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.

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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!

 


Trans-Pennine Express Class 350/4 in N gauge.

March 28, 2016

Class 350-4-21

Fancy having a go at a really complex livery? How does the dazzling First Group colours as applied to the Trans-Pennine Express Class 350/4s (Siemens Desiro) grab you? Insane? You bet!

Class 350-4-20

I cheated a little – well, rather a lot when it came to it. Electra Railway Graphics produces great-looking printed self-adhesive vinyl overlays for many ready to run N gauge models. A set is available to redress the Bachmann Graham Farish Class 350/1 model into a TPE Class 350/4 and they do the job very nicely and with minimal repainting. None if you really don’t want to wield a paint brush, not even for the scantiest of touching up or underframe weathering.

Class 350-4-25

The base model is the fine-looking Graham Farish Class 350/1 as seen in the front of the picture above. The plain grey unbranded ‘Silverlink’ version is generally regarded as the best choice for this conversion. OO gauge modellers can complete the same conversion using Electra Railway Graphics overlays for the Bachmann Branchline Class 350/1 model.

Class 350-4-27

The overlays can be applied straight over the top of the model’s sides without having to remove glazing or make any other modifications – window glazing is part of the vinyls and intended to overlay the original glazing. However, putting a little extra effort into the project lifts it to another level. The glazing inserts were removed from the model and placed safely in a project box so not to loose any before starting the conversion. I spent some work bench time time painting the tumblehome on the underframe mouldings dark grey. The windows in the vinyl sides were cut in through the body shell after vinyl application.

Class 350-4-28

Once the side and end overlays were completed, they were touched in with dark grey and blue paint where necessary. The sides were sealed in place with Johnsons ‘Klear’ liquid floor wax. When the body shells were completely dry, they were coated with satin varnish to kill the vinyl shine.

Class 350-4-24

Weathering the underframes and replacing the Graham Farish pantograph with a Dapol version of the Brecknell Willis ‘pan’ completed the model. Having given the satin varnish a number of days to dry, the glazing was reinstated and secured with sparing amounts of liquid poly cement.

The finished model is numbered 350404, representing one of the ten-strong fleet of TPE units which work between Manchester Airport, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley via the West Coast Main Line.

Class 350-4-22

In reality, as much as I like the units and enjoyed the conversion, TPE Class 350/4s are not suitable for Dudley Heath – they do not run through the West Midlands and also sit outside my operating timefrme. However, it was a livery conversion I wanted to attempt using the printed vinyl overlay technique – I frequently see the units on my rail fanning trips down to the Central Belt. In the meantime, the unmodified Class 350/1 featured in these pictures will continue to operate crew training runs and mileage accumulation diagrams on Dudley Heath representing the most up-to-date time that represented on the layout. It has a new ‘pan’ and modifications to the couplings to allow tight close coupling within the unit. Some detailing will follow, including adding couplings and other fittings to the front of the unit’s DMOS vehicles.

Now that 25kV AC OHLE is represented by portals and masts on the layout, what will be my next EMU project? Something more appropriate to the West Midlands circa year 2000. A clue: older style of Graham Farish Mark 2 coaches are being gathered together for the project…


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.

 


Ballast loads

August 8, 2013

Image 307

One of those jobs I rarely find the time to do is fill my wagons with some sort of load. As it stands, I have a substantial fleet of ballast and spoil wagons with nary a drop of ballast in them! They have been weathered, but left without a load. Okay, not all wagons will have a load at any one time, but the lack of any loads in my fleet looks strange. The problem is that I find load making a tedious affair at the best of times and making them light enough so not to overload already hefty wagons such as the Dapol MRA takes some time to work out too.

Image 306

Enter Wagon Essentials and its lovely range of loads for various open wagons. I have equipped a recently weathered MRA with a full set of loads to good effect. This was followed up with a set of Network Rail JNAs, enhancing the appearance of the wagons considerably. So far, I have only used ballast loads which are composed of soft, light polystyrene bases which add little to the weight of the wagon and do not scratch the paint finish (or carefully applied weathering effects).

Image 405

I suggest you complete any weathering before fitting the loads. The effect looks so much better, especially if the interior of the wagon has been treated with rust and dust from the load. The Wagon Essentials products are far better than filling up open wagons with ballast and gluing it in which only wastes material and adds too much weight to the model. With the Dapol MRA weighing in at nearly a Kilo for a 5-wagon set, the last thing you want to do to that model is add any more weight than is absolutely necessary. More information can be found on the Wagon Essentials web site.


N Gauge Class 22.

May 18, 2013

 

Class 22 image 1Western Region modellers are going to love this one – a small loco in a small scale which will inspire a few layouts, I am sure. Despite the long held view that minority loco classes would not make it to main stream modelling, manufacturers have broken into this field and are now offering some very attractive models of unusual prototypes. For N gauge, the Class 22 breaks new ground and Dapol has done a pretty good job of it too.Class 22 image 2It is a small Bo-Bo type locomotive which will suit anything from large layout themes based on WR main line action to sleepy west country branch lines.Class 22 image 5Features include wire hand rails, etched grilles applied to the body sides and flush glazing.Class 22 image 4The  off-set roof radiator grille characteristic of the Class 22 is faithfully represented.Class 22 image 3The face of what turned out to be a smooth running and powerful little model.Class 22-image 6

Class 22 image 8Spoked wheels are fitted and the spokes are individually represented. remember when it was considered impossible to produce spoked loco wheels (steam and diesel) for N gauge which were see-through? All four axles are powered.Class 22 image 7The technical specifications are up to the usual Dapol N gauge standard. A five pole slow speed motor is fitted which drives both bogies though the now standard drive shafts. Brass flywheels ensure that the model has some momentum too. Electronics include running lights and a 6-pin DCC socket. The body simply pulls off (no connecting wires to the chassis) to reveal a die cast chassis which brings the model’s weight in at around 75g. Test running proved to be very satisfactory, with no light leakage into the cab and smooth controllable running. In all, a very smart model of an unusual prototype!


Completing the W&SR set in N gauge.

January 15, 2013

W&S image 1

The small pint sized N gauge layout I built as a layout project for BRM magazine is not nearly complete, but sees a great deal of use day to day for photography and just playing trains. The arrival of the new Dapol N gauge twin coach pack to go with the Wrexham & Shropshire book set sees a complete formation out on the main line of Dudley Heath for the first time, replacing a couple of vinyl overlay Mk.3 coaches I was using in the set as stand in vehicles.

W&S Image 2
The twin pack consists of one of Dapol’s new Mk.3 RFM coaches which makes up the missing Coach A of the formation and a Standard Class coach. There are some detail differences between the full size RFM vehicles refurbished for use by W&SR and the model. However, the near fit model is still much welcomed.

W&S Image 4

The catering car is located adjacent to the DVT. The second coach of the pack is a Standard Class Mk.3 trailer as the missing Coach A. Not only is the set now complete, but in the correct coach letter order too.

W&S Image 3
A four plus two formation is the perfect length of train for Dudley Heath which runs well in both propelling and hauling mode. In addition to the W&SR twin pack, Dapol is releasing a similar trailer plus RFM pack for the Virgin West Coast ‘Pretendolino’ MK.3 set and a catering trailer for the East Midlands Trains HST book set.

W&S31
A reminder of the W&SR service two years following its withdrawal. Coach C – a Mk.3 Standard coach.

W&S_21
Coach D at the country end of the set coupled to the DVT. This is a rebuilt Mk.3 RFM vehicle.

W&S_11