Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Coal Office

Strangely it's been two weeks since I last blogged about the Coal Office I was building. I'm not sure why it's taken so long to write this post as the building was essentially finished at that point. Anyway, at long last here is the completed building. It's not perfect, but as an experiment to see how well these print-your-own cardboard kits work I'm happy to call it a success.

Most of the problems with the final building can all be traced back to the rather poor quality paper the original sheets were printed on. Not only did this lead to the paper tearing, but also it isn't thick enough to hold it's own weight when used without being stuck to a cardboard backing; look at the barge boards on the side of the roof. This is, of course, entirely my own fault and not a problem with the kit.

The kit itself is well designed and thought out. It was also easy to assemble. In the second photo you can get a better idea of how the kit works. Essentially the walls are made from two layers of 2mm cardboard stuck back to back. This makes for a very rigid yet reasonably lightweight structure. The use of two layers of cardboard also allows for details, such as the drain pipes, to be modelled in relief, rather than simply printed flat, just by making the inner layer of the end walls ever so slightly wider than the outer layer.

While this specific instance isn't built well enough to grace a layout I'm certain I'll be building more models in this way in the future. The main things I've learnt from this experience is that I need a sharper modelling knife (cutting through 2mm cardboard is actually quite hard) and to print the sheets (at least the coloured outside layers) onto reasonable quality paper. Of course having paid for the kit (if you remember it cost just £2.99) I can easily build as many copies until I'm happy for just the cost of the plain cardboard (which is pretty cheap).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Asthmatic Express

Since we bought our house almost four years ago we have had a steam train pass across the bottom of the garden on two separate occasions (see here and here for the details), yet all we have managed to see was smoke and steam. Well Sunday turned out to be mostly third time lucky.

The first problem was that I didn't know that any steam trains were due to pass the house. While I check the UK Steam Tours web page fairly regularly, I'd either not checked it recently enough or had simply missed the entry (it probably didn't help that I'm use to the service running in the autumn). So just as on the first occasion the first we knew about it was the distinctive sound echoing up the valley as the train headed for Penistone. Fortunately a number of the neighbours have trimmed back some of the trees in their gardens since last time, and with the remaining trees not yet having leaves we managed to see more than just smoke. Unfortunately I didn't have the camera to hand, but we saw enough to know that, as on previous occasions, the train was being pulled by a pair of LMS Black 5 locomotives.

Having missed out on a picture for a third time, I made the rather rash descision to grab the camera and run the half mile or so across Penistone to get a shot of them passing over the viaduct. I was fairly certain I had about four minutes as the train would have to wait at the station to allow the normal scheduled service to pass through. Unfortunately, even when I was reasonably fit, I was never a sprinter, but I did run as fast as my legs would carry me, and I did just make it. Given the quality of the pictures I managed to take (this one was the best of the bunch) I'm not entirely sure the exercise was worth it, especially as I'm still coughing and wheezing over 24 hours later (I did have asthma as a child, but other than during a trip to Beijing it hasn't really bothered me in years).

While I was having problems drawing in enough air to breathe comfortably, the engines were certainly having no such difficulties as the drivers pulled sharply away from Penistone and over the viaduct towards Huddersfield. Hopefully next time I'll manage a photo of them at the bottom of the garden!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

First Class Refreshment

When I visited Model Rail Live last year, as well as admiring Chris Nevard's Polbrock layout, I was also interested in the beer bottle sat on the fiddle yard; it appeared to be called Flying Scotsman! Unfortunately it wasn't in an easy position to get a good look at the label, and Chirs was deep in conversation with others who were admiring his excellent layout.

Unfortunately by the time I got home (with a side trip to Meadowhall) I'd forgotten about the beer bottle. I've no idea why I remembered about the beer a few weeks ago, but I did, and so I set off to try and find some. It turns out that it is indeed called Flying Scotsman and is brewed by the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh. As I couldn't find any local shops selling it I settled for using the breweries mail order website to order eight 500ml bottles.

Given the picture on the label I was fairly certain that it was being brewed in relation to Flying Scotsman the locomotive, rather than the route from London to Edinburgh, and the label bears out this assumption:

Introducing Caledonian Flying Scotsman Premium Bitter which has been specially brewed to celebrate the return of the world's most famous locomotive after a major restoration programme at the National Railway Museum in York. Salute the loco with a glass of this superb beer. The finest barley from the north and robust southern hops combine to produce a full flavoured beer. Look for a raisin-like spiciness and a superb toasty dryness. Caledonian Flying Scotsman -- First Class refreshment from Edinburgh to London and beyond.
I can now reliably inform you all that it is an excellent beer; as the label says, it is indeed a First Class Refreshment!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cotton Wool Chimney Pots

I've almost finished building the small coal office I started a few days ago, but I'm not quite ready for the big reveal yet. In this post I wanted to talk about cotton wool buds.

In a comment on the first post I wrote about this building, ADRIAN mentioned that cotton wool buds make great tubing for gutters and drainpipes. The way the model is designed means I don't need to worry about gutters and drain pipes, but there is one missing item where a cotton wool bud comes in handy; the chimney.

On previous models I've seen chimney pots made by tightly rolling cardboard into a little tube. This can work okay, but limits you to simple cylindrical chimney pots which aren't always appropriate for the building you are modelling. The instructions suggest that Chimney pots can easily be created by painting any tubing of a suitable diameter (eg. brass, styrene, ballpoint ink tubes, cotton buds etc...) a red brown colour. Alternatively commercially available pots can be used. I decided to go with the cotton bud approach as I already had a pot full for modelling purposes (they are great for applying vaseline to gears).

Unfortunately I didn't have any red brown paint available. What I did have though was a packet of terracotta coloured milliput. Milliput (I find it hard not to refer to it as milliputty) is (according to their website) a two-part, cold setting, non shrinking epoxy putty. Essentially this means it comes as two sticks, and you mix equal amounts together which, over a period of a few hours, sets hard. I've used the stuff for years not only for modelling but for household tasks as well, as once dry it can be both sanded and drilled and is water tight.

I mixed up a small amount and used it to cover the end of a cotton wool bud (after having removed the cotton wool). I originally intended to allow it to dry before drilling out the centre, but in the end I used a cocktail stick to push out the hole, which had the added advantage of introducing a slight lip to the top of the pot. Once it had set I chopped off the extra cotton bud and then glued it into the pre-drilled hole in the chimney stack. It's not perfect (it actually looks better than these photos show, partly as the light was bad when I took the photos) but I'm happy enough with it that I'll use the same approach again in the future.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tear Down This Wall!

I doubt that there are many railway modelling blog posts that quote a speech by Ronald Regan, but it seemed a most apt title for this post given that I did indeed manage to tear the wall.

The side walls of the coal office I'm building are made from 2mm thick cardboard around which the printed wall covering is glued. Unfortunately when attempting to correctly position the paper I managed to tear it at the corner of the cutout for the door. I'm blaming this on the thin paper that I printed onto, and so next time I do this (and I'm sure there will be a next time) I'll make sure to use a slightly better quality paper.

In theory I could have fixed the problem by simply reprinting the relevant piece. This is the real advantage of the kits over the Metcalfe and SUPERQUICK versions: you are buying the right to print as many copies of the kit as you want, rather than a single kit. This means that, having paid £2.99 to build the first coal office, I can (if we ignore the cost of card, paper, glue, and printing) build as many as I want in the future without spending another penny. On this occasion I decided not to bother as it was meant as a learning experience rather than as a model that would eventually grace a layout.

House Of Cards

Building lots of rolling stock is great fun, but a railway also needs buildings and scenery. Given that I still haven't settled on a track plan yet, it's difficult to do any real scenery work, but as part of the planning I wanted to find out about the different options for making buildings. Given that I will probably want to be able to move the layout around once it's built, I want to keep the weight down, which means I'd prefer cardboard buildings if possible.

In the UK there are two main producers of cardboard builds for use with OO gauge model railways; Metcalfe Models and SUPERQUICK. The buildings on the layout I had when younger were mostly SUPERQUICK models, specifically we had: a church, a pub, a goods depot, and an engine shed. Given that they were probably built over twenty years ago they are all still in pretty good condition (the major problems are anywhere we used sellotape as that has dried out over the years and lifted free).

Whilse Metcalfe and SUPERQUICK models are convenient and easy(ish) to build they do suffer from a number of problems. Firstly there is little variation available within the model so every building created using the kit looks the same. Secondly the way the card is printed and cut, means that often there is a gap present at the wall corners. You can see this quite clearly in the photos taken by a fellow blogger when building a Metcalfe station shelter.

There is, however, a third company that also specialises in cardboard railway buildings; Their products are, however, very different from those produced by Metcalfe or SUPERQUICK. Instead of buying a packet of pre-printed and cut cardboard, what you get are two PDF files. One file contains the build instructions and the other the parts. You simply print out the second PDF in colour and then follow the instructions which involve sticking different sheets to differing thicknesses of cardboard and then cutting out and assembling the parts. This DIY approach to producing the kits allows them to provide quite a few variations in each kit and you only need to print those bits you need. As well as complete buildings they also sell sheets of standard building materials (i.e. sheets of brickwork etc.) allowing you to add your own details or to scratch build entire buildings knowing that they will all match nicely. Given that I've been building coal wagons I thought I'd try out their kits by building the small coal office which costs just £2.99 (plus the price of the cardboard and printing).

I won't be using the ruler shown in the photo (the edge is no longer smooth enough) but I just couldn't resist including it. I'm not sure on which visit to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway it was bought, but just like the old SUPERQUICK buildings I'm guessing it's over twenty years old.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Plan 4/5

While I still haven't settled on a layout to build I thought I'd show you the original layout my Dad built. Amazingly, given the number of hours I spent playing with this layout and the number of photos my Dad took while I was growing up we can't seem to find any photos of the layout in use so you'll have to settle for just the track plan.

The plan came from the 5th edition of Hornby's track plan book, which was originally published in 1979, and is described as being a Triple Track Layout with Sidings. Three trains can run continuously or each can run into the siding area for shunting. The train on the black circuit, running clockwise, must stop at the signal A to allow either of the others to reach the sidings. The R.047 switch and isolating rail in the engine shed allow an engine to be isolated so that the remainder of that siding may be used by another engine.

We didn't use the isolating rail, but three sidings were plenty for supplying trains to and from the three separate loops. We also didn't have the same buildings and signals as in the diagram but at the time (and now) I didn't care about that as running the trains was the best bit! Also the more buildings there were the longer it took to set everything up as the layout was stored behind the wardrobe in my bedroom so everything taller than the track had to be removed before it was put away.

It was an excellent layout that gave me hours of pleasure, thanks Dad!