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entry 11 Nov 2018, 11:31
A few details being tied off this weekend. But this morning was spent at the AMRA WA open day, with all their wonderful layouts on show. Haltwhistle in particular being a favourite of mine, a 40s/50s OO gauge set in Yorkshire which was first started being built 30 yrs ago and is still being added to here and there. Certainly creates an impetus to get to it.

As I was grocery shopping on Friday I noticed the scourer pads. Green, thin, wiry and cheap (70c a packet). Give it a whirl I thought. And so began a quick test into hedge rows.

Even if I make full height hedges out the whole pack, by my calculations I reckon I would get about 93 scale km out of this for around $2, even factoring in the cost of scatter. Pretty good deal - if it worked.

Easy enough to cut with scissors

Used my normal 1:2 PVA glue mixture, and a mixed Woodland Scenics scatter.

Looked pretty good, then put a pinch of a fine yellow scatter on for variation. I was fairly happy with these, but they took an age to dry out because they are so absorbent of the glue.

Once dry though they retain their flexibility both on the vertical and horizontal plains, meaning they go round corners and up and down hills. I haven't stuck any in place yet, but the below gives an idea of the end result. Possibly needs another coating.

Oh, also finished the roads to the hamlet of Stony Houghton. I'm getting the hang of the road laying now.

Then it was onto filling some gaps with polystyrene. I had a few noticeable holes where the rail beds were sitting above the ground levels. Luckily ever since I moved house I have been saving anything packing that came with anything I bought, so I have a goodly supply of stryofoam. Armed with a trusty hotwire I set about slowly trimming two bits of foam into shape. Glued them down and finished the day with a coat of paint.

I definitely prefer wood and mdf over foam, but it certainly has its uses. You can't really see the end result here, but it looks good enough to cover with grass now.

A good couple of days work, on and off, amongst gardening and riding.

entry 8 Nov 2018, 12:08
Thought I would touch base. Over the past weeks I have been putting together some key buildings, such as finalising the New Bolsover, Shirebrook and Langwith stations, as well as more of the housing, roads and retaining. From certain angles in the half light, through a very soft filter you can kinda, sorta think that progress is being made. Much of the current work has been around starting to eradicate the white lines along the card model edges, which takes forever and whilst essential for overall looks, doesn't rank high on the big impact when you have a reasonable size layout. But we move forward.

Shirebrook Station has taken on a reasonable facsimile of the original

And it's starting to provide an idea of the battle between industrial and farming nature of the Derbyshire backwaters, albeit with some unfinished roadworks (rail crossings and tarmac).

Langwith, still in need of some more row housing

entry 26 Sep 2018, 06:51
Been doing lots of little bits and pieces that haven't added up to anything particularly visual. A few more kits, a few more points, trying to sort out little lumpy bits in the trackwork, etc. And, managed to put the main track diagram onto one screen of the ECOS. The fiddle yard will still be a second screen, but this is easier than the four original screens I had setup.

But, on the weekend I thought I would give my first bit of roadwork a crack. It's still not finished, but the concept seems to be working OK. I am floating by the seat of my pants a bit, but I thought Spakfilla would make a good roadbase. The first step was to take the foam based and coat it with the same textured paint that covered the rest of the terrain. I thought I would try the technique out on a removable section of terrain in case it failed miserably.

Unfortunately I bought limestone instead of sandstone, which is considerably lighter. However the texture is pretty much the same, so I ploughed on and the final touched up version is hard to tell the difference, and it will be covered with groundcovers in any event.

I had been looking for some edging tape, but things like Tamiya or even standard foam tapes were pretty expensive, so a hunt around Bunnings for an alternative came up with Purlin tape (used in roofing), which provided about 20m for the same price as 3m of the modelling tape. It's still a dense foam tape so very flexible. What's more it is three times as wide, so careful knife work can turn it into 60m. The first cutting effort was fairly bodgy, but the one important edge was straight, which was all that mattered. So I taped down the North Rd down the hill past the Langwith Colliery.

The filling compound I used is heavy duty, designed to fill big cracks (3-4mm), which is about right for my road base. I spread and re-spread it down between the tape lines until fairly smooth and then waited, and waited, and waited... A day and half later I was happy it had gone off, even at that thickness.

I was then able to rip off the edging tape to a nice straight line and run a fine sanding block over it. The end result is a hard, smooth surface with just enough texture and imperfection. It was labelled as being light grey, so I was hopeful of not needing to paint it, but rather just "washing" and weathering. Sadly it turned out more of a dirty white, so a grey coat will be required. And voila, the old dirt road up the hill got an overhaul by the local Council. Makes it a lot easier for the trucks heading up to the pit.

I like the end result and it will mean any curve, width or shape is fairly easy to replicate, including rail crossings, and also joining roads seamlessly. This stuff is very carveable once dry. Likewise, as you can probably tell you can work on uneven surfaces and still produce an even end product. I realise I'm probably already preaching to the converted, but it's new and experimental to me. I am also thinking it would be worthwhile taking the Dremel out to create a slight camber and bring it to a thinner edge.

Next steps, some final sanding, especially on the edges, colouring, kerbing and pavement. Onward and upwards.

entry 13 Sep 2018, 05:20
So with Bolsover coming along in Market Place and the Pit it seemed fitting that they deserved a station in keeping with the burgeoning prosperity of a coal town. Not one to shirk my civic duty I began construction of platforms, firstly by templating the area in paper.

Once I jumped in it was surprisingly easy to build something of the desired shape using the Metcalfe platform kit. Not perfect, but pretty close for a first attempt. Of course, needs a bit of aging, but at least the small town can now get on to Chesterfield and further afield if need be. Not sure about the bit that abuts the tunnel. In reality this would probably not be designed this way,so there probably isn't a neat way to finish this off. I suspect it would normally push up against a brick retaining wall that would form part of the tunnel entrance structure. Ce la vie.

I also got hold of the station news stand mini kit, also from Metcalfe. I must say as my first mini kit I was a little disappointed. At GBP4 it was exceedingly tiny in its proportions. One laser cut card about 3 inch sq to be exact. The instructions were bigger than all the components of the kit by about three times. Never mind, it took all of ten minutes to stick together and it adds a little bit of pizazz. Though unsure I would pony up for another one in the series.

Still need to do the brick wall at the back of the station.

entry 26 Aug 2018, 09:52
Well, it's been an eventful weekend. Even though the weather has been absolutely stupendous and I got out on both bicycle and motorcycle, I still found the time to progress the NDR. Firstly a little bit of movement. And yes, it's still running counter to track rules, but she's in testing. And before anyone asks, the little goods van is to prevent some weird derailing of the first carriage that keeps occurring. Possible bogey issue. biggrin.gif

The main goal this weekend was to get at least one of my new DCC Concepts SS Point motors up and running. And as of 4pm Sunday managed to hit my target. Not that it was particularly difficult, just me procrastinating every time I start something new where I could possibly stuff things up when they are already working. Courage up, it began.

Sadly Richard has moved from WA, where I could visit the shop and figure everything out easily, to the UK, where I cannot take the same approach... Ordered them from Hattons and waited. The twelve pack of points motors arrived nice and neat. Six controllers, twelve motors and a stack of bits and bobs to help hook it all up - cables, screws, tie bars, etc.

The instructions likewise come on a simple to follow, yet very detailed fold out card. The boards are capable of much more than just operating the points, so most of the instructions can be ignored until a later date.

First job is to position the motor adjacent to the points tie bar, after fitting the appropriate armature for the job. The pack comes with a lot of different ones to ensure good fit.

Once in place you can put the back screws in to get it reasonably tight for testing.

Drop the connector through to the controller which I have put beneath the layout. The little plugs on the end of the motor wire are a bit bigger than I would like, meaning a bigger than normal hole is required compared to droppers. This gets plugged into the controller, from where you can play with a little screw to adjust the pull distance of the motor. You can connect two distinct DCC motors to each controller, but if you have synchronised points such as a crossover they can each share an address and move simultaneously on activation.

Connecting it to my ECOS was pretty simple. There is a switch on the controller board that puts it in "Set" mode which allows the controller to see and assign it. I have gone through and pre-added all my points to the ECOS in advance.

When I first tried to operate it I didn't have much luck, just not pushing the blades into place. The instructions suggest you remove the spring in the points. I would say this is mandatory as the motor simply doesn't have the oomph to move it otherwise. Once I killed the spring, it worked smoothly. Probably more realistic anyway.

It's quite a noisy little beast if you are operating points without any ambient noise like a train trundling along. But the chance of you sitting flicking points around in silence is not that high, so I don't think it's a biggy.

And, the proof is in the pudding (screws yet to be aligned and tightened). Perhaps not that exciting, but another achievement along the way. Now another eleven to fit, although I am going to have to buy some extension cables. The pack comes with four or five, but the flylead is only really long enough to get through from my layout to the underside of the board, not leaving much to get to the controller, especially when you are hooking up two points to one controller. You will get lucky maybe one out of two times unless you are doing a yard with lots of them at close quarters.

entry 16 Aug 2018, 13:55
It's always like Christmas when a parcel from Hattons arrives in the Antipodes. Not only that but a long awaited parcel from Metcalfe arrived the same day! I can see my nights being fully blocked out for awhile now.

Of note, a 12 pack of DCC Concepts SS turnout motors, some Peco Shirebrook Colliery wagons and the shops and retaining walls for the false tunnel up the Bolsover/Chesterfield end. As well as a load of additional scenic items.

So tonight was all about getting the walls in place to create a bit of solidity to the somewhat anemic upper townsite.

Ran a strip of stiff card around the outside to give the walls something to grip. Primarily because they won't be running dead straight, but on a slight bend to create the curve.

A quick test fit and trimming of some overly long edges and I was good to stick it down. I like the effect. Obviously still a lot of touchups to do, but they can wait until I have the whole upper deck ready for final trim. And of course needs an interior at least to the first couple of inches of tunnel.

I am hoping to put in a footbridge from the base of the station up to the top deck to create some connectivity, as well as a road coming down along the backdrop edge.

entry 12 Aug 2018, 07:40
Had a bit of time off this week and spent it avoiding the cold and rain by laying tracks. Pleased to say I now have all the core rails now down and wired. And what's more I have trains running on all of them quite smoothly. The final piece of the puzzle was the colliery lines. Had a minor conniption when I turned the power back on after connecting the droppers to the three new lines and got a power conflict. Took a little while but I narrowed it down to one line which is now isolated. My only guess is that some glue under the rails is still damp and forming a short circuit. I will wait it out for a day and see if it remains. Other than that I can now concentrate on the modelling, which is to me the more interesting part of the game. I have a mountain of scenic items to construct, starting with the Chesterfield townsite.

With trains running there are still some lumps and bumps that need ironing out. A little filing here, soldering there, gluing. She'll be right mate, good as a bought one.

I have some DCC Concepts SS turnout motors on their way to prevent me having to shuffle rapidly around the layout to set points. Whilst this keeps me fit, it is an activity I would rather avoid.

One of the issues that some will no doubt see is the use of a wye style layout, that causes short circuits of the power bus. How have I overcome this. At the moment it is limited to some insulating fish plates at two key points. I also have an old PSX-AR that I will hopefully get around to installing to cater for the auto reverse conflict. For the time being the straight piece of track running at the right of the wye is inactive. But looks nice biggrin.gif Likewise, there is an uninstalled through line/siding from the yards back to the mainline. All catered for, just haven't connected it up yet.

Also I haven't figured out how to embed flickr videos into these pages yet, but here's a link. First full runs

Whilst I was busily running back and forth from controller to switches to derailments, I thought maybe there was some help to be had with my phone. Low and behold there is an app on Play Store that allows me to control my ECOS remotely! Probably old news to most people, but a world of difference to me that saves having to buy a remote cab. Works a treat with locos and switches - ECOS Controller by Erkan Valentin. And it's free... Love those kind of bargains.

entry 5 Aug 2018, 13:04
I laid a lot of track this weekend and connected a lot of droppers. I'm only three lengths now short of getting the mainline finished. The last section to work on today was the yards (or Langwith Junction). In its heyday its was a hopping place.

I am going for a modest pseudo re-creation, with enough lines to keep wagons stacked up in public view, but without some of the additional more intricate trackwork. Who knows it may develop over time. Six lines going in with room for a seventh if required. It may even be possible to run it back through to the mainline on the very outer line once I get it in. Not sure if it's necessary or even possible. Onwards and upwards, with each session in the workshop a new learning experience.

Looking back, five years ago on the first attempt at a similar layout this is what the yards were looking like. It's similar, but I do believe I have actually moved forward!

entry 5 Aug 2018, 09:36
Thought I would try my hand at a little scenery today. I am obviously building this around 40s/50s coal country and I have some coal wagons, but no loads. I already had purchased some very small aquarium gravel with the thought of building stone walls for fields, etc. So, I figured it was worth giving it a go in the coal wagons.

In order not to weigh things down too much I built some cardboard formers to fill the bulk of the wagon, and then glued some grit on top. Tried using the standard ballast glue spray. I suspect for this size rock that glue isn't strong enough. It held up overnight, but it's a little weak. When I get to the wall creation I will need something with a bit more oomph. A little black paint on top and she was good to go. The units just drop into the wagons and can be removed as required, no gluing.

The end result is far from perfect. I suspect the rocks are too large for this purpose and the formers need to be made with a bit more precision, but the proof of concept gave me some good ideas for next time, and it will do for now.

entry 22 Jul 2018, 12:42
A lot of rail work going on this weekend. So not a mountain to show. I have probably laid down a third of the basic track. I have been recycling a lot of the track I pulled off the original layout, which had been sitting in a storage unit for a couple of years. I managed to hook most of them into the main bus. So far my levels seem to present no problems to my one working loco pulling a few carriages.

However, I have now been cleaning the rails up as there was a lot of stuttering and dead spots. I took a very fine sanding blcok to the rails and they immediately turned gleaming bright with only one or two passes. This has aided the running immensely, although there are still some dodgy areas that require a little work. Likewise one of the point areas is both not quite aligned and not quite as clean as it could be, so a bit more endeavour required there.

All in all though I am now further forward than I had been on the previous layout, with a pretty good moving train along the tracks. So I take that as a big win and a motivator to keep keeping on. Next effort will be getting track through the main tunnel and getting that girder bridge fixed in place. Not sure whether the river should be filled with "water" first though.

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