Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Ho 2010!

With the old year drawing to a close and a new one appearing over the horizon, it is customary to offer up some sort of resolution. Something to do in the new year.
Quite why you need the arrival of a new year to resolve to do something is something that I've never quite understood. You can resolve to do something anytime you like. You don't hear of many folks offering up a birthday resolution though do you?
So I might as well jump on the bandwagon, even though it is probably very full with well meaning overweight, unfit, smokers etc: and offer up something.
By this time next year. I'd like to see track down and trains running into Saltfleet Haven. I'm not going to make any rash promises about a full detailed working exhibition layout. For 25 years of this idea have taught me that that is extremely unlikely.
So a Happy new year to all of you. Old friends who have turned up out of nowhere and new ones I've made. May your new year turn out to be as successful as you wish for.

Monday, December 28, 2009

cross blogging

I've just made this entry over at the protocrastinator
Take a read of it and tell me if you think that if a British Model Railway magazine were to do something similar that they would fail to mention finescale track standards.
I tend to think not. But then again I've been out of touch of the UK model railway press for 10 years or so.
I think finescale standards are more readily embraced by the model railway mags in the UK than they are in the US of A. Perhaps its just me.
I'd certainly be interested in any points of view.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's working

It's working. Already. The cross-pollenation of ideas between 4mmscaleagonies and Protocrastinator is already hapenning after only a few short weeks of the two being up. Planning ideas do seem to pass between the two. I have even considered having both layouts exactly the same size and shape with the same trackplan.
I've always believed that "Its not what you've got it's what you do with it" and the idea of producing two vastly different layouts with the same trackplan does certainly appeal. We'll have to see where that particular "train of thought" (sorry about the pun) takes me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Welcome the Protocrastinator...

(n) Protocrastinator is a person who puts off finescale Railroad (and railway modelling) for no good reason.
That would be me then, and by some incredible co-incidence Protocrastinator is the name of my new blog.
Why another blog?
Well, my sucessful US outline layout Seven day model Railroad is nearing the end of its journey. It was planned as a seven day layout and that's pretty much the time I've spent on it. So it fulfilled all my dreams. There are still things to do with it and there will still be a couple of model railway exhibitions it will attend as well as being written up in the model railway press. So there is a lot of life left in the old dog yet.
But it's not finescale. There is nothing that disappoints me more when I look at it than looking at the wheels. Those Steamroller wheels. Then there's the pointwork, those flangeways. They are nothing like what they are on the real thing. As I was building it several times I thought to myself.
"I should have built this in P87" But It wouldn't have been a 7 day layout then.
You could ask why I don't re lay this layout with P87 track and turnouts. It would have to be a bigger layout then. Turnouts would have been longer and the layout would have lengthened. Besides I am very attached to it and I don't want to tear it up.
So as I've already nailed my colours to the mast here with finescale 4mm modelling I decided to set up a new blog for a finescale 3.5mm scale project.
The two should go hand in hand quite comfortably. Progress on it might well be quicker than on here as ordering finescale bits and bobs will be easier and not subject to the vagaries of exchange rates.
So pop over there and check it out. Hopefully it will grow to be as much fun as here and you certainly shouldn't forget that name Protocrastinator.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm such a Luddite...

I have now read through the latest copy of Scalefour News.
DCC operation of Alex Jackson couplers. Mind boggling.
Blimey Charlie! I haven't even got around to the installing of AJ's on my stock let alone DCC operation of my locomotives yet.
DCC. Technology marches on. I suppose I should at least try it out somewhere.
But why should I fork out an extra $100 for a locomotive just because it has a computer chip in it (then lets not forget a new controller for another $150) when my straight DC loco's work fine as it is. You should have seen my FDT trackmobile on my US outline layout at the weekend. Ran to a perfect crawl. Same with my Athearn Genesis MP15-AC. So I just don't see the need currently. (Was there a pun there? Sorry)
What about other features like digital sound? Someone will chime in.
What about it? Say I. Surely the sound coming from our 4mm scale locomotives should be 1:76.2 scale too.
How loud is a class 31 throttling up? 90 decibels?
What's 1:76.2 of 90? 1.25 decibels. How loud is 1.25 decibels? Would you even hear it?
Just a thought from a Luddite. I'm sure that the subject has been hacked to death somewhere already.
Ironically the one DCC feature that interests me the most is the one that boggles my mind the most. DCC operation of couplers...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thought for the day (2)

This is one of those off the wall sort of things so bear with me...
Christmas is coming (I'm sure I'll ramble more on that at some point) and in order to prepare the front room for our magnificent tree things have to be moved out into the basement. Including the exercise ball that I do a brief regimen of crunches and sit ups on in a morning as part of my marathon training. (You really are wondering where the heck this is going aren't you) So this is now in the basement and as luck would have it it is placed directly in front of the "mock up" of the Haven layout. So every time I come up from a sit up I get a marvellous eye level view of the layout. I have to say it still looks good. The Chapel appears to be perfectly placed and the goods yard looks pretty natural. So I'm still feeling pretty good about the whole concept. Perhaps I will get started in the new year after all.
See? It all comes together in the end....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thought for the day

Where is my latest copy of Scalefour News? It can't be far away.
I'm really in the mood for a good P4 read...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Get off yer backside and do something!

It's tempting. The 2010 RMWeb challenge has been announced. The competition is to build a layout in 2010 square inches by 20th October 2010. 2010 square inches is just under 14 square feet. Way way more than what I have planned for the Haven layout. But it might just be the catalyst to get me going on the scheme at long last. I have plenty of stock waiting to be converted all the track I need. But (and this is a pretty big but) no baseboard. Have to see if I can get around to building a baseboard after Christmas.
I always seem to end up building baseboards in January, one of the coldest months of the year when its flippin' freezing in the garage. Haven't quite worked out why it seems to end up that way. You'd think I'd learn my lesson after all these years...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No news is not bad news...

I feel the pages of this blog are long overdue for and update.
So what has happenned in the last month to this layout?
Well not a lot really. I'm encouraged to see that Ultrascale charged my credit card for the Class 08 conversion unit I ordered a few months ago. Perhaps that will be here soon and I can get a locomotive running that would really fire things up.
I have started assembling various wagon kits as well as the Wills Chapel that will grace the layout. I had forgotten how well made Wills kits were and how easily they go together, it's such a long time since I had one.
The piece of wood referenced in an earlier post ended up getting used on a totally different project. Something totally off the wall and diametrically opposed to the P4 layout in so many ways. But it was great fun though a part of me wishes I'd built that in P87.
One final thing I got my wish in the end and wasn't accepted for the London Marathon so perhaps next year I can time my visit back home with a visit to Scaleforum...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mystery Baseboard

Sometimes something just hits me. This offcut of 1/4 ply has been lying around unnoticed in my garage for a long time. Yet today when I came back from a 15 mile run (should have been 20 but it got too hot for me) and saw it there I was struck by the curved edge.
"You know what? That looks like a riverbank" I thought to myself. Immediately I started to think about if this was a possible baseboard for the Haven layout. No matter that I was totally jiggered from running 15 miles in upper 70'sF heat. I had to think about it. Deliriium perhaps. The wood is 5' long x 12" deep at the deepest point. I'm not saying that this would be the baseboard for the layout. But its certainly useable for part of the quayside I think. Anyway I've not posted for a while so I thought I'd just throw this out there. Just to show I'm still actively engaged in this project even though there are other things on my plate.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mail call

Blimey. Jeepers. Golly.
Scalefour News arrived today.
I have to admit I was rather puzzled when I picked up the brown envelope. There was something different. It was thicker. More robust.
"What's this?" I thought. "Something's going on here." I wasn't even sure that it was the News for a moment.
However that fear was dispelled as soon as I opened the envelope. It was a double bumper issue! Not only a copy of the News but also a nice thick Scaleforum 2009 guide. Full colour and everything. Just awesome. Showing me exactly what I'm missing by not being there.
Just what am I missing? Only some of the (personally) most influential P4 layouts going. Bodmin, Hepton Wharf, Llanastr. It's just not fair! I would kill to see all these layouts under one roof. OK perhaps not literally but you get the idea. The selection of layouts looks outstanding and a longer list of traders there to boot.
It makes me actually hope that I don't get accepted for the 2010 London Marathon so that we can time next years visit home with Scaleforum 2010.
Huge compliments to the producers of the guide and I hope that Scaleforum 2009 is a huge success.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lest we forget

Things are very quiet on the Haven layout front. So I don't want anyone to think I've abandoned it. As I've stated before marathon training takes a lot of time. This week alone I have two eight mile runs and a twenty miler to get in. Plus, I have discovered a distraction in the Porthmadog, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway and I am inspired enough to mess around with some ideas for a small layout.
I have spent some time staring at a "baseboard" with some track laid out on it with some building mock ups on it to get a feel for the layout. I was hoping to be able to fit the layout into a 4' length for ease of construction but the more I look at things the more I realise it needs to be 4'6" perhaps even 5'. So a case of "best laid plans of mice" there.
I'm still knocked out by the design and the sketches when I look at them so the idea isn't going away. No chance.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Some thoughts

Been somewhat quiet on the update front of late. Mileage is starting to ramp up for my next marathon. So that takes priority.
I have placed an order for a couple of Tortoise point motors for the layout though. Some of the parts for the Scalescenes goods shed are sitting under some weights while the glue sets. Actually they've been sat under the weights for 2 weeks so I think the glue is well and truly bonded now.
Also today a slight cause for concern. I finally dismantled my Wold Farm Mushrooms layout. Ripping up the track and removing the hills, ostensibly to fit everything in the dustbin easier. But, and this makes me re-think the pink foam method, everything peeled off the pink foam easily. Too easily. So easily that I have a new baseboard for another layout with a minimum of clean up. Bit worried about the pink foam baseboards now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

As the world spins

A wet rainy Minnesota morning seems very far removed from the delights of Cricket on an English summers afternoon. But that is what I've been thinking about this morning.
Perhaps it was yesterday's stunning England victory over Australia at Lords. Perhaps it was the fact that while I've been working on assembling the Scalescenes goods shed I've been doing so to the strains of the Duckworth Lewis Method.
But today it is more than likely because I just followed the links from a recent comment to one of this blogs postings. That led me to the website of Brocklesby Park Cricket Club. One weekend, many years ago, I played there for Grimoldby CC. I went in at number 10 or 11 and the first ball I faced was a bit uppish and I decided with a rush of blood to the head to hook at it. Which being a number 11 batsman I totally mistimed and the ball crashed into my shoulder. I think my pride was hurt more than anything. It certainly caused some consternation amongst the home team though. I don't remember a lot about the innings after that. Did I score any runs in my innings? I don't think so. Did I get out next ball? Knowing me probably.
What has this got to do with Model Railways? Absolutley nothing. You just never know where the next memory is coming from.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A flight of fancy

Imagine yourself on a light aircraft flying along the East Lincolnshire coastline. A few miles North of Mablethorpe you take a look out of the window. If you are imagining hard enough you might see this scene below you.
This then is ideally how I'd like the layout to look when finished. The length of the layout would run from the goods shed to the chapel graveyard and depth wise from the quay wall to the front hedgerow. Hopefully I could get the finished layout to look like this. It's certainly something to aim for.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The train now arriving

In the excitement of turning out that little sketch yesterday I negelcted to mention that my Bachmann Class 04 arrived from Hatton's yesterday.
What a gorgeous little model. A beautifully detailed moulding, seperate handrails to add and a driver in the cab as well.
Hopefully I will be able to live up to the standard set by its construction when I add the skirts, cowcatchers and the new cab to enable it to take up its new appearance.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In my minds' eye...

I am cursed. I have visions. Visions of Model Railway layouts.
Actually it's not really a curse (if it is, then it's a very nice one). It's just that some times I can see in my minds eye how I'd like a particular scene on a model to look and I can't get it out of my head. Luckily with an art college education under my belt I'm able to scribble the idea down pretty quickly in a form I can understand. Such has happened to me with the left hand side of the Haven layout.
If you can't make out the details in my sketch. The through line is passing in front of you, from left to right it appears from behind a tree and is crossed by a dirt track road before crossing a the dyke on a bridge that looks remarkably like some of those on the Wisbech and Upwell...
The road enters the goods yard with the goods shed to your left. You can see the mast of a boat beached at low tide appearing over the edge of the quay.
Perhaps the finished model will look nothing like this. But if it did it would be very nice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More plans...

I left you yesterday with the comment that laying out the track for the layout full size had given me some more ideas for the scenic treatment of the layout. Well it didn't just give me one idea it gave me two. Two very different ways of looking at the same plan. When I was playing around with the full size track elements. As I slid the through running line rearwards, I became aware that it became less and less apart of the shunting yard and became its own element. That was when I finished the last post and went and sketched the concept below out.

To emphasise further the fact that the through line was becoming separate from the shunting yard, I placed it on the other side of a dyke. This would give the chance to create a little scene in the back corner there. A barn perhaps or a chapel. I reached for my print off from Google Earth of the scene to see if there was anything there to incorporate and I did something most unfortunate. I looked at the picture upside down. I saw things in a whole different way. This way...
The through running line now appears front left and departs rear right. The actual haven i.e. the dockside has been moved to the rear. That means I would loose the silted up river as a main feature. But I gain a potentially very nice scene in the front left where the through line appears from behind a tree, passes in front of the goods shed and perhaps a dirt track level crossing before crossing over a dyke all in the space of about eighteen inches. The through line then disappears behind a building to exit to the sector plate rear right. The flipping of the plan move all the shunting activity to the rear of the layout so that if I wanted I could use three link couplings in there. Which reminds me I still haven't made a definite decision on those. If I intend to use some kind of auto uncouplers then I have to place the magnets under the track when it is laid.
But with two new and interesting scenic developments to agonise over that decision might be a while away yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I'm sat here staring at a sheet of white expanded polystyrene with some track, wagons and sundry bits and bobs on it. It may look like a pile of junk to you (and my wife). But to me it means something.
I'm working on visualising the layout. None of this "scale model of a model" malarkey for me. I don't think I need to. Not at an envisioned size of 4'6" x 2' or thereabouts. Building a 1/4 size scale model would leave me with a model about 13" x 6". If I wanted to do that I'd model in T scale... Wait a minute I do! So no need to do that again then...
Seriously if it was a bigger layout I would build a scale model but I'm getting more out of looking at things actual size than I would peering at a scale model.
Already I've had an idea for a slight tweak to the scenic treatment and I think I need something at the l/h side to balance the goods shed and buildings on the right.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Real Trains, Model Trains and Test Match Special

"What on earth does "Test Match Special" have to do with Trains both real and model?" I hear some of you ask. Well today I took the day off work for reasons to be expanded on later. But this morning a sat down to make some P4 track Co. flexible track using fast their track bases and rail, whilst listening to the aforementioned "TMS". These bases are a section of 8 sleepers with chairs that you have to thread the rail onto. I reality there isn't a more practical way to get flexible track over to the US of A. The rail was sent to me in half metre lengths which used 6 fast track base sections. It was a very easy relaxing task that didn't take long to do and I now have 4 metres of P4 flexible track ready to go. The only way things could have been any better was if some more Australian wickets had fallen.
However the true purpose of my day off was to catch the SP No. 4449 Daylight as it came through Minnesota on its way to a Train festival in Michigan. It doesn't really matter if the train is English, American or whatever. There is something quite majestic about a preserved steam loco at speed on a main line.
Hope you like the picture.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Seduced by the charms of the Fens

I knew I shouldn't have looked at my copy of the Wild Swan book "The Wisbech and Upwell Tramway"...
Once I had opened those pages and looked at those pictures of the Y6's, J70's and 03's with their skirts and cow catchers I was doomed.
Toby the tram engine was always my favourite locomotive in the Thomas stories so in reality I was doomed many years ago.
In a moment of weakness yesterday I ordered a Bachmann Class 03 shunter in early BR black from Hattons. A smaller shunter like this will be perfect for the layout. Though it doesn't fit in with the time period that I thought I had already established for the layout with my BR Blue class 08. But what the heck, once skirts and cowcatchers are fitted to it. I won't care.

p.s Oops... it's really 04's that ran on the W&U and an 04 that I bought...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

(Yet more) Pink Thinks

Having reviewed a Model Railway Journal article concerning insulation foam baseboards. It would appear that I am on the wrong track concerning the construction. It seems that the method used on my previous layouts is the way to go. That is, flat sheets cut to size and framed with wood for protection. I have to admit I had thought as much when I re-reviewed the 1" and even the 1/2" foam at my local Menards the other day.
So this then is how it would go together, a slab the size of the layout that would effectively be the water level with the land being added on top of that cut to the shape and size required. I agonised for a while longer concerning the thickness of foam to use.
Should I use 2" or 1 1/2"? Two inch would mean that the ground level would be a scale 12' 6" above the "water level" I will be modelling the tide out so water level is a somewhat misleading term to used.
Is a scale 12' too much? In the end I thought that it was, this is after all the silted up River Lud we're talking about and not a major river and have decided to go for 1 1/2" which would be just about 9' in real life.
The real issue is the size of the baseboard. I really would like to go to 4' 6". That presents no problem with the pink foam as that comes in an 8' x 4' sheet but the ply to frame the layout comes in 4'x2' or 8'x4'. My woodworking abilities (or lack thereof) really mean I need everything to come out of one sheet of ply but do I really need an 8'x4' sheet of ply? Or do I want to cramp my vision by slicing 6" off the design to fit in with sizes of the wood. I'm sure I can come up with some solution to the problem. Even if I have to lay everything out full size before I start to make the baseboard.

Happy Birthday to me!

No not really.
But there was a nice big parcel in the mail box on Thursday when I arrived home from work. However being 4th July weekend other commitments have not allowed me to open the parcel until now. I knew what it was of course. It's the track for " The Haven" layout from the P4 Track Co.
I was a little nervous about ordering the rail for the track from England as I did not know how that would fare on its transatlantic journey. I needn't have worried the rail is in perfect condition straight and level with no kinks and bends in it.
Also in the mail this weekend was the latest issue of the Scalefour News. In which this little blog gets a mention as a place worth checking out. So, if you're checking this out as a result of that mention.
Hello there. To find out why I called the blog "4mm scale agonies" you need to go back to the earliest entries on the blog. Those original agonies are well and truly gone now. But I expect there will be plenty more related to other constructional aspects on the way. Pink foam baseboards are the current one. More on that later. That is turing into a pressing matter as I've now got track, I'll soon need a baseboard to lay it on.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Oh its just one of those days.
In preparation for the predicted weekends rain I have printed off my Scalescenes goods shed.
Except I forgot to switch the scaling on the printer off so everything was shrunk to fit letter size paper.
Luckily I do have plenty of paper and ink available....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Matters Arising

So things are chugging along "behind the scenes" so to speak.
I've placed an order for an Ultrascale conversion kit for my Bachmann 08 (14 weeks delivery quoted on that). As well as the required track components from Exactoscale to enable to make all the track for the visible section of the layout, and on Saturday I downloaded the Scalescenes goods shed. In the end I opted for brown brick. It was a difficult decision brown or red. I did spend quite a while thinking about it. In the end I plumped for brown. Sometimes I think the red is a little too pale. I'm sure I'll be happy with it. With the 4th July holiday weekend looking and rain forecast I may even get a start on building it!
One interesting that has arisen from displaying this plan over at RMweb is that a few people have remarked on the fact that the plan has a feel of Outwell village on the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway. I'd never considered that and indeed my W&U books have stay firmly packed away for a long time. Having thought about this some. The idea has some appeal that the East Lincolnshire Light Railway could have something of a W&U feel to it With the J70 "Toby the Trams" and class 03's with skirts and cowcatchers. I think I need to dig my Wisbech and Upwell books out again...

Friday, June 26, 2009

More Pink Thinks...

I've spent the last couple of days giving thought to how I would make the baseboard for this layout out of pink foam. The first and most obvious was is to get layout sized slabs of foam cut to shape and glued together. Which I dismissed as quickly as I thought of it. I searched for a magazine that I thought I had that featured construction of foam baseboards but couldn't find it. But what I remember of the article the structure was designed for miles of Appalachian forest. I think I don't really need that level of substructure. The next most obvious way to look at the foam is to treat it as if it were good old 2x1 timber or similar. I think the sketch below explains it the best.
Strips of the 1" thick foam would be cut to the required shapes as if it were timber and glued together much as you would glue and screw sections of 2x1, 4x1 or whatever your preferred method of using wood is. I'd then glue pieces of foam where the river and the ground would be this would then give it the rigidity it requires. The exact form of the interior bracing isn't decided but I expect that towards the rear the bracing would have to be taller. Other than that I think it will work. Now to work out how to cut all I need out of an 8' x 4' sheet of pink foam.

P.S. I wonder If I could get away with 1/2" foam instead...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Think Pink...

Flymo said "I certainly hope that the pink extruded polystyrene is suitable for a P4 layout as it's exactly what I'm planning on using".
That makes me feel a lot better, knowing I don't have to dismiss the material out of hand. I feel confident in using pink foam. In the past though my "baseboards" were just slices of foam cut to shape and any land contours that were needed were just extra pieces of pink foam cut to shape and stuck on top of each other. Crude but effective if not without problems...
I really think I need to put a bit more thought into this one this time. Somewhere at home I have an article in an old N scale magazine that described working in pink foam in great detail. In that 1" thick foam was used to produce a box girder type structure. I'll have to look into that. Not only will be using one inch thick foam be easier than using two inch. It will also be cheaper.
Once I have the baseboard complete I will then lay some cork sheet on the surface because in my experience pink foam baseboards can be rather noisy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lots to think about

Oh boy. Now I've put my foot down and decided on the layout plan, things are getting serious.
What type of baseboard construction do I use?
I am, without a doubt. One of the worlds worst woodworkers. So getting a square and level baseboard will be a task of Herculean proportions for me. You wouldn't believe how bad some of my wooden baseboards have been, even using 2x 1. I did like using pink insulation foam for my Gn15 layouts and used it to great effect. Except when I had to exhibit the layouts that entailed construction a wooden box or frame for them... That took me back to square one. I doubt that a pink foam baseboard is feasible for a P4 layout. Foamcore board is gaining great favour amongst modellers who favour smaller layouts. Chris Nevards Catcott Burtle is the prime example of this. Perhaps I might be able to use that. I can easily cut a straight line with a Stanley knife and straight edge on Foamcore.
Next up to think about is how to operate the points. After 20 plus years of modelling I have only just got around to electric point motors. When I built a previous EM gauge layout I used DPDT slide switches to change the polarity and both operate the switch rails by means of a wire drilled through the knob on the switch. I liked this, it was simple and easy and not much you could do wrong. Hopefully I can remember how to do that and find a suitable sort of switch over here in Radio Shack.
I need to give these things some thought over the next couple of weeks for tomorrow I'll be down at the post office mailing a couple of orders off for some P4 bits and bobs...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The ballad of Arthur "two sheds" Jackson*.

Not unlike Arthur's garden, my layout will only have one shed. Goods shed that is. But I have 2 in mind. Firstly there is a very nice looking structure available from Scalescenes that I'm really quite taken by. I like Scalescenes a lot. I've made a few of their kits and even messed around with conversions. If you are unfamiliar with Scalescenes you should check them out. You purchase your building kit online, download it and print it off on your printer. You only need to download one for a few quid and you can make as many as you like. Great for rows of terraced houses for example.
The Scalescenes goods shed looks terrific. Though not based on a prototype structure, it certainly looks believable and has shades of Great Central and Great Northern architecture about it I think. It wouldn't look out of place on a layout based in Lincolnshire.
My second choice is to go the more prototypical route and model a local goods shed. Something like Mablethorpes brick shed or maybe even Sutton-on-Seas' or Huttoft Mumby Roads' timber shed. I think I have enough photographs to enable me to produce a model of the Mablethorpe shed. The trouble is I just know that I'd want to get the interior absolutely correct as well and I don't have any pictures of the interior. As you will be able to see directly inside the goods shed from that front of the layout there will have to be an interior to the shed. So unless anyone can help me with pictures of the interior of Mablethorpe goods shed. Then Scalescenes it is.

*That's a Monty Python reference if you were wondering

Saturday, June 13, 2009

We needed time apart...

Our planned mid-week break came just at the right time from my railway modelling point of view. Having planned and planned for weeks and just come up with something I really like. I needed a break from model railways and in particular that latest plan. So my wife and I headed up to Duluth, Minnesota, one of the most beautiful cities in the States for a well earned break. While we were there we got to photograph some of the huge great Lakes freighters, as well as some interesting rail scenes.
above: The Paul R Tregurtha at just over 1,000 feet, it is the largest freighter plying its trade on the Great Lakes.
above: An old SW1 switcher working the CHS grain elevators in Superior, WI. A subject for a layout in itself. So we returned home refreshed and I looked at the plan anew. Guess what? It still looks as good as when I left it. This is a very positive sign. If I'd have stayed at home I may well have tried to tweak it and as a result destroyed any enthusiasm I had for it. I've done that many a time before. Come up with a good idea and kept tweaking it and tweaking it until I didn't care for the idea any more.
No more tweaking. I have a good plan. Lets order some track components and get building!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Do it... Jump!

Here is a further development of last Fridays design. Something that I am rather excited by. I'm getting a feel from this design that I didn't quite get from the previous one.
This design is pulling together some of the scenic ideas from the larger Saltfleet haven designs into something half the size that will still be interesting to operate and will give the viewer plenty to look at.
The most obvious feature lifted from previous Haven designs is the inclusion of the river and its bridges. Now two rail bridges rather than a rail bridge and road bridge (I always felt there was something awkward about that arrangement anyway). The anonymous structure front left acting as a view block could well turn out to be the tin fishermans chapel mentioned in earlier versions.
The Inglenook arrangement that forms the main part of the layout illustrates something about layout operation that I wish more people would pay attention to. That concerns the "unloading" of wagons. Unloading is a bit of a misnomer really as model railway wagons aren't unloaded per se; as 4mm scale working people haven't been perfected yet that could unload a van. So we have to resort to subterfuge that suggests these things happen. With vans its easy, they can be unloaded in the goods shed so you can't see that nothing actually happens. Likewise with the warehouse. At the outside loading dock you can't see that the doors of the van aren't being opened because it's happening out of your view. The problem comes with open wagons such as coal wagons at a coal yard. Unloading of those takes place in the open. So in this case the cheat is to tuck the coal yard out of the way around the corner of the warehouse so that you can see the coal staithes but you won't be able to see me reach in there and by some secret method yet to be devised (but will probably include magnets) remove the load. It's only a little matter but its one that has bugged me for a long time. This is my way around it, not perfect but at least a full wagon is delivered to the coal yard and an empty one collected.
So will this be the final design? You know I can't promise that. A lot depends on how I can arrange the buildings on the model. One thing that could change is that it could be built as a mirror image as this design is drawn with two LH turnouts whereas I have two RH. With, at last count, 10 4mm scale wagons and a class 08 I only need to buy track components, wheels, buffers and couplings I will certainly make up a shopping list for it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Make your point...

Feeling rather pleased with myself today. I just completed my first P4 Track Co. kit for a A6 right handed turnout.
In all honesty I have to say that I don't know what I was worried about. Yes, the instructions are daunting at first look. But read them a few times, identify all the parts and follow them to the letter as you build and you will be rewarded with a realistic looking piece of railway track.

Now I don't want to bore anyone with a full on review of the kit or a "how I blew my nose" description of the construction. Just a few observations.
Firstly, I was really impressed when I pulled the kit out of the parcel all very neatly packaged in a clear plastic box. You could see all the bits and pieces without opening things up.
Then, when it came to the instructions I will freely admit I was quite daunted at the prospect of what I had set myself up to do. The instructions are very detailed but do guide you through every step of the way. I read the instructions several times before starting, and still followed them as I built it. This however did not stop me missing the placement of the crossing chairs out. I ended up sticking them in place just before I put the curved stock rail in.
Really though construction is a breeze. No more difficult than an Airfix model kit. All the advice you need to assemble the kit is in the instructions.
Before I started on assembly I decided to solder dropper wires onto the switchblade and vee constructions. My soldering abilities are not the greatest and I thought there would be less chance of melting chairs if I did that first. Next time I think I will try to solder dropper wires to the rails before assembly too.
My confidence grew as I progressed along. I was excited to get the job finished. Then as that time approached I tested things out. I found one of my wagons and nervously pushed it through the pointwork along both roads...
Perfect! No derailments. No bumps or lurches.
That makes you feel good.
With this boost to my confidence in my abilities I feel ready to start on a layout...

Friday, June 5, 2009

(Yet) Another idea

You'll pretty soon be sick of all the schemes that I come up with in trying to build a P4 layout.
I wasn't meant to be planning at all this afternoon. I was just resting my lunch before popping out for a 4 mile run and I was leafing through Iain C Rice's "Light Railway Layout Design" and it happened...
I just looked at one of the plans that I had studied many times before in a different way (perhaps it was out of the corner of my eye) and I thought I saw something slightly different to what was there. So I had to sketch it out. Above you see what I came up with. It's basically an "Inglenook" of some description, with what I call an "orphan siding" at the rear. (That means it has no apparent connection to any part of the layout).
I've always had fun with "Inglenook" layouts and have built a couple myself. So I know that there is a lot of operating potential to be had there just working those three sidings at the front. Working the orphan siding at the back opens up some other opportunities as well. Perhaps it would be a couple of extra spots for wagons. Perhaps it could be the "main line" and after a train has been made up on the inglenook sidings and has been run offstage onto the sector plate it could then appear running through the scene at the rear of the layout. I dunno. Something to think about. Another plan to file away...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Disturbing the tumbleweed

Better post something here lest my followers think I have quit on my layout project. I haven't but 2 marathons in 4 weeks takes it out of you. With another one in three weeks time I might be quiet a while longer yet. But things have been appearing in the mailbox though. I have a set of track gauges, some more wheels and no less than two P4 track company kits. Looking forward to assembling those in particular. I've had a look at the instructions and was initially quite daunted at the project. But after a second and third reading things seemed clearer. I will, of course write about the whole sorry or exciting adventure (depending on the final outcome) here.
The wheels are for my Bachmann 16T mineral wagons. Though it looks like they will not be the relatively easy drop in project I had hoped for. I was hoping some simple filing away and trimming at the back of the W-irons would suffice, as some members of the S4 society said it might be. But it might be that some heavyweight filing might be in order. If that fails then it will be back to the Scalefour stores for some wagon compensation units.

Friday, May 22, 2009

CJ Freezer 1924 - 2009

CJ Freezers name is a part of British railway modelling history.
I shan't add to the obituaries written by folks more adept than I that have appeared on the internet and will appear in the model railway press in the forthcoming issues since his passing on May 19th. He was 84 years old and as we Brits like to say;
"He had a good innings"
Just to say that when I first started in the hobby C.J. Freezer was the editor of Railway Modeller and as such was Model Railways in England. In addition to his editorials Railway Modeller featured many of his inspirational trackplans.
The plan that everyone recalls is his now classic design Minories. A three platform city terminus that is still as popular today with modellers as it was when he first came up with the design over 30 years ago. I've just picked up copies of Railway Modeller from September 2007 and September 2008 and both feature layouts that the articles state that Minories was the inspiration for the design (Bradford City Road and Somers Town respectively). That is quite the legacy.
CJF or CJ Freezer was synonymous with model railways so much so that it is only with his passing that I have heard his name "Cyril" mentioned.

Playing the waiting game

A couple of weeks have passed and nothing has happened on the P4 front. Now that's not for want of trying. If there was something to do then I'd do it but I'm waiting for a couple of orders to arrive from the UK and until they get here I can't really do anything. So I'll sit and twiddle my thumbs for another week.
What is really frustrating is that its a holiday weekend here, (Memorial Day) you just know that at some point its going to rain...

Friday, May 15, 2009

The plan that started it all

This is it, the plan that started the whole Saltfleet Haven thing more years ago than I care to remember now. This of course is not the original just a computer rendering from it. I do still have that original drawing somewhere and if I ever find it again I'll post it. It's a far cry from the ideas I've been producing lately. Much smaller, simpler and less inspired by the real location than the latest designs. This would make a mighty fine P4 test track too...


I am immensely frustrated this week. I've had the week off work. Something that Americans have termed a "Staycaytion" in their need to assign snappy phrases to mundane things.
Time that I would really, really have liked to devote to this P4 layout. But no. The items that I had ordered did not arrive in time, perhaps I should have ordered them a week or so earlier. So I've worked on my T scale layout a bit. Read through some of my old Lincolnshire railway books, (Halton Holegate on the Spilsby branch would make a great subject for a model you know).
Most importantly I took time to work out if the proposed sketch I have for the Nuclear flask layout would work out how I want it to.
Truthfully speaking it doesn't.
One thing I wanted to do with this layout is have all the scenics on one easily manageable and transportable board. Antics with my HO scale layout Oneota Yard on a day that threatened rain was enough to convince me in my situation that is very important. Basically a layout that was designed to be transported in the back of my truck ended up having to be transported in our Scion XD. Great car though this is, its not suitable for transporting a 5' long layout. If the Nuclear flask layout was to fit on one baseboard it would be as long as Oneota yard.
Back to the drawing board.
So, frustrated.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Now I never thought about that...

I've spent the last couple of hours:
a) getting in a last training run before Sundays Marathon and:
b) putting together a Parkside wagon kit - PC06A LNER 12 Ton plywood goods van.
It has probably been as much as 20 years since I last assembled one of these. But it wasn't long before it all started to come back to me.
Parkside kits are very nice and a delight to work with. This particular one is going together very easily.
Upon reviewing the painting instructions for the kit. It says to paint the body Brown - Railmatch 235 for my chosen period. There's the but you see for as far as I know you can't buy Railmatch paints here in the good old USofA. I know that I will be weathering the paint job on the van anyway. But as a starting point I need a base colour for the body. What would be a good match for Railmatch 235?

Time to stop faffing* around...

*faffing - wasting time and getting away from the job in hand.
The job in hand in this case is the building of a finescale 4mm scale layout. Except lately I seem to have got somewhat sidetracked and faffed around with other jobs. Some were quite legitimate i.e. preparing my H0 scale layout for a show, other jobs like posting some other trackplans plainly was faffing of the highest order. But not today.
For today I made some steps in the right direction. I popped 2 orders into the mail for some P4 stuff. I ordered some track gauges and wheelsets from the Scalefour stores and a pair of P4 points kits from the P4 track co. It seems very strange in this day and age of the internet and instant global communications that there are still places that still rely on the mail service.
Now, suitably fired up. I think I'll go and assemble one of my Parkside wagon kits. Incidentally for Parkside I could place an order online.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Havenbank - My tribute to Catcott Burtle

Without a doubt, one of the most talked about layouts on the RMweb forum is Chris Nevards Catcott Burtle. A beautifully observed, atmospheric slice of the Somerset and Dorset Railway that is only 5' long by 18" deep. There are simple locations all over the country that could inspire such a layout. So I thought I'd seek out a Lincolnshire one. Something to give a modeller a layout that could be small yet interesting to operate. It wasn't difficult. I give you Havenbank.
In 00 scale it could be about 6' long and 18" deep. Havenbank is inspired by three locations on the Skegness branch line. Thorpe Culvert, Havenhouse and Seacroft. The Station with those impossibly short platforms is based on Seacroft. As you look at the pictures of Seacroft you will see that the platforms are very short indeed. Seacroft Station however is long gone now. The station building burned down in the 1970's and the signal box was demolished when the level crossing gates were replaced by lights in 1990. The trackplan in the goods yard is an amalgam of Thorpe Culvert and Havenhouse.
You will notice that the station is on a double track line. In the summer time the line to Skegness has always been very busy with many many passenger trains and special excursions to the coast.
One really attractive feature of the Skegness branch was the amount of Great Northern somersault signals along the line. It would be great to model a working one of them.
The loading dock at Havenhouse Station actually had a 2' gauge railway on it that came from New Marsh Farm. The farm dispatched in excess of 200 tons of seed potatoes a year at its peak. The narrow gauge line line was kept in service until 1949. I've chosen not to add it to the plan in this version as there is little room to show it to its best effect. But if the layout was to be lengthened there's no reason why you couldn't add it.
You would probably want to lengthen the layout too as if you fancy running models of Skegness excursion trains you'll need longer fiddle yards and you really don't want to have a layout where each fiddle yard is twice the length of the visible area of the layout. I think though that as it stands in this shorter 6' version if you were to model Havenbank in the steam era you could have a quite interesting model on your hands, with a lot of agricultural traffic and a healthy passenger service.
Would I build it? There's no denying that I am very drawn to those short platforms and that arrangement of station buildings at Seacroft. But in P4 I think the layout would need to be a good three feet longer and then it wouldn't fit in my model railway room.

Coming together

I think the nuclear flask layout idea is starting to gel now. I can start to see it in my minds eye which is always a good sign. That means I can draw a sketch of the overall layout.
Hopefully looking at this sketch you will get a feel for what the finished layout would look like. It seems like the visible section of the layout would be about 5' long. Though when I laid it out using a couple of B6 point templates it seemed like I might be able to fit the visible section into 4'. There are times when I could do with some proper track planning software like 3rdPlanit or even Templot then I'd know exactly where I'd stand with the plan. But I'm a Mac user and such software isn't available for the Mac. Though of course I could run Boot camp and Windows OS to use them but just for designing model railway trackplans. I don't think so.

Past distractions (3)

As I awoke feeling considerably under the weather today (not swine flu I hasten to add) I decided that it would be unfair to subject my work colleagues to my coughing and hacking and sneezing and decided to stay home. Which for you lucky readers means I will post another past distraction for you to look at.
This dates from the time when I was considering a scrapyard layout and is inspired by scenes on the Trafford Park Railway in Manchester. A wonderful location where the railway line runs alongside the road and crosses it at wierd and wonderful angles to access the industries it serves. In its heyday the system covered 26 miles of track handling 2.5 million tons of goods a year. Nowadays it only serves a handful of industries, one of which is this scrapyard on Mellors Road. This shot of the fence was all I had to go on but that didn't stop me imagining what must have gone on the other side of the fence.
Once I had sketched out this idea I had a look at the site on Google Earth and I have to say that my interpretation is nothing like what the site is really like. But my interpretation makes for more interesting operation.
This layout calls for short wheelbase loco's and a two sets of scrap wagons. One full and one set empty. A loco would push a couple of empty scrap wagons and a brake van onto the layout, round that fierce curve. The train would pass over the points and drop the brake van in the headshunt and wait. Then automagically the gates to the yard open and the scrap yards private loco lumbers forward and picks up the scrap empties and shunts them into the front of the two sidings and pushes them offstage. It then returns to the rear of the scrap sidings and appears with a couple of full scrap wagons from behind the pile of scrap metal you can see. It then takes these full wagons to the waiting BR loco which then hooks up to the brake van and departs to the fiddle yard. Quite a bit of activity and 2 different loco's to boot.
There are a couple of things that work against the design. One is that the BR loco will mostly be hidden by the scrapyard fence. I was also very keen on the entrance from offstage around that sharp curve until I realised that it was going to make this a rather deep layout, perhaps as much as 2'6" deep. Still it might work well in N scale though.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Past distractions (2)

Today I thought I'd present another one of the distractions that divert me from my plans to build a 4mm finescale layout.
This one, like so many I've produced is inspired by my home county of Lincolnshire. New Holland pier to be exact.
One day I was flying over Lincolnshire courtesy of Google earth as I do very often, just looking to see what I can recognise from the air. I arrived at New Holland pier. Originally there was a station at the end of the pier that connected with the ferry across the Humber estuary. The ferry closed when the Humber Bridge opened and the railway station not long after that. But there is still a quite an extensive set of rail sidings there. So a quick Google for "New Holland Pier" bought up this page and in particular the lower photograph. A super picture that set my creative cogs a whirring and I quickly sketched out this idea.
I think the influences are pretty obvious to see. It certainly could be quite the busy little layout. A mainline train would arrive at the station and leave a selection of wagons in the loop. Then a private industrial loco would pick them up and shunt them off to their respective locations. Returning with some wagons to be picked up by the mainline railway later in your operating sequence. The shunting activities could also be broken up by a DMU passenger service running through the station from time to time.
This idea never really got off the ground as the exchange rate was rather poor at the time I came up with the scheme so I perceived the plan as rather expensive to pursue from a stock point of view. It might also be easier to produce the layout to a manageable size in 00 scale as you could get away with sharper radius curves than in P4 and EM. N scale would be even better. I also think that things might be rather hectic behind the scenes with a lot of offstage sidings. Mind you, John H. Wright's 21st Street Yard also has a lot of offstage sidings with it too. So perhaps the idea is not barking up a wrong tree. I'd better stop thinking about this too much as I might be persuaded to start thinking about this again.
See how easily I can get distracted...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pleased to meet you...

Remember this post where I wondered where the other readers of Model Rail and Hornby magazine were in Minnesota? Come on, it was only a few days ago...
Well today at the Granite City train show. I met one of them. Nice guy. Interested in British 00 gauge. Unfortunately we didn't get much chance to talk. Amazing to think that just the other day I was wondering about that and then up he pops.
Strange thing the world...

Making an exhibition of oneself

There's no doubt about it. I love to show my model railway layouts at exhibitions. I enjoy talking to people about the models and explaining my motivation behind creating the layouts. I could talk the hind legs off a donkey when exhibiting at a show. I love to impart my enthusiasm for the hobby and I hope that it rubs off on some of the people that I talk to and they go away considering a layout like mine.
In fact, I've just returned from showing my HO scale layout at a show. Each show is a different experience, some are good, some not so good and you can come away with ideas on how to better your presentation for the next time. So it's quite natural for me to consider this P4 layout whatever it is to be an exhibition layout.
At the moment I am plainly considering this nuclear flask layout as an exhibition layout. A working crane would be a great crowd pulling feature and I am pretty sure that the vast majority of the show goers in Minnesota would never have heard of P4.
So my exhibiting experiences will affect the final design of the layout.
I like to talk to the punters, so operation from the front is definitely preferable.
I have tried operating layouts from several different heights and I have to say the higher the better - 48" is a minimum. I'm sorry little kids but you're not going to appreciate the niceties of P4 modelling anyway and if a layout is within your grasp you will try to touch it. I've seen you. I've given you every opportunity with some table top layouts I've displayed and the evidence is irrefutable. So, sorry but if you want to see the working crane Daddy will have to lift you up.
Also exhibition goers in a wheelchair. I'm really really sorry. I hope you won't struggle too much with 48" layout height. For me seated 48" is just below eye level. So perhaps there is some hope there.
This then leads me to the operators position. It has to be from the front. With a 48" layout height and a backscene as well. Then conversation with the punters would be difficult if not impossible. So the front it is. This then dictates the position of the working crane. If I'm operating from the front then it quite unsurprisingly has to be at the front too. To date the only one of the concepts I've sketched out that meets this criteria is the first one. Let's call it plan 1_a1.
Which is good, because I quite like it. It needs some work however, because that radius curve into the heavy crane is not a P4 radius curve (min 36"). But, keen to find out what sort of size this layout might turn out to be I traced out a pair of B6 point templates and put down some wagons down to get a feel for things. For the most part the scenic section of the layout will turn out to be about 4' long. Perhaps a little longer when I get the crane situated properly. But that's not too bad. Its about what I was hoping for really. Perhaps 2' deep at the deepest. There's other things to consider before I get to that. More of those later.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Important questions (1)

How long is a Class 31, an OBA barrier wagon, a nuclear flask on a Welltrol/Flatrol, another barrier wagon and a brake van?
This will be the "train unit" of the layout.
So this is what the layout has to be designed around.
This is the length of train that needs to be visible on the layout.
This is the length of train that the visible section of the passing loop must take. OK so the visible section of the loop ideally need only to fit the wagons.
It's a pretty important question to answer.
It's no point having a loop with a capacity of 24" when the train is 25" long.
Why a class 31? They are my favourites. I suppose I could allow for a larger loco like a Class 37 or a 47. A class 47 passes 11" long I think. Besides I don't like them as much as 31's. I like 37's and 20's though a 20 is shorter than a 31 and a 37 is pretty similar so I'm OK there I think.
A Class 31 scales out at 9" long. An OBA 6" the Weltrol/Flatrol probably 8" and the brake van another 3" All in all about 32". That's what I have to plan the layout around.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hornby Magazine

I grew up with Hornby. My first train set was a Hornby Freightmaster which I have mentioned before. Hornby is pretty much a part of every British model railway enthusiasts upbringing. Once I discovered that 00 gauge track was underscale I fell out with Hornby, like I did with all other UK model railway manufacturers.
So imagine my surprise when back in England a couple of years ago I discovered "Hornby Magazine" on the shelves. I thought I'd flick through the magazine for a laugh (old prejudices die hard you know) But no. This was a good, readable magazine. Pitched at the beginning modeller, the layout, design and writing helped breathe enthusiasm for the hobby. I could feel it in the pages. I bought the magazine. In fact every time I went back to England I bought Hornby magazine. Yes, there are articles for the beginner in there, but there are also articles that show the beginner what to aspire to. The magazine was instrumental in getting me interested in modelling the UK scene again. Last year I bit the bullet and subscribed. It didn't really sit well with the finescale ethos I was starting to re-evolve. But what the heck I was enjoying reading it. Then in this latest issue that was in my mail box today, the feature layout was "Saffron Street". P4 no less! If that was a shock to the system, then a few pages along was a huge kick in the teeth. An 8 page feature on the vale scene at Pendon. Any finescale modeller would be in rapture at this. So I can only imagine what the effect of seeing the pinnacle of the model railway hobby could be on a beginner. It would either inspire them to the heavens or put them off forever...
The most noticeable thing about the writing was that little was made about the fact that both are "finescale" layouts. You don't need to know that these aren't 00 gauge to appreciate the models. Enjoy the modelling first and then find out more.
Hornby Magazine just blew me away today. Thanks guys.
p.s. I showed my wife the pictures of Pendon last night and she was blown away by them too and said that we should go and seek Pendon out when we are next in England

Synchronicity or a Sign?

On Sunday, quite by surprise. I found myself in the Barnes and Noble store at the Mall of America. This store is the flagship store for the state and as such, you can frequently find an interesting selection of overseas magazines on the shelves. Sunday was no exception. Whilst rootling through the hobby section I came across no less than three copies each of Hornby Magazine and Model Rail magazine. The fact that both magazines were there was the first surprise ( I have in the past seen one or the other on the shelves). But three copies of each? Perhaps it's a minimum purchase agreement or perhaps they can sell three copies of each magazine in Minnesota. If you are a Minnesota resident and read English model railway mags drop me a line...
But I digress. On top of finding multiple copies of two different UK model railway mags. The issue of Model Rail contained an article on modelling Nuclear Flask wagons. Given my current interest in such trains the question has to be asked. Is this just a coincidence or are the model railway gods trying to tell me something?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Past Distractions (1)

Like I have said, I get distracted. I'll see pictures in a posting on RMWeb or somewhere on the internet, or perish the thought, even in a book. That will get the creative cogs whirring and I'll have to plan something. So I thought I'd intersperse this blog with a few past ideas that I have considered for a 4mm scale layout.
I'll start with this scrapyard layout. I did get bitten rather badly by the scrapyard layout bug, but it was the combination of scrapyards and some pictures of an area of Halifax complete with Dark Satanic Mills that really bit me and I started doodling. Nothing too exciting really Just a basic Inglenook sort of trackplan with a single platform station on the rear line with most of the activity going on at the exchange siding for the scrapyard in the front two sidings.
I think in the end that was what turned me off this idea. Like I've stated before. I really think small layouts like this one really benefit from having some kind of working feature on view to get peoples attention. This idea didn't have it. So it was consigned to the file of failed plans...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bumper Bag of Fun

It was one of those days when I got home from work today. The postman had been with some model railway goodies. Lately it has been packages from Japan with impossibly small model railway stuff in them. But not today. Today it was a bumper crop of P4 goodies. First off was the packet of Scalefour digest sheets. Everything you need to know about P4 modelling from building your track to writing about it in the model railway press. It's going to take a long time to go through it all, theres hundreds of pages there. A very comprehensive guide indeed. When I was first a member of the Scalefour society in my early 20's I was considerably daunted by everything written there. Not so now, thank goodness.
The other package was from Scotland. Some Parkside wagon kits ordered with P4 wheelsets. So I will be able to set to and build myself some P4 wagons now. That's a quite exciting thought I'm looking forward to.

My China Syndrome

At risk of being accused of slipping into a total meltdown over this Nuclear Flask layout concept. I've been looking at what would be needed to operate and build this. Nothing special is required on the loco front, though I doubt the 08 that I have would be seen on such a working. I have a 31 on my wish list and that would be a very excellent loco to work such a train. But most any class of loco has taken a turn on such workings. The nuclear flask and wagon is available from Genesis kits in several variants. Barrier wagons can be anything you have to hand depending on the period of your layout. I have a Railfreight OBA and some 16 Ton Minerals that could pass muster. A Brake van would be needed depending on the time period, again anything goes. If you want an ex-SR "Queen Mary" go for it. They were seen regularly on the Trawsfynydd trip.
The heavy crane is available from Ratio No. RA546, though I first saw the RA545 and fancied adapting that to suit. Take your pick on the buildings. I like Scalescenes and they do produce a superb looking goods shed that is almost Great Northern looking. This layout is really beginning to look a quite easy proposition to build.
Operationally, I guess it can be said to be somewhat limited in scope. But that I feel would be glossed over by the operating loading/unloading of the nuclear flasks. Plus you could also run engineers trains and why not a railfan DMU special? They ran to Trawsfynydd with great regularity in the later years of the lines life.
(I'd also like to point out I have no connection to "the signal box" other than being a satisfied customer in the past)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More nuclear business

This is what happens when I get distracted. I can come up with a whole raft of ideas on a totally new project. Here is a third version of the nuclear flask layout that I'm quite taken with.
Once again its a strange shape so that I would be able to watch the trains come towards me and the crane is tucked away at the back so that I could make it work in one of my "Heath-Robinsonish" non-electrical ways. The idea of making a working gantry crane like this one of the factors that keeps driving me on this particular concept and is something that I could incorporate in many other layouts. On a small layout such as this some kind of working feature would be vital. One of my Gn15 layouts "Whinny Lane" had a working crane and when ever I stopped to load and unload a train with the crane a large crowd always gathered.
I have also suggested a lorry and flatbed trailer alongside the crane so that the loading and unloading of the flask would have purpose. Sections of disused trackbed, a derelict signal box and goods shed that has seen better days would help add some atmosphere to this little model.
Now to devote some serious thought to how to make the crane work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Going Nuclear...

I get distracted.
The forum RMweb is a wonderful place. Thousands of like minded modellers offering support, inspiration and advice to each other. As far as I am concerned it's the best site of its type on the web.
The forum RMweb is a terrible place. Full of distractions to catch the unwary railway modeller off guard and lead him down paths he'd either forgotten or never even thought of.
Such a thing happened to me to me just this week (and not for the first time I hasten to add) I was browsing through the posts quite randomly and I came across one entitled Nuclear Flask Layout. Immediately I recalled the British Rail stunt from 1984 in which they ran a train full speed at a Nuclear Flask to prove their indistructability and decided to take a look at the thread. The gentleman in question had sketched out a few ideas for a small layout in a boxfile of a nuclear flask loading point in N gauge. Another poster pointed him in the direction of another thread containing prototype information about these transfer points. I should have stopped there.
But I didn't. That was my big mistake. For I was drawn in by the thread and the prototype photographs. Then I saw some pictures of the transfer point at Trawsfynydd in North Wales. North Wales is one of my favourite places in the whole world and I'm a sucker for anything sited there. I was also quite familiar with the Trawsfynydd location.
That was it the creative cogs started whirring and I started sketching and so here are a couple of ideas for your perusal .
The top one has somewhat of an unusual shape to it to enable the viewer to do something you can't do on most layouts and that is watch a train come towards you. It is an idea I'd like to experiment with some more at some time. It's something that can be done quite easily on small layouts but not many modellers choose to do it. I can only really think of three layouts that do this. One in 4mm scale is called Villiers Street, another is an N gauge layout (might be 2mm finescale though) that I forget the name of and I think I've seen a third one in 009.
The second plan is a bit more conventional in that regard. The trains only pass across your field of view.
Transfer points are not very exciting places really. There will be a big heavy crane to lift the flask off the wagon and on to a waiting lorry and vice versa. A security fence and a site office would just about complete things. In both plans I have tucked the crane away into the corner for two reasons. One it would help hide the fact that it doesn't work. Conversely, it would also simplify things if you did want to make it work. I did in fact work out some ideas for making the crane work but I don't know how feasible it is. The cleverer amongst you would have no problem in making a working crane. Scenically, Nuclear power stations are in remote places, Dungeness, Cumbrian coast, Welsh mountains. So there's a lot of scope for different scenic treatments. I opted for the overgrown rundown Trawsfynydd branch line.
Something this small could be an ideal diversion from your main project if your interest is waning or if you wanted to build a small test layout to try a new scale... Like P4...
No I didn't say that...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Straightening things out

More from Saltfleet Haven. Here I've straightened the lines out . Much more like an East Lincolnshire railway station yard. I'm much happier with this. I think the design is nicely balanced as well. I think I'll leave planning alone for a while now.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The perfect argument for adopting finescale standards

"Why should I model finescale?"
That is a question that many modellers have asked themselves at sometime wether it be Scale Seven, P4, 3mm or 2mm. Some have turned their backs on it and others have faced up to it.
If you're wavering and need convincing, take a look at these films Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
Yes, it's of an American prototype but that should not detract from your enjoyment of what is some very atmospheric filming.
The films follow the shunting of a train at the Hull-Oaks sawmill in Oregon. All done by a driver and his remote controlled locomotive. Each segment is about 10 minutes long so you might want to settle down with a nice hot cuppa and some choccy biccies or a glass of your favourite tipple as you watch this.
All you need do is look at the wheels and the track. Look at the weight of the rail. Most tellingly look at the flanges and treads on the wheels. You won't miss them, there are plenty of studied shots of them. Never again will you be happy with ordinary 00 or Ho standards. That kind of track and wheels just does not look like this. If my Ho scale layout Oneota Yard did not have an exhibition booked in less than a month then quite honestly I would probably be ripping the track up and starting again and working to P87 standards.
If you are going to build a model railway that you are going look at like these videos have been filmed, then you have no choice but to go finescale.
Do it.

Not close and oh so far away...

It's Scaleforum North this weekend.
One of the premier finescale modelling shows in the North of England and I can't go.
Being 4,000 miles away is a slight drawback...

update: to cheer myself up I just ordered some Parkside wagon kits with 18.83mm gauge wheelsets...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More from the Lincolnshire coastal plain

Sometimes I surprise myself as to the effect this East Lincolnshire Light Railway concept has had on me. I first outlined the idea to members of Mablethorpe and district model railway club some 25 years ago now and I still keep coming back to it. Saltfleet Haven has always been the preferred location to model and I have enough plans of that to write a book. Probably a very boring book. Nonetheless many Saltfleet Haven plans have seen the light of day and many have been lost. Here's the latest plan, or rather half a plan...
This latest one is the result of peering at Saltfleet Haven on Google Earth and trying to make the railway fit the landscape there. I really like the left hand side with the river coming in and the road and railway crossing it. If I can fit that into a final Saltfleet Haven plan I'd be happy. The problem comes at the other end. All those curvy sidings are straight out of an Iain C. Rice plan. Very nice but not very Lincolnshire. Straightness rules out there on the coast Grimoldby, Saltfleet, Theddlethorpe, Mablethorpe, Huttoft Mumby Road. Dead straight the lot of them. Skegness, Thorpe Culvert the list goes on. So some straightness need to be added to the sidings. Even after 25 years there's still work to do on the trackplan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Stage 1 passed.

Stage 1 of my finescale 4mm project has been passed. Over the past few nights I have been working away making a C&L turnout kit in EM gauge.
The point of this project was to see if I had the techniques to make a turnout kit that worked. I opted for EM because I had the kits and the gauges to hand. It doesn't look like much. The check rails look a bit iffy and the glue joints are a bit visible but I built the point with no real problems and wheels run though it! So the next stage is to order some P4 gauges and a point kit and see if I can do that as well. The techniques will improve with practice.
The end result is good enough to give me some confidence

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Changing Trains (of thought)

Yesterday when I got home from work there was a nice thick envelope from England wating for me with the blue and white badge of the Scalefour Society on the outside.
Great Stuff! My membership materials. In fact it turned out to only be half of them. This was a package that included my membership card and some back issues of the Scalefour News for me to catch up on things. Some very inspirational photo's of layouts and projects in there. Reading much of the magazines also dispels the myth that P4 modellers are a boring bunch obsessed with minute detail who peer over models with a magnifier and a micrometer. Also in the packet was a hard copy of this. An extra printed in conjunction with BRM magazine that serves as an introduction to P4 modelling. It is a very honestly written piece. Well worth a read if you're considering the move to P4.
The really good stuff - The Scalefour Digest - the handbook of all the P4 modelling details will follow shortly.
Both the P4 "primer" and my introductory materials state that the best way to start in P4 is with a small "plank" type layout with a few yards of track and a couple of turnouts to cut my teeth on the new standards. Something that you can very quickly have running All very good sound advice.
Saltfleet Haven is certainly quite a way from a simple "plank". My Mablethorpe plan is closer to that ideal, perhaps I need to simplify things further just to get started. After all I don't want to destroy my enthusiasm for the Saltfleet Haven project by not being able to work in P4.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Grand Design

The Grand design indeed. That is what my East Lincolnshire Light railway is. It is a fictional project I have had spinning around in my head for a long, long time. It concerns a railway that left the Louth, Mablethorpe line at Saltfleetby and meandered through the coastal villages of North east Lincolnshire terminating at North Coates close to the RAF base there. In the past I've written out a fictitious history of the line. Planned out many of the stations and even "modelled" one of them. When "Belchford Road" was operated as a one man layout. Off came the Belchford station nameboards and in their place appeared some that said Covenham. One of the vilages I decided would be served by the E.L.Lt. Rly. The one area that I have looked into modelling the most is Saltfleet Haven, an early trackplan sketch is shown below.In my version of the Haven, trains arrived from Saltfleetby and were reversed here before heading up to North Coates. The Haven also had a small fishing fleet that would be the source of some freight traffic on the line. It's a great idea that I have and I really should do something about it. Perhaps now is the time?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trackwork part 1

Whilst rummaging around in some boxes from our aborted house move from last year I happened upon a pair of C&L Finescale point kits in EM from a long aborted Holyhead Breakwater project. So I figured what better way to re-introduce myself to finescale 4mm than to have a go and build one. That way I would see if have the ability to put together finescale trackwork. I used to solder up EM gauge points quite easily. I have never glued up a C&L point before. If I can make one with no real problems in EM then I'll have a bash in P4.
This kit is sold as a "turnout in a bag" with everything you need to make a point, and I do mean everything (except glue) track gauges are even included, to enable you to make an EM gauge turnout. So on the way home from work I stopped in at my local hardware store who just happened to have some Methyl Ethyl Ketone, the solvent/glue needed to stick the components together, on the shelf. Though the one quart tin they sold me is probably a lifetimes supply. I'm looking forward to having a go. I'll report back, though before I start I need to go down to the health club and do a half hour hill workout on the "dreadmill" as part of my marathon training.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Home sweet home...

It had to come. Following hot on the heels of the Louth trackplan came my home town, Mablethorpe.
Once I get on a roll with my trackplanning there's no stopping me. Something based on Sutton-on-Sea may appear soon as well. Looking at the site in a different way was the key.
As, you can see with this idea, like the Louth plan, the centre of interest is the goods shed. With the platform shelter and yard office breaking the view on the right and the Engine shed on the left. According to my sources (thanks Ian) the Engine shed was torn down in 1924 so to feature it on a layout based in the late 1960's is taking a bit of a liberty but it works there. There was also a set of cattle pens to the left of the goods shed as well as a coal yard but I'm unsure of the exact location of that. Once again a swoop over Mablethorpe by Google Earth revealed elements that enabled me to scale up the trackplan on a 1906 map I had. I can fairly confidently say that this modellable in under 8 feet. I have altered the positioning of some of the buildings to do that and create the view blocks. Mablethorpe was a funny old station looking like it was "built wrong". Most of its traffic came from the South but the station was built to take most of its traffic from the North. For that is how it was built. From Louth and the North first only later being linked to the South through Sutton-on-Sea. One can only wonder how things would have been different in town if things had stayed the way they had been built. Most holidaymakers would have come from the Yorkshire coalfields, there would have been no "muchizzit?" fortnight because holidaymakers wouldn't come from Leicester. The town could have been totally different. We can only speculate.
Such speculation could form the basis of this layout, with the South exit (right) not modelled you could assume it never happened and all the traffic comes from Louth at the left. Three of the four platforms are modelled so that you could even run passenger trains.
I might be a bit baised but I think my version of Mablethorpe has quite a bit going for it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A first idea

So, time for a first track plan. This one is inspired by the goods yard at Louth station and was kicked into life by reading the post at Grogley Junction that started "Louth would make a great model if someone had the space..."
That is a belief I've had for quite sometime too. Even though I have specialised in smaller layouts I'd never tried to get some of the essence of Louth into a small layout. Until now.
It might not be to everyones taste but it's designed for my interest in shunting and makes the huge goods shed that Louth had the focus of the layout. I don't know why I didn't come up with the idea years ago. Perhaps I'm just to close to the East Lincolnshire stations and needed to stand back from them a bit to get a new perspective. Look at them with a fresh pair of eyes, so to speak. When the idea came, it came in a flash. To use Newbridge hill as the front of the layout with the end of the ABM maltings forming an excellent viewblock in the very best Iain C. Rice tradition on the right. With the still preserved, Louth Signal Box at the left.
So what would the size of such a layout be. As this is only a conceptual sketch I don't really know. But having measured the site up using Google Earth I found that if you modelled the area to scale it would come in at about 8' x 2'. Which isn't a bad size for all this potential operation.
BUT. With a couple of fiddle yards at either end it's not going to fit my 10'6" available space. There is room for some compression there. The Goods shed is so huge it could loose a bay or two and you wouldn't notice and you could shorten the sidings a bit too. Even so it's still pushing it a bit to fit it all into 10'6". Oh well back to the drawing board...

I know what I like (in my model railway)

Good job that Genesis never used that title instead of "I know what I like (in your wardrobe)"
Something I neglected to mention last night when pulling together the design brief is what I actually enjoy doing with a model railway and that is shunting wagons. Mostly I don't care much for passenger trains. I suppose it's nice to have them to vary things. But for the most part I just want to take a short freight train. Break it up in the goods yard, shunt a few wagons about, make up a new train and run it off to the fiddle yard.
Louth had a very busy and sizeable goods yard. Maybe too big for a small first time P4 layout. Both Sutton-on-Sea and Mablethorpe had reasonable goods yards. Perhaps I could base the layout design around one of them.
Shunting brings up the issue of couplings. What type shall I use? I have always been a huge fan of 3-links. It's the way the real thing did it. But I'm also curious about auto coupling systems like Sprat and Winkle and Alex Jackson types. Thats a debate for an entire post but is something more to add into the mix of things to consider