Wednesday, December 10, 2014


While I'd never normally advocate adding graffiti to anything, this addition to the damaged paintwork on the Northern Rail train I took to work on Monday really did make me smile.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hudson's Pizza

So the time has finally come to unveil the plan for my next layout. Given that I'm still not happy with the track plan for 77 Box Lane that will stay on the drawing board for now, and this is an entirely new and different layout.

One of the things I liked about my N gauge layout, Jerusalem (which is now boxed up and being stored in the loft) was that it had a roundy-roundy track plan so I could just watch the trains go by. It was also useful for running in and testing new locomotives as they could be left going for hours if necessary without any intervention. Given the size I had to play with 77 Box Lane was always going to be an end-to-end layout and while I'm happy with that (although not the current track plan) I did feel it would be useful to have some form of continuous run test track, even if that was a simple circle of temporary track.

I wasn't actively planning a new layout when a random comment sent me off on a bit of historical research. I grew up in Morley, a small town just outside Leeds, and I've known for a long time (pretty much as long as I can remember) that many of the early builders of locomotives and rolling stock were based in and around Leeds; it's one of the reasons I have a soft spot for the Quarry Hunslet locomotives. What I didn't know, until recently, was that I actually grew up less than three miles from the main works of one of the companies.

Robert Hudson Ltd was founded in 1865 and had it's main works at Gildersome a small village just outside Morley (it's officially been part of Morley since 1937). This was a huge site covering 38 acres and was well served by a 2 foot tramway. Raw materials and finished products arrived and left the site via the standard gauge branch line that formed the northern edge of the site. You can see these and many other details on both the 1938 map and a 1928 aerial photograph.

What immediately caught my eye though was the circular feature which is very clear on the map, but unfortunately is unlabelled as to purpose. Zooming in on the photo though and it's purpose becomes clearer. It's a circular test track on which you can see what looks like a couple of wagons.

To me this looks perfect for turning into a pizza layout. It will give me somewhere to test and run in locomotives and wagons while being based on an actual location. There also appears to be a variety of building styles to perfect and some dry stone walling. I know that so far I've not built any Hudson wagons or locomotives which they re-sold (they didn't build their own but rather re-sold those produced by companies such as Hudswell Clarke, Kerr Stuart, and Hunslet) but I can always apply Rule 1 of railway modelling; it's my trainset so I'll run whatever I want to!

The problem I have is that this grainy photo contains the only details I have on the buildings surrounding the test track. There is a drawing in Alan J. Haigh's book on the foundry (published by the Moseley Railway Trust) but it doesn't provide any extra details. So does anyone know of any further drawings or photos of that area of the works that might show more details of the buildings. If you do please leave a comment.

From some rough measurements, I believe that I can fit the circle of track and the buildings immediately surrounding it onto a board that will fit into the box I originally bought for Jerusalem but which was about 1cm too small. So this means it will fit on my desk and I'll have storage for it. The next step will be a full scale mockup (starting from the map) to check everything will fit and then I can make a start on the baseboard and then building some track. This should be fun!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Crazy Idea?

I've recently come across drawings for a loco I fancy building. Strangely, for me at least, it's a small 0-4-0 diesel engine rather; the identify of which will, for now at least, remain a mystery. The problem is that with a wheel base of just 2 foot 10 inches I've been unable to find a suitable ready-to-run chassis. Not only did every chassis I could find have a larger wheelbase but I also want the gap between the wheels to be empty and most of them have a solid chassis block. So the crazy idea... I'm going to have a go at building my own chassis for it.

I've no idea if I'll be able to pull off building a chassis from scratch but as you can see I've made a start by buying a bunch of components from Nigel Lawton. This pile includes a motor, pulleys, belts, gears, wheels, and various other items. My plan is to 3D print the basic chassis block and then to add these parts to it. I've got the first prototype chassis on order, although I think it will need a couple of revisions before I get it right, but it should be fun.

Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Electrify a Frog

Some of you may remember that since May I've been slowly documenting my attempts at point control (here, here, and here). All the posts so far have dealt with the mechanical side of changing the points and have completely ignored what happens to the power running through the rails.

In theory the PECO points can be used straight from the packet, but from prior experience I won't be doing that ever again. The problem is that, as manufactured, the points rely on the contact between the switch and stock rails to provide power. While this works well with a new point as soon as you try and paint, weather, or ballast the track it is exceedingly likely that the point of contact will be obscured and the power flow will either stop entirely or be very temperamental. On Jerusalem, I had no end of problems with the one scenic point and no amount of careful cleaning would give me a reliable point. The solution to this is to perform a small amount of surgery on the point so that we no longer rely on the contact between the rails to transfer the power.

Before we start altering the point we need to ensure some consistent terminology so that the instructions are clear. So here we have an annotated photo of a right hand PECO crazy track OO9 point.

Now that we are all on the same page here are four simple steps to upgrade the point.

Step 1
Counting from the vee end of the point, use a small razor saw to remove the webbing from under the inner vee rails between the first and second sleepers and also the webbing from under all four rails between sleepers six and seven (helpfully these are the sleepers with writing on the bottom). Be careful not to cut into the rails and try and make sure the sleepers don't slide along the rails.

Step 2
Add a small amount of superglue (the runny kind not a gel) at each point indicated in the photo. Capillary action will help draw the glue into the gap between the rails and sleepers and will help to hold the point together. Once the glue has dried use a small file or fibreglass pen to clean the newly exposed rail surfaces.

Step 3
Solder three wires to the rails as shown. Do not rush this stage as it easy to destroy the point by getting it too hot. My approach was to wrap as much of the point as I could in wet kitchen paper and to allow the rail to cool completely between soldering each joint. The three wires give you access to the track power (red and black) and the vee (white) and can be wired directly into most accessory switches found on point motors. If you don't need access to the track power (i.e. you are feeding the accessory switch from a power bus) then you can remove the left over black and red wires just leaving the bridges between the switch and stock rails.

Step 4
The final step is to electrically isolate the frog and vee from the switch rails. Use a small piercing saw to cut the rails just to the right (when viewed from below) of the sixth sleeper. If you can avoid cutting the webbing then the point will be stronger but I found this impossible with the saw I used. The point can now be connected to the rest of the track not forgetting that you will need to use isolated rail joiners on at least the two vee rails to avoid a short circuit.

When viewed from the top the changes appear minor and the wires can easily be dropped through holes in the baseboard out of sight. The main advantage, as discussed earlier, is that the point can now be painted and ballasted without worrying about retaining a clean contact surface for the switch rails as they are always at the same polarity as the accompanying stock rail.

I'm not going to go into the issue of wiring the point up as this has been covered elsewhere (a quick search for DCC friendly point wiring will set you on the right track) and can be done in a number of different ways depending on the switches etc. you want to use. At some point I'll wire these up to the Cobalt-S lever and have the power switched over at the same time as the servo moving the point, but I know some people will prefer using a micro-switch activated by the moving tie bar etc. Whichever option you choose if you've followed these steps, and not destroyed the point (I killed at least three before I got this worked out) then you should never have an electrical contact issue ever again!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Canopus: Slides Bars

Not long after I started building Canopus I was warned by a fellow modeller that when originally released there was an issue with the slide bars. Essentially in the original kit the slide bars were so close to the coupling rods that there wasn't enough clearance for the crosshead to slide along the bars. Given that a number of changes have been made to the kit since it was released (different, wheels, motors and gears) I was hoping that the problem had been fixed. Unfortunately it seems not.

As you can see in the photo the slide bars are so close to the frames that the filed down retaining nut actually forces them outwards. This means I'm going to have to make some alterations to the part to move the slide bars out a little bit on each side to provide enough clearance. While the slide bars don't fit properly they did highlight that I'd managed to get the cylinder bracket on wonky which I've now fixed, hence the rubbed off paint on the bottom bracket in the photo.

Fortunately I have a copy of an article from the September 2006 issue of 009 News where Phil Savage documented how he went about altering the slide bars. He also hit a problem with them being two short and the crosshead striking the support bracket on the back-stroke. Looking at photos of his completed model though, it looks like he ended up with the cylinders and slide bars being perfectly horizontal while they should be on an angle and I'm wondering if that would change the distance of travel. I'll have to assemble the crossheads before I can see if my model suffers from this second issue as well.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Painted Sheds

Having been side tracked by building some OO9 gauge track, I've finally gone back and painted the two N gauge sheds built from the Severn Models kit. Both models involved me trying a new technique in their painting.

I painted the walls and door of the wooden shed using my standard approach for aged wood which has worked well on the OO9 wagons I've recently been building. This seems to work well for N gauge buildings as well. When it came to the roof, however, I wasn't happy with the very flat look of painted brass. To add a little texture I painted it with RailMatch roof dirt and then blew on a small amount of polyfilla while the paint was still wet. Once the paint had dried I then painted it again to cover the white plaster. This seems to have given a nice surface, although I don't think the same would work in 4mm scale as the texture would still be fairly smooth.

I've never tried painting red brick before and the second shed caused quite a few problems. I tried a number of different approaches before I settled on something that mostly worked. In the end I painted the walls with RailMatch dark brick, and then used thinned down RailMatch weathered stone run into the mortar gaps. A final patchy black wash made things look nice and dirty. The corrugated roof was initially painted with roof dirt before a dry brushing of Model Color London grey. This gave a nice approximation of new corrugated tin which was then aged using repeated applications of MIG Productions standard rust effects.

While I did enjoy building and painting these sheds, the slight detour back to N gauge modelling has confirmed that I'm much happier working at 4mm to the foot scale so I don't think I'll be returning to N gauge at any future point.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Track Painting

While I was more than happy with my first attempt at track building clearly it needed painting as sleepers are never copper coloured and the rail is never that shiny.

The first job though was to fill the gaps I'd had to file in the sleepers and I did this using some perfect plastic putty from Deluxe Materials which was filed smooth once it had set. The rails were then given a good clean before I tried something new; metal black.

When I built Jerusalem I painted the rails but it wasn't exactly a success. I found that the paint wouldn't stick well to the rails and tended to flake off over time. This time I decided to try using a chemical to blacken the rails instead, specifically I'm using Carr's metal black for nickel silver which I picked up from C&L Finescale along with the track. The health warnings on the bottle were almost enough to put me off using it, but I gently applied it to the rail using cotton wool buds. I was amazed just how quickly it works, but you do have to make sure the rail is very clean as I found any bits that weren’t were impervious to the chemical and stayed shiny. Once I was happy with the colouring I then applied some Carr's Electrofix to seal everything. Electrofix has a misleading name in that it doesn't actually conduct electricity, so I then buffed the railtops using a coffee stirrer which removed the electrofix and some of the blackening to give a used look to the rails. The final step was to paint the sleepers which I did using RailMatch sleeper grime.

Amazingly after all that the rails still conduct power nicely and the locomotive still moves, and I think the whole thing looks much more convincing than the ready-to-run track I was using before.