One of those wonderfully mild February days.

February 18, 2009

For once, the combination of mild weather, up to 14 degrees centigrade and a Class 37 on the Highland line coincided very nicely. DRS ran its intermodal service back to Grangemouth yesterday with 37 688 dead in train.


The action was caught on camera as the train climbed away from the Moray Firth, up to the Nairn Viaduct at Culloden Moor with 66 433 in charge.



Photographing it made for a welcome outdoor break from preparing for the big AMRSS  Model Rail show being staged this weekend at the Glasgow SECC. Don’t forget, we will be having a 10% discount promo on all Shawplan Models branded products displayed on the Nairnshire Modelling Supplies stand this weekend!

Also about to arrive this morning, as I type this, will be our new heat source pump to replace a conventional electric central heating system. This is our latest renewable energy scheme, and I will post more on that when it’s possible to grab some pictures.


Another important milestone passed…

February 17, 2009

…or would that be ‘milepost’?

Layout building projects consist of stages, small objectives and achievements like the first train, the first run through from end to end, the first operating session and so on. The final objective is the Golden Spike ceremony. I will have to see if I can get some Moose Drool beer from the Big Sky Brewery in Missoula shipped in for that event!

After track laying and wiring on the off-stage part of upper deck, the first service trains ran up the helix which had only been tested with an old analogue controller. With some track room now available at the top, two Atlas SD60Ms take a coal drag up for the first time.  If any train was to find faults and problems, it’s this coal drag. In the event, it ran pretty well.


The gradient is 2.2% over seven turns with another stretch of 2.5 % off the top which includes a holding loop. On reflection, and although challenging and fun for the operators, the top section immediately off the helix is not ideal for an off-stage stretch of line.


After dealing with a couple of coal cars that wanted to break away in the helix as the full mass of the train applied force to the couplings, running up and down the helix quickly became routine, despite that challenging section of line at the top.


The only problem is…the road bed for the scenic part of the upper deck is incomplete. Or would that be ‘missing’?


However, I had some big six-axle power waiting in the loop at the top ready to slip onto the back of the train so testing could continue.


Couple up and back we go…


To the helix…


And down she goes…dynamic brakes whining away.



Dudley Heath Yard…does it exist?
Well, yes. Despite rumours to the contrary, the oft referred to shunting plank I have built to 4mm,  EM gauge does exist and was playing as dumping ground whilst I work in the N scale project. Since the picture below was taken, I have cleared the mess away and began stripping Tortoise point motors, ‘Hares’ and ‘Wabbits’ from it for use on the N scale layout. At a total of around £30 per turnout on a shunting plank which may only see use every three months or so, the cost is unacceptable and a more economical point control system is being investigated. The expensive equipment is better utilised in the big project which will see use at least once a week.


That’s it for today – Sarah and I have to complete preparations for the big Model Rail show at the SECC this week end. We (Nairnshire Modelling Supplies) are having a 10% off promotion on all Shawplan Models products displayed on the stand this weekend.

Oh ‘eck!

February 8, 2009

I was taking a handful of update pictures of work being undertaken at the DeSmet end of Phase 1 last night…

And admiring my handiwork installing fascia (makes the layout joinery appear much better finished). When…


I caught that spider hanging around yet again!


As it scuttles away, I vow never to buy bananas from THAT supermarket ever again! It has managed to eat two Russian hampsters, a small brown bird that happened to fly in through the cabin door by accident and a Kato SD40-2…

30 minutes a day…

February 7, 2009

…is all it takes. Modellers ask me how I manage so much progress on my modelling – layout or at the work bench. Believe me, it does not seem like it on a day to day basis as I feel that progress is slow at times. Painfully slow.

Looking back since I started work on my layout last August, a huge amount has been achieved. Whilst I have devoted many hours in longer modelling sessions, to build baseboards and lay track, it’s the 30 minute spells after dinner before relaxing with a glass of wine and a DVD which seem to add up to significant progress. In 30 minutes you can do an awful lot and make progress that gives you hope that one day, it will be finished. 30 minutes and you can install:

  • A DCC controller bus fascia connection plate aka throttle port.
  • A length of fascia itself.
  • Half a dozen dropper wires.
  • A programming track.
  • Five feet of plain track on the mainline.
  • A single tortoise turnout motor.
  • A few feet of cork track bed.
  • Ballast on a foot of track.

Or even tidy up after a longer modelling session – clean tools and vacuum up the saw dust.

You get the idea.

The other evening, I completed two simple jobs in around 30 minutes which moved the layout project on significantly and helped tidy things up a little.

Two clear plastic document holders were fixed to the wall at the ‘service’ end of the layout where all the control gear is located. One seen here and one below the base board. They now hold the important reference documentation, my NMRA gauge in its packet together with the instructions for DCC equipment and the most common decoders in my fleet. Handy for quick reference should it be needed when programming and so on. It saves time not having to dig them out of a box or locate them if scattered around the layout room. The result – tidiness which makes the layout environment more pleasant.

A throttle port or fascia plate or whatever you wish to call these was fitted to new fascia installed adjacent to the helix end of the layout. This simple task and the five minute wiring job with RJ12 connectors took 20 minutes and dramatically improved operations on Phase 1 of the layout. It’s an infra-red throttle port, expanding the infra-red coverage on the layout. The Digitrax radio throttle equipment is still to be released in the UK – although I believe it’s on its way! Until then, infra-red will do nicely.

I know that 30 minutes a day, 365 days a year might not be possible, but making that effort has pushed my projects forward significantly. I know that the shortage of funds or even supplies of materiel will slow progress – yet there is always something that can be done that does not involve cost.

IF you can devote that 30 (or so) minutes every day, that adds up to 3.5 hours a week, 182 hours per year in addition to those longer spells that can be devoted to the project on an occaisonal basis. You can wire up a lot of layout power bus and droppers in that time!