Digging out ‘Dudley Heath’.

June 14, 2018

It’s been a while since I last took a look at my N gauge ‘Dudley Heath’ layout which has been in storage since its last exhibition. The layout is inspired by the Grand Junction Railway route (circa 1998-2004) through the Black Country and primarily hosts suburban trains associated with that area operated by Class 150s, Class 310s and eventually a Class 322 (when I get round to building one). Freight is predominantly steel, intermodal and china clay together with some general freight traffic. I plan to start expanding the freight stock roster once again – there’s some interesting stuff on the horizon.

Today, I dug the layout out from under the main layout at home and set it up for a bit of a look. The layout has not been worked on in that time and the only project undertaken at the work bench has been an N gauge Class 310/1 based on Electra Railway Graphics vinyl overlays. My photo session today shows the layout in the condition it arrived home from its last show 18 months’ ago!

The newly completed Class 310/1 set is less than satisfactory due to the 3D printed cab mouldings which are pretty rough and do not match the profile of the roofs of the Graham Farish Mark 2 stock used in the conversion. There were no alternatives to the mouldings which at least allowed the project to be completed. The model will have a little more adjustment before it next goes out with the layout to a show. The trailers need raising by about half a millimetre or so.

Class 150s in various forms make up the local passenger services together with the Class 310/1. No. 150123 runs past a short engineers train.

One of the Class 150s on the layout is a 3-car Class 150/0 as No. 150001 finished in Centro livery. The model represents one of the two prototype units which worked Centro routes in the West Midland and Black Country for many years. Class 150s no longer work in large numbers in the area and are missed by many enthusiasts.


Freight traffic with a Dapol Class 58 on the front and Class 150/1 No. 150123 on the main line in the background.

A project to be finished off is the second of the prototype Class 150s in the form of Class 150/0 No. 150002 which has the roof details left over from its days as an evaluation unit (Class 154) for Class 158 development. It sits on the layout above in an undercoat of Regional Railways silver grey – it will be finished in Centro livery in die course. I am unhappy with the finish of the centre car which is built up as a cut and shut with parts from two cars. It will be reworked for a better fit of the details. Parts for two more Class 150s are to hand – three cars for a hybrid Class 150/ with Class 150/2 centre car together with the Class 950 Ultrasonic Test unit. All good fun!
In the meantime, the layout will be checked over for damage and OHLE masts and portals examined and adjusted – they are quite delicate and prone to slight damage during the course of a show. I am also evaluating some new scenery materials and new acrylic paints which I plan to use to rework most of the scenery to represent late summer or early Autumn rather than the stark greens of early summer. Work to develop the layout will start again in the Autumn, even though the layout has no exhibition bookings at this time. Some scenic features remain to be finished and others need tidying up – photographs always reveal where those things are and processing today’s images has already pointed a few things out!

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Not much layout work this last year…

November 12, 2017

Layout work has been in hibernation during the summer and Autumn of this year – a little burn-out perhaps? Or plenty of outdoor stuff to do. Whatever the reason, I have been busy (distracted) with other stuff until recently when I restarted work in a determined effort to complete Loch Dhu Distillery; both the siding scene and the distillery yard itself. Last year, the yard looked something like this:

Progress on buildings over the course of last winter saw this:

Recent activity in the distillery yard scene has seen this emerge – the usual and fun layout building activity – organised, tidy and very well defined and planned activity:

The engine shed together with a low relief building representing a second kiln house have appeared among the pieces of styrene off-cuts – the model is based on the one at Dailuaine Distillery which still exists today.

The front of the yard scene is tidied up with a retaining wall and culvert. The kiln house pagoda top was reworked too.

Buildings are currently being painted and detailed with more doors, windows, ventilators, chimney pots and other fittings. Missing details are added such as rain water goods. The yard surface is concrete with wooden boarding together with cobbles in places. That had to be painted and finished at the time this picture was taken. So, even though the layout is considered to be a micro or diorama layout which would comfortably travel on the back seat of my classic Mini Cooper, there is a huge amount of work to do to finish it – the level of detail required to create the scene is quite surprising!

 


Modelling again: whisky casks this time.

May 30, 2017

Some high-speed painting…got about 100 casks to paint and weather for my tiny Loch Dhu Distillery layout scheme…

Phew! Nearly done!
All the colours are by ‘Lifecolour’. There’s no doubt, the Italians have done a great job with modelling paints over the years.


Work restarts on Folkestone East

March 26, 2017


After mothballing the layout for 18 months whilst I worked on other projects, I have finally flung the dust covers off the layout and started to deal with some problems with it (I admit to making a pig’s ear of some aspects of the layout, ears which now need to be rectified). Operating wrinkles also needed to be ironed out too.

The first job involves the original laser cut turnouts which made up the curved cross-over at the Ashford end of the layout. This junction, which provides access to the harbour branch turn-back roads and yard, is the most critical on the layout. Using laser-cut turnout bases and glued chairs is a good technique and looks great too except for one thing: they are not durable enough for a heavy duty main line hosting a frequent train frequency. As a facing pair of turnouts on the main line, they were becoming badly damaged by the heaviest locos in the fleet, namely my Heljan Class 47s. At nearly 750g each, they were knocking six shades of hell out of that cross-over to the point they no longer worked properly and repairs were impracticable. New ones of more durable soldered construction (see above) were built at the work bench and installed in January.

A plan to remodel the unsuccessful western end of the layout was in mind anyway, so turnout replacement fitted well with the building of some flats based loosely on Lawrence Court just off the Dover Road together with remodelling the scenery and modifying the back drop to make room for the partial low relief buildings.

During the 18 month period of storage, further information regarding a row of brown-brick buildings (predominantly hidden behind weed trees on the line side) became available, buildings which turned out to be the Lawrence Court flats. Winter-time images with trees bare of leaves revealed how dominant these low-rise flats actually are at this location. Whilst the real main line on which this layout is inspired is dead straight in this location, I have to live with a curve as it is located at the end of the room! There’s no extending the layout through the wall and into my neighbour’s field without objections from the sheep and other practical difficulties! The flats were nearly complete by the time I found the time to write this blog entry. They fit on the curve of the layout quite well, being partial low-relief buildings. Ideally, they should be set a little further back from the line, but the curve in the track makes placing the buildings tricky. Once the landscaping around and to the rear of the flats is complete, trees will be added to the line side once again partially concealing them.

The Up platform will be reinstated and track work reballasted and fitted with conductor rails once again. As part of this project, the signal box project has made a giant leap forward. Some adjustment to the back drop by moving it back by 3 inches and changing its shape a little has provided more room for the signal box (as well as the flats) which is moved east a little further to better position it in relation to the prototype location. Oh, yes, I must mot mention the retiring of the faithful Heljan 47s in favour of Bachmann ones (less damaging to the track) and the introduction of Dapol Class 73s (one picture above) which are gradually replacing my venerable Lima ones. More of the signal box, remodelling and the commissioning of the Class 73s later!


Test running the Class 310/1.

November 23, 2016

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The tricky business of converting old Graham Farish Mark 2 coaches into a Class 310 EMU has reached the testing stage. The model is being built using Electra Railway Graphics self-adhesive overlays onto heavily modified clear-sided Mark 2 coach bodies. The result, I hope, will be a respectable representation of a 3-car Regional Railways Class 310/1 (No. 310106) which was a common sight in the West Midlands at one time and a signature model for the layout.

The conversion is not the easiest one I have done in N gauge so far – the 3D printed cabs being far from satisfactory and having a distinctly grainy texture to them which is not simple to remove. In fact, the printed material is so hard, wet and dry paper struggled to smooth the grittiness down to any degree. On reflection, scratch building from styrene card may have produced a better result. Weeks after completing the main part of the conversion, the unit is finally being tested on the layout with bar couplings and new gangways designed to close up the gap between the coaches. As you can see, I was far from happy with the join between the cab roof and the main roof moulding. Considerably more finishing work (and patience) was put into making this area of the model as satisfactory as possible together with a final coat of dark grey paint for the roof.

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Class 310 copy

Having filed the cab ends to more or less the right shape, re-profiled the cab windows and removed the bowed ends from the Mark 2 coach body moulding, replacing them with a flat suburban stock end with the gangway extension unique to Class 310 and Class 312 EMUs, the model was relatively simple to finish with the vinyl sides. The centre coach has  pantograph well cut in it, fitted with insulators cut from 10BA brass screws and a Dapol ‘pan’. Cab painting was made awkward by the coarse printed texture, making smooth clean lines difficult to achieve.

The model will be more or less complete for an outing to the Falkirk exhibition this weekend, together with the Class 90 I have been working on recently. No. 90 033 requires a little more finishing to the roof, pantograph well and to disguise that Digitrax DZ126 decoder which can be seen through the cab windows! Despite the challenges and sometimes frustrations of working on older N gauge models, both are a welcome additions to the 25kV fleet. A Class 323 is the next EMU project – also a signature EMU for the West Midlands area.

OHLE spare Class 86

Dudley Heath will be attending the Falkirk MRC model railway exhibition this weekend (26th and 27th November 2016) being held at the Forth Valley College in Falkirk. Electric stock will be featured including Dapol Class 86s.

The Falkirk exhibition is the last major show in the Scottish exhibition circuit calendar and is held annually at the Forth Valley College in Grangemouth Road, Falkirk, FK2 9AD. It’s usually quite an event; much more laid back than a certain other model railway show being staged this weekend at the NEC and a lot of fun.

 


Loch Dhu Distillery progress pictures

September 14, 2016

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Landscaping, scenery and detailing of the Loch Dhu Siding side of my double-sided OO gauge micro-layout (the distillery is on the opposite side of the backdrop) has been completed (more or less) in recent weeks. A few things remain to be added at this time including the addition of a handful of small details, a road vehicle and a tidying up of the back drop area. Some grass tufts remain to be planted in one or two areas.

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Whilst working on this scene, I have managed to get my hands on another ARC Models kit, this time for the smaller version of the Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST locomotive and in pre-war condition. No need to do any back-dating as was done to the larger version I built previously as a freelance distillery pug, named Loch Dhu No.1. This second distillery ‘Pug’ loco will be modelled as Dailuaine No.1 in 1968 condition.

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The layout is operational, but only has the two locos so far: the Bachmann Class 20 and the Pug as seen above. The layout awaits the Bachmann Class 24/1 model which is some time away as yet. A Class 27 is a possibility as is one of the Heljan rail buses – maybe – perhaps. Also, I plan to build a Ruston 48DS for the distillery branch – just for the hell of it! It will be a challenge to fit it out for DCC. – the Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST was interesting enough. Hard to believe that there is a TCS decoder together with a TCS ‘Keep Alive’ device in the saddle tank of that loco!


Hornby Magazine cover story: Rannoch Moor

September 8, 2016

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Mark Darragh’s lovely OO gauge ‘Rannoch Moor’ layout made it onto the cover of Hornby Magazine as the cover story for this month (Issue 112, October 2016). I photographed the layout earlier in the summer with some lovely results – a great layout – so I would have to be in truly glaikit form to make a mess of such fine work. It’s beautifully modelled with just the right level of detail and neutral space making it appear larger than it really is. The layout is based on the West Highland line in 2006 or thereabouts.

Here’s a selection of pictures that did not make the magazine cut:

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Very fine work from Mark Darragh. I am always searching for quality home or exhibition layouts to feature in magazine work. They have to be based in Scotland and N gauge is particularly in demand. As you can see from the pictures above, I aim to achieve the best possible image quality. A photo-shoot typically takes four to five hours and does not need the whole layout to be assembled at once – they can be photographed in sections. I need to see some simple images of the layout before proposing it to a magazine editor. I do the images, you write the article. Simple!