DRS and Tesco start at last…

October 31, 2008

After what seems like an ice age or two, the Tesco Intermodal operation between Grangemouth and Inverness finally starts. After a fashion. The first train consisted of empty boxes as a practice run. More trial runs are scheduled for next week. DRS Class 66 No.66 415 did the honours today. It was great to be out and about on a lovely fresh morning, chasing trains. Not done this for a while!

The following picture was taken today at Tomatin at MP100.75 on the Highland main line – 10.31hrs.

Arrival at Welsh’s Bridge, Inverness. DRS has taken over the former carriage cleaning depot, knocked most of it down and built a pretty nifty intermodal terminal on the site.

An example of the twenty boxes loaded on the trial train. It consisted of ten pairs of intermodal flats.

The new intermodal terminal at Inverness. There are loco release cross-overs at the end of each of the three roads.

Whilst watching the action at the new terminal as the DRS crew work through the procedures, there was some activity with Class 08, No. 08 308 by the newest carriage servicing shed on the Inverness site. It appears to be in a spot of trouble judging by the number of orange jackets in attendance…

Spare Pug to the rescue!


First digital operation…

October 26, 2008

Okay, it was a simple but oh so vital test with a couple of locos. Nonetheless, the first ‘trains’ ran yesterday, up and down the yard reception roads. Digitrax is the chosen digital system for my MRL 4th Sub project and the Super Chief base station together with a PM42 Power Management Module were installed. Power is supplied from an On Tracks 5amp transformer.

In case you are wondering what a PM42 is going to do for the layout, here’s an explanation. It’s an add-on device which manages power distribution around the layout. It has four circuits and four circuit breakers. The track (power) bus is connected in one end (actually you split it into 4 and connect to four pairs of terminals in the connector, one for Rail A and one for Rail B). The output is four separate runs of track bus cable which powers four ‘sub-power’ districts (the running line rails are double gapped where it crosses from one sub-power district into the next in the same manner as power districts are separated from each other). Each is independent of the others and if a short occurs in any one sub-district, the circuit trips leaving the remaining three unaffected. Short circuit detection is intercepted by the PM42 before it reaches the base station booster. This has obvious operating benefits although, unlike providing additional power districts using additional boosters and power supplies, there is no extra power made available.

Definitely blows the two-wire myth of DCC right out of the window but it is a two-wire supply of power to each sub power district one red and the other is black. The wiring consists of the power in and four pairs out together with a power supply for the PM42 and a single earth to the command station (yellow). What really interests me in the PM42 is that they can have one or all of the circuits programmed to provide the required polarity switching for reverse loops, such as the two I have in my layout plans. I allocated two circuits to reverse loop management and the remainder to manage two sub-power districts. I may need more as the project develops, but this is sufficient for Phase 1 of the layout.

The blue edge connector on the PM42 was wired on the work bench and then assembled on top of the baseboard like this for testing and programming through OPS Switching. Once working reliably, which took no time at all, everything was installed in the layout.

That looks a great deal neater. The base station is located in the balloon track seen in previous pictures so it can be reached easily. The programming track will also occupy this space too. Two wiring runs are routed to the upper deck and the other two run under the lower deck baseboards. Note the labelling over the PM42 which was mounted on the wall out of harm’s way but where indicator LEDs can be clearly seen (Note that all cable runs should be clearly labelled and cable colours for Rail A together with Rail B clearly identified).

The DT400 throttle was connected directly to the command station for testing the circuits as seen. With this work complete and functioning correctly, the track bus was installed under the baseboards and throttle (cab) bus faceplates together with the correct cabling prepared for fitting to the front of the layout. With that, it’s back to track!

Dapol’s FEAB is stunning…

October 23, 2008

At first glance. It (they because the FEA-B runs as a twin) has a great deal of fine detail which must place it in one of the top spots for 4mm scale wagon modellers. Having given it a thorough looking over, I can find little wrong with it from my point of view – it LOOKS like an FEA-B, so it is.

Here’s a selection of pictures of my GBRf pair of twin wagons: No.s 640603, 640604, 640619 and 640620. They were supplied by The Engine Shed of Leytonstone. Always a good shop to try and Dave has got me out of a few fixes with acquiring hard to locate stock. The telephone number is: 0208 539 3950.

C-Rail Intermodal and Bachmann containers fit the model well. Spigots are supplied although they can be a bit loose. ‘Tacky Wax’ is a great product for ensuring your boxes stay where they should – unless you use the Heljan container crane.

The ready to run guys seem to pull the stops out on intermodal wagons. It’s always a pity to hide that detail under boxes!

Printed detail is crisp and sharp. Standalone detail is right up there with the best of them from the US.

Bogies have enough room for EM and P4 wheels. The OO ones supplied are good, if a loose fit. Nothing that a set of brass cup bearings won’t cure. This is better than bogies with clearances that are too tight.

FEA-Bs run in fixed pairs. The inner bar coupling is simple but effective. A spare is included with each pair of wagons which at around £18, is great value for money.

Headstock detail together with NEM coupling pocket is shown above. Buffers are not sprung but very nicely moulded. I would rather see fixed buffers that are accurate and well defined than shoddy sprung ones that look nothing like the real thing. Sprung buffers are not always a sign of quality and it surprises me how many modellers will accept poor buffers on rtr stock just because they are sprung…

The loading deck of one half of the twin set. It’s a cracking model in my view, it runs well, well weighted and showing no sign of bending or distortion. It’s not a bad effort by Dapol at all. I am in for another pair when the second set of numbers are released.

Cabin insulation update:
Nansulate liquid insulation has been in place in the roof space of the cabin for around 30 days now. The curing time for this material is 30 to 60 days for maximum efficiency, so I would expect to see some difference in the comfort and warmth in the cabin itself. Here’s some anecdotal evidence that it is working:

With nearly 360 square feet of space to heat and a high roof area without A-frame support it’s a large volume to heat. The cabin needed two heaters last Autumn and winter: a 2kW oil-filled Delonghi ‘Dragon’ radiator and an older, less efficient 2kW heater which amounted to being a short across the grid. It took two hours to get space heating up to a comfortable working temperature in the evenings. A couple of nights’ ago, the external temperature was 4 degrees centigrade and only 12 in the cabin with the radiator on frost setting when I entered for a track placing session. The oil-filled radiator brought the temperature up to warm and comfortable in 30 minutes before it was turned down. The convection heater? oh, that was discarded (recycled) weeks ago!

Layout progress:
A quick rethink on the pathing of trains running on the mainline past the yard reception roads and through to the staging yard has seen a few changes to the arrangement of the balloon track. There is a simple link to complete the turn back line rather than the turn back line being composed of the mainline itself. This ensures the design is an end-to-end railroad with turn back links in the non scenic parts at each end. There’s a lot of space in that balloon track area which will be occupied with the programming track and test tracks, not to mention the DCC system itself.

I am experimenting with Caboose industry ground throws for the yard and industrial spur parts of the layout. They are simple to install and work really well. An internal spring mechanism prevents excess pressure being applied to the switch.

Here’s another view. They are remarkably quick to fit and require no wiring. I know that they will not be to everyone’s taste but I think they have found a niche on my layout.

Whilst thinking about track and the trackage system I am using, I need to post more information on Atlas code 55 track and it’s use with Bachmann Farish stock. There are some characteristics (good ones) of the turnouts that also deserve further scrutiny. So long for now!

Taking a look at the Bachmann VDA…

October 13, 2008

It’s here, the very nice looking Bachmann VDA. I was fortunate enough to acquire a sample of the bauxite brown one.

Bachmann continues to support D&E wagon modellers with some useful models. This one follows the usual pattern of articulated axle guards and NEM coupling pockets fitted to the articulated section.

The colours and printing look just fine too, nice and crisp…

As does the tooling…this model has lots of potential for reworking into timber wagons and those rebuilt for carrying spoil. Detailing buffs will enjoy upgrading the underframe, changing the axle boxes and applying weathering too.

Whilst technical specs look good, with NEM coupling pockets at the correct height, it took me a moment to work out what was wrong with the printed running number – it’s for a VAA – in theory – but actually a VDA – the original one, not a ‘production’ VDA as depicted by the Bachmann model.  Some modellers may prefer to tighten up the axle guard units to stiffen the underframe, I certainly will do that, if not replace them completely as they are not that convincing. Renumbering and recoding to a more up to date VDA code is no problem either, using available transfer sets. So all, in all, not a bad effort. We shall see what the reviews in various magazines will have to say about this new model.

Breaking up is hard to do…

October 1, 2008

…especially when it’s a layout that has seen many hours of work and effort put into it. This is the situation for my fellow club member and friend, Graeme Elgar. A house move sees the end of Cold Blow Lane, a BR(S) layout in OO gauge, now no more. It’s not all bad; the baseboards are off to the Inverness and District MRC for its new OO gauge D&E layout and Graeme is about to see the construction of an out building for another layout at his new home.

Anyway, a few beers were sunk on it’s last running evening as I took the opportunity to grab a few pictures of the layout before it was gently taken apart. Graeme had reached the scenery stage and the layout was otherwise a fully operational DCC project which did run particularly well.

He knew how to slap a bit of Peco Streamline down too. This is the entrance to one end of the staging yard (above).

As this shot reveals, it was a bi-level design, bringing maximum operating potential for a given area of baseboard.

One of his crazy lever frames for controlling movements on the layout. Only Graeme knew exactly how this worked but then he is a signalman! Anyway, Cold Blow Lane, RIP, gone before the ballast. Sometimes that’s the way it goes with railway modelling!