Tuesday 28 December 2010

Trouble comes in threes

I couldn't face a return to the computer last night, so it's a post-event write-up...  They say that trouble comes in threes, and yesterday proved the truth of that.  After the gearbox glitch, and the tender hornguide hiatus, came the soldering iron woes!

I thought that I'd do something very straightforward and knock up some wagon suspension for a little side-project (of which more in a couple of days time).  I switched on my Antex TC660 soldering station, the "heating" light flashed once, and that was it :-(

Much switching on and off, dismantling, probing, etc, etc, and it still did exactly the the same.  Flashed once for heating, the element got _slightly_ warm, and nothing more.  My suspicions are that the temperature sensor in the element has died, so that it gets to the minimum level of heat (75 degrees C) and then switches off.  Replacement elements are available, but not readily on a bank holiday evening.

Fortunately, my nearest Maplin is only ten minutes drive away, and after a quick phone call to confirm that they woul be open until 6pm, I whizzed off down there for a replacement soldering station.  It's Maplin's own model, 48W, and with a digital temperature display.  With a packet of spare bits, it cost me 55 quid as an emergency purchase, versus about £30 for a replacement element for the Antex - not that I could have got one until the New Year anyway.

It does the job, but I have to say that I don't like it as much as the Antex.  The iron itself is more bulky, and somehow feels more "clumsy" to use.  The bits don't seem as well built, and are not as fine to use and don't seem to hold the solder on the bit cleanly.  And the up/down temperature control is not as quick to use as the dial on the Antex.

All this makes it sound as though the Maplin iron is rubbish.  It's not.  However I've clearly been spoiled by the Antex, and I'll be getting a new element for it as soon as I can.  I can then keep the Maplin station as a spare in case the Antex dies again.

So that is my three items of bad luck out of the way!  Let's hope that is it for the festive season...

Monday 27 December 2010

A couple of glitches

Just when it was all going so well...  Actually, the two glitches that I've hit that will disrupt progress for a little while are not the fault of the Alan Gibson kit.  It's solely due to the way that I'm building it using CSB suspension, and the learning points involved in that.  Again, no fault of the theory or practice of CSBs, just that they need alternative approaches.

The first glitch arose last night when I started putting together a High Level RoadRunner+ gearbox to use in the Y14.  I picked up a couple of these at Scaleforum, knowing that they are lovely quality items.  However, when i got it part-built, I tried it between the frames and...

The gearbox is too wide to go between the axleboxes.  I've already thinned as much as I dare from the back without losing the High Level beam-fixing tags, but there is still a lot to lose before it will go.  So I've put the chassis to one side, and will phone in an order for a couple of SlimLiner+ gearboxes after the New Year.

I may also get chance to pick up one of the High Level mounting point jigs for CSBs at the same time.  They were so popular at Scaleforum that Chris had sold out before I could get to his stand.

With progress on the loco stalled, I thought that I would have a crack at the tender.  This should be pretty straightforward, and again would have CSB springing all round.  I have more High Level 2mm axleboxes and hornblocks in stock, so the first thing that I did was get them out for mounting in the (inner) tender chassis frames.

The Alan Gibson frames come pre-milled with cutouts for the standard AG hornblocks for springing.  Unfortunately, these holes are actually larger than the entire High Level hornblock, including the mounting plate.  

So I'll have to make up some frame sides of my own, and go from there.  Not enormously difficult, but a little tedious with a piercing saw.  So that's for another day.  In the meantime, I'm going to knock up something quick and easy...


Saturday 25 December 2010

Detailing the chassis

A few pieces of brass strip, and couple of bits of bent wire, and a rather impressionistic detailing of the chassis has come together.

Now to find the instructions for my High Level gearbox kit and get some movement into it...

Wednesday 22 December 2010

I think that's it...

After watching Jezzer, James and Stuart on the seasonal Top Gear, I returned to the workbench last night to do some more on the Y14.  I must have got in the metaphorical steam of things, as it was 23.58 when I soldered the last lamp iron into place, and dunked  the body into the ultrasonic bath.

And I think that this is it.  I believe that I've got in place every detail from locomotive no. 643 that I could identify on the photographs in place.  I used a picture of 642 for the port-side, and even between apparently sister engines in the class, I noticed one difference, in the number of handrail knobs on the side of the smokebox.  There is a lot of GER standardisation, but very little consistency!

So here are some pictures of it.  The blotchy colours of the metalwork are due to the use of Acidip then neutralising Rinse to clean off the flux and oxides.  It isn't actually that bad in real life...

Comments and criticisms are all very welcome.  I know that the whistle is absent from the side of the safety valve, as that is polished brass and won't be fitted until after painting.  Also, I know of two very small errors in the style of the components fitted, when compared to the prototype photos.  However I'll keep those to myself unless someone spots them - they really are very, very minor.


Tuesday 21 December 2010

Santa Claus arrives early...

Or at least the postman does.  Bringing with him the etches for my Great Eastern Little Sharpie 2-4-0 kit.  This is from PeterK, part of the Kemilway portfolio:  http://www.kemilway.com/peter-k.html

Having virtually forgotten about it, being some fourteen months since I placed the order and the cheque was cashed, I gave a random phone call to Kemilway, when I remembered last week. Part of the overall delay was due to me having moved house in August, and the first delivery sometime after that wasn't swept up in our postal re-direct.

But now I have it!  The next step is to review what suitable castings are available from Alan Gibson to complete it, and put it into the Works queue.

One picture from the Kemilway website of what the finished model should look like.  

Despite the delay, I'm really looking forward to building it...

Saturday 18 December 2010

An evening's work...

Making progress is great when you put your mind to it.  For once, I had an evening with very little in commitments to do anything.  We were staying in to wait for a friend who is coming up from Bristol for the weekend, so I retired to my modelling desk to get started on what was initially quite a daunting set of details that I'd identified.

The kit instructions are generally quite vague at this point, and there is only a single exploded diagram of the locomotive that shows *everything* that is in the kit, regardless of period or option.  Points that I came across on the way, and that I include for the education/amusement/despair of you, gentle reader, include:

- The Westinghouse pump mounting bracket does not have an identifiable location to fit to the kit.  It isn't visible on the instructions, nor any of my photos.  Logically really, as it's hidden behind the pump itself.  So I concluded that it can only go behind the lower part of the pump, as to be behind the upper would interfere with the reversing rod.

- Getting the lower ends of the pipes from the clack valves and the Westinghouse pump fixed firmly to the footplate promised to be problematic, as I didn't want to leave a visible gap at the end of them.  I solved this by flooding a blob of low melt solder onto the footplate, then fixing the pipe into this.  I could then use the tip of a scalpel and some needlefiles to pare back the excess solder until only a pipe-width remained.

- Most of us have an excess of different solders in our tool kit - USE THEM!  Last night I used four different types.  These are all from Carrs/C&L (no connection, just good quality stuff) and were 188 solder paint, 179, 145 and 70 degree.  Use each in its proper place and the job is so much easier.

- Details of what I believe are the sandbox operating linkages are not included in the kit.  I made these up from a couple of spare AG short handrail knobs and some 0.45mm straight wire.  They curve under the boiler, where it appears that the operating linkages to the cab run on the prototype.  I think that they are an extra detail that is rather quite convincing.

- Bending the front curve of a handrail is an absolute sod!  I've always struggled to get this even on any loco that I've built (not that there have ever been more than three of them before this), and of the correct radius.  This one isn't perfect, but it's not too bad, and I seem to have got the "elbows" to bring the length of wire back down the boiler side in roughly the right places.  I did it with a series of very small wreaks in AG straight wire using snipe nosed pliers.  If anyone has any other tips or methods that they can share, I'd very much appreciate it.

So what is the result of all this labour?  Here are a couple of (slightly blurry, as they were shot using the grey natural light this morning) pictures of it:

There are still a few more external details, such as pipe runs and hinges, to be fitted, but it's starting to look much less clean-lined than before, but is a workmanlike, good way.  Maybe some more to be done this evening, but in the meantime it's Christmas shopping!

Thursday 16 December 2010

Starting the detailing

So, to make a start on the fine detail of the locomotive.  The picture below shows my initial stage:

Thanks to Adrian Marks of the GERS, I have photos of the left and right sides of sequential locomotives from my intended production (1899) batch of the Y14.  They are also in roughly the correct period.  You'll see that I've printed them off at A4 size.  I've then ringed each detail that I can see on the locomotive and that isn't already on the model.

Some of these fittings already come with the Alan Gibson kit.  Some I will have to make from scratch.  And so to the soldering iron...

Well, I've just booked myself on the Missenden Modellers Weekend.  That's 11-13 March 2011, in deepest Buckinghamshire.

Now I really *must* get on and finish the Y14, as I started it at last year's course, and it's going to be so embarassing if I'm *still* working on it :-(

To the workbench (after dinner and a glass of red wine, that is)!

Sunday 5 December 2010

Getting things moving

After another couple of weeks of no real progress on the demo board, yesterday I had chance to start work on it again.

I'd already obtained from Maplin some terminal posts and a rotary selector switch as components, so I was ready to go with drill and soldering iron.  The interesting thing about the Maplin rotary switch, if anyone is contemplating using one is that although they are sold as (in this case) a three-way by four contact switch, this appears to be defined by the position of a tab-washer inside the switch.  This can be moved to give a different number of clicks.  This presumably gives a different number of discrete selections.  I didn't test this with a multimeter, but is worth exploring if you think that you have the wrong component for the job in hand.  Oh, and I found this little gem out when the switch fell apart after I'd taken the locking ring off to install it.  So be careful!

Anyway, this is how it looks from above the baseboard:

The nearest posts, by the switch are the ones that take the power feeds.  I will produce some proper wires for a controller with banana plugs, rather than the temporary flying leads that I use for testing locomotives at the workbench.  The far posts are for the power feed to go in for the point motors.

And this is it underneath:

I'm using a piece of copperclad sleeper strip as a wiring bus, so that I don't have to try and fit all of the return feeds into a single point or onto a single component.

And so if I get chance today, it's on to finishing off my first Turnout Operation Unit, and seeing if it can be installed.

Monday 15 November 2010

Tracklaying (nearly) finished...

A friend gently chided me this weekend about the absence of blog updates.  He has a point - when I'm modelling, I tend not to think of the computer, and when I'm sorting out things on the computer, I don't get any modelling done!  The excuses are not relevant though - I should just get on and do both!

There has been progress in the last couple of weeks though.  The Scalefour Society stand was attending the East Ham Finescale Show, thanks to time dedicated to by Terry Bendall, Mike Ainsworth and Bob Bourne.  However I helped out on Sunday, and I was determined to take the demo board along.  There were three reasons for building this set of track.

Firstly was to proved that after a few years away from active modelling, that I could still build track that worked!  Well, subject to wiring it all up, I think that I succeeded in this, and I certainly learned a few lessons of what NOT to do.  More on these in a separate post...

Secondly was to give myself a small test-track that was more than a rolling road and 12" of straight track.

And thirdly, and the reason for the diversity of track types on it was to show to people new to P4 modelling that there were now a whole range of track solutions available, ranging from the "shake the box" kit that is almost like RTR (but not quite!) to the more traditional ways that are still valid. 

So I set myself the goal of finishing the tracklaying in time for EHFS.  I managed that during the week beforehand, and was able to take the completed board along with me.  This is the track fully laid:

The diagram beside it is the key to the actual types of construction.  This will be smartened up when I have learned enough Templot to re-draw the board using that software.  The next shot is down the length of the board, showing what are hopefully some flowing curves.

And finally, just to show the reason for taking the time and modelling effort of modelling to P4, an A5 turnout alongside a similar dimensioned OO Peco turnout.

The next steps are the wiring and point motors...

Saturday 23 October 2010

Rail preparation

Here's a thought - prior to building ply and rivet track, do you actually clean the foot of the rail?

The reason for asking is that I've just done that, and wondered why I'd never done it before.  I'm making up some lengths of 36" curved track for my demo board.  I plucked a length of nickel silver rail from the tube where it's kept, and did as I always do - burnish both sides of the rail with a glass fibre brush to get rid of the crud so that it is clean for soldering.

And then I looked at the foot of the rail...  The flat surface, that I'm actually hoping the solder paint will bond to, was just as tarnished as the sides.  So I whizzed the brush along that as well, and now all is bright and shiny.  

Hopefully it improved the strength of the track rather than just having to rely on solder joints to the web of the rail.  I thought that I'd mention it, as I can't recall anyone mentioning it specifically before.  Of course, you'll now better and point me to a dozen references :-)

Monday 18 October 2010

Satisfyingly quick

Sometimes you just need to pick up a soldering iron...

Part of the demo board that I'm building has copperclad track in it, just to show how you don't need to go for the full P4TrackCo stuff (excellent as it is) when you're "behind the scenes".  So five minutes with a strip of copperclad, a length of nickel silver rail, and voila!


Sunday 10 October 2010

Forming some thoughts...

Having decided that I'm doing a quick small layout, inspired by Horsley Bank at Scaleforum, I am putting some ideas together.  Following the "Beer & Buckjumpers" theme, then it will be of part of a maltings/brewery complex.  I've yet to draw up the full trackplan on Templot, but a list of desirable features to include (in no particular order) is:

- wagon turntable into a building, a la Snape Maltings
- GER branch line on embankment in background as part of backdrop
- wharf, with interlaced track for loading
- engine shed triangle, as at Bass Brewery, Burton
- possible Spitalfields style coaling stage
- coal unloading area for brewery
- bay window over a loading bay (I have a particular picture in mind)
- models of my former neighbour's house which was a maltster's house, and my old house (part of a maltings) if there is space.

And I need to fit all of that in 4' by 2'...

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Oh, [expletive deleted] Templot!

Top tip...

When you have tried *several* times to insert a bitmap (.bmp) image into a Templot background, and you still get a blank square labelled "* Empty Picture", when you reload the file, don't despair...

It's because although Templot allows you to navigate to where the .bmp source file is, it doesn't remember that location or actually import the image.  It just (AIUI) imports the name of the file.

You need to copy the .bmp file into the Templot\shape-files folder for it to find it again.

This little undocumented (AFAIK) "feature" has cost me an hour in wasted time this evening.  It was only thanks to the good advice of Morgan Gilbert at Scaleforum that I remembered where I might be going wrong.  I've searched, and I can't find anything on the Templot site that explains this...

Anyway, the end result is this:

Onwards and upwards!

Monday 4 October 2010

Read the instructions...

Or, in this case, read Norman Solomon's series of track-building articles in Model Railway Journal.  That would have been very helpful with my recent track-laying experience.  

Before going away racing at the weekend, I decided to lay some of the track that I've been building for my demo board.  Having seen Norman's demonstration at the Missenden modelling weekend earlier this year, I thought that I would try his technique of fixing the track using PVA and ballasting it at the same time.  This would be laid on a bed of Carrs foam, which is just the right thickness and firmness to give a resilient but yielding foundation.

I also used the technique of laying granite ballast immediately on top of the wet glue, in the areas where I wanted to show finished track.  So I did this, after spreading the glue reasonably well, up to and over the edges of the masking tape that I'd use to define the formation, and placing the track carefully on the wet PVA.  Then I applied a few weights just to hold the track in position and left it for the weekend.  When I came back to it, this is what it looked like:

Good points:

- the track had stuck well, and hadn't tried to lift or twist

- the glue was flexible, and the foam trackbed still worked as a firm foundation

- the ballast had generally taken well, sticking to the glue without going rock solid.  It had also stayed reasonable clear of the sleepers, so I don't have a huge amount of clearing up to do. 
Less good points:

- the steel rail has rusted!  Having been very careful to keep it unblemished prior to laying it, there are now patches of fresh rust all over the sides and head of both plain track and pointwork.  This is going to have to be cleaned off.  I suspect that it is something nasty given off as the PVA dried, and as it is much more pronounced on the sections where the weights were placed, I believe that it was trapped from evaporating away.

- there is glue and ballast that has crept behind a couple of the switch blades.  This is going to need some careful digging out and cleaning.

- the PVA stuck the masking tape too well to the edge of the track to separate easily.  I'm having to carefully cut it off the underlay.  In future, I think that I need to lift the masking tape when the PVA is still wet, and chance the glue and ballast creeping further.

So all in all, a mixed result.  I'm confident that it doesn't need scrapping and rebuilding, but it does need a bit of TLC to get it back to a usable state.  Live and learn!

Friday 1 October 2010

Today's Top Tip

...if you have spray painted a length of flexible track off the baseboard, don't try and subsequently adjust the curve of it.

For although it is relatively easy to break the bond on a single painted chair, or even Pandrol clip in this case, a track panel worth's of them isn't going to move easily :-(

Oh well, it's nice to be doing some modelling again.  I am just wondering how long it will take the PVA that I laid last night to dry.  It seems to have hardly dried at all by this morning.  It's also very successfully turned the sides and head of the steel rail rusty.  That was unforeseen.  I think that my track laying technique is going to need some refinement in the future...

Monday 27 September 2010

Scaleforum inspiration

All has been quiet from me recently, as a house move at the end of August meant that modelling equipment had to be boxed up, and time found for more important things (like rebuilding drains, and fixing lights).  There was also the run-up to Scaleforum, which meant  Society matters took my attention as well.

However, with a very successful weekend at Leatherhead behind us (I'm sure that there are many that will tell the story better than I can) I have both more time and much inspiration as well.  Inspired by Horsley Bank, I feel a minimum space "box" layout coming on :-)

Finally, it was great to spend time talking to folk over the weekend that I only normally "know" over the web.  Too many to name individually, thank you all for taking the time to say hello, and I'm sorry that I may have been interrupted to answer questions about catering and suchlike.  If you have a namebadge on, at times you're a target ;-)

See you all next time!

Sunday 15 August 2010

J15 build - Mystery Parts

In the background, behind my exploits with the High Level Pug, I've been building an Alan Gibson kit of a J15, or more accurately a Great Eastern Y14, as it will be in condition suitable for circa 1908.

I'm now at the detailing stage of the body, and I've found on the fret these mystery parts - four times part #42 :

They look like washout covers for the boiler.  However there is no mention of a part #42 anywhere in the instructions, nor do they show on the exploded diagram, which is intended to cover the parts not mentioned in the text.

Fortunately, it seems like they were a not an original GER feature, so I can safely ignore them.  I can't see them evident on any of the period photos that I have from the GERS Journal.  But does anyone know if my assumptions are correct?


Wednesday 11 August 2010

Weighty matters

It's been a few weeks since I last made a post.  I'm afraid that's because I've been busy with other things - both Scalefour Society matters, advertising the Scaleforum exhibition in September, and more importantly preparing for our house move that will take place in two weeks time.  That means that I get a dedicated study cum railway room  :-)

The Pug has made some progress since I replaced the axle after the unfortunate Loctite Incident.  It has been put on a rolling road, and shows a slight limp that I need to eliminate.  To help the running and road-holding, I also needed to add some additional weight to the kit chassis.  The normal model has a large cast weight in the tank, and this is replaced in the High Level model with the motor and gears, to give the benefit of clearing the cab and allowing full backhead detail to be seen.

I used lead sheet to pack up the free corners, cut to size with a scalpel and snips, and held in place with either superglue or epoxy resin.  This photo shows how it was done.

The locations are:

1 - under the cab, next to the reversing rod
2 - under the cab, behind the rear valance
3 - in the front chassis "box" between the cylinders.  This has a section cut out to allow a screwdriver to the chassis mounting screw
4 - inside the coal bunkers on either side of the cab.  There was a need to be careful here not to intrude into the area of the floor fixings
5 - two curved strips placed under the roof, and glued out of sight.

Together, they've brought the weight up to 76 grams.  Probably not as heavy as the original model was, but a definite improvement.  Let's see how it runs when it's back together.

Sunday 11 July 2010


I was hoping to get a good few hours of modelling in today...

Anne is away racing sidecars in South Wales, and apart from a couple of hours over lunch to visit some bee-keeping friends, I was expecting a day of peace and quiet to finally knock a couple of things off.  However I didn't anticipate the modelling bug striking my ten year old stepson so hard today.  A friend of ours gave him an old Tamiya kit for a Ducati 916 (the same bike that I have).  

So I've spent most of the morning and afternoon holding parts, cutting out components, and generally being a gopher!  Pretty much all of it he can do himself, but he does like the company :-)

Anyway, I'm not really complaining.  He's shown a skill and patience level far beyond what I was expecting.  This is the result so far:

It's about five inches long, and has exactly the same components as the real thing, so he's had me going "that's a crankcase breather, that's a steering damper" and so on...

For me, I was frustrated because:

(1) I forgot that I'd switched my mini-drill into reverse to do some burnishing, so the small drills I was using to make holes for handrail knobs on my J15 were going nowhere, and particularly after I snapped the drills...

(2) Whilst spraying track for my demo board, the paint well fell off the side of my airbrush, so that was a clearing up job...

(3) I took the Pug back out of its box where I put it for the loctite on the gearwheel to set, and found that I hadn't re-done as much to it as I thought.

Oh well, in reality, it's been a lovely day!  Hope that yours was as well...

Monday 5 July 2010

East Suffolk Light

Over the weekend we visited Snape Maltings, in search of antiques shops.  Whilst driving around the area, and seeing the maltings itself, it reminded me so much of Iain Rice's East Suffolk Light Railway.

Many people talk about the influence of Pendon or Heckmondwike on their modelling, but for me the key influence was the ESLR.  That combination of artistic observation, eclectic rolling stock, and a history that bound it all together was superb in setting a time and a place.  It wasn't just a model railway, but a model *of* a railway, even if that was an entire fiction :-)

It would be great to know "where is it now?" and whether it was ever going to appear on the exhibition circuit again, but it simply seems to have sunk without trace.  Ah well, I think that I'll be digging out my old magazines for a dose of nostalgia tonight...

Monday 21 June 2010


I had last week as holiday from work, and other than getting a lot more modelling done, we had the opportunity to just chill out and do things.  On Friday Anne and I went into London to spend the day going around galleries.

To Tate Britain first, and then on to the National Gallery.  I was, as usual, completely entranced with the Turners, and not just because "Rain, Steam and Speed" includes a Green With Rivets train.

It's because Turner is such an inspiration on how an impression of substance, colour and movement can be created with just a few strokes of a brush.  When it comes to scenic works on a model railway, I definitely want to try and be inspired to create the depth and emotion in the scenery that he does on canvas.  Hmmm.... I wonder if I should try art classes before painting my backscene.


Friday 18 June 2010


Well, I couldn't get enough heat from a soldering iron into the gear wheel from my soldering iron.  It's only a 50W iron, and even cranked up to full, the heatsink of the brass gear was too great to stop it getting any hotter than uncomfortably warm.

So it was out with the Dremel, and the careful use of the slitting disc...  I had to make a series of cuts to first of all get the gearbox out, then to extract the gear wheel itself.  There wasn't enough room to cut it immediately in the middle and slide the axles out.

This picture shows the four parts that the axle wound up in!

From here, it was easy to use a gear puller to get the gear off the axle.  It was then cleaned up, and re-mounted on an axle stolen from my other Pug kit.  I must get some spares from Alan Gibson when I next see him at a show...


Monday 14 June 2010


Or, to put it another way, does anyone know and effective method of removing Loctite 601?

In a burst of enthusiasm (okay, free time) on Friday and today, I finished off the Pug mechanically. This has not been without its trials and tribulations... In particular, it's only after assembling the whole thing that I found that there wasn't enough running clearance for the connecting rods to oscillate as needed between the original slidebars. Cue careful use of a dremel.

But the problem that I now have is this. Having followed the instructions to the letter, I tested everything out, and fixed the final drive gear on the driven axle with a tiny smear of superglue. This done, and suitably cured, I set it running on my rolling road.

After five minutes, the gentle whirr of the motor continues, but the rotation of the wheels stops. The gear wheel has slipped on the axle. It could actually be moved easily from side to side within the gear box.

So this time I reached for the Loctite 601, and intended to leave it to set firmly overnight. However, to avoid getting 601 where it wasn't needed, and knowing that it sets slowly, I applied some to the gear wheel with it in the middle of the gearbox and well away from anything else. I then intended to slide the gear wheel sideways until it meshed with the drive gear. You can tell what happened next...

Instant bonding. How come 601 never works this way with wheels? Whether it was because the axle was warm, I don't know, but what should have been fifteen minutes of adjustment room was changed into instantly setting solid with the gearwheel in the wrong place.

I've tried a little physical persuasion and it hasn't budged. The alternative to loosening the glue is to dismantle most of the chassis - not something I'm pleased with contemplating.

Can anyone suggest a non-destructive way of freeing off Loctite 601?


Tuesday 8 June 2010


It's been a while since I was able to find the time for some modelling, but I have been getting things ready for a final assembly session on the Pug.  To say that I'm slightly nervous about the clearances of the coupling rods behind the crossheads is rather an understatement...

I've found that during building this kit, being organised has always been essential.  Witness the case of the missing brake hanger as an example.

So when it came down to taking the Pug apart for painting I didn't want to mess up all of the neatly and precisely matched components that I had prepared earlier.  During previous stages each bearing, axle and what had been washed with a code of coloured dots to indicate their position in the chassis.   Also critical was getting the correct thickness of  washers behind each wheel, as there is not a huge amount of space to fit the clearances to the connecting rods in, and free play must be kept to an absolute minimum.

I then used the back of an old business card to mark out the respective positions of all of the components. The picture below illustrates:

Of course, the knack now is to not knock them on the floor!

Tuesday 4 May 2010


I was chatting with Steve Duckworth a couple of weeks ago at Scalefour North. We were comparing various tools and techniques, and the ways that we can model better. I commented on a little change that I have made, and Steve suggested that it was worth sharing.

How many times have you picked up the wrong file? You know the situation - you're doing some heavy-duty removal of whitemetal from a wagon underframe, you reach into the box or rack and pick up your very best fine-cut needle file, usually only reserved for stroking the olive-skinned thighs of Sicilian virgins, and High Level Kits' hornblocks...

Usually you only notice about five milliseconds after you've used it... There is a cry of "oh dear" and an attempt using file-combs/heat/scalpel tips to remove the shiny stuff that you've just clagged the teeth up with. A waste of modelling time, and never fully successful. I did this several times until I hit on a simple approach that won't prevent it, but will make it much less likely.

This is the box that my needle files live in...

Files 006.jpg

And this is how I tell them apart...

Files 007.jpg

I picked up a bottle of Tippex correction fluid, and now the white-handled files are the ones for WHITEmetal (and solder, lead and other clagging materials)

A Black permanent market pen indicate the file is for Brass, as well as nickel silver, steel and so on.

And the yellow handled one? Not for gold, but my scriber. Because it *looks* like a needle file, I kept picking it up by mistake to file things, and used rats-tail files inadvertently as scribers...

As Aleksandr would say, "Simples!".

Wednesday 28 April 2010


Over on the Scalefour Society Forum, I have asked about the use of metal black as a preparation for painting, and these are my experiences...

Well, firstly, I started off by giving all of the parts that were going to be treated a good going over with Carr's Acidip to chemically clean the surfaces thoroughly, and to get rid of any traces of flux, dirt and so on. After this, it was into some plain water in my wife's jewellery cleaning ultrasonic tank...

Workbench 2 005.jpg

This always does a superb job at making any remaining grime and noxious substances literally fall off the model. You can even see the slightly cloudy water streaming away from the model when you switch the machine on. And she is happy as well if you offer to clean her rings at the same time - although preferably without the application of Acidip!

After this, the parts were popped on some kitchen paper in a box to keep the dust off them and left to dry thoroughly in the sun. Such are the joys of modelling in the summer.

After this, I reached for the Casey's Gunblue, and applied it with the end of a cotton bud. Unfortunately this was the result - distinctly patchy.

Patchy 003 (Large).jpg

I'm not quite sure why. The model wasn't handled at all after cleaning, and was perfectly dry. I can only hypothesize that it was variations in the grades of nickel silver that made the difference.

Either way, I followed it up with a thin coating of etch primer, sprayed on, to ensure that the paint would adhere properly. I'd washed the remains of the gunblue off with plain water so the surface for the primer was clean again.

So quite a disappointing result. I still see the merits of using blackening on the edges of models to ensure that any paint chips won't be so obvious. That makes a lot of sense, and I'll be doing it in limited circumstances. I also suspect that the gunblue will "take" better on brass than on nickel silver, so I haven't given up all hope of this method.

I thought that I'd post the results so that you can all see what the outcome was, and perhaps add your own thoughts or experiences.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Don't try this at home...

...or anywhere else for that matter.

As part of my P4 demonstration track, I've planned to show various different types of trackwork construction.  A rough plan of it shows what I mean:

Part of it is to link a P4Track Company B8 kit into the three-way point made from ply & rivet.  I'd made the B8 a couple of weeks ago without problem.  Last night I finished riveting the ply sleepers, a tedious task at the best of times, and started laying them out on the template:

Unfortunately, when I looked at it the difference in height between the plastic sleepers and ply sleepers was more significant than I expected:

I'll just have to work with that, laying the ply onto a thick card trackbase.  Once bitten, twice shy, and I'll not attempt to mix the two types like this in future.  I recommend that you do the same!

Also, the act of laying down the sleepers showed that I'd missed out punching and fitting one rivet.  It's right in the middle of the point, at the end of the wing rail.  I thought momentarily about making another sleeper, but then realised that I could just use one of my spare P4Track Co. plastic chairs to fix the end in place.  

So that's a solution that saves the situation and will produce a good cosmetic effect.  Next stage is to start making the crossing vees.

Thursday 15 April 2010

In the raw

I thought that I would make a final post of the chassis construction for the Pug.  The reason for doing so is that this is the last time that it will be seen in this state of raw metal.

The next instructions ar "break the chassis down into its sub-assemblies [done, as you can see] and paint it".  So I lose all of that lovely shiny nickel silver, and start to gain something that looks like a proper locomotive :-)

In case you were wondering about the slightly mangled looking brake gear, it isn't broken or mis-assembled.  Chris at High Level has used a very ingenious design to make the entire brake gear removable from the completed chassis.

There are "carrying tubes" that run through the chassis frames, and through each of these passes a loose wire.  From this the soldered up brake rigging hangs.  The fact that it is soldered means that it all stays in alignment with the wheels as a single unit.  The seemingly misaligned wire at the far left is actually just one of the loose mounting wires that I hadn't tucked properly back in place.  You are even told to put a slight curve in the length of the mounting wires to ensure that friction holds them in place.

I've yet to see the instructions for final mounting of the brake gear, but I may well put a small blob of black paint on the ends of them to fix them securely, yet in a manner that can be easily detached, for extra security.

In the meantime, it will be off with the wheels, a final clean in the ultrasonic bath, and into the paintshop...

Sunday 11 April 2010

And then there were two

Brakehangers that is.

This was the brakehanger that remained, and I wished to copy.  The scrap nickel silver is a OO spacer from the kit, so the correct thickness and also surplus to requirements.

I used my Resistance Soldering Unit to attach the hanger to the scrap.  Using a RSU was ideal for this, as I could "spot weld" the parts together and no risk the completed brakehanger de-laminating or otherwise losing parts. 

I then took a piercing saw and fretted around the outline of the master and whilst they were still soldered together used the holes for the brake rodding to drill through into the new part to get them properly aligned.  When this was done, I carefully slid a scalpel blade between the old and new components and gently heating them with a conventional iron split them apart.

All that I had to do after that was to drill a small hole in the centre for the piece of wire to represent the brakeshoe  retaining pin, and solder in a small piece of wire.  Unfortunately at this point a no.78 drill was lost in action, but we all get casualties from time to time.

A spot of cleaning up with a file and these are the finished articles.  The re-manufactured one is at the front.  Not quite as neat as the original etching, but the day has been saved :-)

Sunday 28 March 2010


I've not done very much on the Pug recently.  However I picked it up again earlier this evening to get started on the brake gear.  This is very cleverly designed as a one piece unit that can be removeable.

To start it, I made up the brakeshoes and put them ready to be fitted to the crossbars.  Here's a picture of all four of them prepared.  The next step would be to mount the wheels to set the shoes to the correct position.

Unfortunately, after I'd mounted the wheels on the axles in the chassis, I went to pick up the brakeshoes (centre of picture) and found only three of them :-(((

I suspect that whilst fitting the wheels, I caught one of them with a sleeve and flicked it into the far corner of the room!  I've spent twenty minutes on my knees on the floor grubbing around and not found it.

So out with the nickel silver scrap and the piercing saw when I next start on this again. Sigh...

Saturday 6 March 2010

Chassis progress

Well, although I haven't posted anything for a couple of weeks, I've been busy with the Pug and a few other things - of which more anon - so I'm not going to go through a blow by blow build of the chassis.  Rather, this will be a picture essay, with a few comments where appropriate.

Where I left it previously, I'd finished the cab fittings and was ready to move on to the frames.  As previously, before doing any construction I gave the etchings as a good going over with the fibreglass burnishing brush to remove any surface oxidation.  That gives the best possible start for soldering to be done.

So to start, this is the basic chassis with the frames and the P4 spacers erected.  I had one minor mishap  where I filed off a locating tag by mistake.  There *is* a warning in the instructions, but it comes after you've removed the part from the fret and (if you're of a fastidious mind) already cleaned the etching up :-/   

Never mind, there are plenty of other location references, and the kit naturally goes together absolutely square.


One of the next tasks was to laminate the coupling rods.  This was done using solder paint, and a cocktail stick rammed through the holes in each end to keep them together and aligned.


 This is the finished item.  The slight banana shape of the rods isn't actually there.  It's a function of the camera lens in taking pictures of some very small objects at very close range.

The next picture shows the sliding bearings and the matching hornblocks being held in place by a coil spring so that they stay in place whilst being aligned using the London Road Models tapered axles.  These allow the centres of the coupling rods to match the bearings exactly.  One axle is fixed in my model, so it only needs one set of moving bearings, and not the two pairs if I was going for a fully sprung model.  A conservative choice on my part, given this is the first loco kit I've built in around 15 years.


 This shows where I went away from the instructions slightly.  The suggestion is that to provide a mounting point for the front chassis bolt, it is possible to tap into the body moulding.  I found that there wasn't enough meat in the material for this.  As an alternative, I carved a larger section away, and filled it with a couple of layers of thick plasticard laminated together with PlasticWeld.  I then left it 24 hours to dry thoroughly and harden before drilling through and using the mounting bolt to cut its own thread.


 So after readying the body and test fitting it, the original cylinders and slide bars are re-used and mated with the frames.  This was done using a 14BA bolt.  Not too fiddly in isolation, but unfortunately when it needs to be weedled into a gap between two spacers with tweezers it became a job that needed much patience and a few rude words when it came to getting the nut on the end of the bolt.

The next (slightly blurred)  picture also shows the compensation pivot point.  It's a chunky piece of steel rod, so there's no danger of it wearing down.  Fixed in place with a little reaming of the mounting holes, and the use of Carrs Brown Label flux, it was very easy to solder securely.

It does seem as though the spacer and slidebar hangers could be more closely aligned.  I may have made a mistake here, but tightening the mounting nut up tightly does induce a distinct bend in the crosspiece that is the slidebar hangers.  Perhaps a spacing washer should be used to keep things parallel.


 This shows a more complete state, with the connecting rods soldered in place.  It remains to be seen how much clearance I have when I come to install the wheels behind them, but there is still meat left in the backs of the bushes that can be filed down.  Also visible is the dummy inside motion, which makes the chassis look nicely prototypically cluttered.

 The ashpan is fitted next.  I pressed out the half-etched rivets by hand, using a sharp scriber and even hand pressure.  This was done on a slightly soft cutting mat, to give a yielding surface to form them against.

And finally, some neat little webs not only represent the strengthening ribs on the prototype but also neatly locate the rear guard irons.  Another piece of really clever design that is a hallmark of the High Level Kits.


After all of this, the chassis had a good  rinse with Neutralising Rinse (Carrs again) and a dunk in my wife's ultrasonic cleaning bath.  That really made all the accumulated crud and chemicals drop off it, and it was followed by an overnight dry on the top of a radiator.

Brake gear building next time...