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.


KPF Zeller track cleaners for routine track cleaning in OO/HO and N gauge.

July 26, 2017

My experiments with the KPF Zeller OO/HO and N gauge track cleaning cars sold by Ten Commandment Models showed that they are particularly effective at cleaning the rails of any model railway.

I have been taking an interest in track cleaning technologies for years and have played around with several different types of track cleaning device – from Relcos (don’t use such high frequency track cleaners with DCC systems) to the amazing but expensive US-outline based CMX Clean Machine (not suitable for layouts with equipment and platforms close to the running lines because of the cleaning pad clips). Another elegant and simple track cleaning system has come to light in the form of the KPF Zeller track cleaning cars which are available in the UK for both OO/HO gauge and N gauge. They are imported and sold by Ten Commandment Models – the cars being German made.

Simple friction-based track cleaning which works through the action of weighted arms and pads of cleaning material. The OO/HO car (shown) has NEM coupling pockets which will accept Kadees, traditional UK outline couplings or anything you like!

The underside of the OO/HO cleaning car. The wheels can be exchanged for finer ones if desired for finescale OO and EM gauge. No cleaning fluids are needed for effective track cleaning.

The design of the cars allows the modeller to build a wagon body onto them if desired. Also, the cars are built within the loading gauge of HO and N gauge making them suitable for all types of UK-outline and European layouts which will have platforms and other structures close to the running line. They will be invaluable to those modellers with large layouts too, including US-outline modellers with miles of track such as my Montana Rail Link 4th Sub project. The cars are not powered – so they will work on any layout with any power system: traditional DC or DCC – it matters not!

The weighted and pivoted arms fitted to the OO/HO model with cleaning pads visible. Any suitable cleaning pad material can be used and is attached with double-sided sticky tape. Simply run the car around the layout, collect the dirt and then throw the dirty pads away!

The N gauge version. Both cleaning cars are specially weighted for effective cleaning and good track holding properties.

The N gauge car is shown once again. Two separate pivoted arms and pads are used to avoid catching any detail in the centre of the track, or indeed any third rail or stud contact system. The simple hook coupling will engage with standard N gauge couplings.

So that’s it! Personally, I prefer to clean the track before an operating session using a track cleaning car. Clean pads are fitted and the car run first around the main line track several times before being removed from the layout and the pads inspected for dirt collection. The spent pads are removed, which is easy to do, and new ones fitted before repeating the exercise. The cars are easily propelled into platform bays, dead end sidings and over complex point work. Once the layout has been covered, the track cleaning car can be stored in the staging area of the layout until it is next needed.

Some modellers may use the cleaning car throughout the operating session. It can be included in the formation of an engineers train and run almost continuously – there are couplings fitted to both ends of the cars which will allow it to be run as part of a train. If you decide that this is your preferred method, remember that the cleaning pad material is designed to collect dirt and should be discarded after a while or they will become ineffective.

For more information visit Ten Commandment Models here, here and here and also take a look at the rolling roads too. KPF Zeller’s web site can be viewed here. My thanks to Matt of KPF Zeller together with Dave of Ten Commandment Models for their assistance and an elegantly simple but well-engineered solution to routine track cleaning.

 


What?

July 26, 2017

A teaser – what am I up to now?

If a former member of the Stirling and Clackmannan District MRC can dive into Portuguese railway modelling complete with ‘Pedro the Pacer’… I can do the same – more or less. Except, the teaser above is not from the Portuguese railways…I am saying no more.


Modern Class 20…

July 22, 2017

Due for imminent release in N gauge by Graham Farish is a modern version of the Class 20 as No. 20 205. The full size locomotive has seen use on the main line in recent times, sometimes paired with No. 20 189 (rail blue) or No. 20 227 in LU livery which will also be offered in N gauge (371-036).  Graham Farish uses its head code version of the Class 20 which is finished in heritage rail blue livery with West Highland Terrier motif (also observed with an Eastfield depot plaque) to represent No. 20 205. The safety markings and other livery features which have been well researched and applied to the model all point to a locomotive in regular use on today’s main line as well as the heritage scene.

One detail that the discerning modeller may wish to add is a square framed headlight to both ends of the locomotive.The model will make a pleasing change to a diet of Class 66s usually found on most up-to-date layouts. There is a trend towards releasing models in ‘heritage’ condition and this brings a much welcomed dimension to British outline modelling in both N and OO gauge.

Graham Farish Class 20 in pristine heritage BR rail blue livery.
Catalogue number: 371-037.
NEM coupling pockets and 6-pin DCC interface socket.
Working running lights.
Accessory pack included with detailing parts.
Associated model is 371-036 No. 20 227 in LU livery.

 

 


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.


Remodelling and upgrading of the Folkestone East layout continues.

April 10, 2017

Thumpers take a spin over the layout. It is run as the real location would be run in both the BR Sectorisation and post-privatisation eras. It is also home to my EMU and DEMU fleet, whether they are suitable for the location being modelled or not!

Remodelling of my EM gauge Folkestone East is making progress, having reached that ‘nothing looks finished’ chaotic stage. To recap, the work commenced with rebuilding the key cross-over from the down line to the yard and branch turn-back sidings. This required the removal of the Up staff halt platform and signalling to allow room to work on the new track and to allow for the slight remodelling of the track at that location. No.6 curved turnouts were replaced with longer No. 8 turnouts making the track run in a smoother arc in the curves and through the turnouts. The new track can be seen in the image below.


The flats which can be seen at the Ashford end of the real location have been built and in the process of detailing – fitting windows etc. The buildings are loose fitted to the layout and will be removable once the scenery is complete to suit particular date and time stamps, so to speak. Furthermore, they will be partially screened by weed trees growing on the embankment. The actual structures are slightly smaller than scale  – the real ones being set a little further back from the lineside.


Two of the most challenging structures to build include Folkestone East signal box (above) and the electricity sub station (which will be located more or less opposite this scene). The box might appear to be of a simple design. However, there are elements of it that are quite challenging to work out, including the sun shields. The interior has been left clear to allow me to model the panel.

The box is situated on the old demolished Down platform of Folkestone East station. A short length of platform survives as a staff halt as it does on the Up side as mentioned above. Note how the box is set into the demolished platform with a low retaining wall.

 

The back drop has been pushed back about three inches to make room for some more low relief buildings including the end of the terrace houses on the street leading to the signal box. The end of an small industrial building is to be added too. Yes, the layout is seeing quite some remodelling, but I hope the extra effort will be worth it. The new cross-over track has already brought much benefit in improved running over what is already a pretty reliable layout. The signal box is reaching the painting and detailing stage. Already, I am eyeing up the construction of baseboards for the harbour branch.

 


Dapol Class 73s…into traffic!

March 28, 2017

No. 73 108 in late condition, photographed at Eastleigh in 2002.
Faded, dirty but still doing its stuff on the SE TPO.

No. 73 108 is one of the locomotives I have chosen to model using one of the two new Dapol models to recently arrive on Folkestone East. Conversion to EM turned out to be the simple, involving the regauging of the split axle wheel sets which have a good profile on them – good enough to run smoothly through my hand built track.

There are many well-thought out technical features of this model. The body lifts straight off after releasing the retaining screws – no pesky clips to fight. Don’t loose the screws though or you will be scr*wed when it comes to putting the body back. There is a good space for both decoder (nearest) and a sound speaker. A 21-pin socket ensures all lighting features have power.

The circuit board makes contact with circuits in the body by means of a row of sprung contact pins which eliminates linking wires and plug and sockets. However, I did not want the cab lights illuminated and was looking to fit a decoder with ‘stay-alive’ (‘keep-alive’) . The only one I had to hand was a wired LaisDCC one which works well with this mechanism. 21-pin versions with stay-alive are also available. I also wished to work the head code lights independently using red LEDs, so decided to remove the circuit board and hard wire a LaisDCC decoder in place with its stay-alive capacitor. The lighting connections to the circuit board are easy to locate and desolder, so this hard wire DCC conversion is easily reversed – the circuit board being stored away safely.

The image above shows the hard wire installation, with the head light LEDs wired with 5k Ohm resistors to reduce the fierce light to something a little more realistic. Connections will be made with the head code box LEDs too.

A stay-alive unit is seen in this image. It was not quite powerful enough to power the Dapol Class 73 when it lost contact through those pick-up bearing rings. In the end, I built a new stay-alive unit with some higher Farad rated capacitors with great success. The higher rated unit was still connected to the same LaisDCC decoder. It is worth mentioning that even the smallest capacity stay alive unit will prevent light flicker in the most reliable models even if there’s not enough juice to deal with a serious stall. In many instances, the flywheels fitted to modern mechanisms will carry a loco over a minute dirty spot without interruption,. The only hint of a problem will be a flickering of LED head and tail lights. Stay alive units also smooth the operation of locomotives that otherwise seem to run well.

A final look at the DCC installation. It may seem strange to remove the convenient 21-pin DCC interface. However, wired decoders offer so much more flexibility in terms of organising lighting effects and this installation turned out to be quick and effective. The model is numbered 73 108 with an address of 3108 and is now hauling trains on Folkestone East. It is at this point I must admit to keeping two Lima EDs, stripped of drives and in the process of being reworked with Dapol detailing parts. One is No. 73 129 ‘City of Winchester’ which is used as a trailing unit in the SE TPO so the train can be top and tailed. Two Dapol EDs on this train is overkill. The second loco was also a regular on the SE TPO: No. 73 131 which will eventually be refinished in EWS livery.