As we had to travel to Nottingham today to return my son to uni, we took the opportunity of accepting a fairly long standing offer to see Peter Denny’s Buckingham branch which now resides with Tony Gee.
Most of you will, I suspect, be aware that Buckingham was about the first EM gauge layout ever constructed (apparently, there was one other at about the same time) and can thus be said to be pretty much the daddy of the finescale model railway.
The layout has origins that go back as far as 1947, so is approaching 70 years old. There are a number of elements that go back to this era still on the layout, including the tank loco shown above which was built from the very earliest of plastics; I hope I look as good as that when I hit 70!
Whilst there have been several generations of layout, the core has always been an imaginary line to Buckingham from the Great Central mainline to London. Buckingham is, of course, a much bigger town in this imaginary world and justifies a fairly significant service of commuter, local, parcels and goods trains. In the view below, we see a “businessman’s express” for London readying for departure from Buckingham and then below that the peace and quiet of the station once it has gone.
As befits an important station, there is a complicated station throat, controlled by quite complex signalling and a fine box over the line.
The other principal station was Grandborough Junction (the third station, Leighton Buzzard Linslade, was dismantled at the time of our visit). This was a busy junction and had a pair of branches going off it and crossing countryside.
I particularly remember an article on “filling corners of your railway” – where he showed a gas works at one point and then an engine sheed – well here is that engine shed! Mindful of my turntable sagas (see November posts), I was half disappointed that this one worked so well – although it did have a very fierce growl when it operated!
Peter Denny was also a prolific writer so the layout adorned the pages of most of the british magazines – and even apparently a Japanese one! Certainly, it was a layout that I regularly read about in my father’s collection of back issues so it was a happy chance to see something that had a formative impact on the early days of my hobby. I still have a big book entitled Miniature and Model Railways – signed Happy Christmas Mark – from Gordon 1977! – that has a section on Buckingham which I perused before leaving to remind myself of the layout!
A lot of his articles were on building things for the layout – remember, this was built in the late 1940s, 50s and 60s and the alternative (when available which was rare) were tinplate. Here are some examples of the quality of Peter’s modelling.
The story as to why Peter Denny selected the Great Central Railway as his prototype is worthy of retelling too – as they made me chuckle. Apparently, he originally wished to model the Great Western and took his first completed model – a siphon (which is still on the layout) – to the Model Railway Club proudly one evening. There it was met with both admiration but also the sucking of teeth as various prototype details were pointed out as being incorrect. Now, woe betide me to say anything critical of Great Western followers but on the back of this, Peter decided he needed to find a prototype that less people knew about so that he would not get pulled up on technical details again! He rather liked the brown and cream coaches, so he did a search and found that the Great Central had them too – so a swap of allegiances was promptly implemented!
Resources were clearly a lot more challenged when Peter was modelling, most of the models make plentiful use of timber and card – it puts some of my efforts with much more sophisticated techniques!! Peter even used CSBs (see wagon below – well, nearly CSBs any; what do you think of that Will/Russ?).
But above all else, Buckingham is a layout for operating and is both very complex and quite simple at the same time. There is a substantial amount of electrical logic such that lines only become electrically active when they are correctly signalled. Even attempting to run a train in the opposite direction to that which is signalled is prohibited. All this uses hand built switches, many of which are mechanically linked to the single or turnout. As you would imagine, this creates a somewhat complex warren both above and below board!
Even now, Tony is not fully aware of what the layout can do and there are plenty of teasers that need to be overcome to get it to operate properly – “aghh yes, this lever needs to be pulled over really hard to make the contact” but the next time “don’t pull that one over fully, or it doesn’t quite work“. It essentially needed to be caressed and humoured to operate – but operate it did even for ham fisted Tatlow!
We spent a happy couple of hours playing with the trains; dealing with arrivals, sorting out loco’s for the return work and shunting the platforms and yard. I thoroughly enjoyed myself – so thank you Tony and I’ll definitely come again!
I have now added a trackplan in an addition post here.
A year ago, I posted a few photographs of one of my friend’s layouts, Aultbea.
Peter has been making progress with the layout and now has the bulk of the trackwork laid, so it is worth having another look at it:
As you can see, it is a bit of a beast because this is only the passenger station complex, the MPD and sidings for the military are not even on show here!
The full extent of the layout can be seen in the previous posting and you will see he that even the bay is conceived for a seven coach train. Looks like Peter will need to be building/converting and otherwise acquiring a fair amount of stock!
in the views you will see that a some of the buildings have been finished – the signal cabin and the water tower. I think station buildings are next and before too long, he will mention signals I suspect!
Now that the much of the bulk of the above running plate work has been completed, the running plate valences can be fitted. As these are nearly always long and thin, they are prone to distortion in the kits I have built – so it is time for another jig!! This one holds the valences at numerous places to stop it flexing and to hold it straight.
With this, it is a doddle to fit the valences in their correct place and solder them without distortion. I did find that the running plate flexed significantly at the end of the tanks; so the final version is going to include a pair of temporary stiffeners that fold down and stop this. This would be the moment when they are removed to allow the valancing to take their place.
And onto the boiler. In a departure from normal practise, I am not including a flat etch to be rolled into a boiler – it is relatively difficult to get even a pre-rolled boiler into a neat tube without a visible seam and if you do not have a rolling machine it is effectively impossible to do so. In addition, where boilers have been half etched to create boiler bands I find that the half etched elements that remain are overly delicate. This was something that caught me out a while back when I drilled such and area to take handrail knobs and badly distorted the metal – this kit is still sitting in its box now and I am probably going to have to replace the boiler.
With these problems in mind, I simply used a piece of brass tube from Eileens; easier and much more durable and if I were sratch-building I would not even think of taking a different route. This did still leave the need for some rolled parts, to make the smokebox and I have sought to use another little trick here to make these easier to fit – some tags and eyes. The tags are strips of half etching that pass through the eyes and then tugged back. This can’t impart a curve into the metal but does allow the parts to be pulled tight and makes it easier to solder into place without much of lip. Mind you, they were a tad short and will be lengthened slightly in the production run.
A second additional laminate is then needed to form the outside of the smokebox and down onto the saddle.
I did find another little error when it came to the front of the smokebox. Whilst the diameter for the front that I had drawn had allowed for the thickness of the two laminates, when you fit these there is also a layer of solder between them and whilst this ought not be that thick, it was just enough to make the fronts too small. In the production run, I will deliberately make this a tad too big as it is easy enough to file it back but much more difficult to add the missing metal (I didn’t, I just made a fresh one from sheet metal). The smokebox door is not mine, the door from the Lochgorm Models Loch is the right size judging by the photographs (note the drawing in the old man’s book has it being smaller but this does not match the photos, so I ignored it in this respect – sorry Dad!).
The downside of using tube as a boiler is that boiler bands need to be considered. I have provided these in the kit (again using the strap and eye technique). I chose to fit them on this kit although in practise I think any metal boiler band is too thick and would probably have done it with a transfer sheet if this was not a test build (done prior to painting, the thickness of the transfer is enough to show through the paint on what will be a single colour to the boiler).
Only the top of the boiler is visible after the first ring and a bit, so can be cut away to leave lots of room for the motor, weighting and DCC chip. I may try and fit this with sound, so who can give a view on what it might have sounded like – a jinty is my favoured guess?
With the basic chassis made, it is essential to fit the nuts to secure the body to the chassis as both of these will be concealed with later work. So a quick test fit looks like this and we can get onto the next bit, the coupling rods.
As is not uncommon, these are made from a pair of layers of brass laminated together. You can see that the outer layer is half etched for much of its length, with the full depth only being present at the bosses. I have also sought to make it easier to build these by including them in a folding jig – the folding is underway in the bottom portion of the view. The logic of the jig, indeed the whole kit, is to make a really smoothly running chassis much easier to make. Modern CAD and computer operated phototool creation techniques by the etchers means that it is possible to easily draw and then etch such that each dimension is faithfully repeated on the product. Thus, it is possible to be confident that the wheelbase will be repeated exactly on each side of the frames and also on the coupling rods. However, this accuracy is completely lost if the user has to laminate the two parts together by hand; it is not possible to get them superimposed on each other exactly or repetitively so the spacings of the crankpin holes will change. The jig overcomes this as the fold line is so long that there can not be any twist as it folds, so the two parts will meet consistently and accurately.
It is true that there remain two areas of variability. The first is that the degree of etching will not be exact on every occasion so the holes will be slightly bigger or smaller on each occasion. This can be easily overcome by making all critical holes a tiny bit too small and then opening the holes up with a ream (not a file, reams will open up a hole consistently). The second problem is that a fold is not always consistent on a fold line so the jig can protect against twisting but might not necessarily put the two laminates directly on top of each other. However, the important point is is that they will be correct horizontally, any error can only crop up vertically. Thus, when the crankpin whole is opened up, it is possible that it will move vertically slightly but this will not change the dimension between the holes so the critical dimensions should be retained perfectly.
The above is all true in theory but in practise there was an almighty cock up in my artwork; so I was deprived of finding out. A total case of designer error and when this is yourself, there is no one else to blame……………….
………..I made one of the coupling rods no less than 8mm too long – doh! I have no idea how, but it needed chopping; so it was back to the old fashioned way of making coupling rods despite my high ideals! Fortunately, as they were laminated, it is possible to stagger the cut to make the splice – essentially the same technique as Alan Gibson’s variable length coupling rods. Anyway, after the cutting and splicing, I did get a sweetly running chassis and this is what it looks like. The unusually large wheels for a shunting loco are already making their presence felt!
The chassis is created around CSB’s; continuous springy beams. A spring wire is anchored to the chassis at four points per side (for an 0-6-0) and at the centre of each hornblock. Thus each hornblock is supported on either side and can “bounce” on the spring. However, the clever thing about CSBs is that when a hornblock is depressed, not only does the spring wire flex a bit as suspension, but it also rocks on the anchors so the adjacent wheels push downwards a bit to equalise out some of the deflection. It produces a really smooth chassis and, if it is conceived at the design stage, I think is actually rather easier to both design and build than traditional compensation. This is a close up of a pair of hornblocks and a pair of the anchor points (the other is hiding behind the frame spacer on the right). Also worthy of note is the colour coding of the hornblocks; to enable them to be reinstated in the same hornguide each time. This is probably unnecessary with modern (and therefore consistent) hornblocks and the accuracy of the etching I have noted but old habits die hard!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
I have designed the cab roof and much of the cab interior to be a separate assembly, that can be secured by a series of screws. As can be seen below, there are two screws at the rear that locate into a tool box that sits on where the bunker projects into the rear of the cab. As the screws are somewhat lost in the bunker, I have come up with a little dodge where these are retained by an initial nut that traps them in place but still allows them to twist and thus engage in the cab roof assembly. The other screw comes through the top of the boiler, just inside the backhead.
The roof is connected to these fixing points with some inner liners to the cabs which can be seen here; the nuts for the rear piece are hidden in the toolbox and to the front within the false top to the boiler. You can just rebate in the rear spectacle plate that will take the glazing material.
The actual cab roof has a double skin, to aid its strength, include the lamp irons and also to assist with locating it on the cab. The outer skin includes the ribs that appear on the real roof, including a grove to allow brass wire to be used to form the seam to this. To the perimeter of this, there is a valance.
And this is what it looks like on. I find that I just can’t make roofs sufficiently well to sit perfectly on the body and nothing shouts “its a model” more than gaps where there shouldn’t be any – be this under buildings, roofs or between parts that have to be joined to structurally stand up! This is my solution, which I have used on other builds that I have done but it is so much easier when it is designed in.
The next stages of the test build were to do the footplate/tank sides/can exterior.
My initial design for the footplate is not particularly radical, but the test build has shown up that until the boiler is put in place (which comes some way into the build process) the front is somewhat delicate, irrespective of whether the footplate valences are fitted or not. Thus, in addition to the temporary stiffener that can be seen to the front of the footplate in the picture below, stiffeners will be provided to the front half of the footplates. The idea of these can be seen in the following view which shows the rear of the cab. By folding these over at 90o during the build, they give strength to the more delicate parts of components. Some will be incorporated into the finished article, others will simply be discarded when their job is done.
The two tanks, along with the sides to the cab/bunker, are conceived as a single piece (if you go back to my previous posting, you can see this in the flat in the etch). The two halves are separated by temporary spacers to both assist in locating them but also to give strength to the assembly prior to the fitting of the boiler which is where it will get its strength from. It was when I tackled this part, I reached the first disaster – the etchers had failed to half etch from behind so I was missing some fold lines. This was pretty frustrating as it entirely negated the intended efficiency of the design and even though I now have a corrected etch, I had to solder on by cutting the parts at the intended line of the half etch and soldering them together in the more traditional manner – exactly what my design was intended to avoid. As a result of this, there are no neat photos of the tanks being folded up and secured in place, we have to jump on a bit to see this.
The cab fronts that were constructed earlier were no slid into place and I was pleased to find that it all fitted very snugly and in exactly the correct location. I did find that I could put in a further pair of fold up tabs on the running plate that meant that it was essentially impossible to put this in the wrong location, so this is another little refinement that will make its way into the production batch.
The rear of the cab was a similar fold up unit to that to the front, which was pretty easy to build but did have one dimensional error at its base that needed cutting away – well that is the purpose of a test build! All of this, has been created from one piece in maybe three minutes!
And this is what it looks like with the cab rear in place. If you look carefully, a couple of 12 BA screws are just visible in the cut out to the rear of the cab – the purpose of these will become apparent in a future posting but it is another one of my little ideas to make this easier to build/better when built.
And this is what the cab bow looks like from above, after the addition of the splasher tops and backs. One of the issues this illustrates is that this kit, as it stands, will only work for EM or P4 modellers. There is insufficient room to get the narrower gauge/wider wheel treads into the splashers.
Next up will be the cab roof………….
I have made more progress with the hoppers, having completed the main paintwork of these and also the lettering.
Both the livery and the lettering offer further opportunities for variety, which I have taken. First up are a pair of wagons lettered with the full legend “North Eastern Railway”; a livery applied on some of them upto 1903. This was a fair pain to create, as the full words had to be spelt out from an alphabet; even now I am not totally happy with this and a few tweeks to some of the letters is possible.
The most common livery for the period that Benfieldside is set (just prior to the first war), was the livery applied between 1903 and 1911 and the legend NER was used.
The final livery was on a darker grey and NER was dropped and replaced with a mere NE. This vehicle had a load designation on its end too, which appeared to be an occasional feature.
Once I have had a chance to tidy up the lettering, I will paint the interior a dirty black and speckle it with coal dust. I will also make a coal load. Then these need the application of grunge as I can’t believe that coal wagons were kept particularly well!
I am presently cracking on with a batch of NER hoppers for Benfieldside. Having acquired the layout, Tim and Julian have very little stock to run on it, so as part of the repayment for the use of their facilities and expertese on my boards, I thought I would help to correct this shortfall.
The origins of all of this present batch of hoppers all go back to the Slaters’ injection moulded kit, which is of diagram P7 wagon. There were around 17,500 of these wagons at the time of the grouping and the LNER carried on building them for some years thereafter with only subtle differences; so not unsurprisingly there were quite a lot of variants. Thus, I have been doing a lot of modifying!
In each case, I replaced the very clunky W irons with Bill Bedford replacements; even though these were to be to EM, I felt that they would improve their performance. The first examples were essentially built as the kit was intended with fairly traditional brake gear (which was to one side only). However, having built my first one, I decided to refine the brake gear by drawing an etch for replacement steps, V hangers, morton brake mechanisms and brake levers. This (along with a comparison with the plastic equivalent – the painted wagon), is below:
However, a significant proportion were modified with end levers that operated a crank that was connected to the Morton gear. At the ends, there was a much more chunky ratchet arrangement to retain the lever in position. Again, I drew this up on the etch, and the arrangement looks like this:
The NER undertook a number of experiments with these vehicles to attempt to reduce rolling resistance and this was the subject of my next modification. On the right (below), shows the provision of a second outside set of W irons. This was to add stiffening to the axles. There is a set of Bill Bedford W irons to cater for this, but I chose instead to create a fresh set on the etch. On the left is a further variant, where an anti-friction bearing was added in addition to the outer W irons. This was a wheel that ran on the top of the axle and I presume the idea was that as it rotated less, there would be less friction. I suspect that the introduction of an open bearing surface that would instantly get contaminated with coal and grot would actually have the exact opposite impact – as these were removed by the grouping era, I may well be right!
The final variation of construction that I have modelled was a slot cut into the ends, which appeared on some vehicles. The NER used these on vehicles that were hauled up rope inclines – of which they had many. A plank of wood was inserted into the hole and wedged such that it was secured behind the end posts to ensure that the haulage point was close to the centre of the wagon. They found without this that there was a tendency to pull the end posts loose due to the uneven point of pressure.
Next up will be the painting and lettering of these; where I have three eras to chose from that would have all been apparent immediately pre- first war, which is when Benfieldside will be set. More on this in a future post.
If there is a desire from anybody for the etches, I would be able to offer them; so drop me a note?
We have not had an update on the signals for Benfieldside for a bit. The first four of these, including the three that were restorations (although in respect of the twin doll signal, very little was reused indeed) are complete. This is what they look like (with thanks to Phil Hall & the Scalefour Society for the pictures):
The gubbins for operating these is not shown in the views and I will write up a bit more on this at some point but an article I wrote for Rail Express on the signals I did for Elcot Road can be found here. A few of you may have played with these on the MERG stand at Scaleforum too, as I understnad it they kept people amused. There is more Benfieldside signal updates to follow, when I can get my camera out in the light to take some piccies.