Monday, February 29, 2016


When working on the cab yesterday I realised that the rear windows didn't have any moulded surrounds. The front windows do have surrounds and I'd been intending to leave them as they didn't look too bad. As even old photos show rims around the rear windows I'm going to need to do something about them, so I think I'll now be replacing the ones on the front as well. On every model I've fitted window rims to they have been etched and while I could easily go that route I thought I'd see if I could turn them instead. Unfortunately after making the buffers I had just a tiny piece of rod that was roughly the right size left so as a test I made a monocle instead of a spectacle.

The hole in the cab is approximately 3.5mm so I opened this out to 4mm and then turned a rim with an outer diameter of 4.25mm and a central hole 3.5mm across that was a push fit in the enlarged hole. It probably needs for the rim to be slightly less proud of the cab and the edge rounded if possible, but as a first test this shows that the approach should work (a good job after I'd opened out one window hole already) so when the 6mm brass rod I have on order arrives I'll turn four rims rather than drawing up etch artwork.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Replacing Moulded Details

One of the things that now often puts me off buying ready to run models is the inclusion of moulded details. While I understand that fitting details by hand to a model would raise the price above what was economically viable, I think they nearly always ruin the look of what may otherwise be a fine model. On Skarloey there are lots of moulded details; in fact I don't think there is a single detail which isn't moulded. Given I don't have to worry about damaging the paint finish etc. I've decided to really go to town and replace many if not all of the moulded details.

So far I've removed the following details from the model; rear lamp, rear lamp brackets, blower pipe, cab handrails, drivers side boiler handrail, the number plate on the cab rear, and a small disc like feature from the cab rear the function of which I'm at a loss to explain.

Of those details so far I've only replaced the blower pipe and cab handrails but already I think that dramatically improves the model. Interestingly I didn't just have to replace the blower pipe but I've moved it from the firemans side (where it is currently on the prototype) to the drivers side where it was pre-preservation. This also raises the issue of which of the other details I need to add back. For example, the only old photo I've found showing the rear of the cab doesn't show any lamp brackets or a number plate, although a drawing I have shows one lamp bracket rather than the three currently fitted. I'll keep looking for more photos before I make any decisions but if anyone knows when the extra brackets etc. were added or any other info about such small details it would be great if you could leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Success Rate: 40%

The feedback on my first attempt at turning a buffer suggested that the problems with the surface finish were related to the speed at which they were being made. Specifically that I was probably turning the lead screw too quickly, but also that I might need to run the lathe faster than the 1500rpm I was using. I've now had another go using a faster lathe speed of 2450rpm while turning the lead screw much more slowly. This reduced the problem considerably although I notieced that the grooving was still present but was only happening when reversing the lead screw so was solvable by backing off the crossslide after taking the last cut to set a specific diameter. After a few false starts, mostly related to me not being able to count, I've now produced four almost identical buffers that I'm more than happy with.

In total I've turned 10 buffers giving me a success rate of just 40% but for my first lathe based project I don't think that's too bad at all. One thing I did learn is that I really want some resettable handwheels. In the end I resorted to facing off the brass bar until the dial read 0 so that it was easy to count out the other measurements along the bar. I also know I really want a collet chuck for holding small items as doing the final work with the buffer held in the 3 jaw chuck by the locating pin was fraught with problems and in one case I ended up with it clamped out of centre somehow which ruined the buffer when I added an off centre notch around the front face.

Anyway, I'm really happy with how these have turned out and in retrospect I'm actually quite impressed that the success rate is as high as 40%, I thought I'd go through a lot more brass than that before producing four usable buffers!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Third Turn's a Charm (Almost)

Having finished the boiler backhead and cab detailing (or at least the bits attached to the body casting) I've turned my attention to one of the other details of the original model which I think can be improved... the buffers. Certainly the loco is currently fitted with some rather distinctive buffers that have a circular core wrapped with a metal band as you can see in this photo.

If you remember back to the original model the buffer heads are just plain disks. Now no matter how skilled I might be with a file there is no way I could accurately file those heads down to represent the prototype and anyway given I own a lathe turning replacements sounds like a lot more fun.

I've actually been thinking about how to turn replacements for a few days, as having never turned anything without Paul's supervision I had to think about the best way of approaching them all on my own. In the end I drew a picture with dimensions and then a list of steps (on the left hand side, the right hand side is notes I made while turning the first attempt).

If you can't read my handwriting (sometimes I can't even read it so I wouldn't be surprised if most of you think it illegible) by plan was to basically work inwards in steps; turn the bar down to the max width of the head first, then turn down the rest to the width of the shank, and then turn down just the locating pin. The only complications being the slightly smaller diameter of the front and back of the buffer head. Turning the one on the back of the buffer head is easy, but the one on the front I decided probably needed doing after I'd parted off the buffer by turning the buffer around and mounting it on the lathe using the locating pin. After lots of careful measuring and turning I had my first attempt completed.

Unfortunately, just as with my first turning, I managed to loose some of the buffer head when parting off, so the head ended up being a lot thinner than I intended, so much so I didn't bother to re-mount it to do the final work on the front face. While it was far from perfect I had at least turned something so I set off to have another go. This time I managed to make the buffer head too big when parting off and when I went to try and rectify this with it mounted the other way around in the lathe, I got my handles mixed up and took off too much, so that was also a bust. On the third attempt though (I still parted off too much but I then faced off the buffer to thin it down) I produced something that dimensionally I was fairly happy with.

The shank could do with being a touch thinner but I could live with it as it is now. The main problem is that the surface is not very smooth. I'm guessing I've not set something up right as I basically end up with lots of grooves around the turning, which are easy to see in the photo and easy to feel as well. After my experience last time I made sure everything was nice and tight and as far as I can tell nothing shifted while in use. My guess is I've got the tool at the wrong height or angle, but I'm not entirely sure. Anyone have any suggestions as I need to figure out what I'm doing wrong before it's worth turning a full set of four replacement buffers.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Big Wheel

Today I've spent a little time adding two more details to the cab interior, specifically that big wheel (I'm assuming it's the brake), and the pipework that runs across and down the sides of the backhead. Unfortunately I didn't have any spare wheels of the right type or size so I had to knock one up from some brass wire. The pipework was at least nice and easy as I did have some small etched handwheels (on the same sheet from RT Models as the reversing lever) and the rest was just wire.

Again not necessarily an accurate rendition but they will do the job nicely. I may need to add a few more details but these will be fixed inside the upper plastic part of the cab so I think this finishes the backhead parts attached to the body casting.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Making the Right Impression

So having added the firebox door yesterday, today I added the regulator handle and the two gauge glasses. In the process I managed to remove the firebox door and the boiler wrapper, so the entire backhead has now been rebuilt.

It's not quite as neat as it was before and the lesson is that I need to buy some low melt solder for adding details without unsoldering the main parts. While it may not be pretty I'm still happy with it as it is still performing the job I'm building it for... to give an impression of a cab interior when glimpsed through the door.

I don't know about you but I think that does the job adequately enough.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fuel Goes In Here

So having fitted a very basic cab interior to the main body casting of Skorloey (which I really should start referring to as TR No.1) I've made a start on adding some more details to the boiler backhead. The first item to be added was the firebox door, and it's probably going to take me longer to write this post than it did to make the thing.

I made a very basic template on the computer to give me the right sized oval with two pieces of strapping. This was printed out, stuck to a sheet of 0.12mm brass and then cut out and filed to shape. The point of a small round file was then used to gently punch some rivets into the strapping. The only other item required was a bit of 0.45mm brass wire to act as the hinge. Assembly then simply involved smearing some solder paste on the rear of the strapping and then folding the strapping around the wire and over the door. A quick touch from a soldering iron and everything was fixed solid and could be tided up.

The finished door then had some more solder paste smeared on the back, it was positioned on the backhead and another brief use of the soldering iron fixed it in place. A quick clean up with a file and fibreglass pen and the job was done. As with the rest of the cab details it might not hold up well under close scrutiny but when glimpsed through the door of the cab past he legs of the driver or fireman it should give the right impression.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Inner Space

Having removed the coal from the top of the drivers side bunker I decided I'd continue working on the main body casting by doing something about the inside of the cab. On the unaltered "toy" the cab contains a full height plate with no details at all. I'm guessing this was added to give extra strength to the plastic cab but not only does it look wrong when you look through the cab doors but you can't even look through the windows. Removing the top half of the plate was the first thing I did to the casting, even before I took photos of the parts or stripped them of paint. Originally i thought that was all I would do but having thought about it some more I decided to go further and hack out more of the plate so I could fit some details within the cab.

For an idea of what I aiming for here is a useful photo of the prototype without it's cab allowing a good view of the boiler backhead.

The first stage was to cut away more of the vertical plate to allow space either side of the boiler for the coal bunker door and the reversing lever on either side. As I found before the casting is actually quite solid so this took some time. On both sides I cut two vertical slots with a razor saw and then used pliers to snap the piece of the casting away, before tidying up (to a certain extent) with small files.

With space on either side of the boiler I then set about making pieces to fill the gaps. Working with 0.12mm brass sheet I made two parts that fitted nicely either side. These parts were then detailed. On the left side I added a representation of a door into the coal bunker, while on the right I added a reversing lever. The reversing lever was made by cutting down on on an etch of detailing parts from RT Models and making up the base from more brass sheet. The two parts were then glued onto the casting (I did try soldering but the casting just soaks up the heat and I didn't fancy using the blowtorch on the small details).

The next stage was the boiler backhead itself. It ook me four attempts to get something I was happy with. My first couple of attempts involved trying to cut out the right shape and then gluing bits of styrene to the back to hold it in the right place over the casting and then filing the styrene to give the round shape of the boiler. After what seemed like hours with no end in sight I gave up. The next couple, including the final result, were made by roughly rolling a piece of brass sheet to the right diameter, soldering that to a flat sheet and then cutting and filling to give something that would slot over the casting.

Getting the initial shape right was actually quite easy, and then it was just a case of filing and testing it on the casting over and over until I was happy with the result.

It's not a perfect representation of the real thing but once the cab is in place I think even in it's current state it will do the job of providing some detail to glimpse through the door. I am, however, not yet finished as I'm intending to add some of the pipework, a firebox door and that large wheel is a must.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Grist for t' Mill

So having stripped the paint from Skarloey I've been looking at lots of photos of the original Talyllyn locomotive to work out what I need to alter to make the model look more realistic. One thing I did notice was that while the model has goal on top of the drivers side bunker this never appears to have happened in real life. In fact having looked at photos that show inside the cab it's clear that the reversing lever stands in front of the bunker meaning that even if it did store coal you'd never be able to get at it from inside the cab. Having spoken with one of the locomotives drivers (he's a fellow NGRM forum member) he confirmed that the bunker now contains the air brake equipment and before that was fitted it was just an empty space. So that means the coal had to go. Here is the casting before I started to do anything with it and you can clearly see coal both sides of the boiler.

My first, rather unsuccessful, attempt to remove the coal involved using a razor saw and files but it was impossible to remove much without the risk of damaging the rest of the casting. I was a little stumped until I realised that I could use the milling attachment for the lathe to cut it out. The downside was that I had to wait a few days for a 3mm milling cutter to arrive (I picked this one as I could get it quickly from Amazon without having to pay postage). I still don't own a machine vise or milling table though, so the casting was rather precariously held in the 3 jaw chuck bolted to the lathe bed.

In the close up photo you can see how little I'd managed to remove using a file before starting with the lathe. In the overall picture you can also see I've fitted a cheap swarf tray from the lid of a tub of Anchor spreadable that nicely fits between the feet of the lathe by the headstock. Not much use when milling though, but should catch most of the swarf when turning on the lathe.

I don't currently have anyway of setting the depth of cut with the milling attachment so made I set the depth by eye to make a number of passes each taking off a small layer of the casting. It took quite a while as the lathe can't be run continuously as the motor gets hot so I left it to cool between each pass. The other problem was that while I tightened the 3 jaw chuck properly it wasn't gripping much of the casting and with the way it over hanged the edge of the chuck it wasn't very stable. This means the cuts were not very level, and it did spin slightly at one point as well. All problems that would have been solved by a machine vice, but I'm still pretty happy with the result.

It's not pretty but it did the job and gave me practice of using the milling attachment and I'll be fitting a cover to the bunker, as on the loco currently, so the surface will be hidden anyway.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dismantled and Stripped

While I might have bought one of Bachman's new Skarloey models I knew it was going to stay as a cartoon character for long and here we have the proof.

Yep the model has been completely dismantled and stripped of it's paint, at least as much as I can without damaging the plastic parts. I use neat Detol as a paint stripper as it's safe enough to use in my study and is cheap and easy to buy. Leaving the cast parts to soak for an hour or so and the paint just falls off. Unfortunately stripping the paint off the plastic parts is much harder. If you leave the plastic parts to soak too long not only does it soften the paint but it softens the plastic as well. My approach to this is to soak the parts for about ten minutes and then gently rub off the softened paint with a cotton bud, and then repeat the process until most of the paint has been removed. I then use a fibreglass pen to remove some of the more stubborn paint before using T-Cut to ensure the plastic surface is still nice and smooth. As you can see this gets rid of most of the paint although leaves traces in some hard to reach spots. Once I figure out exactly how I want the reassembled model to look I'll probably have to cut into some of the plastic parts which might make it easier to remove a bit more paint, but we'll have to see how that goes.

You might notice that I haven't stripped the paint off the cylinders. This wasn't an oversight, I know I'm going to replace these so it didn't seem worth the effort to remove the paint given that they are pastic parts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


One of the things that originally attracted me to OO9 modelling was that I would have to build all the locos and rolling stock as nothing was available ready-to-run. The advantage of this was that everything would match and I wouldn't be trying to paint kits I'd built to the same standard as a factory supplied finish. Since I first started in OO9 though (two years ago now) a lot has changed and now there are a number of ready to run wagons, carriages, and locos available to buy. Until recently none of them had really appealed but I've now bought my very first ready to run OO9 loco......

Yes, I've succumbed and bought a model of Skarloey, Bachmann USA's new addition to their Thomas and Friends range. Technically it's not a child’s toy as the box says 14+ and believe me it isn't going to look like this for very long (in fact it already doesn't but that's for another blog post). As many of you will probably know Skarloey is based on the loco Talyllyn of the Talyllyn Railway built by Fletcher Jennings in 1864. Originally the loco was an 0-4-0ST but was soon altered to give a 0-4-2ST which is how it is today and how it is depicted in the model of Skarloey.

Over the years as well as the addition of an extra set of wheels it's had a number of body work changes and I'm not entirely sure which version I'm going to model, but I'll definitely be replacing the face with a proper smokebox door and the over sized cylinders will be replaced with something a little more prototypical. While I figure out exactly how I'm going to butcher the model for parts here it is running around my test track. Hopefully it will still run this smoothly once I've taken it to pieces and rebuilt and painted it.

If you fancy one of these models yourself they can be a little tricky to get hold of in the UK due to licencing issues. In the UK Hornby hold the exclusive license to 4mm scale Thomas products so Bachmann are not allowed to sell the model here. You can probably buy one direct from the states but you'll have to factor in import tax etc. A number of online stores in the UK are managing to import them and I bought mine from Tootally Thomas which seems to have the best price and excellent customer service. Stock is limited though so you'll need to e-mail them to reserve one from the next batch they can get.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Practice.... May Eventually Make Perfect

I've now owned a lathe for over a month, but until Saturday all I'd done was strip and clean parts of it, I hadn't actually tried using it to turn or drill anything. Part of the problem was not really knowing where to start. You can read books and watch videos for hours and still miss really obvious things that can be the difference between success and frustrating failure. Also having made the investment the last thing I wanted to do was damage the lathe on my first attempt at using it. Fortunately Paul very kindly agreed to visit at the weekend to help get me started. So in between copious mugs of tea/coffee and slices of cake I finally turned the lathe on in anger to cut some brass.

Sensibly we didn't just shove some brass and a tool into the lathe we spent quite a bit of time checking it over and figuring out if it had any little quirks; like there is a bur inside the headstock which stops larger bits of brass sliding cleanly inside the shaft and which I need to look at sorting at some point. When we did make a start though we didn't mess about and went straight to turning a 7mm diameter wheel. This isn't as daft as it might sound as it turns out that the basic steps in making a wheel form a nice introduction to turning. You need to make some drawings first to figure out dimensions, then there is some facing and turning down to different diameters, then the use of a profile tool, then some drilling for an axle, and then parting of the wheel. In other words a nice introduction to lots of the common tasks I'm going to find myself doing on a lathe.

I didn't take any action shots, but these two nicely show the drawings and jottings as well as the finished wheel and a brief experiment in taper turning. I did make a few mistakes as we went along, so the wheel is far from perfect; mostly I didn't lock the tool post tight enough when parting off so it slipped slightly meaning I lost part of the flange. Of course the real test will be to see if I can repeat the process without Paul around to help, but that will have to wait. One of the problems we did discover is that the parting off tool I bought is huge in comparison to Paul's. Mine is just over 3mm wide whereas Paul's is closer to 1.5mm. Given the size of things I'm turning losing 3mm of brass is wasteful and will also put more strain on the motor. Fortunately Paul has kindly taken mine away to grind down so it's more useful as well as grinding more clearance on the left hand turning tool.

As well as turning we also fitted the milling attachment to check it also worked, which it does. Here you can see it in place and also see that I've bolted the whole machine to a chopping board (it was the best thing I could find), although from using it on Saturday I need to fit some rubber feet to stop is sliding around.

As well as showing me how all the tools and accessories I have work Paul also brought some of his tools with him so I've now seen how an indexing attachment works, as well as a collet chuck and some interesting step chucks. I can easily see all of them being really useful but I'm not going to buy any more tools until I've learnt to use the ones I have, or have a specific need for one, otherwise I'd quickly end up broke!

So, thanks again to Paul for driving over (and back in the snow). I really enjoyed meeting him, talking modelling, and learning to use the lathe. Hopefully he enjoyed himself too, or at least the cake!