Teaser two…

August 6, 2017

It’s a…


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.


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!


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.

 

 


Mid-life crisis…? Well, after 2016…

January 6, 2017

autocoach-omwb-1

Um, no, you are not seeing things… I have the opportunity to look over the forthcoming Bachmann Hawksworth OO gauge auto-trailer (2017 release) and have enjoyed looking into 64xx ‘Pannier Tanks’ too. An interesting class of locomotive. There’s one that has attracted my attention: No. 6403, and that is due to my interest in the railways of the Black Country. The loco concerned was ‘shedded’ (to use a steam era term) at Stourbridge Junction in the last few years of its life and the Bachmann model above, according to my records and research, could relatively easily morph into No. 6403, more or less.

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39-578 as W234.

The auto-trailer shown in these pictures is yet to be released by Bachmann (39-578) at the time of writing. It looks pretty good to me on first inspection and with reference to ADW150375 and other images, I think the shape is pretty good (ADW150375 did see extensive modifications for its departmental role, something I have to consider when making comparisons). Anyway, here’s a few images of the model to give a flavour of what is on its way. Also to be released soon is a plain unlined BR maroon version (which will be very attractive for its ordinary every day appearance) and one finished as a preserved vehicle in chocolate and cream livery. And, no, this ensemble will not be appearing on Folkestone East…

autocoach-4-omwbautocoach-5-omwbautocoach-3-omwbFor the record, the Bachmann Hawksworth auto-trailer was first released in late 2015: 39-575 in 1951 BR crimson and cream as W231 (larger numbers); 39-576 BR lined maroon as W228W and 39-577 in BR crimson as W237W.

To come is the featured 39-578 BR carmine and cream as W234 together with 39-579 unlined BR maroon as W236 and 39-580 heritage railway chocolate and cream as W231W.