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 12: Rails

There’s been a lot of talk about Salford Chapel and as a result I haven’t posted on my Main Layout for a while so it’s time for a couple of updates… 
A Minor Derailment 
I’m not going to lie. You’re going to get derailments on your model railway… Mimicking real life? Well you’d hope not, but let’s not forget we’re dealing with moving parts a 76th of the size of their real life counterparts. It’s bound to happen every now and then. I’ve even been at exhibitions where I’ve seen it occur, so don’t worry it – it happens in the pros… You’ll quickly find out that there are either certain types of rolling stock or certain areas of track that potentially cause frequent problems. There are usually some common causes. 
Above is an example of a the common Hornby Point (R8072/3). Common because the curve on it fits the 2nd radius oval standard set by Hornby and thus slots easily into most layouts. (Here you can see them littering my layout). The problem with these are they aren’t really designed for trains to run over the curved alignment at (what I’d consider to be) mainline speed. 
You’d be better off using this, the Hornby Express Point. Named aptly for more appropriate line switching at higher speeds. For realism they look and work a lot better, but for the space conscious modeller, myself included, they take up more room and do not fit so nicely into the design of your layout. 
Why do the standard points cause derailments you might ask? Well, certain rolling stock have a tendency to jump the guide/check rails and/or frogs – but I will come to this shortly.
99% derailment issues will happen over points but there’s usually other factors involved…
Rolling Stock Wheel Base: 
Remember these? Well I have a set of three, and in certain scenarios they are a real problem child going over the aforementioned points. Being pulled – they’re not a problem – and I think this is because the loco or next wagon is providing some guidance. However when shunted/pushed the lead wheels tend to slip up and over the frog (this is the ‘V’ shape made by the adjoining rails). 
Different wagons are fine over the same stretch of track in the same conditions. It just so happens that the wheel base of these wagons are such that they are derailing in this scenario. Not a lot you can do in terms of altering the wheel base but there is a solution which I’ll get to shortly.
Bogie Type:     
The Parcel Van pictured above has only 2 wheels at each end. In this example the axel is fixed, and this van causes me no problems what so ever. I do however have a version of a similar sized van where the axel is allowed to pivot. Just like a 4 wheel bogie setup on a coach or loco. 
This is just asking for trouble.
These unusual 2 wheel bogies slip over points regardless of push/pull formation and regardless of direction. I’m not sure if such vans exist in real life? It doesn’t appear to be a very good idea. Hornby seemed to have reverted to fixing the axels on later models.
My suggestion if you have any offending vans would be to run them at the rear of your train. I’ve also noticed they actually prefer running at speed when being pulled. More tension in the coupling and a more precise guidance perhaps. They certainly don’t work very well being pushed at speed that’s for sure. 

Coupling Mismatch:
This is a new problem. All Hornby models of old had the same sized coupling components. Nice big chunky hooks  and bars with plenty of give.
Newer models though (and those of different brands) are fitted with these daintier versions. Smaller hooks and smaller catchment areas. The result means a closer coupling and better realism. Using these new couplings together, no problem. There’s a slight flex in the joint for running on curves and they work perfectly. Problems start to arise when you use the old and new type together. The larger hooks tend not to fit in the smaller catchment area, and the smaller hooks often unlatch from older couplings. 9 out of 10 times though, you’ll get it working, however be aware that occasionally whilst being shunted (and not surprisingly over points) the couplings may knock each other in ways that will derail your wagons. 
So now we know some derailment causes what can you do about them? 
Well, I’ve already outlined a few pointers. Stay away from the weird 2 wheel bogie vans, try to couple like for like wagons and be aware that some stock will cause you problems. I’m not going to say, ‘Don’t buy X and Y they always derail’, because chances are elsewhere on your layout they’ll work fine. It always seems to happen in those really specific places. 
Now, if those places are the standard Hornby (Or Peco by the way) point – here’s a potential fix. 
It just so happened that a new loco I got for Christmas was frequently derailing at these set of points. This was bemusing because up until now these points hadn’t caused me any problems. Unfortunately this will almost certainly happen to you. One fullproof set of points for all your rolling stock will inexplicably be a problem for that certain one train, coach or wagon!
(For the following explanation imagine loco running from right to left on the curved allignment). 
On closer examination I noticed that the wheels of the train appeared to be coming astray just after the frog on the outer rail. It was only until I observed the other side of the train on the inner rail did I realise that the check rail just wasn’t doing its job properly. 
To solve this I improvised extending the check rail by introducing some unused sleepers either side. 
Success! The sleeper, now acting as a further check rail, pulls the wheels back on course. I’ve since read up on the internet about hornby point derailment cases and learnt that older hornby points (of which I had) were known to have smaller check rails. Newer ones have been improved but if you’re experiencing derailment issues why not try this!
I applied the same method to other problem points and this even solved the issue created by the odd wheel base wagons! 
Completing The Roadway
Elsewhere on my layout this is what I’ve been up to…
You may remember from previous episodes that I left a gap in ballast laying to leave room for a level crossing. Well now it is time to plug that gap.
Most good model shops will stock thin cuttable plastic (normally in white). These come in a variety of flavours ranging from piping to girding and from stairways to thin strips. 
They also do fairly large sheets, and this offering from Evergreen I’ve have cut to shape the curvature of the track and stuck down with superglue. 
If you’ve not opted for one of the many pre-made level crossings out there and you are planning a level crossing on a straight section of track, this will be a pretty simple procedure of marking, measuring and cutting. I, however, have made things difficult for myself by locating the crossing on a curved section of track. This was initially done to save sections of straight track for points as space was at a premium. 
After a few failed attempts of cutting the plastic by simply winging it I came up with a solution…
Take a spare piece of track that matches the curve radius you are trying to mark out. Turn it upside down and then you can mark where the rail touches the plastic. This will in turn create three pieces: One piece to fit outside of either rail and one piece to fit inside (this will need to be trimmed so the wheels do not touch it). Put these in place and keep making sure a variety of rolling stock will run over it with no faults. Once you’re happy you can stick it down as I have above. I’ve then started to stick roadway and pavement down.
I opted to paint the centre pieces rather than cut out further fiddly pieces of roadway. 
The finished article both without… (The gap in the pavement by the way is to leave room for the power supply wire).
And with train.
See those grubby looking wagons in that picture? I’ll get on to some weathering techniques next time!… Stay tuned…

Salford Chapel – Episode 4: More Visual Updates

Some further updates on the Salford Chapel layout:

To the left of the road bridge I’ve completed the laying of scenic scatter. The only area remaining in need of scenic scatter is seen to the right of the signal box (above top). This is because I’m waiting to add some maintenance steps on order from gaugemaster. I’ve added another small patch of painted road next to the headshunts, this plot also features a small shed with some wire drums stacked next to it. (See bellow).

The above shot shows the ‘main line’ diverging away into a ‘tunnel’ to the right and, looking back on Episode 13, heads towards the Manchester Central lines… In reality it heads towards the fiddle yard/track. The footpath providing access to the station from the road bridge has been fitted with a wall. 
I painted some cheap strip-wood from Modelzone, (which proved very easy to cut – you only need a Stanley knife!), and painted them using some matt grey model paint. Similar to the type pictured above. Miraculously the colour I chose was exactly the same as the girder bridge! Win!

Another shot showing the ‘main line tunnel’ and footpath linking to the steps.

I’ve added two semaphore signals, the one on the right is a station starter for the main or right hand siding; the one on the left services the headshunt.

They both formally started life like this Hornby example (above). I dismantled the top half and tried to glue it to the side of the footpath wall. The glue wasn’t strong enough so I dismantled it further and attached the signals individually to the girder bridge. An offcut of the signal support has been used as a ‘support’ for the footpath bridge. (See above).
The reverse shot showing pedestrian walkway towards the station. You can also see the area above the signal cabin which still needs some scenic scatter adding. I am wondering if the station starter semaphore (left) may be slightly too high and ‘out of scale’ with the rest of the model, particularly compared to the car pictured… Perhaps I will move it down eventually.

This shot better shows what I mean, it just looks too high doesn’t it!?

Anyway, similar to the footpath, some painted stripwood has also been added to the rest of the road bridge.

Another nice shot under the bridge.

Back in the station a wagon is loaded with two wire drums (Bachman) and some milk churns (Hornby Skaledale range). Some additional churns sit on the station. There are no shortage of wagon loads on offer in model shops, but you could also consider this neat little idea, showcased in Episode 9, for making your own.
The reverse shot from the station looking at the signal cabin. Come back soon for some more updates both on Salford Chapel and my Main Layout!

Salford Chapel – Episode 3: A Visual Update

So now it has a name I can update you on how it is taking shape…

As you can see I’ve added some grass scatter. You can check out my Main Layout blog and in particular This Episode to see my technique for adding scatter.

I’ve added some thicker clumps by the buffer stops and using my finger and some glue, smudged some scatter into the ballast to add to that authentic track-side vegetation look.

I’ve also painted on a roadway. I’ve actually used a Dulux tester pot in a matt grey finish. Now of course you can pick up proper model paints – and I have got some for smaller areas which will pop up in future episodes… However, for larger areas consider getting a tester pot from your local hardware store, you’ll get more paint for your money, it drys super fast (or at least this one did) and at the end of the day it was very easy to wash off your bush! It also provides a really nice finish! 
In the background you’ll notice the bridge now looks, well more bridge like…
These are plastic Peco Bridge Girders and I picked these up from a couple of quid at John Dutfield in Chelmsford, but I’ve since seen they are pretty common and pop up in modelzones too. You’ll also notice I’ve laid some tarmac, this is the Noch stick on roadway stuff left spare from my Main Layout
For the red-brick-Manchester walls I’ve simply used sheets of printed pattern. Again, picked up from my favorite model shop for a few pence. To apply the sheets to the wood I created a very watery PVA mix, wallpaper paste like, and this worked perfectly – although it was ever so tricky to stick into place, especially under the bridge. You could of course consider printing your own, or even painting, but this method really is very cheap and easy to achieve something very aesthetically pleasing. I would however recommend sticking the texture sheets onto the wood first and then assembling any structures 2nd…
This is exactly what I did for the rear station walls. Was so much easier! 
Again, this wood came from the B&Q wood yard, but I’ve since seen that even Modelzone at Westfield’s stock strip wood similar to this. Theirs is much flimsier but on the flipside – much easier to cut! 
This close up shows the pre-printed texture sheets come with a finish at the top. The figures are from Noch.
I also came across a plastic stair case pack. This may be harder to come across in Modelzone or similar so I’d recommend your local model shop or the gaugemaster website. I’ve trimmed to size and will eventually paint for a nicer finish.
And there we have it! More updates soon!