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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Goods Shed for Hewish Sidings

goods shedI have been following Chris Heath's blog - Wynyard Lane (link in my blog list) and got caught up in his excitement about Scalescenes model buildings. He has certainly done a good job in promoting that product range.

So I popped into Scalescenes and picked up this Little rustic goods shed for Hewish Sidings. Not quite enough room in this area of the model railway for it but I am upgrading the trackwork and might be able to open up a bit more space.

Well, I have made up card kits before from one of the long standing manufacturers but the finished item tended to look like, well flimsy card. Scalescenes though have got it right and their product is robust and an innovation for the computer age.

It is supplied in the form of a downloadable pdf document that we print, paste onto 1mm card (for 4mm scale) and cut out the pieces to glue together. The instructions are crystal clear, even though I made a few silly mistakes due to lack of concentration on my part. No matter; just print out another sheet and remake the parts I screwed up!

What makes the kits winners is the attention to detail given by the designer. The models include signage, interior decor and this one a working slide door! Also, a lot of thought has gone into hiding the bare edges of the card.

I must pop back and buy a kit since this one is given away free to trial.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Basingstoke & Alton Light Railway

This short lived line (35 years) is famous for being the location used in the films 'Oh Mr. Porter' and 'The Wrecker'. The latter being co-written by Arnold Ridley, who also played Private Godfrey in the BBC series Dad's Army.

Much of the route today has been obliterated but there are a few stretches open to walkers and the line is commemorated with a short stretch of track laid on the old route in the middle of a road roundabout. Nearby is the information plaque shown above.
disused railway trackbed

disused railwayAnd so it came to pass that I undertook my first walk along this disused railway line, a half mile stretch near Winslade.

The walk begins with a climb up the embankment near Bridge No.5, which was demolished long ago. What is left is obscured with vegetation. The only signs that this path was a railway is the wide and level walkway bordered by embankment or cutting, both of which are heavily wooded.

bridge 6At the end is Bridge No.6, which is still intact and appears in good condition.

Upon returning home I pulled out my copy of the book "The Basingstoke And Alton Light Railway" (ISBN 0-9534197-0-3), which I had not read since 2008. (I remember that year because this book was one of the catalysts that renewed my railway modelling interest). I was amazed to see in the book a photograph of this very bridge under construction in the late 1800s; amazed because I had not set out to find that bridge and I had photographed it from virtually the same angle as the 1800s photo.

In the 1800s photo the brick portal is built but the embankments are in progress with workmen all around. Temporary wooden decking above the portal carried the track used by constructor's engine and wagons.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Trackwork - Part 6

ballastMaking your own ballast has the same satisfaction that a gardener gains from making their own compost!

You may not be able to use my technique as most of the material was given to me so, I do not know of a commercial source.

I started off many years ago using grey (or pink?) cat litter, ground down or sieved to a fine grade. I would not recommend cat litter now because the granules tend to fall apart when wet. But, remnants still show up in my ballast because my mix is reusable from layout to layout. (Read on and you'll find the special glue that holds the ballast stable yet allows it to be lifted and re-used). Subsequently I was given a bag of decorative grey (granite?) chips use by the building trade. The granules are a few millimetres across. These were crushed in an old coffee grinder and sieved with a fine mesh tea strainer to remove the dust (which is used for tarmac road surfaces) and then sieved (with a 1 millimetre mesh used for car body repairs) to create scale 3" ballast rocks.

Cork granules were sieved and added to the mix in small quantities. The grey chips predominate and the cork adds a little colour variation.

The magic glue is wallpaper paste flakes that are crushed and sieved with a tea strainer with the resulting 'dust' added to the mix. Can't really say what proportions are used - it's all guess work.

Some prototype track work has dark ballast between the sleepers where trains have deposited oil and muck so, a second mix is made up comprising the granite chips, black carbon granules from a face mask filter and dark brown dyed sawdust (Peco scatter material). The photo above shows this variation.

The ballast is then laid and water mixed with a little washing up liquid (to reduce surface tension) is sprayed to thoroughly soak the material. It takes a couple of days to dry by natural evaporation and leaves a stable surface that will withstand light vacuuming but will crumble to pieces if scrapped with a screwdriver. Hence it can be broken up for reuse.

To Part 7
To Part 1

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Van B or not Van B That is the Question

First built in 1937 and still in use up until 1986 these Bogie Van Bs conveyed luggage, newspapers and mail on the 'Southern'. Despite its longevity and common appearance on the network (130 were built) it has yet to appear as a ready-to-run model in 4mm scale (not to be confused with the Hornby Van C). The only source I am aware of is the Ratio kit, now marketed by Peco.


Hornby introduced its r-t-r Van B in 2012. So popular it quickly sold out and is now as rare as hens teeth!

The best photo of the prototype I found on the web is this one and since my model is to be a 1960s newspaper van on the west of England route then I could not hope for a better picture to use as a reference as it shows crisp, close up details and roof destination boards for this route, (though quite why the van is at Canterbury West is a mystery to me).

On opening the kit of parts we find a plethora of finely detailed parts to assembly. One look at the brass fret reveals parts so small (The door T handles are about a millimetre long) that it will fill many with horror at the thought of handling them without loss. It is for this reason I believe that many people pack it away to assemble another day and years later retrieve it from the bottom drawer or attic to sell on, since they come up on Ebay now and then.

You may be impressed by the extent of thought gone into the kit design. However, minute parts such as door handles and hinges should have been designed into the plastic door mould tool and the doors themselves integrated with the van sides. This would make it a simpler and more enjoyable assembly, and possibly cheaper (Currently retails for about £20). Did I mention the tiny dynamo is assembled from 4 individual parts and the tiny periscope from five! Perhaps there are ardent kit builders who derive pleasure from such challenges/frustrations. Not me I have to say. I just want a Van B.

Despite a multitude of details supplied there are some notable exceptions. The brass wire, which is required for the periscope window wiper and battery box tie bars, is too short - supplement this by using the staple fasteners from the packaging. There are no window bars, which are an obvious feature of the prototype - created mine in graphic editing software and printed on transparent film, and the water slide transfers are not expansive enough to represent later period vans.

I'm sorry this is not a happier account. On the plus side if you do manage to build it without loosing tiny parts to the carpet abyss then you will feel a sense of achievement and have a finely detailed model to admire. Just watch you don't knock the grab handles off (again).

One van is not enough for a newspaper train. Would I buy more of this kit? Only if I get a good deal. But, if a r-t-r model from the major manufacturers appears then that would be first choice.
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