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…


Keeping it simple…control panels

March 13, 2016

control panel OMWB_3

Overly complicated layout controls are not my thing – I am more interested in train operation than trying to duplicate a signal box interior. The minimalist approach does not detract from the train driving experience, particularly on my large N scale Montana Rail Link layout where the use of wireless throttles allows engineers to follow their trains around the layout – hence the need for local panels.

With completion of track laying at Paradise East (Paradise MT) together with a running circuit on this second level of the bi-level layout, the time to consider control panels to operate the main line turnouts arose (the yard turnouts are manual). Even with my minimalist approach to layout design and construction, I was surprised how little work was needed to put in two local panels fed by a master control panel for this level of the layout.

control panel OMWB_2

Simplicity is very much thanks to DCC where there is no need for any section switches to separate locomotives from each other. All there is on each control panel is a Double-Pole, Double-Throw (DPDT) switch for each turnout motor and indicator LEDs (green for normal position and red for thrown). Using duplicate controls at the master panel means that indicator LEDs are a must as the switch position is no indication of the set of the turnouts.

control panel OMWB_1

Simple wiring too! This is the local panel fed from the master panel. A simple wooden frame, 80 thou styrene card top and some securing screws is all that is necessary to get this element of the layout working. The corners, edges etc. are smoothed down and rounded off to avoid snagging clothes or skin!

control panel OMWB

The local Paradise East panel in operation except for the switch on the left which remains to be wired up with the powered main line turnout at the west end of Paradise Yard. Some aircraft lining tape will be applied to show the track layout. Eventually, the styrene tops will be replaced with something more graphic. But in the mean time, to get an area of layout operations quickly for fine-tuning, de-snagging and adjustment, simple controls are all that is needed!

 


Dudley Heath OHLE update…

February 25, 2016
OHLE Class 350

The Graham Farish Class 350 is a particular favourite of mine and this model of an unbranded one (No. 350111) makes a training run every now and again during an operation session. This scene shows a main line scene with space for the models to be seen but in a layout which is only 260cm in length and 90cm wide.

A long term project to equip my N gauge ‘Dudley Heath’ (DH) with 1960s West Coast Main Line Mark-1 series OHLE is finally coming to a conclusion. It has been eight months since the project was started and the first portals were dropped into place in time for last years’ Perth show. Each portal has turned into a detailed model in its own right and a single portal can take several hours to complete depending on its complexity.

The long and complex portals over the double junction are nearing completion and those on the opposite scene to the one above are being further detailed (DH is a double-sided layout with scenes on both sides of its long axis).

OHLE Class 86 plus vans

A Dapol Class 86, No. 86 261 passes over the double junction which is one of the features of my Dudley Heath layout. The portal nearest the camera is still being constructed at the time this shot was taken. The Class 86 is set to become No. 86 401 in due course – a renumbering and partial repainting project.

The portal etchings for Mark 1-series OHLE are produced in N and OO gauge by N-Brass Locos which offers a wide range of portals, masts and fittings for this type of electrification. They can be built as they come or extensively modified as appropriate. The double junction above took a little working out and the portal shown remains to be detailed with the rest of the isolation gear for the diverging line. I used a lot of digital images to help me install the portals as level and upright as humanly possible. What the eye misses, the camera does not and a few of them turned out to need adjustment after pictures were closely examined.

OHLE spare Class 86

I love the Dapol Class 86 model and being able to operate them on DH at last is great – electrification is an added dimension to the layout. Once the OHLE portals are all fitted, some tidying up will be needed and some areas of the layout further detailed. Whilst I am keen not to crowd the layout with too much detail, a little more in the yard and in some other areas is needed. otherwise, I like the minimalist appearance of the layout where the emphasis is on operations.

Another project to start this spring involves the intermodal service as seen in the picture above. I wish to replace many of the stock Graham Farish 45-foot containers that came with the intermodal twin wagons and replace them with a mix of different boxes and tank-tainers to vary things up a little – with due regard to the era in which certain intermodal units were operated. I also have an MOD service in mind with KFA flats, VGA vans, C-Rail MOD containers and a couple of other wagons to make up something a little different.

86401

I have a little work to do on the traction front including the renumbering of the Dapol Class 86 model of No. 86 261 to No. 86 401 together with weathering to match the condition of the full-size loco shown in 2002 condition in the picture above.

Electrification has opened up opportunities to model EMUs such as a Class 310 or 312 together with a more modern Class 322. They were signature trains of the West Midlands and operated local passenger services over the Grand Junction Railway, the line through the Black Country on which the DH layout theme is based.

Hopefully, some of these projects will be completed in time for the Glenrothes Model Railway Exhibition 2016 (14th and 15th May) to which DH has been invited. An invitation has also been received for the Falkirk MRC later in 2016. Lot’s to do!


N gauge Network Rail New Measurement Train HST

October 28, 2015
NR HST

The NMT HST set includes five heavily converted and detailed Dapol Mark 3 HST trailers.

After several tips out to exhibitions with my N gauge Dudley Heath layout, I have realised that I have too much of a mish-mash of stock. I am operating a fleet which covers too great a time span and I need to tighten up things a little. I have a certain number of trains which are at the extreme modern end of my preferred timescale and my Network Rail New Measurement Train is one such. Also, it is a little too long to operate on the layout satisfactorily, so regrettably, I have decided to sell it.

The Ebay listing item number is 111806247371, and includes all five trailers plus the Dapol HST power cars. The Dapol Mark 3 trailers are not converted with vinyl overlays (nothing wrong with vinyl overlays – I have used them very successfully) but etched brass components, a repaint and Railtec Models Transfers. The set runs great in both directions and has managed 12 inch radius curves comfortably. Anyway, it’s for sale to make room for new and less modern projects. Also for sale on Ebay, for the same reason but in a different scale is My NR Class 950 conversion project.  More on that later!

NR HST trailers NR HST trailers_4 NR HST trailers_3 NR HST trailers_2 NR HST trailers_1 NR HST power cars


Truss-bridge works part 2

September 28, 2015

Bridge 218-3

MRL Bridge 218 has progressed a little recently. Five piers, two end abutments and the approach spans have been completed in a bid to span a large gap at the west end of the 4th Sub mainline where it crosses the Clark Fork River at Paradise MT. Without this structure, trains cannot begin to operate as intended. Using Kato Unitrack truss spans has saved some time and considerable amounts of money over using truss bridge kits, despite time-consuming modifications to the spans to off-set them to cross the river at an angle.

Bridge 218-2

As of today, the track panels for each span are complete and a timbered bridge deck to create the impression of ‘bridge track’ is being installed using strips of 40thou styrene card. That is a mind boggling task in its own right, but given that Micro Engineering Company track bridge track is difficult to find in the UK, it is a viable option. The gauge of 9mm for N scale is achieved by soldering code 55 rail to copper clad sleeper strip, spaced to match the trussing members. The gaps are then filled in with styrene strips to represent the larger timbers used in bridge track. Each truss section has its own track panel and the truss spa track sections will be joined using the track rail joiners when assembled on the piers.

Bridge 218-1

The structure is loosely placed on the layout to check the height of the bridge track with the adjacent abutments. There remains a few millimetres of adjustment to do in raising the bridge which can be done by completing the bearing pad detail. The piers are constructed of 80thou styrene with a wrapper of embossed stone card by South Eastern Finescale which was leftover from another project. The real Bridge 218 has concrete piers which, until recent repairs were undertaken by MRL, were looking pretty weathered and heavily patched and repaired. Embossed styrene card provides a key for a smear of Squadron filler which will be roughly rubbed down to create the desired worn concrete effect – some of the outline of the stone embossing may show though in places adding to the patched effect. Smooth styrene sheet would not have been so visually effective.

The structure will be used on the layout in unfinished condition for a time until the spans are painted dull black and weathered; the piers painted in some lovely warm concrete colours and a newer highway bridge constructed and placed immediately behind the rail bridge. Some additional detail remains to be added to the Unitrack truss spans over the next few modelling sessions.

It is turning out to be a long, long project, but one which I think will produce a passable representation of Bridge 218 on MRL at Paradise MT. Whilst there are some significant detail differences between the real truss spans of Bridge 218 and the Unitrack models, the compromise will be acceptable to me now the spans are off-set to cross the river at an angle and in the process of being detailed. There is not N gauge kit which could be used to make the truss spans making up Bridge 218 that is readily available. So rather than slip a piece of plywood in as a stop-gap, the Unitrack spans seem to be a fair substitute and should carry heavy (for N scale) 10 to 12 foot long trains without difficulty!

 


Truss bridge works

September 9, 2015

River bridge23OMWB

Work on my N scale Montana Rail Link layout has taken a back seat to Dudley Heath and Wheal Annah in recent times. This summer saw a resurgence in activity as I reconsidered the layout plan and track layout. The experimental building of a removable door bridge over the layout room’s entrance door changed my perspective of how the layout could work. Furthermore, operations revealed some shortcomings too – it’s a good idea to really operate a layout before starting any scenery! A new track schematic was devised together with some layout planning to relocate certain layout design elements.

I use an MRL profile book for my track planning, copying real life track layouts where possible to fit in a square layout room. However, working out a high level schematic takes a little doing at times. The idea is to work out how trains will be routed around the layout, incorporating staging yards and features such as a helix so trains flow over the layout as the real railways intended. Details such as the track layouts at certain locations can be determined after the basic route has been planned.

Planning the revised route for my MRL 4th Sub (water level route) meant I could eliminate one staging yard which was awkward to locate, saving a great deal of track at the same time. I am not a great fan of extensive off-stage storage and both of the yards at both ends of the line will act as scenic staging. After all, this layout will not host massive operating sessions, so having vast numbers of trains waiting off-stage to traverse the layout will not be necessary. As the plan developed, I realised that one of the blocks to further development of the layout was not just the determination not to cross the door way to the room, but the location of the helix too. It had to be moved – no small undertaking.

Removal to a position at the complete opposite corner of the room entailed the removal of a great deal of track and some bench work. Once disconnected, it rolled across the layout room floor without difficulty. Anyone who has undertaken such a huge revision to a layout will know that once track lifting starts, there’s always a little more to take up and so it goes. In the end, the only remaining track and wiring to survive the redesign was the formation at Missoula West and the west end of the reception roads. The yard reception roads were lifted and the turn back loop at the east end of the run taken out to accommodate the helix and the revised track formations. It is now all back in place and hopefully better designed.

The upper deck of the layout was also revised with a new, longer, double-ended staging yard replacing the two originals. It feeds directly into the helix at one end and allows trains to be staged for either end of the run. The upper deck of the layout is now a continuous loop whilst the bottom deck via Missoula West is a large return loop around the room. The secondary 10th Sub line fits better too and is now correctly pushed into its secondary role in the redesign as originally intended.

The new scheme has a longer main line run for less track and much less complexity. In common with the real MRL 4th sub, I wanted the track formations to be straightforward as possible. I can also install a reasonable representation of the small yard at Paradise MT together with the Clark Fork River crossing. And that is the current hold up to getting trains running once again. Until that four-span truss bridge is installed, trains are not going anywhere!

River bridge 288OMWB

To speed the job up a little, I decided to carve up four Kato Unitrack truss bridge spans so they would be reasonable, low cost stand-in structures for the real bridge. To fit, they would have to be skewed.

truss bridge3992OMWB

This involved cutting off one side and fititng it one support along, with suitable modifications.

truss bridge38882OMWB

I have to confess, that by this stage, I was not sure if this was such a good idea over kit bashing some Central Valley truss bridge kits.

River bridge 300OMWB

More detail remains to be added to each truss bridge span to further disguise its Kato origins. Once painted dull black and weathered, and fitted with some code 55 track, they will look great on the layout.

River bridge 121OMWB

The last picture of this blog entry shows the spline track bed (recovered and reused from the rebuilding of this section of the layout – in fact virtually all recovered materials were reused) leading towards the bridge location itself. The helix once occupied this site…amazingly. The Tortoise point motor just visible in the top right hand corner belongs to my Folkestone East layout which occupies the third deck of the layout room. Despite the chaos of partially rebuilding bench work and sorting out track and wiring, the changes are bringing numerous additional benefits to the project. Some scenes fit better and some hitherto ‘givens’ being relaxed has made the layout more enjoyable to work on. Sometimes, too much rigidity in layout planning can turn into an iron shirt which constrains the project and ultimately stifles progress.

Tomorrow – all being well with the weather, I am back out on the Monadhliath mountains!

 


OHLE for Dudley Heath

July 29, 2015

OHLE-2

The push is now on to complete the OHLE portals currently being installed on my N gauge ‘Dudley Heath’ layout. It has taken some time to complete the planning and find the money to make this part of the project a reality, as is the nature of these things. The total cost of the basic portal kits and fittings came to around £120.00 for both sides of the layout, a total of 22 portals and eight single masts, so the outlay was not insignificant. The time needed to fold and solder the portals together with the register arm assemblies was another factor for the slow progress.

OHLE-3

The OHLE portals represent the heavyweight 1950s Mark 1 WCML OHLE and are produced as flat brass kits by N Brass Locomotives which are folded to shape with the aid of brass folding bars and completed with various fittings for register arms, insulators and so on. The result is a basic portal (there are various lengths available) which can be primed, painted and installed as it is or detailed further with additional fittings. They certainly look the part in a West Midlands setting.

OHLE 1

The project was completed in part as preparation for exhibiting the layout at the Perth show in June this year, including painting and finishing of the portals except two over the junction on the opposite side of the layout to these pictures (it takes some time to assemble 22 portals). Bases and some additional details are being prepared to complete the portals and various other masts which will then allow me to use a handful of Dapol Class 86s on the layout. Some remedial work to scenery and other features will then follow together with completion of a number of structures.

And before you ask: I will not be modelling the contact and support wires – certainly not straightaway. They could prove to be too heavy in appearance in N gauge and too delicate for a portable layout which is dismantled for storage. I am not sure that the considerable time needed to put wires together convincingly could not be better used to rework some other areas of the layout with a better result, or indeed detailing the masts and portals to further reinforce the WCML Birmingham loop lines and Grand Junction lines atmosphere.


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