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entry 16 Sep 2012, 00:04
Good grief. I haven’t updated my blog since April 2010. Deep breath...

Well, Windmill Hill is no more. I was never really happy with the baseboard construction (despite having read plenty of advice about getting the baseboards right, I built it on 1″ thick solid pine IKEA desk tops!), the Setrack curves, or the dead frog points. Although I did enjoy the continuous run aspect, to be honest at 13′ × 4′ it was taking up rather a lot of space in what we really wanted to be a proper guest room.

So, off came all the buildings and accessories that could be salvaged and the boards were duly sawn up and interred at the local tip. (I did toy with idea of keeping the “best” board but, to be honest, aligning it with my planned new ones would have been a nightmare, so I gritted my teeth and ditched the lot. Ah well, it lives on thanks to YouTube.)

The space I had in the other room available to me (which also houses my son’s drum kit and my guitars and Marshall half-stack!) was 12′ × 2′. I realised that unless I was to start all over again in ‘N’ gauge, continuous run was not a realistic proposition. My interest is in green and blue diesels (much to the chagrin of my retired work colleague Len, a fellow railway modeller and an avowed steam enthusiast!), so I decided to build something to display and run those – even if this would just have them pootling up and down between a shed and a fuelling point. I did want to incorporate a double track main line (in case we ever move to a property of Pete Waterman-style dimensions where I would have the room to extend it to a continuous run!) and I also wanted to develop a town scene to utilise the various buildings and cars I have acquired over the years. (I had to accept that I couldn’t realistically fit all my old buildings on, so the church, steam-era shed and various other items have had to be sidelined for a future project or sale.)

The intended period is fairly elastic, but broadly some time between about 1966 – 1976 (i.e. the first 10 years of my life) and the fictitious location is simply “somewhere in England” to allow for the appearance of various classes of loco. Thus, Windmill Hill TMD was born (if “Traction Maintenance Depot” is not too grand a title for what is really a fairly modest stabling point).

So, with only a general idea of a trackplan, I constructed all new baseboards, using 9 mm plywood braced with 69 × 18 mm softwood battens, all glued and screwed except for the middle battens of each board, which are screwed only so that they can be moved if they impinge on any planned point motor positions. The baseboard tops were completely covered in 3 mm thick 1′ × 1′ cork tiles, currently painted brown as an undercoat for future ballasting. Fortunately, I was able to do the carpentry rather elementary wood hacking (and cursing) in the integral garage.

For ease of handling (I had to get it upstairs from the garage!), the layout was built as three separate boards: the left-hand board is 4′ 0″ long, the middle one 5′ 3″ and the right-hand one 2′ 9″. The boards are joined with M8 bolts and wingnuts. As was Windmill Hill, the layout is supported on IKEA pine table legs (the “box” type ones which include useful storage shelves). At about 720 mm above the floor, the layout top is perhaps a little lower than I would have liked, but the completed structure is very stable (no wobbles!) and allows good access to the underside for wiring. My wife has promised to make a black drape to hide the clutter underneath!

One of the things that I didn’t like about my previous layout was that most of the town scene was at the same level as the track. I wanted some variation in height of the various elements of my new layout to provide visual interest, but I didn’t want to get into the difficulties of laying inclines. After playing around with various ideas, I decided to adopt a similar approach to Mike Wild’s N gauge Barrenthorpe Shed (Hornby Magazine supplement May 2012) – that is to say, a road above the railway to create a backdrop to the shed scene, utilising the half relief buildings I wanted to re-use. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to dispense with my wish for a level crossing, as I could find no logical way of fitting one in.

I used 94 mm high timber supports topped off with 3 mm MDF for the road bed, thus making the road 97 mm above the track level. The timbers and MDF were all secured with “No More Nails”. As well as the raised road with half-relief terraced houses and other buildings running the length of the middle board, there is a larger raised area on the left-hand board on which I am using my full-relief Scalescenes, Metcalfe and Skaledale town buildings (and under which the main lines run, via. a tunnel portal)...

...a smaller raised area at the back of the right-hand board for a warehouse/garage scene...

...and a bridge over the double track main line, on which the station building is set in a similar manner to the Great Central Railway at Loughborough.

There is just enough room on the right-hand board for two-car DMUs (future purchases!) to sit each side of the island platform.

The backscene was made from 2 mm hardboard. It is 9″ high at road level, but since the roads are raised, it is about 12½″ high at rail level. The backscene is curved at the two corners to avoid unsightly...well, corners. There are, admittedly, visible vertical joins between the backscene pieces of each board, but I hope to disguise these joins with buildings or trees or some such in the future. The backscene boards were rollered with a mixture of two blue matchpot colours from Wickes’s paint range and some white paint smudged over in an approximation of light cloud. I’m no artist, but I have to say I’m quite pleased with the result.

Having completed the baseboards and the basic scenic elements, I started to play around with the sidings either side of the main lines. I am aiming for something along the lines of Hornby Magazine’s Build a Diesel Depot with Bachmann (May 2011 supplement), based around the Bachmann single road engine shed (44-126) and diesel fuelling point (44-040). I have almost settled upon the track plan you see in the accompanying photographs: that is to say, a crossover between the main running lines; a long siding at the front of the layout; and a series of sidings using medium radius turnouts providing access to a double road stabling point, single road shed (to have inspection pit) and double road fuelling point. (I intend placing the points against the direction of the main running lines, to prevent through trains from running into the sidings – I think that’s prototypical?)

I intend to use OO gauge Peco Streamline code 100 for the trackwork and points. Len has tried to tempt me into P4, but I think that hand building of points and re-wheeling stock are well beyond my skill level and available time and budget! (And if code 100, suitably weathered and ballasted, is good enough for Peter Griffiths’s Crimson Road, it’s good enough for me.) I don’t intend to cut a ballast shoulder into the cork, but I do intend to use Plastikard as concrete pads in the shed area (as in the Hornby Magazine example).

The layout will be DCC controlled, using my existing Hornby Select for the time being. (I would like to move into DCC sound in the future, but that will have to wait until funds allow.) Although Windmill Hill ran with a single power connector (proving that you can indeed operate a DCC layout with just two wires!) I intend to solder dropper wires to each section of track on Windmill Hill TMD, connected to a power bus. I also intend to modify the live frog points with frog polarity switching and electrical bonding between the stock rails and switch rails, and incorporate a CDU. (Although wiring live frog points is meat and drink to most experienced railway modellers, I’ve not done this before and I have to say that I found most of the explanations of it online rather confusing, if well meaning. The best recommendation I can give anyone else in the same position is to consult the coloured diagrams on page 5 of Railway Modeller’s “Wiring the Layout – Part 3” booklet.) Anyway, I hope the live frogs will cure the problems I had with my Class 08 stuttering over the dead frogs on Windmill Hill...

So what’s next? Well, the next major work will be track laying and electrics. (I’ve not decided on a point control system yet; possibly a simple mimic board with push button switches.) If that all goes to plan, I can crack on with developing the scenery and buildings.

As well as the usual ballasting and ground cover, I want to improve detailing by fitting curtains to the Skaledale houses and improving the shop interiors of the Metcalfe buildings, possibly using Scalescenes parts. I’m also currently playing about with photographs found on the web stuck on to the backscene, rather than those ubiquitous Peco paintings; you can see one such attempt in my picture of the station building below. I’ve found it surprisingly hard to locate suitable pictures taken at street level, and to then to print them at the appropriate size so that the scene seems to be leading somewhere. The commercially available backscenes don’t seem to have what I want.

A major part of the scenic treatment I’ve not yet decided upon is how to build the retaining walls. I do like the Scalescenes ones, but they are rather time consuming to make and I have a long run to do. Slater’s Plastikard offers a quicker build, but that will still mean making some strengthening pillars at intervals in order for it to look convincing. I quite like the Ratio brick arches but that will prove quite expensive to do the whole lot. Decisions, decisions...

The other things I need to decide are how to treat the station bridge (possibly Peco LK-10 plate bridge sides) and how to build a staircase from the station building down to the platform (the Bachmann Scenecraft recreation of this structure at the GCR at Loughborough is rather nice, but also rather pricey!).

And I’ve not even thought about signalling yet...

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post 16 Sep 2012, 21:34
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Station cat
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This looks promising - I look forward to more updates


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