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entry 14 Jul 2018, 08:44
Miracle of miracles, I have had a train actually running on my layout! Yes, it was only along one foot of track, yes, it stuttered a little because it hasn't been run for 5 years, but I'll take it as a win...

Today I reconnected the bus wires to the new controller location. I have setup two bus wires that run around each of the two baseboards. I can now use inline wire connectors to patch in the track droppers as I put them in place. These are all joined back at a connector block.

Although I have owned a soldering iron for the past 40 years I have never been able to make effective joins. It is one of those skills that has eluded me. So today I took a piece of scrap track and did some practice. I also watched a number of videos and actually listened to the tips. This necessitated a trip to the electronics store to pick up some flux, magic hands and assorted other useful stuff. And whaddya know, in an hour I am soldering like a champion, making neat joins first time. Probably should've put in the practice a couple of decades ago.

I am soldering the droppers to the bottom of the rails and then placing a single small hole in the centre of the track bed through which they are fed under to the bus. I did have some connectors that would happily take two droppers into them, but the new ones I managed to get hold of can only take one each. I would rather cut into the bus wires as little as possible, so I will have to search out some of the larger ones.

entry 9 Jul 2018, 04:27
Well it's only taken around 5 years I reckon, but I have finally taken my controller back out of the box and found a permanent space for it. And it still works! Now I have my rear fiddle yard space I want to be able to control everything from the rear.

Initially I thought to run the through line as close as possible to the backboard and place the controller in front of it. However, on reflection and in order to minimise the curves and maximise the space for track I went the complete opposite.

My main concern was then accidentally knocking a train off as I controlled the show, so I needed a little tunnel, or cover, in front of the controller. Worked out quite nicely. Who knows I may even have at length of powered, working track up soon. No sense in rushing things....

A couple of brackets to hold it all steady, and then a couple of pieces of MDF to make the shelter. Liquid Nails is magical stuff. Now I can create some additional trackwork out the back (eg. programming track, holding lines, etc.)

entry 5 Jul 2018, 13:23
This weekend was about putting in the final infrastructure (as much as anything in this infernal hobby can be considered final tongue.gif ). In this case it is the rear "hidden" fiddle yard platform behind the background. Pretty straightforward - a few brackets and two long bits of pine. That provided the ledge. Then I had to tunnel into the structural pine supports at both ends to create entry and exit tunnels. The theory being that I am not only creating a yard, but also a hidden path for locos to run. They will run the full length of the layout, which should provide a real sense of an unknown train appearing out of nowhere once they arrive.

At the town (Chesterfield) end I am contructing an elevated piece of townscape that will sit above the tunnel entrance. Just provides a bit more interest and differing elevations, plus more efficient use of space. You can see the tunnel opening at the very back. I will add some red brick retaining wall to seal it off, and probably a footbridge between the two heights. I hope to leave it as a freestanding section so I can simply pick it up if required to salvage any derailments, There's also a long station platform yet to come in the centre of the tracks.

At the other village (Whaley Thorns) end it will be a simple tunnel entrance that just needs to be built up around the stone mouth. I haven't put the track base for the pit in yet, but likely to be two short rail sections there.

Then at the rear I will locate both my controller, plus a range of track layout, with one mainline running right the way along.

entry 6 Jun 2018, 13:21
Finally got all of my plaster cloth down after a restful sojourn in my home away from home in Japan, knee deep in powdery snow.

So I got to work laying down some base colour and texture on the plaster, for a couple of reasons. Firstly to start to bring it to life, but secondly to prevent the plaster from starting to flake away and break down. Rather than faffing about with additives I went with a premixed textured paint, in this case sandstone effect. Yes it costs a little more, but a one litre tin did this whole layout with recoat and probably 20% left. Sandstone was the finest grain texture they had, which worked well for N scale. Unfortunately because it's designed to match the rock it only comes in one colour. Would've been nice to be able to add a tint. However, that colour basically matched the colour of MDF and plywood, so it did provide an immediate sense of "wow". Ignore the first attempt near the paint tin, once I got the hang of it the end effect is a nice, even grainy surface.

I did one full layer of the paint and then spot double layer where the plaster cloth was still showing any holes. It really gives you a sense of getting somewhere towards the terraforming completion. It went from a full on Siberian winter scene to Desert Storm in about an hour.

Once dried I then have started adding some colour, sponging on firstly a light brown, and then a dark green/brown. I'm very pleased with the results so far, even though it's just a beginning. The sponged effect over the textured paint has given a real depth to the ground form. Don't forget, you won't see hardly any of the ground in the final product, so perfection is not required. I think I will add another one or two shades of base colour before then applying any appropriate groundcovers. I have left the urban areas clear at the moment as I think they are less likely to have that grainy textured feel. I will build that up as I determine exactly what's going where. Likewise the river is left untouched because that will require special treatement. But track laying is next on the list... Sometimes you do something quite simple and you feel like you have made a massive leap forward.

entry 6 Jun 2018, 12:57
Not much was done recently on the North Derbyshire, as I was once again in Japan. I took the time this time to visit the Kyoto Rail Museum, which I missed last time. Fantastic exhibition of Japanese rail, from it's beginnings through to the latest Shinkansen. You can even try out the simulators and drive the bullet trains. And there is a fabulous outdoor display of steam, with probably 20 odd different engines to climb over. They also have a couple of large model train layouts, both to watch and control. And finally, I've included a couple of random street shots. Trains are an important part of daily life in Japan.

entry 28 Jan 2018, 11:17
Thought this would be a good time to get stuff done, being a long weekend and all. Sadly started to come down with the flu on Saturday and have been hardly able to move for the last two days. Still slowly worked through a few things though.

Took a ride out to DCC Concepts to pick up some of their dark ballast. Sadly it only comes in such small containers. It would be much better if I could buy a large tub of the stuff, and probably more economical. However I think a mix of the steam era and the brown ballasts will work for what I am trying to achieve. It will just cost a fortune to complete...

Managed to paint out the mainline track beds and put down the underlay, which has gone fairly well. I think I am going to have a little trouble in a couple of spots where boards meet leaving the track beds a fraction uneven, but nothing that can't be worked out.

It looks a bit rough from a distance because the dark grey underpainting is done with quite loose lines. Once the tracks and ballast are laid it will start to take on a much more defined and constructed form.

Also, laid out a few pieces of track to get a sense of the curves. Of course none of it is joined yet.

entry 24 Jan 2018, 12:52
Had a bit of down time tonight so I have been putting together some station signage concepts. Nothing too flash, just messing around really to see how close I can get it. Still need to do some tinkering. I'm not sure I am not mixing eras, so still some research to do for that 40s-50s period.

entry 21 Jan 2018, 05:11
I think all the plaster is now done, second board included. There are still lots of small gaps, but I will fill these with foam and filler. It means I can finally start on the trackwork. Just painting the gray ground for the track beds will be a big psychological boost. Took awhile to get here but I am happy with the end terraforming. It has given me quite natural rolling countryside with plenty of variation.

You can probably see the join between the hills of the two boards. Looks pretty chasm-like at the moment, but I am confident I can hide it away with scenery and still maintain the complete separate nature of the two. I know there are many varied means of joining boards and there are lots of advantages and disadvantages to each, but we'll give it a go and see where we end up.

I was a little concerned about how easy it would be to get the tunnel entrances right, but they have so far turned out nicely, just a bit of gap filling required around the edges

entry 14 Jan 2018, 07:58
Put in some effort on the second board today in the 38C heat. NOt only hot, but a nasty cyclone passing north is going to bring rain. Bleh. However, the aim was to get the wireframe on the tunnel area, and it took a little time, but seems to have come together.

With the southern half of the frame already laid I started off by painting the track bed black and laying a length of underlay. I use the Trackrite foam underlay made here in Australia. It is really adaptable and allows you to bend it around corners without leaving any kinks, just a spot of PVC. I am not going to be able to get in there easily once the wire and plaster is on, so this was important to get laid correctly. My aim is to ballast into the tunnel as far in as I can once it is ready to have tracks laid. The two tracks will be single 900mm lengths with the droppers at one end or the other outside the tunnel. Laying the tracks now the underlay is in place will be easy. A good feature of the Trackrite is the very small lip it has either side of the track bed, meaning tracks tend to fall into place (on straight bits at any rate). I only glued down the bit in the actual tunnel, leaving the two ends loose until I start laying track.

While the underlay was drying I put together a cardboard form and painted the inside black to form the actual tunnel. Once all dry slipped in into the space and put a few drops of PVC to secure it in place. The tunnel mouth isn't fixed yet, just trying it out for size.

Then I set about cutting and shaping a couple of bits of foam to sit on top of the tunnel to give some stability to the hill above. Probably didn't need this but it ensured a fairly flat area on one side at least. Glued those in place and then laid out the second wireframe, leaving me just a few small areas before I can roll out the plaster and get onto much more exciting things.

And finally whilst the heat forces us into the house, with either cricket or other mindless possibilities on TV, I set about another building. This time a butcher for one of the towns. Obviously, still requiring touchups.

entry 13 Jan 2018, 07:14
Finished the plastering on the mainboard with a second layer across the lot, which has added a definite solidity to the ground. I will apply a layer of flexible acrylic textured paint to at least the natural areas to protect the plaster, but not just yet. I am keen to commence painting, but decided it makes more sense to get all of the plastering out of the way given the amount of mess it makes (ie. dust). No point in painting only to have the equivalent of a volcanic eruption all over everything. Therefore, today I started the wireframes on the second board. Because I have two distinct boards that I want to be able to pull apart for possible transportation I am overlapping the hill forms rather than trying get a perfect fit. I reckon this will make it dead easy to pull the boards apart and reattach.

The two modules are connected via clamp beneath and ideally that will remain the only key linkage (other than wiring bus).

Forms in place for wireframes

The wireframe overlap, including the beginnings of a tunnel. Once happy I will lay the tracks through the "underground" space and then run a blackened cardboard tube into the hill form. I don't expect you will be able to see into much of the tunnel body, but if you can I don't want people seeing the underside of the wireframe.

I also have started up on a few kits I have had stashed away for a number of years. I know a lot of people don't like them, but I really think the Metcalfe models provide a top notch starting point. I will take the basic kit form and then add my own touches to them when I am ready to place them. Things like the white edge joints are easily overcome as part of the aging process.

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