Langstead – Episode 15: Test Runs

Following on from Episode 14 I now have all the required extra bits of track to complete the new outer oval.

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Here’s a rather suspect panorama (thanks to iOS7) of The Mainline with the additional oval.

It’s hard to spot in the picture above but at the rear of the layout the oval runs on the old boards and at the front it drops down and runs on the new woodwork. This means either side must accommodate a modest gradient to raise and the lower the line between the sections. Continue reading

Langstead – Episode 14: Extensions

The Mainline as of August 2013

The Mainline as of August 2013

I promised myself that once I moved into my new flat I would in someway look at expanding my layout, now known as ‘The Mainline’ for sake of giving it a fancy title for this new site.

Possible areas to expand into marked in yellow

Possible areas to expand into marked in yellow

Now, I’ve not got acres of extra space to work with: Either side on the left and right there is perhaps 10-12 inches of spare room between base board and wall. Nonetheless I think it’s just about enough to think about an expansion in some way.

Option 1: Split and Insert

Option 1: Split and Insert

First idea is to separate the two boards, move them both into the yellow zones and insert a new board in the middle where the red line is. You may remember that my original design factored in this potential method for expansion.

No major track work will need to be done, it’s just a case of adding another straight to each oval. It will be slightly fiddly to plug the scenic gap but nothing too difficult. The major problem with this plan is the two speaker stands at the back of the room. Currently the baseboard nestles snugly in between them both and are flush against the back wall maximising space. If I were to separate the two boards to add a new piece I’d either have to move the speaker stands completely, or, bring the entire layout forward (and off the back wall) to accommodate the expansion. I don’t like the sound of either of those two plans.

Option 2: Expand on the left hand side only.

Option 2: Expand on the left hand side only.

Second idea is to expand in one direction only. In this scenario a terminus station or yard could be considered for scenic and operational interest. I’ll be honest, this was my preferred idea for quite sometime… I’ve since discovered that I much prefer sitting back at my desk (where these pictures are all taken from) simply enjoying running various trains. I’ve found I’m much more likely to do this rather than sit at the layout itself and make lots of complex operational changes… after all, that’s what Salford Chapel is for… The Mainline has become much more an outlet for running trains whereas Salford Chapel is becoming the more detailed ‘model.’ Therefore, maximising the number of trains I can run would be priority in this expansion project. The station or yard option above would allow me to switch stock around however I’d definitely have to look at motorising points so I’m not constantly leaning over the entire layout all the time. (I’ll admit this gets a bit irritating).

Option 3: Elevated Line?

Option 3: Elevated Line?

Option 3 is a bit… out there… Build a completely new oval, elevating it above the rest of the layout. I really like the idea of adding height and it’ll mean I’ll be able to run a 3rd train at any one time, but logistically I really don’t know where to begin in making it a reality. Far too complicated.

Option 4: An outer oval.

Option 4: An outer oval.

Same as Option 3, but less wacky. There’s a relatively unused siding at the back of the layout. I could essentially develop this into another full outer oval, expanding in all directions but hopefully in such a way that I won’t have to move the speakers or take up too much room at the front of the layout. Now we’re talking!…

The Outer Oval

The Outer Oval

Ignore the fact there’s some track missing from the above layout on the inner ovals, this is because the free version of the AnyRail5 software I’ve used only allows 50 pieces at any one time. The green piece of track at the bottom will need to be lifted to make way for the outer oval curve. Overall the layout will expand only 3 inches at the sides and 3 inches at the front, but will allow the operation (and interest) of running a 3rd train.

Now I could add braces to the underside of the original baseboard to support a 3 inch strip of wood all the around the layout. However, I thought it would be far easier to buy completely new boards, slightly wider than the old ones, to accommodate both the new oval AND the old boards themselves…

Lifting Track

Lifting Track

First job was removing the redundant siding at the back of the layout. Old ballast was chiseled off and the section of track lifted. I’m not worried it left a bit of a mess, I’ll model over this in good time.

Deforestation...

Deforestation…

...Is required

…Is required

Corners of the board were sawn off to make way for the outer oval.

Changing Legs

Changing Legs

Legs and leg plates were removed from the old board and added to the new ones. See Episode 17 for this process!

Old on New

Old on New

The old boards were then laid on the new ones now clearly showing where the outer oval will eventually go. It’s worth noting that they are still in two parts – to enable dismantlability, and still leave room for the speakers to remain in place at the back of the room. There’s also a height difference between old and new which will add some much needed depth to the layout. Gentle gradients will rise and fall from the old siding at the back of the old boards to accommodate this.

Buildings reassembled!

Buildings reassembled!

I’ll be off to ebay now to get some more track! Stay tuned for results soon.

– Andy Carter

Langstead – Episode 13: The (Semi)-Permanent Way

There hasn’t been an update for a while. Things were put on hold until I moved flat (which recently occurred). So rather than talking about wagon weathering as suggested in last episode (and I will do soon, I promise), I will be talking about moving flat and how this has affect my Main Layout and Salford Chapel.

If you want to remind yourself of some of my original objectives, especially with reference to my Main Layout, you can do so here. The main challenge I originally faced was storability, and maximising relatively low amounts of space in my old flat. I’m rather pleased and excited that this requirement has now changed and I have much more space at my disposal.*
*This was a requirement that the new place should have a facility for me not to have trains in the living room as dictated by Leah…
I now have something of an office/studio/workshop, whatever you want to call it (perhaps it should be called Man-Room) dedicated to, and amongst other things, my layout(s). 
This is all well and good, however at my old flat the boards simply went on the extended dining room table. Now I don’t have anything to put them on…
My original objective of Storability is now less important. In fact the layout can now be fitted on something semi-permanent. – I’m always reluctant to make something fully permanent in case I change my mind about something, want to move things, or actually do require space again in the future.
So I had a couple of possible solutions…
Buy a frame: A quick search of Google suggests that it is completely feasible to purchase just a frame for model railway baseboards. These are more on the expensive side and there’s a feeling of out sourcing the problem to someone else rather than coming up with a better alternative on my own.
Possible idea – frame with folding legs. (Imagine without baseboard).
Build a frame: I could build it myself. A bigger issue with a frame is it’s rather inflexible and more permanent than I’m willing to make it. I’d have to therefore factor in folding or detachable legs into the frame equation making things liable to expense and complication. (I really don’t like complication). 
Now here’s an idea – IKEA do various cheap tables, the beauty of these is they have detachable legs. I know this because I’ve got a desk in this format. They’re simply made up of a disk – mounted to the wood, then a pole screws into the disk to provide the leg. Simple! The other thing I could do is buy some trestles and be done with a frame completely, but I still think we can go one step simpler…
What about just buying the IKEA legs and attaching them straight to the baseboard itself…
The legs cost £2.50 per pack. In a pack you get one leg, one mounting disk and the necessary screws. So we’re looking at £20 for 8 packs (remember I have 2 separate boards so it’s 4 legs per board), which considering some of the alternatives is the most cost effective simple solution.
One minor setback is the screws that come as standard (right) are far too long for my board. I popped into B&Q and purchased some shorter ones (left). You’ll want to get self-tapping screws, which will ram themselves into your baseboard far easier than normal ones. The alternative is to drill pilot holes (a hassle). 
I’ve laid my board track side down on a blanket on the bed. This will cushion the force I will need to apply to screw in the metal disks for the legs and ultimately protect the track. Hopefully you’ll not have to do this if you’re building your base-board-IKEA-solution first. 

First decide where you want to place the disks. If you’re starting from scratch you can plan this hole operation from the start with more precision. Because I’m doing this backwards and my track is already laid, I want to avoid attaching the disks bellow points – where I may want to add motors, wiring and things that require drilling at a later date. This optimum location was about 6 ½ inches from each edge. I then measured and marked out each disk position. 
Using a bradawl, score out where you want to insert screws. For some reason I couldn’t find bradawls in B&Q. But really all you need is any old sharp spike. Fortunately I found this…
A TWIST GIMLET. Possibly the most exiting name of any tool you’ll ever find. It did the job just as well. 
I’ve since learned that it’s actual job is to drill small pilot holes in wood by hand. And, well that’s what I’m trying to do. 
Next, make sure the disc is lined up with your pilot holes and simply pop in the screws. Now my baseboard is ply wood, which accepts screws, nails and twist gimletage with relative ease. If you’ve got a denser wood it might not be so easy. Even so, you’ll need to apply a fair bit of force for the screw to take. I found a mixture of using my electric screwdriver and a ratchet screwdriver were best for the job.
After that attach the screw in leg to the disk…
…and repeat…
And that’s it. Nothing to it really!

I’ll be able to detach the legs and store the boards as before should I need the extra space for guests or need to move the boards at a later date. 
And there both boards sit in Man Room with aforementioned glass display cases for rolling stock!
In the meantime, Salford Chapel (the shelf layout) takes a spot on an actual shelf…

Langstead – Episode 1: A Lost Hobby & Brief

Pre Amble:
 
I’ve always been into trains. I wouldn’t call myself an anorak by any measure and I couldn’t tell you the names of ‘important’ locomotives… (well apart from the Flying Scotsman, but everyone knows that one) but I love travelling by train, be it Intercity, Underground or International. I also like cars, and for that matter roads but I will always feel slightly bitter about how the automobile killed, or at least damaged, British Railways. Look out of your window on any odd rail journey and you’ll see empty spaces where branch lines diverged, where goods yards used to exist or abandoned platforms at your local station. This is sad. But this is what I like about railways, the sense of a romantic history which the M11 just can’t provide.
A Lost Hobby:
 
When I was younger, although maybe not as young as you might think, I had a model railway. It covered my floor space and no doubt p*ssed off my parents a fair amount with the constant addition of more track and the need to go to a model shop in Chelmsford every Saturday. It was pretty great, and it was also pretty big. I did leaf through model railway literature with the long term goal of nailing it to some wood and doing it all properly but that never came around. Instead, and rather tactically, my parents got a loft conversion of sorts in the form of laying down floor boards over roof beams. The promise was, clean up my floor space of track and trains, and replace it with a table in the newly floored loft. Once the job was complete I eagerly went to assemble my new layout (now with more fresh track as there was even more floor space to play with, in the loft). Whilst I thoroughly appreciated the efforts to relocate and encourage my hobby, unfortunately said parents forgot to factor in a number of variables:
  1. There was very little height in the loft, and what height there was, was further limited by the camber of the roof. Certainly no room for a table and definitely no room for me to stand up.
  2. As this was not a proper conversion of such the loft was still susceptible to weather. Namely too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
  3. Next was the unbelievable quantity of dust.
  4. And finally there was promise of folding ladders being attached to the loft hatch. This was scrapped due to the builder claiming ‘The hatch is at a funny angle and we can’t put folding ladders in.’ What I took from that was we had got a quote from an idiot who couldn’t suss out how to problem solve.
Even with these problems I merrily went about setting up my layout in the loft, now on the newly laid floor boards. I tried to make do and enjoy the extra space but the heat, dust and fact I had to move ladders about the house to get up there was making the hobby I used to enjoy hard work. The final nail in the coffin was when I went off to university and it eventually got boxed up, presumably so my Dad could fill up the space with old CD players, empty hi-fi boxes, and naturally – lots more dust.
 
Spin on 5 years and Leah and I (Leah is my girlfriend, who seems to be copping quite well with the fact that her boyfriend bloody loves trains) were a bit bored and elected to drive to my old house to relieve my loft of my other childhood hobby of Lego. When we got there we discovered there literally was FAR TOO MUCH lego which had been arranged into brick type (which Leah deemed ‘unfun’) and put in FAR TOO MANY boxes. This disappointed Leah so my attention turned to my trains now all nicely boxed (I’m actually pleased at the job my Dad did at dismantling it all – it’s probably because he loves boxes) in two large wooden crates. Eventually Leah allowed me to take home 1 small oval of track and 1 train + wagons. This was excellent fun. Naturally it wasn’t enough.
 
The next few days and work lunch breaks were spent planning and researching folding/splitting/portable model railway board solutions. Eventually I came up with a plan.
 
This blog is about that plan, picking off from where I left off and building my own model railway. 

Post Amble: (More on what I’m trying to achieve).
 
Apart from cataloguing the construction of my model railway the secondary aims of this blog are as follows:
 
  • You don’t have to own acres of attic space to build a layout. Kids, this is about showing your parents that there ARE alternatives to having your layout on your bedroom floor, and parents and adults this is about showing you there IS room for a model railway no matter what space you have available to you.
  • You don’t have to be a complete locomotive number collecting anorak to enjoy a model railway. Rather luckily I already have a large quantity of rolling stock left over from my childhood. If you’re literally starting from a blank canvas, and you want to build a rural village station set in the 1930’s – brilliant. You can look up what locomotives, and railway companies existed at this time and buy accordingly. But if you’re like me, and just love trains of all ages and eras – and want huge steam trains operating next to the Eurostar – by all means this is OK too. Remember the most important part of your layout is the trains themselves! So buy ones you like, and if they are not quite historically accurate to the rest of your model… So what.
  • You don’t have to be a DIY expert. I am merely armed with Google and my own logic. If you do your research you won’t have to have a degree in woodwork or engineering to build something that (hopefully) looks good. This project isn’t about creating a model that would appear in a magazine. Those kind of models take years to perfect, and whilst I am inspired by them and appreciate their art I want something fun and usable. It’s important to remember that the people who make these absolutely brilliant layouts often have been building them their entire life. I haven’t, and this blog is for the inexperienced first time modeller, like myself.