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.


Dapol Class 73s in OO gauge.

March 27, 2017

A long term plan to replace my Lima Class 73s (EDs) with the new Dapol one is finally getting underway with the acquisition of two brand new models, both labelled as No. 73 138. One will be renumbered No. 73 107 and the other No. 73 108. Once in traffic (one is being run-in on the layout at this time) they will be supplemented with two more, to become 73 107 in plain grey  and 73 131 in EWS livery.

There is much to commend this model, despite the mixed reception it has received. It does look like an ED, even though I have some slight reservations about those front cab windows. I think the deep set head code panel actually causes the optical illusion that there is something not quite right when in fact they are probably pretty close. Some people have commented on the strange cab lighting arrangement, something I dislike and will isolate as part of the commissioning work.

Comment has been passed on the poor paint colours, particularly the rail blue versions, even though livery application in its self is pretty smooth. The yellow on my models is slightly the wrong shade (probably faded yellow) and who decided to colour match a sun faded roof? If you are modelling these locos in 2000s condition, that roof colour is not at all bad. However, for one in early to mid 1990s, the faded yellow and roof grey are no right at all – the grey should be executive dark grey. Also, by the time 73 107, 108 and  others reached  that stage of sun fading, they were pretty grubby!

My assessment of the models is not to give a critical review, but to look at them with regard to their use on Folkestone East. Tests with the first model to be commissioned (to become No. 73 108) shows that one will manage the South East or Dover-Manchester TPO single handed without any difficulty, even on the 1% incline up out of Martello Tunnel. Two Lima ones in multiple could not manage even the short 6-coach SE TPO on that short climb on the layout. The Dapol models are not particularly heavy, but demonstrate some excellent tractive effort and are very sure-footed on the track. They will make few demands on my hand built track formations.

The etched grille work and fine details are superb. Just superb. The overall shape is very good too, except perhaps the slightly over emphasised cab roof sagging (seen to vary slightly from loco to loco and depending on the angle and lighting of any photographs). No matter, the shape is more than fine with me.

Yes, it looks like an ED. Now, I have to get it running on EM gauge track like an ED before starting cosmetic work on the livery. When opening up the bogies, I discovered split axles with ring bearing bushes used to collect current through the inner section of the axles, so a stub-axle design with bogie frame mounted contacts was not used – to my advantage as it turned out.

Axle bush current collection is not a great design because such bearings also have to be lubricated and even so-called conductive lube can collect dirt which eventually prevents current from being conducted through to the internal circuits. However, the big boon, and I really mean this, is that the assembly of the split axles to large final drive gears with big and durable bosses allows easy regauging to EM gauge and that is where the lack of stub axles was very helpful. Once regauged, the axles still gripped the gear moulding well and the wheels are of such a nice profile as to run through EM track smoothly without any harsh clicking.

Adding Dapol EDs to the fleet has been both easy (wheels) and difficult (pick-ups). I decided to adopt stay-alive technology and a rigid wheel and bearing cleaning programme to avoid having to fit cumbersome wiper pick-ups to see if that would do the trick. When it came to fitting a decoder, I was really impressed with the ease of removing the body. Undo the screws and the body simply lifted off – no struggle, no clips to mess about with, no connecting wiring. There’s bags of room for a decoder and a special location for a digital sound speaker. I must admit, where some modellers see room for a speaker, I see room for stay-alive! More on DCC installation soon!

 


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.

 


Project update: 150002 and 90 033.

October 3, 2016

90033-1Having completed the OHLE gantries on Dudley Heath, the push to prepare more electric stock has started with a Class 310 (AM10) No. 310106 and a Class 90. The Class 90, based on the venerable Graham Farish model has reached the paint shop already and may be completed in time for the Aberdeen Model Railway Club exhibition at the end of the month. It is to be finished as 90 033 in June 2004 condition wearing Railfreight Distribution international livery as seen below.

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Note the lack of a fairing at the pantograph end of the loco (nearest the camera). The model will have full detailing of the buffer beam at the end equipped with the fairing and a coupling at the non-fairing end.

Next up: Class 150/0 No. 150002…

150002-2150002-1I very much doubt that the second of the prototype Class 150/0s will be finished in time for the Aberdeen show. Vehicles No.s 55201 and 55301 are now equipped with the former Class 154 roof mounted air-con vents, a feature which was not applied to the centre car. The driving cab doors have been changed from inward slam doors to a representation of power doors. The hand rail recess es are now filled and finished with wet and dry paper. Note that the original roof vents have been removed.

15002-3Remedial work on the centre car No. 55401 has been completed. After the cut and shut stage of the project, the body was undercoated in rail grey to reveal any faults in the area where the two body sections had been joined. As always, some further work was required (see above) to make the join as seamless as humanly possible – not easy with all those roof ribs! It has since returned to the paint booth for a second undercoat of rail grey and the additional finishing appears to be much better. Once that undercoat has fully dried in the next couple of days, the first livery colour will be applied.

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In the meantime, No. 90 033 has passed through the paint booth for warning panel yellow. RfD international blue and slate grey are next! More on the Class 310 soon.


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!