Japanese style pull saw.

August 6, 2017

One of the most interesting discoveries I have made in recent times has been Japanese designed pull saws which I find easier to use than traditional western woodworking saws.

For sawing really straight and clean cut lines, particularly in plywood, they are very hard to beat. The blades are thin and very springy which makes it easier to cut through hard wood ply such as that shown above. The cut is made on the pull rather than on the push which results in a much cleaner cut and with virtually no splintering – a straight line is also easy to achieve after a little practice. The saw above cost around £10. I bought it to try before investing in more expensive Japanese-made saws. It has made many elements of layout baseboard making so much easier and with less mess than power tools.


Truss-bridge works part 2

September 28, 2015

Bridge 218-3

MRL Bridge 218 has progressed a little recently. Five piers, two end abutments and the approach spans have been completed in a bid to span a large gap at the west end of the 4th Sub mainline where it crosses the Clark Fork River at Paradise MT. Without this structure, trains cannot begin to operate as intended. Using Kato Unitrack truss spans has saved some time and considerable amounts of money over using truss bridge kits, despite time-consuming modifications to the spans to off-set them to cross the river at an angle.

Bridge 218-2

As of today, the track panels for each span are complete and a timbered bridge deck to create the impression of ‘bridge track’ is being installed using strips of 40thou styrene card. That is a mind boggling task in its own right, but given that Micro Engineering Company track bridge track is difficult to find in the UK, it is a viable option. The gauge of 9mm for N scale is achieved by soldering code 55 rail to copper clad sleeper strip, spaced to match the trussing members. The gaps are then filled in with styrene strips to represent the larger timbers used in bridge track. Each truss section has its own track panel and the truss spa track sections will be joined using the track rail joiners when assembled on the piers.

Bridge 218-1

The structure is loosely placed on the layout to check the height of the bridge track with the adjacent abutments. There remains a few millimetres of adjustment to do in raising the bridge which can be done by completing the bearing pad detail. The piers are constructed of 80thou styrene with a wrapper of embossed stone card by South Eastern Finescale which was leftover from another project. The real Bridge 218 has concrete piers which, until recent repairs were undertaken by MRL, were looking pretty weathered and heavily patched and repaired. Embossed styrene card provides a key for a smear of Squadron filler which will be roughly rubbed down to create the desired worn concrete effect – some of the outline of the stone embossing may show though in places adding to the patched effect. Smooth styrene sheet would not have been so visually effective.

The structure will be used on the layout in unfinished condition for a time until the spans are painted dull black and weathered; the piers painted in some lovely warm concrete colours and a newer highway bridge constructed and placed immediately behind the rail bridge. Some additional detail remains to be added to the Unitrack truss spans over the next few modelling sessions.

It is turning out to be a long, long project, but one which I think will produce a passable representation of Bridge 218 on MRL at Paradise MT. Whilst there are some significant detail differences between the real truss spans of Bridge 218 and the Unitrack models, the compromise will be acceptable to me now the spans are off-set to cross the river at an angle and in the process of being detailed. There is not N gauge kit which could be used to make the truss spans making up Bridge 218 that is readily available. So rather than slip a piece of plywood in as a stop-gap, the Unitrack spans seem to be a fair substitute and should carry heavy (for N scale) 10 to 12 foot long trains without difficulty!

 


Truss bridge works

September 9, 2015

River bridge23OMWB

Work on my N scale Montana Rail Link layout has taken a back seat to Dudley Heath and Wheal Annah in recent times. This summer saw a resurgence in activity as I reconsidered the layout plan and track layout. The experimental building of a removable door bridge over the layout room’s entrance door changed my perspective of how the layout could work. Furthermore, operations revealed some shortcomings too – it’s a good idea to really operate a layout before starting any scenery! A new track schematic was devised together with some layout planning to relocate certain layout design elements.

I use an MRL profile book for my track planning, copying real life track layouts where possible to fit in a square layout room. However, working out a high level schematic takes a little doing at times. The idea is to work out how trains will be routed around the layout, incorporating staging yards and features such as a helix so trains flow over the layout as the real railways intended. Details such as the track layouts at certain locations can be determined after the basic route has been planned.

Planning the revised route for my MRL 4th Sub (water level route) meant I could eliminate one staging yard which was awkward to locate, saving a great deal of track at the same time. I am not a great fan of extensive off-stage storage and both of the yards at both ends of the line will act as scenic staging. After all, this layout will not host massive operating sessions, so having vast numbers of trains waiting off-stage to traverse the layout will not be necessary. As the plan developed, I realised that one of the blocks to further development of the layout was not just the determination not to cross the door way to the room, but the location of the helix too. It had to be moved – no small undertaking.

Removal to a position at the complete opposite corner of the room entailed the removal of a great deal of track and some bench work. Once disconnected, it rolled across the layout room floor without difficulty. Anyone who has undertaken such a huge revision to a layout will know that once track lifting starts, there’s always a little more to take up and so it goes. In the end, the only remaining track and wiring to survive the redesign was the formation at Missoula West and the west end of the reception roads. The yard reception roads were lifted and the turn back loop at the east end of the run taken out to accommodate the helix and the revised track formations. It is now all back in place and hopefully better designed.

The upper deck of the layout was also revised with a new, longer, double-ended staging yard replacing the two originals. It feeds directly into the helix at one end and allows trains to be staged for either end of the run. The upper deck of the layout is now a continuous loop whilst the bottom deck via Missoula West is a large return loop around the room. The secondary 10th Sub line fits better too and is now correctly pushed into its secondary role in the redesign as originally intended.

The new scheme has a longer main line run for less track and much less complexity. In common with the real MRL 4th sub, I wanted the track formations to be straightforward as possible. I can also install a reasonable representation of the small yard at Paradise MT together with the Clark Fork River crossing. And that is the current hold up to getting trains running once again. Until that four-span truss bridge is installed, trains are not going anywhere!

River bridge 288OMWB

To speed the job up a little, I decided to carve up four Kato Unitrack truss bridge spans so they would be reasonable, low cost stand-in structures for the real bridge. To fit, they would have to be skewed.

truss bridge3992OMWB

This involved cutting off one side and fititng it one support along, with suitable modifications.

truss bridge38882OMWB

I have to confess, that by this stage, I was not sure if this was such a good idea over kit bashing some Central Valley truss bridge kits.

River bridge 300OMWB

More detail remains to be added to each truss bridge span to further disguise its Kato origins. Once painted dull black and weathered, and fitted with some code 55 track, they will look great on the layout.

River bridge 121OMWB

The last picture of this blog entry shows the spline track bed (recovered and reused from the rebuilding of this section of the layout – in fact virtually all recovered materials were reused) leading towards the bridge location itself. The helix once occupied this site…amazingly. The Tortoise point motor just visible in the top right hand corner belongs to my Folkestone East layout which occupies the third deck of the layout room. Despite the chaos of partially rebuilding bench work and sorting out track and wiring, the changes are bringing numerous additional benefits to the project. Some scenes fit better and some hitherto ‘givens’ being relaxed has made the layout more enjoyable to work on. Sometimes, too much rigidity in layout planning can turn into an iron shirt which constrains the project and ultimately stifles progress.

Tomorrow – all being well with the weather, I am back out on the Monadhliath mountains!

 


N scale kit-building…NTTX spine cars.

November 24, 2014

LMX5877-spine car

I will confess that progress on my N scale MRL 4th Sub layout has been slow in recent times. It’s not through a lack of interest, but one of time. Projects such as Dudley Heath and Wheal Annah have both eaten into layout construction time. However, the draw of the ‘dark side’ is never far away and the layout is well maintained and trains run over the 4th Sub on a regular basis. The latest project to cross the work bench is a five-unit NTTX spine car set constructed from a white metal kit by N Scale Kits (formerly Alan Curtis Kits).

Spine wagon

Like most white metal kits, this one takes a little work to fit everything together. It is constructed using high quality CA glue such as Zap-a-Gap. Soldering is a little too hot for the thin side rails – it would take very little heat to send them into melt-down oblivion. Once put together, after some swearing, the models run well on Micro-Trains trucks fitted with metal wheel sets. After assembly of the main components, the five car NTTX spine car set was fitted with Roller Bearing trucks and tested on the MRL 4th Sub main line in unpainted condition with LMX Leasing No. 8577 in charge.

Spine car-three

I have enjoyed a great deal of success with Alan Curtis/N Scale Kits products, having constructed the 3-unit National Steel 48ft ‘all purpose’ well cars seen behind the spine cars in a passing intermodal train.

Double stack Maxi 3

Another success is the kit for articulated five-unit Gunderson Maxi III 48ft well double stack cars (above). The kit consists of a mix of white metal superstructure parts and etched floors and details, including walkways. It rides on Micro-Trains trucks (bogies). Containers on the layout are either by Kato or Deluxe Innovations.

Double stack intermodal-one

Another favourite of the N Scale Kits line is the rebuilt Gunderson Maxi III 40ft well cars which are cut-down versions of the 48ft well cars featured above. Operated as a five-unit articulated set, they are loaded with either two 20ft boxes with something on top or a 40ft. box in the bottom and a longer container on top which can overhand the end platforms. However, I am a little short on the N scale container front and have to do a little more collecting as well as some weathering and sun-bleaching work!  I choose to use trucks by Micro-Trains, metal wheel sets by Fox Valley Models and TTX yellow paint by Polly Scale Paints. Transfers are by Microscale. The rest is down to time and patience!


Quietly getting on with some modelling…

April 8, 2014

Wheal Annah-1
‘Wheal Annah’ is a quickie N gauge layout project constructed as relief to working on my large layout projects. The layout theme is based on Cornish china clay operations on a down-at-heel branch line, inspired by the Carbis branch. Built as a shunting layout, it is compact with the senic part only 40 inches in length. Costs are kept to a minimum by utilising one base board frame, wire and other materials recovered from old layouts. The track is Peco Code 55 and and the turnouts were bought second hand. For good shunting operations, Electrofrog turnouts are used with a simple modification to improve their reliability with DCC power.

Wheal Annah-4
Here’s the frame – recovered from my abandoned EM gauge Dudley Heath Yard project and repaired, strengthened and ready for its new role. Given the rising cost of even poor quality timber and plywood, saving solid and stable baseboard frames is a good idea! Avoid using glue when fitting a new top to the frames. Use only screws which should help with removing tops without damaging the frames when a layout finally meets its end.

Wheal Annah-5
A small shelf to one end provides a safe place for the control equipment. The other end used the fiddle stick borrowed from my more successful N gauge Dudley Heath layout.

Wheal Annah-3
To date, the track is in, hard standing and ballast in place and initial testing complete. The building mock-ups are taped together from old shoe boxes. Point control is ‘wire in tube and the operation will be ‘one engine in steam’. The old platform is likely to be modelled in abandoned condition with the occasional staff or inspection train consisting of the Class 122 making a run up the branch.

Wheal Annah-2
Looking towards the end of the branch and more cardboard building mock-ups. The clay works buildings are angled in relation to the back drop for greater visual interest. The branch line also angles across the baseboard to provide a little more room for the passing loop. The layout will have two operating eras: BR Sectorisation and Pre-1980s. It seems the the Kernow Model Rail Centre special edition clay hoods have come along at just the right time!

 


Overcoming analysis paralysis…

May 9, 2013

There was a block on the completion of my Montana Rail Link 4th Sub layout which occupies the lower and middle deck of my home based, never to go to shows, layout. I really, really was not keen on any sort of bridge across the entrance doors to the cabin – it was an absolute ‘Given’ in my planning that there should be no bridge. This, combined with a determined bit of bloody-mindedness over the inclusion of a trestle on the 4th Sub line resulted in a struggle with the final bit of track planning, holding up the middle deck of the layout.

10th sub-6

In the end, I looked at the possibility of using aluminium angle to create a rigid and stable removable bridge across the doors to the cabin. The experiment worked and thus a route for the secondary 10th Sub line could be included in the plan, resolving several track planning dilemmas. Also, this move clarifies where the west end staging yard (Sandpoint) will be located.

10th sub-5

Some care was needed to ensure good alignment at each end of the lift out bridge. This allows a single track line to run round the opposite side of the room from the main line (4th Sub route) and allows the junction with the 4th Sub at Paradise to be modelled.

10th sub-4

10th sub-3

10th sub-2

With that planning change, work could commence on the building of the baseboards, inserting the spline track bed and preparing for track laying. The layout is based on shelf layout principles and the boards above are only 10 inches wide, minimising impact on the room but increasing operating potential of the layout.

10th sub-8

The picture above shows a view of testing work on the new door bridge using temporary wiring before completing the back drop and fascia. A switch to prevent trains entering the bridge zone will be installed to prevent accidents!

10th sub-7

The door bridge project turned out to be more successful than I had hoped. I can now make further changes – installing a Pratt through truss bridge (4 spans) on this stretch of 10th Sub line to cross the Flat Head River and a similar truss bridge on the main line close to Paradise Yard. This fills my bridge building urges and means the originally planned trestle can be dropped. At last, the over-thinking (or analysis paralysis) is over and practical work on the layout has recommenced – and all resolved by adopting a more flexible approach.


Dudley Heath’s new staging stick…

November 21, 2012

…is now operational! Here’s an update picture of the result during testing. The two tracks are long enough to hold the model of the 5 plus 2 NMT built from Dapol Mk.3 trailers, the longest train to run on Dudley Heath. It opens up operations dramatically for running local trains and the EWS Executive train too!