Wednesday 27 May 2009

What a mess?

Not sure about this, but I think I'll go with it for the moment.

In fact I've spent an hour this afternoon engineering a better solution than just plonking the body on top of the Kato mechanism. I rather fancy some sort of works trailer to go with the mobile mess van.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Pizza The Scenery

I'm pretty good at excuses for putting outdoor chores to one side and playing trains. Living in deepest mid Wales it's usually a case or rain starts play, but over the bank holiday weekend it's been too hot and sunny for one so delicate as me. Out came card, glue, sawdust and plaster and down went the basic landforms on the pizza. The landscape at the front of the layout was blocked in some weeks ago, but that to the rear is corrugated card. Having tried out both I think I prefer the card; once the ground mix (patching plaster, pva and sawdust) is slapped on then smoothed out with a cheap and nasty paintbrush all the angular edges disappear. It is less messy than hacking polystyrene about and glues take to it better. Anyway here's a few photos of the state of play.

Monday 25 May 2009

Banger Blue

With digital photography and a compact camera it's very cheap and easy to take reference photos of anything that catches the eye. I'm a bit of a sucker for items that exhibit decay so this old Austin in quiet repose down a backstreet in Porthmadog was a must.

Friday 22 May 2009

Cowboy and an Indian

I mentioned that some new 009 stock is being built, more accurately it's a mix of new build and a refurbishment of some old pieces. One of the projects that crosses over is a new build of a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Sharp Stewart tank on an old Fleischmann mechanism that I've tweaked and tuned. The body is mainly plasticard,though the boiler is a ballpoint pen, a union freebie I think. The chimney shows its origins as a length of brass tube, the dome was a whitemetal casting that I re-profiled. At the front of the engine is the part finished pillar cab, nickel silver wire uprights and the roof from a suitably curved tin can, appropriately for an Indian machine Rajah ground ginger. The dubious materials are concluded by the use of the boiler backhead from an old Airfix L&YR pug.

Though the chassis isn't right (inside frames, level cylinders and wrong slide bars) it does have the right wheel base, and the motor fits into the tanks with a little dimensional fudging. I can't claim anything approaching accuracy for this model, but that's not my target, I'll settle for capturing something of the character and proportion of the real thing.

Pizza Express

Living in mid Wales is rather like being surrounded by one giant narrow gauge theme park; whichever direction I take from home I'll eventually stumble across one. My local line is the Corris, and though I'm a member of the society, up till now my support has been limited to helping with and exhibiting at their model show each August bank holiday. This year I'll be bringing a very small shunting layout, but so I can take a break from time to time I thought I'd put together a quick circular 009 layout to take as well. The idea is that the audience will be able to summon trains from the hidden storage under the slate tips with a push button, so even if I've gone for a personal needs break, sandwich or hunting for a bargain on one of the stalls, something should still move.

Here's the progress to date, the board, 2'x2' in a D shape is built, track laid, wired, tested, and some of the scenery roughed out. The small cottage was built from a set of my own plaster castings several years ago giving me a bit of a head start. The retaining wall, bridge and steps are new build, as is the railway bridge in the photo below. I'm building a few new pieces of stock, but the main thrust from now on will be to get the rest of the scenery blocked in, particularly the slate tips which will stretch down from where the wagons can be seen above.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Shell Island

Shell Island is the first layout that I've been truly happy with, partly because I pushed my standards up a bit and partly because the 'less is more' penny finally dropped. Though I'd always built small layouts, the proportion of track to scenery was greater and the scenery itself didn't have the amount of 'quiet' areas that I managed here. I'd also started to get slightly better results from my camera of the time (Zenith E) with a set of home made extension rings, so the layout was designed with the camera in mind.

Friday 15 May 2009

Foss Bank

Following on from Trawden, a new layout was started, set alongside the river close to where I lived in York at the time, it bore the name Foss Bank. I had childhood memories of the idiosyncratic Derwent Valley light railway, and I wanted to capture some of the atmosphere of the route. Imagination came into play and conjured up the highly improbable Foss Valley Light Railway that connected with British Railways at Foss Bank. The rear half of what was a very simple layout represented the national rail network and the front track that snaked along the riverbank the FVLR.

Foss Bank sort of set me along the finescale route, still in OO but with SMP track and plastic based point kits. I'd started to attempt stock that was a little more refined and to scale dimensions than some of the previous models; here we see a rather basic conversion of the Hornby class 25 into something approaching a 24, remember this model, it'll crop up a bit later on. Again the buildings were scratchbuilt, but by now I'd settled on plasticard as the most suitable material.

At the far end of the layout, the Foss Valley offices are obviously inspired by those of the DVLR, as is the Drewery shunter. This as far as the FVLR was concerned was probably the high point of rolling stock construction being a Dapol (ex Airfix) kit body on top of a modified Mainline 03 chassis. I seem to remember that this was the first model that I flush glazed; it too is still in existence having been passed on to my friend Laurie when he started a layout based on a possible interchange with the Derwent Valley Light Railway.


Back in the introduction I said that model railways has been a life long interest, which though true does gloss over those few years in my late teens and very early twenties when no active model making took place as most of my free time was spent either in the pub or the great outdoors, climbing and walking in the hills. Fortunately for my liver the urge to go out to the pub every night waned once I settled down and started paying a mortgage. Having disposed of most of my earlier models, I started afresh in 00 and having the twin ills of financial responsibilities and small wage, economy was the watchword, hence my layout of the time, Trawden, was built on the cheap.

Both the locos featured here are the result of extreme economy; junk second hand models, stripped for their working under-gubbins and topped off with scratchbuilt plasticard bodies. The one in the photo above represents a battery electric loco and uses an old Triang motor bogie, that to the left a Sentinel shunter utilising a Lima chassis. Like my childhood creations photos rather than plans formed the guidance for construction, and the models could be better described as characterful rather than accurate.

Looking beyond the trains, the scenery and structures were again built by hand. The cotton mill that spanned the line beyond the level crossing was a mongel cross of imagination and memories of the Worth valley. The platform shelter has some Lancashire and Yorkshire features in a much shortened form so that it didn't dominate the platform and unbalance the layout. At the left of the view, the terrace house this side of the crossing was a pretty accurate scribed card model of my house at the time, though I edited away the ugly kitchen and bathroom extension that it had been blessed with sometime in the seventies. All in all I was rather pleased with Trawden in its early format as a 4'x1' micro layout, it appeared at a few exhibitions and made it into the pages of the Railway Modeller. I have to confess that I tried to extend it and it wasn't a success, the carefully planned visual balance was spoiled and operation became less railway like. The extension lasted for one show and was scrapped, thankfully no photos were taken.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Round the Bend

My latest layout isn't the only pizza that I've built, nor does it push the boundaries of what's possible in four squre feet. Several years ago I used the same two by two footprint for a finescale OO gauge layout. Like my current narrow gauge project it was aimed at an exhibition audience; the similarities also encompassing punter push button operation. Obviously only short wheelbase stock was comfortable with the ten inch curves on the main line (the sidings being purely decorative) but even the six wheels of my 03 and 04 shunters made it round the corners. The limiting factor was actually the three link couplings, which to stop buffer locking had to be temporarily lengthened to four links. Anyway here are some photos and trackplan of the layout.

Though the layout is long gone there are a few remains. The buildings sit gathering dust on one of my playroom shelves waiting till I find a use for them, and somewhere I have the point and crossing formation though I seriously doubt I'll ever manage to recycle it into any layout.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Back to the future ................

As a young boy I progressed from Hornby 0 gauge tinplate, via the usual sixties Triang in 00 to an interest in 009 no doubt brought about by family holidays to Wales an exposure to the Ffestiniog, Talyllyn, Rheidol and Llanberis Lake railways. The first narrow gauge layout was a Playcraft pre-formed expanded polystyrene foam effort with a loop of track that climbed over itself. All I have left, and possibly the earliest remaining piece of railway kit is this much butchered Decauville loco from the set.

It'll come as no surprise to those who know me that I wasn't one for keeping my toys in pristine condition; I'd take stuff apart to see how it worked, get the Humbrol out if I didn't fancy the colour it came in and feel quite happy cutting bits off or sticking bits on to better suit my purpose. Here we see a result of all this early practice, built to resemble a Neilson box tank, the chassis was a Bachmann n gauge USA dock tank, the body hacked from plasticard and was like most of my early work completed in an afternoon. The wagons are repaints of standard Eggerbahn items and reflect my enduring interest in rust and grime

A few years on and by my mid teens I'd learned a few more tricks. The loco still employs a commercial n gauge chassis, but has a body soldered up from brass sheet. The matching Corris Railway van is like earlier models built from plasticard. The building behind features walls of individually cast plaster blocks, and cut out paper slates overlaid onto a deliberately saggy thin card roof.

It's funny how things come full circle. Since Easter I've been building a 009 'pizza' layout to take to the Corris model railway show this August bank holiday and though there's some new build going on, it has been a rather pleasant exercise to track down all my old models, dust them off and indulge in a bit of repair and restoration. Here's a Kerr Stuart diesel, a scratchbuild on a Bachmann mechanism built a couple of years ago heading some of my old stock round the new pizza.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Looking Back

When I look in the mirror I'm surprised to see a middle aged bloke staring back at me, it doesn't seem that long ago since I first started mucking about with my trainset. I've an idea that my parents were pleased that I'd found an absorbing and creative hobby, yet regretted the spilt pots of Humbrol on the carpet, the all pervading smell of glue and my inattention to homework. Despite the negatives, I was encouraged in a hobby that has turned out to be a life long interest. Looking at the grey beard, and the hair heading that way, I thought I'd try and make sense of the passing years by examining the models made and layouts built over the years.