Friday, 29 April 2016

Empty Vessel

It's unusual for me to build a carriage without an interior, but, of course the whole point of the Disco Car was that all the furniture was stripped out to make way for the 'dance floor'.

You might think this would be to my advantage - there's less to make - and in that respect you're correct.

However the interiors of our carriages have a structural function as well.

We generally try not to glue our glazing in place but have it floating free, trapped between the inside of the body shell and the outside edges of the seats and tables etc.

I make them to be a neat fit. Sometimes too neat so that when a layer of paint is applied they no longer fit and the sandpaper has to come out!

It also helps to ensure that the bodyside stays straight and does not bend inwards over time.

So what am I going to do on 121 where there is no furniture to hold the glazing in place?

Well, I've come up with this.

They are lengths of L dimension strip glued along the edges of the floor with just enough of a gap - I hope - that they will trap the glazing firmly and help to make the body shell more robust.

I don't believe they will be too obtrusive and in any case I recall that there was a skirt which ran along the edge of each side of the floor in the saloon anyway.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Disco Car Rides Again!

It's a long way from being finished but I couldn't resist posing 121 for a sort of pre-works portrait the other night when I mounted it on its bogies and placed it on a length of track for the first time.

Seeing it on wheels feels like a significant step, and I suppose it is, but it's just displacement activity for all the foutery little jobs that have still got to be done.

Jobs like bending and fitting the vacuum pipes. The handrails. The bits and pieces that hang from under the frame.

And most fiddly of all, cutting the glazing.

Now this is going to be the job from Hell because the client would like to have some of the sliding windows in the open position, or at least the appearance of that. (The party-goers got rather sweaty back in the day, apparently, so maximum ventilation was required.)

Cutting perspex sheet neatly and without scratching the surface is a horrible job at the best of times because it's very tough to slice through compared to normal styrene.

Doing so with the accuracy required to line up with the tiny window pillars on this carriage is going to be an absolute swine of a job!

I'm thinking that I might try to make templates from thin styrene to begin with.  Not only will it be easier to cut but it is also much simpler to mark it out so you know where the holes have got to be.

No wonder I'm finding other jobs to be getting on with in the meantime... 

Monday, 25 April 2016

An Open And Shut Case

Another small job I got done this weekend - because I'm not getting much time to do any big ones, frankly - was to fit the corridor connections onto the Disco Car.

The bottom end - that's the end pointing away from Blaenau - is being modelled in the open position as if it had the rest of the train behind it.

Once upon a time I would have called this the Porthmadog end but since the advent on the WHR that's no longer the case, however I can't bring myself to refer to an FR carriage, especially one I'm building in pre-WHR days, as having a Caernarfon end.

At the other end - pointing to Blaenau - as the Disco Car was always the first corridor vehicle in the train this model is being made with them closed over.

I have also now got around to blanking off the right hand window at the top end.

This was a modification done when the carriage was fitted with gas heating when the INCa push pull train was being put together at the very end of the 1980's.

The heating equipment was hidden in a compartment taking up part of the first window bay at the top end on the clock side of the carriage.

I don't know why the window in the end was covered over at this point. Was it purely aesthetic or was there was functional reason why?

Maybe one of our readers knows?

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Make The Connection

It's not been the most productive of weeks on the workbench.

I have succeeded in getting the domed ends of the roof on the Disco Car shaped and finished.

And last night, looking for something that I could achieve in short bursts of activity - not having the luxury of a solid block of time - I decided to make a start on the corridor connections.

It's not my favourite job, as I have written before, but at least this time there is a little variety because on of the end is to be modelled in the closed position.

As ever, we must take comfort from the small pleasures in life.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Inter-Valley 125

I wrote the other day that I'm developing a backlog of carriage projects and here's one of them, the FR's latest 'Service Car' 125.

Pic: Bruce Brayne

It made a public debut last weekend along with its running mate Observation Car 150.

(The pair have to go around together because 125 has the brake setter.)

This Super Barn Service Car is going to be a very interesting build because it includes a lot of new features.

Firstly, unlike the other Super Barns, it is single-ended by which mean that it only has the inset vestibule doorway at the Down end.

Not only is the up end full width it is also more traditional in not having windows on either side of the corridor connection.

The big windows are worthy of note. Some have sliding openings which meet in the middle while others do not.

Some are full height will others have a horizontal bar about a quarter of the way up (on the other side which you cannot see here.)

Some are clear and some have a mirrored finish. Some are blanked out in black or opaque.

In common with the other Service Cars the 'engine side' is quite literally that, because in the centre of the carriage is a compartment with a generator unit which is accessed through vented doors.

On this carriage, however, the upper louvres have been painted black rather than ivory. I'm guessing this is an attempt to camouflage them in the middle of a body side full of large windows?

The really interesting feature - and that's interesting as in the sense of a total pain in the posterior to model - is the central doorway on the 'clock side' as seen above.

Because this is recessed I would normally have to build the main body side as two pieces which are then spliced together with a doorway that is then attached behind.

One of the challenges in doing this is to ensure that it ends up precisely the same length as the other side which can be made as one piece.

There is, however, another complication which is the cant rail which runs all the way along the top.

In the light of this I am considering another solution where I would make a full body side as normal, but then chop out the lower solid section where the doorway is to go, leaving the two halves held together only by this thin strip of styrene along the top until I can glue the new doorway behind.

That way I wouldn't have to worry about whether the body side is the correct length although I would have to take care that it remains square and level and doesn't bend like a banana when the new section is bonded in place.

The boys at Boston Lodge never make it easy, do they!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Disco Domes

One of the design features which I think has always made the FR 'tin cars' easy on the eye is that they have very few hard edges.

Look closely at one of the carriages and you'll see it is softly rounded, from the windows to the thick pillars at each end and, of course, there's the trademark domes at the end of the roofs.

I've always thought they had a look of the BR MkII about them. Perhaps it was even a design influence?

To me it is recreating these soft edges which is the key to a convincing model of a tin car which I've noticed is sometimes overlooked on other models I've seen in both etched brass and 3D print.

So, as promised, a little detail on how we go about doing our domed ends.

In previous posts I've shown pictures of the roof skin with the triangles cut out of each end.

What I do next is to fit a smaller triangle, on a slant, inside the gap.

The only purpose to this is to reduce the amount of filler required and to give it a firmer base.

Once again my filler of choice is Milliput which is ideal for the job because it is firm enough that you can force it into the space and mould it with a moistened fingertip without it all spurting out at the other side, or going off so fast that you only have a few minutes working time, as is the case with some cellulose based products.

It's clay-like properties when it is freshly mixed allows you to over-fill your space and then slice the extra away with a sharp blade.

Because it reacts so wonderfully to water you can make your top surface really slopping knowing that a few minutes later it will have reverted to its previous clay-like state.

This also means you can get the top surface really smooth. If you nick it or drag across it then simply wet you finger and smooth it all over again.

I'm going to leave this now for a day or so by which time it will have set as hard as concrete and I can finish it off with wet and dry paper.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Back To The Dance Floor

It took up all my modelling time last week but I finished casting and packaging the kits to replenish the stocks at the Narrow Planet web shop.

It seems perverse but I hope they don't fly off the shelves too quickly because my 'To Do' list of projects is lengthening - more about that in a future post - and I've still got a lot to do to finish the model of 'Disco Car' 121 for a customer.

The first job is to form the domed roof ends and then do something about getting it on its bogies.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Horrible History

I know I bang on on this blog about the 1980's and the tin cars, etc, but I make no apology for doing so again.

It seems sometimes like the FR treats the era as its dirty little secret and I'd like to see it getting a little more acknowledgement from a heritage perspective.

Once Earl of Merioneth is out of traffic, and all but one of the 'tin cars' sent off to their new homes, there will be very little to represent a very considerable chunk of the FR's history to be seen on the rails.

(Although I suppose you could argue the very railway itself - the Deviation - is enough of a reminder of the 1970's and '80's)

When we first built Dduallt we set it in 1988 which was the last year the passing loop was in use and also the transition in carriage liveries from plain red to the two tone livery which persists to this day.

So feeling, as I do at the moment, that this era is a little under-appreciated I got our red set out for a play the other day to create some authentic 1980's scenes.

We should the grateful that at least Linda and Blanche are currently wearing the classic FR lined green livery but I would like to start a lobby to get some carriages in Cherry Red before it's too late.

As a start maybe 110, the prototype tin car, could be put back into this livery - and with authentic bus seats if there are any still around - and also the original Barn 104 while it survives in its early 1980's rebuild condition.

A case could also be made for 116 and 123 (ex-101) although they've both had their window positions altered in recent years and been reclassified.

I'm all too aware that mid 1980's was not the FR's finest hour from a presentational perspective, and fully appreciate why the Garrawegian diktats on locomotive and carriage liveries had to be relaxed to make the railway more attractive to the punters.

But consider this.

We have half of our unique and splendid Victorian carriages dressed up in drab 1930's liveries to represent the Colonel Stephens era which was surely the FR's nadir - if you  ignore the period of closure, that is.

If that can be celebrated then why not the 1970's and 80's?

Probably because too many people lived through it and still think it was only yesterday.

Well it wasn't!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

In For Repair

In an unprecedented - and most likely never to be repeated move - Himself has agreed to take a look at a friend's troublesome Backwoods NGG16.

(This is not about to be offered as a regular service so, to paraphrase the famous shopkeepers' sign, please don't ask for your locomotive to be looked at as a refusal often offends!)

This model was purchased from eBay as a complete locomotive built from the kit. You can probably see where this is going...

Although it seems to have been finished very nicely there would appear to be some fundamental issues in the way it was put together mechanically, but it will need to be fully stripped down to find out exactly what went wrong, and when, in the process.

The front unit looks like a plane at the point of take off, and if you look closely you can see that it's not just a question of the tank not sitting flat - see the way the cylinders are inclined.

When we look at the back, although this time things appear like they're on more of an even keel there is something awry which is causing the leading pony truck to be suspended in mid-air, and those cylinders look a little racy as well.

Himself's experience of putting together these Backwoods kits show that it is essential to stick to the construction sequence and check each at stage before moving on.

It seems as if finding out what has gone wrong here is going to mean running the process in reverse to discover at what point the mistake was made - a bit like unpicking your knitting to get back to the moment when you dropped the stitch.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Earning A Crust

I returned from holiday at the weekend to find waiting for me an urgent order for more of my wagon kits, so I've got the moulds and the resin out once more.

The kit in question is the NG-Y ballast wagon which has seen a sudden spike in demand.

Unfortunately this means I'm unlikely to be able to pick up work on the 'Disco Car' 121 this week but I shall endeavour to keep you entertained here in the meantime in the usual manner.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

In The Beginning

While I was searching through Himself's collection of slides a few days ago, looking for pictures of Earl of Merioneth, I came across some images that I forgot we took of the early stages of construction of Dduallt.

At a guess I would date these pictures as 1992, so pretty much a quarter of a century ago.

As you can see, by this stage he had finished creating the trackbed, which was a very precise operation with the gradient on the spiral, and the track had be wired up and was being tested.

The rolling stock is worthy of note.

This was in the early days of my scratch building carriages in styrene so some of the trains are formed of very weighty white metal GEM kits and the brass Langley bowsiders.

It was also the era before the Backwoods Miniatures kits came along and so our Fairlies tottered along with tiny wheels from an adapted Bachmann diesel chassis sitting beneath a white metal Langley body kit.

The model of the Earl was a fine kit-bashing effort by Himself with the tanks formed from styrene and the smokeboxes and chimneys sourced from Parkside Dundas kits for Linda and Blanche.

The Earl is still with us - sitting on a shelf in Himself's study - but Merddin was donated as a gift to an FR luminary. I think of it now and then and hope it is being well cared for.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Square Deal

I I don't usually do current affairs (in the FR sense) on the blog but I'm going to make the exception on this occasion.

In recent weeks news has broken of a plan to build a 7th Double Fairlie and retire - perhaps permanently, perhaps not - the locomotive known to many of us as The Square.

I'm a little sad about this because Earl of Merioneth  was my childhood FR.

I don't recall ever seeing any other kind of Fairlie before the Earl, and there was only really ever Merddin, because LT was hidden away out of sight.

Its aesthetics were unashamedly modernist - even brutalist,  you might say - but to a child of around 10 years old it was all very impressive.

I mean, imagine, a brand new steam locomotive. Wow!

I don't remember seeing it actually running for years - we only caught glimpses of it in the yard at Boston Lodge as you can see above, which made it seem all the more mysterious.

Its design has always divided opinions and I recently commented on a picture someone posted on Facebook that it was no uglier than Little Wonder.

Reflecting on the news of its looming retirement in the last few days it seems to me that there many parallels.

Little Wonder, as you can see above, was not classically pretty. Not compared to the Spooner machines which followed, at least.

Little Wonder was conceived to haul a greater number of empty slates to Blaenau and nearly a hundred years on the Earl's design was driven by a desire to increase the efficiency of the tourist operation.

It may have been ill-conceived in the design of its axle load-busting fuel capacities but I think it's clear the intentions were the same.

Another uncanny similarity is that both had relatively short active careers before hard nosed commercial decisions brought about their replacement.

Both shook themselves to bits in short order, although unlike Little Wonder great efforts have been made to keep the Earl going since the fundamental boiler design issues became apparent.

Here is an archive snap Himself took of that boiler in the new cradle at Boston Lodge in 1974.

The cradle, by the way, is knackered, as are the notorious square tanks - hence the decision to steal its bogies and put them under a brand new locomotive.

As is well known at the end of the 1980's Earl of Merioneth was treated to a facelift that a Hollywod diva would have been proud of  - a quite remarkable transformation that turned it from a very utilitarian-looking machine into something that, although still unmistakably modern,  had some style about it.

I would like to hope that there will be plans for some meaningful preservation and display of the superstructure and that is is not just dumped in a shed in the way that Livingston Thompson was for a decade and a half.

I am concerned that the FR should not neglect its 1970's heritage.

It was the Back to Blaenau era.

Some of the things that were done then may seem ugly and embarrassing now but in time it will be thought of as one of the most significant periods in the FR's history.

I'm uncomfortable, for example, that all but one of the tin cars are to be scrapped or sold, with only the prototype 110 kept, and none of the production series.

Another example is that currently there are no carriages in all over red. That's a heritage livery, isn't it?

What would we give to still have Little Wonder in a museum as our greatest heritage treasure?

To me, Earl of Merioneth is the Little Wonder of the 20th century and must be treated accordingly.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Green Scene

One of the joys of operating a layout at home - as opposed to at an exhibition - is that you can run what the heck you like and there is no know-it-all standing a few feet in front of you to point out the error of your ways.

These days Dduallt is our trainset and we'll do what we like with it, thus...

I think the Peckett 'Harrogate' looks rather good on the '90's push-pull set, don't you?

(Even better in the passing loop at Dduallt too, but that's a whole other debate...)

The Wee Controller  (my 3 year old boy) had ordered that we get this engine out of the box on that basis that it looked like Percy (of Thomas fame) which accounted for its presence.

The R T Models kit makes a very tidy model.  It runs beautifully on the outside framed Farish 08 chassis and it's got a nice lump of white metal right over the driving wheels to give it decent traction too.

Such a shame the FR never got around to rebuilding it.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Roof Skin

So, for all you roof-watchers, this is the post you've been waiting for. Ta dah!

It's not quite finished, obviously.

However, here is a snap of the roof skin glued in place with the cut out for the domed end very prominent.

What I'll do next is cut some sloping triangles to fix in the gap.

These will act as a base for the Milliput and also reduce the amount of putty that is required which will also keep down the weight of the roof.

One of the risks with this technique is that the carriage could become a little top-heavy - especially so in this case because there will be virtually no interior because it has been all stripped out for the dancing!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Farm Fitting

As the weeks go by Himself is making more space in the railway room - sorry, garage - and he's been able to put up a second board so that he can fix the final position of the farmhouse.

The model appeared in a more basic form at the show at Dinas last year but this is the first time we've been able to place it in its spot on the layout since it was finished - or at least all the construction done.

Further down the track is the site of the barn which I have yet to make.

Once upon a time this was a derelict shell but in more recent years it has been completely renovated.

That's one of the challenges with modelling a real place which continually evolves.

There are other new farm buildings which have been put up in the intervening period as well, but we're not going to model any of them and so the barn will be done as a ruin.

I understand that the Artistic Director has some plans in hand so that can soon be added onto my To Do list which is lengthening once more as Boston Lodge churns out the carriages.