Category Archives: Glenmutchkin

Let there be water (and coal too)……part 2

One of my pet hates on model railways are buildings that float a fraction above the ground because they have been plonked in situ, not bedded in.  For me, it completely destroys the illusion and I can get quite wound up about it when I see it (…..and it is pretty common, so this is fairly often!).

Occasionally, I actually do attach the building to the baseboard and “scenic in” the ground around them but more normally I construct a base into which the building sits.  This gets embedded permanently and then the building sits into a slot that is formed into it.  I have also seen the building being built in two parts, with the base being affixed to the ground and the building slotted onto them.  Peter Bond did this for me with the signal cabins for Portchullin.  This is the base for the larger water tank:

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The large water tank is more prominent as it is located closer to the baseboard edge and is to the rear of the main focus of the MPD area, the trackwork between the shed and the turntable.  It is also adjacent to the coaling bank and as a result I decided to make this now and as part of the base for the water tank.

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The smaller of the water tanks is designed to mask a baseboard joint in a rockface/embankment.  The base (below) will thus be split into two halves when it is fitted, each sitting on adjacent boards – a neat way of not having the San Andreas fault line running through a rock face!

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I have also started the painting of these, which had a fairly characteristic design with the border in a red/brown and a cream central panel.  It is important to recreate this and as it is fairly eye catching, errors will be instantly visible.

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The straight edges weren’t too difficult to achieve with masking tape; initially the horizontals and then the verticals a day later.  Peeling back the masking tape was a thrill to see if it worked!

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The scrolls at the corner was a concern throughout the construction of the water tanks but I did hit on an idea I think is rather nifty.  I sprayed the same red/brown on some transfer paper (thanks Chris!) and once it was dry, used a domestic hole punch to create disks of transfer.  I then cut them into segments that were a bit bigger than a quarter of the disk.  They were then applied as a transfer to each corner.

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Actually, it was pretty easy once I got going – I definitely spent longer thinking about it than I did doing it!  I am pretty pleased with the outcome, much neater than my hand could manage!

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The rather prominent hole in the coal bank will be the subject of a future post, as there is something a bit different planned for this!

 

Alnabreac Water Tower – the Prototype

The smaller of the two water towers I am building is a model of the tower that the Highland Railway built at Altnabreac.  Altnabreac is around 12 miles from the nearest paved road so even though it has not been used for approaching 60 years, it has proved too expensive to realise its scrap vale.

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What is possibly even more remarkable, you can see the paint – including the detailing at the corners – which probably dates from the LMS era; how much original pre-1948 paint is still out there?

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Being able to get up close to the tank, it can be seen that it is made out of sections; there are quarter segments for the corners and then straight panels for the sides.  They obviously came as a kit of parts and could be built to a size to suit the requirement.  Thus, I note that the Altnabreac is the same width wide as the Kyle tank was deep – so I can determine how many panels were used to make the Kyle version.  Whilst the lines are fient, they are there and I will replicate them with a hint of a score on the plasticard.

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A float inside the tank was used to transmit the water level to this gauge on the exterior.

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The tank as a whole is remarkably intact – the only elements I can positively identify is missing is the delivery bag which will have been of hessian and the wooden windows. However, I suspect there are two other elements that have now been removed.  There was probably an access ladder at one end to reach the interior of the tank but leaving it in situ would to be dangerous, hence its removal. Furthermore, there is no sign of any heating to the tank. Whilst the largish body of water will have taken a while to freeze, the region around Altnabreac is well-known for its cold temperatures so I suspect there is a boiler inside with a flue through the tank.  The outlet valve is controlled by a wheel at low level connected with a rod with a thread at its head. This connects to one end of a lever that has a threaded nut in order to transfer the movement into the interior of the tank where the valve is located.

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A drawing of the water tank can be found at this link: Altnabreac Water Tower  or if you are a member of the Highland Railway Society it will be in the next Journal and subsequently from their drawing service.

The other water tank I am building is a model of Kyle of Lochalsh’s water tank.  Eddie Bellis drew this and his drawing is in the November 1975 edition of the Railway Modeller.  There are couple of pictures of in LMS Engine Sheds: Volume 6 by the Oxford Publishing Co.  The only other Highland Railway water tower that has been drawn that I know of is Garves, which Henry Orbach drew – it is in a 1950s Model Railway Constructor or was reprinted in my fathers The Dingwall & Skye Railway.

Dingwall & Skye

Let there be water……..part 1

Part of the concept of the back-story for Glenmutchkin is that it is at the end of a long line so that locos need to be serviced and it was also at the foot of a steep gradient, so trains need to be banked out of the station.  All this is creates a lot of thirsty locomotives that would have needed servicing and attention – so it will have a busy motive power depot.

The Highland Railway’s water tanks tended to be of a similar style with a tank made of sectional components and rounded head, base and corners.  There is nothing available from any of the manufacturers so it was obvious these need to be scratchbuilt.

There remains one tank of this type still in situ, at Altnabreac which I will describe in the next post.  In addition to this, there are drawings from Eddie Bellis of the Kyle’s water tower and also of Garve by Henry Orbach.  I have elected to build a pair – one of Kyle and one of Altnabreac (the latter being the smaller).

018 HR Water tower Kyle of Lochalsh engine shed 11-05-63 (John Boyes)ARPT 001

Kyle’s water tank from the early post steam era.  Photograph with permission from Armstrong Railway Photographic Trust, JM Boyes collection.

Starting with the tanks, I laminated a series of strips of plasticard to the right height and then used a belt sander to put the chamfer on these before then making them up into a box.

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As with most of my stone buildings, I use Wills random stone plastic sheets; now available from Peco.  On far too many occasions I see this used with panels butted against each other; either on corners or even worse on the flat.  Unless the stones are toothed into each other, this screams as being incorrect even to a layman.  Therefore, it is best to form corners either from a sheet cut vertically and then chamfer the inside faces so that the coursing is retained for its full length even on the cut face.

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This means that courses line up from side to front without any silly jumps, as can be seen below.  This technique can not be used in all examples and sometimes it is necessary to actually tooth panels into each other by cutting corresponding dog teeth into adjacent panels.

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I find that the mortar courses on Wills sheets are a bit too deep and because lots of others use it its pattern is a little too obvious; so it looses its realism (or maybe I am just so sad that I can tell a material by its stone coursing!!).  I get over this by part filling the mortar courses with a plastic filler – which is basically dissolved plastic in a solvent carrier (lovely and smely!).  This tends to distort the sheets as it is only applied to one side so I first laminate the sheet to some thick (1.5 or 2mm plasticard).  Due to the volumes of solvent to be sloshed around in constructing buildings in this manner, it is important to allow for the solvent to escape – regretfully I have a number of coach roofs which many years later have mushy sections where the solvent has been trapped and has distorted the plastic in its efforts to cut through it and escape!  I thus drill regular holes or slots in the backing plasticard, which you can see here:

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Whilst the desire to mask the coursing pattern on the Wills sheet might seem a fair amount of bother given the need to reinforce the walls with an inner laimanate, I think the effect is worth the effort.  A blast of grey primer shows that the coursing and texture of the stone is retained but equaly it does not look like everyone else’s!

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The use of the laminations does give the advantage that slots for window frames and doors can be created.  These allow an etching to be slid in, either from below or behind.  They can be slid out again for painting and make this aspect a breeze to do.

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And this is where they have got to; the guts of both done but with a chunk of detailing and some basework still to be done.

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But lets sign this post off with a fine HC Casserley picture of a Superheated Goods using the MPD as a headshunt in the early 1950s.  This photograph is used with permission and is now part of Ernie Brack’s collection.  He has a substantial on line collection of photographs (including the JM Boyes collection) with a good proportion of them being of the Highland’s system – you can loose many an hour in his flickr site – this being a link to his Dingwall & Skye album.

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Couldn’t Have Done It Without………3

Here is something that I have not seen anyone else singing the praises of; the cast brass version of Exactoscale’s fishplates.

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As can easily be seen, these are both cosmetic renditions of a real fishplate from the bullhead track era and can also be used to create a functional joint between rails.  These are not that strong and can’t really be relied upon to firmly hold one piece of track to the other.  However, what they are strong enough to do is hold one piece of track relative to the other.

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Therefore, they come into their own when track is being laid.  Once one piece of rail is glued in place, it is necessary to ensure that the next is exactly in line with it and this is actually not nearly so easy to do as it might seem; especially when we a P4 modeller such as myself is interested in fractions of a millimetre and then makes life difficult for myself by covering the additional piece of track is them covered with weights.  These are just perfect for this, they provide enough locational direction to ensure one piece flows to the next.

There is of course nothing new about using fishplates to join model train track together; it has been de-rigueur for Hornby & Peco since the dawn of time.  What has happened is that the finescale fraternity have forgotten their roots a little and ignored the simplicity of some of the toy train solutions such as this.

 

 

 

Slips, Moans and the Third Way

A while back I outlined the struggle (that may have been largely in my head!) with wiring the single slip into the MPD.  After some frantic reappraisal of this as the layout was being set up at Scaleforum (thanks Chris!), it was fully operational.

Given this is a further blog post on this slip, you can tell there is a but………..  In this case it was that route setting the turnout such that it was electrically correct was not intuitive.  The difficulty lay in the straight through route – to set it electrically for the route through on the main required a different arrangement of the switches to that for the straight run from the loop to the MPD.  This was even though the physical route setting could be exactly the same, so it become quite confusing!  Not having a power district breaker meant that the layout locked down rather too frequently as a result.

Although I don’t see it myself, the guys think that one of my main operating crew has a bit of a reputation for being a moaner when things aren’t as easy as they could be……  With this in mind, it is clear that I have to do something about this to keep the peace.  In addition to the use of LED route identification lights on the control panel, I have found a third way of powering the crossings on the slip.  Its thisTAM2

This is a frog juicer (apologies for the Americanism!) and is simply a device that detects a short-circuit when a vehicle hits the crossing.   Instead of tripping out (as a power district breaker would), it swaps the polarity.  This happens faster than a circuit breaker can trip or the locomotive motor react so can be relied upon to switch the crossing without any visible effect on operation.

The net impact of this is that my slip only needs to be set for the route that is being used.  The crossings will not be changed by this route setting, instead as the first wheel touches each crossing it gets switched to the correct polarity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was the weekend that was….

Well the layout made it to and from Scaleforum – possibly I did too!

Last Friday, the inside of the hire van looked like this.  Whilst the cases worked a treat, the dismantling of the layout from being set up on my own took a long time – much longer than I had hoped or expected.

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Once at the venue, I was able to press gang some “volunteers” to erect the layout and this was much easier.

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Getting the beams levelled up was speedy even though none of my press team had any experience of my logic!  Indeed, with their help, it assembled itself quicker than Portchullin does although the jury is out in my mind as to whether this is simply because it as yet has rather less on it!

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The layout’s size quite quickly became apparent; especially its depth – as can be seen here with Chris in the background for a sense of sale!  Please don’t tell my wife this is actually quite big, I have been telling her it is pretty normally sized!

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I did not manage to get front side all that often so I have only fairly limited numbers of photographs.  Fortunately Samuel Bennett has come to my rescue and has provided a number of photographs to show what it looked like to the visitor.

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We only had three correct Highland locos chipped up (and one of these decided to sulk after a couple of hours!) so we did break out the blue diesels to make sure we had a fully operational layout.  Above there are a few of the locos awaiting chipping on shed and below we have the scene 50 years later!

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……..and below is simply confused!

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Although the layout did not operate perfectly, it did behave much better than I (and my operating team) had feared!  The two page list of faults and issues to resolve with the trackwork, wiring or stock is a fraction of the list that would have existed after Portchullin’s first outing (if I ever had one!).

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The signals received a lot of comment, even if there was one missing because I managed to damage it as I was packing the layout.  There’ll be another post on these soon.

Baseboards: Attention!

With the need to load the layout in the back of a van to get it to Scaleforum looming, I have been pressing ahead with the creation of travelling boxes for the boards.

Despite being pretty simple, they do take a long time to make but those for the main visible boards are at least all now complete – and here they are on parade!

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It Lives Igor; the Monster, It Lives……

Well, it is twitching quite a lot anyway……………..

A significant day in the life of Glenmutchkin over this weekend, as I have got a significant proportion of the trackwork which has been laid operational.  Admittedly I have an electrical issue in the branch bay (something is wired backwards!), the fiddle yard has not yet been linked to the layout and the single slip still has not be corrected but it works…………..

This is my Loghgorm Bogie (Clyde Bogie series)  built by John James.  The body is not quite sitting right on it, which is why there is a bit of bouncing; which is a bit worse when it runs faster as below.

Lots to do, but we are getting there!   There will be a working layout for Scaleforum!

 

 

Calming an Exhibition Manager’s Nerves…………

So with nine weeks to go (a couple of which will be lost with a summer holiday) to Glenmutchkin’s first outing at Scaleforum, the state of progress is at the forefront my mind!  It is probably rather more at the forefront of the exhibition manager’s mind! 

So help to calm the Scaleforum’s exhibition manager’s nerves, here is a progress report and update photographs to prove that even if I have not been providing many posts, progress is being made on a number of fronts:

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Most of the track is laid and wired; much of it is also ballasted, although it still needs colouring.

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Most of the signals are finished but not yet linked up (which explains some of the droopy angles of the arms!).  There will be more posts on this topic soon.

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The principal bridge has been finished for a while, but it is looking a bit more “at home”.

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…..especially with a fine loco to set it off.

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Boxing Clever

One of the worst parts of Portchullin is the lack of thought I gave to transporting the layout about.  One of its attractions is the curve which makes it unusual but this makes the boards big, cumbersome and above all awkwardly shaped to transport.  It also made them difficult to create packing solutions for and the limited solutions that I adopted have never been good enough which has plagued the layout throughout its life.

It was a mistake I am anxious not to repeat with Glenmutchkin and now that it is beginning to accumulate some finished elements, it is definitely time to deal with this and create some cases to enclose the boards when they are either stored or transported.  My requirements for these were that they provide rugged protection to allow the layout to be transported without risk of being damaged.  I also wanted them to be easier to move, in particular on my own, and to pack away themselves without taking up significant amounts of space.

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There are (presently, there are plans……) six scenic boards and the crate for the first two – for the smallest boards – is now complete.  The concept I came up with is to use end pieces that secure the two boards on top of each other, face to face.  To this, I have added larger panels to close in the sides and prevent these exposed parts from damage.  To try and speed up assembly and also reduce the space that they need, each end is hinged to and end piece but conceived such that they fold onto each other so that they pack into the minimum possible space.

One of the other features I included was nicked from the St Merryn team was to introduce packing pieces to make sure that the ends stand clear of the rail ends.  A simple feature that I had not seen described before.

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To make the combined case and boards easier to transport I have introduced some trolley wheels – the operating crew are pretty excited with this and can hardly believe how much they are going to be spoilt!  The other little trick I am please to have employed is to introduce slight feet to enable fingers to get below the box to lift it.

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I have concluded that only the two smallest boards can be paired up in this manner as they are already quite heavy and will get more so as I add the remainder of the features to their topsides.  Thus the remaining board cases will be slightly different.

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