Saturday, 31 March 2018

Finding Faults

Himself is plugging away at the snagging list prior to taking Bron Hebog to Bressingham for Narrow Gauge East this summer.

The problem is that in trying to sort one issue you discover others.

So it was when he set up one half of the fiddle yards to try and sort an electrical niggle on the 'cab control' wiring and found that a number of the indicator LEDs on the Rhyd Ddu end panel had failed.

So he's had to open all that up to replace them.

Quite why they've failed is a mystery.

The ones in the control panel on Dduallt have lasted for more than 20 years, but after just two years in the west of Scotland climate these have gone pop!

Is there a connection?

Anyway, I thought you might also like to see a snap of the loco he's been using for testing duties.

Our original Dundas Linda, which had major surgery to its Ibertren chassis to fit it with cranks and outside frames (and a heart transplant with a Mashima motor) is still going strong.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Doing The Twist

As I alluded to in the previous post, Himself has been getting on with fixing a couple of irritating track faults which have been there since we first started running trains on Bron Hebog.

Coupling heights are critical in OO9 perhaps more than any other scale, certainly if you use the very fine (in both senses of the word) brass Greenwich couplings which we do.

A slight imperfection in the track can also cause stock to derail which sometimes happens to trains as they descend the hill into the station where there is a little dip on one side on the Cwm Cloch road bridge.

The remedy is not particularly difficult, it's just taken him more years than I care to remember to get around to fixing it.

So the three pictures here show how he first dug out the ballast..

...put some bits of packing under the sleepers on one side...

...and then re-ballasted.

You may be wondering how there came to be this dip in the trackbed, especially if you're used to building your layouts on a solid, flat piece of baseboard.

Bron Hebog was built with what is known as the open baseboard approach where a narrow, plywood trackbed is raised up on stilts all the way around, even in places where the trains are running in a cutting.

This makes it easier to model embankments or underbridges and you can see the same section of the layout under construction here.

The place where there was the problem is where it's a narrow, single track formation, going uphill on a slight curve and it seems that at some point there was a very slight twist got into it.

Hopefully that will be sorted now and he can take a look at the issue in the tunnel I mentioned previously, and a rather odd electrical gremlin in the fiddle yards which cropped up the last time we had the layout out on show.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Fully Enclosed

Himself is concerned - quite why, I can't imagine - that I might think he has been swinging the lead and so sent me a couple of photos with the caption that they prove he has been busy lately.

Quite where he's got this notion from is beyond me, because his output has been prodigious these last few months.

The latest project has been completing the wire fencing along the front of the station.

This is made up of 8 sections of etched brass fencing panels from Wizard Models.

He tells me they're quite fiddly to put together and it takes quite a while to paint them.

(If he describes it as fiddly then you may draw your own conclusions...)

The one thing missing from the station area before we can consider it complete is to make, or obtain, some portaloos.

Oh the glamour!

Next he's talking about getting on with sorting some of the things on the snagging list including some relaying in Goat Tunnel.

The track bed has always had a slight dip in the middle which sometimes causes stock to uncouple.

It's never a good look leaving the back half of your train behind...

Sunday, 25 March 2018


Before I pass 152 over to Himself to do the metal working there's a something I can do which will give him more of a solid foundation to work with.

All the Superbarn family of carriages have a very obvious underframe which the body sits on top of, but I represent this on the models with a rather flimsy-looking skirt which I fix on the bottom of the chassis.

Normally these are made up only of straight sections of 90 degree bends but on these two carriages there are curvy corners at the front to be formed.

Fortunately the Evergreen styrene strips I use are very soft and pliable and it's usually possible to form a bend which will stay in shape long enough for you to weld it in place with solvent.

You can see that I have also drilled the holes for the bolts for the bogies (centrally, this time, I hope) and the bolsters are in place to set the correct ride height as well.

This skirt makes the floor piece rigid and it also provides a firm base for the carriage body while it is being worked on.

Friday, 23 March 2018

One Five Two

So, I've run out of excuses and there's nothing else for it than to clean up the castings and start putting the second Superbarn observation car 152 together.

I find I need to make sure I'm in the right mood to tackle a job like this because gluing the pieces together is a precision job.

It's been a lot easier since I discovered 60 second Loctite which does indeed give you an opportunity to play around with the position of the piece without having the difficulty of trying to hold it in place for minutes on end as happens with even the fastest-setting epoxy resins.

You might be able to see that this one has an almost imperceptible curve on the front section which was done by altering the master (a piece formed out of brass with styrene layers on top) which could be bent very carefully and another mould made from it.

Once again I will be giving it to Himself to add the roof, and the window pillars at the front, in brass,

Before that I will drill the holes for the bogie pivots.

This time I will do my utmost to make sure they are completely central. 

You may remember I failed to achieve this on 150 with unfortunate consequences when it scraped the sides of the cutting beneath Rhoslyn Bridge on Dduallt.

Not my finest modelling hour, that.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Making Myself Unpopular

Himself's birthday has come around again, and just like last year I decided to treat him to a Robex 3D print.

We've seen what a fabulous job he made of the Lilla so I thought I'd challenge him with the WHHR's Bagnall 0-4-2 Gelert.

As the real one has made a test trip as far up the line as Beddgelert it would be nice to be able to represent that on Bron Hebog.

It's true that in his first experience of the material he found it very much less robust that he was used to with brass, and it was quite a steep learning curve, but at least the project with the Minitrains chassis was quite straightforward.

Not so with Gelert.

The Robex print is designed to fit the Fleishmann 0-4-0 chassis, and no problem there because I've had one of them in strategic storage for years.

The difficulty is that the Bagnall is outside-framed and Himself looked rather unimpressed when I broke it to him that his challenge is to try to covert it with new driving axles, fly cranks and all the rest,

I've no doubt he'll be able to achieve that because he managed it brilliantly on a pair of Ibertrens under our original Penrhyn ladies more than 20 years ago.

I am expectiing my name will be mud when he gets round to trying to do it, though.....

Monday, 19 March 2018


Altering the Dundas WHR carriage to make the flood removable, as we do with most of our other carriages, has meant a lot of changes on the inside too.

On the kit the seats are supposed to be fixed to the insides resting on these moulded ledges.

Not only are the ledges not required if the seats are going to be free-standing, they will also prevent us slipping in the glazing, so they'll have to be removed.

Fortunately this kind of plastic is very soft and it's easily done with the scalpel.

Next, the seats need to have new ends made to support them where they would have been fixed to the inside.

All these seats, once they've been made up, are fixed in place on the floor, which has also had its footsteps glued in place.

Here you can see it in place inside the body.

The roof has not been fixed in place yet and is just resting in position for now.

It's been handed over to Himself to get on with painting it at his leisure.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Tools Of The Trade

There's been more work done on the gardens of the houses since the thaw set in and the temperature in the garage has nudged into positive figures again.

He's added details like garden sheds, fences and quite a lot of hedges.

I thought you might be interested in seeing the way he's done these.

The secret ingredient is a former made out of thick, green felt which is a hangover from his former life fixing pianos.

The felt is fixed and supported with brass pins and then Woodlands Scenics foliage is added onto it.

It looks rather like Fuzzy Felt for adults

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Purple Patch

Hot on the heels of bowsider 19 Himself has already begun painting 15.

This is going to be another exceptionally intricate transfer challenge for him, attempting to replicate the gold leaf lining around all the mouldings on the bodyside.

At the moment it's had some coats of the Royal Purple and cream base colours.

If we were sticking with the nominal year of 1988, with which we started the Dduallt project all those years ago,  then this would be all we would have to do on 15,  but the abilities and ambitions of the Boston Lodge carriage works have expanded since then, and so unfortunately the challenge for us is to try to match them.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Breaking The Rules

I am one of life's rule-followers.

If there's a queue, I'll stand it in. If there's a notice, I'll obey it.

All of which makes me a little uneasy about casting aside the instructions for putting together the Dundas kit for the WHHR Bro Madog carriage, but I think I'm doing it for the right reasons.

Many years ago when scratch building our carriages we realised that it made more sense to have the roof fixed in place and leave the floor removable.

On most plastic kits, though, just like this one, you are advised to build the body shell by fixing the side end pieces onto the floor and leave gluing on the roof until last.

The problem with this is what you do when it comes to glazing and varnishing the carriage?

If you fit the glazing and then glue the roof on, making a sealed box, when you come to give it a protective coat of varnish you end up spraying (and ruining) the glazing.

If you don't fix the roof down, so enabling you to spray it without the glazing in there, then you have to run the gauntlet of using solvent to secure the roof later and any runs, spills or drips could ruin all your hard work.

Keeping the floor / chassis removable until the very last minute solves these problems, which is why we do it that way.

So although it looks like I've built the carriage conventionally in the picture above, the floor is, in fact, removable.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Pot Black

The temptation to declare "That'll do!" is something that has to be resisted in modelling - I had that drummed into me by Himself years ago.

Other times though, you have to accept that something's probably as good as it's ever going to be and stop fiddling with it.

So it is with the lamp pots on the roof of bowsider 19.

These are the second lot I cast which are quite a bit lower than the first ones we tried.

They're still not perfect, I know. They're probably too thin around the middle, not quite tall enough now and the tops are probably curved too much.

Ironically this time it's Himself who's said "That'll do" because when I popped over a few days ago - after they'd dug themselves out of the snow - he showed me this and told me that they've already been painted and glued on.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Have A Bash

In idle moments between casting another batch of SAR wagons for Narrow Planet I have been having a go at adapting the Dundas kit for the WHR Bro Madog coach to represent it more like it's current form.

(I say current because, just like Boston Lodge across the Traeth, Gelert's Farm is always fiddling with things and the entrance doors have been altered again with a double opening to give better access.)

There has been a large degree of trial and error in the process so far.

I had hoped that I would be able to leave a very thin bar of the original plastic along the top of the windows but it proved to be too flimsy so I ended up chopping it off all along and fixing a new strip along the top of the opening windows to form the toplights.

At the far end, as you can see above, I was able to leave the pillars full height and just put to horizontal strips in to form the new window.

Once I've got the second side done I can start making up the kit as per the instructions.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Pots And Carriages

Carriage 15 has been given a coat of primer after I returned it to Himself with its interior made.

As well as chatting about how he should tackle the horrendously intricate Victorian livery Himself and I had a useful discussion about lamp pots.

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I was casting a set for our model of bowsider 19.

After he trial fitted them to the roof (they have had little brass pins inserted in the bottom of them so they can be located accurately into holes drilled in the roof) he sent me couple of snaps and both of us concluded that they were a little on the tall side.

So I set about altering the master, formed another mould, and have been casting some shorter ones.

It occurred to me that we might find a use for some of the original ones on 15, which has taller pots.

I wonder why this is?

Is it because there are half the number of lamps (3 on carriage 15 versus 6 on carriage 19) and therefore they had a bigger lamp which generated more heat and so needed a bigger holder?

Or is it just an historic case of the FR never making anything the same, ever?

Monday, 5 March 2018

Talking Turf

A little more scenic work has been done on the last bit of the housing estate scene.

I guess Himself must have wrapped up warm before heading into the garage because my post last week about the weather getting milder appears to have been classic case of speaking too soon given what we've just been through!

The areas around these two houses are quite complicated with a mix of lawn, tarmac, slate waste and gravel to represent.

There are still quite a lot of small details to add, such as fencing, sheds and even a playhouse.

Speaking of which, if we're being completely accurate the bungalow should really have a hot tub on the patio if we're being completely authentic.

Should we?

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Yo Bro!

Last weekend at Model Rail Scotland I finally got around to doing something I'd been meaning to do for years, to replace one of my very first 009 models from nearly 30 years ago.

It was the Dundas plastic kit for the WHHR's 'Bro Madog Eisteddfod' carriage which was built at Gelert's Farm in the late '80s.

It may strike those you know me as an FR carriage anorak as strange but at the time I really didn't know my Bug Boxes from my Barns and I recall thinking that what I'd bought was a model of the iconic observation cars 100 and 101.

I think it was probably the 3 end windows which made me think that.

(To be fair on myself, I also remember asking the trader who was selling the kits whether it was a model of an FR carriage and he didn't demur.)

I thought that perhaps I could pull the wool over some eyes by painting it in then new FR 'Mountain Prince' livery - and it looks very good, I reckon - but ultimately I was just fooling myself.

In consequence we've never really run the carriage much at all.

That could be about to change, though,

When we take delivery of our Bachmann Baldwin tank we'll need something for it to haul around, and a number of years ago when the survivor 778 visited the WHHR this was one of the carriages it was running with.

(We'll just pretend it went all the way to Beddgelert.)

The issue is that the carriage was rebuilt with toplights added in - to make it look even more like an FR Barn! - but it would be hard to alter the existing carriage and painting over it with green would probably fill in the matchboard detail.

So what I've decided to do is buy another kit and adapt it while it's still a flatpack.

I'll probably also get some brass Worsley kits for the vintage bogie carriages to go with it in due course.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Slow Modelling

The end of February marks the traditional visit of the extended Bron Hebog team to Model Rail Scotland at the SEC in Glasgow.

On a couple of occasions over the years we have even been invited to exhibit there ourselves with Dduallt and other standard gauge layouts.

There's no doubting that the standard of layouts on show in Glasgow is night and day compared to what was once the case, I suspect spurred on by many of the visiting layouts from over the border, and it's evident that there is now a lot of very high quality modelling going on in some of the clubs in Scotland.

As I wandered around the show what struck me was how quiet and empty a lot of the layouts were.

In many cases you could see over into the fiddle yards behind the operating team where there were sidings stuffed with what looked like some very interesting trains, but you'd be waiting a very long time to see any of them come past you because there was very little moving out front, and what was running was generally running rather slowly.

Now, of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

It is a tribute to the great strides the manufacturers have made in how ready to run locomotives perform, and to the quality of the construction of the layout and the track by the people who've built them.

It's not a good look to have trains chasing around a break-neck speed, either.

However it was disappointing that on some of the biggest layouts, where the standards of modelling were most impressive and consistent,  which depicted a section of main line,  there seemed to be very few trains running at what you might consider to be main line speeds. Everything was proceeding as if running under a signal check.

Most of the layouts where this was a 'thing' seemed to have something in common, and I think I have a theory why.

Not only were they DCC, they also had sound.

Although I've never had a go on one of these it seems to be that the most interesting sounds are made when they're running slowly, and it occurred to me that perhaps this is why this trend has developed?

Is this a problem? What's so bad about operating layouts realistically, you might ask?

Well I think we're maybe in danger of forgetting who we're exhibiting for - the people on the other side of the barrier - who've paid a rather large wedge of cash to get into a show such as this one and who would rather like to see the conveyor belt of your interesting models moving a little faster in front of them.

Because at a busy show, where you have to fight to get into a position where you can even see the most popular layouts, you don't want to be hanging around watching nothing much happening - well I don't anyway.

After a couple of hours your feet begin to ache, your back gets sore, and if you're like me you begin to get a little impatient.

It would be lovely in a comfy chair with a glass of something nice in your hand to sit in front of one of these layouts for hours at a time and see everything slowly processing past you, but that's not what the experience of being an exhibition is for most of us punters.

Once upon a time we used to help our friend operate his OO main line layout New Mills. It had two levels of continuous run tracks and we did out utmost to try to ensure that there was something running on at least one of them at all times.

Some might say that it was too busy, that a service level like that is not realistic, but it always kept the crowds entertained and was a popular exhibit.

It was also in the age before DCC and all its trickery. Coincidence?

On another note, getting back to Narrow Gauge matters and descending from my soap box, the main thing I'd gone to the show for was to get my first look at the new Bachmann 009 Baldwin tanks which I understand are due to arrive on these shores very soon.

We have a 590 on order and we're very much looking forward to running the first Baldwin to Beddgelert for around 80 years.