Monday, 12 November 2018

On The Rails

There's been a significant development on the bunker on the rear power unit of 143.

Himself has fitted the rails around the top edge which keep the coal in when it's piled high.

On a Double Fairlie things like these are known as 'greedy boards', is there an equivalent for a Garratt?

143 is the only one of the WHR fleet to have rails on the bunker and they're quite a distinctive feature.

I think it's important to make these wee adaptations, wherever reasonable, to make a more accurate model.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Getting Cranky

The good news is that the 14BA tap has arrived in the post.

The bad news - for Himself - is that it means he's run out of excuses for not tackling the motion on the power units of 143, our latest Backwoods NGG16 build.

They've now been fitted onto the axles on the front unit and the coupling rods secured in place.

If you're wondering why the leading axle has a plastic collar on it and the others don't, allow me to explain.

The second generation NGG16 kits came with plastic bushes to help attach the cranks onto the axles, so they could be glued in place rather that soldered.

Himself decided that this was rather a good idea for the front axle because that also carries the plastic gears, which are vulnerable to damage from the heat when you solder the crank on.

He tells me that it is 'much easier' to protect the plastic wheel centres on the other two axles, which is why he has opted to solder them.

Readers may make up their on minds on exactly what degree of understatement has been used in the words ' much easier'....

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Filling In The Boxes

I've had another productive session on 120.

All the various bits which I include on the underframes of the superbarns have been added.

The big box on the right hand side is the diesel-fuel heater and the smaller box opposite it is the fuel tank.

Himself will add the vacuum brake pipe which runs all along the side of the underframe when I hand it over to him to fit the brass roof.

The next thing I'll be doing is turning it over and gluing in all the seat and table sets which I've already cast in resin.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Rear Of The Year

I'm probably showing my age by referencing that annual contest so beloved of the tabloid newspapers.

Does it still exist? (Somehow I doubt it.)

Anyway, that's a roundabout way of introducing a post on the progress with 143.

Himself has begun on the bodywork on the rear power unit.

This is a picture of the inner former all folded up and in position.

There have been some modifications made.

The tank has been shortened at the front by 2.5mm and the mounting modified to represent the current tanks on this engine.

Second picture shows it with the overlays fitted with to represent the welded tank and the rear cut outs have been lengthened a little big at as well.

This shows the current state of progress on the whole locomotive.

The rails around the top of the coal bunker still need to be fabricated and fitted.

The good news is that the 14BA tap has finally arrived so Himself will be moving onto the motion soon.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Tricky Bit

I bit the bullet and got on with my least favourite part of a carriage build yesterday - adding the truss rods.

I've never been as comfortable working with brass as I am with styrene and having to bend angles doesn't help matters.

I find I have to mark the shape out on paper first as a template to measure it against, and even then it takes many attempts to get it right with the angle either too much or too little until eventually I get it right.

This time is was relatively painless and now I can get on with adding all the boxes and things which also hang underneath the carriage.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Skirting The Issue

Spending a hour at the workbench feels like a bit of an achievement after rather too long away.

I've fitted the skirt around the bottom of the chassis of 120.

Of course it's not really a skirt in real life, it's the big, solid underframe that the body sits on, but that's all part of the illusion of making a model.

This is a lot easier if you get exactly the right size of styrene strip to begin with, which is what I've done in this case.

On previous carriages in the series I've run out of this stuff and had to cut long pieces from a big sheet.

Not only do you have to ensure that they are completely straight and the same width all along, but I've also found that when you make the cut it leaves a slight angle on the edges so that when you glue it in place it sometimes develops a lean inwards or outwards.

Using the proper stuff generally avoids this issue and saves a lot of hassle, although with the price of a packet of strips now hitting £6 it's getting quite pricey.

I found a very old, empty packet at the bottom of my stash last night - probably dating back around 25 years - and it still had a price label on it showing less than £1.50.

A 300% percent increase!

I wonder how this compares to overall cost of living over that period?

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Copy Cat

I'm afraid to say I've had one of those periods where not a lot has moved on the project on my workbench - Superbarn 120.

My intention is to start work on the underside of the chassis first and to remind myself what needs to go under there and where I've borrowed one of the fleet of other Superbarn carriages as a guide.

Hopefully its presence might spur me into action.

Monday, 29 October 2018


With the tap needed to fit the cranks still not arrived Himself has been continuing with work on the body of NGG16 143.

Working backwards from the front power bogie he has begun to assemble the boiler unit.

All the window details have been added onto the cab and a small alternation to the pivot point of the rear bogie has been made - as we do on all our Garratts - to let it bend a little bit more on the tightest corners.

The front water tank it looking pretty much complete.

It's had the wrapper - with all the rivets rubbed off - fitted, and he's also extended the cut out section at the rear to make it a more accurate representation of 143.

The doors on the top of the tank, giving access to the filling hole, are made from styrene.

He's still got to add the lifting eyes in each corner and we'll be fitting our 143 with it's big, sexy lamp on the front rather than the silly little SAR headlights.

As well as that he's also made the first folds on the footplate of the rear power bogie.

Looking very good so far, don't you think?

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Mending Merddin

It looks like we've finally got to the bottom of what was the matter with Merddin Emrys.

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I posted about how Himself was going to remove and refit the power bogies and the drive shafts to see if that was the explanation for its increasingly arthritic performance.

Initial performance on Dduallt at the exhibition last weekend was promising, with it having a fair turn of speed again, but as the show wore on it slowed down to a crawl again.

Himself decided that he could no longer avoid opening it up to take a look at the motor.

This is not a simple operation on a Backwoods Fairlie.

As you can see from the picture above he had to remove the boiler / smokebox castings, the cab roof and the firebox wrapper to get at it.

He tells me that what he found under there was a motor caked in filth.

By twisting the motor around in its mount he could get to the brush holders, and having removed them, discovered there was barely anything left of them!

Fortunately there was just enough meat on them that the commutator had not suffered any damage.

Our Merddin must be at least 15 years now, and has run many thousands of scale miles on Dduallt and Bron Hebog, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised.

He recovered some spare brushes from a disused motor and has fitted those and reports that it appears to have revived the locomotive, although it has yet to have a proper run on a test track because both the layouts are still packed away.

It says a lot for the regard in which Backwoods designer, Pete, held Mashima-san, that he was prepared to trap the motor in the firebox cradle on these engines so as to make it virtually impossible to remove them again.

He always said the only maintenance you'd ever have to do was possibly replace the brushes - let's hope he was right.

Himself is making noises about getting in a stock of spare brushes in case the Earl and DLG begin to show similar symptoms.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Dduallt at Greenock

I did promise to post some more footage of Dduallt running at the show in Greenock at the weekend and here it is.

If you like what you see here then why not plan yourself a trip to the 'Fair City' of Perth to see it for yourself next June?

Details of our confirmed appearances can be found on the exhibition diary page.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


In the days leading up to the Greenock show with Dduallt Himself got some more work done on Garratt 143.

Progress on the chassis has come to a halt while he awaits the arrival of a new 14BA tap for the fly cranks, his previous one having disappeared somehow.

He has got the wheelsets and the gearbox fitted and the cylinders are loosely in position.

So in the meantime he's started work on the front water tank.

He tells me that he's had to make a change to the way it's attacked at the back.

Usually there's a long screw comes down from the top of the tank but it can't be used in this case because of the difference in the fittings on the top of 143's tank compared to the earlier batch of NGG16s which the kit was made to represent.

Instead he has made up a bracket to attach it to the frame.

The outline of the tank is clear to see here although it has yet to have the outer wrapper fitted.

The overlays for the front and the rear are in place though and - much to the designer's horror, no doubt - the rivet detail has been filed off because 143 has a smooth-sided, welded tank.

It's very early days, of course, but it's terrific to see that distinctive Garratt shape emerging already.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Resurrection

An old Presbyterian kirk seems a very appropriate place for what is starting to look like the second coming of Dduallt.

We had a terrific first day showing the layout at the annual exhibition of our new home club in Greenock, and were very pleased to receive a number of enquiries about taking Dduallt to exhibitions in what will be its silver anniversary year in 2019.

We've already confirmed that we'll be going to the excellent Perth exhibition in June and it looks like there are others in the pipeline now, too.

Truly this is the layout which refuses to die.

Having spent most of the previous quarter century being exhibited around southern and middle England (with a healthy number of forays to what the English touchingly insist on referring to as 'the North') it's been very rewarding to show to whole new audience here in the west of Scotland.

Those with long memories may recall that Dduallt did make a cross-border raid to appear at the Model Rail Scotland show at the SEC in Glasgow once.

We'll try and post some more pictures and videos from the show during the week.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Table Tops

Sometimes it's tricky to find a task to fill a spare half hour at the modelling bench.

If time is limited you don't want to start on something involved only to have to put it aside as soon as you've started.

This is partly why there hasn't been any progress on the latest Super Barn 119 for a while - that and the need to produce that batch of wagon kits I was working on.

Anyway, I had a few minutes to myself the other night, and wondering what I could usefully get on with, I decided to clean up the interior castings and glue the table tops into position.

I think will try and get the underframe detail fixed onto the floor first before I glue the seats into position - tempting though that is as a 'quick win' - because sometimes the effect of the glue can cause the floor to bow upwards.

As always in this game, patience pays off.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Fourth Garratt

Himself has officially begun work on our fourth NGG16 - this one will be 143.

He tells me that he's taking it slowly and doing his very best work on it, but to me the progress looks very impressive already.

The front power unit has had its running plate folded and the buffer beam overlay and cow-catcher fitted, which involves a lot of very careful bending and a good deal or rivet pressing-out.

The picture below shows the chassis mainframes with the springs and equalising beams fitted along with the brake pull rods soldered into place.

The next step with this will be to fold them and fit the gearbox and axles.

I imagine there's a lot of re-learning and refreshing of memories going on for him as it's been four years since he completed our most recent Garratt, which was finished as 138.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Waggon Tracks

Lilla will be one of the models getting a first run on Dduallt at an exhibition this weekend, having only been completed last year, long after the layout was last shown.

It's been used to give our slate waggon rake a test on the layout, here seen double heading with Moelwyn (one of my favourite models).

I'm told that Lilla is able to haul the full rake around the spiral unassisted, which is rather impressive for a very lightweight 3D printed body, I think.

The slate waggons are starting to show their age.

They're made from Dundas plastic kits and some of them are getting on for 30 years old, and inevitably that material starts to get brittle as it ages.

This is manifesting itself around the axle boxes which are the most vulnerable parts of the model.

Himself is taking about a rolling replacement programme for the fleet.

We shall see.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Old Wizard

Part of the pre-exhibition testing process has been taking a look at Merddin Emrys to see why our oldest Fairlie has been getting a bit arthritic of late.

It had to be restricted to light duties in service on Bron Hebog at Dinas because in one direction is was reduced to a crawl at full power when running with a full rake of FR stock.

The difficulty with these Backwoods Fairlies is that the motor is not accessible for servicing - it is built into the body at an early stage of construction.

Himself's greatest fear is that it should fail completely or become burnt out.

One theory he had was that during the servicing he carried out on the bogies prior to the Dinas show, he might have got the drive shafts mixed up, or somehow not located properly.

He's reported back that he's had a fiddle with it and it seems to be performing a bit better.

Let's hope so.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Still Stocktaking

The process of giving every item of rolling stock a check before the exhibition next week continues.

These two 'Bug Boxes' have been brought in for a coupling transplant.

Being old school I still refer to them, even today, as 5 and 6

For many years when I was a kid number 5 was the only one of the iconic Small Birmingham carriages in traffic, and it wore the regulation red livery.

(A lot of younger people won't remember this, and part of me suspects that at the moment we're not allowed to.)

This model is a legacy of our original dateline of 1988 for Dduallt, which was the last year that the passing loop remained available for operation and the 'one livery' policy was just beginning to break down.

Prince had emerged in red in 1986 and then then next year the 'Mountain Prince' two-tone carriage livery was brought in, followed in '88 by the reappearance of Merddin Emrys from its cosmetic surgery and carriage 15 going into a royal purple and cream colour scheme.

In the decades since then, of course, we've kept up with all the developments in livery, locomotives and rolling stock, but there was some historical logic to our modelling, once....

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Lyn And Linda

Test running continues as we count down the days until Dduallt goes on show in Greenock next weekend.

When I popped in the other day and took a peek into the railway cave I noticed a very distinctive, golden shape in the lower fiddle yard.

Our Backwoods Lyn made its debut at the Superpower event on Bron Hebog last month, but that's a very different sort of layout - as is the WHR a very different sort of railway.

So the big question - to which I honestly do not know the answer - is will Lyn get around Dduallt?

Will it squeeze through Rhoslyn Cutting (beneath the bridge which carries the spiral) or will it get stuck?

All vote now!

(Of course, the real locomotive wouldn't get through Garnedd Tunnel, but Rule Number 1 applies.)

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Eking Out

I blogged a couple of days ago about how I was down to the dregs of my current stock of resin - well, at least one of the two liquid components - so I needed to be very sparing in how I used it.

The good news is that I've managed to cast enough sets of seat and table bases for the interior of superbarn 120.

I've also been able to cast a few more side pieces for our own design of the standard modern FR carriage bogie, which Himself has been pestering me for.

The few drops I have left I'll be using up over the next couple of days casting a few more seats for a friend who's asked very nicely.

I've no idea why he wants them, because to the best of my knowledge he doesn't have a superbarn or an observation car to put them in, but I shall endeavour to do as I am requested.

Because I'm nice like that.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Ticking Time Bomb

I've been caught out again by the deadly combination of lead and PVA glue.

This is like a silent killer that lurks within your models, forgotten about, until it slowly, remorselessly, tears it apart.

Such as Himself discovered was happening to my scratch built cherry picker wagon.

I'd forgotten I'd even filled part of the chassis with liquid lead to give it some weight when I built it.

Fortunately, as you can see above, the main body of the wagon has come off in one piece and although the chassis is broken in two pieces it was able to be glued back together.

The wagon is now back in service on Dduallt.

The question is, what other stock is fitted with this kind of time bomb?

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Training Day

You can't put on a show without a proper rehersal, so Himself has been diligently checking all the stock we'll be using when we take Dduallt to the show in Greenock last this month.

He took a couple of snaps during a running session at the weekend.

The fact it's also, in FR-speak, Jolly Good Fun, is neither here nor there.

Monday, 1 October 2018


My supplies of resin are dwindling after casting another run of a dozen SAR wagon kits for sale through Narrow Planet and I'm going to have to prioritise what I use the last few millilitres for.

I think the best thing to use it for just now is to make up a set of seats and tables for superbarn 120 which is midway through construction.

These could be scratch built, of course, but that's very boring.

Before that I think it would be wise to make up a fresh mould as the old one was beginning to stretch ever so slightly.

The units were designed to fit exactly between the window pillars but on the last carriage I built they needed a little bit of filing so that each one lined up exactly.

Incidentally, if anyone has any suggestions for a good supplier of reasonably small amounts of suitable fast cure resin please so let me know.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Sideways Move

There's not that much work been done this week.

I've been busy casting kits and Himself has been ordered to work in the garden and prepare his place for the arrival of the decorators.

The one thing he has been permitted to do (by the domestic powers-that-be) is service the traversers in the fiddle yards on Dduallt ahead of its show next month.

These are powered by large 19v can-type motors with a gearbox made by Pitman that were designed for use in medical equipment.

We obtained them second hand over 25 years ago - they now have worn commutators but work well on 12v.

The motor drives a threaded rod through gears, robbed from my childhood Meccano set, with a corresponding nut fixed to the body of the fiddle yard.

Don't be distressed that my toys were stolen - I never really got on with Meccano, I was more of a LEGO kid.

(Which probably explains why Himself can build Backwoods kits and I wouldn't dare touch one.)

When Dduallt was first built the traversers were hand wound with a crank on the end.

They moved, but the gearing was so low, and the turning of the crank needed to be so enthusiastic, that the whole layout wobbled every time they were moved.

Which is why we installed the motors.

Still, it gives me confidence that the motors your life may depend upon one day are still functioning a quarter of a century later.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Like London Buses

So the saying goes, you wait for one and then three turn up - and so it is with Garratt kits.

I'd spent many months wondering whether we were ever going to get our hands on any more Backwoods Miniatures NGG16s to complete our WHR fleet, and now another one has landed in our lap.

I posted a few weeks ago about how I managed to secure (at considerable cost) the last two kits produced, and then during our recent trip to  Dinas to show Bron Hebog one of the visitors told us that he too had an untouched NGG16, but had come to realise that he would never get round to building it, and would we be interested in taking it off his hands and giving it a good home?

As you can imagine, we didn't need to be asked twice - and we are tremendously grateful to this gentleman.

Himself is very excited by this because it is one of the original run of kits, the tell-tale signs being the smaller-sized box and - crucially - the provision of Mashima motors.

These motors are also out of production and the more recent kits came with alternatives which don't have the facility to be secured in place with screws, and the suggestion in the instructions is that you glue them in place.

Himself doesn't like this idea much.

So it's been decided that this will be the first of the kits to be built and turned into 143.

The others will become models of 130 - which is nearing the completion of its restoration - and 140 (if it ever gets done - which the FR General Manager insists WILL happen).

Having this third kit means we will no longer need to vandalise our original NGG16 - which as you can see in the picture at the top of the page has always run in ACR condition - to try to make it look like one of the Welsh machines.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018


Next month it's a chance for this old thing to see the light of day again.

Yes, Dduallt, the layout that's had more comebacks than Sinatra, is having an outing at our local show in Greenock, so after our return from Wales Himself has put it up to give everything the once-over.

Unlike Bron Hebog, this is a layout we do have the space to put up play with.

There's a dodgy switch on the control panel to be replaced and a few scenic repairs to be carried out - many of them are cat-related as, frustratingly, the garage (where the layouts are stored) is on the moggy's through-route to the cat flap....

After that we just need to have a few test running sessions, which is the fun bit!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Strictly Come Casting

The start of the autumn TV schedules is always an exciting time on my modelling calendar.

The ladies in my house love to watch the various non-entities you've never heard of attempting to dance, and this is good news for me because it means every Saturday night there's a window of opportunity for me to disappear into the man cave and get on with a project with absolutely zero risk of me being accused of ignoring them!

Last night's task was a little humdrum, but necessary.

Last week's Superpower event at Dinas also featured the Narrow Planet sales stand, and perhaps inspired by seeing the long freight train we were running on Bron Hebog, the visitors bought up almost their entire remaining stock of my SAR wagon kits.

As a result there's been an urgent request to restock them before the ExpoNG show at the end of next month.

So this week in the man cave is going to be mostly about casting those and, as a by-product, filling my fingerprints full of resin so that I cannot use the touch sign in on my smart phone for a few days....

Friday, 21 September 2018

Super Duper Barn

I did get some modelling done in the days before we left for Wales, in fact there was quite a burst of activity on my latest superbarn 120.

In the last post about the carriage I had just begun the process of cleaning the flash from the windows, and I managed to get that completed, made up the corridor connections out of styrene (a fiddly job I'm not fond of) and glued them together into a basic bodyshell.

Once that's done, and in order to protect the rather fragile superglue-on-resin joints, I try to make up the floor and false roof so that they can help to keep the carriage square and stop it flexing about too much.

Incidentally, while I was in Wales for Superpower I learnt a new nickname for these carriages which amused me.

The first three were designed with regular droplight windows in the middle of each bay of seats, in line with the tables.

They became known as 'Super Barns' in a nod to the original series of Centenary carriages build in the 1960s.

The most recent four carriages have been revised with much larger windows with hopper windows set into the toplights, which a friend referred to as 'Super-Duper Barns'

I rather like that.

The official name for them, I should point out, is Super Saloons - but I've never heard anyone call them that in conversation and I'm not about to start here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Rebel Without A Tender

Even though we've worked for 20 years to create a layout of very ambitious scale, one which is also as accurate as we can make it, we're not above having a little fun with what we run on Bron Hebog at exhibitions.

We've always quite enjoyed making a cheeky reference to the politics of the railway or happenings, such as the model of the crashed car at Bron Hebog crossing which - as I expected - was a talking point at weekend among those 'in the know' who came to look at the layout.

Another irresistible target was the appearance of the replica Lynton and Barnstaple Baldwin Lyn at the Superpower event, which was appearing on the Welsh Highland for the weekend under the strict understanding that it would never been seen near the FR's resident Manning Wardle Lyd.

(That moment is to happen for the first time in Devon.)

With Himself having burned some midnight oil to get our new Backwoods Lyn to the stage where it can run the temptation was too great...

The model itself is still requires a lot of running in, producing a rather dramatic squeal if given too much juice, and it still has a rather pronounced waddle at this stage, but it managed to put in a few laps of the layout, some of which were caught on camera.

The real loco was only running top and tail with Taliesin between Caernarfon and Waunfawr, and we had the chance to take a ride behind it courtesy of the free Rover tickets which the railway provided for all exhibitors.

Ours ventured a little further south to Beddgelert.

We will, of course, post updates as construction is completed.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Delightful Dinas

We've returned from a terrific three days showing Bron Hebog at its second home - the goods shed at Dinas Station - during WHR Superpower 2018.

It was great to see so many familiar faces and also get to meet a number of fellow modellers who we've only ever had contact with in the virtual world until now - a couple of them even brought along some special guest locomotives which had a cheeky run around the layout.

There'll be more to tell you about in the coming days but for new here are some extended video highlights for those of you who weren't able to come along, and to enjoy again for those who did.

Thanks again to our friends on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway for inviting us along and looking after us so well over the weekend.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Ready To Go

Bron Hebog is all packed up and ready to head 'home' to the top left hand corner of Wales this weekend.

The layout is supposed to be up and running in Dinas goods shed from lunchtime tomorrow (Friday) which means we're going to have to hit the road early in the morning for the 350 mile journey.

We're talking radio breakfast newsreader early, so it's a good job I'm used to it.

We're both very much looking forward to it.

Will we see you there?

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Ashes To Ashes

The new BZ wagons will be ready to make their appearance on Bron Hebog this weekend.

Himself has been busy over the last few days painting and lettering them.

The lettering incurred some unfortunate, unforeseen expenditure.

You may not have considered it before - I know I hadn't - but on most sheets of lettering you don't get equal numbers of letters, and certainly not many Z's.

Which is a bit of a hinderance when each of these wagons requires at least 4 of them.

Thanks to the modern marvel of internet shopping Himself was able to get in fresh supplies in time to get the wagons ready for the show at Dinas.

They've also been filled with a removable load of locomotive ash, which is how they were being used when we photographed them at Boston Lodge last year, and this is quite often tripped along the WHR to be spread at various locations so they at least have a prototypical purpose for appearing on the layout.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Third Baldwin

I mentioned in passing on here a few weeks ago that we have a new locomotive project - a Backwoods kit for the Lynton and Barnstaple Baldwin Lyn.

The real sized replica will be running on the Welsh Highland next weekend so I guess that provided some inspiration for Himself to dig it out of the box and see what it was all about.

This model is unusual for us because it comes part-assembled.

It came into our possession as a quid pro quo from a good friend of the layout in return for Himself taking on some advanced troubleshooting on a couple of other locomotives.

Now, with second-hand Backwoods kits the best advice is caveat emptor and it's very much the case here.

(Apologies, this post keeps drifting off into Latin.)

Himself tells me that the person who'd started the kit had broken the golden rule of following the instructions to the letter.

In this case they'd jumped ahead a few stages in putting the frames together meaning it was now impossible to insert the wheels, and their associated compensation mechanism.

Fortunately it was not so far advanced as to prevent him unsoldering parts and reconstructing it as it was designed to be put together.

Himself tells me he regards all this as a very good warm up exercise for taking on one of the new Garratt kits we obtained in the summer, which I anticipate will become his main winter project.