Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Boiler Shop

Himself is going through one of his odd job phases, and this is one of those tasks that he's been meaning to get around to for years.


It's a sorry tale about a locomotive that, by rights, shouldn't have any place in our stock boxes.

Many years ago when Backwoods Miniatures brought out a kit for the Darjeeling C class pacific Himself bought one on a whim - he's always said it was one of their easiest kits to make.

With clever design the motor was mounted in the tender but drove the driving wheels through a shaft and universal joint to a worm gear above the gearbox in the firebox area.

This meant the boiler could be a solid white metal casting, so there was plenty of weight for traction.

All of which, in hindsight, makes you wonder why he thought it was necessary to fill the firebox area with lead, but he did, and over the years the lead expanded until it caused a rather spectacular throat plate failure with a large chasm opening up between the firebox and the boiler.

With the lesson learnt he has stripped it all down and refitted the firebox wrapper and now it's ready to be reassembled.

Of course, it has no place on either of our layouts because neither of the two prototypes have ever run on the FR or WHR, and nor are the likely to because they are both stuffed and mounted in India.

I suppose the only connection for what are now layouts that live in the west of Scotland are the these rather attractive mainline narrow gauge locomotives were built by North British in Glasgow.

And, of course, Himself rather likes it, so what other excuse do you need?

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Reverse Engineering

One of the things we understood would be crucial when we began building Bron Hebog was that on such a large layout, with a sinuous trackplan with many board joints - both end to end and side to side - was to make sure they were always perfectly aligned.

That's why Himself invested in some very high quality German engineering dowels to try to ensure that the boards would always fit together accurately regardless of whether the wood had shrunk or expanded with the season.


So imagine our consternation on the day of the exhibition at Bressingham to discover that one of the track joints, which is slightly on a skew, had moved ever so slightly during the night.

It wasn't much but it was enough to derail one particular Garratt pony truck and occasionally a bogie too.

Considering what to do about this he came to the conclusion that although we had fitted a system of dowels all around the layout they were low down on the frames, but much of the trackbed sits quite a few inches higher on an embankment.

It seemed that maybe there was still potential for this to move off the vertical?

His solution is to fit another series of dowels just below the trackbed.

However, this is easier said than done because these are supposed to be fitted - for precise location - by drilling all the way through the two pieces you are connecting.

This is not possible on a finished layout where you can't get a drill up behind and underneath.

He's just had to do it very carefully from the outside instead.


Let's hope it does the trick.


Friday, 15 June 2018

Erics

I've been wondering what to build next now that the big effort for getting ready for Bressingham is out of the way.

I've got yet another set of Superbarn castings to be built up into a carriage - 120 - but I rather fancy doing something different.

I've got a notion to make some more vintage WHR carriages from brass kits, as well, but then I remembered there's been another project waiting in the wings - some BZ wagons.


These are the hybrids which have been created by Boston Lodge with the mostly-fixed sides of a B wagon with the more user-friendly height of a DZ wagon.

The two are them are not identical - needless to say - so I won't be casting them by the dozen as I can do with B wagons - but I will still make the master from styrene and produce a mould and a resin cast from it because it will make it more rigid.

If you're wondering why the reference to Eric in the title the answer is, of course,  the Monty Python song 'Eric the half a bee." Geddit?

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Heat Stroke

It's true that people living on these islands are never happy about the weather - there's always someone moaning! (Usually me..)

By some freak of nature the west of Scotland has been living through one of the driest and warmest spells of weather for many a year.

Garden lawns are turning brown and cracks are appearing in the turf. Trust me when I say that this is not normal!

There is, of course, always a downside, and for me it is that conditions have been less than ideal for resin casting.

It's either so hot that the stuff is setting too fast, or it's been a little on the humid side so it comes out like that honeycomb foam that builders squirt out from a can to fill caps.

This is especially inconvenient as I've been trying to produce a batch of some very fiddly pieces which make up the interior of the Superbarn carriages and the two new FR Observation Carrs for customers who approached me.


The bases for the bucket seats and the side tables have some very small bits and one tiny air bubble can ruin the piece completely.

The reject rate has been running close to a 50% for some of them but I'm winning the battle I think.

Ordinarily I'd just wait for the weather to turn but it's been like this for so long that I felt I couldn't keep the customers waiting any longer.

You just watch the weather change now I've written this....


Monday, 11 June 2018

Return Visit

I suspect that some readers have guessed this already but we're delighted to be able to announce that we'll be bringing Bron Hebog back to the top left hand corner of Wales, and specifically, Dinas Goods Shed, later this year.


We've been invited to have the layout as one of the extra attractions at this year's Superpower event over the weekend 14 - 16 September which is themed on celebrating 21 years since the opening of the first section between Caernarfon and Dinas in 1997.

The team are very much looking forward to bringing it back to what has almost been it's second home and seeing some familiar faces again (although we expect a number of locals will be casting a very critical eye over some of the new features, like the completed estate scene, since it was last on show here in 2015.)


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Iconic

It was only a few moments work but it's amazing what a difference one small transfer can make to the appearance of the WHHR van - it really sets it off.


It got me thinking a little about the old 'arrows of indecision' and how it really is quite a remarkable piece of functional art, and perhaps we are beginning to appreciate that again.

When I was young in the 70s and 80s it seemed to symbolise dire standards of service

But perhaps more than half a century after it first appeared there is a growing awareness that it is one of the most effective corporate logos which has ever been created.

Consider how there is still nothing else in this country that so instantly says train or railway.

I've recently been involved in rebranding a local sports club and the process of choosing a new logo gave me a new appreciation of the qualities of the old double arrow.

It is remarkably simple, bold and adaptable, and we've never come close to anything else on the railway that works so well again, it's closest rival perhaps being the Intercity swallow?

All the more remarkable is that it was created towards the end of the 1960's when it was replacing an ultra-traditional logo drawing on the heraldic tradition.

What a brave and far-sighted decision it was to go for that new look.

I think there's a lot of simplistic, idealistic and downright disingenuous nonsense talked by the 'Bring Back British Rail' campaigns sometimes, but we do need to give credit for many of the things that monolithic organisation got right, and did better than any of its successors have so far managed.


Thursday, 7 June 2018

Look Back At Bressingham

I promised you a proper review of our experience at Narrow Gauge East, and now we've had the best part of a week seems like a good time to reflect.


There's no denying that going all that way for a one day show was a test of stamina - if not sanity!

I calculated we drove around 900 miles in 60 hours, with a full set up and pack down within those hours, as well as 7 hours of running.

But was it worth it?  Definitely!

For one thing it was the first opportunity we've had to put up the full layout, let along play with it, for more than two and a half years.

Considering that it didn't run too badly, although a spate of uncouplings from a mystery track defect deep inside Goat Tunnel and a board joint imperfection which appeared during the course of the show (probably due to a change in atmospheric conditions) were a little frustrating at the time.


It was terrific to hear from so many visitors that seeing Bron Hebog was their reason for coming to the show in the first place.

The location was inside the Exhibtion Hall at Bressingham Steam Museum which is partly given over to housing an impressive collection of Dad's Army memorabilia, including mock sets.

We found ourselves positioned in front of Frazer's funeral parlour, which seemed somehow appropriate for a Scottish-based layout, although I suspect the dour undertaker would have dismissed model railways as "Rrrrubbish!"


Another of the reasons I was inclined to say yes to the invitation to go there was that I had never visited Bressingham, which has a legendary place in railway preservation.

I'd known about the steam giants which had been kept there decades ago, like Duchess of Sutherland, which have since moved on and returned to the mainline, but I didn't know about their collection of narrow gauge engines and that they have a number of reasonably lengthy loops which they run them on,

I was delighted to be invited to take a footplate ride around one of the circuits on board the 'Port Class' Quarry Hunslet 'Gwynedd'


We were treated by the staff organising the show like honoured guests all weekend.

They didn't flinch when we turned up more than an hour before they'd said the hall was available for setting up.

We were able to bring our van right into the museum to unload at the precise spot where the layout was to be assembled - and this was a great bonus when packing up on the Saturday afternoon when it was teeming with rain.

All our travelling expenses were paid, as you'd expect, but they also agreed to accommodate our operating team not just on the night before the show but also on the Saturday night following, meaning we were properly rested before facing a 400 mile drive home.

We were put up in a high quality bed and breakfast with a lovely village pub just across the road where we spent a couple of very convivial evenings.

Nothing was too much trouble. Free water, tea, coffee, lunch and biscuits were provided.

They dug out some crush barriers for us to protect the front of the layout where the trains run along an embankment closed to the edge.

Now you might think that this is quite standard for a well-run model railway show, and you'd be right.

What impressed me was that this was a commercial event put on by a charity / businesses, not a dedicated model railway club and I know that quite often people who take their layouts to these type
of shows can feel rather ignored and taken for granted.

This was not the case at Bressingham, so credit where it's due to Philip and his team of museum staff and volunteers,

And probably most impressive of all, when we popped into the café to buy a pot of tea after we had arrived on Friday the girl on the till accepted a Scottish bank note without a second glance!


Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Cutting Room

I spent most -of Saturday at Narrow Gauge East at Bressingham attempting to multi-task, which is no easy thing for the average bloke and even harder when you're attempting to operate a large, traditionally controlled layout.

I was trying to capture as much still and video footage of the layout as I could in the first opportunity to see it running for two and a half years - and that went for us as much as any of the paying visitors.

My camera-wielding efforts frustrated Himself a little at times, who clearly thought I was too distracted - and I'll admit there were a few operator errors as a consequence - but I hope you'll enjoy the end result which is some little clips of action like this.




Sunday, 3 June 2018

The Great North Road

We had a terrific day at Narrow Gauge East yesterday and it was great to see some old friends, make new acquaintances and learn that so many had made the trip just to see Bron Hebog.



We were very well looked after by the team at Bressingham.

I'll write more about the event later this week, for now it's time to hit the road on the 400+ mile drive home.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Diss Debuts

By the time you read this Himself and I should be well on our way to Bressingham to set up Bron Hebog ready for Narrow Gauge East tomorrow (Saturday).

It's been more than two and half years since the layout was last exhibited so we've got lots of new things to show you, like our exquisite model of observation car 150 and our equally lovely Lilla.

Both of us have been burning the midnight oil to get a couple of current projects in a state fit to run this weekend.

If you appreciate a nice bit of lining then be sure to look out for our new model of carriage 15 in all its Victorian finery.

I'm also hoping we'll be able to run our embryonic WHHR set with my kit-bashed Dundas Bro Madog carriage and the infamous BR blue-livered brake van.



Unfortunately I've not been able to add any of the iconic 'arrows of indecision' yet, but it's painted and has its glazing, handrails and door handles fitted so my intention is to give it a little test run.

Remember, this is just for one day only, and we're looking forward to running the layout for you to enjoy in Norfolk.