Handy diorama boards…

September 24, 2017

…and minutes to assemble!

From time to time, I get the chance to look at some very useful quality products  such as the track cleaning car by Ten Commandment Models/KPF Zeller. Recently, another excellent product has appeared in the studio for evaluation. I have recently had the opportunity to give the new laser-cut diorama baseboard units manufactured by Scale Model Scenery a try. Two outer (end) and one centre unit board has been built for review and I am most impressed by their potential. The outer units build up with back and side boards and may be either a left-hand or right-hand end unit. The centre one has additional fixings and a back board. Three together makes a baseboard with 121cm length measured on the inside faces of both the left- and right-hand side boards – ideal for a compact or micro-layout in N or OO/HO gauge. Add another centre unit and an O gauge diorama or micro-layout is possible. Fixings to secure the boards together are supplied in each kit.

Assembly is quick and easy – can be done on a table top with minimal tools and a spot of fast-setting wood glue. Within an hour, you could be laying track (and track bed) and planning wiring, structures and scenic detailing!

The ‘dove-tail’ construction method is strong and although I would suggest glue is used to permanently secure the boards and plinths together, the parts having a good interference fit. A slight tap with my hand was needed to seat some of the sections together. The plinths are deep enough for solenoid point motors such as Seep motors or servos. The thickness of the high grade MDF from which the boards are made is sufficiently strong to support a small layout theme because the unsupported length of the boards is small.

There is no reason why a small layout built on these boards could not be exhibited from time to time. The real benefit is being able to dismantle the layout into sections for storage or having the option to secure the boards together as a single length of layout as seen in the accompanying pictures. For those not keen on joinery, or without the space to work with timber and all the mess that goes with cutting and shaping it, these boards offer a lot of potential. I can see military diorama modellers taking an interest is these units too. They will save a great deal of time!

Features are two BB001 large diorama baseboards, one built as a left-hand and one and a right-hand unit using the alternative front plinths supplied in the kits. A BB002 middle unit was used for the middle board. Produced by Scale Model Scenery: http://www.scalemodelscenery.co.uk.

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Bachmann’s SE&CR ‘Birdcage’ stock in pictures.

September 5, 2017

Long awaited, the 60-foot SE&CR ‘Birdcage’ stock is due for release in September 2017. Three coaches in BR Crimson livery as permanently coupled three-coach set No. 595 will be the first to arrive. Here’s a preview of the models in BR condition with second dynamo and battery box set fitted to the Brake Third together with torpedo ventilators and plain roof profiles – lighting conduit being located under the roof.

39-602 Brake Third Lavatory coach No. S3500S

39-612 Composite Lavatory coach S5468S (centre coach):

39-622 Brake Third coach No. S3428S:

Further releases are expected as Autumn progresses including three-coach sets for the Southern Railway and SE&CR with appropriate detail differences reflecting the time era in which the coaches operated. N gauge models are in development and will be released under the Graham farish label.

Model details:

  • Metal wheels.
  • Insulated wheel set axles.
  • Current collection through stub axles.
  • Facility for the fitting of interior lighting.
  • NEM coupling pockets.
  • Close coupling cams.
  • Era and vehicle specific details.
  • Separate wire hand rails and commode handles.
  • Separate wire water tank filler pipes.
  • Flush glazed.
  • Interior detailing – compartments and seating.
  • Coaches offered with numbers to make up correct three-coach sets.

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.

 


Desirable ‘Desiro’.

July 18, 2017

Bachmann’s colourful OO gauge South West Trains (SWT) Class 450 arrives…

The Class 450 due for imminent release is being offered in two finishes – pristine and weathered as shown in this picture.

Inner end detail of one of the driving cars.

The roof has a bleached or sun-faded appearance commonly found on the full size trains whilst the body sides remain in less affected condition due to the use of vinyls.

Underframe details are specific to the Class 450, even though the model is based on the previously released Class 350.

Weathering and distressing has been applied to empty pantograph well. Class 450s work exclusively on the third rail network and as such no pantograph is fitted.

The Class 450 is a four-car set with the powered car located in the middle of the set.

Overall, the Class 450 finished in outer suburban SWT blue livery is a stunning looking model and is common with modern EMUs, translates in a very attractive model. They are worthy successors to the 4-Vep, 4-cep and 4-Cig they replaced alongside the ‘Desiro’ Class 444.

In summary:

  • 21-pin DCC socket.
  • 4-wheel drive in powered car.
  • 5-pole can motor.
  • Electrical bar couplings throughout the set requiring only one decoder to operate all of the lights.
  • Close coupling cams.
  • Fully working running lights.
  • Faded roof colours to represent a unit in regular service.
  • Revisions to PTOSLW car to distinguish the model from the similar 25kV AC Class 350.
  • Interior lighting.
  • Accessory pack with air dam, cabling and cosmetic Dellner couplings.

 


First Bachmann 4-Cep conversion.

April 11, 2017

The Bachmann 4-Cep in original condition as supplied out of the box. A conversion is more of a long project than anything of extreme complexity. Until you have to repaint it!

A long overdue project for my EM gauge Folkestone East project is to convert several OO gauge Bachmann Class 411 4-Cep units to represent the Swindon refurbished units; work undertaken to upgrade the fleet in the early 1980s. The model, as it is supplied, is a four-car set in original ‘as built’ condition with typical Mark 1 coach features. The refurbished 4-Cep conversion involves a long-winded removal of the glazing units and moulded window frames; relocating the guards compartments to the CK and fitting of new glazing units and hopper window frames. The moulded window frames were pared away and smoothed down ready for the new etched ones which are fitted once all painting is complete. The stainless steel colour will be a good representation of the unpainted bare metal of those fitted to refurbished 4-Ceps. This was done using a stainless steel etch designed by another Southern Region modeller called David Crow (see below) and kindly made freely available.

The guards compartment was relocated to a middle trailer during refurbishment work. The original guards compartments in the outer DMBSO vehicles was removed to provide an additional seating bay.

The conversion will involve several other detail changes including swapping the bogies for Commonwealth types and double checking the type of roof ventilator fitted to your chosen unit – they did vary with ridge dome, scallop dome and shell vents all featuring in the 4-Cep fleet. I started work by converting the corridor composite trailer into a composite brake – the two guards compartments in the outer DMBSO trailers being located to bring the 4-Ceps in line with other express stock such as the 4-Cig, 4-Big and 4-Vep units.

Filing plastic away to fit the etched overlay section flush with the rest of the coach sides.

With the guards compartment relocated, the DMBSOs are converted to remove the guards compartments from those vehicles and cut in new windows for an additional seating bay. The etched window frames are used as a guide.

Once positioned as near as can be, the window in the original double doors is sealed up and the new windows cut in on both sides of the trailer.

The door line, door handle and hinges are removed too to create a smooth surface. Some filling is required to complete this work.

A final rub down in the kitchen sink with fine wet and dry paper and the model is ready for the paint shop – models rarely look well after this much work. The first coat of paint will quickly reveal flaws in the body work that need further attention. Rub down again, fill where necessary and re-coat before progressing to more complex parts of the livery! This model is to become No. 1562 finished in Network South-East livery (see below). The full size unit survived until around 2004.


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.


Stay Alive ‘Peckett’ – fitting decoder and ‘cap’ to the Hornby model.

January 22, 2017

There’s not a lot of room in the Hornby OO gauge Peckett W4 0-4-0ST locomotive model which comes as no surprise. To maximise pulling power, the saddle tank, boiler and frame assembly is entirely cast from metal – beautifully done but challenging should you wish to fit even the smallest ‘Stay Alive’ device or speaker for digital sound.

 

The challenging little Peckett - a beautiful runner, but interesting should you wish to fit something other than the decoder Hornby has designed for it.

The challenging little Peckett – a beautiful runner, but interesting should you wish to fit something other than the decoder Hornby has designed for it.

Hornby has fitted a non-standard 4-pin interface for an adaptation of its small loco decoder. However, not all of us use Hornby DCC equipment and for various reasons too many to mention here. Adding an alternative N gauge decoder such as a Digitraz DZ126 for example would require hard wiring – at least it will slot into the front of the motor cavity where Hornby intends its own decoder to fit. However, when it comes to adding a Stay Alive device or digital sound…there’s simply no room unless the 4-pin plug arrangement is removed from the side of the motor and some milling out of the inside of the die-cast body undertaken – tricky!

This project shows how I fitted an N gauge decoder and Stay Alive to the Hornby Peckett.

This project shows how I fitted an N gauge decoder and Stay Alive to the Hornby Peckett.

To take advantage of the lovely mechanism over the sharp and complex track of the Loch Dhu Distillery yard, Stay Alive is essential to smooth operation in a loco with just four wheels and four current pick-ups distributed over a short wheelbase. I decided to try one of the low-cost LaisDCC decoders with its Stay Alive unit which would provide something like 0.5 to 1 second of power when track supply is interrupted. More power time would be desirable, but there’s simply insufficient space in the loco for a larger capacitor circuit such as the TCS KA-series decoders! Anyway, this is how I tackled the project. The same approach could be adopted by those wishing to fit a digital sound decoder – a sugar cube speaker should fit at the front of the model where I fitted the Stay Alive device. The model’s wiring, TV interference suppression capacitor and decoder retaining bracket were removed first.

Two screws hold the body in place - one is concealed behind a NEM coupling box.

Two screws hold the body in place – one is concealed behind the NEM coupling box at the front of the model.

There it is!

There it is!

For this project, soldering cannot be avoided. You will need heat shrink sleeve, a soldering iron and electrical solder, Kapton tape, double-sided adhesive tape, wire strippers, tweezers, mini-drill, milling tool for a mini-drill, wet and dry paper, screwdriver set, fine nose pliers, modelling knife and somewhere comfortable to work with plenty of light. It’s a long job!

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The wiring is simple including the rather large 4-pin socket arrangement. Interestingly enough, this is the start of fititng a decoder to the side of the motor to leave the front area clear for the Stay Alive unit (or speaker for a sound decoder).

Die-cast metal all round in the motor cavity - all of which can cause a short and kill a decoder if care is not taken over insulation and making enough room for the decoder.

Die-cast metal all round in the motor cavity – all of which can cause a short and kill a decoder if care is not taken over insulation and making enough room for the decoder.

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Yes, there is potential for attaching a decoder to the side of the motor. Some further space will need to be ‘created’ by milling away some of the inside of the loco body. There is also enough room to run wiring across the top of the motor mount but not around the back.

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Wiring and brackets are stripped away. Heat shrink sleeve is used to insulate the soldered connections between loco wiring, Stay Alive device and the decoder harness wires.

The decoder wiring has been shortened to fit the model. The unwanted lighting function wires have been trimmed short and insulated from everything else with 'Kapton' tape.

The decoder wiring has been shortened to fit the model. The unwanted lighting function wires have been trimmed short and insulated from everything else with ‘Kapton’ tape.

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With the decoder positioned on the side of the motor, it is now a simple task to work out how much metal to remove from the inside of the body.

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Around 2mm of metal was removed from the inside of the body, on one side only. This shows progress after 30 minutes of very careful work.

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Once the body will easily slide on and off the chassis without the decoder catching anywhere, you are finished. Clean up rough edges with wet and dry paper and insulate the inside surfaces of the motor cavity with insulation tape. When test fitting the model, do not force it over the decoder – crushing and scraping will damage it. If there is even a hint of the body catching the decoder, remove it and slowly mill away some more metal. There’s plenty to go at without piercing the saddle tank!

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Final assembly with Stay Alive ‘cap’ taped into place and Kapton tape used to secure wiring in place. The body now drops straight on to the chassis without touching any components.

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A time consuming installation but well worth it. The value of CV29 was set to 34 to switch the analogue operation off so the Stay Alive unit will function correctly (also for 4-figure addressing). I hope the close proximity of the die-cast body will act as a heat sink for any heat generated by the decoder, not that this loco will be under much load!

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The installation has resulted in a smooth running engine. The effect of using a low power Stay Alive is to make operations smoother in such a small short wheelbase engine. If the track is truly contaminated, it won’t work as well as a TCS KA-series ‘Keep Alive’ device, but there’s no fitting one of those in a Hornby Peckett without seriously milling away a great deal of the die-cast metal with the consequent loss of adhesion.

Examples of the TCS KA-series decoders and 'Keep Alive' units - too large for this project!

Examples of the TCS KA-series decoders and ‘Keep Alive’ units – too large for this project!

The Hornby Peckett at work at the Loch Dhu Distillery interchange sidings.

The Hornby Peckett at work at the Loch Dhu Distillery interchange sidings.