Freezing cold in Nairn…

December 29, 2008

…and the cats are hugging radiators. Ever popular is our large Douvre wood burning stove in the living room which really pumps the heat for the sake of a stick of fire wood or two and the cats lounge around it on a shaggy woollen rug. Here’s the foursome absorbing heat from the stove. It takes effort to prevent them from actually cooking in front of it!

img_4273

Meet Miss Nibbles, our twelve year old torty tabby – very serene lady indeed. Keeps the kittens in line!

img_4275

Here’s No.1 head cat, after me of course! This is Foxy, a large male British Short Hair. Laid back but very much in charge. The kittens think he’s wonderful, if a little large.

img_4293

The kittens: Katie (rear) and Sophie (front) enjoying the heat from the stove. They are just over 12 months old now.

img_4263

Katie again – the larger of the two sisters. Health and Safety Manager – investigates everything with caution that would put HSE staff to shame but not adverse to climbing curtains to dive bomb a papyrus plant…

img_4257

Sophie in her usual position: upside down in a soft, warm radiator bed. She is the complete opposite to Katie – does not take life at all seriously. A real It -girl of the cat world.

img_4309

The effects of freezing fog in our trees. Minus 5 degrees last night here in Nairn and cold today too. However, the effect is stunning.

img_4314

Advertisements

Direct Rail Services’ Highland intermodal service

December 28, 2008

Judging by the searches made for the new DRS service to Inverness, it’s a popular subject. Quite a few visitors have surfed into my blog and found my earlier entry of October 31st. Well, there was a bit of a treat for the Aberdeen – Inverness line yesterday. The service was diverted over this route because the Highland line at Perth was closed. A dreaded engineering possession, much criticised by the media here in the UK because it causes problems for ‘commuters’ – sorry, passengers. Maintain the railways – how dare they?

Anyway, I digress. With some really fine Highland weather: frost, clear skies and a touch of mist at Delnies, the temptation for a quick trip to the line side was not to be missed. The first shot is of the train arriving at Nairn. DRS Class 66, No.66 433 was in charge.

img_4226

By being quick off the mark, I was able to head west a few miles to Delnies, arriving a few seconds before the train, despite icy roads.

img_4237

After examining the image above,  you may be excused into thinking that there’s another loco on the rear of the train. Yes you’re right: 66 415 brought up the rear of the service. It was included in the formation to ease shunting into the Inverness intermodal terminal on this particular occasion, even though there are run round lines in the terminal for loco release. Notably, 66 415 worked the first train at the end of October.

img_4252

A final view of the train, facing the Inverness direction with 66 415 on the rear. Mist from the Moray Firth was rolling in. Otherwise, fine views of the Highlands can be seen from this location. The train was 22 units, making it one of the longest freight trains to pass over the old Inverness – Nairn railway in recent years.


Spiders in the night…

December 25, 2008

…so sang Ozzy Osbourne. In lofts, sheds and garages too by all accounts. The humble spider causes havoc on some layouts with webs and other such detritus like dead and half eaten flies. I must confess to not having suffered too much from spider ingress in the cabin in which I am building the N scale MRL 4th Sub. Not that I dislike spiders; on the contrary, I like spiders rather a lot and never kill them when I see them in the house. Modellers in Oz may take a different view depending on how stingy and how deadly the particular arachnid they encounter happens to be. However, here in the Scottish Highlands, spiders grow to the size of a Euro piece and are nothing more than a few minutes entertainment for the cats.

So, smug in the secure knowledge that spiders are not causing me any grief, I happened upon the following in the layout cabin yesterday…

crw_4604_jfr


Light relief from track…

December 22, 2008

Back to some joinery. As the track has reached it’s end on the lower level of stage 1 of the project, I thought it was time to prepare the middle deck. First job was to cut the cross pieces or ‘joists’ that would hold risers for the permanent way.  All of those fitted to the upright supports are fitted with steel corner brackets for additional strength. After all, the second deck is technically a floating shelf.

crw_4587_jfr

The joists are screwed (but not glued) in place  – those fitted with steel brackets cannot be relocated though – they have a structural job to do. The others can be adjusted to clear scenic features like rivers and creeks. They may also be adjusted for position to clear turnout motors and the like. Thus it’s important not to glue them just yet. I only use screws until I an absolutely sure that they are correctly located in their final spot.

crw_4598_jfr

The blue arrow indicates those fitted with steel corner brackets. They make quite a difference to the stability of the shelf which is 20 inches wide.

crw_4593_jfr

Here’s a view looking the other way towards the balloon fiddle yard track on the lower level. Note that the very wide angle used on the camera lens has distorted the image slightly.

Waiting on the Bachmann MPV?
Bachmann stuff takes an age to arrive. Sometimes, it’s so slow at producing new stuff that you could deposit a single Euro in a high interest account (even now) and the cost of the model will be covered by the time it arrives! Seriously though, if like me you like these things and are keen for a good off-the-shelf model, here’s an image of one on proper freight duties taken at Walsall. Just to whet the appetite!

mpv-1

To be fair to Bachmann, it’s doing some very nice limited editions at the moment. One of its latest efforts is this Class 08 shunter in NSE livery for The Signal Box.

crw_4538_jfr
And…it’s only a couple of days before we discover ‘officially’ what is in Hornby’s 2009 release programme…


Wiring up – DCC power bus and droppers!

December 16, 2008

Layout wiring is one of those time consuming tasks  that takes time, care and seemingly forever without any signs of visible progress up top on the layout itself. My strategy is to complete the track on one side of the layout, wire it up and get it all tested and working before moving on. This breaks up the project into manageable bites rather than doing all the track first and then being faced with a mammoth wiring job that takes an ice age or two to complete before a train can be run.

As I reported previously, Atlas code 55 turnouts have what is arguably the best electrical arrangement for feeding power along the layout, ideal for DCC. Even so for DCC, a power bus (two wires, minimum of 24/0.2 wire grade, of multi-strand copper) is necessary and droppers (single strand copper bell wire) should feed power to every piece of rail. Soldering all those droppers in through the yard and staging yard area has taken some time. At last, I have reached the junction at the west end, completed the wiring and ready to properly place the mainline track along the next part of the layout.

crw_4561_jfr

This picture shows the feeding of bell wire for droppers through holes in the baseboard top at the west end of the reception yard roads. Each one is kept as short as possible and connects to the power bus.

crw_4566_jfr

A sneaky peek under the baseboard. Each dropper is connected to the power bus. I prefer to strip the insulation from a section of power bus cable, about 10mm or so, and then wrap the dropper wire around the exposed section before flooding with electrical solder. This is a cheaper method than using suitcase connectors, you can attach more droppers per length of power bus and I think it’s more reliable than most forms of connector. A low tech solution but simple to do. If you strip each power bus in a staggered fashion, as shown, you can even get away without using insulation tape after you have finished soldering.

crw_4550_jfr

Whilst on the subject of layout wiring, I did make a start on fitting micro switches to the turnouts, even though the Atlas ones have such short crossing vees (frogs) that it appeared that powering them through a polarity change switch seemed unnecessary. My locos ran through them without a hitch with no power applied. The staging yard area has turnouts with manual control using Caboose Industries ground throws. They work really well. A micro switch is fitted as shown above to change the crossing vee polarity as the turnout switch is changed. It’s another simple, low cost but effective method of control and very reliable.

The ground throws are useful indeed but will not be installed everywhere on the layout. Those turnouts on the scenic part of the layout within ‘Yard Limits’ will be manually controlled with micro switches for polarity change hidden under the baseboards and not on top as seen above in the staging yard. The mainline turnouts will be powered using Tortoise turnout machines which have neat internal electrical switches suitable for changing the polarity of power supplied to crossing vees. With the double junction at West Missoula now placed, installing turnout machines together with all associated wiring is next. After that, it’s back to track on the mainline. With yard work complete, track laying the mainline will be a breeze –  I hope!


Canary yellow GLV progress report

December 12, 2008

Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to stop with detailing a model. The former GatEx GLV currently OMWB for rebuilding and painting in Network Rail yellow is a prime example. There’s still detail that could be added, even though it looks complete. Yet, it has taken up a great deal of OMWB time already.  The paint on some details was still wet when I took this picture today:crw_4547_jfrSome details remain to be painted, such as some handrails. I am unhappy with some of the glazing too and that will be removed and redone. Then there’s glazing bars to add, lighting circuits to install together with a decoder. The model will stand more weathering around the head stocks too.

The question is when to stop and move on to another project. When detailing reaches the stage where small items take so long to do and are likely to fall off the model when it enters service on a layout – STOP! Spend some time achieving something else. Anyway, nothing looks worse than a model with detail missing because it has dropped off during a rough shunt. It’s neater to leave that detail in the first place. I detail to the point that I know the model can see intense use on an exhibition layout and still look good after ten outings. Anything less durable than that is no good to me.

It’s a little different for display models which are rarely, if ever, run on a layout. I am reasonably happy with this model and given that it was a serious rebuild and repair of something I built in the late 1980s, it’s not at all bad. Now to leave it alone for a day to allow those details to dry. Then to some DCC powered lighting circuits and into traffic. Or should I do some more weathering?


Following Falkirk and Elgin (Dundee, Bonnybridge and Newcastle too).

December 3, 2008

Anyone in the hobby trade knows that this is a busy time of the year. Sarah and I have just finished a hard stint of exhibitions with Nairnshire Modelling Supplies. It appears that we have started to achieve some brand recognition for our business and sales are increasing, both on-line and at the shows. It will take several year’s worth of careful choice of stocking levels and hard work before we can really see if the venture will work for us. Nonetheless, we would both like to thank all those who have supported our venture so far, either by words of encouragement, placing orders through the on line shop and by purchasing items at shows. That includes exhibition managers that have allowed us into their shows  – making space for a new trade stand is not easy! We currently attend ten shows annually but would love to add a couple more shows to the calendar. Perhaps in the North West of England…

Falkirk show of this weekend past was the last until next February. Next up is the mayhem that is the big three day ‘Model Rail’ show at the Glasgow located SEC, a huge exhibition run by the AMRSS. This break  allows us some time to prepare for that and decide how the stand will be stocked to give us some differentiation and unique selling points.

Whilst on the subject of trade, the big news in the US modelling world here in the UK is the retirement of Mac of Mac’s Model Railroading, Helensburgh. Model Rail is likely to be the last show for this business. Fortunately for me, Mac’s has an important model sitting on his trade stand at Falkirk which is ideally suited to my small HO scale collection, one I really ‘felt the need’ to acquire when I saw the first photographs in Model Railroader! In the meantime, we wish everyone involved with Mac’s Models a happy retirement.

crw_4396_jfr1The faded and distressed livery is correct for this HO scale model which is produced by Athearn under its ‘Genesis’ premium range. Premium quality it is too. The livery is a re-badged former Milwaukee Road MP15AC under SOO ownership. The painting out of the former markings has started to peel – just like the real ones did. An amazing level of painting detail has been achieved by Athearn. UK-outline models still have a way to go to achieve this level of quality and detail for the price.

crw_4394_jfrcrw_4393_jfrcrw_4391_jfrcrw_4395_jfr2crw_4392_jfrThe model features a sound decoder, working running lights and a working roof strobe light too. However, users of Lenz equipment will find that the decoder will not function properly with their equipment which is a bit unfortunate. However, there’s no problem with Digitrax, NCE, MRC etc.

Lulls in trade…
Even the busiest show has its quiet moments. What does one do to fill the time? I take a little modelling with me which can be done without too much workbench kit. Recently, I prepared rail and sleepers for track building; cutting and placing the sleepers on a prepared template which can easily be carried home with the trade stock.

crw_4377_jfr

When I return home, the track is soldered up.

crw_4383_jfr
Once removed from the template, it is cleaned and stored ready for when I start the fiddleyard of my next UK-outline EM gauge layout. That will be a home-based ‘scenic test track’ which will be used as somewhere to run my collection of EM gauge models. I won’t say anything more about that project for now!