Monday, 30 July 2012

Brace Position

I've been busy fashioning a few more of the most obvious features of the KMX tamper, such as the bracing girders and bars which stop the machine vibrating itself into oblivion as it goes about its work on the Welsh Highland.

In the picture below you can see the tie bar which runs across in front of the tamping head and to its right a rather more substantial lump of metal (or in this case styrene) across the smaller compartment which is yet to be filled with techy bits.

The blocks that the bar is fixed to on either side took a while to be knocked up with quite a few small tiny triangles to be cut and glued into place while there is some accurate drilling required as well.

You can see the same bracing structures mirrored on the other side of the tamper at the far end as you look at the picture above.

In the foreground in this view are the engine compartment doors. I made this as a one piece laminate structure which will be glued into place in the final stages of the build.

Oh, and in case you thought the cab roof looks a bit wonky, don't worry, These are just off cuts of styrene which are shoved in there to help keep the sides nice and square for the moment.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Head's Up

I have resumed work on a second KMX tamper - this one for a client in Australia.

It's been some time since I last did anything to it, partly because the client made the fatal mistake of saying that he wasn't in a hurry for it, and because I've been concentrating on other projects including carriages for Bron Hebog and my latest adventure with resin casting wagons.

However I have decided that it is time I got back to work on it and in the last few days I've been working on one of the stand out features of the model: the tamp head.

As with my own model, for this one I am using resin castings that I've bought in from Britannia Pacific Models who produce kits for 4mm scale standard gauge machines.

I am slightly adapting the castings, at the request of the client, who was one of the engineers responsible for converting the machine for use on the WHR, to show the tamp head as he intended it to be, rather than as it turned out.

In effect, and in non-technical terms because I am not very technical, it means a double tamp head on either side of a single frame, rather than single tamp heads sandwiching a frame.

I have added lumpy bits (another technical term) at the sides and drilled holes in them so that the whole tamp head assembly can be suspended on two horizontal bars as it is on the real machine.

Here it is in position.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

MOTW - 2042

I suppose this is what you would call a standard WHR carriage, if there were indeed such a thing.

2042 was the third and final of the original batch of third class saloons built for the opening from Caernarfon to Dinas by Winson Engineering. It was also the last to be sent for a full-scale overhaul at Boston Lodge Works which was completed in time for this season's running.

The design has been superseded by longer 13m carriages built at Blodge which also have proper disabled access with double doors at one end.

It was the last of the original carriages which I built, in styrene as usual.

It spent a number of years sitting unpainted in a drawer and, in fact, by the time Himself got around to finishing it off Blodge had already begun giving the Winson carriages a makeover, the most obvious changes being vertical strips of beading beneath every window pillar, the removal of the hoods above the opening windows and a change to the livery with the cream doors which are now standard on new-build carriages.

I did briefly consider taking the unpainted model back and attempting to rebuild it in the new style, but it would have been very tricky to remove so much detail without damaging the styrene panels beneath the beading. So in the end we decided to the full Winson rake kept in their original condition.

I may one day end up building replacement carriages in their current form but not for a while yet methinks.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Flat Out

So what do you reckon this basket of groceries is all about, then?...

I wouldn't have blamed the checkout operator if she gave me a few strange looks when I walked up with a jumbo roll of sellotape, cling film, furniture polish, cocktail sticks and a jar of Vaseline. Was I some kind of fetishist?

No. Just a slightly frustrated modeller trying everything he can think of in an attempt to get smooth, flat backs on his resin casts.

It's sometimes the case when using an open mould, as I am, that the top surface of the resin does not set completely flat but with a slight hump. I tried to improve matters by passing a flat edge along the top surface after it had been poured which helps a little, but you do get a bit of a bow wave effect which leaves the casting deeper at one end than the other.

So I consulted some of the village elders to see what they had to say. They all suggested placing something flat on top of the mould as the resin set. (It doesn't need to be exposed to the air, of course.) The difficult bit is how to stop the resin becoming stuck to whatever you put on top of it.

Suggestion one was a piece of clear plastic sprayed with cheap furniture polish, the cheaper the better.

Didn't work!

In fact, as Himself would say, it stuck like sugar to a blanket. (Perhaps something to do with the type of plastic I was using?)

Suggestion two was to wrap the plastic in cling film.

Not entirely successful.

The resin certainly doesn't stick to the cling film, but try as I might I couldn't get a flawless cling of film. When the resin was set the back of the cast was as rippled as a beach with the tide out.

I tried the polish again, but this time on glass.

Just as bad! In fact I had to chip the resin off the glass fragment by fragment.

By this time I was more than a little fed up. In fact I was rather grumpy and beginning to consider whether this resin casting lark was worth it?

I spent a few days after that in an exhaustive trawl of search engines to see if I could find anyone using any other methods.

I noticed how some people who do split mould castings mentioned using Vaseline as a cheaper alternative to expensive mould release sprays to keep the two halves from sticking to each other. And thinking more about my tribulations with cling film I also wondered whether there was any chance of using sellotape? I knew I would have half a chance of applying that to the plastic with no imperfections. The big question was would the resin stuck.

I experimented with both on an off cut of plastic. I covered one half with sellotape and smeared Vaseline on the other side before dropping on two small blobs of resin.

Success! The set resin popped off them both without a fuss.

I decided that sellotape would be the simplest and less messy solution to try first and went out and bought a roll of clear parcel tape. So far I have managed to cast four wagon sides with backs that are billiard table smooth.

I hesitate to declare that I've got this sorted once and for all because resin casting seems to have a habit of biting you on the bum whenever you drop your guard and dare to think you're the master of it, but just now the kit production prospects are looking a lot more positive than they were last week.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A Fourth Fairlie

I've finally got around to doing something about another long-time modelling ambition - a model of Livingston Thompson 1980's style.

Photo taken by the late John Halsall, courtesy of FR Society

This is the FR's fourth Fairlie that currently lives in the National Railway Museum at York, looking rather smarter than she does in the picture above, although that's how I'm going to model her.
First, a quick history lesson for those who don't know the background to this locomotive. (Those that do can skip on a few paragraphs if they wish..)

Livingston Thompson (or LT for short) was one of two Boston Lodge built Double Fairlies which survived the FR closure and was restored to steam in 1956, but by that time called Taliesin. (The same name the Single Fairlie carried. Confused yet? You will be....)

In 1961 it was renamed (again) Earl of Merioneth before being retired for good in 1971. A rebellion by FR staff and volunteers - the so-called Active Forty - headed off a plan to give the old girl a radical rebuild with a new parallel double boiler, and the (new) Earl of Merioneth we know and love (or perhaps even loath) was built to replace it and had its debut in 1979.

The old superstructure, ex-LT, ex-Taliesin & ex-Earl was stripped of any useful bits (like bogies) and placed in store until finally in 1986 it was placed on ambulance bogies and dragged up the line to Glan-y-Pwll by a gang who called themselves the Active Four.

Eventually a plan was hatched for a proper cosmetic restoration, the corpse was dragged back down the line again, got taken away to Winson Engineering where it was buffed up, plonked on a pair of withdrawn bogies and handed over the NRM for display, having been pulled halfway up the line yet again for a ceremony at Tan y Bwlch.

Photo - Roger Dimmick

(Here's where FR anoraks who knew all that can start reading again!)

I've always been fascinated by this loco, I think because I am too young to have seen it in steam.  I remember seeing a picture in the FR society magazine in the early 1980's showing the superstructure resting on a couple of slate wagons in a shed in Minffordd Yard, apparently unloved and forgotten about.

I've only ever seen it in its embalmed state when it came back to the FR for a visit a few years ago and got a really close look when we exhibited Dduallt directly in front of it as the centrepiece of the Warley show at the NEC.

Knowing that it had been towed at least twice around the spiral I have for years wanted to make a model of it like this to drag around on Dduallt behind our Earl of Merioneth. The difficulty has always been finding a kit to essentially ruin for the purpose. A Backwoods Miniatures one is quite obviously far too valuable to vandalise in this way, and even the old Langley whitemetal ones retail for a small fortune (for what they are).

So I was very grateful indeed when FR shop manager, in-house film maker, 009 modeller and 'Isle of Stoner' blogger John Wooden offered to give me one he had (with a few bits missing) for free.

Here it is with the main bits laid out. LT was stripped of a lot of its fittings before its lost decade and a half in Minffordd Yard, but happily all the big bits that remained on LT are there in the kit.

The big challenge on this project, aside from cleaning up and straightening out some of the shockingly rough castings, will be the scrapyard-style weathering job to be done on it. I hope it'll be an interesting one to watch.

Friday, 20 July 2012

On The Move

It occured to me while we were packing up the layout at Railex a few weeks ago that you might be vaguely interested in seeing how we transport the layout.

I've heard stories about a number of modellers who have built lovingly built their layouts but left it until the eve of their exhibition debut to give any consideration to the best way of transporting it about.

In a way I suppose it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation. The public doesn't generally get to see exhibtion layouts being set up or knocked down, so unless you've actually attended with your own or someone else's layout how are you to know how other modellers do it?

We transport Bron Hebog (or as much of it as there is at the moment) with the boards in pairs.

As you can see they are mated front to front and fixed with wooded transport panels at either end. The profile of the scenery and any structures or trees etc dicate how close they can be mounted.  As you can see in these shots, some are closer together than others.

In a neat piece of design Himself has arranged it so the metal dowels and clips which locate and the lock the boards to each other when the layout is assembled double up to locate and hold these transport panels on either end.

Being a 'belt and braces' man there is also a small bolt at the top and bottom just incase the panels should unclip in transit.

And here is a snap showing the tressels we use to support the layout at shows.  The larger one on the right goes under the widest section of the layout.  As you can see, they fit together quite neatly and are held in place with bungee straps for the journey.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

MOTW - Old Water Tower Base

I'm featuring one of the smaller features on the layout this week, but one of the bits of the layout which immediately identify it as Beddgelert.

Known by some people by other less flattering names - such as the 'manky water tower' - this 1920's concrete McAlpine structure is one of the few bits of WHR heritage left at Beddgelert station, especially now the pit next to it has been covered over.

Our model was made from styrene from measurements taken at the site.

The mankiness comes courtesy of some concrete effect paint, which has a sandy texture when applied.

The rusted bits of rails sticking out of it are - well - rails, in this case offcuts of some Peco 009 track.

Monday, 16 July 2012

En Vacance

I am back from my summer holiday. While you were enjoying (or perhaps that should be enduring?) a blow-by-blow account of the build of my prototype resin DZ wagon me and the family have been camping in Normandy for two weeks.

(And yes, the weather was as rotten as it was back in the UK, thanks for asking)

Much to Mrs Bron Hebog's chagrin - nice French pun, huh? - we invariably come across a railway of some kind or another on our adventures, and this trip was no exception.

As it happened our first encounter was with a model railway - and a massive one at that, too.

Tucked away in a delightful valley in a place called Clecy a father and son, the late Yves Crue and Emmanuel,  have spent 40 years creating a giant HO gauge layout. Here is just a small section of it.

As you can see, it is not Pendon - the unkind would label it an overgrown 'train set' - but I don't suppose it was ever intended to be a finescale masterpiece.

In its sheer scale it is hugely impressive. The models of the trains and the structures may be shiny and proprietary, but it is hard to see how two people could produce anything of this size in any other way.

The scenes are animated with great attention to detail and carefully lit. I thought the layout was at its most impressive when the room lights were dimmed during the running show.

In the darkness it was not so apparent  that the layout had been built from thousands of bits 'out of the box' and instead you feasted your eyes on a breathtaking miniature landscape - busy cities, small mountain villages, airports etc.
If ever you are passing through that part of the world I would heartily recommend you stop by and take a look. There is a website for it here.

Our other train encounter was to go velo-railing.

Those who closely follow developments in the top left hand corner of Wales may have heard of this because of a mooted scheme to use the abandoned Trawsfyndd branch for one of these attractions.

We discovered this one near our campsite in Etretat.  Here's how it works.

This is one of the Velo Rail contraptions.

There are spaces for 5 people on each of these vehicles. 3 on the plastic bucket seats and 2 either side sitting on saddles above a pretty standard set of bike cranks which drive chains connected to the rear axle.

The line runs for 5km from Les Loges down to Etretat.  You are sent off at intervals with at least 100m separation between the velo trolleys.

Frankly there's not a lot of cycling required other than to get the thing moving.  The line is on a steep gradient the whole way.  It's the nearest thing I've encountered to riding the FR's gravity train.  (Nothing could top that experience!).

The state of the track is a pretty authentic FR experience from 1954, too, as you can see.

The FR theme continues at the bottom. Once all the trolleys arrive they are followed down the line by a standard gauge train (no sign of any signally system - not even a 'Last Vehicle' sign or red flag on the final trolley as far as I could make out (!) - and the trolleys are coupled together, attached to the back of the carriage and hauled up, FR mixed train-style, to the top of the line.

I have not got the faintest idea what this old SNCF ruin is or was - perhaps one of my continental readers knows?.

This is the shunter thingy that dragged us - at little more than walking pace it must be said - up the hill.

Here is a link to the website for this velo rail operation.

I'll leave you with one final obeservation from our holiday in Normandy.

Like many thousand others we visited the D Day beaches and other sites associated with the fierce fighting between the Allies and the Nazis 68 years ago.

It was strange, ironic and very thought provoking that thousands of tourists to the American war cemetery had to queue to pass through full-scale airport-style security to get into the information centre, whereas in the German cemetery I stopped at near Avranches - which had been disguised within a hill so as to be unobtrusive because of sensitivities about it and what it represents - there were a handful of visitors looking around in complete silence and contemplation.

To me this juxtaposition poses many questions, and many fascinating possible answers, about the world we live in nearly 70 years on.

This is all a bit deep (and political) for a model railway blog.  We'll get back to the trains shortly.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

DZ Assembled

So the first DZ 'kit' is complete - and I have to say I'm quite pleased with the way it has turned out.

For the moment I've got it temporarily mounted on a pair of old Nine Lines bogies I have hanging around.

They are not going to be suitable for the finished wagon, however, because the axleboxes stick out so far they foul on the wee drop down door-stopping thingies and don't allow the bogies to swing very much at all.

Hopefully the other kind which Himself uses on the rest of our rolling stock will be a little slimmer and won't suffer the same problem.

And here it is after adding a few finishing touches, such as the cast brake gear bits which have been strung together with some 0.5mm wire and on each end one of the distinctive SAR handbrake wheels which were etched for me a while back by Worsley Works for my ballast wagon project.

I've already had a number of people asking about these wagons and have decided to make the castings available to other modellers.

I'll be posting more details over on the Boston Largs Works site.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

MOTW - Romanian Ballast Wagon

This is another of my most favourite scratch built models.

This wagon was built new for the WHR in Romania in 2006 and was apparently based on a four-wheeled standard gauge design for Austrian Federal Railways.

Whereas the ex-SAR wagons are very simple designs - just a big hopper with sloping ends - this Eastern European monster has one of the most complicated bodyshells I've ever attempted.

And even once you've got all the angles on the hooper (which is divided into two) sorted out you then have the challenge of replicating all the control rods and leves and the ballast chutes beneath the frame.

Unlike the SAR wagons this one discharges ballast along the centre line of the track as well as at the sides.

I was also very pleased with the way the various handrails, which I had to fabricate from brass myself, turned out.

This wagon is so complex that I doubt I would ever have attempted it were it not for a very kind contact on the WHR (who was very proud of their new toy) offering me a large scale General Arrangement drawing which, along with the photographs he supplied of the wagon, was invaluable during the build.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Kit Of Parts

I now have all the bits I need to produce my first resin DZ.

The moulds for the floor and ends have cured, the masters extracted and the first copies have been cast.

Laid out before you now is, effectively, a home grown kit for a WHR DZ wagon...

The type of resin I'm using means it's a bit of a race against time to get the stuff poured into the mould before it begins to go off and becomes too stiff to flow into all the places you want it to go.

You have about 90 seconds, according to the instructions. So while you want to work as swiftly as you can you also want to take care to do it as neatly as you can, to ensure it flows into all the right places and is as smooth and even on top as you can get it. (It doesn't necessarily level out perfectly because it sets so fast.)

I think I must be getting the knack a bit, though, because I managed to cast the floor, the ends and these wee brake bits from a single mix of resin.

Now the real test will be to see how well it goes together. Come back here in a day or two and I hope I'll have something to show you.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Brake Bits

I am a very lazy modeller and I don't mind admitting it.

I don't see the point in making a great effort doing bits that no one's ever going to notice. Or perhaps putting it another way, bits they'll never realise aren't there.

Normally on FR and WHR rolling stock the brake gear comes firmly into this category.

Most of the carriages sit so low that unless you get down on your hands and knees you really don't see a lot of what is underneath them. A few tanks and cylinders, yes, but not a lot of the brake gear is visible.

(It most certainly is audible, though!)

Unfortunately for me the DZ's are the exception to the rule. They are indeed the Katie Price of NG wagons - everything is out on display.

So I really don't have a lot of choice but to bodge up some bits and pieces representing all the thingamajigs and whatitsnames under the floor.

And yes, you've guessed it, I'm going to try and cast these too.

I'm not going to pretend that these bits are going to win any prizes for finescale modelling: if I wanted that then I'd be drawing up designs to be etched in brass.

They will be completely flat, so they won't have the joints and depth that a faithful replica would do, but that's not what I'm wanting to achieve here.

The idea is that it will create an perfectly acceptable silhouette of all the bits that are under the DZ's.

Very little assembly will be required except for drilling through a couple of holes and adding some lengths of brass wire here and there.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Ends

This resin casting business is in danger of becoming addictive.

I've already made masters for the sides and floor of the DZ and now I've got not just one end panel but two.

Applying my usual searing logic to the matter (who am I trying to kid?) I decided that it would probably be quicker and simpler to be able to cast both ends of the wagon at once.

An additional benefit is it also effectively doubles the working life of the mould. If, as the retailer suggests, the silicone is good for 20 castings, by doing two at a time I am potentially able to cast enough bits for 20 wagons, as opposed to 10, before I have to dig out the master and make a replacement mould.

So I will now be casting virtually a complete wagon - sides, ends and chassis - it's almost like I am producing my own kit.

Hmm, I wonder.....

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

MOTW - Curly Roof Van

It's hard to believe that it's eight years now since this most distinctive of FR vintage vehicles was reborn.

For me this replica of Van 1 is as symbolic as the gravity slate train is in showing how the revived FR has embraced its heritage once more.

The model is made from a Worsley Works 'scratch-aid' kit and runs on the same Parkside Dundas bogies as Van 2. (I still want to call it number 10.)

The unique curly roof was rolled from sheet brass by Himself - and what a cracking job he did on it, too - but the real challenge on this model was the high Victorian gold-lined livery.

After experimenting with bow pens and metalic ball pens we eventually settled on using the thinest waterslide gold lining we could obtain from the Fox range.  Himself did very well getting it into some very small spaces.

The Up end of the van (the blank end) is lined in white.

Somewhat unusualy I have had the priviledge of riding in this luggage van as a paying passenger.

The occasion was a vintage weekend a couple of years ago. It was Merddin Emrys offical relaunch / sponsor charter with a short rake of the FR's Victorian liveried carriages.

When number 15 developed a hot box and had to be detached at Blaenau it caused something of an acute accomodation crisis. It was typical Blaenau weather that October day - the rain was lashing down - so in the end about 20 or so of us decided to make ourselves as comfortable as we could in the central luggage section of the van for the journey back to Porthmadog rather than waiting an hour or so for the next service train.

With all the fussing about with 15 the train - now formed of just a Double Fairle, a bogie van, a 'bowsider' and a few four-wheelers - was running quite late when it eventually departed Blaenau.  I seem to recall it was considerably less late upon arrival back at the bottom of the line......

Monday, 2 July 2012

Floor Plan

So now I've got the sides of the DZ's more or less sorted, and a batch have been cast with reasonable success, it's time to turn attention to the rest of the wagon.

I've decided to try making the floor as a one piece casting. This is not so much because it's tricky or time-consuming, as the dented side doors are, but because I've already had a number of people enquiring about whether I would be willing to make some DZ's for them too.

I figured it would be no trouble for me to make the four floor units I need for my own fleet from scratch, but if I end up mass-producing these wagons (OK, perhaps I'm exaggerating slightly there) it would be so much easier to make a single master and cast others as required.

As you can see above, I've taken this a stage further by attempting to include as much of the underframe detail as I can, which in this case means a vacuum cylinder and a reservoir tank.

The cylinder is one of the unusual fluted types that the ex-SAR wagons on the WHR seem to have, which I have attempted to replicate.

The tank is a little but of a cheat. Because I'm not very experienced in this casting malarkey I'm only using one piece moulds at the moment, which means one face of the master has to be flat and you can't really have undercuts which means a fully cylindrical tank is out.

So instead this one has flat sides at the bottom - in cross-section is it an arch shape - but it's mostly hidden by the frame of the wagon and unless you actually picked up the model and turned it over I don't think anyone would ever notice.

That's the theory anyway. We'll have to see whether I get away with it...