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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Layout Design Brief (part 1)

I've spent years and years pouring over the model railway layout design books of Iain C. Rice. So much so, that I think I have vast tracts of them committed to memory. So, when it comes to designing a layout I like to think I know what I'm doing.
So first thing to consider is the site (and so ultimately the size) of the layout. My Model railway room is 10'6" x 9' 6" and houses "Purespring Watercress", my Gn15 layout. "Gonou", my T scale model. My "Underground Armaments Store" 1:32n2 layout and "Oneota Yard" my Ho American layout. The room is in dire need of a cleaning and tidying as my wife often points out with remarks like.
"I can tell you've tidied up. I can see the carpet"
Despite that I have calculated that with the layout mounted at 50" off the ground I will have the full length of 10'6" available to me. Looking at shelf width I think 16" is quite reasonable. So there we have the maximum layout size 10'6" x 16".
My ego always wants to show my layouts off so I should plan this to be an exhibition layout. Lightweight construction methods will rule the roost.
As for the prototype for the model. There is no doubt in my mind that it has to be an East Lincolnshire Branch Line. My family is 9 generations of Lincolnshire Yellowbellies. I still think of Lincolnshire as "home" though living in America.
I've been pondering Lincolnshire based model railways for as long as I've been modelling railways. So it really is a no brainer.
The years the I remember would be the late 60's and early 70's which would mean that locomotives would be predominantly Green with a bit of BR Blue sneaking in.
So to recap, the plan is now to construct a model railway layout, maximum size 10"6" x 16" of an ex- Great Northern Railway East Lincolnshire Branch Line in the late 1960's - early 1970's.
That's a good start to go on.

Society Anxiety

Yeah 2 posts today. Work must be going really well....
The advantages of joining a specialist society are many and manifold when modelling in the specialist finescale scales wether it be 4mm, 2mm, 3mm or 7mm.
So in my case it's either the EM gauge Society or the Scalefour Society. Both Societies cater for modellers in both EM and P4. You will not be surprised to hear that I've been a member of both before in previous years.
Both are excellent resources for the finsecale modeller with handbooks to guide you through the construction of trackwork and converting ready to run locos and stock to the relative gauges. Even going so far as to develop products for the finescale modeller.
So which will it be? I was a member of the EMGS as recently as last year and for that reason I'll probably join the S4 society.
The reasoning behind this convoluted logic is this. As good as the EMGS is, it's not "overseas friendly". If you want to join up from the USA you have to get an international money order from your bank which the last time I looked that costed money and was subject to a minimum fee. That might have been $20 I forget now. So an extra $20 on top of my membership fee. I'm not so happy about that. The society said they were going to change the payment method but that hasn't materialised yet. So when my last renewal came around I let it lapse. Sorry EMGS.
The Scalefour Society however I can pay by credit card.
Joining the Scalefour society is further fuel to the fire of modelling in P4...

(Update: at 4pm central time I joined the Scalefour Society)

"This is what you want, this is what you get..."

That was what John Lydon was chanting at me over the CD player in the truck on the way to work this morning.
"What on earth has that got to do with model railways" I hear you think.
Well I've been asking myself what I want from this 4mm scale opus. I need to get this right as if I don't work out exactly what I want from this layout what I get could be something totally different indeed.
I think the Americans call it "givens and druthers" I hate the phrase. "Druthers." What kind of word is that? It sounds like something a three year old would say when they can't pronounce the word "duster". What's wrong with calling it a list of needs and want? Or want's and needs?
Whatever you choose to call it it's an important part of layout planning enabling you to get the most enjoyment out of it's operation when you're done.
More on my list later...

Monday, March 23, 2009

It could be me...

I discovered this very interesting picture whilst surfing the internet the other day. I was looking for old pictures of Mablethorpe Railway station as I often do and I came across this one from the Boston Standard (picture reproduced with their kind permission). The picture is titled "the last train to leave Mablethorpe". It's not really that.
According to A.J. Ludlams book "the Louth, Mablethorpe and Willoughby loop" (Locomotion paper No. 162 published by the Oakwood press, sadly now out of print). The last train from Mablethorpe ran on October 3rd 1970. It was the 7:55pm departure for Willoughby and Grimsby. The train was an overfilled 2 car DMU.
This picture shows a Brush type 2 (later class 31) on what would appear to be a summer excursion train arriving at Mablethorpe. All the short sleeves, summer dresses and shorts would bear out that fact. But none of that is important.
What is important are the people on the top of the footbridge. As my profile says, one of my earliest memories is of watching the trains from the footbridge at the railway station. So there is every chance one of those children on the top of the footbridge is me.

The internet can be a wonderful thing

A couple of things have hapenned recently that caused me to ponder the internet whilst I was out running 15.5 miles in preparation for my marathons in May.
Whilst sat in Caribou Coffee in Canal Park in Duluth yesterday morning. I was playing with my iPod touch as I am wont to do looking at Google Earth.
Google Earth is a wonderful tool for the railway modeller. You can zoom in on buildings and even measure their footprint so that you can estimate sizes. For either buildngs or even station areas themselves. With street view you can even look at elevations of buildings so that you could model them. Very useful.
But somewhat scary. As I typed in "Louth" in the search box. It linked to my address book in my touch. So I selected my Uncles address and lo and behold! Google Earth took me straight to his house. Street view wasn't available for this. But you can see why some people are up in arms about this. The fact that any persons residence is so easily accessible by anyone, anywhere in the world. I know that some residential areas here in the US have asked to be removed from Google Earth because of this.
The internet has also bought me in contact with old friends. People who have just googled my name and up has popped my website. Latest is Ian Johnson, keeper of this model railway blog.
It was answering Ian's announcement in Railway Modeller over 30 years ago that lead to the formation of the Mablethorpe and District Model Railway club. Club times were good times. We ran a sucessful model railway exhibition for about 5 years in the town and had a healthy membership until problems finding clubrooms lead to the clubs eventual demise.
It's always nice when I get feedback from my website and even better when an old friend turns up.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Too much information can be a dangerous thing

Once upon a time, a small boy received a 00 gauge Hornby Freightmaster train set for Christmas. It was the best present ever! He spent ages playing with that set. Running that Class 31 and wagons in endless circles. Shunting wagons into the siding and running the train in endless circles again. Until the motor got filled with carpet fluff and his father had to remove it all.
Then he moved the train set onto a board that once was home to a Subbuteo pitch. Once again the class 31 would go on its endless journey shunting wagons every few laps.
Then this little lad decided he wanted to do more with this train set and thoughts of a proper model railway entered his head. He borrowed books from the library, made buildings using the cardboard that shirts used to be packed around. Toilet rolls made excellent fuel tanks.
Then one day it happened. In a book that the name of has passed, forgotten into history he read a sentence that said that in 00 scale 16.5mm was equal to 4 foot 1 1/2 inches...
If you hadn't guessed that boy was me. The moment I read that statement was both the best and worst moment in my model railroading life. Best because it opened my eyes to something called "finescale" and a whole new attitude that was to take over my entire philosophy of railway modelling. Worst because I was never going to be happy with 00 scale again.
Once I discovered that the track I was running my trains on was a scale 7 inches too narrow I could never run 00 scale again. I read about this mysterious man E.M. Gauge and his mysterious more accurate model railway. Then there was the mysterious warring factions of P4 and S4. There was a lot of talk of "scratchbuilding" and making your own track. All very daunting stuff to a young teenager.
I was scared away for a while and sought refuge in N gauge until I heard of finescale in N as well. So for my next trick I took up American H0 modelling because at least there the gauge was right. I modelled in H0 for a long time and I still do. I also picked up on different scale/gauge combinations like Gn15 simply because the track gauge is right.
As you can see the simple fact that 00 scale is inaccurate totally messed up my railway modelling.
But I still want to build a good 4mm scale model railway so it has to be EM or P4. Every time I consider a plan or concept I get caught up in this same old argument.
"00 is inaccurate so I have to build track and re wheel. EM is easy but if I'm going to build track and re-wheel then why don't I go to P4?"
You'd think I'd have the answer to the argument after all this time. But I don't. Times have changed and there is now flex track available in EM and P4 and point (turnout) kits for both scales too.
I have a full set of trackwork gauges for EM from my earlier days as well as a pair of point kits from C&L and a collection of wagon kits too. So EM it is then.
But if I'm going to build track and re-wheel then why don't I go to P4?
I'm a lost cause...

Friday, March 20, 2009

...and so it begins...

Spurred on by how well my T scale blog has done in spurring on the construction of my T gauge layout "Gono". I decided to start a blog to document the design and building of the one thing I want to do most in the world of model railways and that is build a decent 4mm scale layout.
I'm sure most of you would think this an easy task. But not for me. I've been railway modelling for almost 35 years and only ever completed ONE 4mm scale layout and I had to have help with that. You see I am a serial railway modeller of a very weak will. If I see an interesting prototype be it in the flesh or photographs I want to model it. Why, in the last few months alone, I have contemplated and drawn conceptual sketches for layouts inspired by:
1. Swinden Quarry in the Yorkshire Dales.
2. Scrapyards in Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway territory. (2 different designs)
3. Trafford Park Industrial Railway.
4. A fictional light railway in North East Lincolnshire. (at least 3 different designs there)
5. Doddings Farm Watercress railway (Yes another layout based on that in addition to Purespring Watercress)
6. The Great Orme Tramway
As you can see I have a problem...
So hopefully this blog will help me to choose an idea and to keep it going and see it through to the end.
We'll see...