Friday, 30 September 2011

Appointment In The Paint Shop

And so here, after around a month's work, is the 7mm scale 100 ready for painting in the FR's current maroon & cream livery.

You like?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

MOTW - Carriage 11

Or should I be calling it Van 4?

Since the FR re-organised the numbering of its heritage carriage fleet in 2005 many Ffestophiles have stubbornly continued to refer to this 1880 veteran as number 11.

It was built by Brown, Marshalls as a brake and luggage van and rebuilt with passenger accommodation in 1929 / 1930.

In the early days of the revival it was turned around and windows cut in one end to become the FR's first observation carr, running as lucrative pairing with its sister vehicle, number 12. (Passengers paid extra for the first class fare to ride in 11 then handed over more cash to buy refreshments from the buffet counter in 12 which could be accessed through the end doors in the guards compartments which ran back to back.)

Our model is definitely called carriage 11. It was scratch-built in styrene to replace our first version which utilised a vintage whitemetal GEM kit.

It is one of the items of stock which betray Dduallt's heritage as a layout that originally had a nominal era of 1988 which has since morphed into 1988 - the present.

This was the year when the ubiquitous cherry red livery began to give way to the two-tone maroon and cream design. 11 was still in all-over red and in front-line service as the observation carr on the third passenger set.

In the last couple of years it has been given some TLC and returned to its 1950's green and ivory livery and I have a long-standing intention to build a third model of it in its current guise for use on heritage services on Bron Hebog.

Monday, 26 September 2011

More Brassy Bits

The final 10% of a carriage build always seems to take much longer than it should.

There are lots of fiddly details to be finished off such as the grab handles beside the doorways.

The vacuum pipes are usually a challenge because of the way I build my carriages with a removable floor. The hose is attached to the bodyside but the pipe run is routed beside the frame which is part of the chassis/floor unit, so I have to make the joins as subtle and unobtrusive as I can.

These pictures below show how I've done it on 100.

As well as these brassy bits the roof has to be fixed in place and the glazing measured and cut - which on these first generation 'Barns' includes scratching the window louvres.

All being well I may have some pictures to post of the 'finished' carriage (minus paint) on Friday.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

On With The Underframe

With the truss rods sorted I've had the easier task of knocking up some of the other bits and bobs that live under the carriage floor.

In this snap below you can see the footsteps, vacuum reservoirs, brake cylinder and battery boxes. I think they'll look effective enough hanging underneath the finished carriage.

The next task is to finalise the mounting of the bogies and make sure the ride height of the carriage is correct.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Trussed Up

I've never been much of a bender - you don't really need to be working mainly in styrene - so doing the brass bits on the carriages, like the truss rods, has never been my favourite task. It's never been the swiftest, either, come to that.

I've discovered over the years that I don't have the knack for estimating how much I need to bend a piece of wire to get the angle I need, and go through a repeated process of bending, offering it up to the drawing, reducing or increasing the angle, offering it up again and discovering I've gone too much the other way.....and so it continues.

Eventually I end up with two matching truss rods which are super-glued in place on their styrene supports with each end poked through holes drilled in the floor.

Because this carriage is being built in 7mm scale I thought I had better have a go at including a detail that I've always left off my 4mm models. (That adjusting thingy in the middle that I confess I don't actually know the name of.)

I spent a wee while searching on the web to see if I could find anyone who produces these as a component, without any success, but it probably didn't help that I didn't know the right name to search for.

So I fabricated my own from styrene strip and fitted them in the middle of the truss rods.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

MOTW - Upnor Castle

Our Model Of The Week this time is my first scratch built loco, Planet diesel 'Upnor Castle'

Upnor - or Uproar as it is nicknamed on account of the appalling noise levels in the cab which require crews to wear ear-defenders - was the FR's first proper mainline diesel loco.

It arrived from the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway in 1968 (having spent six years there after being bought from the Royal Navy's Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway in Kent, which is how it came to acquire its name) and was re-gauged from 2 foot 6 to the FR's 1 foot 11 and a half inch gauge.

In the '70's and early '80's it was found most often on the bargain early morning and late evening trains until replaced by 'Conway Castle' (see the Model Of The Week Archive for more on our model of this sister machine).

It was transferred to Dinas at the start of the Welsh Highland rebuilding project, having been 'sold' to the in-house construction company, and put in over a decade's hard work on engineering train duties until, to use a good bit of Scottish slang, it was completely gubbed.

It had a thorough mechanical overhaul, and a repaint, at Boston Lodge in 2010.

Our model was built with a styrene body sitting on a whitemetal underframe from a Chivers 'Conway Castle' kit (to give a decent weight for traction) and utilising an Ibertren 'Cuckoo' chassis with a Mashima motor.

There have been many subtle changes to Upnor over the years, with the ancillary bits and bobs beside and on top of the bonnet changing places. Our Upnor was built to show the loco as it was in the mid-90's at the end of it's first period on the FR and is correct for its early years on the WHR, so there is a justification for using it on both Dduallt and Bron Hebog

These pictures show it on typical duties over the years. Here hauling a WHR construction train. (Let's ignore the fact it's at Dduallt for the moment)

Upnor has also been regularly employed tripping the loco fuel oil tankers from Minffordd to Porthmadog Harbour station. (In this case taking the scenic route via Blaenau!)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Skin & Dome

My latest session on 100 has seen me adding the roof skin and the domed end that gives this design its distinctive look.

I'm building this 7mm model essentially as an enlarged 009 carriage, using the same techniques to build the bodyshell from styrene. So the roof has been formed in my standard way with a flat, double-skinned base which locates inside the top of the bodysides, then three ribs running along the length, shaped to the roof profile, and a sheet bent over the top and bonded along each side to the edges of the base piece.

Having not tried it before on a model of this size I was very interested to see how well this method would work, particularly went it came to applying the curved roof skin.

There was a lot more work involved in shaping the supporting ribs because of the much greater size of the model. The roof is nearly foot long on this one compared to six inches at most on a 009 carriage.

Bending and fixing the skin was much easier, however, because the bigger size means that the curve on the roof has a much greater radius than on a 009 model, and so the styrene sheet is under a lot less tension.

Although both the 7mm and 4mm carriages are built exactly to scale the radius is not the same. If you consider the roof profile as a section of a complete circle it becomes obvious that dimensions of one will be considerably bigger than the other.

The domed bit was made in my usual way with a triangle cut out of the roof skin before it was fixed in place and the hole filled with Milliput which can be shaped and smoothed and left for 24 hours to set. It is then shaped further and smoothed with wet and dry paper and imperfections fixed with model filler.

Sections of strip to represent the frame which pokes out beneath the bodyshell have been fixed underneath the floor.

The next job will be the truss rods and other bits and bobs that hang underneath.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Obs Update

The 7mm observation carriage has reached that very gratifying moment where everything comes together in a rush and you feel like you've taken a huge stride forward with the project. For me it comes when the four sides and ends are bonded together and you finally have something that looks like a carriage body.

Because I'm obsessed with the size difference to OO9 here's a shot of it posed next to my 4mm 'super-barn' 103...

I'm finding that I'm really enjoying working in a much larger scale. Not because I struggle to see the detail or with the fine motor skills on the smaller models, but because it's very satisfying to have a model that is big and solid enough to grab rather than hold delicately with the tips of your fingers.

On the other hand if I were ever to switch scales - and this is a purely hypothetical point - I think I would be frustrated by not being able to model trains in the landscape in the way you can in 4mm, unless you have a enormous space available for your layout, of course.

Anyway, here's a picture with the floor and the base of the roof in place.

The next job is form the roof skin and the dome.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

MOTW - 122

This week's model is one of the most challenging carriages I've built so far, the unique 122.

Steve Coulson designed and built this prototype carriage to make maximum use of the available FR loading gauge and incorporated many design ideas from modern bus building, such as bonding the flush aluminium skin to the bodyshell.

Inside it is very spacious, with excellent views from the large windows and many believe it is the most comfortable carriage on the railway to ride in.

The trickiest bits of this model were the ends which are not flat like most other FR carriages but slightly curved, like the 'Bug Boxes'. My solution to this was to make ends in much the same way as I make my roofs with a double skin. I started off with a flat base to which I added some longitudinal strips in the middle, and then a curved skin was stretched over the top.

The vents on the top of the roof also needed some thinking about. On the real carriage they are the round vents you see on yachts or narrow boats. I made these out of Milliput employing a small off-cut of styrene tune as a mould to make a small circle of putty and smoothing down the top surface to make something that looks like the flattened dome shape of these vents. A few pricks with a needle around the edges completed the effect.

122 reminds me very much of an earlier, distinctive prototype, 116, and not only because of their large bus-style windows. Like 116, which was followed by a fleet of Boston Lodge built 'Tin Carrs' (to a much more utilitarian design) 122 did not lead to a series of production vehicles because the railway chose instead (for very logical reasons) to utilise the skills and facilities provided by the HLF heritage carriage restoration programme to built a new series of wooden bodied 'Barn-style' carriages for the FR and the WHR.

It is never-the-less a lasting tribute to the originality and ingenuity of its designer, the one and only 'Stefco'.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Going Nowhere

I'm in receipt of another progress update from Himself, who has now finished the famous 'Bridge To Nowhere'.

This picture shows it in position on the layout.

The bridge is on the extreme front left corner of the layout and you're seeing this as the public will at exhibitions.

Out of shot, to the right of the frame, is the southern portal of Goat Tunnel and the track is curving away on the run towards Cemetery Crossing.

The bend is a little tighter than on the real railway but it's just one of those stretches and squeezes that are necessary to make the location fit into a nice rectangular shape.

The bridge is removable - for the moment - and the next step is to send it off to the Artistic Director to do his thing.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Why Didn't I Think Of It Before?

I had one of those moments where I saw everything in stunning clarity the other day.

(It was probably the Mek-Pak fumes!)

I realised that for 20 years I've been doing something very silly when scratch building carriage sides.

As regular readers will know I build these up on a sheet of glass. The glass is the jam in the sandwich, if you will. I sellotape a scale drawing underneath and fabricate the carriage side on the top surface above it.

When I came to make the 7mm Observation Carr. I'm working on at the moment I needed to buy a bigger piece of glass.

For 4mm carriages I normally use a postcard sized pane these days, but for this big one I was going to need something the size of A4 paper.

I've always found the cheapest / easiest way to get hold of a piece of glass this size is to buy those cheap clip photograph frames.

Over the years, however, I've gone through quite a few of these panes of glass, mainly on account of the fact my cutting mat has seen better days and had too much solvent spilled over it and is no longer totally flat. So sometimes when I've been pressing down hard, or cutting something on the glass, the molecular structure has cried enough and cracked. Sometimes just a wee corner would detach, other times it would split in half.

I just thought it was one of the hazards of using thin glass in this way - because the thinner the better for this purpose, so you have the least distance between the drawing beneath and the model you're building on top.

Then this week came my moment of realisation.

I had just bought a clip frame. The ways these work is you un-clip the glass, put your photograph down onto the backing piece, place the glass on top and re-clip.

So why for all these years have I been sellotaping drawings onto a piece of glass when all I needed to do was slip it into the clip frame as if it was a photograph??

And the big bonus is that the frame still has its backing board clipped in place providing a flat, rigid base which supports the glass and greatly reduces the risk of it cracking while I'm using it.

Genius! Why didn't I think of it 20 years ago?????

Friday, 9 September 2011

Commercial Break

If you're at all interested in looking at my latest completed OO9 commissions there are some pics up now on the Boston Largs Works site.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

No Hiding Place

Following on from Monday's post here's a shot of the first of 100's sides with the beading added.

You'll see the wee triangles in the corners of the windows have been filed down as well.

Making this carriage in 7mm is a very interesting exercise for me after 20 years working almost exclusively in 4mm.

My observations so far are that while it may be less stress on the eyes working with bigger bits of styrene, and simpler to manipulate them with the tweezers, it's not necessarily any 'easier' than making a much smaller model.

The material is thicker so it's harder to slice and chop - particularly when going along to trim the top of the window pillars to size - and I find the bigger the model, the finer the tolerances you have to work to when cutting and fitting pieces such as beading or a blanking panel in a window.

In other words you can spot a bodge more easily on a big model than a small one.

There's no hiding place.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

MOTW - 'The Darj'

Another topical Model Of The Week post for you, this time coinciding with the WHR Superpower event this weekend coming, the 'King Of The Hill' trial which has been billed as the equivalent of the 1948 locomotive exchanges on the 2 foot.

One of the locomotives which will be showing what it can do on the 1:40 grades on the WHR will be 'The Darj'.

The loco in question is Adrian Shooter's Darjeeling and Himalayan B class 0-4-0 19B. It is a Backwoods Miniatures kit and is pretty standard, with no alterations, and it runs like a sewing machine! (Anoraks will notice that it's missing the tender which Adrian had built for it to run on his 2 foot gauge 'garden railway')

This model always causes a stir at exhibitions, usually eliciting smart-arse comments from people who don't realise that Adrian's engine, and its two Boston Lodge built carriages, paid a visit to the FR a few years back.

In fact, if you've ever seen a copy of a lovely painting of 'the Darj' steaming over Rhoslyn Bridge on the spiral at Dduallt with Taliesin posed on the line below, it's a little known fact that the inspiration for this was a photograph taken on our layout Dduallt while exhibiting in the carriage works at Boston Lodge during a gala weekend.

The carriages are built from Worsley Works scratch-aid kits. Yes, we do use them too, you know!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Stripper

A cautionary tale today which could have ended up with a lot of tears and much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Let me explain.

I have a trio of models I've been building for a client which I have been patiently painting by hand. All that remains to be done is a quick coat of protective varnish.

Normally I use Humbrol satin spray in an aerosol can, but my local model shop is out of stock. The owner recommends this as the nearest equivalent and is, he assures me, suitable for varnishing models painted with enamels...

For once in my life I paid heed to the standard instruction to test the product.

And this is what happened...

Is this a can of varnish or spray-on paint stripper I've bought???

Admittedly the enamel paint on this test piece was applied many years ago and its been subjected to fingerprints and other contaminants over the years, but even so....

Obviously I won't be risking spraying the client's models with this stuff and a can of Humbrol satin varnish has been ordered on the web and is making its way here as I type.

A lucky escape indeed!

Monday, 5 September 2011

What A Whopper!

I've started work on a 7mm scale model of the original FR observation 'Barn' 100.

I'm approaching it as an enlarged 009 model, using the same styrene technique I employ on my 4mm carriages, only a bit bigger.

This much bigger, in fact....

Somehow it's always a bit of a shock to see how much larger a 7mm scale model is than a 4mm counterpart. In the shot above is the first of the sides for 100 and spare 009 coach side I have kicking about in the bits box.

Because 4 is more than half of 7 I suppose I think that a 7mm model will look less than half as big as the 009 one, but of course the enlargement is in all dimensions - length , height & width etc - so the actual space it takes up is much more than a little less than double.

(That was quite a complicated way of putting something that someone with better maths skills than I would express in a short and simple equation.)

Just so you know, I'm using 30" styrene for this base layer and the detailing will be done in 20". That's 50% & 33% thicker, respectively, than the sheet and strip I used on a 009 carriage.

It's the first 7mm carriage I've built so hopefully I've guessed right on those sizes and it will be rigid enough.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


And here she is - the completed Blanche II

Three months after the sad demise of our original Parkside Dundas-bodied, Ibertren-powered Penrhyn lady, Himself has completed the lining and fixed on the nameplates and worksplates (made for us by Narrow Planet).

For those of you who are keeping count, the dome she's sporting is the third and - I must insist - the final version.

It has been turned to the exact measurements taken from Blanche's actual dome. So if anyone still thinks it looks wrong I'm afraid it's the rest of the kit that's the wrong size, not the dome!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Super-Size Me

My next project will be a biggie - another adventure in 7mm.

A client has asked me to make a model of the original FR Observation 'Barn' 100. It's to be the 1965 version (with 3 windows at the end) rather than the 2006 version (with 2).

Here are some shots of the carriage taken at Harbour station towards the end of its active career on the FR (although it went on to serve on the WHR before it was scrapped).

Although I've built a pair of 7mm scale ballast wagons the sheer size of this carriage is going to be quite a shock to the system. It'll be best part of a foot long and a couple of inches wide. It's going to be an interesting experience.

And next up after this will be another 7mm carriage - 2090, the original Winson brake carriage for WHR - which will be even larger!