Friday, 15 September 2023

Minffordd Update: A Little Realignment

Himself hasn't had so much time available to make great leaps forward on the layout in the last few weeks, but there is a little bit of progress to report this time.

Having first had to obtain a couple of replacement points - the originals being damaged during removal - he has relaid the wee run round loop at the back of the yard in order to re-route the siding which runs between the two Maenofferen slate sheds.

All being well, this should be the last bit of trackwork required on the layout.

The next job is most likely going to be wiring it up, but after that there will be a bit of a lull as we enter exhibition season.

The old warhouse Dduallt has a couple of trips out this winter - more comebacks than Sinatra! - so that will have to be set up and tested, and of course we have Bron Hebog's big appearance at the Warley show in December.

At my end I've been making a start on the Cambrian station building.

This building I am having to design using only educated guesswork and a rather slim selection of archive photographs, but I was pleased when we went to check out the original Minffordd layout on display at the WHHR's Gelert's Farm museum to see that the dimensions of that model are more or less the same as mine.

(With the caveat that the only way I could measure it, as it was in a perspex case, was using the fiendishly clever measuring app on my iPhone.)

Much of the construction time so far has been swallowed up fabricating the sash windows from  styrene strip.

Saturday, 2 September 2023

Signal Saga

As well as work on the Minffordd project there are still occasional developments on the 'test track' at home.

If you're going to have a 'test track' then there's no harm in doing a little scenic work to turn it from something purely functional into a more of a feature in the room.

However, it is definitely not a layout for boys, big and small, to play with, wipe that thought from your minds..

I've been tempted to try out some of the Dapol working semaphores and decided now was the time to splash out on an LMS bracket starter signal for the inner loop.

These beasties are motorised with a chunky box containing the servos to move the mechanism, and  include a rather nifty bounce function when the signal arm goes down.

I watched a selection of the review and fitting videos you can find online, and then when the signal arrived I thought I would give it a wee test on 'dry land' to see how it all worked.

Which is where the problems started.........

The fit the signal on a layout the base simply clips onto the bottom of the treaded tube which you insert into a 15m hole drilled in the baseboard. 

The signal comes complete with a pair of switches which have wires already fitted, and plugs on the other end which push home into the side of the base unit.

These are not long enough to stretch to where my control panel is.  

You can buy extension kits but what I intended to do is to splice in some extra wire so it goes the distance.

Anyway, back to the test.

I clipped on the base, plugged in the control wires, hooked it up to the power and had a play - and was very impressed.

And then I went to take it apart again.......

To be fair to Dapol, there is nothing in the instructions which tells you how to remove the servo base, but equally there is nothing written to say that once it's on you can't take it off again.

Well, it certainly doesn't unclip as easily as it clips on, and eventually when I tugged at it hard enough - holding the signal by the threaded tube not the post - as the base came free it ripped off the mechanism to the left hand signal, which flew off in all directions.

The part that I couldn't find anywhere in the room was the cover which goes over the balance weight arm and holds everything in place.

Without it the control wire mechanism simply falls off and the signal arm stays stuck in the raised 'off' position.

It was a very tricky job, too, to reconnect the mechanism, but I was forced to come to the reluctant conclusion that I had wrecked a rather expensive accessory within 5 minutes of opening the box.

My family will attest that I was in a very bad mood for the rest of the evening!

Blatantly courting sympathy I posted about my mishap on our club Facebook group and received some helpful suggestions about possible repairs, and I chewed these over in my mind over the course of the next day.

Returning to the workbench I examined the broken signal again and noticed there was a little bit of metal peg sitting proud of the balance weight arm.

Thinking about it some more I realised that the servos operate the signal mechanism much slower, and more gently, than I was doing with my fingers.

My hope was that if I could put some sort of retaining cover over the pivot it might not need to resist too much sideways force.

Rather than attempt to glue a piece on I thought I would first try drilling a very small hole in a piece of styrene strip to see I could make it a resistance fit onto the peg and hold the mechanism in place.

It did fit, and what's more it seemed to stay in place even through some vigorous manipulation of the mechanism.

So I made another one, and shaped it to something like the original cover, pressed it into place , adding a dab of superglue for luck, and painted it matt black to match.

Now, as you can see in the picture at the top of the post, the signal is in place on the layout.

It still does not have the servo base attached.

I won't do that until the wires and been extended and the switches mounted in the panel, because I am quite sure that once that base is clicked on again I will not be able to risk a second attempt at removing it without wrecking the signal even more.

And we shall see how long my repair holds out for.............

Sunday, 27 August 2023

Minffordd Update: Cabin Fever

This week has seen very satisfactory progress on the latest building project to make the Minffordd signal box / ground frame cabin.

The main structure is complete and the biggest remaining construction task is to form the steps up to the door.

As I wrote in a previous post, the first job was to create a master for the window frames which could be cast in resin in multiple.

Once they had cured and been cleaned of flash they were built into an outer styrene frame.

The front and the sides of the cabin were built around these with a laminate structure with wooden slat effect styrene and embossed brick styrene.

With carefully mitred edges to the brickwork prepared this was bonded together into a box.

When it came to making the 'crinkly tin' roof my habit of hoarding off-cuts paid dividends.

The transparent Wills corrugated sheet I had tucked away in the drawer is sold old it was the pack I bought for making the entrances to the wooden toilet block on Dduallt more than 30 years ago!

This accounts for why it is very much yellowed now, rather than clear.

Because it is so thin and bendy it's been glued onto plain styrene sheet to try to ensure the roof doesn't sag.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Minffordd Update: Chute Gallery

The most obvious progress to report on the layout this week has been going on deep in the 'Coal Hole'.

Himself has been working on recreating the chutes used to transfer bulk loads, such as coal and ballast, from standard gauge wagons into the FR narrow gauge waggons on the tracks below.

This has been done using styrene to represent the concrete support structure, with brass used for the chutes themselves.

I think this has the potential to be one of the most unusual and appealing cameos on the layout - although we're not going to be silly enough to attempt to transfer any substances from the big wagons into the small, you'll have to imagine that bit.

It will, however, be one of those things which makes it unmistakeably Minffordd Yard.

The one thing that will be authentic about it is that the chutes encroach well into the FR loading gauge, ready to catch out the unwary who forget, or allow gravity to drag their engine or vans further down into the coal hole than they can venture.

Hopefully we won't have to straighten out bodywork or attend to dents the way Boston Lodge Works has had to over the years.....

Sunday, 20 August 2023

Minffordd Update: A Start On The Ground Frame

I've decided to tackle the Cambrian ground frame building next, and thought it would be best to tackle the hardest bit first - the window frames.

These are a fun challenge, but very fiddly to fabricate from strip sections which are no more than 0.5mm square.

(That's a 1p piece in the picture, for reference.)

So what I've decided to do - much the same as with the saw tooth barge board in the previous post - is to make a master from I can cast copies,

I'll need four of each for this project.

Notice that I've not called it the 'signal box', because although the pretty little cabin on the station platform contained more than a dozen levers, they only controlled the points in the yard.

Aside from the Weigh House this is the only other building on the layout for which I have any sort of drawing to guide me.

I am having to adapt a drawing for one of the Dutton 'Type 4' boxes which were very similar to the Minffordd cabin, except the one I'm building has larger sliding windows made up for a 6 pane unit and a 4 pane unit  (on the drawing it's 4 and 4).

My box also doesn't have a chimney breast at the rear, I suppose because it was never permanently occupied and only opened up when it was necessary to shunt the yard.

Thursday, 17 August 2023

Minffordd Update: Hell's Teeth

The Minffordd Weigh House has no shortage of challenges for the scratch builder who wants to make their effort look halfway like the real thing.

There's the very neat dressed stone blocks and quions, which are a distinctive feature, as well as the diamond-shape slates on the roof.

And once you've found a way to replicate those you look at the finishing details, such as the barge boards, and run your fingers through (what remains of) your hair wondering how on earth you're going to produce that distinctive toothy look.

Fortunately, this is where resin casting makes things much easier.

All I had to do - all, he says.... - was chop two sets of tiny triangles, large and small, and glue them alternately to a broader strip of plastic to make one complete barge board.

I used this as a master to resin cast four copies which could be reversed and used on the opposite side.

It was also to my advantage that by the late 1960s this original feature was looking a little worse for wear, and so it wouldn't matter if a few of the points on the castings were less than perfect, because by this stage they most certainly weren't on the real thing!

Monday, 14 August 2023

Minffordd Update: Landscaping

We've been back just over a week but already the bulk of the destructive alterations to the layout we decided were needed after our research visits are in hand.

The 'extra' scenery between the FR mainline and the bottom of the exchange yard, has been hacked away to make room for both of the Maenofferen sheds.

The point work at the end of the upper run-round loop has been lifted so the turnouts can be repositioned to allow a connection to the siding which squeezes between the large and small shed.

At the other end, the original square bridge beams have been hacked out and I spend the weekend designing and casting some replacements to the correct bow-string profile and it looks like they're going to fit very sweetly in the gap.

It just goes to show what you can achieve quickly when you're sufficiently motivated.