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 | 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


 | Category: Scale 1:1 Steam tours
entry 31 Jul 2006, 21:22
Having visited most of the larger heritage railway sites within reasonable driving distance of home, I decided it was time for something a little different. Somehow, I don't remember how or when, I stumbled across the Past Time Rail website detailing their range of steam hauled railtours. The Torbay Express caught my eye for we had visited the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway last summer and had a thoroughly enjoyable day out, so here was the chance to ride the mainline behind a top link locomotive and have an interesting few hours in Dartmouth during the locomotive turn around to boot.
The 9:15 am start from Bristol required a rather too early start from home either by car or rail, so we stayed over night in a Premier Travel Lodge near J1 of the M32. This allowed us a more reasonable wake up time, though still too early for breakfast at the Lodge, and plenty of time to drive into Bristol city centre, find the entrance to the Temple Gate public car park (There's a sign that says 30 yds, and it really is 30 yards, just across a set of traffic lights and immediately before what I take to be an abandoned petrol station - blink, as I did - and you miss it. Just keep turning left and you get another chance.
The next trick is to work out how to use the pay and display machine. This one wants the numbers from your car registration before it will accept any money, but in its favour, it will only accept the maximum Sunday all day charge of 1.60 which is just as well as the scheduled return time was 21:40.
Temple Gate public car park is just across the road from Temple Meads station and right around the back of an "Express by Holiday Inn" - maybe we should have stayed there? Having crossed the inner city ring road, we walked up the station approach in glorious sunshine to be confronted by
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the station's grand facade. The eagle eyed among you join my wife in noticing that the station clock says 7:07. The fact that she was still with me at this stage in the journey is a hint that the time recorded by my camera of 7:56 is nearer the truth. Maybe this is the reason so many network trains do not run to time?
We heard the shrill peep of a whistle in the distance which was our first clue that the locomotive today would be 6024 King Edward 1 and not 60009 Union of South Africa as a posting on the Internet had suggested.
We arrived on platform 3 as the coffee bar opened in time for a continental style breakfast of croissant and coffee. Having breakfasted 'al fresco' in the station concourse we walked the length of platforms 3 and 4. On reaching the end of platform 3 we were rewarded with our first sight of our train for the day being brought in from the north hauled by 6024
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The train comprised 10 coaches - 8 for fare paying passengers and one each for the tour organisers and 6024 support crew. An interesting variety of liveries was worn by the coaches. The first three were cream and green, the next three were BR maroon, followed by two green, a blue/grey and finally 6024's BSK support coach in WR cream and chocolate. All the coaches were on Commonwealth bogies. 6024 drew the train down to platform 4 and halted while those passengers already present claimed their seats or walked to the front for their first closeup view of the loco for the day
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Moving further along the platform allows you to see more of the train standing in the sunshine
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The train left on time and following a warning whistle to the track gang working under the road bridge to the south of the station, 6024 began the journey south to Torbay. Speed built slowly during the first few miles and we passed by station platforms full with onlookers eager to see a steam engine drive through. After a few miles we were clear of the Bristol gradients and onto straight level track as we headed towards the next pick up point at Weston-Super-Mare.
Having picked up more passengers at Weston, we regained the mainline and continued to Taunton. The track was still straight and level and we were soon travelling at 60+ miles per hour. It is quite a different sensation to travelling at these speeds compared to the more leisurely pace of a Heritage line - I recommend it.
A long water stop was scheduled for Taunton. One of the difficulties faced by the organisers of steam railtours is the lack of water supplies. The owners of 6024 have a plan in hand for the future and the Tornado team have some too. In the meantime, sights like this
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outside a railway station are often an indication of a thirsty steamer on a nearby platform.
The stop at Taunton allowed plenty of time for taking photos or stretching our legs down the long straight platforms
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We weren't the only ones getting some exercise. A steam locomotive is a hungry mistress who must be fed as well as watered, and shovelling coal while stationary is a lot easier than on the move
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Of course life does not stop simply because there is a steam special on the line. During the Taunton stop we were passed by this HST. It is interesting to reflect that the Kings' working life extended for about 32 years. The HST fleet is now into its fourth decade; how much longer will they continue?
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Fully refreshed 6024 pulled out of Taunton and continued our journey to Exeter. After another pause to stretch our legs, we off again at full tilt down the Exe estuary, through Starcross around the curve through Dawlish Warren and onto the famous seawall. The super elevation on this curve is very marked inside the train. It was at this point in the journey that our conductor announced that the BBC series "Coast" was filming the train's journey for a future series. Our duty was to wave as we raced along the seawall. I am afraid that my identity will remain a secret as our seats were on the land side of the train.
My timings indicated that we running at the line speed limits all along the wall and through the tunnels and round into the Teign estuary. We slowed down on the approach to Newton Abbot in preparation for taking the branch to Paignton and came to an unscheduled halt in the station. After a few minutes we learned that there had been a points failure which would require manual intervention from a Network Rail team to clear. We sat back to wait.
After 35 minutes or so, a solution to the problem was found and we were on our way once more. Now that we off the mainline, it soon became apparant that this was a less well loved section of the network. Weeds abounded and the wild flowers made quite a show in the empty space between the running lines at Torquay. Beyond Torquay, the train slowed and I could see that the rail was now of bullhead profile on wooden sleepers. We pulled into Paignton Network Rail station and waited for permission to join the private rails of the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway.
While we waited we allowed to "de-train", so we wandered to the end of the platform where the train crew was being changed. The "Coast" camera and sound team were also there gathering material for the program. After a short wait, Lydham Manor drew into the "private side" of Paignton station with its train from Kingswear. It is hard to tell whether the expression of the two "observer" members of the footplate crew is one of awe or "flash so and so" in response to their sighting of the King. What is very clear is the common design heritage of the two locomotives. Lydham Manor being younger by 20 years though its 1913 vintage tender may tip the age balance the other way.
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As we were still running late, no time was lost in joining the P&DSR and a swift journey up the sharp incline over the headland to the estuary of the river Dart. We arrived in Kingswear only 20 minutes late and trooped off to join the "fare included" ferry crossing to Dartmouth. From there I was able to take this "signature" shot of "The Royal Dart" at Kingswear
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It is interesting to compare this shot with the one I took at the Railex exhibition in Aylesbury in May. The chief difference between the model and the current reality is the huge number of trees that appear to have been planted and grown since the war.
Dartmouth is a lovely place to stroll around. The "boat pool" is surrounded by an interesting collection of buildings
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It was now shortly after two in the afternoon and apart from coffee and biscuits from the buffet on the train we had not eaten. The thought did occur to me to wonder how Gordon Ramsey might manage if put in charge of a dining car kitchen on a train like "The Elizabethan". Other passengers had brought their own food which ranged from sandwiches to a full blown wicker picnic basket and wines to boot.
After a pleasant afternoon in the hot sunshine we boarded a return ferry at 16:30 to be sure to be across in time for the scheduled 17:15 departure. There were shades of Mother Hubbard syndrome as we arrived to find our coaches without a locomotive. A stroll to the end of the platform, we were becoming expert platform strollers by this time, brought us a view of the line up the estuary. We watched and waited. We focused and refocused cameras and then I captured this, my favourite shot of the day which has now become my desktop wallpaper
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6024 is returning from Paignton tender first having turned at Churston. Notice how high the coal has been piled in the tender, there will be nothing to see once we have returned to Bristol. The train left Kingswear a few minutes late, but made an on time arrival at the limits of Paignton station. There we had to wait for permission to rejoin the national network. This was duly given and the train pulled into the network side of Paignton station once more.
We were reminded that the BBC "Coast" crew would be filming on the sea wall at Dawlish, so waving was de-rigeur. Whatever we passengers may have lacked for enthusiasm was surely compensated for in spades by the footplate crew. It was clear from the moment we rejoined the mainline at Newton Abbot (the points still working) that a serious "show" was being put on for the TV. It was harder to read the quarter mile posts on the return journey because they were placed by the Up line we were now travelling. From those I was able to see and time, it was clear that we were running as fast as the limits allowed. Whatever the reality, it felt really fast and we reeled off the stretch from Dawlish to Dawlish Warren very quickly indeed. We thundered through Starcross at speeds only a demented motorist might contemplate (cars are restricted to 20mph past the station). This set the pattern for the rest of the return journey to Bristol; wherever possible the crew ran the locomotive to the limit.
There was a lot more activity on the "real" network on the return journey. During our stop at Exeter we were "overtaken in the pits" by two HSTs. Despite the best efforts of our crew, we were pulled into Tiverton loop to allow a Virgin voyager to pass on to whichever non-London destination it had been assigned.
As we travelled further north we noticed signs that not everyone had enjoyed the sunny weather that we had had. There were large puddles and in Weston it was raining. The sun had now dropped behind a bank of cloud which made taking a photo of the illuminated Clifton suspension bridge a disappointing failure.
Soon we were pulling into platform 3/4 at Bristol Temple Meads twenty five minutes ahead of schedule, the end of our tour. Gathering our belongings we hurried out to see the locomotive for one last time. In the light of a fast falling dusk, this hand held non-flash shot is the best that I got.
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The train nameboard has been removed and the headcode changed. The locomotive has been uncoupled from the train and will soon travel the half mile north the EWS yard to be cleaned out and shutdown, a task which will take some poor souls another few hours no doubt. We waved our enthusiastic thanks to the footplate crew and left the station some thirteen and half hours after our first arrival for the journey home.

During the journey I reflected on many things. If most of the passengers (myself and wife excluded) are 60+ or older, how long can these trips remain viable? I am too young to remember mainline steam and travel because of my fascination with machinery. Do people turn 60 and think "It's ok to be interested in trains now, people will think I am old and silly anyway"?

I was also struck by the number of people who lined station platforms, leaned over bridges and (very odd this) stood in the middle of fields - one chap had a step ladder to watch the train go by. The one place this didn't really happen was on the P&DSR. Here there were no bodies cramming the back door step to wave, leaning over the garden fence. For them stream trains are a commonplace and if they get half the smuts which came in through our carriage window - a nuisance - especially on wash day.

It was a great feeling to be in a train hauled by a locomotive doing what it was designed to do - convey a large number of people at speed across the countryside. Holding 75mph for mile after mile seemed very little bother and the fact that this locomotive is one of the 100+ Kings is entirely believable. But nostalgia ain't what it used to be. Whilst we were playing trains, there was a countless unpaid support crew to go with it. The HSTs which passed us, had one driver, one guard and a couple of caterers.

We had a really great day out. I hope that I have passed that feeling on through this blog. During the last part of the trip I got chatting to one of the tour's unsung heros starting to tidy up the already vacant seats. The owners of 6024 have to put a huge amount of effort into keeping it on the rails. This is not a museum piece which is allowed out on the mainline because it is a "nice thing to do". There are stringent safety standards which the locomotive must meet and so for "purists" who want to see the engine in some previous authentic condition there are many heresies. The website for 6024 gives some idea of what has been involved in this undertaking. The photos above give some clues - the airbrake hoses on the front buffer beam for example. During one stop, I could see a blue LED glowing in the cab. The whole engine is bristling with small copper pipes which are no doubt monitoring working conditions for all the major components. But to all those guys and gals who devote their spare time into making trips like this possible I say a big "Thank You". This is so much better than visiting a static exhibit in a museum or travelling on an emasculated Heritage Line. So instead of going to a couple of football matches, consider a railtour instead!

31st July 2006

entry 19 Jun 2006, 22:01
I paid my first visit to the Severn Valley Railway on a Sunday in 1977 with a group of enthusiasts getting a serious "fix of steam". The day before we had travelled on a Silver Jubilee railtour which had been steam hauled in four legs from Chester to Newport via Shrewsbury. The locomotives were "Sir Nigel Gresley", "Princess Elizabeth", "King George V" and "Clan Line". We stayed overnight in the Birmingham area and early the next morning set off for Bewdley which was then the southern terminus of the SVR. We had a great day and since that time all my visits to preserved steam lines have been measured against it.

A lot has changed in the thirty years since; less hair, more beard, poorer eyesight, and the SVR has not stood still either. The line has been extended south to Kidderminster and over the years the company has been overhauling the infrastructure there into a very impressive undertaking. Here is the view of the station buildings as you walk down the path from the pay & display car park.
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We had arrived at about 11:30 and found that there were two trains preparing for departure. The 11:45 consisted of LNER varnished teak stock and was headed by 8F 48773 travelling tender first. The 12:15 was the "Sundays Only" dining train (book by prior appointment). It consisted of GWR coaching stock and was coupled to "Bradley Manor". We chose to take the 11:45 and found seats in the First Open coach at the rear of the train. Whistles were exchanged by guard and driver and our train eased away from the station on the journey to Bridgenorth. The line passes through the industrial area of Kidderminster over a canal and off into the country side. It travels down an incline and into a tunnel. Once through the tunnel, the landscape changes to the rolling wooded hills and lush green fields that define the valley of the river Severn. You can view herds of Wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains. Actually that's the safari park; I don't think they were Wildebeest and the herds were visitors in cars. The train soon crosses the Bewdley by pass and arrives in the station. It is here we realise just how long the train is as our coach is not actually at the platform.

There is now a short delay as we wait for the line ahead to be cleared by the incoming southbound train. Movement from the passengers on the platform opposite indicates it is coming and a quick look out of the door window shows
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A4 60009 "Union of South Africa" gliding slowly into the adjoining platform. This is how the front of an A4 looks. Any model which does not have that greyhound like thining snout just doesn't cut the mustard (1980's vintage Hornby A4s, I'm talking about you!).

Once we have received the token for the next block, our train continues the journey north. The line passes through woods for a while. The eerie "Whoooo" sound of the 8F's whistle is carried back to us as we approach ungated road crossings. Then the train slows for the 15mph speed restriction over the Victoria bridge which carries the line to the western bank of the river. This is one the "signature" features of the railway with its graceful arch, but you don't see that from the train.

At Arley we exchange tokens with a Class 2 2-6-0 which is on "SVR Footplate Experience" duty today. I would say ex-LMS except the builder's plate says Crewe 1950.
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This is probably the smallest loco in steam today.

Our journey continues along the line. We pause briefly at Highley which is the site of an ambitious new Lottery funded project to create an "Engine House" display centre. It is currently little beyond the site clearance stage but if the project is carried through to the same high standards visible elsewhere on the SVR it should be well worth a visit when it is completed. Hampton Loade follows Highley and we are passed by King Edward I travelling south, tender first. Our 8F attacks the bank to the summit at Eardington and then coasts down the line to arrive in Bridgenorth. Once again our coach is a little shy of the platform and we must move forward before we can make our exit.

Bridgenorth houses the line's MPD. Among the engnes on shed today are this pair
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For all fans of opening doors, the smokebox on the Prairie is ajar.

We don't just travel on trains on our days out, we like to walk and see the countryside. Bridgenorth is worth a visit in its own right. The station is connected to the "high town" by a recent high level foot bridge which removes the need to descend to the valley floor and then climb the far side. There is still a short climb to the centre of the town but it is a relatively gentle slope. The main street in Bridgenorth is a wide thoroughfare dominated by this building bearing the date 1652
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The lower part of the streetscape is difficult to see because of parked cars and the building lines are spoiled by shop signage but once you look above this level, an interesting variety of architecture is yours to behold. This central part of Bridgenorth sits on an old red sandstone block that has somehow been pushed upwards through the valley floor. These rocks are pre-Jurassic. Here is a view taken from the riverside.
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and I can't have a Blog about Bridgenorth without showing a bridge
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There are many more interesting buildings to see and there is a very popular fish and chip shop, or maybe there is just one shop selling takeaway hot food. Whichever it is, we saw a remarkable number of people working their way through portions of chips. We made our way back to the park at the southern end of the high town area and caught this shot of Bradley Manor hauling the day's other eager diners up the steep incline on their return journey to Kidderminster.
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We made our way back to the station to catch the next train south. The platform roads were empty but a fair number of people were thronging the station. The small shop was packed. Bridgenorth station is not large and it became clear why the SVR might be keen to develop Kidderminster - they have so much more room there. We walked to the end of platform One to await the arrival of our train. During the wait, the SVR Footplate experience backed out from the coaling and watering station and rejoined its solitary brake second coach. Watching the bracket signal guarding the entrance to the station soon showed that a train was due. Some faint whistles were carried on the breeze and not long afterwards King Edward 1 came into view across the bridge. Having been accustomed to the size of the class 2 in my viewfinder I was immediately impressed by the size of this four cylinder top link locomotive as it came into view
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Once the line was clear the class 2 headed south. The king uncoupled from the train and headed to the MPD for water and coal. The coaling plant at Bridgenorth is a long reach loader fitted with a bucket. The first scoop fell into what sounded like a very empty bunker. Duely replenished, the locomotive reversed out of the yard across the bridge and then returned to the front of our train. All these movements were under the control of the shorter calling on and shunting signals on the gantries. Like us, King Edward was a visitor to the SVR and a small band of photographers had gathered beyond the fence to mark the occasion, braving the light rain which was now falling steadily. The now slightly greasy rails might make the climb to the summit at Eardington a little more interesting. As I remember it, there was very little slip as the power was applied gently and we pulled away. There was a lot steam and smoke and apparently I had quite a dusting in my hair when I returned to my seat clutching the camcorder which had recorded our departure.
On the run back to Kidderminster we passed Bradley Manor running light engine at Hampton Loade; the carriage works is located in a very "grand" building in Kidderminster.
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At Bewdley we meet "Union of South Africa" which was travelling chimney first - the only locomotive to be turned at each end of the line, though where it did this, I didn't see.

The SVR is a "railway", not a "steam railway" and so is host to a variety of retired diesels a few of which can be seen here at Kidderminster
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Our train pulled into Kidderminster somewhat behind time. King Edward was detached from the coaches, reversed into the release road and headed swiftly back up the line alone. "Gladys" was left to haul the coaches to the carriage sidings for the night. For reference, this is the SVR's interpretation of "blood and custard".
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Every railway needs a "Gladys"!
My one regret is that the timings of my visit meant I did not ride in a train hauled by "Union of South Africa". I did hear the chime whistle on the occasions that we passed it in stations, but apart from some wheel slip, I didn't have the chance to listen to the three cylinder "Gresley Beat". The one thing that stands out from the day is the very individual sounds of the whistles. From the A4 chime, through the 8F's eerie "Whooo" to the King's shrill sound, they are truly distinctive. Whilst it can be hard to tell a a rapid two cylinder from a four without concentrating really hard, with the whistles there is no mistake. Therefore my prime consideration for model loco sound will now be the whistle, but I will need to learn a few first!
All in all, another grand day out which has renewed my belief that it is hard to beat the SVR for a railway experience.

19th June 2006

 | Category: Model Exhibitions
entry 11 Jun 2006, 18:32
The destination for this weekend's outing is in the photo shown below.
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But the destination was not "The Anchor Inn" nor was it for a pint of the amber nectar. In fact our destination can be seen at the very top of the photo, for "The Anchor Inn" is in Beer, and Beer is home to the Pritchard Patent Product Co. Ltd. better known to modellers the world over by their products marketed under the Peco label. (Note the recently heavily revised website which is well worth a visit).
Apart from the scenery,
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the sea air and the attractions of Pecorama itself, this was "DCC weekend" at Peco and all the major players in the UK were there in a marquee in the gardens. The marquee had a small extension this year compared to last and all the stands seemed to be slightly larger than last year or maybe that is because I had my reading glasses on.
I thought that my researchs on DCC had told me just about everything I needed to know before finally paying out the "big bucks" and talking the plunge, so I had travelled more in hope than expectation of learning something new. The first hint that something was brewing was the sight of a 4-6-0 chassis sitting on a rolling road on the South West Digital stand. Focusing a little better, I noticed two pairs of thin blue wires leading to two rather large 41mm(?) speakers, one each end of the rolling road. Leaning in I could hear the "chuff, chuff" of a steam engine at low speed. So there it was - a South West Digital steam project on show. I felt I had found a unicorn or other mythical beast.
I loitered about the stand for a few minutes and during that time, the engine was taken up to a faster speed and then allowed to coast to a halt. During the coasting period, there was no "chuffing", just the sound of the motion.
Apparently this "sound project" is a two cylinder Great Western steamer and is still at the prototype stage. I was talking to Steve and whilst he did not give a firm delivery date, he indicated that a time frame of a few months was what they had in mind. I did ask about 3 cylinder Gresleys and whilst I got the impression that he would love to do one, I gather they fall into the "don't hold your breath" category. He did say that the LMS was on their list after the GW.
Almost in passing, I asked him what he thought of the ESU ECoS control unit that was powering the 4-6-0. He said there wasn't a lot he could say since he had only received it at 6pm the previous day but that so far he liked it a lot. Whilst he was not able to go further than that as a recommendation, he was handing out 48 page English ESU brochures and I now have one. The anticipated price is 400 and delivery is about September I think.
I've always liked the look of ESUs wireless controller and have been impressed by the versatility of their sound decoders. It seems to me that they are the company innovating in DCC at present. I have read the spec of the ECoS and I think I will go for that one when it comes out.
So rather like the enjoyable cliff walk from Beer to Seaton where you can come across unexpected views, my visit to Pecorama produced a glimpse of British steam sound and a "bang up to date" DCC central controller.
All in all, a great day out and I didn't get my feet wet.
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PS. If you do decide to visit, take careful note of the directions on the Peco website. You don't get any signs to Beer or Seaton until you are on the A3052. You cannot just roll into Honiton from the A30 and hope to pick up signs from there. Otterton is pretty but a pretty long way from Beer.

entry 26 Apr 2006, 21:47
My wife has a new bicycle and during the Easter vacation (she is a teacher), she has been cycling sections of the Kennet and Avon canal towpath. Flushed with the joys of the wind in her hair (a pleasure that is increasingly less likely for me), she persuaded me that a day on the towpath from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath would be a grand day out. This stretch was selected for the eveness of the path; my bike is a Dawes road bike purchased with almost the entire proceeds of a summer job whilst on vacation from university.

Saturday (22nd April 2006) dawned fine and fair, so we loaded our bicycles into the back of the family car and set off to Bradford. There we parked in the long term section of the station car park. Having purchased the all day option, the ticket showed an expiry time of Monday 1pm!

The trip along the towpath is indeed fairly smooth. There are no locks on this stretch of the canal between Bradford and Bath but there are two aquaducts which cross the river Avon and mainline into Bristol. First south to north and then north to south as the canal seeks to maintain its level route. Saturday afternoon was probably not a good day for trainspotting, though we did see a variety of different company 2 car DMUs plying back and forth along the line. From memory the companys represented included South West and Central, along with some promotional paint jobs which I wouldn't recommend since I couldn't make out what they were promoting.

The Kennet and Avon canal ends in Bath but national cycle route 4, of which the towpath forms a major part, continues on to Bristol via the route of the former Bristol and Bath railway line. Having only travelled nine miles so far without any severe side effects on a long unexercised body, I agreed to trying a portion of the old railway path to Bristol. At least it wouldn't be too steep!

After picking our way through Bath following tiny Route 4 cycle path signs, we came to the start of the railway about 2 miles from Bath city centre. The Bath end has recently been resurfaced as evidenced by the smell of fresh tarmac. As one would expect, it is smooth and flat so a good pace can be maintained. The current mainline from Bath to Bristol can be seen to the south. We travelled as far as Saltford which is about two and three quarter miles into the route.

At that point we turned our bikes east to retrace our path back to Bradford. Rather than weave our way back through Bath city centre, we followed the river Avon until we found the entrance to the K & A. The canal rises rapidly many feet through several locks some of which are very deep; one appears to be at least 20 feet. We saw our first HSTs as we cycled back in the late afternoon and an EWS hauled hopper train.

By the time we were back at the car we had covered about 28 miles in a longer time than many marathon runners although we had stopped to eat our sandwiches in Bathampton. Some long forgotten muscles were forcibly reminding me of their existance as we headed for home.

An informative website on the Bristol and Bath railway cycle path can be found here: Bristol - Bath cycle path

More details on the K & A canal can be found here: Kennet and Avon canal trust

Finally, whilst surfing last night I discovered that Alan Gibson, well known manufacturer of model train wheels, has also produced a brass, made to order model of the station roof of the former Bath Green Park station(SDJR). If your pockets are deep enough, have a look here:
Bath Green Park train shed roof kit from Alan Gibson

25th April 2006

entry 20 Apr 2006, 20:24
On Easter Sunday my wife and I drove to the Isle of Purbeck with the intention of riding the rails to Swanage and having a walk by the sea. We parked in the SR's park and ride at Norden and purchased two adult returns to Swanage.

The service is quite frequent and soon we were boarding a train of BR Southern Region liveried green Mk 1 coaches hauled by a standard class 4. (With respect to a thread earlier this month, it was wearing an early crest). The short stretch into Corfe Castle is quite spectacular as the railway skirts the base of the castle mound. It is quite the highest mound that I have seen. The houses nearest the castle are interesting in their own right, especially the roofs which appear to be made of stone tiles.

At the half way point, we passed the other train working the line that day. The loco was an American 2-8-0 which had only arrived on the line during Easter week for a 3 month tour of duty. It normally lives in Staffordshire and only retired from the Chinese coal mines in the 1990s.

The line continues down a fairly steep grade. There are several occupation crossings which require whistles from the engine driver - the significance of this will become clear later. The train eased into Swanage and we alighted to visit the town.

Swanage is like a lot of seaside places which are "far from the madding crowd". The chain stores have not given the high street an "identikit" appearance, so it is worth visiting just for that.

We returned to the station in time to catch the last train which would get us to the park and ride car park before it closed. In fact we were a little early and the platform stood empty. We strolled to the end of the platform and waited. The wind was blowing off the land and on it we heard the distinctive sound of the 2-8-0's 5 chime Nathan whistle. The wind must have been quite strong, for it was actually some time before the train arrived in the station. After running round its coaches, the loco stopped by the water tower at the end of the platform to replenish its tank. Closing your eyes, the sounds transported you back to episodes of Casey Jones and The Cannonball Express. We climbed aboard for the 30 minute journey back to Norden.

All in all, an enjoyable day out. If you want full and correct details visit the Swanage Railway website

20th April 2006

entry 20 Apr 2006, 20:02
The intention, and it may be just the road to hell, of this blog is to share some of the triumphs, disasters and other events in my railway connected life. I trust all who bother to read it find something of interest even if it is only to tickle a funny bone now and again. If I alert you to a nasty pitfall and you manage to avoid it so much the better. There are many who have benefitted me and so now I hope to do the same.

"The railway in the attic"

I think version 1.0 (never buy version 1 of anything) was built about 12 years ago. I used 12mm thick chipboard for the baseboards. A double track was installed, one loop of steel track from my young modelling days - the decade that no-one wants to remember, well not for the fashion anyway - the other loop was nickel silver. It was controlled by a H&M Duette and Isotran fitted slave controller with about 20 sections or so using common rail cab control. A few points were motorised.

The financial pressures of a young growing family enforced a long lay off until about two and half years ago when my PC could no longer play the latest games, evening TV had nothing to commend it, the kids were less expensive and I discovered DCC.

Reentering the attic revealed two things. First the chipboard baseboards had sagged, I had only supported them on two foot centres and second, the steel rail had not really survived the conditions terribly well. This led to the following decisions:

1) Chipboard was off the menu. Instead I would try the fabled "Sundeala" board
2) Steel rail was out. From now on it was nickle silver only

A large amount of track was ripped up; some track was relaid but a full circuit was not restored; interest waned.

Then last September (2005) a firm resolution was made to do something more useful during the evenings than playing Spider. The third expedition to the attic revealed that the Sundeala boards had not deteriorated at all during the two years they had been laid. The problem now was that the access space in the centre of the attic had been filled with all the stuff we did not currently need but didn't want to throw out. It had to go somewhere.

The Autumn was spent flooring the outer edges of the attic space and all the stuff we really had to keep was pushed out to there. The rest went to the waste transfer station. What could be recycled was, but I was disappointed that our local authority had no plastic recycling of any kind. New laths were laid longitudinally across the original support members and Sundeala board attached to the top.

In anticipation of installing Lenz DCC, four wiring buses were plumbed in around the outer edge in a horseshoe shape. Two of these are track feeds. One is for 16v AC power for accessory modules. The last is for the Lenz feedback bus. There are "chocolate" block screw connectors for each bus on each of the 2 ft centred cross members. The plan is that if a new layout is built, the Sundeala is history but these buses will remain.

The final baseboard top was in place by January. It was time to lay track. I still had a lot of unused Peco code 100 track from the previous aborted effort. This was laid down to complete the circuit in what was to be a temporary setup. This was because I had learned that electrofrog slips were only available in code 75 and I wanted the minimum chance of losing electrical contact with my locos. Poking a stalled loco is not my idea of running a railway.

A new station layout was planned. You can follow its evolution in one of the threads on this forum. The current status is that the left hand end of the mainline is now complete. I got rather a nasty shock when I tried to round the curve to connect up the four track mainline at the right hand end. The inner line was not going to pass one of the roof trusses. The choices were simple:-
1) Move the truss !?
2) Relay the existing track which had been a nightmare to lay in the first place
3) Move all the lines up one on the plan so that the platform line is now the slow line on exit from the station; the through line becomes the fast line and so on.

The obvious answer is 3, though it was an emotional wrench to have to give up the original plan. Thankfully laying the track was quicker than I expected, and I soon had 2 trains running under H&M control for the first time in quite a few years.

With two lines operational and no section switches, the BIG purchase can not really be postponed any longer. Well it can for a little while. Cashflow being what it is, it worked out better for me to buy a decoder this week and fit it and then get the DCC system a little later. No decoder, no control, so you have to have both, but decoder + DC does still work.

I bought a Lenz Gold HO decoder and heart in mouth proceeded to fit it to my pride and joy - Andrew K. McCosh. The fitting guide on this forum was a great help. The only advice I would add is that the coupling rods are secured by threaded pins. I had not picked this detail up from the Hornby maintenance sheet. Of course it could be just my failing eyesight, but I think it is worth pointing out just the same. I would also recommend taking a photo of how the lubricator crank is connected. I didn't and had to hope I was getting it right. The installation was quite straightforward apart from getting the body on and off. The Lenz decoder sits nicely on the hump in front of the NEM plug. The supplied lead loops back neatly towards the motor and it all seems to fit inside the body shell with no problems. After this experience, I think I will stick to only buying DCC ready locos in future.

I checked that the loco would run on DC and sure enough it did, but top speed is considerably reduced in this format. On a straight DC connection, the A4 will do a circuit in 20 seconds - that equates to about 130 mph. When the DC goes through the Lenz, the circuit takes 27 seconds. I am assuming that the loss is to due to the DC waveform from the H&M and a voltage drop through the decoder.

I am in the process of wiring up a programming track ready for the arrival of a Lenz Set 100. Then the fun really begins.

April 20th 2006

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