Thursday, June 27, 2019

How I created various wagon loads



It's no secret that the mainstay of traffic movements on my railway relates to freight operations (eg see Managing freight on the railway). Over the years, I have steadily increased the number of goods wagons and from time to time described how I have made removable loads for them (eg see How I made some open wagons). However, I have never gathered together all these disparate chunks of information into one place. This post aims to rectify this.

Open wagons

I have constructed open wagons in three different ways; making them from scratch using plasticard, making them from my own resin castings and modifying cheap commercial models. Apart from a couple of my very first plasticard models, I have made all the loads on my open wagons removable so I can run them loaded in one direction and empty when they return.

The majority of my open wagons have coal loads, to reflect the preponderance of this traffic during the period when my railway is set (ie the early 1930s).

Real chunks of coal are used (therapeutically created by bashing normal house coal with a hammer),  glued to rectangles of plywood mounted on strip wood as strengthening battens and to allow the loads to be more readily removed.

I have also created various other loads for open wagons based on the sort of other general merchandise which might have been carried at the time on a light railway serving a rural community. For example, a load of barrels travelling to or from the brewery at Beeston Castle.

The barrels were bought from a trader at the Llanfair Garden Railway Fair, painted and glued to a piece of plywood scribed to represent planking.

Another wagon has been loaded with sawn timber, representing a load which might travel from the sawmill at Peckforton to any other station, but most likely to the main terminus at Beeston Market.

The timber planks are a mix of coffee stirrers, lollypop sticks and offcuts of stripwood. They are tied down with book-binding twine which doesn't tend to fray like other string. This load isn't removable at present, but eventually I will modify it so it can be removed.

Based on an old photo of a wagon on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway and another taken on the Southwold Railway, one open wagon has a mixed load of packing cases, a gear wheel and a couple of milk churns. The gear wheel could be delivered to the water mill or maybe to the brewery.

The packing cases were made by cladding wooden blocks with coffee stirrer planking, the milk churns were bought at a fair and the gear wheel is plastic bought on eBay and mounted on a cradle made from cut down lolly sticks. This load is removable in its entirety, everything being glued to a plywood base.

One wagon has a load destined for a builders' merchant with a stack of bricks, a pile of cement bags and a heap of sand in one corner. It's assumed that this could travel to or from any station on the line as a building project could happen anywhere and the builders' merchant similarly might be anywhere.

The bricks were bought on eBay though several dolls house suppliers also stock them, the cement bags were moulded in Fimo then painted and covered with tissue paper coated in PVA and painted to represent a tarpaulin. A piece of balsa wood was shaped with a knife and file before being covered in PVA and sprinkled with sand to represent the pile of sand. Everything was then stuck to a piece of plywood so the load could be easily removed.

Two open wagons have tarpaulin covers.

One cover was made from a piece of cotton fabric dyed green and attached with button thread to the wagon. This is not removable which isn't important as anything could be carried by the wagon in either direction. The other was made by draping a couple of layers of paper towel over a wagon protected with cling film, then soaking the towel in diluted PVA. When the PVA had dried, the cover was removed and painted with acrylic paint. As it has hardened to form the shape of the wagon it is removable.

Flat wagons

I have a range of flat wagons derived from various sources. Their loads are designed to reflect the needs of the rural locality served by the railway.

One wagon carries farm machinery.

The machinery is actually a couple of Brittains model ploughs bought on eBay and painted with red oxide primer. Although they are under scale, when clumped together they look suitably workmanlike and agricultural.

Another wagon is loaded with a tractor.

This was originally a resin cast moneybox, again bought on eBay. It is roped down to a couple of stripwood blocks glued to a piece of plywood.

One wagon is loaded with milk churns. This wagon tends to be attached to the first mixed train of the day and also to the afternoon mixed.

Because I needed quite a few and the cost of resin cast 1920s conical milk churns was prohibitive, I made my own using the ends of some cheap plastic party toys (see How I made some milk churns).

The match truck for the mobile crane is loaded with a mixture of  appropriate paraphernalia.

The jacks are white metal castings bought online from Garden Railway Specialists, the timber baulks are pieces of stripwood, the chain was bought from Cornwall Model Boats, the rope is a piece of garden twine and the toolbox was made from a piece of balsa with paperclip wire handles.

The permanent way wagon was similarly loaded with tools and other suitable oddments.

The bits and pieces are all from the Bachmann platelayers' accessory pack, weathered with acrylic paints.

Timber wagons

The sawmill at Peckforton (see How I constructed the sawmill) requires some quite specific traffic. As can be seen above, one of the open wagons carries sawn timber but the sawmill also requires the raw material, transported by various timber wagons.

Half a dozen stake wagons are loaded with plastic logs, glued together with Evostick and draped with chains. The logs can be removed as a unit.

Pit props of various lengths cut from twigs pruned from trees in the nearby wood were loaded on to some of the other timber wagons.

It seems that there was no standard length for a pit prop. Mines required a range of lengths to suit the needs of the tunnels below ground.

A large tree trunk was formed from a card tube, covered in paper towel soaked in PVA scrunched to represent bark. This was wedged into the stakes on the bolster wagons.

Tipplers and hoppers

I have two rakes of tippler wagons used to transport ore and spoil from the copper mine to the exchange siding at Beeston Market. One rake is permanently full and the other is permanently empty. The full rake runs up the line and is then swapped for the empty rake to run back down the line. There is a hidden link between the exchange siding and the copper mine to make the swap.

The tipplers have false floors made from plywood covered with PVA and then sprinkled with crushed sandstone.

There is also a rake of hopper wagons similar to those which ran on the Snailbeach and District Railways. These serve the sand quarry and so have removable loads of sand made in a similar way to the tippler loads.

A rectangle of 3mm plywood was cut to the same dimensions as the inside of the wagon, together with a piece of foam packaging (rescued from a parcel received in the post - I seldom throw anything 'useful' away!). Note: the foam can be 'tidied-up' later.

The foam was then stapled to the ply along three edges

Offcuts of foam were then squeezed into the pocket and the fourth edge stapled.

Battens from ply or balsa were then glued to the inderside of the ply (these varied in depth so the loads for each wagon would be non uniform).....

.... and foam was then given a generous coat of PVA and sprinkled with solver sand (the sand intended for children's play pits), .......

...... before being inserted into the wagon.


To my mind, the wagon loads add to the interest of trains running up and down the line. I really enjoy watching a mixed goods slowly meandering through the undergrowth and the logistical puzzles involved in shunting wagons at each station en route.

I need to make a few more loads of sawn timber for the stake wagons and probably need a few more varied loads for open wagons but, otherwise, I am reaching the stage where goods traffic on the line has reached its optimum level.

Of course, I could always make more loads than wagons - and swap them around a bit for variety. That would mean making some amendments to my home-grown freight management computer program (see My freight management computer program) - but, of course, that would make it better reflect the varied nature of goods traffic on a light railway in the 1930s....... I wonder what they might have to carry if the circus same to town???

Thursday, June 06, 2019

How I constructed a stone embankment from cast concrete

Having made a rake of Snailbeach style hopper wagons (see How I constructed a rake of Snailbeach hopper wagons - pending) and a set of loading hoppers (see How I constructed some loading hoppers from foamboard - pending) for the sand quarry siding, I realised that I needed to find some way for the loading hoppers to be filled theoretically with sand. For a while, I toyed with the idea of constructing conveyor belts or mechanical shovels, but these seemed to be beyond my somewhat limited constructional capabilities so, in the end, I opted for stone embankment behind the hoppers by which means 2' narrow gauge wagons could discharge directly into the hoppers.

The civil engineering aspect of garden railway modelling has always been of great interest to me, particularly working with concrete which seems to me to be an ideal medium for creating durable structures in the garden environment. Having already cast some overbridges (see How I cast some overbridges in concrete), station platforms (see How I cast concrete platforms) and loading banks (see How I cast a loading bank and How I cast loading docks), I felt I was up to the challenge of creating an embankment from cast concrete.

Firstly, I needed to measure up and prepare the site. This entailed uprooting some of the foliage and checking clearances for the loading hoppers.

I then dug foundations for the embankment, using a small trowel. As the embankment wasn't going to be bearing any appreciable weight, the foundations only needed to be around six inches (150mm) in depth.

I then made some shuttering from off-cuts of tongue and groove weatherboard which I had rescued from the set of my local amateur drama society following their staging of a play featuring three beach huts. I could have used plywood, but didn't have any off-cuts to hand.

The shuttering was roughly shaped to follow the contours of the existing rocks. Stonework courses were then marked on the inside of the shuttering.

A hot glue gun was then used to accentuate the mortar courses, thereby creating a mould for the concrete.

As the stonework was going to be 'undressed', the courses and stone blocks were fairly random in size and orientation.

The shuttering was then put into place and held firm with some bracing made from timber wedged against the rails or adjacent rock faces. At this point, I decided to remove a small fir tree which was going to be difficult for the track to circumnavigate. This revealed a delicate miniature rhododendron which had been swamped by its faster growing neighbour. I decided the rhododendron is a far more attractive plant for this spot.

A one inch layer of crushed rubble was put into the bottom of the shuttering, as much to save mixing more concrete as to act as a foundation. A 3:1 mix of builders' sand and cement was made, to which was added a couple of shakes of brown and red cement dyes. This mix was then carefully trowelled into the shuttering and tamped down with a piece of timber.

The concrete was left for two days and then the shuttering was carefully removed. I find it is better to remove shuttering while the concrete is still in its 'green' (crumbly) state provided I am very careful. I was then able to smooth off the top of the embankment (using the back of an old saw) and then scribe the stonework on the upper surface with a nail.

I also took the opportunity to tidy up some of the stonework courses which weren't as clearly defined. I also and carved indents at the ends of the embankment to take the timbers of the trestle which would be needed to support the track.

A 'timber' trestle at the end of the embankment was made from 5mm foamboard - joints reinforced with triangles of 1.5mm thick plasticard and 2mm diameter half-round nail art gems (from eBay) were applied to simulate bolt heads.

The trestles were then painted dark brown, and dry-brushed with increasingly lighter shades of brown to accentuate the wood grain effect. See How I constructed a set of loading hoppers - pending for more information on using foamboard to simulate wood. The trestle was glued into place using Gorilla Glue which foams to fill any gaps.

Peco 32mm narrow gauge track was then fixed to the embankment and chutes made from off-cuts of plasticard to allow Binnie skips to offload into the back of the hoppers.

Inevitably, there were some gaps which needed filling where the concrete hadn't managed to reach.

A small quantity of the 3:1 mix was used to patch up the fissures and, once it had gone green, the stonework was scribed on. 

Once the concrete had fully set, buff cement dye was painted roughly on to the mortar courses ........

......... and then various shades of cement dye (black, brown, red and buff) were painted on to the stone 'blocks' to give a little variation - stone walls are rarely uniform in colour - at least in this part of Cheshire.

Then (of course) the embankment and sand quarry sidings were tested a few times to ensure they came up to scratch!

On reflection, I probably wouldn't add dye to the concrete mix as the natural colour of the concrete could have been left rather than having to paint the mortar courses to highlight them. I would have preferred to have constructed the rockwork behind the siding after the track had been laid as this would have made building the embankment a lot easier. However, I suppose the meandering nature of the embankment gives the impression that it has been constructed to follow the existing landscape rather than vice versa.

I may have to realign the siding slightly, as it is very close to the first loading hopper. This is a relatively straightforward job - far easier than rebuilding the hopper! I need to figure out where the 32mm line will go at the far end of the embankment. I am favouring building another trestle to take it over the end of the siding before disappearing 'off- stage'. I could extend the border beside the stream and run the siding alongside it which opens up all sorts of other possibilities - but that will have to wait for another day!

Over time, the stonework will weather naturally and I am expecting moss and the ubiquitous Mind Your Own Business ground cover to infiltrate the rock face and fill various nooks and crannies.