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