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 | Category: Scale 1:76 OO in the loft
entry 10 Oct 2007, 18:52
The sharp eyed (or terminally bored) among you will know that I list Swiss railways as one of my interests. My own interest does not extend as far as actually owning models of Swiss trains, but I share the house with someone who does. It was therefore inevitable that one day a Swiss model would appear and run on the layout. At this point some will run screaming from the room and I suspect that some may even have fallen into a faint, but it's my (?) model railway and if I want to give track space to something a bit different then why not?

So just what has arrived to disturb the peace and quiet of west Yorkshire? Not only is it not British, it's not 1:76, it's not even steam. In fact it's a Trix SBB Re460 in Maerklin livery hooked up to a rake of four Roco IC2000 double decker coaches - a 1st, an elvetino buffer car, a 2nd and a Dino driving trailer. These photos show what it looks like "out of the box". The coaches come with Roco close couplers as standard and in this case, close coupled really means it.

Here's the locomotive end of the train:

and this is the other half:

Here's a closer shot of the "Dino" car:

The full rake for these trains comprises (from the locomotive end) - Baggage / 1st class, 1st class, 1st class, Buffet, 2nd class, 2nd class, 2nd class, Driving trailer. That's eight cars in all, so a full model would be almost 9 feet long. With four coaches our model is about 4ft 6ins, so we've got room for at least one more. It definitely looks a bit short at present. Here's a photo of the real thing at Interlaken West station:

I have fitted the Re460 with an ESU LokPilot which has been displaced from a steam locomotive. This is because the ESU does not support Lenz "ABC" braking zones and unless I fit conductive couplings to the whole of this train, ABC braking is pointless as it only kicks in when the decoder enters the zone, not when the first vehicle does so.

The train runs happily at full speed in both directions around the layout over the mixed Peco 100 and 75 track. There is no hint of clearance problems around the bends despite the length of the coaches.

There is a wealth of detail in the interior, but so far I have not been able to get a photo. The stairs to the upper decks each have stainless steel coloured railings and the interior matches my memories of travelling in them. The coaches come equipped to take interior lighting so maybe that will be added at some stage.

The train will normally be held in one of the hidden storage loops and come out when required. This is one occasion when it is nice to just sit and watch the trains go by remembering some wonderful summer holidays.


 | Category: Scale 1:76 OO in the loft
entry 30 Aug 2007, 22:14
It's been a long time since I made an entry in this Blog but that doesn't mean I have been idle. I have just completed relining the underside of the rafters with double sided foil bubble wrap insulation in an attempt to reduce the temperature range, so less cold in the winter and less hot in the summer. I have moved our min/max thermometer from the conservatory and over the last month the max recorded temperature has been 34C. I know that the weather this summer has been lousy, but I think 34C is probably down on what it would have been like without the lining. How much warmer it will be in the winter is yet to be revealed.

Before relining the attic, I floored in the last remaining spaces which made the area down the sides of the water tanks and behind them accessible, and more importantly available, for a bit of an extension.

Apart from the extra space available, I have also come to the conclusion that Sundeala board is not a suitable baseboard material in my environment. The worst aspect is that the boards change size which is akin to having earthquakes on a regular basis. The track is only pinned down at the moment but quite what would happen once it is ballasted probably doesn't bear thinking about. On top of that, I have realised that the way I have wired up my live frogs in a way that may cause momentary shorts when operated by motorised (ie not solenoid) points. Finally, the longitudinal battens which are supporting the Sundeala board were placed with the intention of using Peco motors not Fulgurex, so they are highly likely to be in the wrong place - a lot.

The result is that I have decided to lift everything and relay the trackwork on half inch ply. The majority of the track plan will remain unaltered, especially the part for which I built a control panel earlier in the year.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been planning how the new space could be used and how to get it to fit with the existing station plan. I now have a plan I am happy with and the image below shows the extended portion:-

On the original layout a four track mainline cut across in front of the water tank between the points labeled 5 & 6. The outer two lines at the left of the layout were always intended to go behind the water tank and "do something".

In the new plan, this four track mainline is split into two double track mainlines which go their separate ways after leaving the station. The inner pair heads towards the water tank and disappears into a tunnel eventually ending up in a set of 6 storage sidings. A set of three carriage sidings resides between these two main lines; they are already accounted for on the control panel. The other pair head straight on and remaining on the level loop round to enter another 6 storage sidings. The outer pair now head up a 1:50 gradient rising to a height of 5.25 inches above the storage sidings. The intention is to have the MPD at this location.

There were no storage sidings on the old layout; they are the major gain from this extension.

I have used the extra length to install transition curves. The outermost mainline has a radius of 72" for 15 degrees, 36" for 60 degrees and then 72" for the last 15 degrees. This gives a lead in of about 15" which is one and a half coach lengths. I got these figures from "Model Railways" by Stuart Hines published by Haynes sometime in the late 70s. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

The next step is start creating the trackbed from plywood.


I have added a photo of the control panel for reference:-

 | Category: Scale 1:76 OO in the loft
entry 6 Dec 2006, 21:16
At Railex at the end of May, I purchased a "DCC Ready" Hornby 4P Fowler tank. As a result of my trip to Warley last weekend I now have the means to complete the conversions needed for it to run on my layout.

The conversions are:
  1. Fit a DCC decoder
  2. Change the couplers to Kadees

Kadee conversion.

I had thought that as this was a relatively recent Hornby model, it would be fitted with NEM pockets. Wrong! The couplings are secured in cut outs to the top of the front and rear trucks. This meant another solution would be needed. I had the sample pack of 30 series couplers and I have been fitting the #36 coupler (center set long shank) to some Parkside wagons I am building. I fit the couplers by the simple expedient of gluing small squares of 40 and 10 thou thick plasticard to the underside of the wagons until the correct mounting height for a centre set shank has been reached. On the four 12 ton vans I have built so far, this has been at a point level with the bottom of the buffer beam. I thought a similar method might work on the Fowler.

After several "dry runs" with no gluing involved, I wondered what would happen if I mounted the Kadee directly on top of the bogie trucks. I found that if I filled in the cut out, the centre set shanks were at just the right height. I also discovered that the cutout depth was about 40 thou. It would have been great if the mounting holes in the bogies would line up with the holes in the Kadees, but it turned out that this was only possible on the front. At the rear, there is a step up in the casting which fouls the rear of the Kadee draw box. The solution for the rear mounting was to extend the packing piece so that it created a platform for the Kadee to be mounted on.

This left the problem of how to secure the couplers to the bogies. I decided that I might manage to buy an assortment of nuts, bolts and self tappers at the Warley show. As it turned out, I ended up with some 12ba brass screws and nuts from Squires. Perhaps hoping to sell some nuts at 38pence to every visitor is not a viable business plan, or should that be "sell some visitors to every nut"?

Now that I had the component parts, it was time to do the final assembly. The first step was to remove the single body fixing screw which is at the rear just under the coal bunker as shown in this photo:
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Once this screw has been removed, gently slide the body back and up to release the two lugs in the chassis which engage with the body just below the smoke box. There is no other connection between the body and the chassis; there are no speedo cables or oil feeds to worry about as on some of the latest models.

This next shot shows the front bogie components ready for assembly. The coupler is a #36 which has the longest available shank. The mounting point is quite a long way back from the buffer beam so once fitted it does not protrude too far.
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Now for the other end. There is enough play in the mounting pivot for the bogie to be turned through 90 degrees as shown in this shot along with the components. The coupling this time is a #38 which has a medium length shank. This was chosen since the extra length of the #36 is provided by mounting the coupler on the plasticard extension rather than lining up the holes in bogie and coupler drawbox.
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This shot shows the front coupler hooked up to the Kadee height gauge. I have not needed to cut the 12 BA bolt down in size as there is enough space under the body at this point. The cheeseheads which protrude from the bottom of the bogies have not fouled any pointwork either.
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Once the body was refitted, it looks like this coupled to a Parkside open wagon:
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I think I have been conservative in the coupling distance I have created between vehicles. The minimum radius on my layout is just under 24 inches. There is no hint of buffer locking on these tighter curves.

DCC decoder fitting
When you lift the lid on a Fowler 4P you see this large inviting void over the trailing bogie and think "That's just the place for decoder!". You gloss over the fact that the DCC Ready socket is at the far end of the chassis... You come down to earth with a bump when you place your decoder next to the body and realise that a 70 cm harness is not going to stretch that far as this photo shows:
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There are two decoders in this photo, the larger one to the left is an ESU DCCLokpilot 3. The smaller one to the right is a Zimo MX63R. Spec wise, they are both equivalent to a Lenz Gold. The Lenz Gold probably has an advantage in this installation as comes with a socket. Mackay Models, the UK distributor for Lenz have a 200mm harness "LY013 Wired 652 Plugs 200mm lng w/JST 9pin" listed in the Lenz product section. I have deliberately chosen to buy different decoders as I wanted to see how they compared with the Lenz Gold (That may be the subject of a future blog entry).

The Zimo looks like it will be a better fit here, but following Doug's decoder fitting review of the Bachmann 9F, I have decided to keep it for the one that has my name on it, along with a "Do not open 'til Christmas" sticker, as I think that the Zimo is slim enough to sit flat on the chassis.

If you have read Doug's M7 decoder installation saga, you know what's coming next. (You do read Doug's stuff I hope?). Here's the photo sequence as I tried the LokPilot on the gear box next to the motor
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The body slid into place once, but never again. I suspect it's a height rather than a width problem.
a little ahead of the gearbox with the slim part of the connector just above it - still no joy
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and finally I took a leaf out of Doug's book and decided to place it in the water tank void. Unlike the M7, the tanks in the Fowler are just fresh air. I was hoping to keep them that way so that I could fill them with "liquid lead" if I thought the loco needed more traction. This photo shows the wires taped up giving just enough slack for the decoder to be slotted into position. I secured it to the inside of the tank by creating a small loop of insulating tape with the adhesive on the outside - my own form of double sided tape.
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It's possible that the installation might have been easier with the Zimo. One thing is for sure, there may well be enough room over the trailing bogie for a half decent sized speaker, though whether or not the sound decoder will fit in the side tanks may be another matter.

6th December 2006

 | Category: Scale 1:76 OO in the loft
entry 19 Nov 2006, 16:48
Following on from my favourable impression of the waiting shelter from Scalescenes, I went ahead and bought the Retaining Wall kit with a dark red brick texture. Eight two hour sessions in the loft later and the result is two 600mm sections of retaining wall which look like this:
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There's not much to say except that I chose the maximum possible height of retaining wall which is 110mm + the parapet wall on top.

The wall is not shown in its final position because there is nothing for it to stand on at present. The plan is for the rear of the main station to have this retaining wall along its entire length of about 18 feet; so there's just 7 more sections to go ohmy.gif. Maybe not next week, next month or even next year?

19th November 2006

 | Category: Scale 1:76 OO in the loft
entry 11 Nov 2006, 21:38
Whilst surfing one night I found Scalescenes.com. The premise is that you purchase a PDF which contains instructions and printed sheets for constructing a variety of railway related buildings. Having made your purchase, you print the contents of the PDF on your colour printer (or take it to your local colour copy shop), paste the sheets onto differing thickness of card, follow the build instructions and voila you have a building. Once you have bought the PDF, the number of times you print it is up to you.

I have wondered for some time about the feasibility of doing this. Desktop colour printers are really very good these days and with an appropriate "art" program it should be possible to design your own "kits" or at least your own backdrops. The guy at Scalescenes appears to have had a similar idea but taken it a stage or three further. His site allows you to download a simple "shelter" as a taster, so that's just what I did.

The "Shelter" sample zip file expands into two PDFs. One is 3 sheets of instructions. These are quite simply the best illustrated instruction sheets I have ever had for a kit. If this venture achieves nothing else, it should showcase this guy's graphic design abilities so that other kit companies contract him to improve their quite often woefully inadequate efforts.

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The other PDF is two A4 sheets with the outside faces of the shelter printed on them. Plain pieces of A4 paper will not make a sturdy structure. The generic introductory instructions suggest 3 card weights are required to add some internal strength. For 00 gauge the suggestions are 200gsm paper, 1mm card and 2mm card. I visited an artists' supplies shop on Saturday morning and came away with a sheet of black 160gsm paper, a sheet of 1.2mm mounting board and a can of "photo mount" spray adhesive.

The first task was to stick the shelter parts sheets to the appropriate boards. I did this with the "photo mount" adhesive. I chose the spray because it is the easiest way to get smooth, complete coverage. The last thing you want are lumps, bumps and air bubbles when you are cutting out the parts. The results were very good; there were no problems.

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From this point on, construction was no different to any other card kit. You do need a sharp cutting blade and a steel rule so that the edges are cut clean and straight. The shelter kit requires 2mm card but since I could not get any of that, I found that 3 sheets of 1.2mm were good enough.

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I regret using PVA to make the joins. It seemed too "wet" and did not set nearly fast enough. I will try something else in future, as this has had an adverse effect on the finished result.

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Some notes on the contents of this last shot:

I printed the sheets on a Canon Pixma IP5000. This is a five colour printer - text black, image CMYK. There are no photo inks in this model. The paper is WHSmith 80psm general purpose paper.

The pictures at the back of the shelter are NOT part of the kit. They are "Tiny Signs" which I have had in a box for almost 30 years. I add a "little accident" with the PVA and tore a small piece of the printed paper off. I could have reprinted the sheet and made another one, but I'm not that attached to this shelter to want to do that.

The track is Peco Code 100 painted with Railmatch "rust"; the platform is Metcalfe; the buildings in the background are Metcalfe low relief.

If the image is a bit blurred, that's because it's hand held with a 1 second exposure at ISO 200.

I am pleased with the result and have decided to buy one of the retaining wall kits. The only problem now is which "texture" to choose; there are 9! I do wonder how windows in buildings are done. I don't think you can print glazing.

11th November 2006

 | Category: Scale 1:76 OO in the loft
entry 14 Oct 2006, 13:12
The summer is over and the nights are drawing in. It's time to climb back into the attic and resume work on the layout which has been neglected over the summer. It is also time to see what has happened to the track during some of the very hot days.

Heat affects!
I don't pin my track through the sleepers. I place track pins at each end of the sleepers. This prevents lateral movement but it does allow the track to move back and forth longitudinally and that is just what it has done over the summer. Well, some of it went forward and didn't come back. In extreme cases I can see that some track has moved by a whole sleeper width. It appears that the rail joiners are too stiff to allow any movement compared to moving the entire track bed. So it looks like I have allowed enough room for expansion at the joints, but the joints are too stiff to allow the expansion to take place.

Track laying
Last Saturday I added a new tool to my track laying kit, a laser level. This was on offer at the check out of my local petrol station for the princely sum of 3.99 (AAA batteries not included). It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I speculated that it would be a great help in laying my track straight in the absence of any reliable external references.

The first task for my new 'toy' was to find out why a 'reverse' point at the end of a long line of points did not end up parallel to the main lines without a nasty kink in its connection to the next point. Lining up the laser level soon showed where the problem lay as you can see in this photo:-
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The small red blobs in the photo are the laser light. It has been lined up to shine down the centre line of the track. You can see that the point at the foot of the photo is lined up correctly. As you follow the line of the laser up into the next point you can see that it starting to go wrong at the point tie bar and is completely out by the time it reaches the far end.

There was nothing for it but to take up the track and relay it. Once it had been relaid, the beam looked like this photo:-
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The holes visible to the left of the photo show just how much the track has been moved. It's rather a lot for the slight realigment of a single large radius point.

Now that this bothersome junction had been fixed, it was time to add some plain track to the toe. Here's how I did it in step by step photos; someone might find it useful.

Step 1. Insulate the toe end of the point
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1) This is Peco finescale code 75 track
2) The baseboard is Sundeala, so these Hornby track pins can be pushed into it
3) As supplied, Peco track needs to have the sleepers moved towards the end so as to maintain a constant spacing. This is a bit of a pain but worth the effort for the final result.
4) I feed every piece of track separately via soldered connections; I don't rely on rail joiners.

Step 2. Remove the moulded chairs from the last sleeper
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1) I support the track on an offcut of timber because it raises the sleeper to a comfortable working height
2) I cut down into the sleeper so that there is room for the underside of the insulating rail joiner. I have a suspicion that on another older part of the layout with code 100 track, I have not allowed enough space so the rail join has been forced upwards. The edge of a steel rule confirms this. The problem came to light because a Hornby Fowler 2-6-4T regularly stalls at this join when running at medium to slow speed. I think the rigid wheelbase of the Fowler is losing contact as it rises over the join.

Step 3. Cut away the track web for the power supply
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1) I cut away the two nobbles from each side of the 'flexi' gap in the sleeper webbing.

Step 4. Connect the track and align it with the laser
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Step 5. Mark the holes in the baseboard for the electrical feed
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1) I use a sharp "pointy" tool for marking the hole. I also use this tool for starting the holes I push the Hornby track pins into

Step 6. Drill the holes
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1) I use a 1/4 inch drill bit to give me plenty of leeway.

Step 7. Marking where to cut the track to length
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1) The far end of the track is connected to the point using insulated railjoiners
2) The point to which the track is being connected has already been aligned using the laser level
3) The needle file is used to mark the point at which the track is to be cut. A small allowance has been made for the insulating rail joiner separation piece and some expansion of the rail in higher temperatures.

Step 8. Preparing the sleeper webbing for cutting to length
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1) I use a Xuron track cutters. These have a "shear" action which leaves a clean cut on one side and a very squished cut on the other. I have decided from observation and experience that the squished cut is not recoverable, so it needs to be trimmed off with a second cut. I have also found that it is not a good idea to try to cut track with the Xuron tool reaching across the second rail. What tends to happen is that the track twists and the rail is stripped from the sleeper chairs. It is well nigh impossible to get the chairs back onto code 75 rail and even when it is done, the rail never seems to be quite as flat as it was originally.

My method is to make two cuts spaced about one sleeper length apart, one from each side of the track. The "clean" cut is about 1/4 inch from the final length I want. The "squished" cut is about 3/8 to 1/2 inch away.
The photo also shows that I "free" a sleeper on the excess side of the final cut point and move it towards the final cut point to provide extra support. Here is a view from the top before the first rough cut is made
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This also illustrates the point - measure twice - cut once; two photos for one step

Step 9. The first rough cut
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1) You can see the clean cut on the rail near the bottom of the photo. This is the first cut I make. Be sure to support the rail and sleepers on the side you want to keep by squeezing them between a finger and thumb whilst cutting. This reduces the risk of the shearing action being transferred to the joint between rail and sleeper chair and ripping them apart. This advice comes from experience.
2) The Xuron cutters are in the top part of the photo. I only use them for cutting track. Don't be tempted to use them as general purpose cutters.

Step 10. The cleanup cut
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1) The semi transparent plastic bag is for catching the offcuts as they fly off with the tremendous energy released in the shearing process. This has two advantages, first it prevents these small but dangerous pieces of metal ending up in my eyes; second it stops them disappearing to some dark corner of the layout where they will later cause a short.

Step 11. The moment of truth
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1) This is where you find out if you got it right or just wasted a couple of quid and half an hour of your life.

Step 12. Attach the power feeds
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1) As I mentioned above, I solder connections to every piece of track. Here the wires have been soldered and are ready to drop down through the holes. I don't colour code the wires either.

Step 13. Job done
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This final shot shows the track in place with the feed wires just visible. The holes will be stuffed with a filler of some kind - probably waste from my shredder before ballasting makes the wires "disappear".

I think after all that, I can see the attraction of SetTrack. question.gif