Thursday, 31 July 2014

It's Got Legs

Himself has made speedy progress with the construction of the lower fiddle yard.

The basic baseboard is all but finished now which is pretty impressive given that it's a brand new, back-of-a-fag-packet design so it takes longer working it out as you go along than it does to make the subsequent ones.

He tells me it took almost 2 hours to work out how the legs should be designed so they folded and fitted properly, as you can see below.

The base for the trackbed is a sheet of ply at the bottom topped with Sundeala board, which is apparently very expensive these days as it now has to be made fireproof.

Provided it is well supported it does make a very pleasant fiddle yard 'worktop' - a much nicer feel to it than plain plywood or chipboard.

Himself tells me he is a bit disappointed by how heavy it is given that he pulled out all the stops - by his rather Brunellian standards - to make it lightweight.

He's now going to start working on the other end - the Rhyd Ddu exit of the layout - which will be much taller and therefore even heavier.

After that it will be time to think about a track plan. If I were you I would be seriously considering investing in shares in PECO right now.....

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Yard Work

The current top priority in getting the layout into a fit state to show at Woking in a few weeks time is to get the fiddle yards built.

Up until now the layout has only been run with temporary ones at the 'head of steel' but the time has come to construct the proper ones which will be positioned at the back.

The first photo shows the basic frame for the lower bottom end. The other end will be a bit taller because the line has climbed all the way around - as the real one does.

There are a few of changes from the scenic board design.

There are no L girders and they are only 2ft wide instead of 2ft 6 mean it will be less far of operators to reach to handle stock and, in theory, less opportunity to knock them off the track or damage stuff in other ways.

They are  open plan underneath and quite thin so as to save weight and be easier to store and to get to the point motors and other ancillaries.

The section which juts out at the right hand side is where we intend to mount the control panel.

There will be a couple of cross pieces to put in when we have worked out where the point motors are going.

In total there will be three boards and the  middle board will be the last to get built.

It will be a split level arrangement and in future there is a possibility there might be one track at the back that runs on a gentle slope for continues running.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Electric String

For some people wiring their layout is the task they fear - not so on Bron Hebog.

It's not awfully complicated, as you can see....


If you've been reading this blog for a while it probably won't surprise you to learn that we are stubbornly DC. None of this fancy fly-by-chip DCC stuff here!

With such a simple track plan - just long single track sections, a passing loop and a siding - there are only two wires strung between each of most of the boards as you can see in the picture.

The tricky electronic spaghetti will be found in the fiddle yard if Himself decides to go down the path of automatic route setting again as we did on the yards at Dduallt, where a large bank of diodes meant a twist of a rotary switch and the pushing of a single button was all that was required to send a train in or out of a choice of 8 roads.

I seem to recall it involved a small amount of head-scratching and he hasn't said if we're doing something similar this time...

Friday, 25 July 2014

Chlorophyll Conundrum

When Himself emails me with a message saying there's an issue with a colour, I worry! Especially when the colour in question is green.

Himself, you see, doesn't do greens. Or at least the message gets lost in translation somewhere between his eyes and his brain and they all become various shades of brown. (This rather scuppered any dreams of being an engine driver...)

With the Artistic Director being blessed with the same special talent and me (who is not colour blind) being 400 miles away from where the action is happening you can perhaps begin to understand my unease.

It would appear - in fact you can judge for yourself below that it is most definitely so - that the latest batch of dyed carpet underlay grass is a different shade to the stuff we were using a couple of years ago.

This is not really Himself's fault. The technique of dunking the underlay in a cold dye bath is a very hit and miss affair and it's perfectly possible that the earlier stuff has faded a little as well since it was laid.

This close up shot gives you a better idea of what's happened here.

Fortunately this carpet underlay is only the base layer of foliage and we'll be putting much more scatter materiel on top which means we should be able to disguise the change quite well.

In all of this chat about genetic blessings and colour tones I've almost overlooked that the left hand corner of the layout is now completely covered and looks a great deal more presentable, and quite impressive too if I may say so myself.

I would like to think that Himself will be able to get most of the layout to this state for the show in Woking in September. I do know that he is certainly doing all he can to make it look the best it can be for the exhibition.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Fencing Again

Adding the little details can be what eats up the time during the scenery phase of a layout build.

For example take the two accommodation crossings on the board we're currently working on. Building up the complex fencing around them out of styrene strip has taken a couple of days to do.

This is the first crossing which, as you can see, is still partly at the 'post' stage..

The second one, which is near to the scenic break has been completed and painted.

Those of you paying close attention may also notice that the track has been ballasted now which I forgot to mention in the previous post.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Two Months To Go

Time is racing towards the next exhibition appearance for Bron Hebog and the question is how much will Himself manage to get done before we roll up in Woking?

All the scenic boards have been built now but a fair number of them are still in a state of bare track and painted plaster.

In the last couple of days he's begun to stick some of the base coat of long grass (dyed carpet underlay) on the first board (at the Porthmadog end).

As time is now against us we can't really wait for the Artistic Director to put in an appearance to paint the walls so his apprentice has had a go...

There are a lot of stone walls on this layout. This is a particularly long stretch running across the hill.

They've built up from the Ten Commandments plaster range it may not be  unreasonable to presume that the owner of the business is presently browsing through holiday brochures for Mustique!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

New Van Unveiled

I've finished putting together and painting the first of the the V-16 brake van kits which was commissioned by a client.

It compares very favorably to the brass Worsley Works version we use on Bron Hebog. This resin kit, however, shows the van in its current condition on the WHR following an overhaul which saw a pair of windows cut at one end and the single door blanked off - the Worsley version has a window.

I don't mind admitting the yellow stripes on the end were a complete pain to mask and paint.

There is still scope for extra detail to be added to the basic body kit, such as footsteps and vac pipes.

Should you wish to have one kits are available now in the FR Shop at Harbour Station or by mail order from Festshop

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Plaster Last

Plaster has now been applied onto the last board, showing the stretch of the line along by Cemetery Crossing and Himself has started sticking on the stone walls which are from the Ten Commandments range.

Supplies have run out (again) so the positions of the remaining sections of wall have been marked out in blue.

You can also see a culvert which has been built towards the bottom left of the picture.

The basics of the level crossings are in place but he has still to make up the cattle grids to go on either side of the cemetery road.

Once the plaster has fully cured it will be given a coat of mud brown emulsion all over and then the track can be ballasted.

Now thoughts are turning to the fiddle yard design.

The complicating factor here is that the tracks enter at different heights at each end - the Rhyd Ddu end is 6.5cm higher than the Aberglaslyn end - so Himself is going to consult with the fourth member of the team, the Structural Engineer, to get some ideas together.

This brainstorming session will probably happen in the top left hand corner of Wales and may well involve the consumption of ale.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Cemetery Scenics

So, the basic structure of the layout is complete!

You can define that in lots of different ways, or course, but a milestone has certainly been reached in the last couple of days with Himself placing the last of the Mod-Roc in position on the cemetery crossing board - the last one at the Porthmadog end of the layout.

He's also made up the crossings for the road to the cemetery and the accommodation crossing just along from it.

He has also finished laying the track around the curve past the scenic break into the fiddle yard.

The actual fiddle yard, it must be said, is not even a doodle on a piece of paper yet, so we're still not quite at the stage where we can run a train all the way around Bron Hebog - not that we have the space to put the whole thing up anyway.

These, as I'm sure you'll agree, are just very minor inconveniences.....

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Prototype Approved

I've reached the stage with the development of the V-16 Brake Van kit where it's time to glue together the first set of castings and see if they all fit as they should.

The bodyshell went together just as I'd intended...

Now for the new innovation (for me) on this kit.

All my resin kits so far have been for open wagons, but this van, of course, requires a roof.

Long experience shows that unsupported styrene is not a good solution because sooner or later it will sag in the middle.

The ideal solution is a roof made from metal sheet, but my conscience tells me it's too cheeky to sell a kit that includes only 5 sides of the box, so I've come up with a compromise.

On my scratch built carriages I install a false ceiling with longitudinal ribs to support the roof skin. For the kit I've come up with something similar but easier to cast.

It is s cast block with the top profile that matches the roof. It is sized to fit inside the bodyshell.

All you have to do to get a perfectly formed, non-sagging, styrene roof is to glue this to a piece of thin styrene sheet, starting along one edge and then when that's set bending it over and gluing down the other side - super glue works best for obvious reasons.

And there we have it - a van with a roof!

Now, there is a downside to this solution, and that is the weight of the roof casting which sits very high in the vehicle.

To avoid it being top-heavy and wobbling excessively it will probably be necessary to add some weight to the floor to compensate.

I've quite satisfied with it, though, and see no reason not to press ahead with a production run for the FR shop.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Relative Humudity

When The Boss sets up the ironing board once a week I usually take it as a sign that it's safe to sneak off to the modelling room for an hour or so of uninterrupted work.

So it was this week when I thought I would grab the chance to get stuck into the mountain of resin casting work I've got building up. (The FR shop has ordered another run of all my SAR wagon kits.)

However, things didn't turn out quite as planned.

Now, anyone who's ever cast in resin without the aid of a vacuum chamber knows that air bubbles are an occupational hazard. Mostly they're either so tiny they can hardly be seen with the naked eye or can be easily attended to with a spot of filler.

On this occasion, though, I had my first experience of the phenomenon of what is known as 'champagne bubbles'.

In fact it was so extreme you could be forgiven for thinking I had used expanding foam instead of polyurethane resin...

What was going on I gather, after a little bit of googling, was the resin was reacting to excess moisture in the air as it cured.

In hindsight I realise I was casting in something of a perfect storm.

The weather had been muggy for days. There were pans of veg boiling away on the stove in the kitchen. And to put the tin lid on it, The Boss was using the steam iron enthusiastically less than a metre away from where I was casting.

(When I say ironing enthusiastically, imagine for a moment a Garratt starting off with all its cylinder cocks wide open - you get the picture)

To test out the theory I rummaged in the loft and brought down the dehumidifier I bought years ago for coping with a condensation crisis in an old house.

I shut the door to the study, left it to run for a while and then mixed up another pot of resin.

I'm pleased to say the resulting casting was flawless and another lesson was learnt.

Namely, don't attempt any casting when the weekly ironing session is in progress.....

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

All Set For Silicone

The masters for the new V-16 brake van kit are finished - I hope.

After adding all the rivets to the other side piece - they're on a double-sided styrene base so you can't see it here, but it is - I've made the two ends and a chassis.

The chassis is adapted from the master I designed for the B wagon kit.

It is the same length but it is considerably wider so I made a cast and then beefed it up with styrene strip.

The biggest difference, though, is that the vacuum reservoir tank in a different position on the brake van so I had to carefully hack away the one on the casting and make a replacement by pouring just enough resin into the hole in the mould to make a spare and glue that on in the correct spot.

Now I shall have to make a set of moulds and cast a prototype and we can see if it really does fit together as I planned.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Backscene Boosting

Himself has decided he made an error a while ago and the 'hill' on the Cemetery Crossing board is not going to be high enough, so before he goes too much further on this last board he's taking action to increase the height of the scenic former at the back.

In this series of pictures you can see how he has marked out the shape of the existing plywood and marked it out on a fresh sheet.

You can see in these two shots below that he has done such a neat job it's hard to tell where the join is.

The last bit of progress to report just now is the cork track bed has been cut out and glued in place around the curve into the lower fiddle yard. Once again you'll notice the scenic break is placed at an angle.

Saturday, 5 July 2014


Scottish TV viewers of a certain age will get the pun - for the rest I'll explain later on.

I've been working on applying the resin transfer rivets to the SAR brake van masters. I use the excellent product from the US firm Archers for these. They're available from traders in the UK but I usually order them direct from Archers in the States and they arrive very swiftly.

I'm not doing all the rivets and bolt heads on the van - life's too short for that - but I've tried to include all the main ones along the frame and those holding the angle sections in place at the bottom, plus the run of bolt heads on the upright at either end.

I'm having to make a master of each side of the van because they are not a mirror image, so that's another reason not to challenge my sanity by rivet counting.

* Dotaman was a very long running Gaelic kids TV programme in Scotland. A sort of Playschool with subtitles.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Making Moulds Again

It looks like resin season is in full swing here with a flood of orders for my range of SAR wagon kits.

The FR shop has requested another run of all three kits - plus the guards van which is coming soon - so I am digging out the masters and making a new set of silicone moulds.

In the picture above are the main parts for the DZ & B wagon kits ready in their styrene 'boxes' for the RTV mixture to the poured on top.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A Few Centimetres To Go

We have almost completed the track laying on the layout.

Himself has turned his attention to the other end - the Porthmadog end - and the last base board to be tackled.

This is the one that was used as a temporary fiddle yard but is destined to be the section leading from the southern end of Goat Tunnel and across Cemetery Crossing as the railway heads for the Pass of Aberglaslyn.

He has cut and mounted the plywood track bed and started work on the crossings.

In the picture above you can see Cemetery crossing in the foreground with road and footpath leading off p the hill.

The entrance to the fiddle yard, with the scenic break on a diagonal, can be seen in the background after the unnamed foot crossing.

And this is the view from the over direction.

As you can see there is but a few centimetres of virgin track bed left on Bron Hebog now. What a tantalizing sight!

It also serves as a reminder how huge this layout is going to be by 009 standards.

Many of them seen on the circuit are no longer than the run from this point to the start of the tunnel around the corner out of shot.

That's not meant as a criticism or a put down because you can see some amazing modelling in small spaces, it's just an observation to put the size of this project into context.