Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A4 finished

No, not one of Gresley's finest, but the A4 turnout I was building.

I finished it off in a couple of hours at the weekend. This is the end product.

The sleepering through the turnout is Scalefour Society ply & rivet build. The dark brown sleepers at the ends are ones cut individually from C&L trackbases.

The whole thing is stuck down firmly on my test-track/reviewing board. This serves the purpose of allowing me to look at a vehicle to see if it is "right", to test the fitting of the Sprat & Winkle couplings, and to see how it runs through pointwork. Not as good as a full shunting plank or test track, but a sight easier to have on a workbench.

There is a tie-bar fitted that I _think_ that I got from the Scalefour Society.

Although you can see it is soldered in place, I have yet to work out a latching mechanism. I may drop into Maplin tomorrow to see if I can find some form of surface-mounted switch that does the trick, possibly in conjunction with an Omega loop as well to take up the extra movement.

What to do next? Hmmm... Let's wait and see.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Do you tin?

I've just spend a pleasant five minutes tinning the tops of all my rivets in my turnout sleepers

It may have been completely unnecessary (or it may not...) but it seemed that it helps speed the formation of the solder joint.

I've never done it before but it was rather therapeutic - just a pinhead of 188 solder cream and a wipe of the iron. Alas, two days away on business in Amsterdam mean that it will be the end of the week before I get a chance to do any more. Still, I have the 1:4 vee filed up and fitted now. One more decent session, as opposed to snatching a quick ten minutes at the end of the evening, and this thing will be built!

Riveting stuff

I had some time free on Sunday afternoon, so I thought that I would gather the tools together to turn my miscellaneous crossing timbers into something that I could construct a turnout from. First, gather the tools...

I used to have a lovely solid aluminium sawing block - the type that you clamp to the edge of a workbench - that was great for peening rivets over on. Sadly, that has disappeared in the mists of time, so i had to look for an alternative. That's the very solid block of steel making up that set square, so that will do nicely. It's propped up on the end of my soldering sponge just so that it is level.

For actually turning over the tubular rivets, of which a few can be seen in the foreground, by using the centre punch on the left. I use it unconventionally, by turning it upside down and tapping (okay, belting it quite hard..) on the pointy end with the small hammer on the right. It usually needs three or four taps to get the back of the rivet level with the sleeper, and then it's closed for good.

The most problematic bit that I found was getting the rivets into the holes in the sleepers. I had problems lining them up in the first few sleepers, and then I snapped one by mis-aligning the rivet with the hole and pressing too hard. So after that, I just reamed slightly out the holes so that they slipped in more easily. But it just shows that even on the simplest tasks it's possible to make mistakes.

I had a second template stuck down with double-sided tape, with more tape on the front to hold just the ends of the sleeper. After each sleeper was riveted, I transferred it to the appropriate position on the second template.

And after they were all in place, I dug in the spares box for some rail parts that I could recycle to save making them again. I found a pair of point blades, and a pair of wing rails.

Some work with a fibreglass brush and they'll be ready to use again. But first I need to make the 1:4 angle vee, as that is the part from which I remember that the pointwork is built from. I really should dig out the Scalefour Society Digest sheet on building turnouts, rather than trying to do it all from memory ;-)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Fish 'n' strips

Fishplates and crossing-timber strips to be precise...

In a quick ten minutes before a trip out of the country earlier this week, I fired up the soldering iron to add a couple of fishplates to the length of test track that I made. There's only one (fake) rail joint, but I want things to look good.

I'm using Colin Waite etched brass fishplates, and whilst the basic etching is good, the fitting method is a right PITA! The problem, in my hands, is that the two plates for the two sides of the rail are linked by a brass strip to make a H-shape. This means that they don't get lost so easily, and in theory it is possible to attach them by clamping them in place with no solder or glue involve.

The theory is fine, but I found that in practice the springiness in this joining strip actually kept them away from the rail. It also made it difficult to align them properly. I wanted them to stay in place, so soldered them in place, with the iron turned up high and a quick in-and-out so that I didn't melt the plastic chairs. Looking at the photo below, I wasn't that successful with the soldering :-(

The solder paste that I had didn't help. It's Carrs 188 stuff, which is normally excellent. However I hadn't used this stuff for (literally) several years, and it was starting to get very thick, and gave rise to some very blobby application, which shows in the messiness of the end result.

Thankfully, Brian Lewis of C&L (vendors of the Carrs range) runs the Finescale list, and very shortly after posting a question about what could be done to revive the solder paste, he replied with the information that I could use Green Label flux to let it down a bit. And now it's back to as good as new :-)

The strips bit relates to the fact that next to the plain track, I'm building an A4 turnout for testing purposes. From my last stretch of P4 track-building I still had a bag of cut and punched sleepers from various turnouts. Not referenced, of course, that would be too easy.

So in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle, I spread them on the bench next to the template and matched the individual lengths and holes to the relevant places on the plan. Now I've never tried to build an A4 turnout before in my life, so I know that these are all stolen from B6, or B8, or double slips, or whatever. But they fit, and now I have the full set of timbers to start work with.

I know that I've got some blades and vees from other projects that I have in a bag somewhere, so I'll rummage through those as well, although I'm certain that I'll have to make the A4 vee from scratch.

Now out with the double sided sticky-tape!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Stealing Children's Toys...

No, not a raid on the Thomas the Tank Engine trainset for some rolling stock, but an inspired source of one of those things that you can't easily find elsewhere...

As part of setting up my short test track, I want to be able to check the operation of the Sprat & Winkle autocouplers. For a piece of board, I can't and don't want to set up an electromagnet beneath the board - too large and too easily knocked, and needing to be wired in to a power supply every time something is tested. However to get hold of a small button magnet to put under the level of the sleepers was also problematic.

Maplin sells them, for use with reed switches, but at over a quid a shot, a few for testing purposes would be pricy. I didn't have anything like spare kitchen cabinet catches to dismember, so I was feeling a little stuck. And then inspiration struck...

My nine year old stepson has a number of plastic "bones" with magnets in the ends so that they can be stuck together to make sculptures or designs. He won't miss one, will he? A quick snip with the modelling pliers and I've liberated two button magnets that are about 5mm across and 3mm deep.

Then I got my Dremel out, and drilled a shallow hole between the sleepers in the board. A couple of taps with a hammer on the end of a drift, and the magnet is tightly in place. I've popped a drop of superglue in for security, and that should be that.

The photos show the board, and then the close-up of the magnet and the "bone" that I got it from. The intact one I will be slipping back into his room later tonight - I don't need *that* many for a test track.

The magnet fixed in place:

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Sleeper spacings

Two separate days on business in Amsterdam this week, and an evening seminar in between means that there has been precious little time available for any modelling. However I managed to find a quick ten minutes last night to knock up a quick jig that will help with future jobs.

The period that I'm going to be modelling is Great Eastern Railway, circa 1909/10. The exact date hasn't yet been fixed, but it will be around then. Thanks to Adrian Marks on the Templot forum, I have plenty of information on the different types of track formation that would have been used.

At this date, the quieter branchlines of the GER would still have been laid with rail in lengths of 30 feet, if not even the earlier 24' length. A standard was established in 1883 (rather than 18.83!) set that there would be eleven sleepers per thirty foot section.

I am knocking up a quick piece of board in order to sit rolling stock on to check buffer height, coupling alignment, etc, etc. This is just on a small offcut of wood pinched from the back of the garage. It's conveniently long enough to fit two 30' legths of plain track on it, and next to it I can put an A4 turnout that will be a test to see how stock runs over pointwork and crossings, and will be a good proxy for some of the more severe curves that will be found within the to-be-built brewery.

Adrian provided a set of measurements for the sleeper spacing of this rail length, so I printed off his diagram, and then transcribed the markings at 4mm to the foot on the side of a piece of stout card.

This was then placed next to the length of track that had already been prepared with
separated C&L sleepers taken from the individual P4 trackbase panels. These work very well on their own, but they don't simulate the variable spacing around rail joints and the large gaps between sleepers that I wanted to capture.

The spacing marks on the card could then be easily aligned with the centre of the chair on the outside of the rail for each sleeper.

A bit of shuffling around, and we have one prototypically spaced length of GER track. The railhead is notched with a piercing saw to simulate the gap between the railends, and I'll add an etched brass fishplate to the join afterwards.

I'll now attempt not to nudge the sleepers out of position (being separated from each other means that they do move more easily out of alignment) and when all is square I'll glue it down to my bit of nicely varnished board.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Hoorah for Alan Gibson!

I had a call on Saturday from Colin at Alan Gibson saying that he had an order for me ready for shipping. On Tuesday I had a card through the door saying that the Royal Mail had a package for me to sign for, And finally today, I was able to go down to the post office and collect a stout brown box with my name on...

And inside were :-)

I haven't opened the boxes yet, but they should both have a full complement of P4 wheels included, and be ready for full springing on all axles. Excitement!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Slipping away

Recent discussion on the Scalefour Society's web forum gave a cautionary word to someone that was planning their first P4 layout and had included in the trackplan a three-way point. Advice was along the lines of sucking between the teeth and saying that it might be a bit tricky - but it was generally positive. The episode coincided with me finally deciding to get rid of the second ever piece of pointwork that I ever built in P4. Mind you, looking at the picture below, of how I found it in a box of other railway bits, you'll see why:

It was a double slip - a B8 I think - and despite not having survived countless house moves, it shows what can be done with a bit of determination. The first ever point that I built in P4 was a B6 turnout on copperclad. Like this, it was just to prove that I could do it. I think that looking at the centre section of the slip shows that I could.

So the message to those contemplating P4 track for the first time is to have no fears. Indeed, with the P4Track Co turnout kits, life should be a lot easier...

Friday, 30 October 2009

When broader isn't always better...

Over the last couple of days I've been finishing off my first restoration wagon by fiting Sprat & Winkle couplings to it. Yes, I know that it's taken a long time to get this far, but I've been thinking - a lot...

As a P4 modeller, normally I would have a preference for broadness - 18.83 looks better than 18.2 or 16.5 for example ;-)

However my plan to use a wider loop for the coupling isn't very satisfactory. Having decided that I'd like a width of 12mm to ensure that there would be plenty of swing from side to side on the sorts of curves that I'm anticipating on industrial sidings in a brewery, it simply doesn't look very good...

On the left, the new width. On the right, an older wagon with a much narrower loop. Despite being made out of much thicker wire, I think that it's much less obtrusive. Time for a change of plan (and the gauges that I have set up for making these consistently).

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Scaleforum - the hangover

Well, not in a bad way. I have finally managed to get some time earlier today to get started with some of the modelling kit that I bought at Scaleforum.

I've used the Brassmasters wagon wheelbase jig to straighten out the w-irons on my LNWR ballast restoration job. It now sits squarely in the runnig gear, only to reveal that the body is not the straightest thing that I've ever built :-(

Never mind, perhaps it suffered a rough shunt in a previous life. At least with sprung buffers it will not be adversely affected by the misalignment when it's running.

The next challenge that I'm facing is that of getting the Sprat & Winkle couplings set up properly. If I'm every going to get consistent running, then I ned to find a way of easily making these consistently. I'm working on some ideas, but it's more frustrating than I could possibly imagine! I seem to need about four sets of (asbestos) fingers to hold everything together in the right place whilst glueing/soldering the parts together...

Oh well, not much chance to do anything in the next few days, as I'm off for a week on a Dutch language course. I'll have very little free time, so perhaps a little browsing of the new-look RMWeb will be all that I can manage.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Scaleforum - OMSL #3

Well, it's the night before Scaleforum and I'm adding the last things to my shopping list...

Alan Gibson waisted pinpoints - if I'm getting the wheelsets, then I need the bearings. The ones with the metal cutaway so that they are like a little Mayan pyramid (but obviously without the human sacrifices) in shape, and which mean that there is much less metal or plastic that needs to be removed when modifying axleboxes to fit over them. It may mean throwing away, or at least popping in the spares box, perfectly good parallel shaped bearings, but the improvement in ease of fitting makes it so much more worthwhile.

Piece of aluminium for RSU - I have one of the superb London Road Models resistance soldering units. I've never been very happy about earthing the workpiece through a piece of scabby brass sheet that was sitting around. I think that I need to look at Eileen's Emporium (now under new ownership!) for a piece of proper aluminium sheet that I can use for a more professional set-up.

And that's it. That's my shopping list. Of course, there's still plenty of room for the impulse purchases ;-)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Scaleforum - OMSL #2

Further thoughts on what I need on my shopping list...

- an airbrush moisture trap. I've never had one, and thankfully never had bad results from spraying, but from reading so many articles saying that they help get a good finish, I think that it's about time.

- weathering colours. More precisely, the list of paints recommended by Martyn Welch in his invaluable book, "The Art of Weathering". He produces all of his effects from the artful use of a very limited range of colours, all from the Humbrol range. To save ploughing through the whole text in search of them, they are:

- 33 Black
- 62 Leather
- 82 Orange
- 53 Gunmetal
- 64 Grey
- 112 Tarmac
- 133 Bauxite
- 9 Gloss Tan
- 110 Natural Wood
- Metalcote Gunmetal
- Metalcote Polished Steel

I intend to keep these separate in a box so that can force myself to ONLY use these in a weathering palette, and then I shoudl get consistency in the shades and effects across all of the models that I paint.

Oh, and I did a quick check to start working out how many wheelsets I would need from Alan Gibson. I have 38 (thirty eight!) unmade D&S wagon kits alone... Whoops!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Scaleforum - OMSL

In a blatant steal of a title from RMWeb, with Scaleforum 2009 only about a month away, I've started thinking about what I need (or simply would like!) to stock up on. The list so far (and this post will be edited as I go along) is:

- miniature snipe nosed pliers. When I started dismantling the wheelsets and w-irons on the LNWR open that I'm repairing, I wanted to twist back the lugs on the rocking w-iron, and found that I didn't have a precise way of doing it. In the end I used a pair of flat-ended pliers, but I need a proper tool to enable me to work with more precision.

- a w-iron spacing jig. One of these, in fact - as I found that the Bill Bedford gauge that I have works perfectly for setting up parallel axles, but doesn't work at all when checking already-fitted pinpoint axles.

- wagon wheels. I've just realised how many unmade wagon kits I have, and how many sets of wheels they will need. Alan Gibson will do remarkably good business off me...

- waisted pin-points. If I need the wheels, I need the bearings as well, and these type might mean that you have to junk the ones that arrive with some wheels or in kits, but they are sooooo much easier to use than filing or drilling big chunks out of the back of an axlebox.

More on this post in future as I think of other things to add :-)

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Restoration Chronicles - Squaring up

Time to illustrate the progress so far. The picture below shows the transverse spacer .bar that I've put in to hold apart the two sides, and one of the slivers of plastic strip that I've inserted between the lead flashing and the wagon side. There is one on the nearer side as well - it is obvious that the Daywat used for sticking the chairs to this lead also dragged in the body planks as well.


In the background is an axle spacing jig from Bill Bedford. An excellent piece of kit, but not suitable for helping solve for problem that I found underneath this wagon. More later on that, and adjustments to both my thinking on this wagon, and rocking W-irons in general in my next post.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Paranoid? Moi?

We've all heard occasional stories of tyres becoming detached from wheel rims in use. Less frequently discussed, but probably more prevalent is the chance of a wheelset moving around on an axle during use. Well, I've decided that I'll try and eliminate that risk.

So after double checking each wheelset with a Scalefour Society gauge, I'm applying a tiny smear of superglue to the join between the back of the spokes and the axle. Hopefully that means that they will stay set in place, and one more variable that can cause problems with consistent running is removed.

The Restoration Chronicles - Brute force and ignorance

Well, it's been a while... The combination of stupidly long hours at work and a couple of scheduled holidays mean that it's been far too long since I did any modelling. After a couple of days riding motorbikes around Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire, I now ache too much to do anything more than a bit of gentle modelling.

The brute force is the way that I finally decided to restore the wagon sides to near-straightness. I have decided that if I try and use heat or more solvents, then I just risk making things worse. So I have slid a knife blade down to separate the sides from the lead flashing that is inside the wagin and provides some weight. After this, I've gently eased the sides out with my fingers, and it seems to have worked. What I will do is put a couple of slivers of plastic card down into the newly created gaps to pack them out, and add a plastic cross-brace across the middle as well. Hopefully this will be sufficient to maintain things in a linear fashion.

And the ignorance? Well, I'm still ignorant about exactly what diagram of LNWR wagon this represents. More fundamentally, when on earth was a Permanent Way Department wagon doing on a Great Eastern branchline in the Herts/Essex borders?

So with that as a thought, and in order to avoid the side-warping effects of Daywat Poly on normal plastic mouldings, I've decided that I'm not going to try and replace the C&L chairs that were previously the load. There are a couple still firmly glued to the floor, but the rest have been levered off the lead flashing and thrown away.

There will be a couple of LNWR wagon sheets used to cover the weights, and the reason why it is traversing Essex? Well, it had a hot box and had to be diverted to the nearest repair shop, which happened to be on the GER. Simple!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Restoration Chronicles - A pause for thought

Hmmm... Life is never easy, is it?

In my last post, I was thinking that the greatest hurdle to overcome in restoring the LNWR two plank wagon would be to restore the warped dropsides to some form of straightness. Wrong! I've actually made pretty good progress on that particular task, and they only need a final bit of tweaking (I can't decide whether by the use of solvent, or a carefully waved soldering iron) to get there.

The biggest problem has been to find out what the wagon actually is...

I know that it comes from the Ratio set of four permanent way wagons - I even have an unmade set of the same at home, sitting here next to me. The problem comes that the kit instructions are brief to the extent of not even including any prototype details. They give an LMS painting scheme from 1923 to 1947, and that's it!

I emailed Peco today, as they now seem to be the manufacturers of the Ratio range, and had the helpful response: "Thank you for your Email. Unfortunately we do not have any extra information other than the details supplied with these kits."

So a blank there. I have a copy of the excellent "LNWR Wagons Volume 1" but this only covers the main commercial types of wagon. I assume that the departmental and more esoteric stock was intended to be left for Volume 2. Nevertheless, Appendix 2 of Volume 1 gives me some clues.

There is a ballast wagon listed with a 16ft body (which the kit scales out at) under Diagram 62. However even the very useful LNWR website doesn't list this diagram.

So does anyone else know what the correct prototype for the Ratio kit actually is???

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Restoration Chronicles - LNWR 2-plank wagon

First on the workbench, and number 1 in my fleet of somewhat eclectically recorded list of vehicles is an LNWR two-plank permanent way wagon.

This was built from the Ratio four-pack of wagons which I believe is still available.

To fit in with the permanent way purpose of the wagon, it is part-loaded with some C&L chairs, doing the job of covering up the lead sheet with which it is weighted.

So, what needs restoring? Initially, the diagnosis is quite promising:

- all of the buffers have survived, and are still freely sprung. No work needed there.

- The single sided brake gear is intact. Looking at it end-on, the lever guard is angled in slightly at the bottom, and could do with correction. I suspect that is a construction error that I made when I originally built this. Something to correct though, if possible.

- The wagon is fitted with compensated w-irons – de rigueur at the time that it was built. However the rocking one could do with a little bit of tightening up to stop it being quite so floppy. I think that I can get away with better trackbuilding, and less suspension movement in future. I suspect that my earlier attempts were overly influenced by the words of Iain Rice and his preference for light railway quality permanent way.

- even the bump stops that exist to protect the brake gear from the weight of the wagon side as it swings down are intact. On both sides. Which raises an interesting question.

Even if the long-lost kit instructions explained it, would bump stops (and the corresponding bash-plates be found on the wagon side that doesn’t have brake gear that needs protecting? My guess would be that yes, it does, as the stops would also stop damage to the axleboxes by the side swinging into them.

I’ll have to look for a prototype photograph to make sure…

Things that definitely do need work include replacing a number of the chairs where they have fallen off over the years.

Also, and this is the biggest problem of all, an aerial view shows that where I have piled the chairs against the side of the wagon, and glued them in place, the solvent has made the wagon side bow in. This really does need straightening out to be convincing.

The issue of coupling standards also needs to be addressed. More on the coupling dilemma at a future date, but even though the Sprat & Winkles on this have survived, I need to consider if they are of the right dimension for the future.

Enough typing for now. Time to pick up a knife and start work…

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The first post is the hardest...


Welcome to my trials and tribulations, musings and mutterings, successes and failures, as I try to remember how to model in P4 after a gap of more than ten years of idle armchair occupation.

Why Beer and Buckjumpers?

The Buckjumpers bit sort of suggested itself. Wherever I’ve lived, the local railway history has always attracted me – from the bucolic GWR branchlines of Worcestershire to the gritty LNWR environs of West Yorkshire I’ve been interested in the industrial archaeology of my surroundings. Now that I’m living on the Herts/Essex/Cambs borders, the byways and eccentricities of the Great Eastern Railway have caught my eye.

And the Beer? Well, mine’s a pint thank you. I wasn’t aware of brewery railways until recently, but since then I’ve found it a fascinating topic to research. You will read more about the background to my small bit of hypothetical history in future, but for now it gives me the opportunity for some industrial light railway quirkiness, a genuine purpose to a timetable and wagon movements, and some incredibly photogenic buildings.

This blog will take some random turns as it progresses. To start with, there is no layout – only some ideas and images floating around in my head. There’s also a backlog of past misdemeanours to correct, so watch out for what (with very due cause) I’m entitling “The Restoration Chronicles”.

I'm also keeping a thread on the Scalefour Society forum. It's at and you'll find it in the "layouts" area. You don't have to be a Society member to read the Forum, and as a non-member you would be very welcome to post to the Guest Book. You never know, you may even fancy joining yourself...

So for now, I’m off to start some modelling.