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...