Monday, June 19, 2017

How I made a coaling stage

Since I first started running trains on my railway around ten years ago, my locos have primarily been steam outline. I am ashamed to say that, in all that time, the entire railway has been without a means of coaling and watering locomotives. That has now changed. Beeston Market Station, where the railway's engine shed and workshops are located now boasts a water tower and coaling facilities.

When the engine shed was moved from one end of the station to the other (see Progress Report 59), I added a siding alongside the shed roads primarily for a loco coal wagon. I decided that the space between this siding and the shed roads could accommodate a narrow coaling stage.

As with most of my projects, I started off by drawing a rough sketch of what I wanted, showing the most significant dimensions. I made allowances for the heights of the loco running plates and a typical open wagon, together with a calculation of the width which would be available between the siding and the road leading to the engine shed (more of that later!)

The six 70mm long uprights were then cut from 7.9mm square section Plastruct tubing.

The three cross-pieces and four longitudinal beams were then cut from the same tubing (34mm and 156mm respectively).

All pieces were then roughly scribed with a blade of a razor saw to simulate wood grain.

 The verticals were then marked at their midway points to show where the horizontal beams should be glued.

Some pieces of 1mm thick plasticard were cut out, roughly 10mm square ......

.... and glued to the one end of the uprights using styrene solvent adhesive.

Once the adhesive had set, the excess pieces of styrene were trimmed off ......

..... to provide end-caps for the verticals.

The side beams were then glued to the verticals at their mid-points .....

The transverse beams were then glued to one side and the other side then glued on.

Diagonals (56mm long on one side and 40mm long on the other) were cut from the 7.9mm Plastruct square tubing and scored with a razor saw to simulate wood grain.

These diagonals were then glued between the uprights and the longitudinal beams.

10mm wide strips of 1.5mm thick plasticard were cut .......

..... and scored with a razor-saw blade for planking.

The edges were then bevelled slightly by dragging a craft knife along them.

 Planks were then cut to around 53mm lengths, their ends were made jagged with a triangular needle file before being glued across the beams for the flooring.

Similarly, planks roughly 100mm in length were glued across the verticals.

Three more diagonals were then cut out and scored .......

.... to fit across the base.

The structure was now almost complete. I felt the longer planks needed some additional bracing and so .....

.... a couple of 32mm long pieces of 2.5mm square Plastruct rod were glued at the midway points.

The whole thing was then given two coats of red oxide primer using a Halford's rattle can aerosol.

Once dry, the structure was painted with dark brown acrylics, the grain being emphasised by dry-brushing over with a couple of lighter shades of brown.

Some off-cuts of polystyrene were then shaped and glued into the corners of the staging.

These were painted with black acrylics .......

...... before being coated in PVA adhesive and sprinkled with crushed coal.

Once everything had dried, the stage was test-fitted beside the engine shed at Beeston Market. It was at this point, I decided to try it with all my locos and discovered that some have much wider running plates than the one I had based my measurements on and so, unless I was prepared to move the tracks, the coaling stage wouldn't fit!! I had broken the first rule of any DIY project work - measure twice and cut once!!!

However, I realised that the crew on the PLR would have applied a belt and braces approach to coaling their locos. An open wagon, parked on the siding, could serve as a perfectly adequate coaling stage, without the need for the coal to be shovelled twice, provided a suitable plank was placed between the wagon and the loco.

I have decided to modify the coaling-stage so that it is one-sided, and use it at Bickerton Station - the other terminus on the railway. So all is not lost.

They say experience teaches you lessons in life ...... we never stop learning, do we?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Progress Report 68

There have been a few developments since the previous Progress Report -
  • some of the trackwork near the engine shed at Beeston Market has been altered
  • some ballasting has been done at Beeston Market, 
  • dips in the pointwork at Bickerton have been ironed out, 
  • sound systems have been added to two more locos which means that all but one of my locos now have sound cards, 
  • lighting has been installed in my three Leek & Manifold (ish) coaches,
  • a water tower has been constructed and installed beside the loco shed at Beeston Market,
  • a water crane has been constructed for the platform at Beeston Market,
  • a coaling stage has been constructed and coaling facilities provided at Beeston Market,
  • some functional buildings for Beeston Market have been constructed,
  • storage for figures has been improved
  • a guide to using the iMax B6 battery charger has been written
  • ...... and I've run a few trains (and made some videos thereof)

Permanent Way

Trackwork changes at Beeston Market

 To accommodate the new water tower and re-site the signal cabin at Beeston Market, I decided to shorten a couple of sidings beside the engine shed at Beeston Market. As this trackwork was embedded in concrete (see How I ballasted the station area at Beeston Market), it first needed to be chiselled out.

The track was then trimmed back and then reinstated, providing sufficient space for the signal cabin to be re-sited and for the water tower (see below) to be installed.

Ballasting at Beeston Market

 Once the trackwork had been altered and the water tower installed, the track was embedded in quick-set concrete (3 parts sand, 3 parts gravel, 1 part rapid-set cement). A mix of sand, soil, fine stone, aquarium gravel and crushed coal was then brushed over and between the tracks ........

..... before being fixed into to place with SBR adhesive.

It was then covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from rain, and left for a couple of days to set.

Pointwork at Bickerton

After shooting a low level video shot of the pickup goods train approaching Bickerton Station I realised that block foundations supporting the track had sunk a few millimetres.

Surprisingly, despite this,I was having very few derailments and so left the track in this condition for quite a while, however, the video emphasised the irregularities. Rather than removing the track and raising the blocks, I used my tried and tested method of loosening the screws holding the track in place, raising the track and then filling beneath with concrete. The approach into the station is now a lot less undulating and the geometry of the track seems to be unaffected.

Now the track has been sorted out, I need to re-ballast the whole area - another job for the todo list!

Rolling stock

Sound systems

Since I started constructing and converting locos for battery power and radio control, I have gradually been equipping them with sound systems. Mostly, I have used MyLocoSound modules which are reasonably priced and easy to install. However, I have also picked-up a few secondhand units on eBay - a couple of Dallee sound cards and, most recently, a Phoenix 2k2 card.

The Phoenix card was installed in my first UK-based loco, a Peckett outline loco constructed from a GRS (Garden Railway Specialists) kit - No. 1, Peckforton. (see How I constructed a Peckett loco from a GRS kit). 

When purchased, the card was programmed with effects for a large USA diesel loco and so it needed to be re-programmed with sounds more appropriate for a narrow gauge steam loco. It is possible to download sound files for a range of different locos from the Phoenix website, which can then be transferred to the card using an interface cable. Unfortunately, the cable costs around £70, and as I have only one Phoenix sound card, this seemed to be an excessive outlay. Fortunately, I discovered that Phil Partridge, my successor who took over RC Trains from me, has the equipment and the expertise to install new sound files and so, for a fee considerably lower than the cost of the interface cable, the card was re-flashed, with sounds for a Euro steam loco, and returned to me .

The card was wired-up inside the loco and triggers for the additional sound effects were connected to various pads on a Deltang / RC Trains Rx65b.

The receiver has been set-up to work with my RC Trains Tx20. The receiver was therefore wired-up with the following sound triggers:
  • Sound trigger 10 (Drifting/labouring) - Receiver Pad 4 - Ch4 (Tx F2 button)
  • Sound trigger 11 (Water fill) - Receiver Pad 9 - Ch3 (low) (Tx Direction switch)
  • Sound trigger 12 (Coal load) - Receiver Pad 10 - Ch3 (high) (Tx Direction switch)
  • Sound trigger 13 (Bell) - Receiver Pad 3 - Ch2 (Tx F1 button)
  • Sound trigger 14 (Whistle) - Receiver Pad C - Ch5 (Tx bind button)
 As can be seen (and heard), the sound card is quite effective:

Coach lighting

After completing interiors for my three Leek & Manifold(ish) coaches (see How I created interiors for my coaches) and modifying and painting some seated figures to occupy the seats (see How I modified some figures for the 1930s), I felt my hard work needed to be seen and so the coaches were fitted with LED lighting (see How I installed lighting in my coaches).

The lights are turned on and off using a magnet to energise a reed switch.


Water Tower

After ten years of operation, locos on the the Peckforton Light Railway can at last have a drink!

A large tower has now been installed beside the loco shed at Beeston Market. This was constructed from an early Model Town resin kit (now no longer available).

It was glued together with Deluxe Rapid Roket superglue and gaps filled with Squadron White Putty filler.

Some of the mortar courses had become indistinct and so needed additional filing with a small burr mounted in a minidrill. The model was then given a couple of coats of Halfords grey primer before the tank was given a spray of pale green Plastikote paint. The brickwork was picked out in reddy-brown acrylics.

The filler pipework was constructed from sections from a pack of fancy drinking straws, a plastic bead, a rectangle of 1.5mm plasticard, some brass rod, a couple of pieces of chain and a length of heatshrink tubing.

Water Crane

I felt that, rather than having to use the water tower beside the engine shed, loco crews would appreciate having a water crane located at the end of the platform at Beeston Market. After finding a photo of a suitable prototype on the internet,

.... I set about making my own using 'found' materials ...
  • main column = 5mm wooden dowel
  • collars on the column = plastic tubing and barrel from a cheap biro
  • base of column = tap washer
  • valve housing = 10mm wooden bead
  • valve = casting from Cambrian Models
  • cap on column = end of plastic test tube
  • joints on column = metal washers
  • counterweight = end of plastic party 'blower'
  • arm = 4mm wooden dowel covered in 5mm plastic tube
  • support for arm = brass rod
  • hose - heatshrink tubing
 As can be seen, my model is not entirely accurate but. like most things on my railway, it is representative of the original.
It was given a couple of coats of grey primer and a couple of coats of pale green Plastikote spray paint.

It still needs to be weathered and fixed properly into place at the end of the platform, but I am pleased with how it turned out.

Coaling facilities

After spending a couple of days constructing a coaling stage to sit between the tracks serving the engine shed at Beeston Market (see How I constructed a coaling stage - pending), ......

....... I discovered I had broken the first rule of any modelling project - measure twice and cut once! I didn't measure the available clearances for all my locos - and so, I discovered that it fouled a couple of locos. There was no way it could be modified to fit and so I looked for an alternative approach to proving coaling facilities. I figured that 'simplest is best' and so an open wagon parked on the adjacent siding would be close enough to act as a temporary coaling stage when the side door had been dropped and a plank used to bridge the gap.

Functional buildings

 I bought a couple of small resin buildings from a suppler on eBay (Miniman43) and another from Pendlebury Models. These were constructed and painted - see How I constructed some small resin buildings -pending - and will be installed at Beeston Market station to provide office space and storage for the coal merchants and Permanent Way Department.

Having been constructed, painted and weathered, they are awaiting installation and further detailing in the station yard.
Coal merchant's office
Privy - site to be decided
Permanent Way Dept store

Improved storage for figures

Over the years, I have been accumulating various figures and recently have improved my painting techniques for them (see How I modified some figures).

Until now, I stored my figures in a plastic box, simply being thrown in at the end of a session. As a consequence, the paintwork on many of them has become chipped and/or tarnished. Having spent ages painting each figure I realised it was time to improve their storage.

Pieces of half inch plywood was trimmed to fit inside the base of two plastic storage boxes and 1.5mm diameter holes drilled at 35mm intervals. Into these holes the pegs on the base of each figure can now be slotted, which means they are stored vertically, without touching any adjacent figure.

Clearly, it now takes a little longer to put the figures back into storage but, hopefully, they will look a lot less battered when they are deployed on the railway.


Guide to using the iMax B6 charger

Following a couple of requests on forums, I put together a basic guide to using the iMax B6 battery charger.

This versatile charger can be very daunting to use for the first time, compounded by the fact that the instruction manual seems to assume a fair amount of prior knowledge. My guide only deals with the basic operation of the charger, but hopefully should be sufficient to get a novice started on using it to charge the sort of batteries which are used in battery powered model locomotives. See - A beginners' guide to the iMax B6 charger

Operating sessions

Since the last Progress Report, I have managed squeeze in a few operating sessions: one full session, a session on which I focused on freight operations and another couple to test locos and the effectiveness of the coach lighting. The freight, loco and lighting testing sessions are covered elsewhere in this report, but here are some images from the full operating session.

Hunslet loco No. 3 Bickerton departing Beeston Market with a Down passenger while Peckett Loco No. , Peckforton, waits on the loop with the Down pick-up goods
Loco No. 3 approaching Peckforton with a Down Passenger
Loco No. 3 arrives at Beeston Market with an Up Passenger

Following the Freight

One of my operating sessions focused primarily on the operation of the pickup goods and the morning and afternoon mixed trains. I made a short video showing the progress of the pick-up goods as it progressed down and up the line.

When I was compiling this Progress Report, I initially thought that I would not have a lot to put into it - but I was surprised at how much time and effort I had put into my railway in the six weeks since my last report. Do I regret how much effort goes into developing the railway and keeping it functioning? Certainly not! I simply cannot remember how I used to find sufficient time to work on the railway before I was retired. Now I still can't figure out how to find time to complete all the jobs which still need doing.