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Sunday 29 May 2011

Trackwork - Part 4

Painting was quite a challenge in that I had to visit 3 model and craft shops to get the two cans of Humbrol matt paint I was after! The top rail surface was masked with strips of insulation tape before spraying grey car primer all over. Then the rails were sprayed and drinking straws slit and placed over them to mask before spraying the sleepers. After reading other modeller's recommendations and studying several photos of the prototype I decided on Humbrol 62 for the rails and 160 mixed with a little black for the sleepers. 

The sleepers are slightly lighter than the Peco plastic and of course not shiny. They do look more like grimy wooden sleepers than the bare Peco plastic. Other colours would be suitable because the variations in the prototype are significant, dependent on age and location of the track. My selection is suitable for the main line, which is where they are to be placed. I had some Colin Waite 4 bolt cosmetic fishplates left over from previous modelling so they have been applied to the rail ends, as seen in the photo, together with Peco rail joiners. 

To Part 1 

Saturday 21 May 2011

Trackwork - Part 3

My objectives in improving the look of the Peco Code 75 turnout can be summarised as follows:
  • Infill the missing sleeper portions
  • Eliminate the large block
  • Cover holes in sleepers and tiebar
  • Retain finger operation of turnout switch, i.e. the Peco sprung locking mechanism
  • Retain Peco point motor fixing points and control
  • And this is the big one - be able to easily retrofit the original mechanics without recourse to glue etc. This is just a safeguard in case it all went belly up and if I ever sell the turnout it's a nice thought that I can rebuild it pretty much back to the original.
To remind you of the offending parts of the turnout:

And here is the modified turnout that meets all the stated objectives.
There are special methods used in this conversion that aid the retrofit of the original mechanics. It just so happens that they also make the conversion straightforward and a delight to undertake.

Photo below shows spring retention bar.

To Part 4.

To Part 1.

Friday 20 May 2011

Trackwork - Part 2

With reference to the last posting in this series the results of the track test are: 1) No shorting experienced using old or new rolling stock. Looks like Peco have got the switch blade gap just right in this respect. 2) The wheel flanges of some Lima and old Triang stock just skim the chair tops causing a rat-tat-tat sound. But, the stock does not rock, bounce or derail. I shall accept the risk and not rewire the turnouts until proved otherwise. I will probably re-wheel the offending stock to finescale. 

Now I'll turn to the cosmetics of the Peco turnout. These two pictures show the prototype. The first with an electrical point motor and the second with manual rodding. The crank arrangement on the latter varies depending on the installation.

Bere Alston PointsPoints

And this is the Peco turnout with the offending bits marked. It was designed this way for ease of manufacture, maintenance and compatibility with their point motors. But it doesn't look like the prototype does it? 

My turnouts are finger operated so I want to retain the Peco switch blade locking mechanism and the complete tie bar whilst eliminating the block and tidying up the sleepers. 

To Part 3 

Thursday 19 May 2011

Trackwork - For The Average Enthusiast

I have decided to take a fresh look at my track work with a view to replacing it for something a little more appealing and better performance.

Currently my turnouts are 00 Peco code 100 small radius insulfrog and the straights are Graham Farish 00 Code 100 Formoway (The latter no longer marketed).

Let me start by saying that previously I was a finescale modeller in EM for many years using hand built code 75 turnouts with C&L chairs and SMP Scaleway code 75 straights. I am therefore, very familiar with the code 75 v 100 debate. 

My backward(?) step to 00 and code 100 was purely because I could not face converting to EM the finely detailed r.t.r steam locomotives that have come on the market in recent years. Also, my use of code 100 was because I had bountiful stock from even earlier modelling activities.

The main issue I have with my present track work is that the small radius turnouts tend to encourage derailments. I really should move up to medium points at the least and consider moving to code 75 for authenticity.

First thing to consider is the prototype. In the first half of the sixties a mix of flat bottom and bullhead rail in 60' lengths was in use on BR(S). On the main line at Crewkerne flat bottom rail was in use but anywhere along the main line you could find a mix of both. Sidings were still in bullhead and turnouts remained in bullhead due to the high cost of replacement. At this time wooden sleepers were the norm.

For model track my first decision is to use r-t-r turnouts, as I see no benefit in making these for 00 gauge when the track gauge is so unprototypical. Disregarding 'toy' track the r-t-r- options are either Tillig or Peco. Neither products are accurate to UK prototype. Tillig being for overseas networks and Peco - well the sleeper spacing and size is wrong, the chairs unrealistic, has cosmetic mechanics around the tie bar that bear no resemblance to the prototype and it's flat bottom! This just goes to show that compromise is necessary, which for the 00 gauge modeller (who is already living with an inaccurate track gauge) should not be an issue.

I bought myself a Peco code 75 elctrofrog turnout for trials. Sit this alongside a code 100 and the difference is (remarkably) not that significant. It's mainly the wide flat bottom of code 100 that makes it look too bulky when viewed from above. This is where code 75 has an extra advantage since it's narrower flat bottom is not far off the desired bullhead in appearance.

The Peco code 75 has much finer and tidier appearance than code 100 around the frog (i.e. the V) because there are no breaks in the rail, which brings us to the major technical difference. The frog and switch blades are electrified throughout. This means the locomotive has consistent power feed throughout its journey through the turnout and as a consequence trouble free running at slow speeds. The downside is course-scale metal wheels may cause momentary shorting through the switch blade. For command and control systems this event would result in fail safe cut out of power and possibly longer term damage. Peco have made provision in the design for the User to rewire the turnout and circumnavigate the shorting issue, but this also requires an electrical switch that is mechanically connected to the switch blade movement. I'd like to avoid that if possible so my next step is to set up a live test and run all my stock through.

By the way, point operation is currently by means of a finger rather than remote control and this shall probably prevail.

To Part 2

Sunday 15 May 2011

ExpoEM 2011 - A pilgrimage

It was possible to miss a model layout at this years show (except Mostyn - massive at 24' x 30' with 34 fiddle yard tracks!) because most of the stands were either trade sales or EM gauge demonstrations. This is to be expected due to the specialism of EM gauge. But, tucked away in a centre isle was the layout I came to see - Leighton Buzzard (Linslade) by Peter Denny (deceased). Denny's modelling was an inspiration to many modellers of a certain age and greying hair, like myself. So, it was a privilege to see one of his working layouts in its entirety. This particular layout design dates from the early 1970s, although much of the rolling stock and buildings are older - The station building dating from 1951, for example! Now, you need to view this layout in the context of its great age and remember that nearly everything was scratch built by Denny. 

The build and detail of his models stand up extremely well alongside current modelling technology and methods. If you have to point a finger at anything then you might suggest his method of creating model vegetation (lichen trees and dyed sawdust grass?) could do with an overhaul. But, I doubt that will happen if the objective of the new owner is to preserve the model in its historical context. Anyone who has read Denny will know that he was an innovative modeller. Who can remember his wooden 'piano key' style point lever frame. Well there it was - still in use with the wood now totally discoloured from years of human finger activity, like a well worn book. The display was supported by a lecture given by The 'Grandborough Signalman' who introduced some aspects of Denny's modelling masterpiece and life interspersed with a few anecdotes. Even Denny's two sons were on hand to fill in the knowledge gaps. I do hope the layout will be exhibited again. It needs to be seen by modellers who should pay homage to the work of the great man upstairs who inspired their own efforts.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Screw Link Couplings

In a previous posting I noted that my 4mm scale Merchant Navy Pacific loco lacked a chain link coupling and vacuum pipe. That is now corrected and this posting is about how the chain link was made. Forgive the crudity of the item in the photo. It is very, very small in reality and hardly visible when fitted to the loco. Why bother at all might you ask - well making this appeals to my creative nature and it makes my Hornby loco look even more authentic than it already is. 

The method of construction was based on the 'How to' at Southern E-Group. I had to modify the screw link part of the build because the Merchant Navy coupling has an extra half chain link. If you read the Southern E-Group method together with this photo then I think it should be clear what I did. Note that the extra half link is on the left of the screw and a tight loop is used at the other end to hold a full size chain link. 

The missing right hand vacuum pipe was lifted from my spares box. With a bit of judicious cutting this particular pipe both looked like the Merchant navy pipe and facilitated holding the chain end for storage.

On the prototype there appears to be a hook or something down there to hold the chain. Furthermore, care was needed to clear a boss that sticks out on the front of the bogie chassis. I could have filed it down but fortunately the vacuum pipe is forward enough to hold the chain out of the way. Perhaps I should say that the coupling is a cosmetic addition, not functional. I painted the coupling in-situ, otherwise the paint may have clogged up the linkage making it difficult to manoeuvre into position. The Hornby supplied hook already had provision to hold a chain, which makes me wonder if the manufacturer fits one and it was missing from my purchase?
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