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  😉


On the workbench, construction of the signals has been gathering pace. Over half of the signalling scheme is off scene, but the platform starters and the down home are on the baseboards. I’ve done the down starter and down home as standard 20 foot Caledonian Stevens & Co lattice posts. The up starter which also controls entry to the Kinlochleven branch is a 27 foot bracket.

The posts and arms are MSE products – the bracket supports are scratchbuilt as will be the platforms. The finials and lamps are also MSE. The signals will be operated by the Smith and Finney “Hoffman” motors which I just happened to have on stock. The wiring looms to these are already in – it’s a case of installing the motors once the signals are finished.

Its soldered construction throughout – the single 20 foot posts are cut down from the 27 foot etches simply by soldering a new base at the 20 foot mark (I used one of the post construction jigs as a base) and carefully cutting underneath the new base with a razor saw.

The pictures in order – Down platform starter, Up/Branch bracket starter., Down home. There’s a Caley “flap” ground signal to go in yet to control exit from them yard

I can’t plug my reference source highly enough, Its been quite a few quid well spent!

sig 4

Small packages

At the Rochdale club evening last night I took delivery of a couple of welcome packages, both picked up from Scalefour North last weekend by co conspirator Ian Worthington who was my proxy at the show – a busy weekend meant there was no way I was going to be there!

First of all some Brassmasters etches for the point rodding cranks and signal pulleys, very fine work indeed, but the real bonus ball was the packet of rodding stools from Alan Buttler at Modelu

These are 3d printed by Alan and are truly stunning – none of the faffing around with soldering etches – straight ready to go stools which just need the square section threading before glueing to the stool bases. These are the mutts whotnots, unfortunately the phone camera can’t do them justice and the Canon needs a battery recharge! I’m looking forward to seeing these laid over the next week or two.


Also last night at the club work on the signals restarted – this is the down starter in its position – still loads of work to do, not least cutting the post down from its current 27 foot to the standard (ish) 20 foot Caledonian post. The Caley lower quadrants are being used – resignalling has yet to reach this backwater!


Building upwards

Since the show at the weekend, construction has now at last started in the vertical plane – with the addition of Lanarkshire Models excellent Caledonian buffer stops. Dave Franks has really produced some exquisite moulding here, well worth the price and a bit more besides – but dont tell him that. Next job, the signals.






Panic button avoided

The wiring on North Ballachulish was completed tonight barring a few tidying up jobs – a bit of a close run thing. but hopefully our working demonstration will be up and running this weekend. So if you are building a layout or just want to know a bit more about wiring up or soldering come and ask the guys manning North Ballachulish at the Rochdale show this coming weekend. We may even get the DCC up and running as well. (The layout is wired so it can work both off analogue and digital control)