Saturday, 29 September 2018

Sideways Move

There's not that much work been done this week.

I've been busy casting kits and Himself has been ordered to work in the garden and prepare his place for the arrival of the decorators.

The one thing he has been permitted to do (by the domestic powers-that-be) is service the traversers in the fiddle yards on Dduallt ahead of its show next month.

These are powered by large 19v can-type motors with a gearbox made by Pitman that were designed for use in medical equipment.

We obtained them second hand over 25 years ago - they now have worn commutators but work well on 12v.

The motor drives a threaded rod through gears, robbed from my childhood Meccano set, with a corresponding nut fixed to the body of the fiddle yard.

Don't be distressed that my toys were stolen - I never really got on with Meccano, I was more of a LEGO kid.

(Which probably explains why Himself can build Backwoods kits and I wouldn't dare touch one.)

When Dduallt was first built the traversers were hand wound with a crank on the end.

They moved, but the gearing was so low, and the turning of the crank needed to be so enthusiastic, that the whole layout wobbled every time they were moved.

Which is why we installed the motors.

Still, it gives me confidence that the motors your life may depend upon one day are still functioning a quarter of a century later.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Like London Buses

So the saying goes, you wait for one and then three turn up - and so it is with Garratt kits.

I'd spent many months wondering whether we were ever going to get our hands on any more Backwoods Miniatures NGG16s to complete our WHR fleet, and now another one has landed in our lap.

I posted a few weeks ago about how I managed to secure (at considerable cost) the last two kits produced, and then during our recent trip to  Dinas to show Bron Hebog one of the visitors told us that he too had an untouched NGG16, but had come to realise that he would never get round to building it, and would we be interested in taking it off his hands and giving it a good home?

As you can imagine, we didn't need to be asked twice - and we are tremendously grateful to this gentleman.

Himself is very excited by this because it is one of the original run of kits, the tell-tale signs being the smaller-sized box and - crucially - the provision of Mashima motors.

These motors are also out of production and the more recent kits came with alternatives which don't have the facility to be secured in place with screws, and the suggestion in the instructions is that you glue them in place.

Himself doesn't like this idea much.

So it's been decided that this will be the first of the kits to be built and turned into 143.

The others will become models of 130 - which is nearing the completion of its restoration - and 140 (if it ever gets done - which the FR General Manager insists WILL happen).

Having this third kit means we will no longer need to vandalise our original NGG16 - which as you can see in the picture at the top of the page has always run in ACR condition - to try to make it look like one of the Welsh machines.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018


Next month it's a chance for this old thing to see the light of day again.

Yes, Dduallt, the layout that's had more comebacks than Sinatra, is having an outing at our local show in Greenock, so after our return from Wales Himself has put it up to give everything the once-over.

Unlike Bron Hebog, this is a layout we do have the space to put up play with.

There's a dodgy switch on the control panel to be replaced and a few scenic repairs to be carried out - many of them are cat-related as, frustratingly, the garage (where the layouts are stored) is on the moggy's through-route to the cat flap....

After that we just need to have a few test running sessions, which is the fun bit!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Strictly Come Casting

The start of the autumn TV schedules is always an exciting time on my modelling calendar.

The ladies in my house love to watch the various non-entities you've never heard of attempting to dance, and this is good news for me because it means every Saturday night there's a window of opportunity for me to disappear into the man cave and get on with a project with absolutely zero risk of me being accused of ignoring them!

Last night's task was a little humdrum, but necessary.

Last week's Superpower event at Dinas also featured the Narrow Planet sales stand, and perhaps inspired by seeing the long freight train we were running on Bron Hebog, the visitors bought up almost their entire remaining stock of my SAR wagon kits.

As a result there's been an urgent request to restock them before the ExpoNG show at the end of next month.

So this week in the man cave is going to be mostly about casting those and, as a by-product, filling my fingerprints full of resin so that I cannot use the touch sign in on my smart phone for a few days....

Friday, 21 September 2018

Super Duper Barn

I did get some modelling done in the days before we left for Wales, in fact there was quite a burst of activity on my latest superbarn 120.

In the last post about the carriage I had just begun the process of cleaning the flash from the windows, and I managed to get that completed, made up the corridor connections out of styrene (a fiddly job I'm not fond of) and glued them together into a basic bodyshell.

Once that's done, and in order to protect the rather fragile superglue-on-resin joints, I try to make up the floor and false roof so that they can help to keep the carriage square and stop it flexing about too much.

Incidentally, while I was in Wales for Superpower I learnt a new nickname for these carriages which amused me.

The first three were designed with regular droplight windows in the middle of each bay of seats, in line with the tables.

They became known as 'Super Barns' in a nod to the original series of Centenary carriages build in the 1960s.

The most recent four carriages have been revised with much larger windows with hopper windows set into the toplights, which a friend referred to as 'Super-Duper Barns'

I rather like that.

The official name for them, I should point out, is Super Saloons - but I've never heard anyone call them that in conversation and I'm not about to start here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Rebel Without A Tender

Even though we've worked for 20 years to create a layout of very ambitious scale, one which is also as accurate as we can make it, we're not above having a little fun with what we run on Bron Hebog at exhibitions.

We've always quite enjoyed making a cheeky reference to the politics of the railway or happenings, such as the model of the crashed car at Bron Hebog crossing which - as I expected - was a talking point at weekend among those 'in the know' who came to look at the layout.

Another irresistible target was the appearance of the replica Lynton and Barnstaple Baldwin Lyn at the Superpower event, which was appearing on the Welsh Highland for the weekend under the strict understanding that it would never been seen near the FR's resident Manning Wardle Lyd.

(That moment is to happen for the first time in Devon.)

With Himself having burned some midnight oil to get our new Backwoods Lyn to the stage where it can run the temptation was too great...

The model itself is still requires a lot of running in, producing a rather dramatic squeal if given too much juice, and it still has a rather pronounced waddle at this stage, but it managed to put in a few laps of the layout, some of which were caught on camera.

The real loco was only running top and tail with Taliesin between Caernarfon and Waunfawr, and we had the chance to take a ride behind it courtesy of the free Rover tickets which the railway provided for all exhibitors.

Ours ventured a little further south to Beddgelert.

We will, of course, post updates as construction is completed.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Delightful Dinas

We've returned from a terrific three days showing Bron Hebog at its second home - the goods shed at Dinas Station - during WHR Superpower 2018.

It was great to see so many familiar faces and also get to meet a number of fellow modellers who we've only ever had contact with in the virtual world until now - a couple of them even brought along some special guest locomotives which had a cheeky run around the layout.

There'll be more to tell you about in the coming days but for new here are some extended video highlights for those of you who weren't able to come along, and to enjoy again for those who did.

Thanks again to our friends on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway for inviting us along and looking after us so well over the weekend.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Ready To Go

Bron Hebog is all packed up and ready to head 'home' to the top left hand corner of Wales this weekend.

The layout is supposed to be up and running in Dinas goods shed from lunchtime tomorrow (Friday) which means we're going to have to hit the road early in the morning for the 350 mile journey.

We're talking radio breakfast newsreader early, so it's a good job I'm used to it.

We're both very much looking forward to it.

Will we see you there?

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Ashes To Ashes

The new BZ wagons will be ready to make their appearance on Bron Hebog this weekend.

Himself has been busy over the last few days painting and lettering them.

The lettering incurred some unfortunate, unforeseen expenditure.

You may not have considered it before - I know I hadn't - but on most sheets of lettering you don't get equal numbers of letters, and certainly not many Z's.

Which is a bit of a hinderance when each of these wagons requires at least 4 of them.

Thanks to the modern marvel of internet shopping Himself was able to get in fresh supplies in time to get the wagons ready for the show at Dinas.

They've also been filled with a removable load of locomotive ash, which is how they were being used when we photographed them at Boston Lodge last year, and this is quite often tripped along the WHR to be spread at various locations so they at least have a prototypical purpose for appearing on the layout.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Third Baldwin

I mentioned in passing on here a few weeks ago that we have a new locomotive project - a Backwoods kit for the Lynton and Barnstaple Baldwin Lyn.

The real sized replica will be running on the Welsh Highland next weekend so I guess that provided some inspiration for Himself to dig it out of the box and see what it was all about.

This model is unusual for us because it comes part-assembled.

It came into our possession as a quid pro quo from a good friend of the layout in return for Himself taking on some advanced troubleshooting on a couple of other locomotives.

Now, with second-hand Backwoods kits the best advice is caveat emptor and it's very much the case here.

(Apologies, this post keeps drifting off into Latin.)

Himself tells me that the person who'd started the kit had broken the golden rule of following the instructions to the letter.

In this case they'd jumped ahead a few stages in putting the frames together meaning it was now impossible to insert the wheels, and their associated compensation mechanism.

Fortunately it was not so far advanced as to prevent him unsoldering parts and reconstructing it as it was designed to be put together.

Himself tells me he regards all this as a very good warm up exercise for taking on one of the new Garratt kits we obtained in the summer, which I anticipate will become his main winter project.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Hole In the Wall

A challenge for all layouts which have a distinct scenic area and a fiddle yard is how to make the break between the two.

Typically this is done with an overbridge or a tunnel.

In this respect Bron Hebog is quite unusual because we have our tunnel in the middle of the layout and you get to see both ends.

What we don't have is an obvious scenic break at either the Portmadog or the Rhyd Ddu end of the layout.

I suppose at the southern end we could have employed the Bryn Y Felin road bridge but that would have been stretching things a bit.

So instead we just have the line disappearing into the trees - just as we do at the upper end as well.

The difficulty we had was that the entrance to the fiddle yard was just too much of an obvious mouse hole, so we've tried to disguise it with a few carefully placed trees, although we can't have too many otherwise there's a danger that the board will no longer mate with its opposite number for storage and transport.

There's always a compromise in this game.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Car's The Star

There's a lot that's been done to the layout since the last time we showed it at Dinas, three years ago, and a lot of new stock to run on it too.

I expect, however, that one of the star attractions when we're at Welsh Highland Superpower next weekend - at least among those in the know - will be looking for the crashed car at Bron Hebog crossing.

One of the perils of making a layout of a real place, and a reasonably contemporary one as well, is that there is never a shortage of people to tell you whether or not you've done it right, and even more so when you go and show it a few miles down the road from the actual place.

I'm expecting that the Oberon Woods estate scene will be getting a through going over because each time we've taken the layout to Dinas we've had people coming up who live there and asking us if we're going to be making a model of their house?

Well, now we have.

The big question is, will it pass muster?

Monday, 3 September 2018

Falling Behind

I've let Boston Lodge get ahead of me in the carriage-building stakes again and this autumn I shall have to play catch-up.

I've had these castings for super barn (sorry, super saloon) 120, set aside for quite a few months but the motivation to put it together was lacking whilst all the while the real carriage was commissioned and put into service.

It's a terrible thing to say but sometimes you can get a little bored (just a tiny wee bit) of making similar models - even if the carriage works crew are always keeping me on my toes with their sneaky alterations to the design.

By my reckoning this will be the seventh super barn saloon I've built, and the fourth of the revised design with the big windows, so you can maybe understand why the novelty has worn off.

However, there's nothing else for it, I need to man up and get on with it, so I retrieved the castings from the photo album where they've been safely squashed all this time, and begun the process of cleaning up the flash from the casting process.

I got the first one done and then, as they used to say on kids summer holiday telly when I was young, I went off and did something less boring instead.....

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Backscene Bandwagon

Himself has taken an executive decision that a plain background to the layout wasn't good enough and surprised me last week by announcing that he's invested in a batch of self-adhesive photographic backscene sheets.

These are becoming quite common now and the ones he's picked are produced by International Models.

It's a compromise, of course, because the scene is not exactly the same as the slopes of Moel Hebog which rise above the Beddgelert S-bends but I have to say I think it looks effective enough in the shot above.

One of the things which pleases me most is the shades blend in, which is always the concern I have with using these type of backscenes.

What's for sure is it's certainly way better than anything we could create ourselves with a paintbrush.

It may be in due course that an opportunity presents itself for a more authentic, bespoke solution, but this will certainly do the job for going to Dinas in a fortnight.