Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Reopening the Quarry

The quarry sidings, which have been derelict for almost a year now, have been brought back into use. This has involved removing all of the loose rocks, earth-slips, and fallen twigs and leaves, and stabilising the gaps between the rocks to reduce the risk of further earth slips. The smaller loose rocks will then be cemented in place to allow future leaf removal to be mechanised. The three live-frog turnouts giving access to the quarry from the main line have been replaced with dead-frog, which I have wired so that they do not require electrical switching when the route is changed. This will reduce the need for delicate cleaning before each operating session. The disadvantage, of course, is that short-wheelbase locos are now more likely to stall on the point frog. There is also a risk that some tweaking of frogs may be required to avoid momentary short-circuits as a loco crosses the frog.

The picture shows a Pannier tank loco testing the track at the lowest point in the quarry. It looks as if the track in front of the loco has been damaged by a rock-fall!
The lowest point of the quarry.
The second picture shows the loco testing the quarry siding climbing back up the 1 in 25 gradient out of the quarry. The sparse vegetation visible in both pictures is growing naturally, one of the benefits of a garden railway.

Climbing the 1 in 25 gradient out of the quarry.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Earth Moved

Something funny happened over the winter to a length of my track. The sharp (actually, it's 5' radius) curve about to be traversed by the cat in the picture, got longer!

I first noticed that the two rail joints on the curve were getting wider. For a while, it was still passable to trains. But by the time I did something about it, the gap was almost the length of a fishplate.

Mac heads for the affected curve.
What I found on investigation was that the rubbercrete capping had separated from the brick base in this area. Why it had stretched I don't know, but no longer bonded to the bricks there was no stopping it!

The "slipped" curve after corrective work to the trackbed, and before the track was relaid.

On Monday, the track was relaid on the down main line, and trains were running again, single-line, with a 20mph speed limit until the ballasting was complete.

A ballast train approaches the new section of track.

An overhead view of the site.

Ballasting in progress.

The team

You may have noticed that the new track is being laid with some precision on a narrow strip of rubberised cork, whereas the old track was on a wide strip of closed-cell foam. I don't pretend that this is a new method of track construction, but it is new to this railway, and aims at eliminating some of the disadvantages of the old method. Whether it brings with it any new problems, remains to be seen.

Advantages of new method:
  • Curves are made with a series of 100mm straight lengths end to end, allowing curves and transitions to be laid out and adjusted accurately before track is laid.
  • Banking on curves can be set up and measured accurately before track is laid.
  • More rigid than foam, so track pins do not cause sleepers to bend in the middle,
  • Accurate width facilitates a neater ballasting job.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Preparing for the Open Day

Open day? Whoever heard of an open  day for a model railway? Well, it looks as if we are having one next Saturday.

Every year, an "Open Garden weekend" is organised to raise money for our local hospice. A minimum of six gardens are open each day, and programmes are available at the reception desk, giving directions and a map for each garden. This year it includes our garden, railway and all!

And what am I doing in preparation? Principally, running trains and operating points and signal, to identify any areas of unreliability, then (if practical) fixing them. And while I'm running these trains, I might as well photograph them.

First we have a pannier tank with a single coach. It must be empty stock, or a special working, as the coach has no guard's compartment.

Pannier tank on the Railway straight.
Next we have several shots of Evening Star hauling 10 coaches. It just managed up 1 in 50 on straight track, but stalled on the long curve. And on a couple of occasions, the force exerted by the engine to pull the heavy train up the gradient on a curve was too much for the front coaches, and the lateral force pulled it off the rails.

"Evening Star" bursts out of the tunnel
One of the benefits of photographing the models is that errors and omissions are suddenly glaringly obvious. For example, where I this engine's vacuum brake pipe?

"Evening Star" leaves the cutting above the quarry.
The other thing that's glaringly obvious in the pictures is the red bus-wire following the track. I've now been around with the brown camouflage paint!

"Evening Star" rushes past the quarry.
The railway currently has one operating signal, sited on he viaduct and indicating that the route is correctly set for  "clockwise" trains. There is wiring at the other end of the viaduct for an equivalent signal for anticlockwise trains.

"Evening Star" approaching the viaduct.
"Evening Star arrived on our railway hauling an enthusiasts' special. The return train was worked by a pair of Scottish 37s, which are seen waiting to couple onto the train.

37406 "The Saltire Society" and 37417 "Highland Region".

37406 is the train engine....

....with 37417 piloting,

Meanwhile, life in the village continues as normal, with the pub landlady carrying a plate of food out for "old George", as the post van arrives with the afternoon delivery.

The pub below the viaduct.
A special guest for the village fair on 9th June waits in the escape siding next to the quarry. The railway's financial controller has jokingly suggested offering this loco for sale on ebay as "DCC ready". Well, it's a static model, so it is fitted with all the decoders needed to fulfil this function - i.e. none.
A visitor from another age.

70040 "Clive of India" thunders up the 1 in 50 past waiting 4F 44560.
And finally, the bit you all really want to see, if the trains didn't keep getting in the way. Flowers!

Working on the "garden" bit of the garden railway.

Note: The circular flat area between the flower trough and the viaduct was purpose-built three years ago for the hexagonal gazebo used for the bar at the annual garden party. The entrance is via the grass slope in the foreground, with the trough moved elsewhere of course. The size and shape of the gazebo dictated the route the railway took in this area, and the need for the viaduct to be curved.

And finally....  At the start of an operating session, the track cleaning train disappeared into the tunnel and didn't emerge at the other end. Another engine was sent in to push, without success. So the tunnel slabs and liner were removed, and the cause of the problem immediately became clear!

There's not room for both of us in this tunnel!