Getting plastered

Well it is the weekend of the Oldham Beer Festival, and like the devoted CAMRA member I am, I will be working behind the bar on Friday and Saturday evenings in return for sampling some of the excellent goodies on offer.

But meanwhile I’ve an exhibition deadline for the weekend after so on return from erecting beer stillages and moving 62 firkins, I started plastering over the scenic formers. So what’s in a mix then? Well a good quality finishing plaster for a start. Then some PVA glue which acts as a strengthener and binder, and also a little (well a lot) of brown liquid watercolour paint – the purpose of which is a colourant, so if there are any plaster chips in the layouts life, the resultant scar is not as bright and obvious.

Its all laid over the scrim previously glued down and laid on using a pallete knife to get a reasonable (ish) smooth finish.

plaster 1plaster 2plaster 3

Danger: Slartibartfast at work

Anyone familiar with Douglas Adams’ Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy will spot the reference straight away, but over the last few days (apart from a trip down South on a little missionary work bringing a small bit of West Yorkshire to the population of Southampton) I have mainly been creating the earth.

Now I’m not claiming any omnipotence here, nor am I going to do it in 6 days, as there’s only so much surforming of expanded polyurethane you can do in one day before the blue crust of bobbles which you get covered in needs cleaning off. That and waiting for the glue on layers to set, which is a bit like waiting for DJM to produce a model.

Because this bit of the West Highlands is situated on one of Glen Coe’s terminal moraines, the land is “lumpy” rather than hilly or even mountainous and the railway and road runs through a series of shallow cuttings. I’m using a combination of some scrap 25mm expanded polystyrene to fill in the big bits,kindly donated bt Tony Bucknell, and some 10mm polyurethane (the blue stuff) to contour the gentle slopes. For the cuttings I’m using foam board to get a nice straight and even face off the man-made slope. The foam board (if you look closely) is ex Jobcentre Plus poster boards which were being thrown in a bin at my former office. It was a bit bent in places so it is easy to sculpt into place I think a better use than their original purpose 😉

The brown ribbon is the road surface of the A82, this is cork sheet which will have a small groove let into it to receive the steel guide wire for the Faller car system. Oh and like Slartibartfast I’m finding it frustrating – no Fiords to create  😉

The Hoff

I’ve just finished installing the Hoffman motor for the down home on baseboard”A”. As usual in my procrastinating world, it was accompanied by some musing how to transfer the operating arm from the motor (Which slides over a cam to introduce the up down movement) to the operating rod of the signal. The instructions make no suggestions on how to achieve this, which I found a bit bemusing but hey ho, I’ve done some Bill Bedford bits in the past so I’m used to making things up as you go along.

In the end I’ve gone for the simple solution – bend the motor operating wire up at 90 degrees and fix the motor so it mates the the signal operating wire. The two will be joined simply by using a 3 amp chocblock connector, which will enable me to remove the signals from the baseboards whilst any track cleaning takes place to ensure that they dont get knocked and damaged by any careless action ;-) . The bolt seen in the underside baseboard picture is fixed into the signal baseplate and just sinply tightens up to fix in the signal in place for operation.

The front fascia panel has now been fixed to the viewing side as well.


By way of an update (14 Feb) this is what the attached chocbloks look like when fitted – to give extra clearance on this signal’s operating wires which are pretty close together  (The up starter/ branch starter bracket) Ive taken the plastic sheathing off the chocblocks which in as an added bonus in actual fact makes it easier to connect the signal operating wires to and take them out again. Result!



Spring cleaning

Been on a bit of a tidy up today prior to taking the boards down to

1: Paint the other side of the trackwork

2: Install the Hoffman motors to drive the signals

3: Fix in place the front scenic fascia panels (already cut to shape, varnished and ready to screw on)

4: Fix in place an electromagnet which will act as a turnout for the Faller car system which will pull the bus across into the station bus stop!


Its also provided a bit of a visualisation exercise as some buildings / mock ups start to get put in place – the crofters cottage is a typical West highland building and is based on the one in the photo actually at North Ballachulish – but in this case its been transported across the A82 and about 500 yards further down from where it really is!

Santa Claus is coming to Town(send Fold)

By way of some light relief – I’m currently training as a volunteer signalman on the East Lancashire Railway and had an eight hour training turn at Townsend Fold Signal Box today. Heres the Crab and the Peak top and tailing the 09:30 ex Bolton Street this morning.


Today’s leaning experience. The gate wheel is disconnected and the gates working in degraded mode as the far gate lock does not work at the moment. So once the annunciator goes you have about 3 minutes to nip out the box close and padlock the far gate, close the near gate, nip back up the stairs, push back the locking lever (the brown one for the non railway folk) and pull off the home signal (fixed distant). I’m bloody knackered after 9 down and 9 up trains, but what a briliant day, loved it.

Signals progress

Over the last week or so I’ve had a bit of spare time (its been a tad in short supply of late) to attempt to get the signals finished for the layout. The post have been soldered to a brass base plate which has had an 8BA countersunk bolt soldered at the back of the plate plus brass tube to take the operating wire through the base board. The surface of the baseboard has been hollowed out with a fine chisel so the plate fits flush with the baseboard top.

The operating of the bracket has had a liberty taken with it, as on the prototype these were operated by a wire through pulleys. Obviously this wasnt going to work in 4mm so I have resorted to crank operation – the cranks taken from one of Danny Pinnock’s D and S models etches, which has been lurking in my bits drawer for longer than I care to remember. The only thing left to put in place is the ladders, and there I have a dilemma. Ive been trying the MSE fold up and solder the rungs in etches but despite using an 18W iron and low melt solder I’m not happy with the results, the sides have distorted. MSE’s etched ladder is too two dimensional for my liking. Im currently playing with some ladders from the plastruct range. They are a bit thick so I have been shaving material of the sides to thin them down, as well as off the rungs, but they are still too chunky for my liking.

Has anyone come across any decent laddering other than the MSE stuff?




Further to yesterdays post I decided to bite the bullet and paint the rail web and chairs today.  2 and a bit hours later I’ve done one half, I can’t do the other side of the rail until I take the layout down and can work from the front. Thats going to have to wait until I get the front scenic former cut out f 4mm ply. You could call the painting therapeutic, although the jury’s out on that one!

Scenic work starts

September on the model railway circuit always seems to me to mark the start of the modelling year, the exhibition circuit which has been fairly fallow since the end of May burst onto the scene with a number of good shows early on, not least of which is Expo EM North  at Urmston at which I intend to spend some time, followed by the equally excellent Halifax show the week after where I will be on operating duties with Harkness all weekend.

To me it also gets me out of that summer induced modelling torpor, when the “its nice outside and I really can’t be arsed” has kicked in, a chill evening helps me get into the “railway room” and do a bit of modelling work. The autumnal air of the last few days has (apart from a trip on the East Lancs Railway) seen me tidying up the room and starting some serious work in turning the layout from train set mode into a model railway. The scenic formers on the baseboard ends have now been shaped to the contours out of  9mm ply, and fixed in place. Also the road bed of the A82 has now been added and fixed – this is a balsa base which has been varnished to prevent any swelling and will later have a cork surface layer, in which will be embedded the two wires to enable Faller car system working. This will then be sealed with grey undercoat before the road surface, in this case pulverised fly ash, is laid on top. In the third picture in the background is the “dummy” church is sited and at the same elevation where the model of St Brides will be, above the A 82


In the mean time I’ve also turned attention to the track – the pristine C and L track and the points received the attention of the air brush today and using Precision Paints weathered sleeper colour, the track got a fairly non uniform blast so that sleepers have received differing amounts of paint to accentuate the differing nature of sleeper colour. This will be titivated up with a bit of dry brushing in of other shades later, and well as having the web of the actual rail and the chairs painted in a rust colour. After that a through cleaning of the rail tops will take place! Incidentally the “blobs” alongside the main running line are the point rodding stool supports.

I just need to keep the pace up now – whilst at Bolton Street station yesterday and looking forward to my retirement at the start of December, I signed up as a volunteer on the ELR. Modelling at 12 inches to the foot could prove something of a distraction  😉


Power to the people

Modelling has taken a bit of a back seat over the last few months following the birth of our grandson Ruauri in May – weekends seem to be taken up with visiting, family social events, various jobs around the house and garden and the railway room has seemed a bit of an alien place to be honest.

However a timely reminder to get on with things arrived the other Wednesday evening with the return to base of the layouts operating panel. Although I’ve wired the layout myself, the club has a dab hand in panel wiring in Martin Edmondson and on a quid pro quo basis (I’ve got a lot of his parcels stock to airbrush and weather) he has wired up my pre constructed box for me and produced a very nice panel fascia as well.

panel 1

The underneath of the panel shows just how good Martin is at this job (He’s currently building the far more complicated panel for RMRG member Ian Worthington’s Glaisden layout). Its going to be freestanding on a small table at the back of a layout rather than mounted on the layout itself – and that’s all to do with the logistics of making the layout packable into two cars, the result of some very careful measuring of Octavia estates!

panel 3

The eagle-eyed will have noticed the inclusion of an “odd” toggle switch in the top left hand corner. This is a three pole double throw switch and is there to enable (when no ones looking) me to switch in DCC power. Bearing in mind that at shows where there’s non DCC people operating, it will be strictly DC, this allows me some noisy fun at home. Martin – who’s not a great fan of this digital malarkey – has labeled the positions accordingly. Bearing in mind its a centre off, I can see lots of opportunities and motivation to actually leave it in the centre position.

panel 2

To be honest my original idea was to have a bloody big knife switch to swap between DC and stress, but it was a tad impractical  😉