Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tree Huggers

We finally managed to complete the landscaping of the hill at the weekend and, you must admit, it does look quite striking. 
The first thing we did was to re-erected the wooden fence and kissing gate and then we planted some hedging along a part of its length.
Next job was to plant a few colourful trees which, I must admit, some of us thought might look a bit out of place. However, once they were in situ they certainly had the effect of lifting the hill and making it stand out whereas, previously, the trees we had placed there temporarily just made the whole area look rather dark and flat.
The final job was to put a seat half way up the hill and another one inside the folly at the top of the hill. Each seat is occupied by a couple holding hands and embracing as they take in the view.
Hmm, make me wish that I could take a stroll there myself!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Roaming Centurion

Newly weathered Class 50, 50 011 'Centurion', stands at Petersfield Station at the head of a rake of Bachmann Mk2 coaches.
Yes, this was the third of our locomotives (together with the Warship and Class 20 locos) to go on its travels down to Taunton for weathering by Alex of Mikron Models.
Unlike her sister, 50 020 'Revenge', which was quite heavily weathered, Centurion was given only the lightest of touches, as can be seen from the photograph, above.
The bogies and buffer beams have obviously been 'dirtied' as has the lower part of her bodywork. She has also had her roof weathered slightly, which has helped bring the panels and grills into better relief.
This loco has the South West Digital sound files fitted whilst both Revenge and the third member of our Class 50 fleet, 50 007 'Sir Edward Elgar', both have the Howes Sound.
Actually, it is surprising just how different the SWD and Howes sounds are and both have their merits although I think we prefer Howes.
Ideally we would like each of the three locos to have a different sound file fitted but the only other one that is available, so far as I know, is from Olivias Trains and this sound, compared to both SWD and Howes, is very poor in our honest opinion.
However, according to their website, Olivias do say that they are going to produce a new Class 50 sound in the near future, courtesy of the Fifty Fund. So, let us hope this is a marked improvement on their current effort and, if it is, we would definitely consider changing one of our Howes-fitted Fifties to Olivia's.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting The Hump

Here we see the latest state of Petersfield, as of last weekend. The parkland area, seen in the top picture, has now had grass added and a folly placed at the top of the hill.  We now just need to replace the fencing at the bottom of the hill, which was removed to allow us to work on this location. Then add some trees and bushes, and people of course, and this area will be complete.
In the lower picture it can be seen that we have added a hump back bridge to take vehicles across the stream and, also, we have refaced the bridge that carries the railway over the stream with a Peco stone bridge which is, actually, N Gauge but which is perfect for the job here.
The hump back bridge was made out of wood by our skilled craftsman Dave and was then faced with Metcalfe Stone Sheet to match the other bridges in the town. It is, maybe, a  tad too humped at the moment but the road will be raised a little on either side which should reduce this a bit.  
Now that we have sorted out the bridge we should be able to proceed quite quickly with the rest of the roads and paved areas and then start work transferring the Craft Centre to the large grey area to the left of the photograph.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Making Light Work

Last week I said that I would show you how we wired the two Traintronics two-aspect, colour light signals that we recently added to the layout.
Well, true to my word, I am going to use this post to try and explain, as simply as I can, how we did it.
To begin with, the second diagram above shows how we wired our two signals. Of course, if you only have one signal, you can disregard the extra wiring for Signal 2. Similarly, if you have three or more signals, then you just need to repeat this extra wiring as many times as necessary.
Please note, though, that this diagram is only good for wiring the Traintronics two-aspect, colour light signals (TT102)  although, I daresay, the wiring for other makes of two-aspect signals will probably be much the same. However, if you are installing three or four-aspect signals or signals with feather lights, the wiring for those will definitely be different.
Please also be aware that this is for connecting the signals to a DC supply. If you wish to use them with DCC then this, again, will require different wiring.
The first picture, above, shows the Traintronics signal together with its printed circuit board (PCB). You also get a bag of bits that includes a ladder and hoop but I have not shown these as they have no bearing on the wiring.
As you can see there are wires (three in total) emanating from the bottom of the signal, these are coloured red, green and blue. Please be warned that they are extremely fine and great care must be taken when handling them. We actually slipped a length of protective sleeving over the wires and, also, over the part of the signal shaft that is inserted through the hole in the baseboard in order to give the wires some protection.
Once the signal is in situ and the PCB is attached to the underside of the baseboard, using the screws and spacers provided, the first delicate and fiddly job is to insert the wires from the signal into the three relevant screw terminals on the PCB. 
There are two groups of three terminals on either side of the PCB: one group is connected to the signal while the other group is connected to the supply.
The three connections for the signal are marked Blue, Red and Green, as per my diagram, so it is clear which wire goes where. However, the fineness of the wires, coupled with the fact that I was crawling around underneath the layout and it was dark, so a lamp was needed, meant that it was not the easiest of tasks to perform.
Once the signal wires are all securely inserted into each of the relevant terminals you then need to bring in two wires from the 12V DC supply and, for this, an old Hornby DC Train Controller is ideal. One of the wires from the supply (it does not matter which one) must be designated as positive while the other one is negative or 0V. 
The positive wire needs to be connected directly to the central pin or connector at the back of a double pole, single throw (ON-ON) toggle switch. This type of switch has two positions and, in both positions, the switch is ON - there is no OFF position. In other words, the switch will set the signal to either red or green.
Wires then need to be taken from each of the two outer connectors on the switch - with one wire going to the Red terminal in the 'From Supply' block of terminals on the Signal PCB and one wire going to the Green terminal. It does not matter which wire goes to which terminal.
Finally, the wire from the supply that has been designated as negative or 0V must be connected to the 0V connector on each of the Signal PCBs. We used a Terminal (chocolate block) Connector to split the connections between the Supply and the two terminals. However, if you have lots of signals, it might be better to use an adhesive copper strip, running underneath the layout, to which you can solder wires that, then, go to the switch and each of the terminals.
Once you are happy that all is connected properly it is just a matter of switching on the DC Supply and checking that the signals work. If they do then they should now be showing either red or green and, by flicking the switches up or down, so the signals should  change  from one colour to the other.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Whistler Smother

Our Class 20 (20 034) was another of the locos that we have recently had weathered by Alex of Mikron Models in Taunton.
Unlike the poor Warship, featured in earlier postings, we wanted this loco to undergo only a medium amount of weathering and, again, the result is excellent.
The lower part of the loco (bogies, buffers etc) have all been treated to a layer of dust and dirt while the roof has been smothered in a layer of black grime. Now she really does look like the work-horse that she is on our layout, handling anything from freight services to local passenger duties and, even, the occasional station pilot.
Yes, you might say, she's as pretty as a picture!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Path Finder

With our attention directed towards installing the first light signals onto the layout, I have to report that not much progress was made on the town area again this week. 
However, we did manage to lay some cork beneath the buildings and, thereby, better create the road layout around them. This cork now needs to be covered in some form of paving and we are considering our options here. We could use scatter or some more of the Metcalfe paving sheets, however, I see that there is a web site called that sells downloadable pdfs of, among other things, textured paving sheets. 
They look quite good and the idea is that, for £1.99, you download a PDF of an A4 sheet and then print off as many sheets as you need on your own printer. I have not downloaded any so I cannot say what the quality is like but it got me thinking that, with a digital camera and a computer programme such as Photoshop, we could probably create something similar ourselves. So, this weekend, I plan to go for a walk around town and photograph suitable areas of paving and, then, manipulate it in Photoshop  to make up my own sheets of paving. I promise to report back here with the results!
You will also see from the pictures above that we also gave all of the landformed embankments etc a coat of earth wash in readiness for landscaping. This immediately makes everything look so much better than it does when it is snowy white.
The next job is to insert a small bridge over the stream, between the clock tower and the row of houses, this will carry the road over to a car park, craft centre and lake. After this has been done we hope that progress in completing this area will be quite swift as we are now slowly getting all of the items together for the diesel depot and really want to start that job next.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Light Railway

And here we see D812 again, this time waiting to depart Platform 2 at Sueston station, while a Class 55 approaches from under the road bridge. 
An interesting scene, indeed, but all the more interesting because, as the sharp-eyed amongst you will have noticed, we now have coloured light signals controlling the exit from Sueston. 
For the moment we only have two signals, for Platforms 2 and 3, but the plan is to add two more, for Platforms 1 and 4, in due course.
We have used Traintronics two-aspect coloured light signals, Catalogue NÂș: TT102, and these are connected to an old Hornby 12V DC Controller. The wiring for this is fairly straight-forward although, having said that, it did take a certain amount of research and two attempts before before we got it right. 
Therefore, for anyone else out there contemplating the addition of two-aspect coloured light signals to their layout, I will describe the wiring process in a future posting.
So why did we decide to add the signals? Well, for several reasons really:
To begin with they obviously add authenticity to the railway. 
Any form of lighting always brings life to a layout and, as we want to add more general lighting to the layout in the future, it seemed a good way to learn how to go about it. 
Finally, the signals do serve a practical purpose in that, when we operate the railway and perform several train movements with more than one driver, the lights will help the Operations Manager come Signalman (usually me) to indicate to said drivers when they have the 'right away'.
Unfortunately there are some places on the layout where lights are not easily seen by those driving the trains and, at these locations, semaphore signals will have to be used instead but that is okay since, I believe, a mix of signalling will serve to make it all the more interesting.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Right Royal Mess

D812, Royal Naval Reserve, is seen entering Sueston Station in a very sorry state. She is one of the latest batch of locomotives that we have had weathered by Alex at Mikron Models and, yet again, he has done a superb job.
I will feature the other locos in future postings but I will say now that they have not been as heavily weathered as the poor Warship.
We did want her to look somewhat neglected even though it was actually a tough decision to make since we do rather like this loco.
Still, during the period that our layout is set, these hydraulics would have been coming towards the end of their days and, those that were left, would have been in a similar condition to ours - if not worse! 
This is what we wanted to reflect here and I think Alex has reproduced it extremely well, as always.
The loco is fitted with the excellent Howes sound and is a regular performer on the layout, working both Mk1 passenger services and goods trains.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ballast It!

After indulging in a week's holiday, hence no postings, I thought I would start again this week by explaining the process that we use to ballast our track. This can be one of the more fiddly and time-consuming jobs that has to be done on a model railway layout - especially when you have one that, like ours, is rather large.
Of course the quickest and easiest way to apply 'ballast' is to use foam underlay from the likes of Hornby and Peco, as shown in below:
However, this can work out rather expensive if as, again, your layout is a large one. I have also heard it said that the foam can perish over time, especially if the layout is in a location that is prone to damp and cold during the winter months. 
Also, foam does not look as realistic as proper chippings and that is the main reason why we chose to use that method to ballast our track rather than the foam.
In the picture below you will see that I have put cork between the track and the base board. This is purely to allow me to create a ballast shoulder. If you do not want a shoulder then it is perfectly acceptable to lay the track directly onto the baseboard. Some people say that adding the cork also helps with noise reduction but I have not found this to be the case. However, I do like to lay the track onto cork because it does help to create a flat surface, something that is essential for trouble-free running.
Once the track is secured to the cork I sprinkle the ballast between the sleepers, usually a short section at a time, say about six inches. Once I have sprinkled sufficient ballast onto the track, I use a small artists brush to spread the ballast evenly and to remove it from the sleepers, as shown here:
You can also tap the baseboard on either side of the track as this can help the ballast to settle and bed down. I continue sprinkling and spreading until I have ballasted between the rails and, also, along the sides to create the shoulders. Then I use a steel ruler, or something with a similar straight edge, to gather in any loose bits of grit and so neaten the ballast at the sides of the track, as shown below:
At this stage I could start to add the glue but some people suggest that you dampen the ballast first in order to help the glue mixture flow better. I must admit, I have added the glue without wetting the ballast first and have found that it flows okay; so, whether you do this or not is really personal choice. However, for the purposes of this posting, I have sprayed the ballast using a garden mister with the nozzle set to a fine mist.
After wetting the ballast I then apply the glue mixture using a small artists brush. A pipette or syringe would do the job just as well but you do need to soak the ballast to ensure that the glue penetrates and binds all of the grit. The glue mix that I use consists of 40% PVA glue, 60% water and a drop of washing up liquid, which helps the mixture to spread. It is usually best to mix your glue thoroughly and then leave it for 24 hours to settle down before using it, giving it a quick stir before doing so.
Once the glue has been applied it will need at least 24 hours to set, I usually give it a couple of days to make sure it is fully hardened. After that I  give the track a thorough clean to remove any bits of ballast from the sleepers and, more importantly, also remove any that is stuck to the inside of the rails. Not to do this can lead to, at best, rough riding and, at worst, derailments. It is also very important to clean the top of the rails to remove any grit and/or glue residue.
We have a couple of old and tatty test coaches which we use for testing track and clearances etc and I always run these over any freshly ballasted track to see if they run smoothly.
Once this is done I use a vacuum cleaner to pick up all of the loose ballast and other debris before I allow trains to go anywhere near a newly-ballasted section of track. Using the vacuum cleaner also acts as a good test for the integrity of the glue. If I have not used sufficient glue or somehow missed any of the ballast, the cleaner will simply suck it up and I will have to reballast those bits again. 
When all of this work is completed I hope to end up with track that looks something like it does in the picture below:
Obviously I have used unpainted track here but, if you want to paint the sleepers and sides of the rails, it is obviously better to do so before ballasting. I have also used a single grey colour of ballast, however,  other colours exist and you can also mix colours to give a more realistic look.
One note of caution when it comes to ballasting points: you must make sure that you avoid getting ballast and glue anywhere near the moving parts. We have many, many points on our layout and I have ballasted them all but I always take particular care when working around the moving bits. I use just enough ballast to give the suggestion that it has been done, with no baseboard or cork showing through, and I am also very, very careful when applying the glue. I did manage to gum up a couple of points when I first started ballasting, which is not a good idea, but that only served to make me more careful in the future.