Thursday, 30 May 2019

Restore Or Replace?

Aging stock brings with it a dilemma.

Some of our Dundas slate wagons are more than 25 years old and starting to get a little brittle.

This weakness is most apparent around the very small axleboxes which have a tendency to break off.

The wheelsets are also showing their vintage with the plastic wheel centres shrinking ever so slightly and allowing the tyres to moves, affecting the back-to-back measurements.

The question is whether to try and fix them up or replace with new.

Himself has discovered a pack of 3 tonners in a drawer and made them up just in case.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019


I’ve been adding slats to the seat frames for the Gladstone Carriage I cast a few days ago.

These are the eight single seats which are arranged facing the end of the carriage in the two unglazed saloons.

Still to made are the long benches which are placed in front of the end windows.

I know the slats on the seats are much thicker than on the actual carriage, and there should be a lot more of them, but I’m not a ‘rivet counter’ and I think these will be effective enough.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Hidden Treasures

The recent transfer of two of my a favourite FR locomotives to a shed at the furthest reaches of the railway reminds me that we also have a collection of out of service engines which rarely see the light of day.

In our case they are hiding in plain sight on a shelf in Himself's study.

The most notable of this 'heritage collection' is our original model of Earl of Merioneth which was 'kit-bashed' around a white metal Langley Double Fairlie, and its diesel-locomotive chassis with its absurdly small wheels.

It was retired from service more than 20 years ago when it was replaced by our current machine which was adapted from a Backwoods Miniatures kit.

We also have two old Ladies in this retirement home for old engines, both of them from the Dundas white metal kits.

Linda was also relegated by the appearance of a Backwooods kit, but she still makes a fine model with her Ibertren chassis adapted with outside fly cranks and the conical chimney she acquired in the 1980s during an experiment with gas producer coal firing.

The end of service for Blanche was more abrupt after she failed in the middle of an exhibition with a detached fly crank and has never been properly repaired and now sits with her one of her false outside frames missing.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Feeling Inspired

The exhibition at the weekend gave my motivation the kick up the backside it needed, and I resolved to sort out the seats for the Gladstone carriage which I had consigned to the ‘too difficult’ box in my mind.

One of our fellow operators suggested that the 3D printing might be an option, and I gave it active consideration for a while, but eventually decided that the price of getting them produced would be more than I would be prepared to pay.

(And generally I’m not prepared to pay when it can be avoided...)

So I returned to my original plan which was to cast a resin frame and add the slats in styrene.

I bit the bullet and made a master, which I shall now make a mould from.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Breaking Cover

The varnish was barely dry on our new carriage 20 when it made its debut at Troon.

It made up a very nice little Col. Stephens set with 16 and 10, but what it really needs is a plain green big box on the front to finish it off.

There is one in the stock box which hardly ever sees the light of day. For some reason, which I can’t recall, we painted it all over cherry red - the vends and everything - which wasn’t even correct for our nominal layout year of 1988 (because only number 5 was in use then.)

I wonder if I can persuade Himself to repaint it?

Monday, 20 May 2019

It's Not About The Money

We've just returned from a very enjoyable weekend showing Dduallt at one of the local exhibitions, in Troon, organised by the Kyle MRC.

As you might imagine one of the big topics of conversation in the hall was the heartbreaking news spreading online about the vandalism attack on the show organised by the Market Deeping club at a local school.

All of us could imagine how we would feel in that same situation, and its been remarkable to see how far the story has spread on social media.

One of the most interesting aspects for me - and I'm going to be a little controversial here - is the way so many people have responded by donating money through a crowdfunding appeal.

Putting it very bluntly: it's not about the money.

It's about decades of passion and dedication which have gone into creating these models.

It's about time - and the one thing money can't buy is time.

It seems to me that more and more these days our first reponse to distressing events is to set up crowd funders - to reach into our pockets and donate money.


Do we do it to make ourselves feel better, I wonder?

Don't get me wrong, I have every possible sympathy for the people whose models were wrecked in that mindless, pointless act of stupidity, but I'm concerned that some people may be lulled into thinking that money is the way to fix it.

Perhaps my response is conditioned by being a scratch and kit builder?

If our fiddle yards were filled with ready-to-run stock then maybe I'd think differently, because I'd know that I could go out and buy replacements and the only limiting factor would be what I could afford.

But for us, and our layouts, it's different.

We built Dduallt over 25 years ago, and building all the stock has been a continual labour of love through that quarter of a century.

It is genuinely priceless.

Perhaps what's been nagging away at me this weekend is worry that all the people clicking the 'donate' button, and adding a few more pounds to the total - which stands at over £41k as a write - might not always be thinking deeply about what's been lost, and what it represents.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Hudson Healthcheck

Himself has been doing some last minute maintenance on the stock ahead of the exhibition in Troon which starts tomorrow (Saturday).

We’re still going through the process of converting all the couplings from Bemo to Greenwich ones, and the latest to be done is the replica Hudson ‘toast rack’ 39.

This was a model I scratch built one summer holiday when I was a student, so we’re talking mid-90s here, and I used one of the Dundas kits for 37/38 as a guide and source of bogies.

Eventually I think we might replace our semi-opens with new models in their current liveries.

Since I made my 39 the 009 Society produced a limited edition plastic kit for it.

If anyone knows of an unbuilt example that is potentially for sale i’d Be very keen to hear more about it.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Weight Watching

With the prototype chassis complete and working well, Himself has been beefing up the Bagnall, Gelert, to give it a little more tractive effort.

One of the challenges with 3D printed bodies is their extreme lightness, especially in a scale which has previously got used to heavyweight white metal locomotive bodies.

So he has stuffed lead into every available orifice.

The only visible bits are these pieces you can see in the bunker, which has yet to be filled with coal.

Lead has also been fitted inside the side tanks and also stuffed into the smokebox and the front section of the boiler, which all helps with the weight distribution on a model which runs the risk of being tail-heavy.

The chassis we've test build for the developer has an very clever roller system above the bogie truck which provides excellent support and a smooth swing.

If you look carefully you'll also notice that the nuts to secure the motion have been fitted now, and Himself has also created a firebox piece to fit inside the cab.

The fixed rear coupling will need to be replaced with one that swings before it can haul anything around our tight curves going boiler-first, but visitors to the Troon show this weekend might catch a glimpse of it having a - rather improbable - test run around the Dduallt spiral.

Monday, 13 May 2019

LED There Be Light

Ahead of us taking Dduallt to the Troon exhibition next weekend Himself has decided to upgrade the lighting.

Ever since we first took it on the road, around 25 years ago, we'd used traditional spot lamps which gave everything a slightly yellow glow.

Now he's fitted the stanchions with LED versions the same as we have deployed on Bron Hebog.

Already I can see they are a big improvement, and because they're much smaller, they are also hidden behind the name boards.

All the details of the show are on the Exhibition Diary page, so if you're anywhere near the Ayrshire Riviera next weekend we'd love to see you.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Parliamentary Train

I've done a little work on the interior of the Gladstone Carriage, making the long upholstered benches for the glazed centre compartment.

These are going to be a little awkward to fit because of the way the floor attaches to the body.

There are two brass boxes, which have captive nuts inside them to hold the floor in but they are fixed to the body not the chassis.

So I can't fix the seats to the floor in my usual manner because these boxes would be in the way.

It also means that the whole carriage will need to be painted and glazed before the roof is fixed on, which Himself is not going to like very much.

I wonder if I might have to end up splitting each into three sections?

Making these seats also got me thinking about the history of the carriage and its claim to fame in being used by the former Liberal Prime Minister.

I'd always assumed it would have been selected for him because it of it's observation car qualities to admire the Snowdonian scenery - but now I wonder whether it was chosen because the layout, with the benches facing each other, would make him feel like he was back in the Commons?

Tuesday, 7 May 2019


Himself got to an advanced stage with carriage 20 - having given the body a coat of primer - when he spotted something that wasn't quite right.

This is one of the bowsiders which still bears the evidence some of the more practical overhauls they've had to keep them going after 140 years or more.

In this case it's the chequer plate which covers the step on the balconies, while others have been rebuilt with wood in more recent years.

It was quite a simple job - for him at least - to cut and bend some etched brass sheet to shape and get it fitted.

As always, it's the little details...

Sunday, 5 May 2019

In Da Hood

I must confess I’d overlooked how much there was still to do to finish carriage 20.

Since I handed it back with the interior done Himself has added fixed on the roof and put on the ventilator hoods above the doors (made from wee bits of styrene) and what I’ve always assumed to be the communication chord actuators on the ends.

If I’m wrong it won’t take someone long to correct me....

Friday, 3 May 2019

Northern Exposure

Now that I’ve got number 20 finished there’s not really any excuse for tackling the other outstanding brass carriage: the Gladstone Car.

The sticking point is the wooden slatted bench seats in the semi-open compartments at either end.

I was considering trying to design something to be etched in brass, but I think I’ll just settle for scratch building as I usually do.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Gelert Goes To Dduallt

Gelert has moved under its own power.

Himself sent me a short video of it undergoing a test run on Dduallt.

As is self-evident from the film it now has the motor wired to the pick-ups and the motion fitted, although on the rear axle the rods are just held in place with a bit of plastic sheath for now because we don't have any 16BA nuts yet.

The motion looks very skinny under a relatively large locomotive, and Himself tells me that assembling the slidebars, crosshead and connecting rod made making up Garratt motion seem like working on 7mm scale!

It's encouraging to see that it will haul a pair of plastic carriages up the slope quite happily which makes me believe that it will be up to the job I have in mind for it on Bron Hebog, where the gradient is less severe.

(I know, I know....)

In any case I'll be encouraging Himself to try to stuff as much ballast into the lightweight 3D plastic body as he can.

Those big side tanks are a prime candidate, as is the hollow smokebox.