Saturday, 30 August 2014

All Under Control

Both ends, or perhaps I should say, both levels of the fiddle yard have now had the track laid and the temporary control unit for shunting in the yard, which I mentioned in a previous post, has been installed.

To me it all seems very prototypically FR.

During the push back to Blaenau - and to a lesser extend through the WHR project - the railway had a series of short term infrastructure solutions that ended up becoming very much long-term, and for all I know our fiddle yard could end up being just the same.

You can see that Himself has laid out the lower half with the same pattern of sidings as the Caernarfon end.

Eventually we plan to have the control panel for all the point work and electrical sections mounted here at the rear of the layout with the 'drivers' plugging in hand held controllers at the front of the layout where they can combine train operation with public relations duties, ie. Gassing to the punters. (I foresee collisions and derailments)

The only question mark with this temporary set up is that Himself has not been able to test that all the wiring will talk to the rest of the layout because, short of hiring the village hall, we're not able to erect the whole thing to test it.

Set up time at Woking in three weeks could be very interesting....

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Happy Feet

In an ideal world all exhibition venues would have floors like a billiard table and you'd never have issues with getting your layout level and all the trestles standing square and stable.

Unfortunately the world doesn't work like that and over the years our layouts have been erected everywhere from giant international exhibition halls to village halls to Boston Lodge Works and Dinas Goods Shed.

That's why with a layout as large as Bron Hebog Himself is taking the precaution of installing these adjustable feet on the bottom on the legs which support the fiddle yard.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Splendid Isolation

There are a few tweaks needed to make the fiddle yards user-friendly for the operators at an exhibition.

If your layout is old-fashioned DC controlled, as ours is, then its handy to have some isolating sections to allow you to have two locomotives standing on the same road.

This gives you the option of either running round the train and putting same same loco back on the other end or bringing a fresh engine into the front to take the train for the return journey around the layout.

Himself has also installed the function to have a separate controller for the fiddle yard so someone can be shunting in there while someone else is taking care of the mainline.

Yes, yes, I know you could do all this and more with DCC but you're wasting your breath.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Cutting Styrene

In Glasgow, the city were I ply my trade, there is a tradition in the Clyde shipyards of having a bit of a do when they begin work on a new vessel.

It doesn't happen as much as it used to, of course, but happily it still does from time to time.

They call it 'cutting steel' and I remember being at the Govan yard when some bigwig - I can't remember who - ceremonially pressed the button on a giant machine to chop the first piece of the Type 45 Destroyers.

It always feels similarly momentous to me when I slice the first pieces of styrene to make a new model as I did last week.

Those of you who know your WHR carriages will have instantly recognised the outline of 2046, the newest of the carriages turned out by Boston Lodge.

This car is marked out by having big picture windows, rather like the original semi-open design, but with the addition of small sliding windows along the top where nearly all the other carriages have solid panelling.

The challenge with this carriage is that I've had to make my own drawing. My sources were unable to lay their hands on one for me but I was given a tip that the window pillars on this carriage were in the same position as some of those on the earlier trio of 13m saloons.

Once I'd worked out which ones were kept and which were done away with I was able to adapt a copy of the plans for the old carriages.

Hopefully it will turn out looking something like the one above.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Sidings

Himself has been finishing off the first draft of the fiddle yard track laying.

This is just a solution to get us up and running for the first couple of exhibitions with the complete layout - the first of which is less than a month away now - and it is by no means the finished design.

Himself got some of the stock out to test what length of trains we'll be able to fit in the sidings.

As you can see from the pictures we will be able to use the run round loops with a 7 car formation of WHR stock with a Garratt at one end.

The siding nearest the edge has a long head shunt which will be able to accommodate a 10 car rake and an NGG16.  The middle road is intended to act as the run round.

At least that's the idea - each of the operators will find their own way of utilising the track layout at shows.

For those of you wondering about the points - or turnouts if you must - they are a mix of the new PECO 'mainline ' range and the original 009 design.

At the moment it's just a case of using what we've got to get it up and running.

The points on the public side of the layout are hand made, but in a fiddle yard where the the point are switched by hand it's much more practical to use the proprietary product.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Some things have been sitting on my modelling 'To Do' list for years and the WHR KMX Tamper match wagon is one of them.

In the last few months, however, the stars have come into alignment and I think the day is drawing near where I might actually get around the building it.

The problem's always been I didn't have any measurements to work with and I wasn't sure what to use as the chassis. It would have been a case of attempting to adapt an N gauge wagon chassis.

Now, however, the 009 Society has produced an exclusive kit for members of RNAD wagons - exactly the kind used as the basis of the tamper match wagon.

So that's problem one sorted.

Then at last, after years of hiding from Himself on far flung or inaccessible parts of the F&WHR system the tamper and its match wagon broke cover and turned up at Boston Lodge so Himself seized the opportunity to take down its vital statistics for me.

The match wagon, however, is not at the very top of my priority list.  That honour belongs to a carriage and I'll be starting work on that any day now....

Monday, 18 August 2014

Busy With Ballast Wagons

There's a reason why the updates for the last few weeks have been mostly about the construction work Himself is doing on the layout, as opposed to what's on my workbench, because I've been occupied with building up a pair of my ballast wagon kits for a client.

They're part of a long-term agreement to put together a fleet of wagons for someone who's been a very good customer over the last couple of years.

It's no bad thing either to have to assemble some of my own kits because coming back to them after a year or so helps me to appreciate the customers' perspective and consider how future designs / instructions could be improved.

On this build, for example, I experimented with an alternative way of making up the ballast chutes, doing the internal structure first which seemed a little more straightforward.

I won't deny, though, that I'm itching to get back to building some models for myself and my 'To Do' list is lengthening with new subjects.

I'll probably post about some of those in the weeks ahead.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Track Plan

In preparation for the show at Woking, which is just a little over a month away now, Himself has begun laying some track in the fiddle yards.

It's intended to be a semi-permanent arrangement to get us through the first few shows.

The sidings are roughly in the positions we intend them to be, but for now they will be dead ends, whereas the eventual plan is to have them come together into headshunts at the far end to allow us to run round trains and avoid having to lift the locomotives off the track.

With 10 axle Garratts that is not a very desirable state of affairs!

You can see in these pictures how the track enters on a large balloon loop before fanning out into the sidings with an extra headshunt running parallel to the 'main line', where Conway Castle is sitting.

We'll probably use this as a stabling point for locomotives which can run onto the rear of incoming trains ready for the return journey, in turn releasing the incoming engine which take its place in the headshunt.

It's a lot less complicated than the traverser arrangement we employed on Dduallt and should be an idiot-proof solution while we're on the learning curve of the first exhibitions.

It needs to be!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Occupation Crossing

Himself was straight back down to work on Bron Hebog following his week away on the FR.

Some may take this as a manifestation of a guilty conscience. I couldn't possibly comment...

Progress so far this week has included more timber fencing around the many occupational crossings around the layout.

These are all built up, strip by strip, from styrene. It's a rather time-consuming process but the results look very good.

This is a crossing midway around the first loop of the S bend beyond Beddgelert station.

In the foreground of the pictures is the embankment, and bridge abutments, of the unfinished PB&SSR alignment which took a more direct and punishingly steep route north towards Rhyd Ddu.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Return To Sender

There's an easy trap to fall into when you're blogging of using your posts to have a rant.

It's something I've tried hard to avoid but I suppose it doesn't hurt to let off steam every now and then.

And the source of my displeasure today is our recently flogged off (far too cheaply) Royal Mail.

I've been very busy in the last few weeks casting yet another batch of SAR/WHR wagon kits to restock the Ffestiniog Railway shop - they've been selling them as fast as I can make them this summer.

I've got a job lot almost ready to dispatch and all I'm waiting on is a resupply of the brass bogie frets.

And this is where the postie comes in. Or more to the point, hasn't!

Despite being posted a week ago these frets have yet to turn up here and a little investigation (nothing gets past a trained reporter) reveals they have been ricocheting up and down the United Kingdom for the past seven days.

The package got to within a couple of hundred yards of my letterbox but it transpired there was one number missing on the address - an easy mistake to make - but as it was a signed for package my neighbour down the road denied all knowledge and refused to take it in.

The postie apparently scratched his head - because they don't wear caps anymore, standards have slipped! - and took it back to the sorting office where they decided to return it whence it came to the south coast of England.

(These bogie parts were, I believe, originally etched in deepest Argyll so they have recorded quite a considerable mileage by now..)

What annoys me is that apparently no one made much of an effort to attempt to redeliver them to the correct address and instead took the easy way out and returned them to sender.

It's not as if I'm unknown. They've been delivering mail to me at this address for 5 years! The postcode was correct, the street address was correct. Surely someone must have twigged?

For all I know the same postie most likely had other (junk) mail for my household which he pushed through my letter box just a few seconds later. But it appears not to have registered.

Thinking about it some more I am astonished that an organisation such as the Royal Mail - which came up with the postcode system for goodness sake! - doesn't have a database where they can tap in a name and a postcode and match them up with a house number.

I bet any number of double glazing firms or ambulance-chasing let-us-sue-for-u merchants have that data at their fingertips. But not, it appears, the postie.

I am, as you might have gathered, ever so slightly peeved.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Russell Returns & Baldwin Beckons

There have been exciting Narrow Gauge developments in recent weeks.

In the real world Russell has returned to service on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway following a long, and thorough overhaul.

I suspect I am not alone in wondering how long it will be before the old boy ventures onto the original formation once again. (The last time was trips from Dinas to Waunfawr)

Of course here on Bron Hebog Russell has already returned to Beddgelert and hopefully soon this scene will no longer be just a piece of modeller's licence.

The other exciting news is that Bachmann is dipping a toe in the OO9 market and has announced plans to make a ready-to-run model of the Baldwin 4-6-0, and some WD wagons, as tie in to commemorations of 100 years since the start of the Great War.

This is amazing news because I have hankered after a model of a Baldwin ever since I saw 778 running on the WHHR a few years ago.

The railway is in the process of restoring another survivor to run as number 590, the loco used on the original WHR, which is one of the versions Bachmann is proposing to build.

Although body kits for Baldwins have been around for decades I've always been put off by the lack of a realistic chassis option because there is noting that has the distinctive gap between the 2nd and; 3rd axles.

We have already put in an order for a model of 590.

We may have to wait around a year for it to appear. How long, I wonder, before a real Baldwin steams back to Beddgelert?

Now finally, there is an issue for the Bron Hebog HR dept to address.

You may have heard of a story which cropped up here in Scotland a couple of weeks ago where it emerged one of the volunteers taking part in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was (allegedly) doing it having told her employers she was on sick leave.

Her cover was blown, so the story goes, when her bosses, watching the show on TV, noticed that one of dancers looked strangely familiar.

I guess she hadn't considered that....

Well something similar has happened to Himself.

He's been caught on camera skiving from the task of getting Bron Hebog ready for its next exhibition in a few weeks time and is instead apparently having a jolly good time in North Wales.

He's clearly forgotten that I have spies everywhere.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Test Train (VIDEO)

As if the teaser snaps of the tamper posed in on the new section of Bron Hebog weren't enough here's something even more exciting!

One of the first test trains in Cutting Mawr caught on film.

Appropriately it's Conway Castle and mess coach 1000, a typical construction train formation Himself has chosen for the task.

It was a genuine test train to check the wiring of the new sections of track.

Conway Castle, was our very first OO9 locomotive, built 25 years ago from a Chivers Finelines kit, mounted on an Ibertren chassis and still going strong.

It is, of course, in the wrong livery for use on Bron Hebog and building a replacement body has been on my To Do list for a long time now.

If you'd like to see more pictures of our veteran 'Conk Out' then here's a link to a post I wrote about it a couple of years ago, or you can take a look at the Model of the Week archive - its on the menu over on the right hand side of the page.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Tamper At Work

As I mentioned in the previous post, Himself has been finishing off the job of ballasting the remaining sections of newly laid track on the scenic boards built over the last 9 months or so.

As as every permanent way engineer knows, track should be properly tamped before trains are allowed to run over it...

So here, for your enjoyment are a couple of shots of our KMX at work in Cutting Mawr.

Looks quite at home, doesn't it!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Walls & Ballast

Some mundane but nevertheless important progress to record as Himself continues to get the layout into something approaching a state fit to be shown to the public next month.

Over the summer he has prioritised getting all the boards and trackbed complete so that the full extent of the layout can be shown.

Now it's a process of going back and completing the basic scenic details such as spreading and fixing the ballast on the newly laid track and painting the plaster cast walls - in this case on one of the boards at the right hand side of the layout, as the public sees it.

To help you orientate, the square in the middle of the walls is where Cwm Cloch farmhouse will sit (that will be an empty building plot at the show at Woking) and track curving away to the top left is heading off into the forest and towards Rhyd Ddu, or in this case the fiddle yard.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Nearly Finished Yard

Just the track to go now!

I say 'just' but we haven't worked out how much track and in what position yet...

Even so Himself has got these three boards built very swiftly and I think they look quite swish.

They run the full length of the back of the layout.

You can clearly see the step half way along which marks the division between the top and the bottom yards.

The difference doesn't look very much but if fact the track does dip down / rise up towards each end of the scenic section out front to reduce the differential behind and leave open the possibility of having a continuous run loop at the back.

So at some point in the future Himself might cut a 'ski ramp' into this structure to enable through running.

That's all in the future. Just now the priority is to make the layout run in a basic format at Woking next month.

There was some debate about whether we needed to fit folding legs to the middle board or whether it would be enough for it to be suspended between the outer ones.

In the end, as you can see, we did.

This was mainly because I had visions of miscommunication during setting up or break down at an exhibition resulting in one of the end boards being pulled away prematurely and the middle one coming crashing the ground.

Belt and braces as always....