On track

Following the fallow Christmas modelling period, I’m feeling a bit pleased as the first quarter section of the layout was completed today, the station throat. Its taken some time all in all despite prefabricating the common crossings. I suppose a the end of the day  the time consuming (and mind numbing) bit is threading chairs on rail, but in the end the result achieved is worth it.

Ive used 3 different types of chair on the points, getting the really specialist ones was getting a bit to anal! n addition to the 4 bolt plain chairs Ive used the Exactoscale Bridge chairs at the crossing and also the special check rail chairs. These weren’t around when I built North Ballachulish but I wish they had been, they make a fiddly job easy. You do have do count accurately and plot exactly where they are going otherwise you end up unthtreading chairs, and swearing profusely.



On to the next section to build now, the engine house side of the sorting sidings, and the first time building a three way point in many years. A refresher in how a three way is wired was required before contemplating building and a decision made to build the common crossings using the laser cut pattern on the boards rather than on the workbench as some of the angles are a bit odd.


The first crossing to build is the complex one for the main route with the two crossings wired together. After due consideration I’m going to build it as a single fabricated unit rather than separate bits as it should make it all flow better. On the photo below the position of the copperclad  to build it up on is marked in black and rails already cut to length. Ive still got to file the “vee” on the 1:5 centre crossing  as that’s the difficult piece as it forms a check rail for its associated crossing. All good fun and a nice challenge, but I must remember to put chairs on before it all gets soldered up.



Bricking it

Following various distractions, Warley, a trip to see our new grandson in Oslo,  Manchester show and managing a voting exercise for local pubs to go in the next Good Beer Guide, Ive finally this week had some time to do a bit of work on Greenbooth. The boards came down to manufacture the end protectors and also see how it crates up (causing a rethink on how it goes in the car) before putting it back on the subframe to start the next milestone, laying track.

I’m using the new EM gauge PECO flexi track, mainly because of the depth of the sleepers. One thing has become immediately apparent, the sleepers are too closely spaced do for the first piece of track I spent ten minutes cutting the webs under the rails to correctly space the sleepers. I use an impact adhesive to stick the track down, the good thing about having the track plan etched in the boards means you have an accurate mark to glue on. Once the track was down it was out with the Rishworth Trophy to weight it down flat.

GB track 3.jpg

Now as is perfectly obvious from the pic, the Rishworth Trophy is a glazed brick. Not any brick though, this ones prior existence was in the gents urinals at Rishworth station. Its allegedly awarded for the best modeled gents urinals on club members layouts but has actually resided in my railway kit since New Hey literally took the pot a good few years back, partially because of the detail on the guy stood at the stones.


Anyway, back on track, the rails are down – its a bit like cutting the first sod on the railway and immensely satisfying to know the railway build has properly started.



I’m systematically building the line from the fiddleyard so the next bit of build is the station throat. So this afternoon has seen me cutting around 150  1.5mm ply sleepers. Mind numbing stuff but not as mind numbing as ts going to be later this week sliding individual chairs on rail. Enough to drive me to drink and more work on the GBG in advance of next weeks committee meeting.


Getting down to brass tacks.

So far the Greenbooth build had all been a bit arse about face in my usual order of construction, for example painting the finish on the baseboard outers and the basic backscene have been things always done at the end of the build. Continuing that theme I finished the lighting units this week, another job usually done at the end of the build.



Warm white LED strip. I also started to prep track laying and building. First job was fitting a routing bit to the Dremel and attacking the baseboards, carefully routing out a recess in between where the tracks are going to place the uncoupling magnets.


Its a heart stopping job at times making sure you don’t go through the baseboard and calls for a steady hand and patience with the Dremel – all done by hand and rack o’th eye. The magnets are fixed in place with two part epoxy. Ive decided to use permanent magnets in order to reduce the amount of wiring underneath and also make a simpler control panel – Ive also found the electromagnets (PK) I used on North Ballachulish a tad underwhelming in power.

The next task has been to drill pilot holes and fix in brass tacks. Those who have read earlier blog posts know I use these to anchor the rail to by soldering when point building, it avoids creep out of gauge whilst the Exactoscale chairs are curing on the ply sleepers and also gives the build a lot more strength. On points I usually put a pin in between every 5th or 6th sleeper.


I also put pins in where every length of plain track goes, the bonus of this method is the pin protrudes below the baseboard and instead of having to put dropper wires in, I have a hard point to solder the track feed wires to, and which will give a good reliable track feed.


Of course as always nothing ever goes quite to plan, after getting a good two thirds of this baseboard done, I managed to snap my last 1mm drill. Job stopped, I’ll get some replacements at Warley this weekend.


Meanwhile, back North of Hadrians Wall…..


North Ballachulish is out at the Warley NEC show this coming weekend, Stand C32, although due to a planning cock up in siting the layout in the hall,  (the layout had been placed in the middle of a pen so punters could only see the short side of the L) I was a tad concerned about taking it. However good sense has prevailed and North B has been relocated. We are actually where C47/ C48 are on the guide floor plan!

Although generally overall the show is enjoyable, it can be a bit of a trial to exhibit at as its a very long day (09:15 to 18:00 on the Saturday with a 17:00 finish on the Sunday) and is also so busy. Even getting into the hall to set up and strip down the layout can try the patience of a saint.

As always the team will be taking the social aspect of the show very seriously, the hotel allocated to us is actually in Tamworth so advance research has been done in identifying licensed premises that will satisfy the needs and requirements of the CAMRA card carrying massive.

Give us a shout if you are there!

Up. but not running.

Bit of a red letter day really as I put up the layout properly for the very first time, having finished off the sub frame this morning.





GB sf 2

Its amazingly rigid albeit being relatively lightweight. At the moment its no adjustable feet on it so a bit of packing was required under leg C to ensure all was level.


Next was to put the boards on for the first time and bolt them together. The system works well even with just myself putting them on – Board one sits between the locating pegs and on the stretcher bar.  Board two then sits on the second stretcher and is gently slid along until the metal engineers dowels engage. Two six mil bolts secure the deal.

GB sf 4GB sf 3

I was pleased just how solid it all was, there’s no lateral give in any direction. Im not saying its bomb proof but it cant be far off.

I suspect the next job will be to paint the boards – White underneath to assist working underneath it at shows, and the backscene boars will get a coat of a sky blue, with a gloss coat on the viewable woodwork. And then let the track laying and wiring commence – yes it is going to be DCC.

Keeping things in order

One of the biggest bugbears setting up a layout at a show is that moment one of the operating team says to the layout owner “Where does this go?” and the layout owner looks back blankly because for the life of them they cant remember themselves.

Thing is, back at home its likely you are putting up the subframe yourself, you built it, you know the logic and build sequence, so its easy. But when someone else is doing bits for you, and you’ve been involved sorting out some other aspect of arriving at a show, and the question comes… well let say it can take time to work through the process of setting up.

Years ago I, like may others, started labeling  the legs and subframe to try and avoid those awkward moments. Of course your labeling logic has to be such that others understand it as well!


GB Legs 1.jpg

This time round I’m doing it as I build – all the legs were built yesterday and the subframe stretchers completed this morning. These are bolted to the legs and run the length of the board allowing the baseboard edges to sit on them.  The two by one glued and screwed to the stretcher is where the angle pieces to attach to the lower legs to stabilise the frames go. Or at least that was the plan until late this afternoon when I found my only 6mm drill bit wouldn’t cut into butter. That’s another trip to the hardware store then.

GB legs 3.jpg



Work continues….

The second board of Greenbooth was constructed today.


Although the boards cannot be physically connected at the moment it gave a chance to have a see what the layout will look like track wise. Already Ive deduced that there will have to be a scenic compromise made from the original idea of having a river at the front – just not enough room to do what I wanted to!


Next job, make the legs and sub frame – let the perennial debate about baseboard viewing height commence!

Greenbooth. Work commences.

Back in March I aired plans for a new layout, Greenbooth, based very – very – loosely on part of the Yates Duxbury Industrial lines at Heap Bridge between Bury and Heywood. Since then time has moved on, and a track plan was drawn using Templot, which was played with for a while before settling on a final track plan.


Its a layout of two halves, at the front an industrial sorting yard, which is a direct crib of Yates Duxbury’s, with a line off to Ding Quarry in the North and another two the South serving Greenbooth bleaching and dyeing (ample scope for the import of toxic material there). At the back is a small station, I must have been thinking of this whilst on ELR duty because I’ve subconsciously almost replicated Rawtenstall’s track plan as it is now.


I was going to start joinery work myself as usual, but having chatted to a few people decided to get some boards from Tim Horn as he could laser burn the track plan into the baseboard which would make building some of the complicated pointwork a sight easier. The boards arrived a couple of weeks ago but as Ive been a tad busy with CAMRA and ELR work, as well as building a new aircraft for North Ballachulish, today is the first chance Ive had of starting work on them.

GB Board 2 b.jpg



I must say I’m pleased the way they have gone together, its taken me 3 very easy hours (even allowing for waiting for glue to dry) to get the first (obtusely board 2) board together.burst


There’s still the strengthening cross pieces to put on when Ive worked out the point drive clearances, but tomorrow should see work commence on the next board.




A partly shaved cat……

trimbush 1

Now North Ballachulish is finished other than routine maintenance, and the new layout Greenbooth is still in baseboard design (I’m contemplating getting some Tim Horn Laser cut boards), I thought I’d get on with some outstanding projects from New Hey days. Not least of these is A2 Pacific 605326.

Eastern Region aficionados of course will identify this loco as “Trimbush”, hence the post title, and it was purchased a couple of years ago at a show at a very knock down price, to haul the Blackpool excursion train on Ian Worthington’s “Glaisden” layout. Seeing as inevitably invalidate the manufacturers warranty as soon as I open the box by taking the thing apart to convert to EM gauge, as far as I’m concerned the cheaper the better, if it needs fettling as an out of the box model, it gets fettled. I win, and the trader gets rid of some remaindered stock, win / win.

Of course you can’t win em all, some are beyond redemption, the DJM J94 being a good case in point, a mechanical dogs breakfast. I did buy one in Hattons bargain sale last year for a very cheap price, but its going to have to be re-chassied, new motor / gearbox and wheels to make it an acceptable runner on the new layout. More of which at a later date. I’m not a person to wish ill will on anyone but in the case of DJM I’ll make an exception, whilst I’m sorry for those who lost money “investing” lol,  I was actually glad to see DJM go bust. I can only see it as good for the hobby in the medium / long term.

Back to the well kept topiary however, for the record I’ve used Gibson wheels. The Bachmann tender had stub axles so I used flangeless top hat bearings before fitting the wheels to stop them flopping about.  The main wheels were quartered using a GW wheel press and quartering jig. A brilliant tool, it ensures the wheels are both properly quartered, and go on straight and perpendicular.  There’s still work to do of course, the connecting rods need bushing before being put back on, and the crankpins tided up and filed back, before the final denouement of soldering the return crank back in position. Weathering then beckons so its already to go before Wigan show in October.

trimbush 2


Bracknell. If the world had piles, this is where they would be.

We are off out on the road again this weekend, to exhibit North Ballachulish at the showcase Expo EM Spring in Bracknell, centre of the known concrete architecture universe and generally a soulless dump. This annual show however makes putting up with the place for a weekend worthwhile.  http://www.emgs.org/events/exhibitions/?event_id1=56

This has meant a bout of wheel cleaning this morning in preparation for the show, nothing facilitates good running on a layout than clean loco wheels and clean track, both wheels and track get a good clean each day before running, and if the hall is particularly dirty, sometimes in between as well. It pays dividends.

cleaning wheels.jpg

For those not familiar, the EM Gauge Society, ( http://www.emgs.org/ )  of which I’m a member, holds two exhibitions each year, they used to be known as Expo South and Expo North until it was decided to rename them Spring and Autumn as it was felt the connotations with the term “t’North” put people off going. Its bloody grim up here dont’y just know 🙂

Its a good opportunity to come along and see what the Society is about – with the advent of ready to run EM track from PECO, on show this weekend, and some manufacturers making noises about supplying RTR locos, and one actually doing so in EM, now’s a good time to be coming over to the finer side.