Author Archives: highlandmiscellany

Princes Risborough North Box

As part of the Missenden Railway Modellers summer retreat, I was lucky enough to be invited to see the Princes Risborough North Box, which is now in the custody of the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association.

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The box had lain derelict for many years, since its closure in 1991.  Somewhat peculiarly, it was a break in by vandals during this period that potentially saved the box as it identified how seriously affected by water penetration and rot it was.  This lead to the preservation society being able to convince Network Rail to let them in to stabilise it and they feel that had this not have occurred, when the building’s distress subsequently became apparent to Network Rail they would have merely ripped it down.

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The box is substantial and is apparently the largest remaining GWR signal box in the country.  It originally controlled the north end of Princes Risborough station but its size was determined by the complicated junction at this end of the station with three branch lines splitting from the main-line to Bicester and beyond.  The branches it served were Aylesbury (still part of the national network), Oxford (closed in 1963) and Watlington (closed in 1957 but now reopened to Chinner as part of the preserved railway).  The Railway Clearing House map is below and just to prove the complexity the box diagram too!

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As would be imagined, there is a fairly extensive array of levers although in the various rationalisations that occurred through the GWR and BR eras have reduced the extent of these significantly.  The preservation association have, however, reinstated many of the missing levers even though they are not yet connected to anything.

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At present, the preservation society only have a temporary connection into the Princes Risborough bay platform but the intention will be to make this a permanent link onto their line, signalled via the box.  However, given that this will still only be one of the lines that the box formerly served, there will only be a limited amount of it in use.  Apparently the plan therefore will be to separate off the bulk of the box to create an interactive museum where visitors can play the part of a signalman.

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The treat for me (and many of the others on the visit) was to go into the frame room to take a look at the locking frame.  Although I had seen this in model form before, I had never seen a full sized locking frame – even though this is only a shadow of its former self as it only covers that proportion of the box that was in use at 1991, it is still very complicated as you can see.

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The Chiltern line is now really quite busy, far more so than when I used it to get to Solihull on business regularly.  In addition to the procession of class 168 DMUs, there were class 68s on the trains for Birmingham and Wrexham plus a pair of trips each day with class 66s on spoil trains from the Thames Tideway sewer project.

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And finally, this is what the box looked like in the days of steam.  This photograph was taken in 1960 by Christopher Bomken when he was still in his shorts – it even won him 2 shillings and sixpence in a school photographic competition.  Recognition at last Christopher it has made the interweb!

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Dia 51 Test Build – Part 2: Nearly There

I no longer affix roofs firmly to the body of my coaches as makes both the building and the painting much easier.  The downside of this is that there is the challenge of keeping the roof on tight without there being any visible joint between the two as this looks terrible.  The solution I now use is to clamp this to the floor with 10BA bolts by way of brackets as can be seen in the photograph below.

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As built, these coaches had full length step boards but they lost most of these through their life.  They were electric fitted from the outset.  The chassis below is close to finished except I have run out of vacuum cylinders so these will need to be added, along with the vacuum pipes.

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The bogies are also a key part of the proposed kit and are something that I have been working on with Justin Newitt of Rumney Models – the idea being to combine the sprung bogie design that he has prepared with cosmetic etches for the sides and then the castings from Lochgorm Models or perhaps our own in due course.  The bogie is quite sophisticated with both primary and secondary springing – the latter is on the bolster and is as below.

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The primary springing is on the axleboxes and has bearing carriers, much like the Bill Bedford sprung W-irons.  There are still some wrinkles to iron out so it is not there yet but they do make up into some pretty neat bogies; don’t you think?

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The only area of the first test build that truly did not work was the corridor connections and it is going to be a case of back to the drawing board for these but other than the final few bits to be completed, the build is finished and I think the vehicle is handsome.

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So, off to the paint shops soon, but there is a bit of a holiday to squeeze in first!

Dirty Models……..

Now, I wonder if that heading will gather a few extra viewings………..?

As I have mentioned before on this blog, every few months I catch up with a group of mates to have a joint modelling session.  The general gist of these is a combination of banter, a bit of modelling, more banter, a visit to the pub, even banter, a bit more modelling and all nicely rounded off with some more banter.

Last week  saw us on the south coast to do some weathering – or rather some of us.  One of our number was preparing for their imminent marriage whereas Oly (one half of OTCM) felt his budding TV stardoom was a sufficient excuse to hang up his airbrush.   We do fear that Oly may not return to the fold; preferring instead to do his modelling with Brad, Leonardo and Denzil once he makes his silver screen debut in the autumn – don’t forget your roots Oly……….

We were all concentrating on different things; Peter constructed the better part of a bridge for his Aultbea layout and Chris was weathering some rather neat little shunters. For my part, I concentrated on weathering some of the stock that I have been building lately (and sometimes not so lately!):

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First up is a pair of horseboxes.  On the right is my HR version based on a Microrail kit – still in need of some glazing.  On the left is the Caledonian’s equivalent based on a kit from by Spratt & Winkle.  Both are in their pre-group livery as can be seen.  As such stock was used in passenger trains, I have sought to give them an aged but largely cleaned feel – with the dirt largely present around ironwork and difficult to clean spots.

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Having mucked up the weathering of some brake vans at the previous weathering session, I was also keen to get these corrected.  This is where I have got with them.

As can be seen, I do not follow the school of thought that the pre-group or 1920’s era stock was constantly pristine.  If you bother to look at contemporary photographs, little is clean and some of it is downright grubby.  Railways in the steam era were very dirty places; it is inevitable where so much coal, ash and smoke prevail.  Furthermore, I can not see even the most houseproud of railway companies regularly (or probably ever) cleaning their goods stock and most of these show stock that is care worn and soiled.  This is the feel I am seeking to capture; not the utterly neglected and on its last legs look of the final days of steam but of railway materials that earn a living the hard way.

The pair of brake vans above are to HR diagram 39 from 1922 and are from a Lochgorm Models kit.  There is some doubt whether they were delivered in 1922, as there are no known pictures of any of them in HR livery.  However, I applying the “its my trainset rule” a number of modellers have painted them in Highland colours; including Paul Bannerman whose example is below.

The other highland brake van I weathered was the diagram 38 brake van.  This originates from a Microrail kit and may well still be available from David Geen occasionally at shows as he does own the rights to the artwork.  I have modified this with the early pattern roof look outs.  These allowed the guard to look over the train around the twisting curves that characterised parts of the Highland’s system.  However, there were complaints about whacked heads as the guards came up and down the steps to look onto the lookouts and as a result they were modified with approach cutouts on the roof – take a look at the Lochgorm’s page above to see an example.

Next up on the weathering front were some wagons and NPCS.  The first pictures being the weathering to a couple of the items I have described in the pages here – the Oxford Rail NB jubilee wagon and the Mousa Models LNWR van.

And then some rather more ancient models of mine, a Highland Railway meat van from a Sutherland Castings kit and a GC van from another Mousa Models kit.

Finally, a group of wagons for Benfieldside.  The hoppers have been seen before and the brake van we will hear more of another day.

 

 

In Praise of Cellulose Paint

A few months ago I was criticised for preferring to use cellulose paint when I spray; the concern being that cellulose thinners are aggressive and will damage the air-brush.

On the basis that I am of the view that “if it works for me” then I am going to carry on using it I am doing so.  I am helped by knowing that I am not alone in my preference as Ian Rathbone also recommends it and also because I have not yet had any issues with my airbrush.

The reason I prefer cellulose is that it gives an amazingly smooth paint finish every time, it drys very quick and gives a very durable finish.  Judge the former at least for yourself.

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More on the model in a future post……..

Richard Chown; 1941 – 2017

It is with great sadness that I advise that Richard Chown passed away last week.

Richard was a prolific modeller, typically of the somewhat unusual prototype and always in 7mm/1ft scale.  Not for him a debate between BR blood & custard or blue grey, instead he modelled unusual and quirky prototypes from Norway, Ireland or France – that always made his models interesting!

Although he did produce some smaller layouts, typically his layouts were somewhat on the large scale; tending from the substantial right up to a full size french viaduct where unless you were a basketball player you needed to stand on a box to reach rail height.  This layout was Allendenac, which was based on a French line a touch to the north of Clemont Ferrand.  The line was famous for the rather beautiful Rouzat Viaduct designed by Gustave Eiffel as a sort of trial run for the Eiffel Tower.

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A7=On the viaduct

All being made in 7mm/1ft made for a somewhat large layout and to give a sense of its scale, in the picture below, all but the person directly in front of the viaduct is standing on a box and in the view below that, you can see Richard at the rear someway up a ladder and still not to the full height of the layout (so you see Mrs T, I am not that bad really………..).

A12=At Telford

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With a layout of this size, access points to maintain (or build) the layout are important and here is Richard popping out of just such a hatch!

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Just because the layout was big does not detract from how good the modelling was, as these pictures show.

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Naturally, as he modelled the esoteric Richard had to scratch build everything for his layouts and he was a very talented modeller as you can see ……..

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This locomotive operated on one of Richard’s smaller layouts, Courcelle Part which was built for a Gauge O Guild layout competition.  It used some of the buildings from Allendenac and also its stock to create a more portable exhibition layout.  As I understand it, Courcelle Part had some cut outs to the rear within which to place the operator’s wine glasses – the wine was often local to the Courcelle and Allendenac region as Richard felt that it helped the operators get into the right sort of mindset to operate a sleepy french railway.  Now that is innovation in the field of model railways!

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Richard’s own website (which is operating now but will presumably be taken down in time) shows that he was already firmly into modelling as a teenager and contributed to several group layouts.

His first layout that I know anything about was when he modelled the Highland Railway and built a full sized model of Kyle of Lochalsh – weighing in at a mere 48ft.  Richard was, I suspect, inspired to follow the Highland by virtue of knowing Sir Eric Hutchinson and this interest brought him into contact with my father.  Although the layout was exhibited and fairly well developed as a model, Richard became conscious of some operating restrictions of the prototype (but only because he did not know that the engine shed was used as a headshunt!) and lost interest in it.  He disposed of it – apparently the under-bidder was none other than Roger Daltry!

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For me, however, Richard will best be associated with his layout Castle Rackrent; the name of which was inspired by a early 1970s property scandal.  The origins of the layout are very modest as a small (for 7mm) transportable exhibition layout but it proved a crush in his small bedsit of the time.  In an effort to find more room for the layout he found his employer accommodating (or perhaps unknowing) and erected it in a disused post office footbridge on Waverley station.

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Helped perhaps by handy access during lunch breaks and the better part of a mainline station to fit it, the layout reached (I think) 70m in length before BR decided that perhaps they would like their footbridge back…… Undeterred, Richard had a house built with a conveniently large (a.k.a. giant) basement to fit it and subsequently extended it to some eight stations such that it was an entire system.   The layout weaved around the room several times and even though the two stations below appeared next to each other, they were in fact nearly the length of the system apart.

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All this (or nearly all in the final incarnation) was single line and worked with bells as no station could see the adjacent station and the trains had to be driven to the signals and then handed over.  This made the operation of the layout somewhat unpredictable as I discovered at one stage when I had four of the six trains on the system within my station limits and a rather irate Slim Controller (you know who you are) sending urgent telegrams to discover the whereabouts of the hunt special…….

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There are rather more photographs of Castle Rackrent in my earlier blog posts – here and here.   The core of the layout – Castle Rackrent itself – was exhibited widely and on some occasions quite large parts of the system was transported to shows.  Here it can be seen at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra.

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Richard’s final layout (that was completed, there were others in gestation) was Fangfoss which was built to Scale7 standards but of a 3’6″ gauge prototype in Norway.  The layout was not an exact model of any location but was inspired by the Randsfjord line that was a little outside of Oslo and was a means of portaging past a series of rapids – in this case the Fangfoss.

Fangfoss showing the Foss rock and falls - RC

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As can perhaps been seen throughout Richard’s layouts he was keenly interested in bridges, often being the key part of his models; as in Fangfoss from which this detail is taken.

Bridge on Fanfoss

At the other extreme to the size of Kyle, Castle Rackrent or Allendenac, Richard also produced some cameo layouts, typically aimed at being transportable by train (he apparently took a large chunk of the Castle Rackrent system from Edinburgh to Bristol by train – back in the days when there were luggage compartments…..).  Here is a small one called Port Lairge Wharf which was perceived as an extension of the Castle Rackrent lines (although I don’t think it was ever connected).

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For finescale modellers in the Lothian Region, and occasional visitors from further afar like me, would gather on a monthly basis to operate Castle Rackrent and Richard was always welcoming and encouraging.  He will be sorely missed by all and it is fair to say that I don’t think we will see the like of he in the hobby again…………….after all, who would try to model the tallest viaduct in the world in 7mm (even if sense did prevail on this one as it did not get completed)…….

Garden Layout 1971 from RModeller

Rest in peace, Richard.

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Thanks to Jim Summers, Danny Cockling and Alan Aitken for the use of some of their photographs.

Dia 51 Full Brake – Test Build Part 1

Following the last delivery from the etchers, it was time to get on and do the first test builds.  First up was the dia 51 Full Brake.  This vehicle was one of the later coaches from the Highland Railway and was of similar design to the cove roof corridor coaches that have been available from Lochgorm Models for some time.  They were also amongst some of the last highland coaches to service as tool vans etc.  This is what one looked like late on in its career after its corridor connections had been removed.

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As with my efforts for the scrap tank, I am seeking to try and be a bit smarter with some of the kit design to draw together ideas of assembly of my own and also those of others.  So starting with the ends, these will be made with a double skin to both provide the footsteps and, less commonly, some tabs to allow the sides to be secured to them.

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I have always found that too many etched coaches have flimsey sides that become distorted as they are made (or when ham-fisted me does anyway).  Therefore,  I have designed this such that the head and base of the side have significantly sized stiffening pieces, as can be seen below.  These are designed to interlock with the tabs at the ends such that most of the locating of the parts is largely defined by the kits components.

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Once the basics of the shell are together, this is what it looks like.

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The roof proved to be one of the most challenging parts of the build.  I had originally designed this with an inner to form the shape of the roof and then a thinly etched outer layer to go over this to provide the rainstrips and other detail.  It proved too difficult to get the two to laminate well or even be rolled to a similar curve.

Instead, therefore, I ditched the outer layer and relied only on the inner.  This had been half etched on the underside to assist its rolling to the curved profile.  I found that it was still difficult to roll the roof due to the tightness of the curves at the extremity of the roof but by simply using bending bars it was quite easy to put the curves in with a limited amount of faceting.  Faceting is where short straight sections with bends to the next short section that gives the impression of a curve.  Once this was then filed on the outside to smooth out the facets, a smooth curve became pretty good.  Thereafter, it was necessary to form the rainstrips with wire and file them back to square sections and as you can see, the effect is pretty convincing.

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The underframe and bogies are to follow, in part 2.

The Ancient and Noble Order….

Back in one of my very first posts I explained the origins of the layout’s name; which has a lot more to it than might first appear (for any of you that have missed this post, follow the link back to discover the world of Glenmutchkin that Professor Aytoun created.

I had been aware that others had discovered the name and, like me, piggy backed a good story for our own purposes – there is even an entry in “Railscot” for the line.  What I had not realised was that this seems to have been going on for more than 100 years!

This changed when I had an email out of the blue from a charity seeking to discover a bit more about the story and had come across this blog.  Their email was prompted by a donation they had received of the medal below, which they were trying to find the story behind.

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We have been able to find out very little about the medal beyond the hallmarking (Birmingham Assay Office in 1898) and that it was made by Shipton & Co (who are – as you will see if you follow the link – still trading.   Our supposition is that, 50 years after the publication of the story, it was still known of and a group – perhaps a university society or similar – used the story to mark some sort of event or other action of one of their members by striking this medal.  Given that Professor Aytoun’s story is centred on skullduggery and tall tale telling it is intriging to wonder what it might have marked!

So if anyone does know more about it, do please let me know and I will update the blog if any more information comes to hand.

Fastrack Finescale – Mousa Models Cast Resin Wagon Kits

I have been building a couple of Mousa Model‘s kits lately; which has been a bit of a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Whilst the bad one will be written about in due course, this is the good one!  The remarkable thing about it is its ease and speed of construction – so much so, I timed its construction just to see how fast I could build and paint it.  The prototype is a LNWR dia 32 covered goods van, with a door to one side only but also with a roof door.  This is the tale of its construction:

0hrs 1 min – Straight out of the box, the body & underframe are separate cast resin parts, as is the fret with the axleboxes, springs and brake gear.  The underframe is an etch kit and the buffers are 3-D printed.

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0hrs 15mins – The operational underframe has been folded up and fillets of solder run down the joints.  Waisted top-hat bearings inserted in the bearing carriers along with the suspension springing wire.  The first two carriers have been cleaned up and are inserted in the W-irons ready to receive the first wheel.

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0hrs 25 mins – The remaining bearing carriers have now been fitted and the operational underframe has been stuck to the underside of the cosmetic underframe – wait 10 mins for the araldite to fully go off – so time for a cuppa!

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0hrs 45mins – the casting has been cleaned up to remove any casting burs/flash, which was apparent in small amounts around its base but actually the main casting was pretty good.  The first two axlebox/spring assemblies fitted – but only after I opened up the rebate to their rear to ensure that the top hat bearings had room to slide and cleared away rather more flash.  Being cast resin, the vehicles are pretty light so some weight has been added – 25g per axle is my rule of thumb.  One thing I have found with vans is that the weight can detach so I tend to mechanically fix the weight too now, in this case with a couple of 8BA screws.

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1hr 0mins – the second set of axle guards and springs now affixed, as is the body to the underframe.  I decided that the bolt heads on the solebars were a bit too proud, so took them down a little with some wet and dry paper.  A brake block has been attached – the kit provides a choice of timber brake blocks (for early periods) and cast iron – I went for the latter.  I also decided, however, to cut away the brake lever as I felt it was both a bit too delicate to survive and also it was not quite straight.  Instead, I provided a piece of 0.6mm brass rod to both help secure the brake block in place and to provide a mount for the replacement brake lever.

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1hr 15mins – the buffer shanks have now been fitted (a tiny amount of fettling was required to the open the holes out slightly) and coupling hooks have been added.  The kit does provide etched versions which I only failed to use as I thought I could save 5 minutes of the build by using Exactoscale hooks).  A new brake lever and lever guard are etched brass from 51L models and should be more durable than the resin one provided in the kit.

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Still 1 hr 15 mins – a piece of PCB has been provided for the eventual fitting of AJ couplings and I took advantage of this to provide a temporary bracket of metal to hold the model by during painting.  A good scrub in warm soapy water, followed by a rinse and a second clean with a cream cleaner (washing up liquid leaves a residue, so I always do the final clean prior to painting with a cream cleaner) occurred next.  So that is the model built in only an hour and a quarter, which is faster than anything I have built before – including converting r-t-r stock!

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1hr 45mins – after masking the inside of the bearings, the whole model was painted in a mid grey – Tamiya TS 4 (German Grey).  I thought this was about right for LNWR grey but as all greys of the time were lead based and thus darkened considerably over time, I tend to be quite cavalier about wagon greys!  I did have a bit of an accident such that it ran on the roof but this was salvagable with a little bit of wet and dry once it had dried off.  These paints finish to a semi gloss and thus are ideal for taking transfers, in this case HMRS Transfers sheet 16 in methfix because the vans were pretty archaic by the time that the grouping occurred, so I presumed that few would have been repainted in LMS livery.

2hr 15mins (but 10 mins of this was me correcting my messed up roof painting!) – ironwork below the solebar, the draw bar, buffer shanks and brake lever were all picked out in black.  All then sealed with Testors dullcoat a couple of times.

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So whats left?  – I do need to weather it, some AJ’s need to be fitted and the “holding tab” will need to be removed.   I am waiting to do a batch of weathering, so it will be a bit quicker; maybe 30 minutes for the vehicle.  So I reckon this will be a complete, painted and weathered very good quality van or wagon on the 3 hour mark – well worth doing and no need to moan about when the r-t-r manufacturer is going to produce it!

 

 

 

 

A Promise is a Promise

Dad coming good with a promise…

In 2004 an eager but very flu affected 7 year old got himself out of a sickbed to drive with us all the way to York to see and ride behind the Flying Scotsman.  Imagine his dissapointment to find that she had failed and was in for maintenance. The Black 5 on the Scarbrough Spa Express really did not work as a substitute – by 7, he had already seen a fair number of Hikers by then!

So I promised that we would get to see her again soon and definitely have a ride behind her…… well it’s just neither I or the National Railway Museum thought “soon” meant 12+ years (and the small matter of £4.5m)!!!  But Dad has done his duty as you can see…… even if the thrill to a 20 year old had waned a bit in comparison with the 7 year old’s which is definitely sad!

So enjoy a one of my pictures of her ladyship (or money-pit as some beleive!) and with thanks to Brian Dandridge for all of the rest of them as we were on the train and obviously could not photograph ourselves!!  Thanks Brian!

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I have always felt the A3s to be one of the most attractive locomotive classes (although I do not like the german style smoke deflectors); if I were OTCM Oly I would be busy hatching a new layout plan……………..well maybe I am (……not, don’t worry but I do fancy an A3………..!)

Two Steps Forward and One Back

Having taken a few days off to make a long Easter break and absent the family for a few days, I have set about the wiring of the layout as it has laid untouched for too long!

First things first was to mount the control panel and rather smart it looks too……….

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Control panel mounted in situ; a gap for the controller to the left and the aluminium strip to the right masks the power district switches.

Then onto the wiring itself, which takes a surprisingly long time…………….this is only about 50% finished!

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The two key boards to the station throat

One of my slightly better ideas (you’re about to find out about a less good ones!) has been to make up mounting pieces for the DCC Concepts Cobalt point motors.  These are inspired by those designed for the Tortoise units and work on the same principal; they have a uniform mounting arrangement so once set up the actual point motor can be swapped over if need be without disturbing the set up.  This is what they look like:

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Cobalt Point Motor Mount

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Nothing too revolutional, but I hope it will make changing these at exhibitions a lot easier as this is the absolute devil on Portchullin.

And the less clever idea?   Remember the multigang sockets I had used on the control panels (link here) well they are not rated at a sufficient capacity to operate the point motors.  I think this is because Cobalts operate on a stall basis (the motor doesn’t turn off, it just stalls when it reaches the resistance of the physical stop).  My guess is that this results in quite high ampage draw and has led to the following:

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The multi-gang sockets with burnt out sections to the left.

Ooops!  Back to the drawing board (or rather traditional tag strip) for the linkage of the control panel to the board.

There have been other problems too; the carefully recorded wiring lists proved to be wrong on occassions so I have had to prove each cable run (dooh!) and I found one of the power district switches was defective (but only after a couple of hours of trying to trace the fault!)

So things are getting there, but we are still not at the stage of the first wheel moving!

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