Saturday, May 31, 2014

Natural Wood

As I mention in my previous post, when it comes to painting I much prefer those models where I can simply block paint in single colours. I can add a little detail with dry brushing, but I'm not particularly good at mixing paints to achieve a natural look; one of my main problems is choosing the right paints to start with. Given that most of the wagon is bare wood I knew I would need something slightly more convincing than the wooden floor I achieved on the workman's coach, so I went on a hunt for some wood coloured paints.

My local model shop stocks Humbrol, Tamiya, and Model Color paints, but out of all three ranges they only had one Model Color paint that contained the word wood; Natural Wood 70.834. Obviously I bought this one, although I also picked up some dark sand, brown sand, and khaki as a tutorial I'd read recently suggested these colours could be used to represent wood. Looking at all four bottles I wasn't convinced any of them were really wood coloured.

My first impression of all the paints wasn't encouraging, but I did notice that the natural wood appeared to be fairly transparent, and in fact a quick web search shows a number of shops where it is labelled as transparent even though the label on the bottle makes no mention of this. Given it's transparent nature I wasn't particularly convinced by it, especially as it would require quite a lot to cover a surface. A bit of experimentation though showed that I could get some interesting effects depending upon what paint I applied under it. After playing around for a while I came up with the following really simple approach to painting the wood and while it probably isn't particularly novel I think it is worth documenting, at least so I can remember how I achieved the effect when I want to repeat it in the future.

So the approach requires just three paints; a white primer, the Model Color Natural Wood (70.834) and Model Color Black Shade Wash (73.201). I started by priming the wagon using a aerosol can of cheap white auto primer to act as the base colour. Once this was dry I used the black wash to help pick out the detail (gaps between the boards etc.) and to provide some shading variation. Once that had dried I then brushed on the transparent natural wood. For both the black wash and the natural wood I brushed the paint across the model following the planks so that details didn't cross planks too much. As you can see, in the top right photo, this is already starting to look fairly good, but I repeated the process a second time (black wash first and then the natural wood again) to build up more layers and details. Given that both paints brush on well and dry as very thin layers you can add a number of layers before you run any risk of obscuring the molded details, but I found just the four layers (two of black two of natural wood) gave me a colour and pattern I was happy with. I then painted in the rest of the details and finished the model with a quick waft of matt varnish, which helps to tone down the final natural wood layer slightly.

I'm sure there are many other ways of achieving a similar effect (I know Paul has used Lifecolor's Weathered Wood acrylic set to good effect) but for shear simplicity I quite like this approach and I think I'll be using it again in the future.

Friday, May 30, 2014

8ft Freelance Flat Wagon

So having designed and had printed some simple flat wagons for use on the new layout the next step was to paint them. So far I've just done one of the three I had printed due to a mishap with the primer which has required the other two to be stripped back. Anyway here is how the first one turned out.

The light in the second picture makes it look a lot more yellow than it really is, the first photo is a more accurate depiction of the colouring. When painting I'm usually happiest with big blocks of a single colour but I new I couldn't get away with that for the wood this time. I'll blog about how I actually produced the effect separately but I have to say I'm quite happy with how it has turned out. As I said in the previous post, if you happen to want one I'll happily sell you as many as you want!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Something to Pull

Having taken delivery of his shiny new locomotive the factory owner had really enjoyed running it backwards and forwards along the short line he had had laid within the confines of the factory. While seriously fun to drive, he was aware that he had, at least partially, bought the locomotive to be useful and to help move things around the factory. Unfortunately there wasn't much room in the cab to carry things so he needed some wagons. He didn't need anything fancy, at least to start with, just a few flat wagons that boxes and sacks could be stacked on so he made a visit to the factories workshops.

The friendly engineer who ran the workshops was fairly certain he could build a wagon or two for the bosses new toy, but he wasn't sure about the wheels so he ordered some from a Scottish company he'd done business with in the past. Once the wheels, all 20 pairs on axles, had arrived the engineer set about measuring things. First he measured the wheels, then he measured the locomotive and the track, then he set about drawing a design for a wagon; something the lads who worked for him could bodge together from the timber laying around and a few metal parts. A few days of sawing, bolting, and general work later and the engineer had three completed wagons in front of him that just needed a lick of paint before the wheels could be slotted into place.

Okay so now that the backstory behind 77 Box Lane has been fleshed out a little further we can return to reality. Now I'm sure I could have bought kits to make appropriate wagons but I decided to have a go at doing some 3D printing. As some of you will know I've had plenty of success with 3D printing OO gauge models, although last time I tried to print something to run on 9mm gauge track, an N scale wagon, I didn't have quite so much luck. Having recently used 3D printing to fix my fridge, I thought I'd have another crack at creating a model to run on 9mm track, but with the added advantage of modelling at 4mm scale where the supporting structures would be twice as thick as when I tried the same in N gauge.

On previous occasions I've created models based on what I think looks right rather than how I think it would have actually gone together. This works okay but doesn't give you any real insights into how you might actually have built the original item, or how you might build a similar model from modelling materials. This time I took a slightly different approach. I created the separate parts (planks, bolts, brackets, etc.) and then duplicated them as needed to essentially build a virtual kit of parts which I then assembled into the final 3D model. I'm not sure if this is a better approach or not, but it seems to have worked in this instance.

Yesterday's rather abstract post showed the three wagons (I grouped three into a single model for printing purposes as it was more economical than printing separate wagons) being cleaned. The models are printed in what is known as Frosted Ultra Detail material which is always covered in the remains of the oily support material when it arrives and this has to be removed before you can paint the models. I've found that soaking them in warm lightly diluted washing up liquid works well. I've checked and the 5.1mm wheels I ordered fit perfectly, but I'll hold of showing you them fitted until I've painted one.

I am, however, happy enough with how they have turned out to make them available via Penistone Railway Works, so if you fancy a simple, reasonably priced, wagon or three you know where to go!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Action at a Distance

So I've done a bit more work on the point control in that it will now actually throw an OO9 gauge point. This is achieved by attaching the servo arm to the point tie bar using some 0.5mm diameter piano wire running through some 2mm diameter aluminium tubing (both from Albion Alloys) to keep it in place; i.e. a proper wire-in-tube system.

Everything is currently just held down with double sided tape but that seems to hold well enough for experimentation. I could have glued the point down though as I won't be using it on the layout having damaged it beyond repair when soldering on the wires (one of the sleepers is so buckled that the switch rails don't line up so things derail) but it works for this purpose. I found using the second hole from the end of the servo arm and a rotation of 10 degrees was enough to nicely throw the point. The calibration was a bit hit and miss though so I need to work on the software on the Arduino to make that a bit more user friendly but so far I'm happy with how it is all working. If I can figure out how, I might slow down the action to be a bit more prototypical, although that might be tricky given that I'm still relying on the spring in the points to help complete the throw.

Next up will be checking that I've understood the frog switching wiring correctly by attaching the three wires from the point to the relay and checking for the expected power flow through the point.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Preparing To Throw An Electrified Frog

Please note that no amphibians were harmed during the production of this blog post!

I'm afraid that now the disclaimer is out of the way, the rest of this post will probably turn out to be quite boring in comparison; the title is accurate but rather misleading.

While I may have finally settled on a plan for the new layout (and no one highlighted any obvious problems with it) there are still a few other things to sort before I can start laying any track. The main outstanding issue is the matter of how the points are going to be controlled.

On Jerusalem I used a wooden dowel as a manual point control (think of it as a poor mans wire-in-tube control). This approach is both cheap and simple but it does have a few down sides. Firstly it can't be operated automatically and on Jerusalem at least I can't reach the lever to operate the point while stood at the front of the layout watching the trains. While I could fix one problem by extending the control so it could be operated from the front or the back of the layout that still doesn't allow me to control it automatically.

The other problem with the points on Jerusalem is that they rely on the switch rails to transfer electrical power and I've found that this really isn't very reliable, especially once they have been painted and ballasted, no matter how well I try and clean them. Many layouts solve this problem by switching the power externally to the point, often by a micro-switch connected to the tie bar so that changing the points changes the polarity of the frog (the frog is the point of the vee where the two lines leaving a point meet).

Given my current plan for powering the tracks I decided to try and create a simple electronic circuit that would combine changing the points with switching the track polarity. To produce the mechanical movement necessary to change the points I've opted to use a small 5v servo although I have yet to finalize exactly how I'm going to mount them to the layout and connect them to the points.

If you switch the track polarity using a normal switch it needs to be a SPDT (single pole, double throw) and such switches are also easily available as electromechanical relays. I thought they should also be available as integrated circuits which would draw less current than a relay, but after a long search and a long discussion on the MERG forum (sorry, but that is only accessible to other MERG members) it turns out that if such an integrated circuit does exist it would be prohibitively expensive to use.

So what I now have is a simple Arduino powered setup that on a button press will switch a relay and move the servo arm. I'm actually using a double pole, double throw (DPDT) relay as that opens up a few options which I'll return to in a later post. Anyway here you can see the whole thing in action.

Each time I "press the button" (rather than a button I'm just pulling the pin low by shorting it to ground) the servo switches to the other position and the relay changes over; hopefully you can here it click in the video over the servo whine. I've currently got the servo switching between 45 and 135 degrees so there is obvious movement. Obviously I don't need that much movement to throw the point, so this will need configuring once the servo and point are connected. You can also see that the light on the Arduino goes on and off to signal the position of the servo and state of the relay, which will be useful on a control panel for showing the position of the point. At some point I'll remove the need for the Arduino (like I did for the flickering fires in the mill on Jerusalem).

While it might not look like much, I'm quite happy with how it all works as I can see how I can combine this with some other ideas into an integrated control panel which should give me both full manual control over the layout as well as the possibility of running some trains automatically. Next up will be connecting this up to an actual point and configuring the servo properly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Loading Gauge

I've always thought that the carriages in France end up much closer to the platform edge than they do in the UK; I've no idea what 'Mind the Gap' is in French, but I've never heard any such announcement even when they are also given in English. This photo from Wikipedia shows what I'm talking about. Such small clearances mean that if you want to introduce new locomotives or carriages to the network you need to ensure they fit within the specified loading gauge. This is the same for modellers as it is for the real railway; you may remember that the carriage I received as a birthday present only just clears the tunnel on Jerusalem. While changing a model can be frustrating and relatively expensive, clearly a similar problem on the real railway would be exponentially worse.

Amazingly not accurately checking the loading gauge is exactly what led to a number of news reports today. Here are some quotes from the Reuters article:

France's national rail company SNCF said on Tuesday it had ordered 2,000 trains for an expanded regional network that are too wide for many station platforms, entailing costly repairs.
The RFF only gave the dimensions of platforms built less than 30 years ago, but most of France's 1,200 platforms were built more than 50 years ago. Repair work has already cost 80 million euros.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Railway Traveller's Handy Book, 1862

So it's now been well over a week since I showed you any real modelling and I'm afraid the wait will go on a little longer. It's not that I haven't been doing any modelling, but rather that I don't currently have anything at a stage where I want to talk about it for one reason or another. I still think you all deserve a new post though for putting up with my ramblings so how about a short book review?

Some of you may remember that for my birthday last year I was given a reproduction of the 1863 copy of Bradshaw's Handbook. This fascinating tome gives lots of interesting details about the places served by the railways, but it doesn't tell you how to prepare for a trip on a Victorian railway. Fortunately the book I'm currently flicking through, The Railway Traveller's Handy Book, explains everything you need to know to travel on the railway should you find yourself in 1862. It's split into three sections for before, during, and after the journey, with each of those broken down even further. For example, there are sections on packing, the choice of carriage, smoking, meeting friends, and engaging a cab.

As I said I'm still working my way through the book, but so far it's a fun read that gives a glimpse into how the Victorians viewed the railway.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

77 Box Lane

It's been around three and a half months since I blogged about starting a new layout based on what would fit in a storage box I'd bought. In that time I've built two locomotives and a open coach for the layout as well as experimented with building a stone wall and producing a cobbled surface but, at least here on this blog, there has been no sign of me producing a track plan for the layout. I obviously need the track plan before I can make a start on the layout, and I have been thinking about it on and off since the box arrived, but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected to come up with something I was happy with.

One of the problems I had with Jerusalem was painting the track around the point on the scenic section while making sure to maintain the electrical connection (i.e. not getting paint on the wrong part of the blades). Unfortunately it can still be a little temperamental, although that also might be the manual point lever not working as smoothly as I'd like. Either way when I set about designing this new layout my initial approach was to avoid having any points on the scenic section at all.

As you can see the idea was to have a street scene with the railway simply passing through the factory yard. Assuming the layout was at a sensible height then the trains would be completely hidden at both ends of the layout behind the cottages and so these areas would act as the fiddle yards. With the four sidings I could in theory have three trains on the layout at the same time allowing me some variation. My main concern about this plan was that I thought it would be very dark, as there would be no green countryside to offset the buildings, which led me to the second idea.

As you can see the solution to the problem was to view the street from the back, so have countryside running up to the rear wall of the factory and use some half-relief terrace houses to hide the fiddle yards. While I was happier with this idea, I was slowly beginning to realise that such a layout was going to be fairly boring to operate (although potentially easy to automate) and that I'd need to have a more complex track plan, and points on the scenic section, if I wasn't going to quickly tire of the layout once it was built. The problem was that I couldn't see how I could sensibly fit more track into a purely yard based railway; I did try a few ideas but none of them are worth showing you.

As you can see from this third plan I finally hit on the idea of having the railway supply the factory which allows me a simple line through a factory yard as well as the line running off into the countryside. With the added countryside section, I've been able to reduce the yard area which should give me a nice view reminiscent of the original inspiration, and I can now hide the main fiddle yard inside the factory building and access it from a hole in the rear wall. The cottages at the other end should also hide the train so it can sit there for a while as if it has disappeared off somewhere else. That brown line will either be a wall or a fence to separate the line from the road, which might even give me a chance to try out the fence posts I designed for Penistone Railway Works before I switched to N gauge. I'm also thinking of raising the green area at the back of the layout into a small slope or crag which again will give me places to stick electronics etc, given that I don't have any space under the board to keep the height down so it will fit in the box. If I get this right then the railway shouldn't look as if it is running into the factory but off somewhere else, giving the idea of a longer line, although all of this will mean I need to add to the backstory.

What this layout has allowed me to do though is to finally pin down the name. If you remember the storage box has a volume of 77 litres and as the factory appears to be at the end of the lane it would have a reasonably high number, so we get 77 Box Lane. That may be slightly cheesy but it works for me.

Now I'm no artist (if you want sketches of layout planning then you need to head over to Iain's blog instead, this post for instance) so I'm afraid you'll have to use your imagination to get a feel of how the layout will look, but can anyone see any obvious problems or suggest any improvements that they would make if they were building this layout?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ready To Run

So after the helpful advice from Paul and Bill in the comments to the previous post I've gone ahead and fitted the Greenwich couplings to all three OO9 items I've built so far.

As a compromise between aesthetics and functionality I've only added the hook part to both ends of the locomotives while the open carriage also has the loop fitted at both ends. I'm a little concerned about one of the loops as while a magnet held near it causes it to lift, it doesn't always drop back into place reliably, but I can probably tweak that at a later point when I actually start thing about where the uncoupling ponits will be, but for that I still need to decide on a layout plan.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Coupling Questions

Having now built three OO9 gauge items (a workman's open coach, a Baguely-Drewry diesel locomotive, and most recently the Quarry Hunslet) it is time to think about couplings; it's no point having a waggon that a locomotive can't pull.

In OO9 gauge the consensus seems to be to use couplings designed by The Greenwich and District Narrow Gauge Railway Society and, unsurprisingly, referred to as Greenwich Couplings. Unlike all the couplings I've used in the past, in both OO and N gauge, Greenwich couplings arrive as a kit of parts and need assembling. I have to say that the instructions aren't the easiest to follow, but this video makes assembly nice and straightforward. So far I've made up just a single coupling and before I make up any more, or attach any to the things I've built so far I have a couple of questions. Hopefully someone reading this will have used these couplings before and have some suggestions.

Firstly, the fret of parts has been chemically blackened which seemed like a great idea until I started to make one up, whereupon the black coating just flaked off wherever I bent the part. Am I doing something stupid or am I going to have to prime/paint/varnish the coupling?

Secondly, I'm unsure if I always need to add the loop to the coupling. I've noticed that in quite a few pictures of OO9 layouts the locomotives often don't have the loop on either end, and the rolling stock often only has it at one end. I'm assuming using a loop at only one end means that the waggons etc. always have to be run in the same orientation to one another, which I suppose is okay, and that one loop is enough to form a reliable coupling. I'm certainly tempted to forgo the loop on the locomotives as just the hook looks much better, but I'm tempted to keep the loops on both ends of the rolling stock to give me more flexibility. Can anyone see any problems with that arrangement?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Quarry Hunslet: The Backstory

Not very long ago, in the bottom left-hand corner of Yorkshire, there was a factory. It wasn't a very big factory or a very important factory but it's owner was very proud of it. While you could easily walk from one side of the factory to the other its owner decided that it would be improved by the addition of a railway. Not a very long railway or a very important railway, but something that would help move things around and, if he was being honest, that he could ride at the weekends for fun.

There were quite a few companies making steam engines in the local area, but one specific company caught the factory owner's eye. The Hunslet Engine Company were making little engines for working in the Welsh slate quarries, and if they could handle that then surely they could move a few crates around his factory. The factory owners wife wasn't really sure he needed a railway at all, but she was supportive of the idea and even helped to choose the colour for the new locomotive.

So the day finally dawned when the new locomotive would arrive, and the factory owner insisted his wife join him for the delivery as he had a surprise in store. The engine arrived on the back of a wagon under a large tarpaulin to keep it clean. The factory owner climbed up on to the back of the wagon and pulled aside the tarpaulin to reveal the locomotive in all it's crimson glory. He then looked at his wife who was smiling, even though she still wasn't sure he really needed a railway, as there on the side of the locomotive was her name, and no one had ever named a steam locomotive after her before.

Firstly, my apologies to Oliver Postgate for the origins of the backstory, especially as I couldn't quite manage to maintain the same style throughout. As the final post on the building of this kit we have the fitting of the final detailing components; the name and work plates.

As I discussed in the previous post the plates were ordered from Narrow Planet and are a customized set of these plates. As well as customizing the name I also had the work plates read as "No 1. 2014" given this is the first steam loco I've built and it was completed in 2014, not that you can read the numbers at this scale. Given that I hadn't known what colour I was going to paint the plates when I ordered them they arrived as unpainted etched brass. Painting with acrylic black was easy and then I brushed on some acrylic satin varnish to protect the paint during handling, and so it would match the rest of the locomotive.

The plates were then carefully removed from the fret (the brass is very fine and so easy to distort) and with the help of some paper templates glued into place. I actually don't use glue for this, after a previous renumbering disaster, instead I brush a small amount of Humbrol enamel satin varnish on to the back of the plate (I find the enamel works better than the acrylic). This gives plenty of time to position the plate before it dries, and doesn't tend to mark the already varnished paint.

So there we have it the locomotive is now complete. At some point I'll probably glue the driver into position (a moving train without a driver looks wrong), but for now I quite like being able to look into the cab and see all the controls I spent ages painting.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Quarry Hunslet: Preparing to Name

Given that when I've completely finished the Quarry Hunslet it might be a while before I have any more progress to report and as I think there is enough in the naming process to warrant at least a couple of posts I thought I'd drag things out a little longer.

As I've mentioned many times the kit is specifically designed to build into Dorothea, Hunslet Engine Company works number 763, and it contains appropriate name plates on the etched brass fret of parts. These, like the rest of the etchings, are exceptionally well done, and I thought it a shame for them to just disappear into the bits box without showing them to you. I also decided to use them to decide which colour the actual name plates should be painted; most are either black or red and as I had two plates to experiment with I painted one black and one red. If you don't know how to paint the name plates then Narrow Planet have produced a useful video. Once the paint had dried, holding the fret up against the locomotive and the decision to paint them black was fairly quickly arrived at, as it looks much better against the crimson body colour.

As I mentioned in a previous post as well as replacement nameplates I'd ordered matching Hunslet Engine Company workplates as well from Narrow Planet. Specifically I'd ordered a customized set of these plates intended for Brian's other Quarry Hunslet kit of Velinheli. I'm not going to give away the name yet, so I've just borrowed the artwork from the Narrow Planet website so you get a feel of what I'll be adding.

The final step before adding the plates is to produce paper templates to aid in positioning them on the model. Remember these things are going to be tiny, and will be difficult to accurately position, especially once the back is sticky with glue or varnish to hold it in place.

On a related note, when browsing through the Narrow Planet website I spotted that the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway number plates (the standard size not the smaller pug plates) that I discussed in detail back in 2012 are now available as a standard item, which will be great for anyone wanting to renumber the recent Bachmann model of the Aspinal 2-4-2T, especially anyone who wants an L&YR version but missed out on the limited number available in that livery.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Quarry Hunslet: The Nameless Wonder

So having completed the main body in the last post, I set about painting the elements of the motion that needed it. Unfortunately while masking up the slidebars I managed to re-break one of them. Given that the glue I used last time obviously hadn't held the joint past a light handling, I decided to to strengthen the repair this time. Fortunately it was the top slidebar that had broken where it joins the cylinder, which meant I could add a small piece of scrap brass (from the fret of parts) running across the join between the cylinder and slidebar without it being overly visible or affecting the motion. Once painted it's almost invisible, and the join is nice and strong.

Once the cylinders etc. were painted it was time to reassemble the entire model, put it on the track, apply power, cross my fingers and hope I hadn't screwed anything up...

Yay! It still runs. The sigh of relief could probably be heard for miles around. So there we have it, a completed Quarry Hunslet that just needs a name and makers plates.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Quarry Hunslet: Glazed and Confused

I've only got a short update today, but I thought it worth posting to try and lessen Iain's withdrawal symptoms (see here and here).

While the locomotive probably doesn't look much different from the last photo I showed you, I've added two small details today. The first job this morning was to glaze the cab windows. I did this using Micro Kristal Klear in the same way as I did the cab windows of the lorry I built for Jerusalem and more recently the Baguley-Drewry. Given how small the windows are this was the job of just a few moments -- much easier than trying to cut plastic to size!

The second detailing step was to re-varnish the smokebox and chimney. I'd previously sealed the paint using an aerosol of Humbrol satin varnish. I think the satin effect is glossy enough to represent the paint you usually find on a steam locomotive as gloss paints/varnish looks, at least to my eyes, too shiny in this scale. The one area where satin varnish doesn't work though is the smokebox and chimney. If you look at any photo of any steam engine you'll notice the this area of the loco is quite matt in appearance. I'm assuming this is to do with the heat either requiring a different paint, or altering the paint to make it appear matt. Either way, I gently brush painted on a little Humbrol matt acrylic varnish to add this extra detail.

And finally ... I'm giving advance notice to all those Quarry Hunslet addicts out there that I think there will only be two more posts before this build is complete!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

RNAD Crew Van

Today's post saw the arrival of a parcel from Narrow Planet containing the name and workplates for the Quarry Hunslet locomotive (more on those in a later post), but it also contained one of their new kits for a RNAD crew van.

As you can see the kit looks fantastic and is just as well packed/presented as the Baguley-Drewry kit I built recently. Looks like there will be plenty of opportunity to use the Hold-and-Fold as well.

Thank Goodness for German Efficiency

There has, unfortunately, been no time for modelling over the past few days as I've been away at a project meeting in Kaiserslautern in Germany. To get there I flew to Frankfurt and then took the train to Kaiserslautern changing in Mannheim. Given my inability to usefully converse in German I'd bought my ticket in advance over the Internet, so all I had to do was get on the train.

Unfortunately having arrived in Frankfurt I went to get the print out of the ticket from my bag only to find that the page contained an error message from the printer and not my ticket. I'd printed it in amongst a whole pile of other paper work (boarding pass, hotel reservation etc.) and clearly hadn't checked it. Fortunately the staff in the Deutsche Bahn travel centre were really helpful. I just showed them the electronic copy on my laptop and they printed me off a replacement, all without any extra cost or inconvenience. I hate to imagine how much hassle the same problem would have been in the UK. I'd probably have ended up having to buy a new ticket, so thank goodness for German efficiency.