Monday, 28 November 2011

The Winter Project

Although there's plenty of indoor maintenance and repair work to do for the garden railway, work has now started in earnest on the Winter Project, "Priddy Mineries". This is set on the branch line running from Masbury Junction to serve the farming and mining community of Priddy, on the Mendip Hills. Mineries Halt is not much more than a mile from the terminus at Priddy Green, at the junction with the spur to the old St Cuthbert's Lead Mine, the site of which is now a limestone quarry. As well as serving the mineries, the halt is on the old coaching route from Wells to Bristol and near to two pubs, one of which, the Mineries Inn, is just across the road from the crossing-keeper's cottage.

All of this is is of course a product of an over-active imagination, but it does give a sort of a reason and purpose to the track-covered board in the spare bedroom and the strange smells of solvent and hot resin pervading the house.

The track-layer's clutter.

Almost ready for the scenery ....

This is my family's first venture into hand-made track since my father's in the early 1950s, and the results look remarkably similar. The sleeper appearance, length and spacing, and the rail profile, are all about the same.  The main difference is that my chairs are not made of solder.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Railway Apprentices

It's three weeks now since the garden railway had a proper run (rather than just being used as a stage for photographs), and as the weather was good I decided to fire it up and see if any corrective maintenance was needed before the winter proper. Little Lucy (nearly four) from down the road was disappointed last time she visited as the railway wasn't running, so she was invited along to assist, as were Holly & Ella (nearly two) from across the road, who also like trains. After Thomas the Tank Engine had run past a few times with Annie & Clarabel, and Lucy had had her first driving lesson, I brought out some real trains for the grown-ups to play with.

"Evening Star" pounds up the 1 in 50 reverse curves with an easy 7 coaches.

Note that in the first two pictures, the engines are leaning towards the inside of the curve. This is not due to a sloping camera; the track is banked on the curves (I think the correct term is "supelevated") by up to 1mm. During tracklaying, a narrow strip of 1mm thick neoprene rubber is placed under the sleepers at the outside rail, with a transition through 0.5mm to none at all at the end of each curve and where the curve reverses. Those of you with a firm grasp of elementary geometry will already have calculated that the trains lean by up to 3.5 degrees (nominally) from the vertical.

The 1mm maximum was not arrived at scientifically; It is within the range said to be used in the real world of 12" to the foot scale, for which a 6" maximum difference is often stated. And it looks about right at low to medium speeds.

4F 44417 coasts down the hill with a local train, as "Evening Star" thunders up.

A short local train coasts past the quarry, slowing for the station.

I think that "Evening Star" must take priority for a gentle weathering, to lessen the appearance of having just left the sales showroom.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

British Bulldog

The postman this morning thrust two parcels into my expectant hand. The first was a Static Grass Applicator from Finescale Model Railways. It's exactly like the one I've been meaning to make for nearly a year now. I bought a £3 high-voltage insect swatter and a metal tea-strainer for the purpose. The swatter was so effective as a swatter that it was retained for that purpose and another one purchased. This was immediately requisitioned as the "upstairs swatter", so I bought a third, which went to the summer-house ..... Eventually I reserved one for grass-making. But there's always something better to do than designing and building a tool so that it will work reliably, when you know that you won't need until some time in the future. So when someone comes along who has a proven design in quantity production at a reasonable price, I am more than happy to part with a few pounds and take one off his hands. And we have a spare swatter and a smart new tea-strainer into the bargain.

The second parcel was even more exciting; my Bachmann 3F 0-6-0 had arrived from Hattons. It was soon on the test track and "running in" on the rollers. And it was a dry, sunny day, so as the trackwork on my indoor layout currently has more rails in ink than in nickel-silver, I cleared a section of garden track and fired up the controller.

Bachmann's new Midland 3F 0-6-0.

The 3F ambles up the 1 in 50 past the quarry.

The excellent cab detail is visible in this view.
And as well as looking beautiful, it runs beautifully too! I also like the infinitely variable tender-spacing adjustment (though care is needed dressing the cables under the tender to avoid them jamming the wheels) and the working fall plate. Bachmann have also moved level with Hornby in the quality of the dummy screw coupling in the accessory bag. The only thing missing is the option of a Whitaker tablet catcher on the tender (though even on the S&D only a few if the class were fitted with them). No doubt it will appear in the future, with a suitable running number.

As usual, I'll enjoy the model for a few weeks in its current ex-works condition (at least until I'm reasonably confident it won't need to go back under warranty), then it will be given a characteristic coat of grime and coupled to a suitable train of equally grimy wagons.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Ivatt in the garden.

'Twas a beautifully sunny day today, so after our walk I did some emergency maintenance on the garden railway. Some of the solder joints for the wire jumpers linking sections of track were not painted, and were corroding into a white powder. Out with the wire brush, the fibreglass brush, and the paintbrush and the job was soon done.

Of course a test run was essential, so newly-painted 41249 had a few runs up and down the curves by the wall.

41249 lets off steam impatiently while posing for photographs.

41249 coasts down the bank past a Pyrocanthus bush, with a short local train.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Another engine hits the brush!

The damp weather this week means that any railway time has been spent indoors, on updating the plans for the "Mineries" layout, and in work on engines and rolling stock. In the latter category is 41249, which has had its numbers applied, crew, steps, couplings and pipes added, and a layer of grime drybrushed on using a 1965 photo as a guide.

41249 after first application of weathering.

The disadvantage (or advantage) of taking photographs of models you have been working on is that they show up any omissions or flaws in the workmanship, and I now have to get out the tools and paintbrushes again to make good.

As a result of an exchange of emails about "the last train from Evercreech to Highbridge", I also made a blue disc bearing the coat of arms of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, which all engines wore on the final day of services on the line, 5th March 1966. The real 41249 was pulling that last train, albeit bunker first.

The real 41249 at Glastonbury with the last Highbridge train, 5th March 1966.

This winter's evening picture raises the question of whether it would be practical to build or adapt a model railway to represent night-time. I think the answer is probably yes - in the privacy of your own home and if you don't mind operating in the dark or half-light. Exhibitions might be more of a problem, and your layout would probably require its own darkened room and all that that entails in ensuring the safety of the public.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

3218 goes visiting

Today I went along to the Wycrail model railway exhibition in High Wycombe, where I was kindly invited to do some operating on Chris Nevards inspirational layout "Catcott Burtle". I took along my recent model of Collett 0-6-0 3218, and for light relief Thomas the Tank Engine came too.

3218 arrives at Catcott Burtle on the "Milkie" empties.

3218 at Catcott Burtle

Ian Mellors' hypothetical BR Standard 8MT 2-8-2 runs through Catcott. 

I would hate to shatter Chris's unsullied reputation by posting a picture of Catcott Burtle with evidence that Thomas had visited, so you'll have to wait until the next exhibition and see for yourself.