N.E.R. page 2 - off to the colonies (Emmigration)

1976 Now we're in Canada.
For the first many years we were all far to busy trying to get used to the idea of being "colonials" to spend any time on railway modelling.

12 years later - 1988

Eventually we bought our own house with a basement and thoughts slowly returned to the possibility of building something.

A visit to the UK on holiday provided the impetus in the form of a copy of The Railway Modeller. An advert for Rivarossi LMS coaches prompted an order for 6 of these beauties!. A Hornby Royal Scot completed my passenger requirements.
Start was made on a simple out and back layout. Construction was very conventional, open top 3"' x 1" softwood framing, bolted together with 3/8" bolts and wing nuts. 1/2" poplar ply was used for the track bases with 1/4" cork sheet as an underlay. Track was Peco ballasted with Woodland Scenes applied using diluted PVA (plus a drop of washing up liquid). This layout didn't proceed very far as I was tempted to try my hand at "N" scale.

I traded in all my "OO" stuff at George's Trains on Toronto and purchased some basic "N" scale American outline stuff. I decided to try an experimental 3' x 6' layout using a plan from the Atlas planbook "Nine N Scale Model Railroads". The chosen "Railroad" went under the somewhat delightful name of "Scenic and Relaxed" It used Atlas Set Track and switches (turnouts) and was probably the most complete railway I ever built.

I made a serious mistake with this layout, I bought a very cheap diesel locomotive which just didn't perform at all well. I decided that this was an inherent fault with "N" scale and more or less gave up on it. That is until I happened to be in Hutch's Trains in Burlington one day and he had some Kato locomotives on show. The performance was outstanding, needless to say I bought one immediately. It was at about this time (April 1988) that we decided to move to a "newer" house and this had a totally unfinished basement that was dry and warm. What joy!

Once we were settled in I embarked on a major "N" scale project measuring some 9' x 13' loosely based on the "Clinchfield" design. Again conventional construction methods were used, 3" x 1" softwood frames with 11 m/m poplar plywood track boards. I find poplar an extremely good material for baseboards. It's much softer and lighter than Fir or Birch. It has a pleasant neutral white colour and takes pins and screws easily.

This layout lasted for quite a few years and was about 40% finished. all track was laid and working, some electrics were in place and some scenery. In actual fact the whole project was much too ambitious and was really suitable for someone much younger than me. (By this time I was into my early 60's!)

The 2068 Headon Road layout mid 1990's

Another move, (Summer 1996) this time to a condominium apartment. Quite large, BUT NO basement! For the first year I gave up all ideas of ever having a model railway again.

Then...inspiration!! My new accountant had a layout in HIS OFFICE!. What a great idea! My office is the 3rd bedroom of our condo, but it has one long wall opposite my desk that is just shy of 15' long. Furthermore there was room for a 30" square at each end that would not interfere with access to the room or my desk.

The FINAL? layout. (January 1998)

So what to do with this space? First of all I wanted to get back to my roots, namely British style, this is a symptom of getting old! You want to try and re-capture your youth and one way to do it is by creating something reminiscent of past years. Inevitably the decision was to build a Free-lance - sort of GWR/LMS branch line. This meant that I could legitimately run a 5700 pannier alongside a Black 5 or a Jinty. Also Farish make such a cute little GWR railcar. (always wanted to run one of these!)
First the design...the baseboard is 14' 8" long with a centre section of 15" width and a 30" square at each end for reverse loops. I decided to keep things simple and use a solid top of 11m/m poplar ply on a standard 3" x 1" softwood frame. I mounted this at 48" height, this is actually the highest I've ever worked. I can thoroughly recommend it especially if you're "knocking on" a bit in the age department. Wiring is difficult enough without having to grope around under a 36" high baseboard. At least at 48" you don't have to get down quite as low to deal with the nether regions. The main track area is covered with 1/4" cork sheet glued using water based contact adhesive. The layout is a continuous "dog-bone" with passing loops at one end. The station represents a small/medium through country station. Freight and locomotive facilities are limited but enough to allow me to do some fairly interesting scenic things in the future. Ballasting is now under way using Woodland Scenes fine grey ballast mixed 2 for 1 with their dry adhesive. This is liberally spread over the track that has been pre-painted track brown. The ballast is "arranged" using a largish, say 3/8", soft paintbrush. I also found that a 6" steel ruler can be used as a kind of scraper to trim the edges. When the ballast looks ok I liberally spray everything with water and a drop of washing up liquid using a Woodland Scenes sprayer. This gives a really nice fine mist. The whole thing take a day or so to dry out and then I shall clean up here and there and generally "dirty" it all.

These photos show the very early planning stages of this FINAL version of the N.E.R.

Here we go !                      Bare bones                  Trial layout

I had a large stock of Peco track and turnouts and didn't need to buy anything to complete the track work. All turnouts have Peco point motors mounted directly on them and these are controlled by pairs of Radio Shack push buttons on a custom control panel. I also "had in stock" a capacitor switch machine power supply that I had built from a design in one of Kalmbach's excellent books. I've traded in my American rolling stock for cash and used this to buy an initial few bits and pieces from my good friend "Madge" Madgewick of Model Railway Imports in Oakville. For testing purposes I bought the following Farish items: 5700 Pannier, 3 GWR Suburban coaches, GWR Railcar and a dozen or so wagons. These give me a chance to check for clearances, track alignment and reliability etc. I must say that I sorely miss the smooth operation of my Kato USA type locos. Farish doesn't come anywhere near the silky smooth operation of these little Japanese wonders. I can remember when British was BEST and the Japs were the makers of poor imitations. What a turnabout. Anyway this is not meant to be a sermon.
Progress has been steady over the last few months. From the pictures below you can see where I'm at at the time of writing (April 24th 98).

The control panel is made using a piece of white enamelled Masonite (hardboard) upon which layout was "drawn" using automotive lining tape, the whole board was then sprayed matt black followed by a couple of coats of satin lacquer. Wiring has been largely completed. I used surplus telephone multi core cable "stripped down" to individual pairs. All turnouts have Peco switches fitted to the underside of the motors to ensure good electrical continuity. I've also added a separate miniature micro switch which is adjacent to one end of each turnout tie bar. This switch is just glued to the cork using "super glue" and is wired to a pair of red and green LEDs on the control panel to indicate the physical setting of the points. Items like this are really cheap over here in Canada. The LEDs are about 10p each and the micro switches less than a pound.
Lastly an overview of the 'Western" end of the layout showing the reversing loop. Sorry about the picture quality, my daughter managed to drop my camera so I had to borrow a Nikon!. Not yet used to its settings. I will replace ASAP..
I can't tell you what a great pleasure it is to have one's model railway right in amongst my working environment. I am a software developer by profession and as such find that I get pretty "brain fagged" after several hours of programming. All I have to do is "swivel" my chair around and add another length of wire to the layout or a coat of paint to the Ratio signal box I'm working on. It's the perfect combination of business and pleasure !!

The FINAL? layout continued....(End May 1998)

Progress has been a little slow these last few weeks, wretched clients keep wanting me to do work for them! However all the eventually visible track is now ballasted and most of the turnouts are working remotely from the control panel, Had some problems with getting electrical continuity from blade to frog but the Peco Switches attached to the underside of their point motors has helped. These switches are pretty crude and probably work better with 00 rather than N, simply because to the greater "throw" on an 00 turnout.

The Ratio GWR Signal Cabin is more or less complete, just have to finish off the roof and fix it in place. The interior was a real fiddle! The tiny etched levers sorely tried my 66 year old eyes. however its done and I'm moderately pleased with it. With the benefit of experience using these brass etched parts, I believe I can do a better job next time around. Ratio's instructions leave quite a lot to the imagination and construction took a fair bit of time. I'm working on the station building right now. Interestingly enough the etches are in stainless steel on this item. The seem to be a little more robust.

Had a lot of trouble with both the GF Pannier and the Railcar. The latter decided that only one bogie would be driven!. Eventually managed to get it apart and adjust alignment by what we used to call the in the RAF "judicious bending!" The Pannier proved to be slightly more tricky, there is a short somewhere when the body is attached firmly, leave it loose and it works just fine, tighten the screw, DEAD SHORT. So far can't find exactly where its happening, but no doubt I will crack it eventually.
Here are few few more pictures taken with the "borrowed Nikon" and using flash, much better resolution etc.

The FINAL? layout continued....
Some revolutionary thoughts! (July 1998)

I'm not very happy with the reliability of "N" scale in general and with Farish locomotives in particular.
Admittedly after much "tweaking" and "fiddling" my 57xx Pannier runs reasonably well, that is when it deigns to start!. Much prodding and baseboard thumping is frequently needed to persuade it into life. The same applied to the GWR Railcar until I replaced the brushes, Lord knows why they needed replacing on an almost new locomotive its hard to fathom. Furthermore the availability of "N" scale British style items is so limited compared with "00" that I'm seriously considering swapping scales.

Watch this space for a BRILLIANT IDEA ! Just arrived in the last few minutes as I am writing this.


NER Page 3