Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ruling Gradient

Himself has been laying the track around the 2nd 180 degree curve on the S bend with the help of this handy device.

If you haven't seen one before - and if the legend on it isn't obvious enough - you push it along, the wheel turns and a counter on top tells you how far you've gone.

When you're building a layout with a gradient you can use it to help set the track supports at the right height to tell you whether your trackbed is climbing at an even rate.

As you can see, along with everything else on this this layout it is stubbornly imperial..

This wide view shows the progress which has been made on this board.

The trackbed and farm road are in place. The other small curved section of plywood you can see on the inside is the bed of a small stream which emerges from Cutting Mawr under the track in a drain, runs down the inside of the curve about to half way and then drives under the track again and out the other side of the embankment.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Seeing Double

I've completed the second pair of door masters for the new Super Barn project which gives me a full set of four.

The double doors - although it would be more accurate to describe them as one and a quarter rather than double - are rather more complicated to make than on by previous Super Barn models because on 108 the Boston Lodge team have seen fit to include a droplight on the wee narrow door as well as the big one.

Representing this called for some rather fiddly work with tiny strips of 10 thou styrene but we got there in the end.

I'm doing these droplights differently to how I usually would on a scratchbuilt carriage.

Normally I build them up as another layer of styrene behind the main bodyside but that's not an option on an open back casting which needs to be completely flat.

So instead I am forming them within the window aperture using this really thin strip.

Given that the door is built up of a laminate of 20 thous sheet with 15 thou beading detail the droplights should still look far back enough when they're cast, I hope.

They've now been glued onto thick 60 thou sheet which will form the base of the casting box.

Although I'm not ready to make moulds with them yet it will ensure they don't start to curl up as laminated styrene likes to.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Aviation Spec

This is one of Himself's little jokes. (We play along with it - it's easier that way).

He has been busy drilling large holes in the plywood scenery formers making the thing look like the fuselage of some WW2 bomber or some ultra-lightweight component for a racing car.

In fact, as he freely admits, it does very little to reduce the weight of the board.

And here's the real irony.

Having shaved a few grams off framework he's now about to proceed to cover it in chicken wire, Mod-Roc and - to make sure it really tips the scales - brush a coat of plaster over it.

None of this will surprise regular readers who will be familiar with Himself's stubborn determination to stick to traditional and solid forms of construction.

However, to his credit, nothing he's built has ever fallen apart. Yet.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Making An Entrance

I've started work on the first of the masters for the Super Barns I'm planning to cast, beginning with the single end doors.

These latest carriages follow the pattern established with the new WHR stock in having the doorways inset at each end. One end of the carriage also has a double set of doors.

This, and the layout of the window pillars mean the two sides of the carriage are not a mirror image of each other, they are 'handed' so to speak.

All of which conspires to quadruple the amount of masters I need to make to cast a Super Barn compared to a nice, simple, traditional Barn where all I would need to do is make a single master for a side and another for the ends.

Instead I face the prospect of making 7 component parts to be able to cast a single carriage.

It will be worth the effort, I hope, because in this case I'm already committed to making 3 models of 108 and another of 103 and so the time and effort put in now should be paid back when I can cast the bits far faster than if I was scratch building all of them.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Creating Contours

With the track bed cut out and placed in position on the new board it's time to begin forming the landscape on either side of it.

Himself has started cutting and shaping the plywood formers which will be positioned at right angles to the line as you can see here.

The railway line has to run on an embankment but at the same time is also located in a distinct dip as it runs behind the raised ground immediately behind Beddgelert station.

The new farm track which now runs immediately in front of the railway is an added complication.

I think it's quite a tricky landscape to reproduce, especially when you consider that unlike the vast majority of layouts which only have to work, in a scenic sense, in a linear fashion - that is, to match the sections to the left and right of the area you're building - ours also has to match what will be in front of and behind it.

It's a bit like the difference between trying to fit together the edge pieces of a jigsaw and trying to place one of the pieces in the middle.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Up In The Air

Although this looks like a model of the M4 elevated section it is, in fact, the start of the process of forming the trackbed around the S bend on Bron Hebog.

The plywood which you saw marked out in a previous post has been attacked with a jigsaw and raised up on a procession of piers, carefully graduated to maintain an even gradient.

In the view above you can see that Himself has managed to cut the railway alignment and the farm track out of the same sheet of wood.

The railway is the section at the top of the image and the farm track is below it.

The bit where they are joined is an occupation crossing which in due course will have to be festooned (or should that read ffestooned?) with all manner of warning signs and fences which is why the wood has been cut much wider so there is something solid to anchor them all into.

These pictures demonstrate the clear advantages of an open frame baseboard design as opposed to trying to build everything up from a solid base, although even we have to admit that it does look more like a motorway than a model railway right now.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Casting Off

I am going to take a wee break from resin casting.

I have just finished producing a batch of 10 DZ wagon kits for the FR shop, the first consignment having sold out, following on from making fresh supplies of B wagons and the new ballast wagon kit for sale there as well.

I've done some back-of-the-envelope calculations and I reckon that over the last 9 months I have knocked out - at a conservative estimate - more than 80 individual kits. (If I totted it up properly and included those I made for myself it probably tops a 100.)

When you break down each kit into its component parts then I have certainly cast more than 1000 pieces so far this year.

I think I deserve a little rest and, what's more, a chance to make a model for myself again.

So, I'm going back to my favourite game of playing catch-up with the Boston Lodge carriage builders and plan to set about building a model of Super Barn 108 which entered traffic this summer.

For this purpose I have liberated our model of the prototype Super Barn 103 from storage down south to use as a template so as to ensure that this third one looks vaguely like the first two.

In the meantime, if you're interested in buying one of  my kits, the FR shop would be delighted to hear from you.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Marking Tracks

We've been deploying a precision piece of modelling equipment this week - the felt tip pen.

Himself made use of a spare hour to sketch the outline of the trackbed in the middle section of the S bend immediately behind Beddgelert station.

If it seems a bit wide for OO9 here it's because a new farm road follows he line of the railway along here, one of the mitigation measures agreed with the farmer at Cwm Cloch when the railway became a railway once again.

The track sits a bit lower than the line but Himself is hoping to be able to cut it out of one piece of plywood and jigsaw a slit and bend the wood to separate the levels.

The end-on view above shows how the line does not take a straight course between the two big bends but snakes around.

Our reverse curve is not as pronounced as on the actual railway which is a consequence of us having squeezed the S bend back towards the station a little to make it fit better into the rectangular outline of Bron Hebog, but I doubt if anyone will ever really notice.

(They never did when we pulled the same trick on Dduallt)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Onwards and Upwards

I was writing a few days ago about how the track on Bron Hebog climbs all the way from Beddgelert station around the S bends.

On the real railway this section has a ruling gradient of 1 in 40.

As I was explaining, we haven't calculated whether Bron Hebog will reproduce this to scale - nor have we any intention of trying to work it out - but our little trains will most definitely be seen to gain height.

This picture shows the work done so far to set out the entry and exit points of the trackbed around the 180 degree bend and the difference in level is clear to see.

And if you look from where the public will be watching from at exhibitions at the very centre of the S the difference in height between the 3 sections of track is very striking.

Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will be able to make out the little wagon sticking out of the bottom of Cutting Mawr at the top of the picture.

If you will allow me to say so myself I think this bit is going to look very impressive when it's finished.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Digging Deep

There's been more work done on establishing the profiles for the scenery and the trackbed on the new board towards the back of the layout that I featured here a couple of days ago.

It includes what, I think, will be one of the most impressive bits of Bron Hebog as the line passes through the depths of Cutting Mawr right at the back of the layout.

I've placed an old wagon where the trackbed will run to give some perspective and demonstrate just how high, and steep the sides of the cutting are here.

The wagon, incidentally, is an ancient attempt at kit-bashing a freelance four-wheeler into something that looks like one of the FR's old covered vans. It's not as tall as the modern WHR stock but it does at least give you some idea of what it might eventually look like when this section is finished.

(You can see a shot of the real location taken from the footplate of an NGG16 in a recent post titled Cab Ride.)

Cutting Mawr is at one end of the 180 degree bend behind Beddgelert station, most of which is on a prominent embankment.

Below is the profile which as now been cut at the other end.

I hope to have more pictures of this section to post later this week.

Friday, 11 October 2013

A Messy Business

This is what a workbench looks like when you're busy resin casting.

That's a new batch of DZ wagons in preparation in the picture above.

I'm about 25% of the way through after a couple of days work.

The most important tool you can see in the picture is the humble cocktail stick.

This is what you use for chasing out as many air bubbles as you can before a slice of Perspex is laid over the top to get a flat back to the casting.

The trickiest parts of these kits are the lumps and bumps on the bogies and the door castings which go on the inside of the wagon.

There is a fine rim, about no more than 0.5mm thick around the outside of the casting which is a magnet for minuscule bubbles.

So far with this batch of DZ's I've had a success rate of around 95% which I'm pretty pleased with.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

B Is For...Back In Stock

I've spent most of the last few days casting an packing another batch of B Wagon kits for the FR shop in Porthmadog.

They should be arriving in Wales at any moment and will hopefully be on the shelves in time for the 1863 And All That vintage weekend event.

While you're marvelling at the sight of Prince and Palmerston in action remember some of the proceeds of the sale of these kits will be donated to the appeal to return Welsh Pony to steam.

This delivery will be followed up by a new run of DZ wagon kits which I have just started work on.

When they're done I dare to hope that I might be able to find the time to make a model for myself again.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Plugging Away With The Peckett

Although he's ever-so pleased with his new luxury 'Grandad Cave' Himself does come up for air every now and then and puts in a shift in the rolling stock construction centre upstairs.

Close examination of the clocking in machine reveals that he has spent an hour or two of the last week working on our RT Models Harrogate Peckett kit adding the handrails to the saddle tank.

This is a bit of the locomotive where form clearly had precedent over function.

To look at the saddle tank you would think it is rather capacious, but in fact the front portion, above the smokebox, is just a dummy and carries no water at all.

I think it certainly would have looked rather odd without it.

From this angle you can also see clearly what an outrageous overhang there is at the front and the back of this beast.

Had the FR ever got around to restoring it then it surely would have been given a very radical rebuild as a 2-6-2 or perhaps even a 2-6-2T with a Blanche-style tender cab.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Track Plan

Himself likes to keep things traditional and simple in the Grandad Cave which is why he's adopted a typically low-tech solution to planning the trackbed on the next two boards which will take the line around the second 180 degree bend and through Cutting Mawr at the very back of the layout.

It's a very three dimensional process because not only does he have to plan out where to lay the tracks but also work out the gradient and the topography of the surrounding scenery.

Here in this picture you can see how he's drawn the profile on a sheet of wood at the end of one of the boards and the clear outline of the embankment the trackbed sits on.

To the left of the picture you can see the existing part of the layout with Beddgelert station on it and how much higher this new section of track will be.

I do not know if it is a prototypical ascent - I most certainly don't have the mathematical skills to make that sort of scale calculation - but I think it will look impressive enough to someone watching the layout in action and that's all that really matters to us.

For this next picture the camera has been moved around to the front of the layout - where the punters usually stand - and here we've got a large piece of paper used to sketch out the big bend.

One of the decisions we will have to make here is how faithfully to replicate the degree of tree cover?

The real railway is lined on both sides of the curve today, but of course this bend was famously open and exposed in the early days of the WHR.  (I was going to write heyday for a moment, but then I realised that would be contradiction in terms! Today is arguably the WHR's heyday.)

The thing is though, the mind plays tricks, and I suspect a lot of us still believe there is not so much tree cover as there really is at this spot.

If we were to model the foliage faithfully I wonder if a lot of people would think we've got it wrong? Also there is the another consideration which is that this bend is going to be one of the best places to view the full length of a train on the layout. Would it not be a shame to hide it almost completely behind the trees?

As ever we will be guided by the Artistic Director. Much as we hate to admit it, he's usually right on these matters.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Himself has been lifting track off the layout in a classic case of taking one step backwards to go two forwards this week.

I'm being a little misleading on purpose here, because in reality what he's been doing is dismantling the temporary fiddle yard we had at the Rhyd Ddu end of the layout for the show at Dinas last month to turn it into a proper scenic board.

As you can see the plywood top has been removed in one piece and he's left the tracks in place in case we should need it again.

This all depends on whether Bron Hebog will next show its face in public in a 'finished' state or as a 'work in progress' once again. (I use the commas because no layout is ever truly finished, of course.)

And so another virgin baseboard has been brought out of store and set up in the new, luxury 'Grandad Cave'.

You'll see that this one sits at a right angle to its neighbour. To help you get your bearings the next picture (below)  is taken as if you were hovering above Goat Tunnel looking towards Rhyd Ddu.

The new board that is nearest the camera will show the trackbed where it makes the second 180 bend on the embankment behind Beddgelert station and Cutting Mawr will be somewhere up against the wall on the left of the picture.

Do you know where you are now? Good.

The first task will be to profile of the sides of the board and then draw the shape of the trackbed on a sheet of plywood, cut it out and fix it at the correct height on rises.

Updates to follow soon I hope.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

In The Pink

I had hoped to be able to take a wee break from almost continual resin casting and do a little modelling for myself, but it seems it is not to be.

No sooner had I delivered a consignment of new the NGY ballast wagon kits to John of the FR shop than he placed an order for another run of the B wagon and DZ wagon kits which are selling well at Harbour Station. (A slice of the profits from each kit go towards steaming Welsh Pony remember)

The first task was to run off a set of moulds. It's a little different this time because my supplier has changed to a different brand of RTV rubber. The new stuff sets in a rather fetching shade of salmon pink.

It is not the silicone which is pink (it comes as a slightly off-white gloop) but the catalyst which is bright red as opposed to the previous stuff which was clear.

It's a quite a bit easier to use on account of the recipe calling for a 10% dose of catalyst instead of 5% which means on a 30g mix you're aiming to measure out 3g of liquid rather that 1.5g and so on. Unless you've borrowed some scales from the local laboratory its always going to be easier to accurately measure out a larger amount on the el cheapo catalogue shop digital scales I use.

The other advantage is you can see how thoroughly the silicone and the catalyst have been mixed together - if there are still any pale streaks in the pot keep stirring.

The test will be how well the moulds stand up to production line casting.