Graham Farish Polybulk (and its big brother)

January 30, 2015

GF polybulk34333‘Wheal Annah’, a compact N gauge layout based on a Cornish china clay theme, is being prepared for the Model Rail Scotland exhibition where it will be displayed on the Hornby Magazine stand. Whilst it is primarily based in the 1970s, I plan to collect together some stock to allow a few trains of the 1980s to be run for a little more variety.

GF polybulk34334The new Graham Farish Polybulk wagon is one addition to the fleet and one I can also use on my other N gauge display layout ‘Dudley Heath’. It’s an amazing-looking model, albeit relatively costly to collect more than a couple at any one time. Masses of separate details, NEM coupling pockets, metal buffers and a an excellent representation of the complex shape of the hopper body make this one of the top British N gauge freight stock models around.

GF polybulk23991Three versions are available in N gauge including the early one above; a weathered version with the simplified Polybulk “Traffic Services” livery and a pristine one with intermediate ‘Traffic Services’ markings. List prices at the time of writing come in around £39-£42.

The N gauge version follows the OO gauge model which was released about 12months before the Graham Farish model. I picked one up before the list price rocketed to nearly £60 for a weathered version. When you look at the level of detail on the OO gauge model and the time it probably takes to assemble one, the price tag of £50-60 comes as no surprise.

OO Polybulk OMWB-2OO Polybulk OMWBOO Polybulk OMWB - 3

Putting a rake of these together is going to be a challenge to the modelling budget! The time to look at quality rather than quantity when a planning layout theme is definitely upon us.



Old Blarney

January 27, 2015

Old Blarney 23

Old Blarney was photographed for BRM this weekend last. The layout is the creation of David White of Perth & District MRC and is a popular one on the Scottish exhibition circuit. The Perth club holds the second largest show in Scotland which has a reputation for high quality layouts.  Over 40 are scheduled to attend the 2015 exhibition which will be held on June 27/28th at the Dewars Center in Perth.

Old Blarney 16Old Blarney 18

Old Blarney is based on Irish railway practice and has a wide variety of NR and IE stock from various eras including the flying snails. In addition, there is a massive amount of detailing including a hunt, various members of the clergy (!!), a racecourse scene and an interesting selection of road vehicles. In all, an entertaining and fun layout to photograph – although some of the images won’t make the cut such as the two from the top featuring the Pope. Clearly a rail fan!

Snow at Kingussie

January 26, 2015

I stopped off at Kingussie on my way home from a photographic session with Perth MRC last Saturday (Jan 24th 2015) in time for the north-bound Highland Chieftain service (Kings Cross – Inverness). The service is one of the longest in the UK today at 581 miles which takes a touch over 8 hours to run in the north-bound direction. Despite the poor weather, the train on this particularly cold winter evening was more or less on time with No. 43 302 the leading power car.

Kingussue 24th Jan_1 OMWB

The conditions were pretty spectacular for night-time photography, so I spent an additional ten minutes or so taking some winter evening shots of the station and signal box – long exposure at 10 to 15 seconds at F10 with the camera setting on ISO 200 and the noise reduction setting active.

Kingussue 24th Jan_5 - OMWB

Kingussue 24th Jan_3 - OMWB

Kingussue 24th Jan_6 signal box

Kingussue 24th Jan_Signal box

Kingussue 24th Jan_4 - OMWB

Kingussue 24th Jan_2 - OMWB

Kingussue 24th Jan OMWB

Pictures for Sunday

January 18, 2015
Kyle of Lochalsh

Kyle of Lochalsh


Blue Pullman  – Strath of Kildonan / Strath Ullie


Static grass buzz

January 13, 2015

Static grass has become the accepted standard for scenery modelling, replacing ground foam for general ground cover. I love the wide variety of texture that can be achieved using various lengths of grass; multiple applications and mixes of different coloured grasses. Beats ground foam for great texture and colour every time!

Static grass applicators are not cheap. Such is the price of commercial applicators that some modellers have turned to home-made models of various types. The real buzz in the hobby is the adaptation of electronic fly swats to make low-powered but effective grass applicators. It’s not an original idea by any means and there are numerous references on the internet by others that have followed this path – a quick search will locate some useful web sites on building different types and indeed how to make your own grass tufts too.

My usual applicator is a Noch Grass-Master, a powerful and very effective piece of kit. However, it has certain limitations including control over the application of fine grass fibres of around 2mm length. It simply dumps too many fibres in one go when used with the narrow nozzle even when I add an extra mesh screen.

I concluded that an applicator with a fine mesh would be better for those areas where I need sparse short grass such as N gauge scenery. Enter the ‘Bug-Zapper’ and a fine mesh metal tea strainer!

The starting point for a home-mage grass applicaro for fine grass fibres is a 'Bug-Sapper', wire, clip and a fine mesh strainer or sieve.

The starting point for a home-mage grass applicator for fine static grass fibre is a ‘Bug-Sapper’, wire, clip and a fine mesh strainer or sieve.

Before I go on, please be aware that this adaptation of an electronic fly swat is not without its hazards and will not qualify for a CE mark! The chance for electric shock is very real if mishandled. It has none of the safety features of commercial applicators. Build and use at your own risk.

Dismantling the bug-zapper.

Dismantling the bug-zapper.

The important electronics are located in the handle. It is dismantled by releasing three screws.

bug zapper grass_1 copy

This model takes two AA batteries. The battery terminal fittings and tactile button are retained.

The ‘racket’ part is not needed and is cut up to provide a mount for the tea strainer.

Cutting up the racket. Keep the mesh screen just in case you can find another use for it!

Cutting up the racket. Keep the mesh screen just in case you can find another use for it!

The mount end of the packet frame is cut off and retained as a mount for the tea strainer or sieve.

The mount end of the packet frame is cut off and retained as a mount for the tea strainer or sieve.

bug zapper grass_5 copy

The sieve/tea strainer handle is trimmed to length. A new lead is soldered to it

The shortened tea strainer handle is glued to the mount end of the racket moulding using ‘Araladite’ five-minute epoxy glue.

The electronics are located in the handle.

Fitting the sieve/tea strainer to the handle using part of the racket moulding. This allows the original fixings to be used.

The lead soldered to the tea strainer or sieve is connected to one terminal of the circuit board – the same terminal as the inner mesh of the racket assembly. The opposite terminal is fitted with the long ‘grounding’ lead.

bug zapper grass_7 copy

Finished! Note the wire fitted with a crocodile clip which is the ‘grounding’ lead. It is attached to a pin or nail inserted in the scenery during static grass application.

Using the applicator is simple. Once the landscape has been prepared with your chosen adhesive, insert a nail or pin and attach the grounding lead. Place some static grass fibres in the sieve and press and hold the tactile button on the side of the unit to activate it and create an electrical charge. The applicator is gently agitated over the wet glue to shake fibres through the mesh (keep pressing the button) and onto the glue where the static charge will make them stand on end.

When you have finished with the applicator, release the tactile button and then immediately discharge it by touching the sieve with the end of the grounding lead. There will be a spark and a pop, so don’t be alarmed by this. Regarding safety – keep it well away from sensitive electronic components such as decoders and do not touch any metal parts when it is charged or in use. It may give you quite a belt! You have been warned!

This unit is not as powerful as the Noch applicator and needs freshly charged or new batteries for the best performance. However, it is very effective at relatively close range – about 2 inches – and cost me less than £5.00 to build excluding batteries.

‘Wheal Annah’ update

January 7, 2015

Wheal Annah Western 100

Christmas was taken up with detailing my compact N gauge “Wheal Annah’ layout – 1970s BR in Cornish china clay country in the 1970s. In addition, some effort was put into tidying up rough edges and adjusting scenery features where the perspective did not work in photographs.

Wheal Anna baseboards
It’s a far cry from the ‘plywood parkway’ and card building mock-ups of six months’ ago!

Wheal Annah Class 25
One of my favourite scenes is the short branch to the older clay works or ‘dries’ It has been finished with an application of 2mm static grass to make the track appear largely neglected. The scene is separated from the rest of the layout by a ridge of land and shrubs.

Wheal Annah 990

Detailing work has included fencing, more grass effects, lamp posts and various other details. Photography of the layout at this stage demonstrates that I need to do more work on the inside face of the wall if I am to continue taking photos from this angle.

Wheal Annah Western 101

A view from the usual viewing side of the layout showing the working level crossing gates and modern works buildings in the back ground. The Dapol Class 52 remains to be weathered together with changes made to the train reporting code boxes to display the loco number. Much care was taken leave the field of view clear at the front of the layout to allow photography from various angles.

Wheal Annah overview

Wheal Annah Class 25-200

Wheal Annah is scheduled to appear at ModelRail, Glasgow this February as part of the Hornby Magazine stand. In preparation for that event, the layout has been equipped with a light box and a pair of trestles left over from my ‘Platform 4a & 4b’ layout which have been extended to present the layout at a good viewing height. In the mean time, more details need to be added and tidying up of corners completed!