Sunday, 29 April 2012

Second Tine Around

I am making another KMX Tamper.

This one is for a very special customer who was one of the engineering brains behind the conversion of a metre gauge, French tunnel-dwelling tamper into a two foot gauge machine able to survive life in the Welsh mountains.

The process begins with making the component parts for the cabs at either end and the main central frame members which you can see laid out here...

This is the cab for the non-powered end of the machine...

The motorising unit for the tamper is a Kato 'Shorty' chassis. Its dimensions and arrangement are prefect for the job.

Just like the real KMX only one end is powered, and the trailing bogie can be removed and mounted independently at the other end of the machine. But crucially it also has built in pick ups allowing us to run wires through the model connecting it to the motor unit.

That motor unit is also a perfect fit for the engine / generator compartment of the KMX, give or take 1mm, and I mount it on a frame made from a piece of 0.60" styrene with a hole cut for the unit to fit through, to which the other cab is mounted...

These cab sub-assemblies are then bonded to the two main frames and the outline of the complete machine can be appreciated for the first time.

I shall post more updates as the project progresses.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Britomart's Big Day Out

When we first started modelling the WHR I confess I feared that it might make a rather boring layout.

During the years of rebuilding the line, and before it was reconnected with the FR at Porthmadog, the train service was a rather monotonous procession of NGG16 Garratts hauling one of only two sets of carriages. Not a very varied diet for either the operators or the paying public at exhibitions.

The last couple of years since the physical reunion of the two railways, however, has seen a wonderful variety of trains running up the WHR to the point where there are few locomotives or carriages in the FR fleet which have not visited 'the dark side'.

This is great news for us because it means we can play with 75% of the stock built up over 20 years for Dduallt on Bron Hebog too.

It also means we can have fun replicating some of the more unusual specials that have been seen at Beddgelert such as Britomart's recent solo foray up the line.

These pictures were taken during the exhibition at Sparsholt a fortnight ago.

Here she is heading around the S bend at Cwm Cloch farm...

And getting a well earned drink on the way back down....

Are there any unusual (but authentic) combinations you'd like to see appear on Bron Hebog when we go to Railex 2012 next month? Leave a comment below to let us know.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

MOTW - Palmerston

A real favourite of mine on Model Of The Week this time.

I love the England engines.

In fact I would go so far as to say that if I were forced to choose between an FR without England engines or without Fairlies I would wave goodbye to the Fairlies.

Palmerston was the second of our two Englands to be built from the venerable Langley whitemetal kit and we incorporated a few lessons learnt with Prince.

Although it still sits on the Ibertren chassis the kit was designed for the power comes from a Mashima can motor.

We also drilled out the huge lump of cast metal masquerading as coal in the tender and replaced it with some real crushed coal. Not only does it look better but it also saves a lot of weight which is an important consideration for operating Dduallt with its fierce gradient.

Palmerston has made quite a few appearances on the WHR at galas or on photo charters. He and his brother Prince make a terrific contrast to the giant Garratts and their jumbo-sized carriages as they potter about on Bron Hebog with a comparatively modest vintage train formation.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Scene In Goat Cutting

Another couple of snaps of the layout I took at Sparsholt for you to start the new week.

A lot of people remarked at the exhibition that Bron Hebog, when it reaches its full extent, is going to provide a great number of photographic vignettes around the layout.

One of them is Goat Cutting, which for those who have not had the chance to visit or ride on the WHR yet, is a short, deep and curved cutting at the Porthmadog end of the station leading into Goat Tunnel.

Here we see Funkey diesel Caernarfon Castle departing from the station and passing beneath the footbridge..

And from the opposite direction here's a shot of Prince emerging from the tunnel with a vintage set. On photo charter duty, perhaps?

I shall post some more scenes from around the layout later this week.

Saturday, 21 April 2012


The Sparsholt show last weekend saw the public debut of my Parry People Mover.
It attracted a lot of attention and quite a few compliments too, which was pleasing.

I remained dissatisfied with the seats inside it, though. Or to be more accurate, my representation of the chrome handrails on top of the bus-type seats.

I had made them out of very thin strips of styrene, but I couldn't get them to sit nice and straight along the top. Over the weekend I decided it was time to substitute the styrene for another material. Or perhaps that should be, bustitute?

To stop them bending upwards I decided a strip of brass the same size as the styrene would give me the nice straight top I was seeking.

While I was staying at home for the Sparsholt weekend I took the opportunity to raid Himself's stocks of brass. (I could have ordered it online, of course, but it didn't seem worth paying postage for just one item.)

At any rate, it was a fair exchange. In return for a strip of brass (and the dregs of a bottle of Lagavulin) I found the solution to fix Himself's Sky TV settings issue and changed his Facebook profile picture for him.

An hour's work later and the brass handrails have been put on in place of the styrene ones. Much better, don't you think?

Now I just have to cut the glazing pieces and then I can start the process of painting it.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

MOTW - 'Romanian Carriage' 2060

This Model Of The Week is a case of what might have been, or perhaps some might think, a fortunate escape.

Carriage 2060 is a WHR one-off. Its continental heritage is immediately apparent.

It was bought second-hand in Romania and partially refurbished before being brought to Boston Lodge in 2007 where it underwent a lengthy process of fitting out before finally entering service on the WHR where it has mostly been employed in the secondary train set.

At the time it was purchased it was reported that there were a number of similar redundant carriages in Romania and the idea was these vehicles might be a quicker and cheaper way of increasing the fleet ready for the re-opening of the section from Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog. (Quicker and cheaper, that is, than building carriages from scratch at Boston Lodge.)

Our model is made from a Worsley Works brass scratch-aid kit.

As with all Worsley products the model you end up with reflects the amount of work you're prepared to put into it, and Himself put a lot of effort into making the roof and blending it into the sides of the carriage to make it look like a smooth, welded bodyshell. The ribs along the top of the roof are also particularly effective, as is the paint job around the window frames.

The carriage runs on bogies from an N gauge Farish BR Pullman Carr, the Commonwealth Bogie being a pretty good match for the bogies bought over from Romania and re-gauged for use on the WHR.

Fortunately, in my opinion, and for various reasons, 2060 has not sparked an influx of immigration from Eastern Europe while Boston Lodge has continued designing and making indigenous modern WHR carriages and a new generation of FR 'Superbarns'.

Much taller and slimmer than the other WHR stock it is far too continental looking for my tastes and a fleet of these Romanian carriages would make the WHR look too much like the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway of the 70's and 80's, with their Alpine and African carriages, before they embraced their GWR heritage with those lovely Pickering replicas.

(No slur intended on the W&LLR, by the way.)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Greasers' Express

One of the joys of modelling a real location on a real railway is the chance to recreate the more unusual train formations with complete accuracy.

A train that we wanted to run on Bron Hebog at Sparsholt at the weekend was the WHR 'Greasers' Express'.

It is a works train which runs the length of the line, roughly on a quarterly basis, which halts at every junction, loop and station to apply liberal amounts of gloop onto all the point mechanisms.

Himself joins the gang whenever he can. On one of the recent trips the train was formed of FR van 51, a 'B Wagon' and 'Upnor Castle', miniature versions of which can all be found lurking within our colletion.

The only unrealistic part of this scene, of course, is that the train has been stabled on a bit of the WHR which no longer exists - this tightly curved bit of the siding at Beddgelert, on top of the old loco servicing pit, having been lifted in recent years.

One of the trips that Himself was involved in was filmed for a DVD produced by the FR's in-house team.

This video has proved invaluable to Himself during the recent spurt of construction activity on Bron Hebog.

Now, in order to double check some detail of the railway or the landscape around Beddgelert he has only has to pop the disc into the player rather than look through hundreds of photographs or, worse still, stop what he is doing until he is able to make a 400 mile round trip to North Wales.

This, and other DVDs about the WHR and the FR can be purchased online from the railway's shop here.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sparsholt Snaps

A most enjoyable day showing Bron Hebog at the Narrow Gauge South exhibition at Sparsholt yesterday.

It was very nice to catch up with other NG modellers and say hello to many readers of this blog and people we've only otherwise met through internet modelling forums.

As a specialist show it had a very relaxed atmosphere to there were lots of opportunities to pose trains on the layout for photographs, which we and many of the visitors took advantage off.

I'll be uploading a lot more of them over the coming days, but for now here's one to whet your appetite as our two NGG16's cross at the Porthmadog end of the station.

If you came along yesterday and would like to send us any pictures you took of Bron Hebog you can get in touch using the comments section below.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Testing, Testing

Himself has been carrying out last minute checks on Bron Hebog before we submit ourselves to the paying public tomorrow at the Sparsholt show.

The layout was taken to the CHMRC's secret clubroom bunker to be erected as a whole (or as whole as it currently is) for test running.

This shot below nicely illustrates the size of the layout. What you see here is full length but only a third of the eventual depth!

It turns out to be a good thing that Himself decided to do some test running because he has discovered a few snags. A point motor switch required repairs. One of NGG16 number 87's power bogie motors was squealing and needed a drop of lubrication.

And the outboard disc brakes on the KMX Tamper were fouling one of the foot crossings at the Porthmadog end of the station - the foot crossing was altered rather than the Tamper!

So, that's us just about ready to head to Winchester. Will we see you there?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Bit In The Middle

There is a distinct whiff of burning midnight oil in the air ahead of Bron Hebog's appearance at Sparsholt on Saturday.

Himself has been busy grassing over the new partially-landscaped board with the first level-crossing on.

You get a better view of the abutments for the never-completed PB&SSR line in the background of the picture above.

Here below is a closer look at Cwm Cloch famyard which is awaiting various bits of rubbish and tat...

As you can see in this next shot, there is something of an extreme drought in the top left hand corner of Wales at the moment...

And, finally, here's what the view will look like from where we'll be operating the layout this weekend.

If you're coming along please say hello and let us know what you think of the layout and the blog.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

MOTW - WHR Service Carr 2010

We’ve got a revolutionary railway vehicle for you this time on Model Of The Week.

Service Carriage 2010 was a breakthrough in terms of passenger comfort on the WHR because it carried the first on-board toilet in the line’s history.

It was a development which was long overdue. When the reborn railway was first opened to Rhyd Ddu there were some grumbles that the extended journey from Caernarfon was a long time to sit with your legs crossed and upon arrivial at South Snowdon (as once was) there was a veritable stampede towards the National Park’s toilets in the car park.

Our model of 2010 was scratch built in styrene by me and final detailing and painted carried out by Himself.

2010 took its design cues from the second generation of WHR saloons built at Boston Lodge and were slightly longer than the original Winson carriages at 13m and featured double doors at one end.

It was also inspired by the first example of the Service Carr concept, the FR’s 124, which you can read about here, which combined the functions of brake / guards compartment, toilet, buffet area and a diesel generator. Like 124, 2010 features smaller windows in which the bottom third is a blank panel. Its generator compartment has three narrower doors rather than the two on the FR version.

A notable difference between this and the other WHR new builds is the bogies. 2010 runs on a pair of re-gauged 760mm roller bearing bogies acquired from Romania rather than the plain bearing SAR bogies used to date. We’re representing these on the model using a set of N gauge Commonwealth bogies produced by Farish and robbed from one of their Mk1 Pullman carriages. (The bodyshell from which was subsequently flogged off on ebay for a pleasing amount!)

Another modeling challenge on this carriage was the handrails on either side of the doors. These could not be simply folded up from brass wire, like the simple design on the early carriages, but had to have the inset posts soldered on individually. A tricky wee job.

It is also worth noting the efficiency with which the carriage works team at Boston Lodge turned out this vehicle. The welded chassis and body frame, which was fabricated by a firm in Caernarfon arrived at Minffordd Yard in mid-January 2008, and by the end of August the complete carriage was being taken down to Porthmadog Harbour station for clearance testing against the platform canopy and in the sidings. All very impressive.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Fiddling Around

As exclusively predicted on this blog - as we're wont to say in my professional life - Bron Hebog now has a temporary fiddle yard at the other end.

Himself has adapted the blank end baseboard, giving it a plywood top and laying a pair of sidings.

You can see how the sides have been shaped to match the profile of the Goat Tunnel board.

Once it has done its duties at Sparsholt and Railex the plywood will be taken off again and the final trackbed will be formed and track laid towards Cemetery Crossing which will lead into the proper fiddle yard at the back of the layout.

This bodge up will do the job well enough this weekend, though.

Monday, 9 April 2012

PPM To The Paintshop

The Parry People Mover is just about complete, except for the fact it's still bright, styrene white.

If I pull off the body you can see what I've done with the interior.

I've built what I can around the motor cover, which as I wrote in a previous post, is a little too intrusive for my liking, but I hope I'll be able to disguise it a little through the painting, and the chrome rails on the top of the bus seats - which were made out of thin styrene strip - should be the first thing that will catch the eye.

I'm also quite please with the driving control desks at either end which were made and shaped out of six pieces of styrene each.

The finishing touches, once its painted, will be small headlight jewels and some etched brass windscreen wipers.

Stuffing it with some passengers should also hide that motor cover, especially if it's standing room only in front of the doors.

I'm really looking forward to giving it a proper test run on the layout on Saturday at the Sparsholt show.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Layout Recycling

Himself is making final preparations for showing Bron Hebog at Sparsholt next weekend.

There comes a point where you've got to stop building and start making the layout actually work, which is where he is at right now.

The issue with the layout at the moment is that at both ends the track finishes in the middle of nowhere - there are no fiddle yards.

So Himself has done the logical thing and borrowed one from Dduallt.

As luck would have it the track alignment for the lower (Porthmadog end) yard from Dduallt is a perfect match with the current head of steel at the upper (Rhyd Ddu) end of Bron Hebog.

(If you click on the photo to enlarge it you may just be able to make out Baldwin tractor 'Moelwyn' performing test running duties.)

This will give us a lot more flexibility and the chance to have a more train formations on the go at Sparsholt, although because Dduallt is a much more modest sized layout the sets will have to be a little shorter than we intend to run when Bron Hebog is finished.

Unfortunately other yard from Dduallt can't be fitted at the other end, beyond Goat Tunnel, so Himself is going to try and knock up something basic with a couple of sidings on one of the blank baseboards.

He has also been honoured with a visit from the Artistic Director who has fluttered some paintbrushes in the general direction of the stone walls which have sprung up around Cwm Cloch farmyard.

As you can see, one half of this board has now been plastered and painted in a very fetching shade of brown base coat. It may have cultivated some grass by the time it goes on show at the agricultural college.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Painting Masterclass

As promised a couple of weeks ago Francis, the 'Artistic Director', has written a guide to how he achieved the paint and weathering effects on the farmyard buildings at Cwm Cloch Isaf.

So sit straight and pay attention as he delivers his masterclass...

To help key in the final finish I initially apply a basic primer to the structure. Halfords grey acrylic bodywork primer is as good as anything. When this has dried the next step is to apply a pale colouring to represent the mortar. No need to be too fussy as subsequent weathering will overlay this - an off white will suffice.

I favour acrylics so introduce water to thin the paint to a consistency that still 'sticks' but encourages it to flow into all those cracks and crevices replicated by the stones carved by hand into the plastic sheets. And the great thing is that you can keep experimenting until the mix is right! Well worth the extra effort as it will really lift the stone and slate walls.

After working in the mortar colour I start to pick out the individual stone and slate blocks At best these buildings are a rather bland grey from top to bottom which only varies in different light or weather. There is little escape from that. However differences in the roofing slate and the occasional block of darker sandstone or slate in the construction does provide some relief!

I begin to pick out the individual blocks in a darker grey and you can begin to see how important the attention to the mortar is to the overall effect. Using acrylics I avoid the tinlets that purport to replicate stone, slate, concrete etc but simply call on three matt paints to recreate the various hues, Humbrol Dark Grey 32, White 34 and Leather 62. Occasionally matt black is useful for contrast and certain slate roofing may require a blue tinge courtesy of Humbrol 25.

Whatever, you cannot escape the overall blandness and must resist anything that isn't basically a variation of grey. Just look at the real thing or photos!

Many buildings of a certain vintage in this part of the world, both domestic and agricultural, have benefited from a layer of rendering to seal the coarse stone construction. Cwm Cloch farm is no exception and the evidence of previous treatment such as this reveals itself as if part of a Time Team investigation as you study the photographs. So this is the stage when you need to replicate that finish.

The same palette as before can be brought together to create that worn and weathered render finish. Again record photos will reflect the huge differences in the overall look, varying considerably depending on weather, time of year and time of day, so you make the choice on the final hue. However, you can't go far wrong by selecting a damp and dull look for Snowdonia if that is your subject!

What is evident are the pale spots of lichen on south facing walls, evidence of clean air if not dry! Capturing these with a slight touch of off white give an extra feel of autheticity.

Examination of slate roofs will show that there is some variation in colour, albeit marginal. Weathering varies especially in shaded areas where natural light is blocked, where moss or lichen has got a grip or where the occasional slate can be paler in finish. So this is the point when should randomly pick out some of slates in a darker or paler grey. Don't worry if they look too loud, its more important that you create the contrast, later weathering will tone that down.

Take plenty of photos of your subject. Referring to a comprehensive set of images is the key to a realistic finish. Yes, there will be big differences in the look of the prototype according to conditions at the time but you can pick your preferred appearance from the evidence rather than guessing. Observation is the key.

As with the slate roof, picking out individual stonework in the walls that is darker or sometimes paler, adds variation to the construction.

Rob's skillfull recreation of the collection of buildings that form the Cwm Cloch farm complex deserve the best treatment in terms of overall look.

Now that the principle variations in the stonework and roofing have been completed , the first layers of weathering can be applied. A thin muddy grey wash is drifted over the slate roofs, instantly blending in the seemingly harsh colours applied earlier to the odd darker or lighter tiles.

And Humbrol Leather is introduced to the grey palette to replicate the occasional richer sandstone blocks that punctuate the walls. The trick as ever is not to exaggerate these variations. That blandness that is such a feature of buildings in this area would be instantly ruined by stronger colouring and look artificial and contrived on the layout itself.. Tempting maybe to attempt a more vivid blue grey roof or darker contrasting stone work but, trust me, keep it 'quiet'!

Further muddy grey washes can be applied until you are happy with the general feel of the building. A darker mix is more appropriate on the walls and roofs that see less sun and particularly those that face north or are damper due to poor maintenance etc. Gradually the mortar mix has blended in but really highlights the stonework.

These images may not fully reflect the level of contrast in the finish but they are not far off. Far better that the building sits comfortably in its environment and that the overall look does not clash!

If there is one recommendation in all of this it is to...reduce that palatte! Don't struggle with a plethora of paints and especially those that claim to recreate what are essentially natural colours such as concrete or slate. Just three matt paints, white, dark grey and leather, will mix together in varying quantities and convey the full spectrum of hues on stone or brick buildings.

You can always add but you cannot remove. Modelling is about reduction, reduction in scale, detail and finish. And that means reducing the colours you apply that in model form will always be softer and weaker than the full size equivalent. Whatever you are recreating with paint, tone it down. If in doubt..add some

The pictures here don't do justice to the finish Francis has achieved. If you're in the south of England area why not come along and see them in the flesh at the Sparsholt show next weekend?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

MOTW - 120

Strange as it may seem, the utilitarian and workaday 120 and its twin 119, have always been among my favourite FR carriages.

These 1970s 'tin carrs' with their rounded roofs and corners always reminded me of the early BR MkIIs, and these ones in particular with their toilet compartment and the distinctive opaque window always looked like mini mainline carriages to me.

These carriages, which have lost their toilet compartments in recent years, have gone through a number of changes over the years.

This model shows 120 as rebuilt with a smooth lower body panel, replacing the very obvious vertical ribs beneath every pillar with which they were first built.

However, it does show the carriage still with its original bus seating, before they were replaced with the much smarter, red 'diplomat' seats.

In the last few years these carriages have been used to strengthen the sets on the WHR, so we'll definitely be seeing 120 in action on Bron Hebog, even if I do end up having to make another version of it as it is today without the toilet compartment.

Oh yes, nearly forgot to say, it was scratch built in styrene like most of our modern carriages.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mod & Roc'er

Himself is nothing if not traditional in his construction methods.

When it comes to forming scenery he's not one for hacking away at blocks of polystyrene, leaving the workshop area look like there's been a bulk delivery of artificial snow. He likes to stick to tried and trusted techniques like chicken wire and Mod Roc with a good dollop of plaster on top.

These views show where he's got up to on the board with the current head of steal on the 'Hebogometer' in the middle of the S bend behind Beddgelert station.

As well as a railway - which crosses this board twice - he's got to lay out a river bed and a lane and all the associated bridges and crossings.

Now some of the Mod Roc plaster bandage is in place you can see the form of the land more clearly.

Up at the blank, top end of the board is where the track will cross the board for the second time after completing the second loop of the S bend, but that can't be laid until the rest of the loop is in place.

Hopefully Himself will find some time to slap on some brown coloured plaster in the next week and a bit, otherwise I would have to suggest anyone coming to see the layout at Sparsholt brings some sunglasses with them!