Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Investigating the Quarry

1st October 2014

Today I had enough of the track modules for the quarry sidings complete and ready for a live operational test. There are two removable modules; the "black plank" and the "quarry turnouts". The "black plank" is effectively a bridge allowing space below it for the tree roots to grow. It contains the main line, single track at this point, the shunter refuge siding, and a turnout switchable between the main line and the quarry sidings. The "quarry turnouts" module contains two turnouts toe-to-toe, fed from the quarry turnout on the "black plank", and feeding back to the refuge siding and forward to the exchange siding or the quarry floor.

The turnouts are switched using Peco point motors, which are hidden under appropriate-looking building. The building on the "black plank" is a ground-frame cabin, based broadly on the one at Midford North sidings near Bath. It was purpose-built from "plasticard". The other building covers two motors, and I found something suitable in Hornby's range, a weighbridge office I think it was described as. I decided that in real life, these turnouts would have been operated by the train crew using a special token to unlock the ground frame. In model form, therefore, I use the same principle; I have a ground frame in a box, which is plugged in to the track modules via a length of cable, and used to operate the points. (If you are an expert in these matters on real railways, please let me know whether the terminology in my description is correct.)

The shunter has brought two loaded wagons from the quarry floor. It will now propel them to join others in the exchange siding. The refuge siding allows a complete train of loaded wagons to be assembled, while keeping the main line free for other trains
The quarry has been disused for some time. Nature is taking over again.

The shunter descends the final short 1 n 5 gradient to the quarry floor.
The way it was; the quarry in October 2011, with very little greenery. A shunter nears the top of the 1 in 5 gradient from the quarry floor.

Loco Testing

5th September 2014

Anyone running a 00 garden railway in Britain will very soon discover that keeping it clean can take up a lot of time. And it's not like cleaning the car, or the house, which can always be put off until tomorrow. If your rails ain't clean, the trains won't run.

Something our railway owner might also discover is that running trains regularly helps keep the track clean, especially if assisted by an occasional run with a railhead polishing and vacuum cleaning train. If done once every few days, this seems to be adequate; if left for a week, a manual clean with a track-cleaning rubber will be necessary.

It's not just the rails that need cleaning. The tunnel attracts a wide variety of wildlife, from insects, woodlice, spiders that build webs across the tunnel bore, slugs and snails that derail your train, to mice that eat nuts and acorns and leave the shells on the track. I've even found a large frog jammed in the tunnel.

Today's short running session doubled as a running test of two locos recently acquired second-hand, and needing quite a bit of attention to minor but annoying faults. The first was a Bachmann "Hall", originally supplied with DCC decoder fitted. In its first outdoor trial, it had suddenly lost the changes I had made to CVs (mainly just changing the address away from 3) and reverted to the default (address 3). So I changed its address in the handset, and continued the trial. For its next trick, it waited until I was bringing it to a stop, and when the selected speed was down to 1 or 2, it suddenly shot forward for about a second at high speed. Not good! I opened it up, and the only thing I could see that might have caused this sort of problem was the two capacitors and inductors fitted in the feed to the motor. I thought I'd start with the capacitors as they are easy to snip off, which I did. Today's trial was to see if the symptoms had gone away. I did several runs at different speeds up the 1 in 50 with 6 coaches (all it can manage), and it ran sweetly. It will take a few more hours of trouble-free running before I am confident the fault is fixed, but it looks promising.

The other loco was a Bachmann BR standard 4MT 4-6-0, to which I had fitted a decoder. It ran up and down the 1 in 50 with trains of between 7 and 11 coaches, double heading with a class 4 2-6-0. The only observation was that the tender seemed to be dragging on one side, and at intervals would emit a creaking, groaning noise. On later examination, the cause of this proved to be a large dob of carpet fluff and hair wrapped tightly around one of the tender axles. When I had first received the model, the loco's axles had been similarly encumbered to the extent that it would barely move at all, and I had spent a couple of hours with a pair of tweezers removing it. But I had missed one of the tender axles, an omission I have now rectified, and I hope that there will be no groaning at the next running session.

Attached are a couple of pictures of the double-headed train. If you are a regular follower of these reports, you might notice that I have put the GWR Centenary coaches away in their box, and found a rake in the BR maroon that is more appropriate to most of my locos.


Engineering the Diversion

2nd September 2014

The first train ran through the diversion more than a week ago. Since then my railway time has been spent wiring, ballasting, weatherproofing, operator interface, and all the other jobs that go with a significant change to the system. This evening I put the diversion back into place for a few record photos.

The first picture shows the train entering the diversion through a short reverse curve including a left-hand turnout. The other arm of the turnout goes into the quarry. The ground-frame hut was purpose built to disguise and protect a Peco turnout motor and frog switch. The original main line is in the left foreground.

The second photo shows more of the diversion. The Oak tree that caused the problem is on the left. The main line runs out of the bottom right corner of the picture, and onto the Gate Viaduct.

The track had to be moved at the entry point of the viaduct. In the final photo, the ballast line of the old route can be seen curving off to the left of the new route. The viaduct is standing on a table well away from its normal position, to make ballasting easier.

Still  to be completed is the pointwork to the quarry, the point motors and the buildings to hide them in, and general landscaping and detailing.

Normal Service at Danes Wood

25th July 2014.

Services are running normally on the Danes Wood railway, apart from speed restriction past the oak tree. The first three pictures show the progress of a freight train of 36 loaded wagons, a GUV, and a brake van. It had set off from The Barn headed by a Stanier 8F, which failed before the whole train had left the yard. A West Country class pacific, normally a passenger train engine with a reputation for wheel-slip on gradient, was the only loco available to deputise for the failed 8F. A Jinty was standing by to assist as a banker if needed (which it was).

34041 "Wilton" deputising on a heavy mixed freight, crosses the Lawn viaduct below the 1 in 50 bank from The Barn.
The train pounds up the 1 in 50 reverse curves towards the Gate viaduct and the Oak Tree, assisted at the rear by an unidentified "Jinty" in ex-works condition.

The short level stretch above the Gate viaduct offers little respite as the train must be slowed to 5mph past the Oak Tree before the final 1 in 50 climb to the summit tunnel.

Shortly after Wilton has passed, the celebrity new-build A1 pacific "Tornado" clatters down the gradient from the summit with an evening luxury dining train.

30th July 2014

A couple more shots from yesterday to show that trains are still running despite the major construction work at Quarry Junction. The main reason I want to keep the circuit complete as long as possible is that most visitors (friends, relatives, neighbours) ask to see it running, whether or not they are normally interested in model railways, and we usually have a fair number of visitors at this time of year!

A short fitted freight train crawls tentatively through the diversion construction site.

Standard class 4 2-6-0 76011 rattles into a curve with a short fitted freight, as the last light of the sun is fading. The photographer has used several high-powered flash guns to make this picture, with the permission of the railway company and the full knowledge and agreement of the loco crew.