Category Archives: Workbench (other)

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.

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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).

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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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Putting a Backbone into a Shed

The advantage of a railway company using standard building designs is that you can get to use them more than once.  Thus Portchullin’s goods shed will be getting to have a new lease of life on Glenmutchkin.

I think my goods shed is the oldest model that I still have and over the years it is fair to say has suffered.  Some of this is simply the thirty six shows that it has done with Portchullin (hell………thirty six shows…….!) and almost as many years, as I was about 17 when I made it.  However the main issue was the manner in which I built it, with minimal bracing over the top of the entrances.  This has lead to it breaking its back and despite several attempts at repair, these have never been long lasting.  So it is time to do it properly to allow its reincarnation on Glenmutchkin.

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The key to the repair was to introduce a metal skeleton frame inside the model to strengthen it – particularly across the rail doors.  This is something I now tend to do at the outset with any largish building I build to contain warping.  The frame is invisible from the exterior – the view above shows the frame that I made with the first side attached.

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The frame was made with some 3mm square and oblong section brass, with gusset plates – there was a fair amount of metal so it got close to blacksmithing at one stage.

Once the frame was inserted, the model was given an overhaul to repair the other dinks and marks that it has acquired over the years.  There were a fair few, as can be seen.

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I also to the opportunity to install gutters and downpipes; something I had been meaning to do since I was 17………a bit of a shameful shortfall, given I am a chartered building surveyor!

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I am pleased with the results and the model is now much more robust so it should do at least another 36 shows!  Whether its owner can will be kept under review!

My goods shed is based on the Orbach drawings of the shed at Garve (the August 1952 edition of the Model Railway News).  The prototype was swept away in the 1970s and whilst there are a pair of the smaller sheds still remaining (notably at Brora), there are no longer any of the standard Highland Goods sheds left.  The last to go was in Golspie about two years ago and I did manage to both photograph and measure it before it went.  Here are some views of it before it was demolished:

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Controlling Bottom Works Sidings

Followers of this blog will probably be aware that I share some of my model railway escapades with the two authors of the blog OTCM.  Both of the authors are in the process of putting together entries into a competition to build cameo layouts being orchestrated by the publishers Titfield Thunderbolt.  Cameo layouts was the topic of a book written by Ian Rice and seeks to describe a small layouts seeking to use presentation techniques to capture a slice of the whole in a convincing manner.

To be fair to Oly, his entry is largely complete as long as he does not seek to tinker with it too much(!), the same could not be said for Chris’s entry – titled Bottom Works Siding – so he has some catching up to do!  To assist Chris I offered to make his signals and after a few weeks of work we have reached the point where they are complete.

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Chris’ model is based on the GCR’s route over the pennines at its Yorkshire end.  It will represent a set of transfer sidings from the Woodhead route electrification to a industrial line serving a coking plant – so I suspect we will get to see a fair amount of grot in the finished article!   Its signals are LNER or BR(E) practise which is mildly different to what I have built before in some regards but not others as there was a lot of standardisation between the LMS and LNER (and BR more or less adopted LMS practise).  So first up (above) is an LNER standard wooden post with replacement BR miniature upper quadrant arms.  The post is a piece of brass square section that I filed to a taper (hard work) with predominantly Masokit’s fittings (which I found to be notably better than MSE’s equivalent).

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This one is effectively a standard LMS/BR tubular post signal (apparently with brewer’s droop – sorry!) with a small bracket that has another miniature arm signal to it.  This is assembled with a combination of tubes and angle section from Eileen’s Emporium, along with some more Masokit’s arms.

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And finally a miniature ground signal – which despite being startling small was not actually all that difficult to build – it being based on a excellent little etched kit from Palatine Models.

As a result of a lost camera, there are not really any meaningful photographs of the signals being created but fear not, I still have a few to go for Glenmutchkin, so there will be some to come!  In the meantime, and to prove that they really do go, here are some videos.

In the fullness of time, I dare say we will get to see these in situ, so why not subscribe to Oly and Chris’ blog, to get an instant notification?

The Glenmutchkin Pharmacy – Part 2; Beware Roofers!

Progress with the Pharmacy building has continued and the roof is now nearing completion.   I preferred using sheet metal (in this case nickle silver) for roofs as I find it is the easiest was to then include gutters.  In this case, I designed the roof as a simple fold up etch and subsequently the gutters were formed by half round section from Eileen’s Emporium.

One of the pieces of artistic licence I went for relative to the real Kyle Pharmacy was to elongate the building slightly.  This was partly because the prototype was a bit square and squat but also because I fancied including a decorative ridge piece.  The Victorians and Edwardians did love a bit of decoration and this included the details to their buildings.  There were numerous contemporary catalogues of architectural bits and pieces from which to choose from and I liked the idea of something pretty – especially given that this model will be right at the front of the layout.  So I created a design of my own and etched it; along also with the characteristic sign that is so prominent in the photo in my last post.

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Those that looked carefully at the prototype photograph in the last post will have noted that the roof slates were diamond shaped.  These were, in fact, asbestos slates and were quite a common material for pre-fabricated and simple buildings such as the Kyle Pharmacy.  Clearly they needed to be modelled but I did no fancy my chances of cutting the odd couple of thousand slates consistently.  I toyed with getting some laser cut or cut on a silhouette machine but then had a brainwave – pinking shears.

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For reasons I don’t quite know, dressmakers use these to create zigzag cuts and even better, my wife had a set.  However, she spotted me taking a look at them which meant I had a very firm talking too and was immediately banned from using them!!  Researching them on the internet showed that they come in a variety of pitches but be warned not all of them have 90º serrations.  I did find a set with a 4mm pitch which was a bit less than the 5mm that I thought was scale for the Kyle Pharmacy but as this equates to a 12 inch slate, I thought it was plausible and not a bodge too far.  As you can see below, they produce a neat and consistent serration.

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I cut the slates from plain paper in strips which I then sprayed a mid-grey colour because I felt that asbestos tiles might be a bit lighter than normal welsh slates.  I deliberately allowed a tiny bit of inconsistency of colour to creep in, to provide a little texture to the roof.  However, painting them was not easy as the air of the airbrush sent them flying – so I had to create a cradle to mount them in for spraying.

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Once painted, I secured them with spraymount and carefully set them out, with the point of the diamond to the row above meeting the apex of the one below.

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It takes some time (around 2 hours for a fairly small roof!) but I think the effect is quite convincing.  I find the the best effect to make it look natural is to lay the slates as consistently as possible – you don’t achieve perfect consistency and these small imperfections end up making it that little bit more.  Deliberately introducing inconsistencies tends to look a little contrived; including in this case my slightly differing shades, however, this was expected and can be overcome.

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The blend the colours together, I washed the slates with artist’s acrylic always ensuring that the brush stroke was down the roof to mimic the flow of the weather.

I also formed the ridge and hip flashings with cigarette paper which I had first sprayed with grey primer and then secured with more spraymount.  This was laid over 0.6mm brass rod to give the central lead roll effect – this was secured in place with superglue.  I initially tried to make the lead flashings in sections so that the correct laps between one piece and the other was achieved but I never got close to a neat or believable finish.  Thus I ended up doing this in one piece per run.

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The front signboard will need some more work yet (partly because I have damaged it!), which will feature in a future post as I am going to have a bash at producing transfers.

 

The Glenmutchkin Pharmacy – Part 1 The Etchings

It is a fair time since I built my last building, so feeling that it was time that I rediscovered my mojo for architectural things I have made a crack at a building that will be a fairly key feature on Glenmutchkin – its pharmacy .

This is inspired, and largely a facsimile of, The Kyle Pharmacy that could be found on the approach to the ferry pier.  Or at least it could until the 1970s when it was swept away to make a larger car holding pool for the ferry.  In addition to being a characterful building, as you can see below, the real pharmacy at Kyle was a key part of the local community and I wanted to capture this feature in Glenmutchkin.

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The pharmacy building is going to be located on the most prominent position at the front of the layout, so it definitely deserved some time being spent on it.  Taking Peter Bond’s advice, it is going to be assembled in components which will make painting a great deal easier but rather than using plasticard throughout as he would have done, I have arranged to have the shop front and bay etched.  I did so as I concluded that getting the slenderness and crispness of these was going to be key to get the feel of the model convincing.  Peter is a professional architectural modeller and bending plasticard to his will is therefore his stock in trade – not quite so me!

So these are the basic etches back from PPD:

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Some of the bay assemblies and the bay largely completed:

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The real value of etching the components can be seen in the shopfront – I at least can’t get plasticard to look like this!

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Couldn’t Have Done It Without………….2

I have not managed to get any models to a stage which would make a worthwhile post for a couple of weeks; in a large part due to the disaster I had with the matting agent in my varnish.

This has meant that a number (oh yes, it wasn’t just the one I showed a picture of………) of models have had to get a coating of in nitromors.  But nitromors is not enough to to properly clean the model and a lot of attention with a glass fibre scratch pen is required.  So I have had an enjoyable weekend plucking glass fibres from my fingers!  The models are now at the stage where they have been stripped back and the base coats have been renewed.  It is pretty galling to find yourself back to were a month or two back!

It does, however, remind me of another of the tools that I find invaluable in my modelling – a ultrasonic bath.  Now they don’t sound like a critical tool to a railway modeller but let me correct you.  It is utterly startling how much grot and muck comes off even the most thoroughly cleaned model – you won’t believe me until you have experienced it!

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This is the version I have, which is larger than most and is big enough to get a full length coach in it.  It also has a heating element in it and the warm water helps the cleaning process.  So too does this stuff; Shiny Sinks.

 

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This is a very effective cleaner and does not leave a residual film (which washing up liquid does).

The really handy thing about this set of recommended tools is that they won’t get you in trouble with the domestic authorities.  That is because this combination is excellent for cleaning jewellery so you can earn a few brownie points for giving these a spring clean!

I got mine from Maplins and it cost about £60.  Given that they are going through their liquidation sale at the moment, you may be able to do better than me but they are available (at a higher cost) via Fleabay or Amazon – such as this one https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/JPL-ULTRA-8060-Ultrasonic-Cleaner-3-Litre/131291011406?epid=21015637893&hash=item1e918dd94e:g:byYAAOSwgQ9VkUcO

 

 

Couldn’t have done it without……

As tonight is Oscar night and I am sure this phrase will make a few outings, I thought I could get in on the bandwagon……………….well, a more honest answer is that work has been rather too intense in the past few weeks for me to have done any modelling so I need an idea for a blog post!

So I thought I would share with you one of the most important tools in the Tatlow modelling armoury – a Proxxon TBM 220 bench drill.  The difference of this to my modelling is a much improved control over the drilling – its great when the hole appears where you want it!

Equally important is the really significant saving in drill bits (don’t laugh, it is true!).   There is a world of difference from a DIY store bench dril or even a Dremmel to these Proxxon drills.  Their accuracy is stunning and they are very well made so are smooth to use so you can control pressure with ease..  Add to this the chucks are such that they will hold down to a 0.3mm drill and these are so delicate that I really don’t think you cna use hand pin vices for these.  Thus, this gives you the ability to drill much smaller holes and without costing a fortune in fine drill bits.

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I have not presently got the compound table that I would need to enable this to be converted to a lightweight milling machine, but it is on the shopping list!

Mine was a nearly new model from ebay at just over £100 but they are regularly available from a number of supplies such as Axminster Tools or Proxxon themselves.  Well worth the buy, so go on…………

Benfieldside and her Signals

This weekend I braved the traffic heading to the Festival of Speed in order to complete the building of a replacement fiddle yard for Portchullin (of which more another day) with Tim & Julian.  Once complete, I stopped by to see how Benfieldside has been getting on and in particular what my signals looked like in thier proper home.

First up the gallows signal (which has dropped a bit low on its swing).

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And then the twin and three doll brackets.

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All the above signals were restorations (although not so much was retain on the two doll); the single posts below were made afresh.

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And having inspected the signals it was time for a play with the layout and take some pictures to share with you.  So here we go:

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The guys are still building up sufficent stock for it so it won’t be out on the road for a year yet but I understand that the layout should be at the South Hants MRC show in November 2017.  So hopefully I will see you there?

Scrap Tank Test Build – Part 4; Beginning the Chassis

Putting aside the body for a while, to take a look at the chassis because it is necessary to mount the two together and it is not possible to close up some of the element of the body until this is sorted out.

As with the body, I am trying to take a moderately fresh approach to the chassis to make this a little easier to build than certainly most of the kits I am used to.  In this regard, most of the kits for the Highland are quite traditional in their design and I readily admit that all but two of my ideas has been either all out pinched from other designers or at least significantly inspired by them.  All I am trying to do is use more of these neat ideas in a single kit to make the life of the builder easier.  I am, however, finding that it makes my life more difficult, as there are a lot more moving parts to most components, so more places for the tolerances to be catered for; so as John Price has already said, the list of little tweeks and amendments to make is growing!  At least, no one can say this particular kit designer has not built their own model.

Anyway, this is what the chassis looks like in the flat; note that it is a fold up design – this is inspired by the Mousa Models chassis, so a pinched idea!

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And this is what it looks like with the basic folds made up.  What it achieves is really neat, as it is instantly sufficiently stiff to work as a chassis; by the time a couple of further cross braces have been installed the basic chassis is more than robust enough for its life.

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My design uses the same slide in hornblocks as utilised by Comet and Brassmasters for their chassis.  After a tiny bit of practise, it is possible to size the hole for the hornguides such that these are just too small when etched.  This means that with a few strokes of a light cut file on each side, the hornblock becomes a tight sliding fit.  Once all of the hornblocks are in, it is then possible to measure the distance between each on both sides of the chassis and also on the corresponding coupling rod.  This is done with digital callipers and by the expediency of measuring the distance at its maximum with the callipers facing outwards and then repeating with them facing inwards the average being the actual distance between the centres.  I reckon to be able to measure down to 2 or 3 hundredths of a mm, which is rather better than I can build to!  Where there are inconsistences, this is dealt with by a few more strokes of the file on the side which needs to be adjusted to change the centre.  This needs to be done anyway to turn the tight sliding fit to a snug but smooth fit for the hornblocks to work properly soif the centre does not need to be changed, the file strokes are undertaken equally on both sides of the hornguides.

This does need to be done after the coupling rods have been formed, of which we will see in the next posting.  However, the chassis is also designed with a keeper plate to accommodate all of the cosmetic springing to the model and the ashpan sides.  This is secured with a series of 12BA screws to enable it to be removed to allow the wheels/axles to be dropped out.  A great boon as the model is built and painted.

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To make the assembly of this element easier (in fact in this case a lot easier!) I have created a jig that holds the two layers of the laminate in exactly the right position.  The jig is chunky enough to avoid distortion as it is folded up and it locates the parts perfectly.  In this particular case, the soldering needs to be done with care as there are folds to make after the jig is cut away and it is important not to fill this with solder before hand.

And this is what the keeper plate looks like – it is pretty delicate until it is mounted but fine thereafter.

 

 

 

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And the two components assembled look like this.  The beginnings  of the cylinders are also visible, this is a slide in module that can be removed for assembly and painting (although the scrap tanks were painted fairly simply, so this is not really relevant on this model).

 

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