Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Roof Ribs

I've described my technique for making styrene roofs before but some of you may appreciate seeing it again.

Generally speaking unless you have a piece of moulded plastic any roof made out of flat sheet forced into a curve is highly likely to sag in the middle where it is unsupported.

The solution we hit on is to start with a flat roof and add shaped ribs which support it along its length.

You can also see in the picture that I have prepared the roof skin - a piece of 15" sheet - which has triangular cut outs where the domed ends will be shaped with the help of Milliput.

What I will do when I come to fit it is attach one side with a very generous dose of solvent and wait for it to set firmly before turning it upside down and rocking it over and bonding the opposite edge, holding it down with very firm pressure for a few minutes until the skin stays stretched in position.

I'll post a post a picture of that when I've done it.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Playing Trains

As an Easter treat for the grandchildren Himself set up Dduallt in exhibition mode with the two fiddle yards on the back.

(Any suggestion that this was for the benefit of either of us is to be immediately discounted, naturally.)

We ran a very limited service - only 2 trains sets were taken out of the boxes - but it was lovely to have the layout up in a home setting for the first time in 25 years or so.

(And yes, the signalling does look rather odd in this shot)

Oh, and one more thing.

This is what happens when a 3 year old having his first go at operating a model railway isn't supervised closely enough!


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Flat Roof

With the carriage body sides joined together and a floor keeping the lower half in shape the obvious thing to so next is make something to so the same job at the top.

The way I build our carriages is generally to have a fixed roof and a removable floor, and within that is a false ceiling to give support to the fragile top of of the body.

What you see here is a three layer laminate.

The bottom layer is a neat fit inside the top of the body.  The middle one sits on top and at this stage is slightly over-sized.

Both of these are necessary parts of the structure of my roofs but the top layer is an additional one I've added this time to give it more rigidity and prevent it flexing when the roof skin is stretched over the top later on.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Dance Floor

At last the big day - or more accurately, night - where I can glue the bits of 121 together into a carriage-shaped box.

It always feels like a very significant moment in a carriage build, although there is a lot of work still ahead.

The first task was to add on the false frame behind and below the main body side.

The Tin Car bodies were mounted on ex-Isle of Man Railway frames which were very chunky affairs and are a key part of the 'look' of the carriages.

There are two ways of doing this. You can add sections to the bottom of the floor / chassis which fits up inside the body, or you can make them a fixed part of the body.

I've done both before and this time I opted for the latter.

You can also see from the picture the small blocks I've glued on ensure the body sits on the chassis to give the correct ride height.

With that done I could then bond the four bits together.

I've also cut out a blank floor / chassis  (Disco Car dance floor!) which is sitting inside the body - on top rather than underneath the mounting blocks - to help keep it square and straight.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Statement Of Intent

Himself appears to be serious about making a new fiddle yard / continuous run for Dduallt because he's invested in some wood.

There's none of your fancy-pants lightweight plywood construction around here - our base boards are virtually bomb-proof and built up on a solid foundation of best 2 x 1.

The nature of the challenge can be see in this photo of the back of the layout.

Until now the layout has operated with two independent yards with the upper one 7cm higher than the lower (Porthmadog) end and the whole assembly resembled a giant U shape.

What we're thinking at the moment is that we'll have a handful of loops which feed into the single track at either end.

According to my very basic calculations - and there's every chance these could be completely wrong - the gradient is 1 in 35 (7 cm gain in 250cm) which could prove interesting for Down trains which will have to climb back up the ramp again to get to the Blaenau end of the spiral!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Body Bits Ready

It won't be long before the bits of the Disco Carriage can be glued together into a body shell.

I took my time forming the doors at each end of the sides.

I used a template to try to ensure that the gap between the last window post and the main pillars at the corner was precisely the same distance because it is all to easy to end up with sides that are different lengths, leading to a rather squinty body.

The other thing to be really careful about is to ensure those pillars at the end are completely upright and not leaning in or out.

It is unmistakably a 'Tin Car' now.

Just before I glue it together I'll need to remind myself what height to set the floor at and fix some blocks on the back to achieve that.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Locating Houses

I wrote in the previous post about how Himself had wanted to have space to have one of the layouts up permanently while still being able to work on the other one.

While Dduallt is set up on one side of the railway room we're still able to put up segments of Bron Hebog to finish off the remaining scenic work.

The first job is to fix the location of the houses that I built for the Oberon Wood estate at the end of last year.

It's going to be a little tricky because there is a house missing - it goes in the space between the three houses on the left of the picture.

It's not like any of the other ones I've made so far - it's a strange half-bungalow, half-house design - and so it's tricky to estimate how much room to leave for it.

I don't have the plans for it but I'm hoping if I ask very nicely that the Artistic Director may be able to expedite work on it.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Birthday Treat

Himself celebrated the start of his eighth decade this week and part of the celebrations included a ceremonial erection of Dduallt in its new home.

Around three weeks after moving in the railway room (nee garage) is sufficiently clear to enable him to use it for the purpose that he moved to the other end of the country for - somewhere to have space to work on projects and play trains at the same time!

At the moment it is just the scenic boards bolted together and mounted on trestles because we haven't decided on the best spot in the room for it.

Himself is also giving consideration to the possibilities of building a new single fiddle yard that runs along the back of the layout - as opposed to the two sitting at 90 degrees which we have at the moment - which would enable us to turn it into a continuous run, albeit with a rather fearsome ski slope connection between the two levels.

Time to find some envelopes to sketch on the back of....

Monday, 14 March 2016

Sticky Ribs

Some very visible progress with the carriage sides following the postman's visit at the end of last week.

I've added the iconic Tin Car ribs on the lower body panels and the matching detail on the window pillars above.

Although I have still to add the doors at each end they are unmistakably taking on the look of an FR Tin Car now.

The second layer of detail makes a big difference to the rigidity of the sides and the strip which I fitted inside the window frames to represent the rubber seal firms them up nicely too.

The bottom one of the pair has the extra pillar where the gas bottle cupboard was added in and I've put on some of the extra details on the removable panel which you can see.

The doors, next, I think.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

On With The Ends

While waiting for my new supplies of strip to arrive I've carried on with work on the ends of the Disco Carriage.

Since you last saw them I have created the thin rubber seal on the windows by curing in a length of very thin 10 thou strip.

Once again the corners were filled in with tiny amounts of Milliput.

These also cannot be progressed much until I receive the right size of strip.

Thursday, 10 March 2016


We've taken another small step towards getting Himself back in business and transforming his double garage into a deluxe railway cave.

The other day with a team effort we managed to get his old workbench up on the wall.

(This is always an entertaining exercise when the wall in question is constructed of plasterboard sheet and you play many happy rounds of hunt the battens)

This folding board must be getting on for 35 years old now.

Originally it was mounted on my bedrooom wall to be a home for a Scalextric set.

Then it was commandeered as a handy surface to construct our first exhibition layout - a OO effort called Wickford - on.

When we moved house in the late 80's it was taken to the new place and reduced in size by about a third and put up in the garage where we used it to build both Dduallt and Bron Hebog.

It still comes in very handy when working on individual baseboards because it's much sturdier than mounting them on trestles, and of course you can easily rest the boards on their sides to get at their undersides.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Not Quite As I'd Planned

I had intended to put the ribbing on the sides of the carriage next but then I discovered a small stock-taking oversight.

Neither I nor Himself - who foolishly entrusted his stock of styrene strip to me during his house move - have any of the correct size strip for the job.

So while I wait for new supplies to arrive I'll have to find something else to get on with, so I've started work on the two ends.

The Tin Cars are market out by the windows in the ends which were put in to with a view towards the carriages eventually being used in push pull service - which this one was - so the driver could look back down the train.

The are also unusual in having a flat profile along the top due to the domes at each end of the roof so the basic structure is relatively simple to make.

Once the joints have set firmly I can curl the rim around the outer windows just like I did on the sides.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

It's Got The Look

With the window openings added in the carriage sides at last begin to take on the look of 121.

The next job will be to add another of the distinctive aspects of these Tin Cars, the ribs on the bodyside in line with the window pillars.

Once that's done it will at last be time to form the doorways at each end.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Wonderful Stuff

I've been using one of my favourite modelling materials to fill in the gaps in the corners of the windows on 121.

Milliput - the two part epoxy putty produced by a family firm in Gwynedd - is ideal because it is firm enough that you can push it into small spaces without it squirting out the other side as some of the stuff you get from a tube would.

At the same time you can add a droplet of water to it and make it run into tiny gaps and afterwards wipe away any excess.

Whilst it does take 24 hours to set the benefit is it remains workable for a long time so it doesn't develop a fragile skin within a few minutes of contact with air, and it also dries to a perfectly smooth finish which can be sanded, drilled or filed.

Later on it the project it will be my material of choice for forming the domed ends on the roof.

Sometimes I wonder how I would ever manage without having some of it in my modelling box.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Look! Round Corners

So this is how I begin turning that basic bodyshell that I showed you in the last post into something that looks a lot more like a Tin Car.

To my mind there are at least three very distinctive features of these carriages: the domed ends to the roofs; the ribs on the bodysides; and the rounded window frames.

When I first made these carriages I reproduced the corners by gluing in small triangles and filing them down with a round file.

These days I'm a little more ambitious and if I can I like to try and represent the metal rim of the windows.

To do that I take a very thin piece of strip - just 10 thou thick - and a tiny bit wider than the bodyshell, so 30 thou against 20 thou for the first layer of the bodyshell.

What I do then is to curl it around inside the square hole, a bit at a time, letting it form a chord across the corners and then very carefully chopping the ends so them meet precisely along the bottom edge.

Next, I will fill the small gaps in the corners with Milliput and then add the horizontal rail and a small vertical piece in the middle of each of the large windows to represent the sliding ventilation panes.

Because I have used 30 thou strip they are just a tiny bit proud and, I hope, will look quite effective.