Sunday, 29 September 2013

Peckett Assembled

There's steady progress with our Peckett, Harrogate.

Here are a couple of snaps with the cab and saddle tank units in position although they have not been soldered together yet.

It's looking quite purposeful from the front.

There are lots of detailing bits and bobs, such as the cab roof, handrails and the couplings to be added but this RT Models kit is coming together really nicely.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Wheeled Pony

Our work-in-progress Welsh Pony was on display on Bron Hebog at Dinas earlier this month.

It was left in a typical position for an out of service FR England engine - dumped at the end of siding.

Himself has not done a lot more to it since the last post about it on the blog, due to the motorising issues previously described, but it at least now it is sitting on its wheels.

As it happened the real Welsh Pony was in a similar situation during the Super Power weekend, shunted to the end of the short siding at Porthmadog Harbour station soliciting donations to the restoration fund.

Our Pony is one stage ahead of the real loco in that she does at least have a tender, although she did not bring it to Wales.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Doubling Up

I thought you might like to see some more pictures of the layout on show at Dinas.

Over the three days of Super Power we had a lot of fun running various combinations of double-headed trains on Bron Hebog.

Some couplings are more common that others, such as this snap of our two NGG16's together at Beddgelert..


Our Backwoods kit built locos generally run very well together considering the differences in their chassis and drive arrangements. Here is Taliesin and Lyd combining on a southbound service.

Linda & Blanche, have made a couple of trips up the WHR now and our ladies spent most of the weekend in each other's company.

Plenty of coupling rod action in this unusual mixed train formation with Moelwyn and Criccieth Castle.

PrincePalmerston make a more conventional pairing running together on the layout as they did in real life during Super Power.

Finally, a glimpse of a Triple Fairlie as Taliesin and Merddin Emrys head for Porthmadog.

Monday, 23 September 2013

More On The Peckett

Himself is continuing to make rapid progress with our RT Models kit of the Statfold Barn Railway - ex FR, ex Harrogate Gas Works - Peckett.

I mentioned previously that this is a mixed media white metal and brass kit and the cab is one of the main brass components.

Himself has pressed out the rivets, as you can see, and soldered it together, as is his way.

It's worth mentioning that this cab is a recent addition to the locomotive. When it was bought, and then sold on by the FR, it had a very squat and round-topped design which was required to fit the loading gauge at the gas works. It made the footplate accommodation on the England Engines look positively palatial.

This more typical Peckett design was added by the Bredgar and Wormshill Railway, who first restored it to steam, and it was interesting to note when I saw Harrogate at Dinas this month that even with this taller cab it still sits lower than that of Prince.

There would have been scope the FR to have fitted an even larger cab had they concluded that the rest of the locomotive - its chassis and boiler / firebox in particular - was ever a realistic proposition for adapting into a mainline machine.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cab Ride

I had a wonderful surprise lined up for me at the Welsh Highland Super Power event a fortnight ago. Himself had arranged a footplate pass for me all the way from Dinas to Porthmadog on the Saturday afternoon.

I had yet to travel on any part of the WHR south of Rhyd Ddu, even though it's been reopened for a few years now, so to do so for the first time in the cab of one of the mighty NGG16's was an incredible privilege.

Our loco for the trip was 87.

I had previously travelled in the cab of Garratt 143 to Waunfawr when it was oil fired but being on board one of these giants running on coal was a new experience.

The crew certainly need a lot more room to work to feed that fire and I soon discovered that the best method for keeping out of the way of Steve's swinging shovel was to stand right in the doorway half in, half out, enjoying a fantastic forward view along the boiler in the process.

It had been wet all day in that corner of North Wales and - not unexpectedly - she was a little light-footed for much of the climb out of Dinas towards Tryfan Junction. The addition of sanding gear on these machines can only achieve so much it seems.

Although I had been told in advance I was surprised how rough the Garratts are to ride on for a large articulated machine, especially compared to a Double Fairlie on which I have also be fortunate enough to travel. At one point when the rear unit joined in a particularly enthusiastic bout of slipping you could feel the whole engine pogo-ing up and down beneath your feet.

As it was a special event there was an untypically intensive service on the line and we passed K1 heading north on a demonstration freight at Waunfawr.

One of my favourite parts of the journey was the sinuous section from Bryn Gloch to Plas y Nant where you could look out of the cab and see the front and rear of the engine bending this way and that.

At Rhyd Ddu we passed 138 heading north with the final train of the day in that direction and where we took water.

Carrying on south we were soon breasting the summit at Pitt's Head and the fireman, Steve, told me to keep a close eye on the gauge glass showing the water level in the boiler. It was quite remarkable to watch it drop at least an inch or so within a split second  as 87 pointed her nose down the slope towards Beddgelert.

Naturally this was a very interesting part of the journey for me, my first chance to travel around the S bends above Beddgelert that we have spent so long studying and attempting to recreate in miniature.

Where the tracks come closest in the centre of the S the height differential is very apparent...

Cutting Mawr was immensely impressive..

And the big 180 degree bend on the embankment is too..

Until finally we rolled into Beddgelert station.

Looking through the cab window it is hard to believe that the Garratt is going to fit through Goat Tunnel.

The pass of Aberglaslyn is the most famous section of the WHR with good reason - it is a truly spectacular section of railway line - and travelling through the long tunnel on board 87 is an experience I will remember for a very long time, although I can only wonder what it must be like on the uphill climb.

On the Cross Town Link through the streets of Porthmadog my admiration of the crew rose even further.

I was struck all through the two hour journey how closely they have to work together to watch the line ahead. It's hard enough to see the road with the big fat boiler and water tank in they way on a straight stretch of line, but the bends are completely blind and they truly have to act as each other's eyes.

Nowhere was this more apparent that when we approached the first tramway section across Snowdon Street.

I spotted a gang of teenagers hanging around the crossing and sensed trouble.

Sure enough, as we steamed nearer the crossing they began playing 'chicken' running across the road in front of the locomotive. The line here is on a curve and as they played silly beggers they were momentarily completely out of view of both the driver and firemen, hidden by that great big water tank at the front.

I could feel the anxiety this must have caused our driver, Aled, at this moment. Steam engines, even narrow gauge ones, take a while to stop and there comes a point of no return where the driver is committed to taking his train over the crossing and is left to hope that some idiot kid doesn't choose to attempt one final dart in front of his engine.

No wonder he leaned out of the cab and gave them a piece of his mind as we passed.

After a pause to start the crossing lights we rolled across Britannia Bridge and onto The Cob and the connection with the FR.

It is a somewhat surreal moment as the NGG16 appears to drive down the Queen's Highway.

After being pulled back into the platform we were soon unhooked and charged light engine across The Cob to Boston Lodge Works. I don't mind admitting that the burst of acceleration after we cleared the last point had me rocking on my heels into the cab backsheet. Quite nippy these Garratts...

While I left the engine here and prepared to repair to the pub there was plenty of work left for the crew to put 87 to bed.

Steve had a hard job clearing out the fire which was an almost solid bed of clinker. It was a good job it was the last trip of the day because he reckoned there would have been no chance of making it up the hill if 87 had needed to take another train to Caernarfon.

Before wrapping up this rather lengthy post I must express my thanks to my driver Aled Lloyd and fireman Steve Holland for being such excellent company and allowing me to share their engine for a truly unforgettable trip.

Diolch yn fawr.

And heartfelt thanks too to Himself for arranging this wonderful surprise for me just days before my 40th birthday.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Peckett Progress

Himself has been fired with enthusiasm following the show at Dinas, so he says, so I'm not surprised that he has wasted no time in cracking on with the RT Models Harrogate Peckett kit.

He's started with the chassis. You get a considerable head start with this kit because it uses the latest Farish 08 chassis which comes with outside frames, or to me more accurate, a handy set of cranks already on the end of the axles.

Onto these you attach new coupling rods from a fret supplied with the kit before making up the cylinders, slide bars and fitting the connecting rods.

This chassis then fits up into the base of the locomotive which, as you can see below, includes new false frames in brass.

The kit is a mix of whitemetal and brass and Himself reports that is it not necessarily the easiest to put together, although he admits he is complicating matters by soldering the kit together as opposed to gluing it as the manufacturer recommends in the instructions.

This entails quite a lot of messing about adjusting the temperature of the iron.

This next pic shows it with the saddle tank casting in place.

From this angle you can see how much overhang there is in the 0-6-0 design and perhaps understand why there was such concern when the loco first arrived on the FR about the damage it might cause to the track which was most certainly not in the best of condition back in the late 1950's.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

K1 Freight

Part of the fun of exhibiting Bron Hebog at the WHR at an event like Super Power is we had to chance to replicate what we saw happening on the real railway outside the goods shed doors on the layout.

The first train I saw when I drove into the yard on the Friday was the long mixed train made up of B and DZ wagons with the South African guard's van and carriage 23 hauled by one of the NGG16's, so after we'd set the layout up and were putting out the stock we promptly recreated this using out latest rake of Boston Largs Works wagon kits.

For the rest of the weekend the carriage was removed and it ran as a freight train hauled by K1 which was making its long awaiting return to action.

Here are a few shots of our recreation of it on Bron Hebog.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Peckett Purchase

Himself was splashing the cash at Dinas last weekend inspired by one of the visiting engines at the Super Power event - the Harrogate Peckett.

He's bought the RT Models whitemetal & brass kit for the locomotive - which now belongs to the Statfold Barn Railway - and the Farish 08 outside frame chassis to go with it

For those that don't know the story of the locomotive I'll give you a quick recap.

It was built during WW2 to work at the Harrogate Gas Works in Yorkshire and was bought by the FR in 1957 in the early years of its revival when there was a desperate need for something - anything - to keep the trains running with only the ancient Prince and Double Fairlie Taliesin to haul trains.

The short version of the story is that Linda and Blanche turned up to save the day before anything was done about getting it into service and it spent 30 years tucked away at the back of Boston Lodge until it was finally stripped down and the chassis hauled up the line, which only confirmed the initial impressions in the 50's that it was never realistically going to make a useful mainline FR machine.

It was sold on in part exchange for a useful P Way diesel loco - which became Harlech Castle - and later on found a home at the SBR where the owners established a friendly relationship with the FR bringing a number of their locomotives to come and play on the line.

The Peckett - which was once going to be named Volunteer on the FR - appeared last year for some shuttle runs between Blaenau and Tanygrisiau and has spent much of this year lodging on the WHR where it turned a wheel for the first time last weekend double heading with Prince on a shuttle service to Waunfawr.

I've seen quite a few of these kits made up - there was one running as the present day Harrogate on Clydach which was also on show at Dinas - so I fully expect it to turn into a nice little model.

It has run all the way up the FR so we've got a justification for running it on Dduallt and although it arrived at Dinas by road - and so has yet to appear at Beddgelert - I'm hoping the temptation to take it for a spin all the way to Boston Lodge will prove too hard to resist for the powers-that-be at Porthmadog before it returns home to Staffordshire.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Driver's Eye View

I hope you'll love these videos of the layout taken at Dinas last weekend. I'm delighted to be able to share them with you here for my 600th post.

The first I think is very special, a driver's eye view of a trip around the layout filmed on a tiny camera mounted on a wagon belonging to Huw Jones who was exhibiting his layout Traeth Mawr Railway next to us in the goods shed. (There's a link to his blog on the right hand side of the page.)

For those WHR loco crew who read this blog, and I know there are a few of you, I'd love to know what you think of it and how it compares to your knowledge of 'the road'.

(Yes, I do know we were running wrong line on the first run towards Rhyd Ddu!)

The second film features what you might call a passenger's eye view.

It was shot by the FR's in-house movie maker John Wooden who made use of his own mini HD camera which he straps to real FR and WHR locos to film driver's eye view DVDs.

It's slightly larger than Huw's and had to be placed sideways on a flat DZ wagon. It was a very tight fit. It only just squeezed through Goat Tunnel, missed one of the 'ladybird' signals by a whisker and was oh-so close to oblivion passing beneath the footbridge across the cutting.

How many familiar faces did you manage to spot watching the layout?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Dinas Debuts

I've got lots of pictures to show you and tales to tell from our weekend at the WHR running Bron Hebog at the Super Power event.

I'll start with a few snaps of some of our latest models which had their first outing on the layout.

The new locomotive this weekend was our Britomart adapted from a Brian Madge Alice cab-less Quarry Hunslet kit.

She's still in primer but is ready for the paintshop.

It was my first opportunity to see it move and I am delighted to be able to tell you that she runs superbly well: very smooth, almost silent and with no stutters or stalls even on fiddle yard pointwork. Quite remarkable for a locomotive of that size.

We had a couple of carriages which require only a coat of varnish and which were included in the rakes.

Our second 'Superbarn' 121..

...and the second of my 13m long WHR saloons from the batch of 3 built at Boston Lodge a few years back. (There is a third still in virgin styrene in a drawer somewhere back at our southern HQ)

And finally the WHR tool van which spent a lot of the weekend sitting in the sitting in the station out front posed with a pair of DZ wagons and the historic - and sadly scrapped - mess coach 1000 which saw use during the reconstruction of the line through Beddgelert.

I've got many more photos to post over the next few days - and a couple of surprises - so do keep checking back and see what you missed if you weren't able to make it to Wales.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Return From Dinas

We're about to head home from a very successful and enjoyable weekend at the Welsh Highland Super Power Great & Small event.

It was fantastic to run Bron Hebog again, chat to other NG modellers and admire their layouts, not to mention all the big little trains on the real railway outside the goods shed.

I'll be posting a full report and some pictures here soon, but in the meantime here's another one of Chris Nevard's superb shots, as featured in Model Rail magazine, for you to enjoy.

If you took any snaps of the layout over the weekend and would like to share them with us, and if you also do the Facebook thing then why not post them on our Bron Hebog page or tag us in them.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Museum Piece

There is a tradition for significant railway prototypes to end up on display and so it is with the first of my NGY ballast wagons.

I have prepared it to go on show in a glass the FR shop at Harbour Station.

John already has some samples of the DZ and B wagon kits made up to tempt buyers and so I thought with me delivering the first batch of ballast wagon kits to him this weekend that he would appreciate a finished example to show off.

As with all prototypes it is slightly different to the production versions in the packets on the shelves.

It does not have the rivets cast on the frame and the cog wheels are different on each side which is a legacy of testing the different designs before I committed to the final etch.

The hoods covering the vacuum cylinders are also from a previously rejected etch and I never got around to fitting the handrails on the Z struts.

Nevertheless I think it will do the job very well in the window.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Equine Enigma

We are getting closer to solving the problem of how to power Welsh Pony.

Regular readers will recall that the build of our Mercian Models kit ground to a halt when Himself discovered it was apparently impossible to assemble the motor and the gearbox as per the instructions. (As documented in previous posts - take a look back to read the whole sorry saga).

However, Trevor, the man behind Mercian, kindly put us in contact with another modeller, Ivan Haynes, who let us into the secret of his solution.

The photo he sent us shows that he has torn up the instructions and abandoned any notion of a transverse motor mount / gearbox and gone with a much more convention in-line arrangement with a simple gearbox driving just one axle, as opposed to both being geared as the manufacturer intended.

So the next step is probably to acquire a gearbox, and create our own motor mount,  to see if we can replicate the arrangement.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Trial Run

The value of three months building disruption and a virtual twelve month hiatus in construction of the layout is demonstrated by this picture showing that Himself now has the space to erect the whole length of the layout so it can be tested.

Here it is being given the once over before heading to Dinas this weekend for the WHR Super Power Great & Small event.

The trackwork and electrics are functioning fine and the control switch for the motorised water crane has been relocated onto the control panel - it used be positioned directly beneath the baseboard however that's now inaccessible on account of the new fiddle yard being in the way.

The only remedial work required was to re-profile a section of scenery at a board joint which had been built slightly too high.

All that remains is to check over the stock and pack it all up again for the trip to Wales.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Quite Revealing?

I am one of life's late adopters - for instance I still use an un-smart mobile phone - but I've decided to make an attempt to get down with the kids for the show at Dinas next weekend by creating a QR code to stick on the front of the layout.

If you have one of these smart phone gizmos, and the right app to go with it, then you may already have worked out that this seemingly random pattern of shapes brings up this blog on your screen.

As the WHR Super Power Great & Small event may well be attracting a different, and more narrow gauge-minded, crowd than the average model railway exhibition I'm hoping it may help to increase awareness of this blog and also our Twitter feed and Facebook page.

The last time we look the layout on the road 18 months ago I printed off some flyers with the web address on, but as you can see from the bar at the top of the page it's a bit of a mouthful. It doesn't have a www or a neat and memorable dot com address, and anyway I suspect that most of these pieces of paper get lost or tossed in the bin, so I thought there was no harm in trying a more hi-tech approach.

I've done some reading up and asked the opinion of other computer-savvy modellers I know and a lot of them do seem to be a bit sniffy about QR codes so it'll be interesting to see if they have any noticeable effect.