Archive for the ‘09’ Category

A while ago, Stephen over on the Fairlight Works Blog mentioned that he had a scale strategy: he builds layouts in different scales to suit the story he wants to tell. This spilled over into a discussion on the Narrow Gauge Railway Modelling forum.

If only I was that well organised, or that accurate. I have trouble making one model to a specific scale.

My original plan was to work in roughly 0-16,5 (1:43,5 scale on HO gauge track).  It wasn’t my first choice: I’d often thought 5-6mm scale on 16,5mm gauge (about 1:55 scale) would be better for my modern image aspirations but it was only after starting to make models and having conversations with Stephen that I realised there were other people using it. The smaller 1:55 models look more acceptable on HO chassis and are about 1/3 shorter than in 1:43,5 which is an issue when a 7mm scale van can be upwards of 250mm long, so the KÖB went down a bit in size.

About the same time Colin Peake’s ‘Shifting Sands‘ convinced me that 09 can look realistic, and in such a small space, and as it was 7mm scale I could move figures from one model to the other… Not that I’m that good, but I can delude myself for a suprisingly long time. The next thing I knew, I was buiilding ‘Westerooge‘.

So my ‘Scale Strategy’ is now completely blown out of the water, my first model was in a gauge combination I never planned to use, and my next one will be in a scale I’d never heard of. And I keep having to fend of pipe-dreams of 1:32 scale “I could use spare 16,5mm gauge chassis…” and the occasional thoughts of a ‘system’ layout in TT9…

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On Being Eccentric

It has been said (Although I’m not sure where) that Geography is a subject for people fascinated with anything. I think that may be true: In the 10 years since I finished studying, I seem to have collected a mass of random images, much to the bemusement of onlookers who say things like: “Er… why is an ISO container/factory door/Rusty heap of machienery worth photographing?”
“I may want to make a model of it one day” seems to kill conversations.

Whilst we were in the UK last month, we had a family holiday in Nefyn, North Wales. It’s the sort of place the postcard industry dreams of: wide beach, rugged scenery and characterful buildings snuggled into the hillside out of the wind, but as usual, I’ve come back home with the camera memory card full of pictures of rusty old bits and pieces, which may turn up as models some day, but in any case, I’m going to inflict some on you now.

Grotty Hut

One the postcard makers spurned, I expect, but just the sort of thing I had in mind to cover the point lever on Westerooge. Oddly enough my companions -apart from my dad, who shares my affliction- didn’t share my enthusiasm for the subject and passed by without a second glance. We made up for it however, and there are now several pictures of this humble construction on our files.

Boat Dump

Nefyn seems to be a cross between a harbour and boat dump with many vessels in differing states of repair littering the area behind the harbour wall. Assuming that the road on Westerooge goes down to the sea, and that the water is just off the front of the model, there could feasibly be several small boats and other bits and bobs dragged up out of the reach of the waves. Most of the boats were upside down like those in the background, presumably to keep the rain out, which would make them easier to model. And yes, that is a bread bag in front, and no, I didn’t notice it until someone asked why I had taken a picture of it. I won’t be making a 1:43 version though.

Drying nets

Drying nets and boxes abounded. I’m wondering if a smaller version could be squeezed in somewhere on Westerooge, but then, I’m not sure how the Halig islanders would fish. More research needed methinks.

Rusty Stuff

This sort of stuff was everywhere: between boats, hanging off equally rusty anchors, or just dumped like it is here. The chain is okay, but I’ll have to think about the markers- jewelry beads perhaps?

Of course, after arriving back in Germany armed with several hundred pictures and a hundred and one ideas, I picked up a copy of the 5,5mm association rules and remembered that if I want to enter ‘Dachsburg: Körschtalbahn’ in their competioion, it’s got to be ready in a very short time…

Time to take some pictures of tram wires…

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Nearly there…

Less than a week to go, but Westerooge is almost complete. The scenery is down and the track works- most of the time. It isn’t as smooth as I’d like but better than I thought I’d manage, so that’s not too bad. Even the bit that went wrong is working this time around.

The remaining jobs are to repaint the overly vivid sky, (maybe with a representation of some houses in the distance, and the road continuing, but only if I’m feeling brave), add some bushes and a small ‘shed’ to hide the points switch, paint the black band on the lighthouse and maybe add a crossing sign. On the other hand, I do have a heck of a lot to do before we get on that train on Monday, so I’m not sure I’ll even have five minutes to stick things together, and of course I now have a distraction: I want to just play trains…

(For bigger views, click on the picture, for comparison with the planning stage, click here, here, and here)

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DG couplings

DG couplings

Mechanical and Electrical things don’t usually work for me. When I was in school I could follow my technology teachers instructions (when he gave them) to the letter, and work alongside other students doing exactly the same thing, only to find that whereas everyone else had a working transistor radio, I had a water level detection circuit. And that was on a good day. When an article says that a job is “quick and easy” I know it probably won’t be: somehow I’ll manage to warp the laws of physics and bodge it up.

When I came to couplings, I installed them in hope rather than expectation of the things working. I was slightly encouraged that other people had found them reasonably simple to install using the method described by Steve Bennett, which thankfully removed the need to solder anything, but on the other hand, I’d just had to make a complete rebuild of the sector plate to make it fit on the layout, and I was using a permanent magnet instead of the recommended electromagnets, because I had 10mm space and the electro magnet is about 60mm plus wires.

So you can imagine my surprise when running the train over the magnet, the little loop on the coupling sprung up and down, allowing me to leave my desired wagon in a siding and pull away. (said wagon promptly rolled backwards, but that’s another story). We had a couple of problems on that awkward bit of lumpy track, and one or two of the loops are still a bit sticky, but overall they have been remarkably successful, especially after some weight (old roofing lead) was stuck into the under frames of the wagons.

The magnet slides back and forth on a strip of plastic card, which is marked to show when it is under each track. On the picture above you can see it sticking out of the side of the sector plate. I carefully adapted the sector plate to allow for this, installed the magnet on the side I’d be operating the model on, and the realised that this is where the jack plugs that provide the power plug into the box. This is not the best bit of design I came up with -it makes uncoupling a very fiddly operation- but on the other hand it does the job it is supposed to, which makes this the first model railway I’ve owned with hands-off coupling, so on balance I’m happy.

Besides if everything worked, I’d be thinking I’d bent the laws of physics again…

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It Works...

After some fairly intense bodging, filing, soldering, and at least one length of mangled track, the first train on ‘Westerooge’ wobbled and lurched its way onto the sector plate this weekend. This in itself was good, but that it managed this without spilling itself onto the desk in an unpleasant mess was a real surprise.

In the event, the biggest problem wasn’t the sector plate but the join with the scenic section I made last week: the rear track goes up dramatically as it approaches the edge. As I’d already managed to melt rails off their sleepers in a previous soldering attempt I went for the bodger option and filed down the top of the rail a bit so it doesn’t make the train wobble quite so dramatically, and decided to ignore the rest.

Extensive ‘testing’ (playing) by daddy and eldest son have got most of the bugs out of the system, although the mess van has a habit of clouting the side of the box file when I pull it out of the middle siding. Never mind: I can finally get on with the fun part: scenery.

And I’ve got two weeks to do it…

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Head of Steel

Head of Steel 01

If I seem a bit excited today, its because a couple of nights ago night I laid the track in the scenic section of ‘Westerooge’ This is not only the first working model railway I’ve owned in the last 16 years, but also my first successful attempt at soldering in at least that time. I’ve decided I like variable temperature soldering irons.

I also moved into uncharted territory by using electrofrog points which have the advantage that they are live everywhere so your locomotives don’t stall and embarrass you, but the disadvantage that if you don’t wire them up the right way then they short-circuit the whole model and and embarrass you. After drilling a hole through the switch to take the brass rod, I wired it up to the track and turned the power on in the confident expectation of seeing the layout disappear behind a cloud of blue smoke. Remarkably, not only did that not happen, but the blue diesel moved, and in the right direction as well…

Point control and baseboard join

Point control and baseboard join. Not pretty, but it works...

So, having conquered this mountain, we can now start adding the ground cover and adding the bits and pieces that will hopefully make this look less like a box file and more like a model railway, and move onto the brave new world of the sector plate fiddle yard.

32 days to go.

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While I wait for the electrical gubbins to arrive I’ve been working on the lighthouse that will hopefully set the scene and hide the fiddleyard a bit. Actually the model is not of a traditional lighthouse as much as an ‘Unterfeuer’ which I think translates as a ‘Navigation light’. An Unterfeuer tends to be smaller than a lighthouse, and works with an ‘Oberfeuer’, which is much taller and usually further inland, so that ships can line up the towers or lights to guide themselves through river or sea channels. The model is based on an Unterfeuer at Baumrönne, one of several which work in conjunction with the Altenbruch Oberfeuer, and is not too far from where Westerooge is supposed to be. As an added advantage the height of the Baumronne Unterfeuer in 1:43 scale is almost exactly the length of a standard tube from a roll of kitchen towels.

I’m debating if I should have the windows clear or of they should have a card backing, as the picture of the original seems to show the windows being largely shuttered. I know I could make a detailed interior, but ‘Westerooge’ is supposed to be a short-term project and I’d like to finish it before we go to visit my family in mid-May. This isn’t as ambitious as it sounds: I’ve ordered the remaining electrical parts so they will arrive any day now, and I already have all the track and scenic bits for finishing off what will be a fairly flat model, so I think things will speed up now, as long as I don’t keep procrastinating.I’m already planning the summer project: I’ll tell you about it in the next blog entry.

[Update: Just as I was about to publish this entry, DHL delivered a box of electrical goodies]

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Sinsheim 2008

To one used to British model railway exhibitions, the ‘Faszination Modelbau’ in Sinsheim is immense. It covers just about everything: model railways, trucks, diggers, planes, boats, racing cars, and tanks. Eldest Son and I were going to meet Alexander Rainer and see his ‘Rittigsmühle’ model, but it took 20 minutes for us to even find the model railway section, and even then finding a shoebox-sized layout in the huge hall proved difficult. Eventually we stumbled across it by accident while craning to see around the back of a well made N scale model:

Rittigsmühle: The new circular section with incline.
Track going off bottom right leads to the mill itself.
The Mill yard with Alexander’s diesel shunting.
Wood delivery waits to be unloaded.

I’ll admit I went a bit overboard with pictures- but It’s been so long since I went to an exhibition, Alexander’s scenery was really nice, and besides, I’d been invited to take my little diesel and mess van to do a guest turn, and despite them being far too big for the tunnels, I wanted to take pictures of them on a real railway as well. I’ve tried to keep down the pictures here, instead putting most of them in a new album on my fotopic gallery

My loco in the yard at Rittigsmühl,
pretending it is small enough to go through the archway.
The one place the diesel could run: on top of the incline.
Diesel in the trees.
The mess wagon spent the day exiled on here with the workman vainly trying to push it.

Of the other layouts, the majority seemed either to be in the ‘Overgrown train set’ style, with lots of automation but rabbit warren tunnels and carpet-like grass, or very, very big (although very beautiful) modular layouts based on German and American prototypes. Fortunately, around ‘Rittigsmühle’ there were a couple of other small models which not only looked as if they would fit into a normal house, but were also very well built and presented.

‘Blockstelle Eselsbrücke’

One of these was ‘Blockstelle Eselsbrücke’ in ‘N’ gauge, which looked like you could hang it up in the living room. Maybe that’s what the owners do when at home. It was backed by a massive sandstone cliff, with a double track main line running along the bottom, along which trains ran every few seconds.

Freight bursts out of the tunnel.

View of the slipway to the river. Another freight passes.

The cliff fronted by a double-track electrified main line is probably based on a famous section along the Rhine between Frankfurt and Köln, and like that line, trains ran past every few seconds. It was also carefully detailed without being overdone, with some German details like the cliff top viewpoint and the cross on an overhanging rock. The model had sound, but this was confined to a CD of birdsong playing on a continuous loop. Very nice. On second thoughts, I wouldn’t hang it on the wall, I’d put it where the TV usually stands.

Weimar railcar on the Döppenauer Kreisbahn,
complete with the drivers bike.

The other layout I found myself repeatedly looking at was the ‘Döppenauer Kreisbahn’, a narrow gauge local government railway in 1950’s West Germany. It took me a while to figure why it looks so open, but I think it was the way the track is angled to the front of the model, and the scene rises gradually towards the rear, rather like a stage in the older, grander theatres.

This model also had a lot of Cameo scenes, but what I really liked was the way the line and station was part of the landscape, and the separate scenes were linked by the railway. I guess I’m also biased because it had some nice big diesels as well…

Diesel-hauled train running into the station at Döppenau.
Freight yard at Döppenau

Of the larger layouts, my favourite was ‘Balen’, a visiting model from the Netherlands which included this Dutch street and fortress. The townscape had a boat running past through the canal.

Further along it had this realistic modern double junction, with a large construction site behind.

American outline models aren’t really my thing, but this little scene caught my eye, and appealed to my dark sense of humour

One of those days…

I think I’m failing in my education of eldest son though. As we came into the hall for the first time, he saw these and fell in love, and all the rest of the time he kept asking me to take him back for another look:

Oil rig supply ship and fire launch on the boating lake.

All the way home he was talking about radio controlled boats.

I think a new project is coming soon…

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I’m stuck. It’s inevitable when working in a different country where things aren’t always the same as you are used to: Sometimes there is an annoying delay while you hunt for bits. This time, the bits in question are electrical -an area I’m not too confident in. I’ve found a shop on the internet that sells what I’m after: plugs, and slider switches, which is a step forward in that I know what to ask for, (Thanks to Zabdiel for the Wiki tip) but lack of knowledge makes me a bit cautious about forking out €20 in one go, which is the minimum for an online purchase. I’m searching for a local electrical shop where I can have a good look at the components first.

Which is a bit frustrating, so let’s talk about something more interesting. I’ve got a train ticket to go to a model railway and toy exhibition with Eldest Son this weekend, where I’ll hopefully be able to meet Alexander Rainer, a German member of the Gnatterbox, who will be exhibiting an model railway in a shoe box. He wants me to take my mess car along for a visit. I just hope it fits on his model.

Meanwhile I’m still hoping to get this model done by May, after which we will go to visit my family in the UK. After we come back, I’ve got another idea for a project, which is just a few sketches and a vague idea at the moment. I’ll give more details as I know them. It is another attempt at the Körschtalbahn, although Sägewerk Pfeifle will have to wait still longer until my boys desist from climbing up the furniture.

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Ever since I started Westerooge I’ve had the same nagging thought at the back of my mind, namely that I hadn’t a clue how to make the offstage area, usually called the ‘fiddle yard’, which represents the rest of the Island. I knew I would have to attempt a sector plate, a sort of sliding table for trains to save space offstage, but sector plates always seemed to be a dark art: a mysterious knowledge knowledge passed down to the initiated, but never divulged to the masses. That’s why I’ve been putting off working on the fiddle yard in Westerooge for ages now, but the trouble with that is it became even more of a barrier in my mind, so yesterday I decided it was time to have a go.

The box ‘closed’ with the cutout fitting into the same attachment as the fiddle yard.

Remarkably, it seems to be working so far: the base fits into the side of the board and hasn’t warped, sagged, or fallen off.. I’d hoped to get the deck for the track completed before posting this, Next job is working on a deck for the track and hopefully getting the electrics sorted out, and I can finally play trains and start the creative scenery bit.

On the subject of electrics, if anyone out there knows the name of DPDT switches (Seen here on ‘Plankerton Wharf’) in German, and where to get them, Please let me know…

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