Sunday, 30 January 2011

Lucky 13 (metres)

I mentioned a few weeks ago that 'Himself' was working on clearing the backlog of unpainted carriages. Here's the first to be finished.

It's 2043, the first of the second generation of 3rd class saloons which were also the first to be built at Boston Lodge. There are a number of design alterations from the original trio built by Winson Engineering.

They are a whopping 13 metres long (that's whopping for UK narrow gauge) and at one end there are double doors to allow for wheelchairs and the first bay of seats inside the saloon can be tipped up and the table folded to make space for these chairs.

The exterior panelling was also different to the first batch, although as the Winsons have passed through Blodge for heavy overhauls their panelling has been changed to match.

The most challenging detail to model was the new design of handrails on the vestibules. These have a T joint unlike the Winson's L shape design which could be replicated by just bending a piece of brass wire. These new ones have to be soldered from three pieces, although himself has made this easier by making a jig.

2044 & 2045 are still in a drawer in virgin white styrene.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Welsh Highland Hybrid

I sometimes think that every exhibition layout needs a novelty feature or something to wind-up the punters.

On Dduallt this requirement has been met by the gravity slate train which always gets plenty of reaction from the viewers and provides the perfect opportunity to pull a few legs. Some people really don’t know whether to believe us or not when we respond to their enquiry about how it’s powered with the answer:"Why, Gravity of course." (Our layout of the spiral has a very severe and obvious gradient, you see.)

The incomplete Bron Hebog has only had a couple of exhibition appearances but it was easy enough to tease a reaction out of the audience by giving Russell a run out and soon enough someone would mutter: “Oooh, controversial!”.

However, with the recent thaw in relations between the FR and Welsh Highland Heritage Railway I don’t think the historic Hunslet is going to retain its abilty to shock for much longer. It can only be a matter of time before it appears back on
WHR(C) metals.

So I’ve been looking around for something else to ‘get them going’ and I think its time to bring on the ‘Parry People Mover’.

The PPM was a lightweight railcar which had a brief career on the WHR in 1999 when line was open between Caernarfon and Dinas only.

This hybrid railcar was powered by a large flywheel underneath the vehicle which was revved up by an external power source, in this case a low-horsepower LPG engine, which charged the flywheel as required.

(A standard gauge version has been used for a while now on the Stourbridge branch in England with the units designated as 139’s.)

It was passed by HMRI for public use and ran a few public trips before the gearbox consumed its innards and it skulked at the back of the carriage shed for a time (where I photographed and ran a tape measure over it) before it was sent back the manufacturer, never to return.

So a PPM never has been seen at Beddgelert, and one wonders whether a machine designed for urban tramways would have been able to haul itself up the long climb to the summit at Rhyd Ddu without frequent stops to ‘spin up’, but there’s no harm in using a little modeller’s licence, is there?

You can question, too, whether passengers would be too enthusiastic about the rather spartan interior on a longer run. The railcar was registered to carry 30 passengers but there were only (bus) seats for about half of them.

My PPM project’s still at the ‘thinking about it’ stage of development, but I reckon I should be able to make the bodyshell out of styrene in my usual way and I’ll probably use a Kato tram chassis. So just a boring old dc motor rather than a fancy flywheel arrangement!

If you’re interested in finding out more about Parry People Movers the company has a website

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Transferable Skills

The varnish has barely cured on Garratt 87 and Himself is already cracking on with completing the paint job on baby brother - or perhaps that should be little sister (?) - K1.

Our model, a Backwoods Miniatures kit, has spent years running around in its underwear waiting for Boston Lodge to complete the lining out, and then waiting for Himself to pluck up the courage / enthusiasm * (delete as appropriate) to finish the job.

It seems the moment has arrived. Here's a shot of the trial lining on one side of the front tank.

He's using lining from Fox Transfers. It's quite a challenge because the two colours have to be added individually. The real K1 has a very, very thin powder blue line on the inside edge of the straw colour, but we're not crazy enough to try that.


I have been corrected about which transfers we are using on K1. The red lining is from Kemco.

Monday, 24 January 2011

It's Showtime!

We're delighted to be able to announce a new entry in the Bron Hebog exhibition diary.

The organisers of Narrow Gauge South have been kind enough to invite us to bring the layout to their show at Sparsholt, near Winchester on the 14th of April 2012.

Still, I suppose you can never have enough advance advertising.

We'll be aiming to have a lot more of the layout built by then but it will still be something of a work-in-progress exhibit. One of my aims for this year is to get to work on the Oberon Wood housing development at the south end of the station, where the railway dives into Goat Tunnel. What's holding that up at the moment is a lack of drawings / designs. (Are you reading this Francis?)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

An Explanation...

A few readers have mentioned that they didn't 'get' a reference in a post couple of days ago when I wrote about 'Himself' finding 'Rudd's Shilling' slipped into his pint of Purple Moose. (Himself was among the ranks of the puzzled)

Perhaps my historical play on words was a little too subtle and so I thought I'd better explain it.

Many years ago when serving in the Royal Navy was not a very attractive career option, groups of hard nuts, known as press gangs, used to roam coastal areas of Britain looking for men they could round up and force onto the ships. They would press a shilling, which, of course, had the image of the monarch on one face, into their victim's hand and tell him that he had 'taken the King's Shilling' and was therefore obliged to serve as crew on board one of His Majesty's warships.

Unsurprisingly blokes got wise to this, and so the story goes that the press gangs took to dropping the King's Shilling into their beer when they weren't looking. When they came to drain their glass they would find the coin at the bottom and were dragged off forthwith to a waiting ship. (Incidentally, is it said that this is why some tankards have a glass bottom, so you could spot the shilling lurking at the bottom of the beer and scarper before the press gang grabbed you.)

So, to return to the point, 'Himself' has found himself co-opted into FR volunteer Ian Rudd's lineside maintenance gang. Hence my reference to him finding 'Rudd's Shilling' at the bottom of his pint of Purple Moose (a Porthmadog brew which is highly recommended!)

So now you're all clear then!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Grey Garratt

Our latest Backwoods NGG16, No87, has passed through the paintshop and been reassembled, and here she is.

Although she only wore this livery for her first year in service on the WHR in 2009 (and is now in a lined dark blue) we've finished her in photographic grey because it was just too tempting to resist. I think it'll make her really stand out on the layout because its very rare indeed to see a grey locomotive on an exhibition layout.

The cab plates are only temporary - they will be replaced with the correct design in due course.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Easy As 1, 2, 3

If you were wondering why there hasn't been much progress on the layout part of the Bron Hebog project recently, part of the explanation is that Himself has been giving up a lot of weekends to go and volunteer on the FR.

(I think he found Rudd's Shilling slipped into his pint of Purple Moose one night)

The upside of this is that I get very regular research reports on the activities at Boston Lodge.

The latest set of pictures smuggled out of Wales show progress on the conversion of former first class Observation Carr. 101 into a third class, wheelchair accessible saloon which will be marshaled at the Blaenau end of trains and given a new number: 123.

This will be an 'quick win' (as business folk are fond of saying) because I've built 2 models of 101 already and there will only be slight alterations to the external design - an extra pair of windows in what was the guard's van. However, I won't be starting work on my model until the project is a little further on and I can see all the panelling / beading on it.

The carriage team are also busy on converting former WHR semi-open saloon 2020 into a BBB (bog, buffet and brake) Service Carr.

This should also be quite simple to replicate because they've based the conversion around the existing layout of the steel frame as much as possible, so there is a good baseline to work from. The major alteration is the generator compartment which has meant opening up the frame and inserting new uprights on one side. The sliding window frames are also asymmetric, unlike on the first, purpose built service carr, so I'll have to be careful to get those looking right.

My spy also reports on some intriguing, I might go so far as to say Spooneresque, plans for future FR carriage designs, but I shall say no more about that for now. (This is a modelling blog, not Wikileaks!)

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Making Me Dee-Zee

This is one of those little jobs I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Or, to be more accurate, a day when you can’t make progress on your existing projects because you’re still waiting for bits you’ve ordered to arrive.

I’ve always planned to build some DZ wagons for the Bron Hebog fleet but since knocking out four for a client I’ve been struggling with the prospect of taking on such a repetitive job again.

The tricky bit on these wagons, you see, is the sunken panels on the drop down doors. On the batch produced last year I made them by scraping away at styrene with the tip of the scalpel. It was very effective but also very boring.

There are 2 panels on each door. 6 doors on each wagon, and 4 wagons in all. That’s 48 panels to be scraped out. So you’ll maybe understand why I haven’t been in a hurry to put myself through that again.

What if there was a way of mass producing them, though?

Etched brass would be the obvious way, but how to get those sunken panels looking right? As far as I understand the process you wouldn’t be able to etch a soft, rounded recess like those on the DZ’s. And I’m not sure how well it would work to try and press them into brass by hand. Would you be able to make them regular enough?

So instead I’m considering trying my hand at resin casting (or perhaps sub-contracting that out to an expert) and today I had a go at making a master.

I have posted before about the peculiar properties of styrene as a modelling material, and in particular its determination to bend like a banana, especially where thin pieces are laminated like the DZ doors would need to be. Not necessarily a problem if I was making the mould right away but it will most probably be a number of weeks, if not months, before I do that and I really don’t have much confidence my styrene styrene master will still be the same shape!

What if the master was half styrene, half brass? Now that wouldn’t bend, would it? So that’s what I’ve been trying today, with uppers layers of 0.15” styrene bonded onto a 0.10 sheet of brass beneath.

The other issue was how to make the sunken panels? This time I’ve tried out a different method. Instead of shaving away styrene I’ve used model filler to make the transition between the layers and I think it works just as well.

I know it looks a bit rough, but the photo’s been cropped and enlarged severely, so what you’re seeing is many times bigger than reality. That’s my excuse, anyway.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Cleat Cheat

Well, that ended up being a little bit easier than I expected!

Thanks to a tip-off from a reader I’ve been able to use etched brass bits for the ‘wee beasties’ on the ballast wagon, which I now understand to be tie down cleats which are used to secure wagons like this when they’re being transported on ferries.

There is a 4mm fret produced by 51L Models (available online from Wizard Models) and they’re just the job. Drill, fold and fit – that’s all there is to it. And to think, I’d spent months puzzling how to make these from scratch. I was going to solder four bits of brass strip together, drill two holes at each edge and then try to file them into something resembling a cleat, then re-apply the iron to separate them into four parts. It makes me exhausted just to write it down and I doubt I’d have ended up with anything as neat as these etched cleats.

If you look closely you might also spot that I’ve added the main vacuum brake pipe run where it surfaces and runs beneath the hoppers.

The wagon is sooo close to being finished, just the mesh on the operating platforms to add now.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Braking News

My ballast wagon is receiving its finishing touches. The various handrails have been bonded on and the ballast chutes fixed in place too.

Today each end received brake pipes and one of them a handbrake. The vacuum hoses are made with more of the tiny picture hanging wire twisted around 0.7mm brass wire. (30 turns is the Dduallt / Bron Hebog recipe, although Himself prefers the wire from a Peco point motor solenoid)

So that leaves just a couple of small tasks:

The vacuum pipe run along the wagon which twists its way in between each half of the hopper.

The mesh on the operating platforms (whenever it arrives in the post - 10 days from ordering online and counting)

And these wee beasties....

Hmmmm. A little chin stroking called for before I try to tackle these, I think.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I’ve been putting in a few more hours working towards finishing off my own model of the Romanian ballast wagon. I posted last week about adding some invisible details and that’s what I’ve been getting on with.

I say invisible, but what I really mean is the sort of details that you probably wouldn’t notice were missing if they weren’t there because you probably never realised they were there in the first place, if you see what I mean.

That’s how I’d class the levers / cranks which hang from the largest of the control shafts along each side of the wagon. It’s the actual shaft that’s the vital detail – you’d certainly notice if that wasn’t there.

It’s a fiddly task because it means making and then bonding some little bits of styrene at right angles to a horizontal rod. You’ve got to start by filing the end of a piece of styrene strip to the shape of the shaft – and the strip you’re working on is only 1.5 mm wide.

Next cut it to 5mm length and drill a tiny hole at the other end to receive a small piece of wire and file it to a wedge shape, rounded at the other end.

After you’ve made 8 of these they’ve got to be glued in place to line up with some more holes you’ve drilled on the doors at the bottom of the hopper. Oh, and make sure they’re all sitting at the same angle on the shaft. Like so...

Then, with some surgical tweezers, attempt to link these levers to the hoppers with some small lengths of brass with a little bend at one end to hook through the hole at the end of the lever and dab with superglue to secure.

And you end up with this...

Not that anyone will ever notice....

Monday, 10 January 2011

Modelling vs Masochism

As a diversion from the ballast wagons I've been adding a few more details to the tamper. (Is that still not finished?)

Well, this bit had to wait for the soldering iron to arrive. Can you tell what it is yet?

That's right, got it in one. It's some kind of pipework. Electrical or pneumatic? Sorry, not a clue, though I suspect someone will soon put me right.

Anyhow, as you can see below, this side of the tamper is riddled with them. (There are none on the other side)

For these I used very thin brass wire. I don't know what size it is, all I can tell you is it's the stuff which is twisted together to form the wire you generally use to hang pictures.

It's not the neatest bending or soldering you'll ever see, but then again, take another look at the picture of the tamper and you'll see the actual pipe work / wire loom is a bit of a mess too.

I haven't included every cable/wire on the model but to do so would be awfully fiddly and I've always maintained that making good models is about convincing the viewer what their looking at is an accurate model rather than rivet-counting perfection. I'm a modeller, not a masochist.

Anyway, here's how my efforts look on the model and you can judge for yourself.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Ce Parere Aveti?

Translation: Romanian for 'What do you think?' (according to Google at least)

This is the 'customer' version of the WHR Romanian ballast wagon ready for dispatch.

My own model still has some additional, barely visible, details to be added before the handrails are fixed on.

Apologies for the cross-posting for anyone who's already seen these snaps over on the Boston Largs Works blog.

Friday, 7 January 2011

At Last...

You may deduce from the picture below that my long awaited packaged arrived today (at 1pm if you please) and I spend a happy couple of hours completing the handrails for the Romanian ballast wagons.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Oh No, Not Again!

A mildly frustrating situation: a whole day free to model but not a lot to model with.

I'm awaiting supplies of styrene tube and some small brass strip for the ballast wagon but it seems the UK's postal service still in a a state of chaos caused by the snow and the long run of festive bank holidays. I was told a package was posted in England on Hogmanay (that's New Years Eve for the rest of the English-speaking world) but it has still to arrive here. I'm beginning to consider investing in a carrier pigeon....

With that off my chest let me tell you about today's technological breakthrough. A potential solution to that most infuriating of modelling accidents - knocking over one's bottle of plastic cement!

This happens to me not infrequently and matters were brought to a head this morning when a careless arm movement once more sent it toppling across the workbench. And as you can see, at this price that's not something you can afford to have happen too often.

Matters are not helped by the design of the bottle which has a centre of gravity not dissimilar to Katie Price wearing six inch heels. While south of the border for Christmas, however, I notice that Himself has thought of a neat solution to this problem and so I have shamelessly copied the idea.

It's basically nothing more than a box made out of thick styrene on a wide square base made just big enough to slot the bottle into. The base can even be screwed in position on your workbench for total security.

I'm hoping it'll prevent a lot of wasted cement and also a lot of foul language!

(I'll save that for the Royal Mail!)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Strike While The Iron's Hot

My adventures with the soldering iron continue as the final details are added to the Romanian ballast wagon.

The object of this latest epic battle between ambition and inexperience are these hooped handrails which are positioned either side of the platform at the Caernarfon end of the wagon.

Soldering brass is a very steep learning curve for me and fabricating details like these demands a very different approach to what I’m used to with styrene.

The biggest challenge is holding such pieces in place while you join them without them altering position or me ending up with 3rd degree burns on my fingertips.

To a great extent I’m making this up as I go along so I don’t know whether the technique I’ve used here is conventional or to be recommended.

Because I needed to make joints in close proximity I decided to use detailing solder with a lower melting point which requires much less ‘iron time’ although the joints may not be as strong.

I decided to try and copy a technique I’d seen used with solder paint many years ago by a modeller much more skilled than me.

I ‘pre-loaded’ the back of the horizontal pieces with a thin layer of soldier, then I laid the wire hoop in position on top, put a generous dollop of flux on each point of contact and gave each one brief dose of heat.

The flux sizzled, the solder ran and just before the heat transfer along the brass wire reached my fingertips the joints set enough for me to let go.

I’ve probably used four times more solder than I needed to but nevertheless I’m quite satisfied with these for only my second outing with the soldering iron.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Old Boy's Toys

I wasn't the only one who found modelling related presents under the Xmas tree - Himself has also had a visit from Santa.

They included a clamp stand to transform a hand hand mini-drill into a pillar drill which should ensure his apertures are perfectly perpendicular in future.

And he's wasted no time in playing with his other new toy, a rolling road set.

These are the power units from NGG16 87 on test. The model is in the process of being painted.

The rolling road units are produced by an Australian firm DCC Concepts