Thursday, 1 June 2023

Minffordd Update: Round The Bend

Last week I posted a picture of Himself's first attempt in the best part of 20 years at making 009 points by hand.

These are required for the sidings which peel off as the line plunges down the steep 180 curve into Minffordd exchange yard.

As I wrote, after finishing the first one he realised he'd soldered the frog to the wrong sleeper, leaving too much of a gap, so another pair have been produced and pinned into position.

They really are works of art, aren't they!  I am impressed beyond words.

This time the alignment is spot-on, and has been proven by the ultimate test.

The line is on such a gradient here that slate waggons will hurtle down by gravity, and they pass quite happily through both of these points before ending up in a heap at the end of the 'coal hole'.

Yes.....accurate coupling heights to prevent runaways are going to be crucial on this layout!

Monday, 29 May 2023

Minffordd Update: Down The Hole

A week on from my last visit to observe progress on the Minffordd project and more track is in place, down in the depths of the yard.

This is the infamous 'Coal Hole' - the sunken roads where coal, ballast and anything else granular could be poured directly from standard gauge wagons into narrow gauge waggons using a pair of chutes, positioned just above where the waggons are sitting in the picture above.

Because our layout will be a compressed representation - as opposed to a scale model - of Minffordd Yard, the distance between the points is much shorter than at the actual location, but I think you'll still get a good flavour of the fun to be had down there.

One thing worth mentioning is that, despite appearances, it doesn't really function as a run-round loop.

The chutes are positioned such that it's not possible for a locomotive or van pass beneath them, and many items of FR rolling stock bear the battle scars of accidental (or perhaps even deliberate?) attempts to do so.

What I think I will really like about this part of the layout is the juxtaposition of the SG and NG tracks as well as the differences in the track levels.

I hope it'll draw the eye, making an additional focal point to the bridge where the FR main line crosses over the Cambrian at the station.

Saturday, 27 May 2023

Minffordd Update: Flange Squeal

I wrote last week about the temptation to stretch the era on a layout - and here it is!

At the start of the project I'd only envisaged running DMUs and class 24s to fit in with the 1967-71 time frame.

But browsing the second hard stalls at an exhibition a couple of weeks ago I failed to resist the temptation of a weathered Bachmann 4MT tank at a very enticing price...

Our followers on social media will know that I was a a bit disappointed with its performance when I first ran it on our test track at home.

It wasn't the smoothest-running model, and was also very sensitive to tight radius curves  - by which I mean bends of roughly R2 dimensions - without the torque in the mechanism to overcome the resistance of the bend without slowing down markedly.

This didn't fill me with confidence for how it might perform on Minffordd where there is one bit of the curve into the storage roads just beyond the bridge which is more like R1.5, followed by a set track curved point.

I was very apprehensive when I took it over for a test run, but it was more positive that I expected.

It seems to be much happier on the finer code 75 Bullhead track, and using a different controller to the ones I have at home ran more smoothly at slow speed.

It does juuust get around the tightest bend into the storage yard, but only to the outermost storage road.

The front pony truck derails if you try to keep turning hard right into the inner storage roads on the curved point straight after the bend.

So it's not as bad as I feared.

In time we'll decide whether or not it i worth investing in a chip to run it on the layout (which will cost at least twice what I bought it for) or perhaps we might splash out on a slightly smaller 3MT tank, which were a little more of a regular sight at Minffordd at the end of steam on the Cambrian.

Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Minffordd Update: The Handmade Point Tale

 As much as we can we're trying to do the Minffordd project the easy way, with ready-to-run stock in both OO and OO9, DCC sound and all the rest.

That's why we've mixed 'n' matched on the standard gauge Cambrian loop using Peco code 75 Bullhead track on the scenic section, code 100 'streamline' in the fiddle yard and even a few 'settrack' curved points to help us cram it all in.

On the FR narrow gauge we're using both the 'mainline' track and points with the neat, straight sleepers and the larger radius turnouts, but also the original 'crazy track' product for the rougher trackwork in the yard.

However, Himself has come to the realisation that there really is not an alternative to constructing some handmade points for where sidings peel off from the tightly curving descent into the yard.

We've needed to use handmade points in places on all three of our layouts.

On Ddaullt they were the only option for the curved points into the passing loop and bay platform at the Blaenau end.

And on Bron Hebog he felt we could only do justice to the large radius points in the station by making them from scratch.

This was the first point he's made for at least 15 years, if not longer, and he's not completely happy with it.

The frog is slightly out of position and the tiny OO9 waggon wheels drop into the gap a little more than he would like, so he'll probably have another go.

Apparently it's only a full afternoon's work....

Saturday, 20 May 2023

Minffordd Update: Full Circle

The arrival of a couple of missing curved points - and an extra length of the new Peco Bullhead track - has allowed Himself to complete the standard gauge track laying on the Minffordd project.

The whole thing is little bigger than a standard 'train set' and so the storage loops at the back won't allow for very long train formations.

We can just about squeeze in a class 24 and three mark one carriages in the longest road (nearest the camera) but - and only by a whisker - it will preclude through-running on the centre road.

When I first dreamed this up, though, I was only envisaging running 2-car DMUs, small pick-up freights and the odd day out for the district engineer in the inspection saloon, so it will be perfectly adequate for that.

But isn't it always the case with layouts that you fall to the temptation to stretch he era, or expand the selection of trains you run.....

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Minffordd Update: Mineral Line

The focus of tracklaying on the Minffordd project has moved 'upstairs' to the narrow gauge line.

If you've been following our updates you'll remember the crossing points at the Porthmadog end of the section were one of the early things Himself tackled, with an inventive mechanical solution to motorising the points on top of an overbridge when you can't place a motor directly beneath it.

While waiting for the points to arrive to complete the standard gauge fiddle yard he got on with extending the FR main line and the parallel mineral line which form a very pleasing arc along the back of the scene.

I've always liked this section of the FR - and in its heyday the section from Glan y Pwll into Blaenau Ffestiniog - because double track formation is such a rare thing to see on British narrow gauge lines.


Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Minffordd Update: Tracklaying

It's very tempting when building a model railway to get as much of the track laid as soon as you can.

Not only is it a comforting illusion of progress, you can also begin to imagine properly what it's going to be like to run the layout.

This was a something Himself has had to resist as much as possible on the Minffordd project because the levels, gradients a curve - and the interplay between them - are so complex.

Now, though, he's judged this is the time to fix the position of the points for the standard gauge sidings in the exchange yard.

He's also laid bullhead track on the Cambrian line west of the station as it curls around the front of the layout and disappears beneath our cunningly relocated road bridge.

From this higher angle you're starting to get a good impression of how the whole scheme fits together, and how much of a run a standard Cambrian 2-car DMU gets within the scene.