A signal imitating a Fresian cow was not the effect I was after…………..
Halfords etch primer is obviously not that etchy!…………….. So someone will be waiting a tad longer for their signal than I thought…………
Whilst the NER signal from my last post gets itself painted, I turned my attention to the next few signals – in this case these will be Midland lower quadrants.
A lot of the character of a signal is in its finial and if this isn’t right then the model won’t convince. In addition, they are also very vulnerable so need to be durable. Therefore, my conclusion is that white metal finials do not cut the mustard – they are too delicate and too clunky. Thus, in this case I decided to make my own – I came up with this which starts with with some interlocking etches:
And then a bit of brass tube as a collar at the base
The Midland’s style of signals do have a few idiosyncrasies; one of which is the way that blinders are fixed. Instead of being fixed to the spindle these are secured to the arms and wrap around the lamp. This can be more clearly seen in the photograph below.
The other key change was in the manner in that the arms are secured to the posts. Instead of being pined through the arm and secured at the rear, the Midland used a bracket to the front of the post with a plate that wrapped around to the front of the signal to support the arm to the front. This can be seen in this view of a rather nice gallows signal at Butterley.
The bracket can be seen in this view below and I then created a pin that fitted into the bracket and slotted over the spindle.
I have bought a new light box for taking photographs in. Whilst I am still getting to grips with it, when it works it does produce much improved pictures of models. These almost look like an images of a 3D model on a computer screen. The pliers at the bottom of these views do rather give the game away!
The Midland were a bit odd in their choice of colours for their signals. The posts were “primrose yellow” but this quickly dirtied to something akin to cotswold stone is what the book says, so this does give something a little different. This is my representation of this with a decent dose of smokey dirt – when you look at contemporary photographs many signals were not only dirty but entirely smothered in smoke. I haven’t gone that far yet, but its going to need to be done!
As can be seen, this still needs connecting to the servos and the touching in of the paint on the parts that I fit after the main assembly (the balance lever and the plate that wrapped around the signal arm).
When my friends acquired Benfieldside, it had suffered a bit of damage, notably to its signals – in essence it was this that got me volunteered for their restoration! One signal that puzzled us, however, was the up starter which was missing altogether and we could not unearth any photographs of it. Ultimately, we decided that it should be a two doll signal to also control the adjacent bay (which did have a signal, albeit inoperative) – so I have set to in order to fill this gap.
The line is set in Cumbria and is an imaginary westward extension of the Newcastle & Carlise line. In theory, therefore, it should not have the heavy cast iron brackets that the NER used. However, in reviewing the NERA’s signalling book, it became apparent that there were quite a lot of strays of signal designs, so I had an excuse to build one!
As this particular signal is going to be platform mounted, I did not need to sort out a mount for it and moved straight to the post and bracket, the latter being by MSE which I had in stock.
I then moved on to the prefabrication of a pair of dolls, each with slotted posts. This is made up of solid square section filed to a taper which is then cut and each end then has a tongue filed on it onto which flat plate is soldered either side to create the slots. I used a variety of temperature solders to ease this process but it was not easy – I did have one gum solid which resulted in a need to dismantle it and start again! As alluded to in the previous post, as these are slotted posts I had to depart from my usual practise of fitting the arms after painting as it is not otherwise possible to solder them to the spindle for the arm.
As mentioned in the last post, I came up with a bit of a dodge to successfully (well, in two of three cases!) to solder the arm to the spindle without gumming it up. By extending the ear that forms the point at which the operating rod attaches to the arm forward a bit (see the line below), it provides a point at which the soldering iron can be touched. If you use a slight excess of solder this allows the heat to transmit to the spindle and make the soldered joint.
And this is what you get with a prefabricated doll, ready for the next stage of assembly.
And below of the pair of dolls now inserted to the landing.
Even at this stage, there is still a lot of building to do as there are handrails, the main ladder, steps and ladders to the dolls, the operating mechanism transferring the movement to the dolls all to do. In respect of the latter(I used rocking cams in this case – you can just see the use of some handrail knobs as the bearings in the photos below, the cams will be fitted after painting.
Slightly peculiarly, the NER built their landings in front of the arms whereas all the other signals I have yet built have these in the rear (excepting gantries, which can be either or both!). This view shows this most clearly.
The main ladder is not visible in the views as I have made this detachable because it is much easier to spray paint these (and better, it is not easy to get a thin coat of paint by brush application and it thickens up the fine detail of a ladder too much.
The grey primer is pretty cruel to modelling efforts but on the whole, I am pretty chuffed with this!
A mere three weeks ago, but a lifetime in the past now that we are in the middle (or more worryingly, perhaps just the beginning) of the Covid-19 crisis, I was a demonstrator at the joint EMGS/Scalefour Society skills day. These skills days are not really exhibitions and are instead aimed at passing some skills on to the visitors – thus they are primarily a hall full of demonstrators with only the odd layout or two to break up the rows of desks.
Here I am, in a shockingly creased shirt (!), and as you can see, I am demonstrating signal construction. I am pleased to say that at the skills day I had a solid stream of people engaging with the topic all day; so much show I had to pull down the shutters for a brief lunch as otherwise I really would not have stopped all day!
By way of preparation for the event, I thought about what I have learnt about building signals and distilled a list of my top tips. These proved to be the cornerstone of my conversations with people at the Skills Day so I thought it was worth repeating them here on the blog.
- Conceive how you are going to mount the signal; where and how, what is above the ground or below the baseboard – which might well mean you also need to;
The base and mount for a two movement servo controlled signal
- Decide how you are going to operate the signal, how is the drive mechanism to be mounted and what does it need to be connected to mechanically/electrically;
- If you are going to illuminate your lamps, you need to decide how you are going to run the wires to the LEDs or fibre optic cable. It is possible to use the post as a common return but you still need one wireway;
- Consider how the movement is to be transmitted (especially bracket signals) and how you are going to replicate this? Multiple movements in close proximity to each other can lead to interference, compromises to reduce this risk are sometimes desirable (especially for triple or more movements in close proximity);
- Conceive how you are going to paint and assemble the signal before you start – it is generally easier to paint arms and ladders before you assemble them so it is possible to create sub-assemblies to be attached later – the touching in of local areas of damaged paint caused through assembly is a small price to pay for the ease of painting the remaining areas;
A Southern rail built home signal; the post was formed of two pieces of nickle silver rail.
- Tight, tight, tight – the most important part of building a signal is to keep all holes of operating parts as tight and snug as possible as slack leads to sloppy movement;
- You will use a lot of fine drills, down to 0.3mm, and a good quality pillar drill will mean you break rather fewer of them!
- Use the file up the length of the post not across it as much as possible – the files leave less scars and any that do occur mimic the grain of the wood;
- Pre-form or pre-drill elements such as balance weights, holes to the posts or landings early on before they are assembled when it is easiest (well potentially!);
- The prototype of most of the components to a signal are pretty delicate with fine sections; thus, to capture their character these needs to be similarly fine, however:
- There is a trade-off to make with the operating components such as balance levers which are typically best made over scale and with laminated brass to give them more strength;
- Generally, build the bigger more robust elements first and potentially alter the build sequence in the light of thermal mass and whether adjacent items might be disturbed by later additions – consider using different temperature solders and prefabrication of elements such as dolls with all of the lamps/landings finished;
A prefabricated doll and arm – I wouldn’t normally fit the arm until after painting but this is not true for slotted post signals
- Don’t use the flat etched ladders, they are too flexible to look real. Either use the built up versions or solder 0.3mm wire on both front and back of stringers and file the outside face flat – they look more realistic and are more durable.
A flat etched ladder with 0.3mm wire being soldered to the stringer
- Lots of delicate parts and complicated sections means that ultrasonic baths are really helpful for cleaning without damaging elements;
Slotted Post Signals
- Not the easiest because of the need to solder the arm to the spindle inside the slot. Use a laminated piece to the ear that is the point at which the operating rod attaches to the arm and extend it cross the back of the arm by 3mm so that it is would project beyond the slot slightly. Be liberal with the solder but make sure that the rubbing faces are cleared of any excess. Wrap the arm in cigarette paper and insert it into the slot. After the spindle has been inserted, touch the cigarette paper with light oil and allow it to soak through. Then put a little flux on the laminated ear and apply the iron. The heat will transmit along the solder joint and reach the spindle.
- Protect the signal from excess throw; they are delicate – therefore set the servo up to an approximate centre point through before connecting it to the model;
- Leave room to be able to see the signal as you are setting it up, otherwise it takes ages and a lot of bending under the baseboard;
- If you are going to illuminate your signal, understand what the right colours would be – oil lamps are relatively dim (so you need to resist down the voltage) and quite yellow (so modern LEDs need to toned down).
Dimensions were not standardised even within a company, let alone between, so offering directions on dimensions is dangerous – all I will say is these dimensions are commonplace:
- Single post wooden signals – 6” square at the top and then tapering out 3/16th of an inch for each foot of height (1.5% or so)
- Wooden doll posts – 7” square at top and tapering as before
- Main post for wooden bracket signals – 10” at the top and then tapering as before
- Single post tubular signals – 5 1/2″ to the upper portion and 6 1/2″ to the lower portion. The height of the lower portion varied with the height of the post (for details, see LMS journal no 4)
- Arm – centre pivot – 1′ 6″ from the top of the post; second arms 6′ 0″ below that;
- Spacing between dolls – 6′ 0″ or 6′ 6″ (less for shunt arms)
- Height of handrail to landings – 3′ 0″
A GER three doll bracket signal
Following the tragic events in Sri Lanka recently, I pondered whether I would complete the intended final post of the series I had in mind. I have concluded that I would primarily because the experience that I had of Sri Lanka and its people was so friendly and felt so safe. So this post is my small bit of illustrating that Sri Lanka is not the country that was illustrated by the acts of a few deranged members of the population.
One of the joys of Sri Lanka’s railways is the retention of widespread railway relics from times past – in particular the signalling. Whilst there are modernised sections, substantial sections are still firmly in the first half of last century with full semaphore signals, tablets and block sections. Although a few arms have been removed, the bulk of the installations are still in situ and largely in use; so it is a bit of a cornucopia of signalling. Here are a few of the signals that I saw:
The signalling that I saw was all Saxby and Farmer – I only saw a couple of the lines in the country so it may be that there are other suppliers in evidence. The ground signals were quite similar to the McKenzie & Holland equivalents and tended to come in batches – looking like sentinels from an episode of Dr Who!
I thought the signal boxes looked decidedly home counties, although the rather shocking salmon pink wouldn’t have been found in Hertfordshire or Surrey I hazard!
With the exception of the signalman’s attire, the inside of the signal box was instantly recognisable to any UK railwayman of the last century of a half (well perhaps any UK railwayman of the last 40 years would be surprised to see so few white levers………).
This is the inside of Kandy’s signal box. Kandy is largely a terminus with the line from the Highlands and Columbo meeting here, along with a branch. With five platform faces and only moderate amounts of sidings, it struck me as a perfect modelling track plan if anyone wants to have a go! Here is the view from the steps of the box, along with the signalling diagram.
The approach to Kandy was in the process of being doubled when I visited, so I suspect that it will be resignalled with colour lights when this is done – so you had best get there soon if you want to see it like this………….
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I promised a number of people that I would be making sure that the layour had at least the main elements wired up over christmas, so that it could at last run. But then it was a bit wet and cold so I did not fancy it out in the summerhouse so I applied rule no 1 – its my trainset!
Instead, I stayed at the bench and made a pair of the signals that still remain to be made for Glenmutchkin. The signalling plan has developed very slightly since I originally showed it back here and is shown below (actually this is the artwork for the control panel facia).
The signals that I built were those that control the main loop prior to the shed link – levelrs 27 & 28 – and then the outer starter (that covers both the main loop and the main line) – levers 23, 24, 25 & 26. Only a pair of two doll signals, I thought, they shouldn’t take more than a day or two? Phew, well that wasn’t right; the more you look at the prototypes, the more you find there is to model!
Having created much of my own etchings and castings for MacKenzie & Holland signals I have obviously made good use of these. In this case, the small brackets, arms, ladders and castings.
Both of the signals have used the small brackets to create smallish landings. The smaller of the two signals has only one arm per doll, the larger two. The dolls and the posts are made up of square brass section which is filed to a taper – a certain amount of elbow grease is needed to acheive this! The posts are then sandwiched between some transom beams that also clasp the doll post – this is all soldered with a high melt solder to stop it ungumming later.
The brackets are then offered up from below, with scrap etch forming the bearing plates to pick up the transomes. In the etch I also included smaller brackets to pick up the free end of the landing, along with the landing itself. This gets you to the stage shown above.
But this is not the half of it on a signal, there are the finials, lamp brackets, lamps, cross stays, access steps, access ladders, pivot plates, handrails, operating cams, safety hoops and ladder still to do………..
In a departure from my previous practise, I made the main ladders detachable (they will be held with the wire that can be seen in the pictures being turned over in secret pockets. I am also going to paint this prior to the final assembly; which will mean some touching uo of the painting later but I hope will make it easier.
And of course, I had to sign them with these rather nice custom name plaques from NBR 4mm Developments.
This is the first time that I have used the brackets in signal making and I was pretty chuffed with how they have come out. This is where things presently stand and we head for the paint shops tomorrow…….
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).
And then the twin and three doll brackets.
All the above signals were restorations (although not so much was retain on the two doll); the single posts below were made afresh.
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:
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?
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.