Model Rail Scotland

February 23, 2015
Squinty Bridge

Looking up the Clyde from the Bells Bridge towards the Squinty Bridge.

The annual jaunt to Glasgow for Model Rail Scotland is over for another year. Wheal Annah turned out to be an absorbing layout which was fun to operate. It was so busy that there was little time to get round the show with a camera.


Mark Chivers puts a shift in on ‘Wheal Annah’.

Mark Chivers was a great help with the layout, allowing me some time to pick up some supplies and some more wagons for the layout including a couple of Peco CDAs and some 5-plank open wagon kits. The latter will make the perfect stand-in for 1970s clay liner wagons after some details have been changed and detailing added including tarp covers. Layouts that did catch my eye included Scottish Modellers’ ‘Newlands Park’; Brian Thompson’s ‘Kilbowie’ and the massive extension to ‘The Maxwell Colliery Loading Point’ – the layout that never stops growing. Old favourites include ‘Outon Road’ and Ayr MRC’s ‘Perceton’. In all, a great weekend with a great cross-section of layouts to enjoy.


Model Rail Scotland exhibition and Nairnshire Modelling Supplies

February 9, 2015
Wheal Annan overview OMWB

Model Rail Scotland is only a couple of weeks away and much preparatory work remains to be done on Wheal Annah!

Sarah and I have decided to take Nairnshire Modelling Supplies off the exhibition circuit for the foreseeable future – we need a break from trading on the exhibition circuit. Consequently, NMS will not be at Model Rail Scotland (Glasgow SECC) in a couple of weeks’ time, I am afraid. NMS continues to offer a wide range of useful modelling materials online where we are introducing some changes to the range over the next year to meet the ever-changing model railway scene. The NMS web site with its secure online ordering can be found here.

Some of you may have come to this conclusion based on my blog references to preparing Wheal Annah for its exhibition debut on the Hornby Magazine stand where I will be found blethering about modelling techniques and layout building. The positive side of taking a break from trading at shows is being freed up to enjoy the exhibition circuit with one of my two N gauge exhibition layouts. Dudley Heath will be attending Perth in June and possibly Bonnybridge in the Autumn; whilst Model Rail Scotland is the only booking for Wheal Annah currently. Should be fun!


Pictures for Tuesday…

February 3, 2015

Wheal Annah Feb 2015 - 5 - OMWB

New stock for Wheal Annah is test-run as preparation for ModelRail Scotland continues slowly. The Railfreight Class 37 will be renumbered and fitted with replacement nameplates as one of St. Blazey’s finest – No 37 671 ‘Tre Pol and Pen’ looks favourite at this time!

Wheal Annah Feb 2015 OMWB

Wheal Annah February 2015 - 2- OMWB

Wheal Annah Feb 2015 - 3 - OMWB

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.


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!


Wheal Annah update – locos arrive…

August 27, 2014

Wheal Annah August 2014-22

The locos for Wheal Annah’s early 1970s period have finally arrived thanks to help from Andy Forty of Dapol in locating suitable examples. First up is a beast which is fairly alien to me – a ‘Western’ or Class 52, No. D1072 “Western Glory”. The headcode panels will have to be changed and in keeping with the later life of these locos, some weathering will be applied. Westerns did operate on china clay branches from time to time as well as being regulars on the Staffordshire ‘Clayliner’ service.

Wheal Annah August 2014-44

Class 22 No D6318 is the second Dapol loco to arrive for duty and is typical of china clay country. I have reviewed this model in the past and the example acquired for Wheal Annah is an excellent runner. Class 22s became horribly dirty in their later days of service, a feature which will be applied to No. D6318.

Wheal Annah August 2014

One of the objectives of building Wheal Annah is to use the layout as a performance test bed for modern standard N gauge locomotives and stock. Both a 6-axle and 4-axle loco from the Dapol range were required to work alongside an example of each from Bachmann Graham Farish models, hence the Class 52. It has turned out to be a smooth runner and it looks the part too. The 1970s era was determined by the needs of Hornby magazine where this layout is being featured as a short series. My personal preference would have been to model stock from the BR Sector period.

Wheal Annah August 2014-33

Initial testing of the layout has gone well using the equipment in standard condition without any changes to couplings or the stock itself. I will look at a variety of coupling types and will see how the lax N gauge tolerances will affect the ability to use automated uncoupling methods.

Wheal Annah August 2014-66

I was taken aback at how large china clay works buildings work out to be in model form. Even after careful measurement and extrapolation using good references of the full size buildings, they look pretty big. I found myself checking the size of rolling stock against buildings in reference photographs on numerous occasions to see if the scale was working out correctly and I was not making some fundamental error. Older china clay driers were often built into the side of hills to facilitate the drying and processing of clay, hence the apparent large size of the buildings. This small coal fired dries is only a part building and is missing about 2/3rds of its depth and length together with the hillside it would be built into.

With the locos in hand together with a Bachmann Graham Farish Class 37 (the new Class 25 is not due for a few months yet) a suitable comparison of similar loco types can be done. The layout has now been thoroughly tested and is ready for smaller detail structures – pipeline, industrial fittings and so on. Scenery is also in hand including the blending of the structures into the landscape (what there is of it) to remove the gap at the base of the works buildings. My thanks goes to Andy Forty of Dapol for his kind assistance with this project.