Thursday, 30 December 2010

Soldering On

I found a soldering iron in my stocking left by Santa on Christmas morning, Today I've had my first chance to try it out. (And I haven't needed to visit the local burns unit, either!)

Soldering is a new modelling frontier for me. Until now whenever I've needed to use brass I've managed to get away with bonding it to styrene. But I've had to cross the Rubicon with the Romanian ballast wagon.

The culprits are the control levers for the ballast dropping mechanism.

Brass wire was the obvious material to use but because there are two levers attached to each shaft there was no alternative to some brass on brass joints. It was time to learn how to solder.

Himself gave me some lessons on his last visit a few weeks ago and I practised joining up some random bits of brass wire, ending up with something that looked like Terry Gilliam's plumbing from the Monty Python title sequence. So far so good.

The tricky bit with the levers, I reckoned, was that the two joints are so close together that I wouldn't be able to put them on one at a time without the first one coming un-soldered when I tried to add the second. So I decided the best tactic would be to try to solder both with one application of the iron.

But how to hold them in place? The levers are only 9mm long so they were going to get very hot if I tried holding them in place with my fingers.

Next I thought of trying to hold them in place with blu-tac or plasticine but I couldn't find any in the house. The best I could do was my daughter's play-doh but that turned out to be a little too soft to hold the levers in place.

So I came up with the idea of inserting them into a rubber. And it worked rather well.

Here are the completed shafts / levers in place on the wagon.

And now with the frame in place around them.

Altogether an encouraging first adventure with the iron, I'd say.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone who logs onto this blog.

When you start a blog like this you're never too sure whether anyone's going to find it in cyberspace, and if they do whether they'll bother to read it or ever come back?

I'm thrilled that we've had over six thousand hits since I started back in May so thanks to everyone who's dropped in and to those of you who've taken time to leave comments.

I often affectionately refer to by cohorts in the Bron Hebog team as 'Himself' (my Dad, David) and Francis who readers will know as our 'Artistic Director', which as you'll see from this festive sketch of Rhiw Goch on the FR below is a very accurate description as he is a very talented artist indeed.

See you again, I hope, in 2011.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Clearing The Backlog

Heathrow Airport isn't the only place just now struggling to clear the backlog. The southern operation at Bron Hebog has a fair collection of unpainted carriages waiting for the attention from the airbrush.

Himself is taking a break from the Backwoods Manning Wardle 'Lyd' project and has decided to start working through the collection of unpainted WHR saloons which have been languishing in a drawer in the modelling room for close on two years.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Please Be Seated

As a little diversion from the ballast wagon I've been adding yet more of those missing details from the tamper - the snagging list doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.

This time it's the driver / operator seats in the cabs.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Glues Chutes And Leaves

The last major pieces of styrene construction on the Romanian ballast wagons are the twin sets of ballast chutes which hang from the underframe.

It didn't take too long to knock them up once I'd worked out the angles of the shoots.

If the picture looks a little odd to you it's because the wagon was upside down! As I mentioned in a previous post the model is a bit of a puzzle at the moment and I have to be very careful about what order I cement things on. If I fix on the chute assemblies now it'll make it more difficult to fiddle with the control shafts - I'll need access from underneath as well as the side for that job.

There's not a lot more can be done now until I get my hands on a soldering iron. Once the control levers are soldered onto the ends of the inner set of shafts they can be put in place, followed by the larger diameter one on each side of the wagon (for which I am waiting on the right size styrene rod to arrive).

After that there will be lots of fun to be hand bending and soldering the handrails at each end.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Rods For My Back

As more details go on this wagon is becoming more of a Chinese puzzle - or perhaps that should be a Romanian puzzle.

I've had to very carefully work out what to put on in what order to avoid snookering myself further down the line and so it's not always the most obvious, or most essential details, which have to completed first.

Which is why my efforts today were focused on the inboard pair of control shafts, which are hidden behind the support struts and probably wouldn't be missed if they weren't there. But it would be tricky to add them later if I had a late change of heart so best to put them on now while access to this area is (comparatively) easier.

First job was to make up some bearing plates to hold the shafts in position.

There are three of them in all - here they are in position on the hoppers.

And now with the brass wire threaded through to check the positioning.

The wires will now be left to one side and probably won't go on again until the wagon is almost complete. They also will need to have the control levers soldered at one end.

I've also done some work at the other end, adding the vacuum cylinders and the frame which supports them and eventually the cover over the reservoir which I will make out of thin sheet brass.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

News From The Frozen North

My model ballast wagon's starting to take on more of the look of the real thing as some of the distinctive features are added. This thing is like some rail-mounted Christmas tree there are so many bits hanging off it, especially compared to the simpler lines of the SAR ballast wagons.

Most of the details added today have been of the vertical variety. I started with the struts along each side of the hopper - these will later have the outermost control shaft for the ballast doors running along near the top. There are also longer struts at each end.

I've also started on the jumble of brake equipment at one end of the wagon. The first thing to go on is the vacuum reservoir which is up on stilts and will be joined next by cylinders either side.

Here's the real thing...

Here's my version so far...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Devilish Details

Progress can appear deceptively quick with projects like this ballast wagon. The bodyshell and the frame can be knocked up quite easily but its when you start adding all the little details that things slow down suddenly.

Take today's session for example. 2 hours spent cutting and cementing on a dozen tiny pieces of styrene. Can you event spot them?

Take a closer look. See them now?

Here's what it looks like on the actual wagon.

A lot of that 2 hours, right enough, was wasted on working out how the heck to tackle it and getting the first pieces the correct size to use as a template for the rest. It a rather awkward spot to work it. All the surfaces are at an angle and there's not a lot of room to get tweezers in there to hold the bits while you cement them. And as you can see there's still an awful lot more to add to just these small areas of the wagon.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Complete Fabrication

My U channel styrene arrived today so I've been able to crack on with the frame for the Romanian ballast wagon.

This is quite a complicated structure with 4 main steel beams running the length of the wagon. The frame is mostly exposed to so there's not a lot of scope to cheat - you've got to build it just like the real one.

I decided to tackle it by fabricating two mirror image frames - very much like a ladder - and then link them together with the central cross beams.

It's probably easier to explain with pictures. Here's one of those halves...

And here are two joined together...

So I've now got the basic 4 beam outline there. I've linked them together with some chunky sections of stryrene strip. This is the one place where it's possible to cheat and beef up the structure. They'll be underneath the hoppers and as the wagon will be modelled loaded you won't see these strengthening pieces.

This next shot is with all the cross beams in place. You see, I wasn't exaggerating when I said it was a complex fabrication!

The main consideration when assembling the frame was to ensure the cross beams in the middle lined up with the 'feet' on the bottom of the hopper. Here it is with the hopper resting on top.

I've also been waiting for some 1mm square strip to finish off the rib detail on the hopper body. Notice also the tiny wee triangles which are resting on the lower rib.

And now I've got to do it all again on the 2nd model for a customer.....

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Odd Jobs

With my specialist styrene order still in the clutches of the Royal Mail I've had to find some odd jobs to occupy my modelling time today.

The only things I've been able to add to the Romanian ballast wagon is some detail on the doors / flaps at the bottom.

And the sloped internal divider pieces which feed the ballast into the separate hoppers.

So with time on my hands I've added a few more details to the KMX Tamper - the task seems never ending.

Today's big ticket item was the window at the rear of the cab at the business-end of the machine. This is so the operator can see the tamping head in action from the control desk which is set on one side of the cab.

I did this my making a square frame out of 0.20 x 0.60 strip. It needed three attempts to get the width pieces the right size for the frame to fit perfectly. Then I glued small triangles in each corner and filed them to make the corners round.

Here it is in position.

If you look at the top of the picture you can also see I've added the bulkhead at the top of the engine compartment and taken the opportunity to hide some more whitemetal ballast behind it. (Pieces of an old Golden Arrow 'Monarch' kit which I bought years ago on ebay to rob it of its 2 Ibertren chassis)

Finally for today I've put a stretcher above the non-powered end of the model with two large holes drilled to feed the pick up wires through. This cab doesn't have a bulkhead - it's the one with the window on to the tamping head so you can see straight through it - so I hope this device will keep the wires out of sight as much as possible

Monday, 29 November 2010

Hopping Along

Progress on the Romanian ballast wagon is being constrained by a lack of materials.

I would like to be getting on with making the frames but I'm waiting on a delivery of the right size of U channel which was ordered a week ago from a well known exhibition and internet component and tools supplier. I still haven't received a notification of the consignment being shipped yet, which is a little frustrating when I have two clear modelling days on the horizon later this week.

I've now added the last section at the bottom of the hoppers. The side sections are adjustable doors cum flaps on the real wagon which control which chute the ballast is delivered from. Needless to say on my 4mm version they're very much fixed in place.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Withdrawal Symptoms

The FR's up to its old tricks.

Just when you think you've got everything sorted out, you're ahead of the curve (as those business gurus like to say) the railway goes and throws a double six.

The latest spanner in the works - from a modeller's point of view - is the late change of heart on plans for a second service carriage for the WHR.

This week its been revealed that instead of rebuilding brake carriage 2090 (for a second time) the original 'Winson'-built semi-open carriage 2020 is going to be transformed into a fully-enclosed service carriage with, we presume, a diesel generator, toilet, buffet / catering area and guard compartment.

It will be a very radical makeover but these WHR carriages are something of a blank canvas. Beneath all the fancy wood panelling outside and in is a very simple steel skelton which, once it is stripped down, can be adapted relatively simply.

For the Bron Hebog team this leaves us with a dilemma. To build a second, new look 2020 or not?

2020 was the first WHR /RhE carriage I made and the model is now at least 11 years old. In fact I have a full rake of the first 5 'Winson' carriages in original condition. Each of the enclosed vehicles has undergone a number of changes to livery and moulding details in the past decade leaving our models looking somewhat 'heritage'. I consoled myself with the thought that we could just about get away with running an 'as built' rake on Bron Hebog alongside another set of the second generation carriages.

That was until we found out about the changes to 2020. This isn't just a little cosmetic tinkering - this is nothing short of rolling stock sex change.

If I build a new 2020 I'll have to withdraw the original from service on the layout and will feel compelled to make updated models of all the first generation 'Winson' carriages because they would no longer be all of the same era.

The trouble is I don't think I'll be able to resist the temptation...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Happy Hoppers

I've had a rare full day at the modelling desk today and have made some good progress on the geometry puzzle that is otherwise known as the WHR's Romanian ballast wagon.

After much careful studying of the drawings and all the photographs of the wagon kindly passed on to me by my spies in Wales I've been able to establish the general shape of the wagon beneath the jungle of ribs, struts and operating mechanisms. To put it really simply there is a horizontal box in the middle with slanting sections above and below.

I got the box built in the first session, today's task was to try and get the slanty bits in place.

I started with the lower side pieces which only required angles cut at each end and managed to get them to meet up with the angles at each end relatively easily.

The next job was to add a square rib section around the top of the 'square box' - this was a little more time consuming than it should have been because I've run out of 0.40 x 0.40 strips so had to double up with 0.20 x 0.40 to get the correct thickness.

Then it was onto the bit that always has me scratching my head - the sloping lid on the top of the hopper and its four corner angles. It doesn't matter whether I'm making a roof on a building or something like this wagon, I can never get the corners to match up first time despite all my efforts to cut them to an accurate 45 degrees. Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me?

If you look inside the hoppers you'll see evidence of the strengthening pieces that I've put in to try to ensure the styrene sides of the hopper stay as straight as they can over time. Because the wagon will run loaded on the layout these will not show.

I was feeling quite please with myself by this point and turning my thoughts to how the frames should be assembled when I noticed a rather glaring error - I'd forgotten there's daylight between the two halves of the hopper.

It was only a few seconds work with the scalpel to put matters right, but it was fortunate I spotted it when I did before I'd started adding more of the fine detail or glued the hopper onto the frame.

Oh, and I forgot to mention I'm doing all this twice because I'm making a second wagon alongside for a customer.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Behind The Iron Curtain

I know I said I wanted to get the Tamper finished before I started a new project, but I couldn't resist any longer. I've been itching to tackle this monster for months...

It's the WHR's Romanian-built ballast wagon, and a very sophisticated bit of kit it is too, capable of spreading its load in three directions (not at all at the same time, though).

I appreciate the title is a little behind the times but even twenty years on from the fall of communism in eastern Europe I can't help thinking of countries like Romania as very distant and exotic (in a grey sort of way) and off limits. Now, of course, they're in the EU.

Anyway, onto the model.

When I built the ex-SAR wagons I started by making the frames before the hoppers. This time I've chosen to do the opposite, mainly because the hopper is such a complex shape and getting it right is going to be the key to making the model look convincing.

I'm fortunate to have a set of general arrangement drawings for the wagon which is going to be an immense help.

Because we're going to be running our ballast wagons loaded on Bron Hebog I'm taking the opportunity to use some formers to help get the angles right and give the hopper a bit more strength.

Here they are laid out as a kit of parts...

And glued together...

The hopper on the wagon is divided into two compartments, allowing the loads in each half to be spread differently in the same run, which explains the positioning of the formers in the middle.

Then I added in the first of the angled pieces at each end.

I can't help feeling that this wagon is going to seem more like a 3D geometry puzzle than a modelling project at times.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tamper Tubes

Lots of fiddly details are still being added to the KMX tamper.

The latest challenge has been to replicate the 4 pipes / cables which run from inside the engine compartment to the 'clock' side of the up (Blaenau) end bogie.

Yet again I must confess my ignorance of the workings of this machine - I do not know if they are electrical cables or pneumatic pipes, although I suspect the latter.

I've been thinking for a while now about the best way to tackle these and decided to use some ordinary single strand wire, the sort you wire layouts up with.

Plan A had been to attempt to connect these to the bogie as per the prototype. The difficulty is that the bogie still needs to swing and so the wires would need to be very flexible.

What I decided to do was to pull the wire out and use just the plastic sheath. Small pieces of wire were inserted back into each end and glued to anchor them in place on the bogie and in the slot in the engine compartment where they disappear.

But in a trial fitting with only one sheath in place I could feel a lot of resistance when I tried to swing the bogie - with all four connected the bogie would be almost locked solid.

The compromise I've ended up with is to fix the cables / pipes in a little block on the frame in line with the connection points on the bodies.

These blocks aren't prototypical either but on balance I think the cables are too much of a feature of this end of the tamper not to have something there to represent them.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Dduallt Rides Again

Call me out of touch but I've just discovered that Dduallt is being dragged out of retirement for another exhibition appearance.

Dduallt will be appearing at the Railex show in Stoke Mandeville next May. Details at

It appears Himself has been keeping me out of the loop - or perhaps I should say shunted into a siding?

The layout will need a bit of TLC before it is shown. In particular the stone walls, which were made 20 years ago using pyruma fire cement have begun to crumble recently and will be replaced with cast plaster versions.

Seven months should also give us time to get some new items of stock ready so visitors to the exhibition will hopefully catch the debut of the first 009 models of 'Lyd', super-barn 103, the cherry picker and a completed KMX tamper.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A Tin Lyd On It

Himself has been making steady progress with Lyd.

Some small sections have been removed from the main frames at the front (just in front of the cylinders)and underneath the cab to make sure we don't have any problems with the front pony wheel on tight curves. This is a manufacturer approved modification: there is a half etch on the frame at this point for that purpose.

The side tanks have been filled with lead shot to maximise traction.

There have been some other deviations from the ever-so-comprehensive Backwoods construction instructions.

Pete's encyclopedia recommends the boiler and smokebox should be left removable but on our model they have been soldered in place.

An extra screw securing the body to the chassis has also been added underneath the cab.

Connecting rods have been offered up to testing but not all the cranks are fixed in position yet.

The motor's been made detachable from the gearbox by cutting a slot in the motor cradle.

The next challenge will be the infamous Manning Wardle valve gear. Oh joy!