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January 2000

I have joined the masses and had flu for most of January, therefore progress has been somewhat limited. However I have been giving a great deal of thought to how to accommodate my ever growing locomotive stud. I realised that the single road locomotive shed was going to be totally inadequate and on thumbing through some of C.J.Freezer's layout design books, I found a high level locomotive depot that, if I could fit it in, would greatly enhance my storage facilities. The plan in question is # SP57 in the April 1999 reprint of "60 Plans for Small Locations".

This is a scan of the relevant section of the plan.

This involves taking my existing loco road and elevating it into a 1 in 20 incline, this shouldn't be a problem since only locomotives on their own will have to climb it. I already have an Atlas turntable, which with a little "tweaking" will look ok. It's been motorised and uses an ingenious "registering" mechanism that stops at every location. A small disadvantage to this is that it pauses at every stop if you are just reversing the locomotive. However I'm getting too old and too impatient to build one from scratch. Actually I did this on the original N.E.R. located in my parents garage in the late 40's/early 50's. This used an old electric gramophone turntable motor with a suitable gear ratio and an ingenious locking/locating device using a Post Office relay with an extension arm fitted to the armature. This extension arm dropped into slots cut into the deck of the turntable. When the arm dropped it stopped the current flow to the motor since the relay was now released. To restart the turntable all one had to do was energise the relay momentarily, the extension arm lifted out of the slot and the motor started. As soon as the deck moved the arm rubbed against the circumference of the deck. When the arm reached the next slot it dropped in again and stopped and locked the deck. It was then a simple matter to arrange contacts under the deck that could be energized at will and thus avoid the relay allowing the arm to drop. This coupled with a "Radio Button" set of push buttons allowed me to select a road at will and go directly to it. I've since seen this type of device described somewhere in one of the model railway newsgroups I believe. Anyway I'm not prepared to spend the effort at the moment to build such a device. At my time of life (now 68) every hour saved is precious.

Here is the embryo incline...

The "track level" shot shows how the loco depot incline fits into the general scheme of things. Please note that the track on the incline has not yet been laid or aligned , its just there to see how it will look. The double slip in the foreground allows access to the main arrival platform as well as the bay. I've heard many horror stories about Peco slips, but I have to say I've had no trouble whatsoever with my two. (apart from the horrendous price!!) You can also see the "card cover plates" that hide the baseboard cut-outs that accommodate the Peco point motors . The blue line on the wall actually shows the line of the gradient leading from the lower level to the upper level. This gradient will eventually be "hidden" by either an embankment or maybe a road or perhaps a row of low-relief terrace house backs. Not sure yet but I'm sure it will gradually come to me.

Accommodating this incline necessitated re-aligning the entrance road to the upper terminus. This in turn meant that the truss girder bridge had to be re-aligned. Now I have to figure out an extension to the bridge abutment since the bridge overhangs it. some sort of cantilevered brick structure will be needed since the existing abutment is "hard up" against the run-round loop of the lower terminus. Still this is all part of the challenge of working in a comparatively limited space and since I'm not exactly a "rivet counter" I'm sure it will look ok, at least to my eyes, and that's what counts!!!
Here's a close up of what I mean.

When this is all finalized and suitably "tarted up" it will look just fine. Right now I'm concentrating on getting the overall system finished and working. When that is accomplished I will go back over various areas and "clean them up". For example the station building you can see in the foreground (Ratio) is not yet finished but is sufficiently complete to allow figuring out what goes where.

February 2000

The incline to the future locomotive depot has caused all kinds of problems. Space is very much at a premium and clearances are very tight. After much " jiggery-pokery" I finally managed to get it roughed in and everything worked just fine. That is until I tried to enter the high level terminus. There just wasn't enough clearance between the approach road and the front of the new incline. Furthermore re-aligning the tracks so that there was enough clearance resulted in coaching stock and bogie wagons fouling the (Airfix/Dapol) through girder bridge. I realised that I would have to totally re-align all the approach track work and do away with the bridge. I had in stock an excellent American plastic kit by Micro Engineering. It is a 160' Combination Thru(sic) Girder and Deck girder bridge. It is highly detailed and solves many of my clearance problems.

Here you see a general view of the new bridge and you can see the edge of the "old" through girder abutment just to the right of the support on the left. This second shot shows how the new bridge has been re-aligned so as to allow the terminus approach road to clear the front of the loco depot incline A close-up shows some of the highly detailed moulding of the new bridge.

I'm actually much happier now that I've finally "bitten the bullet" and done away with the old through girder bridge. The track alignment is far better and the approach curves are well within my minimum of 18"
The above shot gives a better idea of the fairly complex series of levels that occur around the terminus approach. The lower terminus platform and run-round can be seen top right. Then reading from left to right the tracks are as follows, 1) 1 in 40 gradient from lower level to upper level, 2) Locomotive depot incline, 3) Upper terminus approach road, 4) End of goods head shunt. (no buffer stop yet.)

The supports and 11m/m poplar ply baseboard surface is temporarily in position. The supports were pre-cut by my local Home Depot to the required width.
Ignore the two leftmost openings, they are only there because the the chipboard support was too short! The next stage is to add the 2 x 1 framework and fit it so that it locates this baseboard correctly and allows easy removal.

Because of the limited clearance below this baseboard I have had to put the 2 x 1 framework on top as seen here. This will eventually be disguised as an embankment or wall or whatever.

This is the view I get every time I walk into my office. It's what keeps me going I guess!

I've done a bit more work on the terminus platforms etc. There's still a great deal of detailing to be added but I need to get these basic structures in place so that I can ballast the track and make everything look as if it is properly "planted" rather than just stuck on top. One of my pet peeves is the layout that is beautifully detailed and finished and then there is a yawning gap around the bottom of structures. There's no excuse for this, even if the buildings have to be removable, its perfectly possible to disguise the gap.
The loco depot incline now has a front wall. Not quite what I had intended. I wanted to use some embossed or moulded stone wall but couldn't get hold of any over here in Canada. At least not at present. I will probably replace the mounting board/brick paper wall in due course when I can get hold of some better walling material. At top right you can see the " old" unfinished Ratio single road loco shed, this is just temporary and will be replaced by Wills two road shed to be made from their CK12 Craftsman Kit.

There's still quite a lot of "tidying up" to do and I shall go back over this whole area once the loco depot baseboard is in place. Incidentally I plan to build the loco depot as a separate removable baseboard using standard 11 m/m poplar ply and 2" x 1" timber. This will sit over the loop leading to the terminus and will be easier to complete if it can be worked on whilst removed from it's final location. Access is none too easy especially as this part of the layout is approximately 4' 6" above floor level.

March 2000

Spring is about to be sprung and the Toronto Model Railway show is on this weekend. Of course this is mainly for the benefit of modellers of North American outline but there was one outstanding "S" gauge layout from a member of the "Platelayers Society" a local British outline model railway club.

Here is a few pictures for the record...

The above pictures are of  the 'Wandle Valley Railway" by Michael Watts of Ajax Ontario, Canada.
Well done Mike, a great inspiration to us all as to how it should be done. I see from the 'S' Gauge society website that this layout has now been "retired" from the exhibition circuit.

More about progress on the N.E.R. ...

Nothing dramatic has been done this month. A few bits and pieces have been added, a couple of Metcalfe low relief terraced houses.
I've more or less finished off the Terminus station building and temporarily added the Metcalfe low relief shops as can be seen here...This picture, taken with my digital camera, has been electronically retouched to "clean-up" some of the edges and to add a little interest to the sky. As a first effort I'm moderately pleased with the result. Obviously I can improve on this in due course.

Here are a few more recent pics, the last two with the same digital retouching treatment...

The lack of ballast is very noticeable here and I shall get around to this as soon as I've finalized the platforms and electrics. Also the buildings are not yet in their final positions as there are several more in the pipeline and they will eventually form a proper background to the station building.

April/May 2000

At long last the upper terminus has been progressed and largely ballasted. I have again used Woodland Scenics ballast but in a Brown tint just to give some contrast between the upper and lower levels. Again I tried various methods of ballasting finally settling on mixing ballast and adhesive (dry) in a 2 to 1 mix and then spraying with water with a few drops of washing up liquid added to break the surface tension. The tedious part is, of course, cleaning up the excess afterwards and also "freeing" up the point blades.

A visit to the Great British Train Show here in Canada, produced some normally difficult to obtain items including some Peco background sheets. Not yet in their final positions but already enhancing the overall effect. I've also at long last "hung" the sky wallpaper that I've had in stock for a couple of years! This also "pulls the scene together somewhat.

At the other end of the layout I've done quite a lot of work on the 3rd level Loco depot. A Metcalfe 2 road Loco Shed, some half relief cottages (more to follow shortly) and a Ratio coaling/water stage. I've re-arranged the track layout here, mainly to accommodate the loco shed and to give me more storage roads. I've also eliminated all turnouts from this area thus simplifying the electrical work. This whole section can be lifted off for access to the tracks below. I may well run a spur off the Terminus approach roads to a fiddle yard in front of the window in due course and I need to have access to install a new turnout. You can also see some Bilteeze card occupation arches. They are presently entirely "as is" but I intend to detail them in due course. I'm also toying with running a small tramway through this area. The as yet incomplete Superquick "Swan Inn" is from a kit I bought way back in the 80's and have only just got around to starting. It's interesting to compare these "old timers" with the new boys on the block, Metcalfe. Actually the Superquick models stand up very well against their more modern and sophisticated counterparts.

June 2000

Steady progress with various projects. For example I have at long last hooked up my second MRC Tech II controller and presently it controls the High Level Terminus. Shortly I shall rewire both controllers into a "Cab Control" configuration to allow either controller to be used for either section or one controller used for both. A "Web Friend" , Richard Lilley from Johannesburg, South Africa, is very kindly sending me a Gaugemaster Twin Track Rail cleaner. As soon as this arrives I will do the necessary re-wiring. I'm still not committed to DCC and although I am aware of the many advantages and totally understand the system, I'm not prepared to make the not inconsiderable investment at this time.
Here are some recent shots taken just this weekend (June 3rd/4th, 2000)...

All the above are largely self explanatory. Another word about the "Sky Background". This is actually a roll of standard wallpaper ordered specially from our local Home Depot. Wasn't very expensive since it was pre-pasted it was relatively easy to hang (Easy that is, if you are used to hanging wallpaper!) If you are tempted to follow my example here be very careful to order enough rolls. The "drop match" is around 15" and I could have done with a 2nd roll. I had to do a lot of "patching" on the last couple of areas and I'm not sure that I have enough to finish off the Door wall.
I've installed some Kadee permanent magnet type uncouplers and these work extremely well. Takes a bit of practice to "spot" the couplings correctly and "nudge" the controller to give the couplings a bit of slack. I know the Kadee coupling is NOT strictly prototypical, but its a lot neater than even the latest small Bachmann/Hornby couplings supplied as standard. Bachman at least is now supplying their Blue Riband rolling stock with the couplings mounted in NEM sockets. It is the work of a few seconds to pop theirs out and insert a Kadee. Generally speaking this gives you an immediate upgrade to a reliable and neat automatic (if required delayed) coupling and uncoupling system. Can't understand why all of you don't use them (just kidding).

I'm still giving a great deal of thought to building some sort of "fiddle yard" which will have to run under the window. Domestic opposition is somewhat troublesome but I guess "she" will get used to the idea eventually. I really do need more storage and can't figure out any other way to do it. It will mean slightly re-arranging my computer printers to make space for the baseboard, but I reckon I can get all I want in a 8" to12" shelf type baseboard. I guess this will be an Autumn (Fall) project.

This is the area for the possible fiddle yard. It runs over my workbench (desk) and there is approximately 7 feet (83") between the front edge of the existing baseboard (the brown board on the left) and the opposite wall. The track would emerge directly under the new loco shed and eventually I will design the layout of the fiddle yard using XtrkCad mentioned earlier in these notes.
We are planning a visit to the UK during the summer so who knows maybe this time I'll get to visit a few model shops. I have a plan as to how to get "stuff" back here to Canada without arousing unwanted interest!

July 2000

I've recently been testing a pair of Bachmann Mk1 coaches in Maroon. What beauties they are, I have seen them being compared to the long lost Kitmasters. Frankly there is no comparison, no my non critical eye they are are as about perfect as they could be especially as R.T.R. straight out of the box. The epitome of R.T.R. coaches used to be Exley's, long gone also, but from memory even these did not compare favourably to these Bachmann efforts
I've had a little problem with fitting Kadees to the N.E.M. pockets. I only need to do this on each end of the 5 coach rake that I eventually plan to have. It seems that the standard Kadee # 18 is not long enough to give clearance on my tight curves. I have ordered some # 20's which are described as "Long" and I hope these will do the trick. I've also slightly modified the bogie pivot, removing the limiting tab and also slightly reducing the height of the spring retaining hook. This allows the bogie more freedom of movement in all directions and this now copes with my far from perfectly laid track work.

I was also having some clearance problems at the exit from the West end tunnel mouth. I've redone this completely as per the photographs...Not only does this area look better but the coaches clear all the various tight clearances.

August/September 2000

The visit to the UK was moderately productive. A visit to The Engine Shed in Ford ( just 20 minutes drive from our Worthing flat), produced some up to date catalogues, a Ratio signal kit, and a Lima Limited edition Deltic. The latter was ordered to be sent by airmail but so far (four weeks later) has not arrived. I also found some interesting S/Hand books in the local bookstore, including an Edward Beal that I hadn't got, Modelling the Old time Railways.

And just to prove that I was there, here's the outside of The Engine Shed/Gaugemaster, click here to go directly to their most excellent website.

My good friend the "car Freak" Terry and his associate Mike. Thanks guys for making my visit so enjoyable, BUT where's my Deltic ?

Layout News...

I've been increasingly concerned about the limited operating facilities of the present N.E.R. In particular the lower level terminus doesn't allow me to accommodate anything other than local trains not exceeding 2 coaches long. Furthermore it has absolutely no goods facilities at all. Now I am planning on incorporating the fiddle yard very shortly and originally this only had access via the incline to the upper terminus in what might be termed an "up" direction. With a little ingenuity I've made the fiddle yard accessible from both directions. I've achieved this by adding a small radius turnout to the terminus throat and a corresponding curved turnout at the top of the incline. This allows direct access to the fiddle yard from both directions in and out of the terminus and will greatly add to the flexibility of operations. Watch this space for photos in due course.
I now have a rake of 5 Bachmann Mk1's and these run beautifully, but needed a little "tweaking" to make them happy on my relatively sharp radius curves (16" !!) I can also accommodate them on my No. 2 platform at the upper terminus and by using a station pilot, or second loco I can reverse them out. Can't release the loco though, but then that just makes for more interesting operation. Now where's that Deltic ??

This is the "new link" to the fiddle yard

October 2000

At last the Lima Deltic has arrived. Very disappointing!. I described it as running like a cross between an angry wasp and a rusty sewing machine, that is when it deigned to run at all!. Very balky and unreliable. It turns out that it picks up on two wheels on each side (out of a possible 6!) and occasionally on three a side. The motor looks like something out of a cheap toy. I mentioned this on the UK Model Rail sig and someone kindly suggested replacing the mechanism with an Athearn PA1. Since I live in Canada this was fairly easy to do and my local store (Hutch's Trains in Burlington) obliged me with a stripped down Athearn mech, (no body, no side frames) for $28.00 CAN ( £12.75 approx) This needs to be lengthened by 30 mm and I did this by cutting the chassis just in front of one of the flywheels (yes it has two!) and adding two brass strips to join the parts together again. These strips were Epoxyed and screwed in place. The drive shaft was lengthened by gluing two together end to end. All works fine except it doesn't much like my 15" and 16" curves very much. Had to mill out the chassis to allow the bogies (trucks) to swing further. Still it doesn't come anywhere near the performance of my Bachmann Warship. I think I will park it somewhere and buy another Warship!.

The fiddle yard has now got all its tracks laid and the turntable in place. Incidentally this turntable is an improved version of the the standard Atlas HO T/T. It now has a belt drive (much quieter) and they seem to have improved the track registration. It has nickel silver rails and since it is just used in the fiddle yard, appearance is not critical. This weekend I plan to wire up the fiddle yard and the point motors (Peco) . I'm going to use Peco's passing contact switches for these and the cables to the fiddle yard will be connected by a couple of 7 pin DIN plugs and sockets. My thinking here is that I may well build a separate portable layout (probably HO American style) and use the same fiddle yard.

The above recent shots are self explanatory

I've just been reading through the previous pages of this epistle and noticed how things have progressed over the last couple of years. For example compare this picture of the control panel with an earlier one.

We now have two power units and voltmeters as well as their dedicated reversing switches.
The new Peco passing contact switches at the bottom right will be used to control the turnouts on the fiddle yard. This is something of an experiment since I am not entirely happy with the existing toggle switch/push button arrangement for all the other turnouts. It is relatively easy to "flip" the toggle and forget to press the button. This means that you do not have an accurate indication of the turnout setting. My experience of passing contact switches has not been very satisfactory in the past. I know my old UK layout used a lever frame built by ....can't remember who but it was assembled using 3 screwed rods with nickel silver levers and paxolin inserts with the so called passing contacts. If I remember correctly they tended to jam and this could result in over heating of the point motor coil. Eventually my original UK layouts used Post Office 24 volt DC relays with extension arms soldered to their armatures. These could be left "switched on" all day without overheating and even when they were all on together the current drain was minimal. They also had the advantage of having several sets of SPDT contacts which could be used for frog polarity  etc.

November/December 2000

The fiddle yard is now "hooked up" and wired through the 7 pin DIN plugs to the main control panel. To my suprise the Peco passing contact switches work rather well. The one snag is that I can't see the position of the turntable whilst I am rotating it from the control panel. I have various idea about this. One is to add a series of micro switches round the perimeter to indicate the position. Alternatively I could fit the TT control switch onto the edge of the fiddle yard itself. this is a simple solution but I still like the idea of one central control centre.
As a diversion I've dug out a Comet coach kit that I purchased earlier this year. I've never actually tried my hand at brass coach building and I must say its been quite a pleasurable experience.
Here it is before any finishing has been done. I've also ordered an air-Brush, something I've managed without for 53 years! The prototype is an LNER Gresley Suburban 51'1" Non-corridor third. It would be nice to finish it in Teak but I'm not sure how this might turn out. I'll probably "chicken out" and finish it in unlined maroon circa 1956. I plan to build a rake of 4 of these little beauties and assemble them as a quad articulated set. This is probably not entirely prototypical but will serve as a reminder of my schooldays when I occasionally rode in such a set from Pinner to Harrow on the Hill.
Some comments on building brass kits like this. I found the Comet instructions somewhat helpful but lacking in detail in some areas. For example, tumblehome, I know what it means of course, but there is no indication of how to reliably form it. Thanks to support from the Rec.ModelsRail.UK news group I got several helpful suggestions and made a passable first effort at it. The bogies (trucks) need quite a bit of study to assemble correctly. The second one went together much quicker than the first!. Otherwise assembly went pretty well. I'm sure the next one will be easier and better. I have the Brake 3rd kit in stock and that's next for the production line.

Major Engineering Works

For some time I've been very dissatisfied with the low level terminus. The platforms are were short and severely limited operations. I've been trying to think of a way to improve this situation and eventually realized that it must go! I'm replacing it with a straightforward through station with a single bay and initially no goods facilities. This involved widening the baseboard by 6 inches and redesigning the track layout to include a centre relief road. This will allow much greater flexibility in operations. the following pictures show work in progress...

As an added bonus this realignment will allow me to make some changes to the approach road to the High Level terminus. I can ease the entrance curve and add a separate direct link into the goods arrival road. I may also add a small spur to some sort of industry in the "Y" formed by the approach tracks. Perhaps a brewery, or how about a gasworks complete with a gasholder. does anyone make a kit for such a thing? Maybe Langley.
January/February/March 2001

Some progress has been made since December. We were away for a couple of weeks in January and by the time I had recovered from the sunshine of Florida there hasn't been a great deal of time for Model railways.
The through station progresses slowly. The tracks have been laid and platforms are under construction. I'm still undecided about the Station building. I've half built a Superquick Terminus but I'm not really that pleased with it. It looks very much exactly like what it is! Namely a cardboard cut out. I'm considering the new Metcalfe Station, their models are a bit more convincing and can be nicely "tarted" up. I suppose the real answer is Townstreet. These look really nice, but what a price! I'll see how the finances go over the next few weeks, bit tight at the moment.
Now for some views of the through station as at February 9th.

A general view.

 The platforms are built using 1/4" x 3/4" balsa as a framework. This gives just the right height when the track is laid on cork underlay. The platform edging is cut from a sheet of Evergreen Styrene Paving. This is embossed with a grid of 3/8" which when you cut a single row it just fits nicely on top of the balsa frame. Where visible the front of the platforms have been faced with an embossed stone styrene sheet and suitably finished. The platform surface is Wills Victoria paving. This has been painted using Poly Scale Acrylic in Weathered Concrete. When dry I spread white Tempera Gouache paint over the surface with a small damp sponge and this effectively highlights the cracks between the stones. When I get my airbrush (funds permitting) I will slightly tone down the overall appearance and highlight a flagstone here and there. Towards the top of the shot you can see how what was the goods headshunt is now connected to the approach road. This gives me much more flexibility from a goods arrival point of view. I may "reverse" the crossover at the end of the goods arrival road to make it even more flexible.

You can see the "grouting" clearly in this shot. I've made a new facia board out of 1/8" ply (old stock) and then added aluminium screen to form an embankment right onto the platform surface. This screen has been covered with "Sculptamold" plaster which I find most excellent. I mix in some dry colour or Woodland Scenics Earth paint, add water and just slop it about over the screen. It dries quite quickly and is ready for painting the next day. Unlike regular plaster is has some fibrous material in it which gives it a slightly textured surface. Painting is done using the same Tempera Gouache water paints, I bought a pack of six bottles in good strong primary colours and again slop them on using lots of water. Its relatively easy to get the effect you want as long as you don't mess it about too much. As you can see I like my grass to be rather yellow, I find most flocks have far too much blue in them. In this shot you can also see my new loco a Bachmann Jubilee. Great runner especially after a couple of hours running in. It just about manages to haul the five Bachmann Mk1's all round the layout and make it up the 1 in 40something incline to the high level terminus.

One of the things that always seem to missing from model platforms are those weird pipes or wires that run along the front of the platform wall. I've tried to simulate these by making tiny hangers out of styrene "U" section bonded to a thin piece of sheet styrene. These were made as one long piece and then sawn off to length. The "wires" are just that. Painted black they give the general effect. Station fencing is by Ratio and as yet incomplete and largely unpainted. The fencing on the top of the embankment is by atlas and is really quite effective, again not yet painted.
I'm waiting for some Wills brick arches to arrive from The Engine Shed in the UK. Unfortunately none of my Canadian suppliers have them in stock. These will go behind the station building and the road to the station will disappear under the high level tracks using an old girder that I've got left over from the original bridge. I've still got to figure out the tunnel mouths at the East end of the through station (as yet unnamed) but I guess it will all gradually come together (if I live that long <BG> Now in my 70th year!!!)

Already mid March! Slow progress, mainly caused by family difficulties which hopefully will be resolved shortly .
Finally the Wills Brick Arches arrived (5.1/2 weeks after posting! - Problems with Canadian Customs I suspect ) As yet I haven't had time to finally assemble them or place them. This will now have to wait until after my return from a brief trip to the UK (another family death). I am hopeful that I can get to The Engine Shed during my week in the UK to stock up on hard to find items over here in Canada. For the time being I've settled on the Metcalfe Station building and as you can see in the photos below, it is on the way to being finished.

One major design change I've made is to eliminate the high level loco depot. It didn't really work very well and the lead to it was off a double slip between the bay platform and platform one of the terminus. I've now moved the entire depot including turntable down to the area bounded by the approach road to the terminus with a feed off the loop to the fiddle yard. This is somewhat difficult to describe in words but perhaps you can see what I mean in the photos. As yet the track is not finally laid in this area, again this will be done over the next few weeks. I've also been experimenting with locos and their running capabilities. I bought a Bachmann 08 diesel Shunter and I must say it performs faultlessly. As a comparison I also bought and American diesel switcher, namely a Proto2000 SW9/1200. For the uninitiated in US locomotives this is a twin 4 wheel bogie shunter (switcher). It has the usual American style drive to all eight wheels and pick up like wise. It also ran magnificently straight out of the box and there seemed to be little difference in performance between it and the Bachman 08. However the question of wheel standards arises. Of course the Proto200 has NMRA standard wheels whereas the Bachmann has...who knows? The American loco certainly seemed much smoother through my Peco Code 75 turnouts. I haven't made any definitive measurements , I must get a decent caliper gauge and check a few things.

More when I get back from the UK.

April/May 2001

So we enter the second quarter of 2001. The first one has been pretty eventful in my personal life, not quite so in the life of the N.E.R. Due to unfortunate circumstances explained last month I was "forced" to make a brief visit to the UK. I used part of this time to visit a couple of important model railway shops in southern England, namely Scale Rail Model Centre in Eastbourne and of course my all time favourite, The Engine Shed in Ford near Arundel. I was able to stock up on Ratio and Wills parts which are notoriously difficult to get here in Canada. Incidentally the Eastbourne shop has been sold and will be closing in the summer. The business has been taken over and will move to new premises somewhere near Crawley I believe.
Some of these newly acquired parts have been put to good use already and in particular the Wills Brick Retaining Walls and Tunnel Mouths as seen here used at the Eastern end of the "new" through station.

A retaining wall used as a road underpass, as an occupation arch and as a standard retaining wall. also a single tunnel mouth.

The same shot but with the Metcalfe Country Station in place along with the etched over bridge. The station is just as it comes without any detailing. This will be added later.

A wider angle shot from the same position showing the complete eastern end of the, as yet unfinished through station.

Earlier on in this epistle I have described my method of finishing embankments and rock faces. Here is a series of shots showing the process in more detail...

Here you can see the three stages of embankment creation. At the left a finished section, next to that a newly "plastered" section and at the right the aluminum (aluminium for British readers) window screen stapled in position.

The section completely plastered but not "tweaked"

After some minor "carving" and smoothing.
When it has hardened fully, usually 2 or 3 days it will be painted using Tempera water colours and suitably flocked etc.
I've decided to "bite the bullet" and rewire the entire layout. No I'm not going to go DCC but I am going to go Cab Control. This will be quite adequate for such a small layout and avoids the expense of DCC equipment. In order to simplify matters I'm making a new "graphic" control panel. Here it is before any of the electrical equipment is fitted (switches, push buttons, meters etc).

Its made from a piece of 1/8" tempered and white enamelled hardboard. The layout was drawn on in soft pencil. The required holes were drilled after centre punching them and using a simple plasticard template to get the screw fixing holes in the correct and consistent position. The actual layout diagram was then laid out using 1/8" self adhesive automotive pin striping tape. The board was then sprayed with several coats of dark green acrylic gloss paint. When this had hardened the tape was carefully peeled off leaving the white outline. Touching up was done using white acrylic paint and finally the whole thing was given several coats of Satin Spray Varnish. When this has really hardened (several days!!) I will fit all the switches and push buttons. The ones for the Cab control sections are 3 position, with a centre off, the ones for points are just two way and work with the push button alongside. The entire panel will be wired to several 50 pin plugs using stranded 25 pair cables. The female sockets will be strategically placed along the front edge of the layout to enable the panel to be removed for servicing.

Most of the toggle switches and buttons have now been installed. The next marathon task is to totally rewire the entire layout.


As at Mid May the re-wiring is about 60% completed. My good intentions about using multi pin plugs and sockets have gone by the board in the light of time constraints. I've resorted to "hard wiring" direct from track etc. to the control panel. however I have made some fundamental changes in the control system and wiring of points (switches).
The entire layout is now under Cab control using the existing two power packs. The block arrangement has been revised and now makes more sense. Wiring of the points has been radically changed. I am using Peco Electro Frog points throughout but I am modifying these to isolate the blades from the frog. This can be done by cutting the small wire link underneath the point or, if the point has already been laid by cutting both rails close to the frog on the blade side. The blades are then bonded to their respective stock rails using small wire links. This means that the blades are always at the same polarity as the stock rails and back to back shorts caused by varying wheel standards are totally eliminated. The frog is now wired to a spare pair of changeover contacts on the point operating switch. In the case of crossovers where two points are operated by a single DPDT switch I have resorted to doubling the switch in one case but a better solution is to use an ex GPO relay with two sets of changeover contacts, the relay coil is powered by the spare 12v DC from the power pack and is switched by the spare contacts on the point switch. This system gives totally trouble free point operation so far as electrical continuity is concerned. I use Peco point motors throughout and a home built CDU to power them. Contrary to what one reads elsewhere I have no problems whatever with this method of operation. Agreed they do "snap" over but I prefer this to a "soft" throw.

An interesting sidelight on the re-wiring marathon is that I am using an American switcher (shunter) for testing the track continuity. This is a Proto2000 SW9/1200 mentioned above. I use it it because it starts totally reliably every time (well almost every time) since it uses 8 wheel pick up. By using this loco for testing I'm able to be sure that the track is wired correctly and that the problems are not loco based. I'm somewhat disappointed with the Bachman 08 shunter. Its performance is erratic to say the least. The pick ups get corroded very quickly and the motor is still very noisy even after several hours of running in. The wheels are not very true and as a result it has a rather "waddling gait". Quality control I suppose.

During a recent "tidy up" I came across a 1989 Model Railroader magazine. (I was doing American "N" in those days) In it there is a long article about Kader in Hong Kong who, of course, own Bachman and build all the British locos. It is certainly an eye-opener in regards to size and efficiency. In 1989 they claimed to have 10 to 12,000 workers and 400 injection machines. Of course they don't just make trains!

October 2001

Wow !! Is it really mid October ?
I guess everyone goes through this kind of "time warp" I firmly believed that my last entries were made during the summer, but of course I've overlooked the fact that we spent July and August in the U.K. Then on my return to Canada, September was spent trying to get back into the swing of N.American life after two months of UK living. So here we are mid October.
There has been some progress on the N.E.R. although not a lot of it very visible.

The wiring is now more or less complete and everything is working as planned. The Cab Control system is just fine although perhaps I need to add a few more blocks to give me greater flexibility. These will become obvious as time goes by.

Uggghh! But it does work!!

A major change that is in progress is to abolish the "Fiddle yard' (staging) and turn it into a second terminus. I've rearranged my workstation (computer) so that the "Hutch" has gone and the new terminus (ex-fiddle yard) will run across the top of the workstation. This gives me space to build a 10 foot long station with a nice 36" scenic curved section leading into it. As yet the track layout has not been finalized but I'm thinking about it. As a matter of interest I find that as I get older two things are happening, Firstly, things take longer, a natural product of the ageing process. But more important is the fact that I find I give much more time to planning than I used to. This is probably somewhat due to procrastination but also does mean that the "finished product" is more satisfying.

The "new" locomotive depot is now nearing completion. The turntable has been installed and is working. Its an Atlas commercial product which although rather noisy, does work reliably. The storage tracks still have to be wired up and ballasted and this will be done in the near future.

For a long time I been pondering on how to handle the necessary removable section that will allow access to the incline running up the back of the layout. Several schemes have been considered including, not covering it at all and making it a stone wall lined cutting, making it into a road leading to the high level area where the previous loco depot was located and so on. Finally I turned it into a "grassy" embankment with a stone wall in front of part of it. This entire 8 foot section is removable for occasional maintenance of the incline tracks. The photos shows the present stage of construction. (Mid October)

The unfinished removable embankment over the incline. The semi finished surface is plaster ("Sculptamold") suitably coloured with poster colours. It will be further painted when completely hard.

More work on the embankment, plastering is now finished, Ratio stone arches part painted, some trees added and fence posts along the back. The surface of the plaster has been painted using poster colours, followed by flocking with a mixture of various colours of Woodland Scenics flock

At long last the "new" branch terminus baseboards are in place. This is the corner unit which is "permanently" fixed to the walls. The link from the "old" layout across the window is removable for window maintenance etc. Uses bog standard 3/8" bolts and wing nuts.

The preliminary terminus design has been done and printed (using Xtrkcad) The next stage is to lay the cork underlay across the entire surface. Incidentally I've used 1/4' (6m/m) fir plywood and nominal 2" x 1" clear pine for the baseboard tops. Two reasons, a) its cheaper! b) its lighter and since these baseboards are removable I could perhaps use them as the basis of a second portable layout in the future. The main boards are each 5' x 18" and again joined using 3/8" bolts. They could be used with a fiddle yard, perhaps even as an exhibition layout.<BG>

Same as above , looking towards window.

November/December 2001

Slow progress on the new "fiddle yard" terminus. After much chopping and changing I've settled on a very conventional simple layout. It's little more than a glorified fiddle yard with a platform and hopefully some scenery in due course.
Work in progress. Looking towards the window. Does everyone get in such a mess?

Same thing looking the other way.

In laying the turnouts on this section of the layout I've adopted a new electrical system. (similar to that described earlier)  I'm using Peco Code 75 track throughout. The turnouts are modified as follows:
1) The links between the blades and the frog are cut.
2) The stock rails are "bonded to the blades using shorts lengths of wire under each plastic base.
3) A standard Peco point motor is attached directly to the turnout with an oblong piece of thin black card between it and the underside of the track base. This covers the hole cut in the baseboard and is covered by ballast in due course.
4) I have located a supply of very small micro switches (12mm x 6mm x 5mm) These are double throw single pole (DPST) and cost $2.00 Canadian ($1.25US or 88p approx)
5) I "Flash" (Cyanocrylate) glue one of these to the underside of the point motor so that the lower part of the operating rod engages with the lever on the micro switch.
6) Suitable connections are made to the frog and each stock rail to the micro switch.

This arrangement ensures perfect electrical continuity between stock and frog rails as well as avoiding any possible shorting of wheels and blades at the "toe" due to various back-to-back standards. The proof will be evident when I get around to building a control panel and wiring the whole thing. I'm also going to use the Peco "passing contact" point switches on this section of the layout. not sure how these will stand up to continuous use but time will tell.

For a long time I've wanted to replicate the automatic turntable mechanism I used on my first ever layout back in the fifties. Since this new terminus requires such a turntable I've tried to emulate the original and hopefully improve on it.
One of the requirements of my mechanism is a perfectly circular disk of roughly the same diameter as the finished turntable. I've disassembled an Atlas turntable and am using the deck as my basic locking disk. This has a number of advantages, not the least of which is that it already has track positions marked out all round its edge. Initially I was going to build my own Turntable deck using Plasticard and did in fact start on this project. It worked very well but I decided it wasn't long enough and eventually settled for the Peco kit which also works very well. The motor I used is already geared to run at about 6 revs per minute and although this is a bit on the fast side I was able to achieve a further 2 to 1 reduction using some R/C Model car timing gears and drive belt. These work extremely well as they are very tough and use a "ribbed" belt that gives an absolutely positive drive. A standard GPO relay forms the locking mechanism. The armature has a piece of brass strip soldered to it, the end of this strip is bent at right angles and "drops" into slots in the edge of the disk. A set of relay contacts bridge the motor supply. Energizing the relay pulls the brass strip out of its slot thus releasing the turntable and the contacts make and start the motor. The current can then be released from the relay coil since the brass arm is now running along the edge of the disk thus keeping the contacts closed. Closed that is until it reaches the next slot, at which time it drops into the slot, cuts off the current to the motor, locks the deck and stops. A simple push button repeats the operation. Only real difficult part is ensuring that everything lines up correctly. Here's some pictures which might clarify matters a little...

The Atlas TT Deck and PO relay with brass strip locking arm

The Peco TT (Bachmann Loco in situ)

January 2002

I made it!!! Three score years and Ten!! Yep 70 years old and still going strong. A bit more fumbly and myopic but still able to make a few things and solder a mean joint!

February 2002

That was January that was... Some progress but pretty slow this month. Work intervened again but I have managed to complete the new loop on the low level passing station, now christened "Mollton Junction". I decided to add this to give slightly more interest to the "main line" from an operational point of view. The "down" platform has been remodeled and shortened and with the addition of a couple of curved points I now have an island platform which will just about accommodate a loco and four coaches.

The new loop showing the West Mollton Box (Wills kit)

A longer view. The East box can just been seen.
These two signal boxes cover surface mounted Peco point motors.

A rather better picture of the Mollton East box. Also shows some basic landscaping with trees and fencing which adds a certain something I feel.
 The curves are not quite as sharp as they appear, actually a little over 18", sharp enough but everything runs round them ok.

I now need to get down to doing some general tidying up, backgrounds, unfinished platforms, lighting etc etc. As always so much to do so little time.

May/June 2002

Ok !! So what happened to March and April. Well to be honest, not a lot.

Odd bits and pieces but nothing very substantial. I guess all we railway modellers go through "dry periods" when we don't actually feel very inspired and can't actually get down to finishing those etched brass coaches or finally fitting Kadees to the last couple of locos we bought. Then there's the new terminus, nothing! Its become a sort of dumping ground for odd bits and pieces and now requires some serious wiring and finishing to make it usable. Of course my workbench was a disgrace, piled high with all kinds of detritus and totally incapable of finding that small screwdriver you need to fix your glasses or whatever. Is it just me or do we all suffer from this kind of inertia? There's a sign on my railway room/office door which says "Creative minds are seldom Tidy" I take comfort in this!!

Just as a diversion I've recently been considering building a minimal "O" gauge layout. When I was in the UK last summer I bought a couple of "O" gauge wagon kits, one by Slater's and one by Parkside Dundas. I've finally assembled the Slater's one and I must say it has a very satisfying feel to it. I've been toying with buying a couple of yards of track and maybe a point or two and putting them on a board. At last weekend's Great British Train Show here in Toronto I researched the cost of "O" gauge track. $11.00 a yard for the track didn't seem too bad but $70.00 per turnout seemed a bit steep. Then I considered building turnouts from scratch, perhaps using C & L parts. They look fantastic especially with B/Head rails and chairs. Trouble is, the arch enemy, TIME!! Do I really want to start getting into all this when I've got a reasonably substantial "OO" layout that really only needs a bit of a push to make it fully operational.

So I've bought a track cleaning car, this will I hope solve many of my running problems. Before I lashed out my $30.00 I made up a "jury rigged" one using a spare US Gondola, a piece of hardboard (Masonite) and a couple of 8 ba bolts. This sort of worked but didn't really make a big difference to the running. However the commercial model has a tank and uses a "special" track cleaning fluid with a fabric applicator. It is housed in a US Caboose with a removable roof to facilitate access to filling and adjusting the flow. Despite it's comparative simplicity it does a fantastic job. I've run it all around my track work several times and miracle of miracles the running has improved dramatically. Even my troublesome Bachman pannier now runs smoothly and reliably. I guess I didn't realize just how filthy my track was.

It's an "IHC" HO Scale Action Car C.P. Track Cleaning Car # 4370 You can just see the two caps, one of which is for filling the tank the other to control the flow of fluid. Underneath at the centre is the actual cleaning pad which is made from cast metal and rides on the rail tops without any springs, it's own weight is quite sufficient to maintain good contact with the rails
I've removed the Caboose roof permanently since it is too high for my strictly limited UK loading gauge. At some time I may well convert a UK wagon to accommodate the tank, but at least at the moment it works just fine

Here's the track cleaner with a "scratch built" free lance van body. Built out of Plasticard and strip. Not very lovely but at least it doesn't look quite so out of place as the CP Caboose!
t seems I have a young fan! Some months ago one of my daughter's friends brought her 9 year old son over for lunch as he had been nagging her to see 'Uncle Richard's Railway. We spent a pleasant afternoon together and he is obviously going to become an ardent modeller one day. Last week I received a short note from him enclosing this cartoon...

Cute Eh?

Here's a couple of up to date pix showing some of the new scenery additions etc...

Now that the running is so much improved I'm all inspired again. I'm working on finishing the wiring and then on to the new branch terminus. Watch this space...
Another minor redesign. This time the Turntable is being replaced with the larger Peco version from the 'Branch Terminus' This is going to be equipped with a Frizinghall Models Meccano based motor. I found that I no longer have the patience to "fiddle about" making my own and for £20.00 it worth while to get something ready to run. I've also slightly rearranged the loco depot area to give me more room for the larger TT and to finally solve the problems of the retaining walls that cover the board above the approach road to the upper terminus.

December 2002

So here we are ! The end of another year.
Progress has been slow but sure on the N.E.R. Mostly small improvements and general tweaking. In particular I have replaced the double slip at the entrance to the through station (Molton Junction) with two standard turnouts. Takes up more space but gives more reliable running. I've also been experimenting with trying to improve the overall appearance of the track by judicious use of a newly acquired "cheapo" airbrush ($27.50 in a Sale at my local model railway shop) The results are reasonably satisfying as I think the following pictures show...

Before Airbrush                                                       After Airbrush
I used a mixture of Track Colour and Medium Grey acrylic paints slightly thinned (about 10%) with water. It sort of evens out all the various bits and pieces and gives an overall impression of general dirt and grime. Looking at pictures of the real thing this look seems to be more realistic and certainly more pleasing to the eye.

The track for the Branch Terminus has now all been laid and I'm in the process of wiring it and testing before starting any kind of scenic work.
The turntable at the main terminus has finally been made to work. I managed to "destroy" the motor on the Frizinghall mechanism by running it at something over 12 volts DC when in fact it was rated at only 6 volts. The copper brushes just disintegrated! My fault entirely, I should have read the instructions more closely. I've presently reverted to using an "Old" Atlas HO turntable with a Meccano wheel screwed to its centre and then mounted underneath the new Peco Turntable. The Atlas uses an ingenious mechanism for aligning the tracks and seems to be pretty reliable. I'm in the process of adding the necessary approach roads and wiring up same.
Work, as ever has been a major interruption, and coupled with a month's holiday in August, progress is slow! But I press on in the hope that one day I will be satisfied - what a hope!!!
I've been very active trying to improve the overall operation of the N.E.R. In particular there were a few electrical anomalies where there was either no power or under certain turnout settings the power was shorted out. I've now, hopefully, got rid of all of these and that aspect is now working to my satisfaction. I've also taken the advice of some correspondents on the UK Model Rail news forum with regard to track cleaning. I've tried using Brasso on the rail tops with some noticeable success. The people who suggested this also make the claim that the rail tops stay cleaner longer after this treatment. We shall see!. What it has done is to improve the shunting capability of the layout and I can get about 95% reliability when using either the class 08 or of course the American Switcher which is such a joy to use.
I've also used my cheapo airbrush to add some weathering to some of the rolling stock and locos. A judicious spraying of a "home made" dirt paint has made quite a difference. Right now I'm using "canned" propellant and this is not very satisfactory as the pressure drops off quite quickly and they are also somewhat expensive. Some day I will invest in a better airbrush and a proper compressor.
So the year comes to a close, I believe it's my 55th year in the hobby, this has to be something of a record. I still find it constantly challenging and dream of one day building that wonderful layout with sweeping curves, faultless running and full length passenger trains. Not very likely I fear, unless of course, I win the lottery which is even more unlikely.
So onwards and upwards into 2003, major aims for the upcoming year are to complete the wiring of the new branch terminus and make a start on scenicing it. This is going to be almost as good as building a new layout. In fact I'm thinking of adding a small fiddle yard to it that can be used to make up a portable and temporary layout. Who knows you may see me at the G.B.T.S. (Great British Train Show - held here in Ontario every other year) in 2004!!

December 2002 -

I have just bought my son a Canon digital camera as a wedding present. Here are some shots of the N.E.R. taken with it...

April 2004

Absolutely nothing done in the last few months! I guess I've been busy with other things for example WORK !!

Looking through some old books found a copy of "Modelling Historic Railways" by David Jenkinson who died quite recently I believe. I had not really read it having bought it secondhand in a Worthing bookstore and filed it away for future reference.
I found and interesting plan for a small terminus and decided to re-build my branch line terminus accordingly. As cash is very tight at the moment progress is likely to be slow but at least I've fired up the old soldering bolt (iron) ,as my old Scottish Doctor used to call it)

January 2009 !!!!

Whoops! There seems to have been something of a drought as far as web page updates are concerned, over the last almost five years. Actually quite a lot has been done but I can't detail it chronologically, however I will detail the changes made over the period involved in due course, but in the meantime, just to bring you up to date, here's a little movie made just this month (Jan 2009)

The "New" Branch Terminus

Track plan of new Branch Terminus.

March 2009

R.I.P. N.E.R ! I finally decided that in it's present format the Burlington NER had outlived it's usefulness. I was having a lot of electrical troubles, short circuits, dead sections etc. and it was becoming increasingly frustrating.

Soo....It's going. Destroyed! I'm just keeping the "New" Branch Terminus as detailed above and I will work on this for the time being. I have no plans for anything more grandiose especially as I no longer have the energy or money to embark on a another major layout.

It's always slightly sad to destroy the work of years, but it has to be done, and no doubt it was the right thing to do. It's not the first layout I've destroyed, in fact all the previous ones detailed in this report have now gone to model railway heaven.

The dismantling in progress

April 2009

The "portable" Branch terminus is now installed in it's new position, replacing the previous layout. I've made a minor change to the track at the throat by inserting a turnout and connecting the incoming main line directly to the goods yard. This gives me a run-round facility for goods inward. I've now rationalized the power supply and all turnouts are now working and the micro switches on the Peco point motors are all switching the frogs correctly.

Branch Terminus in new position                              Embryo "Fiddle Yard"

The next project is to build the fiddle yard. I have it in mind to use the old ATLAS turntable to link the initial three fiddle roads. This will require some modifications to the present baseboard, but I have the necessary material for this.

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