to play trains.It has the minimum of controls - the speed and direction knob, on/off switch and the bind button which can also be used to operate the horn or whistle on locos equipped with sound cards.

The second transmitter is my version of the Deltang Tx20. The great virtue of the Tx20 is the number of push buttons which it includes. Not only does this make it highly suitable for controlling all the functions on soundcards such as the MyLocoSound card, it also means that it can be used for programming receivers such as the Rx65b. The enhancements I have incorporated include a printed overlay, a separate battery compartment (rather than having to unscrew the case each time the battery needs replacing), and more attractive knobs and buttons.

The most sophisticated transmitter which I currently produce is my version of the Tx22. I have always been a great fan of the Tx22, having been using mine for over three years. I like the way in which twelve locos can be independently controlled from the one handset. The inertia control helps to simulate heavily loaded trains and also is kinder to loco mechanisms. When not being used to change the loco's direction of travel, the direction switch can be used to control accessories such as interior lighting and soundcard effects.


 My new business venture seems to have settled down. It was very time consuming in the early stages, particularly in finding sources for the components, cases, overlays, packaging and web hosting - and it also involved a lot more outlay than I was expecting. After an initial rush, orders have now evened out so they are nearer to what I was anticipating when I decided to go into production and so, over the past couple of weeks, I have managed to find time in between completing orders for catching up with some jobs on the railway and even run a few trains!