Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Progress Report 76


Winter time is usually when activity on the railway dies down. The weather is not conducive to operating trains outside and the hours of daylight are too short anyway to have a decent running session. It's normally a time when I do constructional projects indoors, but a spate of illness has slowed down my productive output this year. I have managed to turn round a few projects though, and carry out some maintenance.

The most significant project has been the construction of a brewery building for the siding at Beeston Castle station. I have also managed, at long last, to replace the fencing behind the platform at Peckforton Station and repair the overbridge which was damaged during tree felling in the Autumn (see Progress Report 75). I have added an Acme Engineering soundcard to the HGLW diesel (see Progress Report 72) and begun the construction of  rake of sand hopper wagons for the sand quarry which will be located on another new siding (see Progress Report 75). I have also continued replacing LGB couplings with my less obtrusive compatible wire couplings - a seemingly endless ongoing task! On the operational side, I have updated my freight management computer program with the newly added rolling stock (see Progress Report 74 and Progress Report 75) and a new location (ie the sand quarry siding). I have also found time to make a video showing how the railway has changed over the past twelve years - and also wrote a few articles for the Garden Rail magazine, two of which have already been published.

So, I don't think I have been idle over the winter period. The weather is beginning to improve and I   have now cleared the track, so it might be possible that trains will start running again in the not too distant future.


Over the past year, I have been focusing more on adding lineside detail, particularly industries to the railway. I've added a sawmill at Peckforton (see How I constructed the sawmill), together with a boiler house and water tower (see How I constructed the boiler house and How I constructed the water tower). I have also constructed a water mill (see How I constructed the water mill and sluice gate (see How I constructed a sluice gate) for the mill siding between Peckforton and Bulkeley. In addition, I have made a loading bank for the soft fruit harvest at Bulkeley (see How I constructed a loading bank). These were made from a variety of materials, concrete (loading bank), wood (sawmill) and PVC foamboard (mill, boiler house and water tower). I have become very enthusiastic about using foamboard as it is a versatile material and also relatively cheap. This was why it was chosen for the construction of the brewery at Beeston Castle.

Beeston Brewery

After searching the web for suitable prototypes, I eventually decided to base my model on the now discontinued Metcalfe 00 card model as this presented me with a fairly generic building. After measuring the intended site and making a few sketches, I initially mocked-up the building in corrugated card, ........

before cutting into my stocks of 5mm thick PVC foamboard.

As can be seen, it is a snug fit in this tight corner of the railway. There are still a few minor details which need to be sorted out, not least a concrete base on which to mount it and re-positioning the siding slightly, but overall I am pleased with the outcome. For more information see How I constructed the brewery (pending)

Peckforton platform fencing

While changing the track layout at Peckforton to provide more room for the sawmill (see Progress Report 72), I also took the opportunity to raise the track in the middle of the station where there was a small dip. This meant I had to rebuild the platform (see Progress Report 73) and as a consequence the fencing behind the old platform was removed. Now, after a year, I finally got around to replacing the fencing.

I also took the opportunity to create a second running in board which I felt would be appropriate for a station with a single platform.

All the original fencing was re-used, though some is beginning to show its age with broken palings. However, I decided that, as my railway is set in the 1930s, at the time of the Depression, then things might have started to deteriorate.

Overbridge repairs

The parapets of the two cast concrete overbridges had survived unscathed for eight or nine years until last Autumn when I managed to knock one off while lopping and felling trees (see Progress Report 75). I have now got around to repairing it, using a two-part epoxy masonry repair kit.

Before ........

..... ad after.

One crack is still visible but, in time, I'm sure this will fade.


Since the spate of Anglicising a couple of closed vans and open wagons (see Progress Report 75), activity related to rolling stock has been fairly quiet. I have, however found time for a couple of projects:

HGLW diesel sound card

After completing the Houston Gate Loco Works (HGLW) kit last year, I decided it was time she gained a voice. I've never used Acme Engineering soundcards and so decided to give one a try (see How I added an Acme Engineering sound card to my HGLW diesel loco). I was attracted by the card's small footprint and because it has digitised real sound effects. 

Rather than using the 9v battery which came with the card, I opted to increase the battery power in the loco from one 3.7v li-ion battery to two, giving me a nominal 7.4v. Other than that, the installation was very straightforward and the sound quite effective.

Sand hopper wagon

I had been wondering what industry might occupy the longer siding on the approach to Bickerton station when I happened to pick up a copy of Eric Tonks' book about the Snailbeach District Railways (Industrial Railway Society, 1974, reprinted 2007). I have always been attracted by the wooden hopper wagons which ran on this railway and when I noticed there was a drawing of one at the back of the book, I felt it was an omen. Having a few Hartland Locomotive Works (HLW) mini-series chassis sitting in a spares box, I decided to experiment to see if I could produce a passable replica of a wagon to use as a prototype.

Having proved it is possible, I will now produce another seven or eight with improvements and modifications in the process. Once the fleet is completed, I will write up the definitive guide to their production (see How I constructed a rake of Snailbeach style hopper wagons - pending).


This is an ongoing process, but I am at last beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. The design appears to be effective and so around 80% of the stock has now been equipped. I am leaving the locos until last as I anticipate they are likely to be the items which will require the most personalised couplings.

I noticed in one of my videos that the new couplings are a lot less obtrusive than the LGB originals, which is encouraging - see 1m 50sec into this video:


As indicated above, this time of year is not conducive to running trains in the garden, but I have made a few changes which will affect train operations once they resume.

Freight management program updates

Because I have added some more rolling stock to the freight roster for the railway (see Progress Report 74 and Progress Report 75), I have now added these to the wagon database in my freight management computer program (see How I handle freight on my railway). In addition, I have added a new location - the sand quarry, as indicated above. As a consequence, the parameters controlling the movement of each wagon on the railway has had to be revised to take account of this new location. However, this is not as daunting as it sounds, because very few wagons will be likely to serve the sand quarry - a tanker wagon, to transport fuel oil, a flat wagon to occasionally transport pieces of machinery and an occasional closed van for miscellaneous goods.
The new siding to the sand quarry before final ballasting

Retrospective video

While sorting through some folders on one of my backup disks, I came across some video clips which I had not previously used. These dated back to the early days of my railway and so I decided to make a video comparing these early clips with ones taken more recently. The result is a retrospective video which is not only nostalgic for me, but also shows how much progress the railway has made over the past eight to ten years.


There are always plenty of jobs to be done on or associated with a garden railway. In recent weeks, I have spent some time out in the garden, clearing some of the accumulated leaves and debris which have found their way on to the track, and also cut back some of the plants which are already threatening to impede traffic when the railway resumes operations. As indicated above, a few repairs have also taken place. In addition, I have added a bit more storage in my workshop and also found time to pen a few articles about the rolling stock on my railway.

More storage in workshop

I never seem to have enough storage space. No sooner do I add more and it gets filled and I am looking for some more. I felt I needed a few more shelves to store stock, such as those awaiting repair or new couplings. I speculated for a while how I would support shelves on the window side of the conservatory and eventually opted for a simple belt-and-braces approach with triangular wooden brackets cut from a length of timber shelving. Elegant, they are not, but functional they are. It's a good job I have a partner who is very tolerant of my railway and the way it encroaches on other parts of the house.

The shelves are now finished and already full of items of rolling stock and other miscellaneous odds and ends. How on earth did I manage without them?

Magazine articles

So far, two of the articles I have written about my rolling stock have appeared in Garden Rail, the February 2019 edition:

.... and the March 2019 edition.

Although some of the information they contain has been covered in various posts on my blog, the articles are completely new and take a quite different stance. I hope any regular followers of my blog will find them equally as interesting and informative.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

How I installed an Acme Engineering multi-cylinder diesel sound card in my HGLW loco

Last year, I constructed an HGLW diesel loco from a kit (see How I constructed an HGLW loco kit and How I detailed my HGLW loco). Most of my locos have sound cards and I thought for a while how I would add sound to this loco. Ultimately, I decided to opt for an Acme multi-cylinder diesel card as I have not had any previous experience with them and wanted to see what they were like.

I sent off an email to Mike Ousby (Mr. Acme Engineering) as at the time he was experiencing problems with his website ( and, after parting with £40, the card and accoutrements arrived the following day.

My first idea was to keep things simple and install the card as a completely separate circuit, using the battery and holder as supplied. However, space was tight inside and under the loco and, although I could have just squeezed the and battery inside the back of the cab, there was no room for the speaker. I decided to use a smaller encapsulated speaker which I had purchased from Rapid Electronics some time ago (

This would just have fitted in the cab with the card and the battery, however I felt it looked very cluttered, so I decided that, if I doubled the number of li-ion cells in the loco from one to two, the resultant voltage (7.4v) would be sufficient to power the card as well as the loco. Without the need for the 9v battery, this would mean I could easily fit the card and the speaker inside the back of the cab.

The loco was dismantled .....

..... and the single cell removed from its cradle. Fortunately, I had a spare cell from the same pack that the original cell had come from and so they were matched.

NOTE: You should never mix and match li-ion cells. Even cells with the same Amp Hour values may have quite different characteristics. When making-up li-ion packs only use identical cells bought at the same time from the same supplier. I get all my cells from Ecolux who guarantees the quality of the cells he supplies and will attach solder tags for free. He will also make battery packs of any size and shape on request.

The two were wired together in series with a 2S li-ion battery protection board and re-mounted on the cradle.

My next decision was how to supply power to the card. The simplest way would have been to wire it up directly from the switch supplying power to the receiver and another lead to the negative supply to the receiver. This would mean that the sound would come on all the time the loco was turned on. It would also mean the sound would continue when the loco was stationary. My next thought was to wire in a new switch to enable the sound to be turned off independently of the receiver and motor. But then I remembered that the Deltang Rx65b has outputs which can be controlled by the transmitter. I would just need to use one of the three buffered outputs (A, B, C or Pads 13, 14 and 15) which are capable of switching up to 2 amps. Simples!

So, a two-pole plug was wired-up, the red lead connected to the output from the switch going to the Deltang Rx65b receiver, and the black lead connected to Pad 15 (C) of the receiver. This pad would give me a switchable 0v output in response to the bind button (Ch5) being pressed on the transmitter. However, the output from P15 is momentary by default, ie 0v is only supplied while the button is being pressed. I wanted to change the output to latching, so that it would toggle from off to on and vice versa when the bind button was pressed. This required the receiver to be re-programmed. This was done by binding the receiver to one of my Tx20 transmitters and putting the transmitter into programming mode. (see How to reprogram a Deltang receiver with a Tx20).

The coding used to reset Pad 15 to latching output was 3, 15, 2, 5, 3. (ie Menu 2, Pad 15, latching output, Channel 5 (bind button), start high and toggle when the bind button is pressed). This might sound like gobbledegook, but hopefully reading through this section on another blog post might make it clearer - How to look up programming codes for Deltang Receivers.

The leads from the two-pole socket were passed through from the bonnet to the cab, through a couple of small holes between the feet of the driver.

The power leads were then connected to the Acme Engineering soundcard.

The speaker was then also connected. The red jumper lead was left in place on the soundcard as I wanted the sound to repeat continuously.

 Fully wired-up, the circuitry looks like this.

As can be seen, the two li-ion batteries are connected to the protection board before the board passes power to the switch. The board protects the batteries from short circuits, over-charging and most importantly, over-discharging. If the charge in a li-ion cell falls below 3v, then it will become permanently damaged. The auto-reset fuse is not really necessary with the protection board, but was already wired-in on the original circuit and so I left it in place.

You'll notice also that the sound card is wired-up to Pad 15 (aka Pad C) to provide 0v (ie the negative supply) when the bind button is pressed on the transmitter. The positive supply for the sound card is provided by tapping into the lead from the switch to the receiver.

I use both the two-way switch and the built-in isolation switch in the DC socket to ensure that the receiver cannot be turned-on accidentally while the batteries are being charged. Either one or the other would be sufficient, but I have now got into the habit of using both.

Heavy duty sticky pads were stuck the the back of the card and the speaker ....

.... and the speaker and sound card stuck inside the back wall of the cab where they are reasonably unobtrusive. I might eventually cover them with some cream coloured card, but for now I hardly notice they are there.

The loco was then reassembled and taken outside for testing. The sound isn't loud, but that might be because I am using a smaller speaker than that provided. However, the digitised sound is realistic and varies slightly as the loco trundles along.

The pace of the sound doesn't vary in relation to the speed of the loco however, and there is no engine start-up and wind-down as is provided with the MTroniks soundcard. However, the MTroniks card is more expensive and is not supplied with a speaker, battery, switch (which I didn't actually use - but will go into stock) and wiring.

I do feel that adding sound to a loco out in the garden is quite important as it adds to the atmosphere. I tend to keep the sound turned down on all my locos as I don't want to disturb the neighbours or their dogs and also am not anxious to draw attention to the passers-by that there is a railway behind that fence. So I am not anxious to increase the volume of the sound in this installation. As long as I can hear it, that's all that is needed.

The Acme Engineering sound card is a relatively inexpensive way of adding sound to a loco. My installation is a lot more complicated than it needed to be. The simplest approach would have been to put the whole thing in a truck which is towed behind and this would have the added bonus that any loco towing it would be given a voice. However, I like my locos to be self-contained and enjoy the challenge of tailoring an installation to suit my needs.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Introduction to the blog


This blog describes ongoing progress in the development of a G gauge Garden Railway from its inception to the present day.

NEW - Loco No.1 gets sound

When I became interested in building my own garden railway I spent a considerable amount of time (and money) on books, videos, DVDs and scouring the internet for information, ideas and inspiration. When I eventually started construction I used some of the ideas I had discovered, but also experimented with my own approaches. This blog outlines how I have gone about constructing my own garden railway. My aim is to provide the sort of information I was looking for when I was getting started and also to share what I've learned (or 'borrowed' from others). I've tried to include a few 'How I ........' postings interspersed with occasional 'Progress Reports'. I do not profess to be any kind of expert - what I offer here is an opportunity for you to metaphorically look over my shoulder to see how I have gone (and am going) about this fascinating hobby.

As this is a blog, the various posts are presented in reverse chronological order (ie the most recent first). To see a categorised list of contents go to the Blog Contents Page.

If you are thinking about building your own garden railway then why not join the 16mm Association or the G Scale Society - you'll get plenty more advice and opportunities to visit other peoples' garden railways
. Alternatively, browse through the G Scale Central website - there's plenty more guidance here and an opportunity to sound out the views of others through the G Scale Central discussion forum.

The Blog

The advantages of blogging are that it is immediate and uncomplicated when creating and uploading information. The other, of course, is that with Blogger it is free. The major disadvantage is that I have minimal control over how the postings are presented. The blogging system adds the most recent information to the start of the blog, hence the postings appear in reverse chronological order (most recent first, oldest last). Whilst there is a list of postings on the right hand side, it's not particularly easy to see what is there. This introduction is an attempt to provide you with a contents list of the postings organised into categories so, hopefully, you see if what you are looking for is presented in this blog. To ensure that it always appears at the start of the blog, I update its content and set its presentation date into the future each time I add a new posting.

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