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Saturday 3 December 2022

Inglenook Shunting Puzzle

I confess that creating a scenic model railway layout is of greater interest to me than running trains. Operation nowadays mostly occurs when my grand children are visiting!  I do think I should run trains more often to make full use of my creations. One reason I do not is probably because the railway room is in a garage isolated from house and family. This got me thinking about a layout within one of the house rooms. However, that is not appropriate for current circumstances - unless it was a very small and unobtrusive layout.

An Inglenook layout may fit the bill because the track layout is only three sidings and a head shunt with the operating objective to make up a train of five from eight wagons that are randomly selected and added to the train in the order selected. It is a game that requires some thought of where to shunt wagons to select only those required to make up the train in the correct order.

An introduction to the Inglenook shunting puzzle concept and rules of the game.

Using short wheelbase wagons and a tank engine the layout can be contained within only 1.2m. I had ideas about making the layout scenic and formulated a vista in my mind. The more I thought about it though I realised that would be more about fulfilling my creative need and less the operating potential that I sought. What if I abandoned the scenic aspect altogether and even a baseboard; a return to childhood when train sets were set out on the floor. This would certainly focus my attention on running trains.

I went window shopping online with a view to buying a couple of PECO turnouts but when rooting through my cabinet drawers I rediscovered I had some vintage (1960s) Triang-Hornby Super 4 turnouts. These were missing the springs for holding the switch rails in place (I must have used them for another project). It was easy to make replacements from a broken steel guitar 'e' string. Simply a 'V' shape with legs bent at 90 degrees.

I new I had a stock of Triang-Hornby Super 4 straight and curved track, buffer stops and uncoupling ramps. All set to go the track was laid loosely on top of a bookcase.

Smooth running of stock and loco is essential for a shunting layout. Sadly, modern rolling stock with their small narrow wheel flanges tended to derail through the turnout frog, which is designed for vintage coarse wheels. This was quickly remedied by sticking 0.2mm white card to the curved check rail.

Next problem was I only had three buffer stops but needed four. Thought I could live with that until I nearly shunted a wagon off the siding towards the floor! What I did have was a spare, broken Triang (1950s) buffer stop. The buffer beam was intact but the frame mostly missing. A new frame was designed and 3D printed and the vintage buffer beam attached.

The random wagon selection aspect of the game was fulfilled by photographing each of the wagons and printing on photo paper that was then cut into playing card size. The pack is shuffled before laying out five cards. A static card (not shuffled) of the engine was used to indicate the front of the train.

So far I have played three games. I found it straight forward to shunt the wagons to select the five needed. However, I had a mind block and reversed the order of the five wagons relative to the engine. More shunting corrected the order. Great fun!

Each game does not last long. It is ideal to play when a short break from other activities is wanted or when just passing by the bookcase.

Note: 8 wagons give a total of 40,320 different combinations.

Saturday 8 October 2022

47th Farnham Model Railway Exhibition

Staged in Aldershot. I only discovered it was on for this weekend (8/9 October 22) because the exhibition manager had posted details on SREmG.

Usually a good show because of the number of layouts and traders available to see. I was not disappointed. Unusually for me I had no purchases in mind (for the first time I think). I wanted to buy something but what? It was not until I was on my third walk around the exhibits and after the crowds had thinned that I could study unhindered traders' offerings. As a perused Squires trade stand my mind was jogged by some items seen that were indeed needed. I came a way with a track rubber, Code 100 joiners and thin nosed pliers. The latter to replace a pair I had been using for 50 odd years and is as knackered as me! Nothing exciting bought but glad I found them.

Of the 22 layouts on display these are the ones that appealed most to me.

Pencader (EM)

Raising the track above ground level always seems to be an attractive proposition because it causes the eye to focus on the railway line and its traffic. But, the main reason I liked this layout was the model buildings. Really crisp with intricate details in an attractive GWR colour scheme.

North Cornwall Brewery (00)

A model of two halves. About two thirds of the layout is the brewery and the rest a village. It was not the brewery part that attracted me though. It was the village. Exquisite modelling of a variety of building architecture placed in a very convincing life-like scene.

Redbridge Wharf (00)

I was taken aback by the size of this thing. The photo does not give it justice. A lot going on without being cluttered, probably helped by the vast expanse of water in this Hampshire dockside scene.

Sherton Abbas (7mm)

I stood for ages totally absorbed and transported into this miniature reality. When attention to detail is done as well as this in the larger scale it really surpasses the best of the smaller scales because small things are easier to see when they are bigger. Lozenge shaped and about 4 feet at the deepest point allowed the three dimensional landscape go deep in a layered approach (not captured in the photograph unfortunately). Just some of the detail included flocks of pigeons perched on the building roofs, rabbits on the embankment and telegraph wires installed.

This layout was my personal best in show and I voted for it in the election.

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Mainline Class 4MT 4-6-0 Pipe Repair

See that black 'pipe'. Well, I forget how many times I have knocked it off and glued it back on. It came off yet again and is now lost. Looking at photos of other models it seems to be a common occurrence. Check it is there if you buy one.

I decided to fabricate a replacement and started by searching out a photo of the prototype.

Now that is a surprise. The Mainline model representation is quite different, being partly flat, too far forward and angles omitted!

Using the prototype as a guide I used two gauges of copper wire (0.8mm and 0.5mm) to make the replacement. 

Whilst it is black on the prototype I decided to leave it copper coloured so I can admire my effort. There is a lot of other pipework and a speedo cable on the prototype. Can't see a simple and effective way to fit a speedo cable so I will leave those details off.

The fixing of the pipe was easy. A 0.7mm diameter hole was drilled in the cabin bulkhead to accept the fixing spigot (shown arrowed below) and the upper part of the pipe superglued beneath the running plate.

With hindsight I feel it should be a little more inboard. There is room.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Have you ever lost coupling hooks?

That is, the hooks from traditional UK closed bar couplings. Mysteriously two came free and were lost causing coaches in a train to break loose.

It was the Bachmann variety. A search of the usual stockists did not reveal any but there were Hornby variants available. They were quite cheap but would they fit the Bachmann frame? I was not going to try.

All I could find of the Bachmann were packets of complete coupling assemblies. Needing only two hooks it would have cost about £12 the pair, a bit expensive for two small hooks. Maybe I could make a replacement. 

I had some spare brass sheet about the same thickness as a Bachmann hook so set about carving two out using a Bachmann as a template. Brass is ideal as it holds its form well when working with small parts. The most difficult part was making the clip end so it did not fall off the bar that it swivels around.

Photo shows the Bachmann and two brass fabrications. The clip (left side of hook) in the bottom one is not formed well enough. This was overcome by bending its end to close the circle a little, another advantage of making it in pliable brass rather than brittle plastic.

Friday 29 July 2022

Locomotive Motor & Gear Troubles

Locos failing left right and centre. 

First it was my Lima Class 33 that needed a motor transplant (motor obtained from www.strathpefferjunction.com). Then it was my Hornby Class 700 that needed a motor replacement (obtained from Peters Spares; discovered later I could disassemble the original motor and repair it.). Now, My Hornby Bulleid Merchant Navy Class exhibited gear slipping.

There is the culprit - the gear on the right in the photo is split causing the axle on which it fits to spin freely in it.

On the left is the gear assembly comprising a large (white) gear and a replacement for the one in question. This assembly has the number X8849 and whilst spares are listed by several suppliers all had no stock available last week!

What to do?

The faulty gear has 21 teeth and is about 11.5 mm in diameter. I searched eBay for 'hornby 21 teeth gear' and one popped up. It was also identified as 11.5mm diameter but, listed for Hornby Britannia. Taking a hunch that the manufacturer would have applied economies of scale and assigned it to other locomotives I bought it and to my delight found it is a direct replacement for the Merchant Navy gear :-)

Saturday 4 June 2022


This story is a follow on from my February 2021 posting about a lorry for Corona Quay (please read that first). Previously I wanted to correct the driving position and fit a driver but could not fathom how to take the cab off to gain access.

It is strange sometimes how events manifest. Nearly 14 months later I was just sitting and playing my guitar and looked up to the windowsill where the lorry on display caught my eye. On a whim I decided to have another look to see if I could do the upgrade.

I like the model but it irks me to see that the foreign manufacturer made this distinctly UK lorry left hand drive! I'd really like to reposition the steering wheel for UK right hand drive.

Last time I got as far as removing the one visible screw holding the cab, which alone did not release it from the chassis.  Another visible screw held the payload body so, this time I removed that as well and guess what, that too was not enough to release the body. There was another hidden screw underneath the spare wheel. I pulled off the spare wheel bracket (and in so doing broke one of the two spigots holding it in place). With the body removed a second screw for the cab normally hidden by the body  came into view and with that removed the cab came off.

The cab seating and footwell area easily slipped out of the cab to reveal the steering wheel column fixing. It is glued into a groove in the dashboard, the latter riveted inside the cab. Carefully, I scrapped with a scalpel each side of the steering column to break the glue bond. Thankfully, the steering wheel and column came out in one piece.

At this point I thought with everything in pieces it would be nice to install a driver before reassembling. I searched the market. Most drivers were loco drivers who had their arms set too low for the lorry driving position. I settled on a bus driver from Modelu (the most expensive supplier of unpainted figures!) because his arms were in a position likely to fit. My research discovered that 1950/60s British Railways lorry drivers were uniformed and wore a cap like all other railway staff so, with the bus driver wearing a similar cap I was encouraged that this might work.

Service from Modelu was quick with good communication. Sent out first class post it arrived 3 days later, delayed due to the postal service taking a holiday to celebrate the Queens jubilee!

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Good - The arm positions were perfect for the steering wheel position

Bad - The open leg positions were too far apart and too upright to fit the footwell

The Ugly - A very brittle material. With all the handling to get it to fit the lorry both drivers hands became amputated. They were rebuilt with blob layers of super glue bulked up with bicarbonate of soda sprinkles. In fact they do not look too bad compared the originals, which were not that well defined anyway.

What to do about the legs - I sawed off the legs at the knee and repositioned the lower limbs to be more forward, which left gaping holes behind the knees. These was filled with blob layers of super glue and BoS sprinkles, as for the hands. I initially thought I would need to fill with epoxy putty but the superglue method worked very well and set instantly. A little filing blended the fill with the resin legs.

With regard to painting, the current trend is to spray all over black and then spray white only from the direction of the sun. This leaves 'shadows' where the sun does not reach. I did the same, not with spray but with light brushing having wiped off most of the paint from the brush beforehand. Finally, the uniform and body parts were brush painted picking out the eye balls with a drop of paint on the end of a scalpel.

Now the tricky part - installation. Even with the lower legs moved forward he levitated above the seat. I had to cut away the footwell floor to allow his feet to lower so he could sit down. Then there was interference between his left hand and dashboard, impeding full insertion in the cab. That required filing away a little of the dashboard.

Originally the steering wheel column was located in the dashboard. Now, for the desired angle to fit the column, it was necessary to fit into a hole drilled in the footwell front wall.

Whilst all this jiggery-pokery was going on I succeeded in breaking off one of the sticky-outy wing mirrors. That was a shame because despite gluing it back on the repair is fragile and can be seen when looking for it.

By the way, the driver is held in place with double sided tape. His right hand in the photo (left) was the original. In the last photo it is the refabricated right hand. I fear I have compromised the lorry resale value with the changes made and damage incurred along the way.

I came across a close up photo of a driver in the cab of the full size lorry and am pleased to say that  my installation in the model is near identical. It filled me with delight as I reassembled the lorry knowing the driving position is correct and a driver is present.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Why has my Hornby Class 700 motor failed so soon?

Bought new and after a relatively short period the engine would not run due to a failed motor. A new motor was purchased from Peter's Spares, who had a vast stock of them, possibly indicating a common fault.

So why did the original motor fail?

I needed to gain access to the inside of the motor can to find out. The four arrows in the photo show the cleaved flaps that were twisted away to allow rear panel removal. I used electrical cutters to hold the boss and lever off the panel from the can.

Attached to the rear panel are the armature contacts. The contacts are four extremely fine (thin) metal fingers. Some were deformed from both the feed and return and had moved away breaking electrical contact with the armature.

I carefully bent the fingers back to a position of likely contact and reassembled the rear panel.

Applied power and voila! the motor ran. I cannot recommend this as a fix as the fragility of the design will undoubtedly cause it to fail again.

As to the new motor installation I shall have to run the engine only for special occasions and hope this will extend its life.


I wondered if I could strengthen the contacts. With a lot of fiddling I was able to push the electrical contacts out of the housing. I then lightly soldered a strip of thin phosphor bronze strip to cover the fingers and reassembled. This has provided more robust and worked perfectly well. I could not reinstate the cleaved flaps to hold the rear panel in place, which is no big problem as the motor is held in the engine such that the rear panel cannot come loose. So, now I have a spare motor in case the other one fails.

Sunday 13 March 2022

BNHRMS Exhibition

After a two year hiatus, due to the pandemic, and with some excitement we visited the Basingstoke show once again. I was struck by how familiar everything was. Warring nations and pandemics lost from our minds with only the occasional face mask wearer reminding us of reality. 

This time we went in the afternoon to avoid excessive early morning crowds and lack of car parking. Afternoons are a much more civilised time to visit. 

The usual mix of high quality layouts and the same traders were on show. It seemed to me that there was, however, a subtle shift in layout presentations in so far as the intricate animations of cameo scenes that were becoming popular at the last few shows we visited - things like moving people and smoke effects were absent (unless I missed them). It was a return to traditional railway modelling. I did not even hear many sound effects.

Three of the 20 odd layouts appealed most to me were:

Brankstone (00 gauge) was inspirational because it made optimal use of only about 2 metres length. It is a two level scheme where the foreground contained a locomotive depot and the upper level a separate end to end run. The loco depot is accessed from a gap in the retaining wall of the upper level and beneath this level was the fiddle yard. The upper level is a single track with storage sidings at each end hidden by the buildings. The operational interest is mainly  limited to the movement of locomotives in the yard whereas the upper level provides an unexpected appearance of a train appearing between the buildings on its run from nowhere to nowhere.

I seemed to think I had seen Bodmin (N gauge) somewhere before. Indeed it featured in another of my show reviews for Andover 2018. I'll repeat what I said then:

"Bodmin (N gaugestruck a chord with me as I visited the prototype. I remembered walking along the platform, chatting to the signalman at his box about the T9 languishing in the shed a little further down the yard. Now with a helicopter viewpoint I see the entire station complex with all the recognisable structures but in miniature."

My best in show goes to Dillmouth (0 gauge). It captured perfectly the atmosphere of a country station aided by the best layout lighting I have ever seen. Halogen or LED?  miniature flood lights bathed the scene with the most natural bright summer sunlight.

Of the three items I wanted to purchase only one was found (solder). But, I did come away with a prize from the tombola (Metcalf stone sheets).

Also, said hi to Steve Flint, who was peddling his Peco publications. He remembered our layout that he voted best in show in 2014 and latter published in his magazine.

Sunday 16 January 2022

Corgi 417 Revisited

Back in March 2019 I posted my efforts in restoration of my Corgi 417 breakdown truck. What was not included was a replacement for the missing canopy as I did not find one in the market at the time. Now, nearly 3 years later, I wondered if I had some metal to fabricate one. A root through my box of bits revealed, surprisingly to me, a small piece of tin that was just about the right size. No idea where that originally came from.

The dimensions and placement of the canopy rear curves and roof searchlight position were determined by observation and scaling a photograph on ebay of an original truck. Much fiddling ensued to fold up the metal accurately.

Paint was sprayed using Revell enamel paint no.12 with a little white No. 4 mixed in to mimic the original shade, as best I could.

I searched ebay for searchlight and decals. These were found from this buyer, who also sells a replacement canopy!

The searchlight has a spigot that pokes through the fixing hole but no clamp supplied to hold it in place. I used a nut and reduced the diameter of the spigot with a file until I could screw the nut on, making its own thread in the soft white metal. Enough slack was left so the searchlight can swivel.

The truck red paintwork was quite badly chipped. Since it now has a new, pristene canopy I decided to touch up the chips with red paint. Not perfect but looks better than before

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