Langstead – Episode 24: Summer 2014 Updates

So I realise there hasn’t really been a layout update since May! The last you will have seen is the work I undertook to permanently fix my two base boards together by building a new underframe.

This enabled me to properly complete the ballasting over the gap between the two boards as seen here…


You may notice that there are two types of ballast here. The reason behind this dates back to the expansion project I undertook last year when I happen to use a different type of ballast on the outer loop. For consistency purposes I’ve re-ballasted the entire layout using this new mixture.

Continue reading

Langstead – Episode 23: Brace Yourself…

Today I drastically changed my layout. Not in a way that has changed the track plan nor altered the scenery as I have done in the past… No, today I joined my two base boards together.

Why is this such a drastic change? – I hear you cry. And for those just joining this story (and hello, by the way) you might be wondering why my layout was in two halves and wasn’t joined together already?

Original design concept showing how the track would be laid across two boards.

Original design concept showing how the track would be laid across two boards.

Well all the way back at the beginning I implemented this design for two main reasons: Continue reading

Langstead – Episode 3: Planning Permission

Planning Permission
Google has been working hard in the last few days to provide an answer to the question: ‘What shall I lay on my board first?’  
If you’re a little bit confused by this question, let me explain…
Before any track can be nailed down, we’ll need to consider what is going underneath. There are probably going to be two main colours on your board depending on what ‘scene’ you are trying to depict: Grey – for track ballast. Green – for grass and scenery. However, you may also be considering Black – for tarmac/pavement/road, Blue for coast/sea/dockyards and maybe Browns and Oranges for industrial plants/quarries/mud etc.
As I’m not trying to complicate things too much, I’m just going to go with Grey for ballast, and Green for general scenery. I will intend at a future date to probably add a road or a street or two, but let’s worry first about Grey and Green.
Before I make my final decision on what material to use let’s consider some of the options open to us. Remember – we have to get this stage right as we’ll be committing to nailing down track after this, which is sort of a point of no return. Once we’ve done this it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for us to change the base material.  So choose wisely, and do which method you feel most confident with!
Paint: Literally go straight onto the wood with a coat of Dulux, or Cuprinol. Whatever floats your boat.
Pros: Very easy. The most basic option open to us is to paint the entire board green or grey. Then once the track is nailed down we can add ballast or grass over the top depending on what colour we went with first. Alternatively we could mark out the green and grey areas first and paint those two colours accordingly. It’s going to be quick to achieve and isn’t going to be as messy as any of the alternative glue based options (bellow). I’m not sure how much paint costs, it could be expensive but I imagine if you shop around and just get as much as you need it’ll actually be pretty cheap.
Cons: It’s probably going to look pretty basic, however if you think it looks crap before you lay the track you could in theory change to one of the options further down. (Just let the paint dry first!).
Track Mat: Kind of like fuzzy wallpaper, you buy this stuff in roles and glue it straight to the board. Comes in a variety of sizes, colours and indeed fuzzyness.
Pros: It’s cheap and very easy to add one base colour. Glue board and lay like wall paper. Done. It’s going to look much better than paint, and just like paint we could glue down one colour, and add others over the top at a later date. 
Cons: Two colours will be slightly harder to achieve. Firstly it’ll be more expensive, and you’ll probably end up with loads of off cuts from both colours. You’ll also have to cut the mat to the shape of the track and at some point we’re going to have to join the colours together which could look rubbish if we don’t do it absolutely accurately. Again if the boards you have are bigger than the roles you buy, you’ll need to have an unsightly join line. Finally this method involves glue, and glue is always messy.  
Scatter: Glue goes down first, and then you sprinkle on a topping. These come in a variety of different flavours ranging from authentic looking gravel for ballast to fluffy looking shrubbery for green scenics.
Pros: Get it right, and it’s going to look brilliant and the best of all the options! Laying two colours will be far easier to pull off as you’ll be able to hide the join lines with varying degrees of scatter. 
Cons: Expensive. Very expensive. I’d recommend getting on ebay to see if you can buy bulk rather than going to model shops. Time consuming and difficult especially the ballast part.
Conclusion: Naturally I’m going to sit on the fence and go for the middle-of-the-road option – The Track Mat. It’s going to look better than paint, but it’s not going to be as hard and expensive as scatter. To avoid unsightly join lines and make the process even easier, I’m going to lay only ONE colour. I’ll then add the other by using scatter. (OK so I sort of chose two options from above!).
So what is the most dominant colour? I’ve gone back to my layout plan file (above) and drawn on (using that most professional of tools – Microsoft Paint) what I think is going where.
White – track ballast. So in these areas we’ll need some form of Grey preferably that looks like, well, ballast. 
Green – grass/fields/assorted shrubbery. Basically stuff that isn’t ‘railway.’ This may include roads and buildings and in the future.
Yellow – basically the areas that could be either. These could quite easily be green or scenic, but on the flip side there might be line side buildings, depots, signals, stations and miscellaneous railway furniture than in real life would still be within the confines of the ‘track bed’ area (which in our case is the colour ‘Grey’).
My vision of this layout includes the addition of lots of line side furniture more so than a ‘country scene’ so let us assume all the yellow areas are Grey as well.
So coming up next time – we lay us some Grey Track Mat. Join me then!

Langstead – Episode 2: Design

After hours on the internet researching Model Railways I decided my layout needs to have certain criteria:
  1. Probably the most important of all: The Layout should be easily dismantlable/storable. I live in a smallish flat in London now and with other people so there really is no room for a permanent fixture.
  2. Despite this limitation the Layout should be as big as is logically possible to make the most out of all the existing track (Hornby) I have and so that I can run at least 2 trains with more in sidings. This presented two further limitations:
    a) The board(s) need to fit in my car. This is mainly to aid in moving it when I move house, but also just in case it’s good enough to take to an exhibition!


    b) It needs to fit somewhere in the flat, and it will be sitting on our extended dining table when out. Soit  can’t exceed certain sensible dimensions.
  3. It should be easy for me (a relative novice at DIY) to build. However, it should still look as good as possible whilst maintaining a modest budget. 
  4. It should be easy to set up and set down.
With these in mind it was back to the world wide web. 
If I’d have google’d ‘Model Railway Base Board’ when I was younger then maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess. Well it turns out there are plenty of companies out there that will professionally build you a base board, which could fold in half or split for your convenience and in some cases lay down scenic felt. 
This would certainly fulfil the ‘Look good’ rule, and all could be made to measure which fulfilled ‘Fit in car,’ ‘Fit in flat,’ and ‘Have lots of track.’ However these certainly were expensive and did take away a little of the ‘Make myself’ element to the project.
I therefore elected to go to B&Q and buy some wood myself. This would be cheap, and I also knew from previously purchasing some MDF to cover up my window to help me sleep during the day after working nights, the exact dimension that my car will accommodate. This lead to the parameter, 3.5ft by 2.5ft. This is big, but not big enough for a layout. I would therefore buy two of these, seperating the board in half when storing the layout which gives me 5ft by 3.5fto work with. Perfect. Now we just need to work out the layout itself!
A very useful website I found was Name sort of does what it says on the tin. It gives ideas on Hornby track layouts on certain pre-given sizes. If you go to the geometry section of the website it also gives advice on curve diameters – which played a part in helping me confirm the size of my layout. If this wasn’t enough help FreeTrackPlans also links you over to a program called ‘AnyRail4.’ Which is a free* track planner tool you can download.
*Free up to 50 pieces in layout.
So I set to work , setting my project to be no more than 5ft by 3.5ft and this is what I came up with.
The dotted line denotes where the board splits in two. I plan at this point to nail down anything that doesn’t cross this dotted line and keep the middle straights lose for easy dismantling. This setup also allows for a great deal of future proofing. In theory another piece of wood can be added in the middle when/if more space becomes available to me.
The layout features two ovals (Hornby 1st Radius & 2nd Radius) so two trains can run simultaneously. It also features 2 outer loops meaning at least one (preferably two) other train can be held here and alternated with the running one. The right hand side of the inner oval can be isolated by points, meaning a train can be held here whilst the siding in the middle of the board is accessible from the outer oval. All these options add for lots of flexibility, lots of trains and without complicated powering scenarios.
The long term goal will be to have a town scene in the centre of the board with a modest village style station occupying the straight section of the track towards the bottom of the oval. The siding will act as a wagon yard for the station. The sidings at the bottom of the board will allow for further stock storage and possibly some depot style buildings. At this point I will mention that I do need a liiiitle bit more track (for the 3rd radius curve) which is slightly depressing as I have ALOT of other spare track left over. However, this layout looks like it will really work so I’m going to run with it. Off to B&Q Leah and I go. 
Ply Wood
I opt for 12mm ply wood. To make it seem like I made an educated man-decision this was because I felt MDF would probably put up a fight against a measly track pin. However it will still be durable and strong. Sundeala and Chipboard were also options however I’m told by google and model railway forums that these are prone to warping in heat fluctuations if not built on a frame. I’m not going to build a frame, mainly because this means more money on tools – but more it’s a case that I can’t be bothered. It’s useful to note that my flat has recently been fitted with a new boiler freeing up some storage space. and providing a location to store the boards at a constant temperature. 
Thankfully B&Q will helpfully cut your wood to size. Although the annoying bloke at Beckton Park will be confused as to why you don’t want the offcuts. Why do I need them?! 
On return to the flat I set up as much of the layout as possible (minus the missing extra track at this point) to gauge an idea of how it was going to look.
Track Rubber
Top Rail: Clean
Bottom Rail: Dirty
First of all though, the track needed a damn good clean. It had amounted 6 or so years of premium grade dust and was hindering the running of trains to a mere stutter (much like the central line if you lean on the doors). To clean them I used Hornby’s track cleaning rubber. Luckily I already had one, and despite me thinking it might have disintegrated over the years it still performed the job perfectly. (I’m also surprised that the changing temperature in the previously mentioned parents loft hadn’t damaged the track. The day I collected it was sweltering!). 

Track Laying
BR Sprinter
Track was laid and trains were run. The BR Sprinter smoked a little on start up. (Yet more dust) But once run it was fine. All the other trains now worked very well on the freshly cleaned track!
Leah jumps in and decides that Model Railways are definitely fun and sits there for a good 5-10 minutes making DLR announcements. Bless. 
At Cutty Sark – The first two sets
and last to sets of doors will not open…

You’ll notice at this point that I have very ‘modern’ trains, an exBR Sprinter, an East Coast Mainline 225 (in former GNER lively) and an EWS loco. Most modellers try and set a theme/locations or a period for their models. Whilst I have modern trains running here, I do have steam too. My cunning plan is to make the town scene as neutral as possible so I can run either if I want to have a theme.

So now we have a board. Lots of trains. And nearly enough track. The next stage is figuring out what material to use to cover the board and how to do it!