Wednesday, 11 March 2020

March 2020 FCAG meeting

We had a bright Spring day for our well-attended March meeting at Graham's house in Edinburgh. Nigel, Jim, Andy, Stephen, Alasdair (Wright), Alistair (Mearns), and Alisdair (Campbell) were joined by two new faces, James and Chris, moonlighting from the East of Scotland 4mm group.

Now that the group layout "Sauchenford" has been disposed of, there was time for an extended havering session (also known as "show and tell"). James initiated a long discussion about DG couplings. Not personally being an adherent of these I was bit lost in the detail, but it centered on the lack of fixing or adjustment options built into the etch.

I was fishing for advice regarding for a chassis for a steam railcar project ... Nigel suggested the Tomytec range and referenced this handy dimension summary. He just happened to have one with him - a TM-21 - which looked like a good fit for my needs.

Alastair, meanwhile, was showing off his finescaled Farish Class 37.


Jim had his Jubilee Tank with him, painted, and looking rather nice in the sunshine.

He had a cautionary tale to tell us. Having gone to considerable trouble to design and build a compensated chassis using his own etches, he was a bit chagrined to discover that in spite of packing every available space with lead, the torque from the motor overcame the loco's weight so that, when it was asked to go one way, it lifted slightly at the opposite end. This affected the smooth running he'd aimed for. With no hope of adding more weight, Jim reluctantly concluded that the only solution was to place the loco on a dead level surface and solder the compensation beams solid. So he did, and now it runs much better. You can read his own description in his RMWeb topic. Here's another view with more light on the smokebox door.

Chris had brought along the results of recent experiments with an inexpensive (well, relatively inexpensive: £350) laser cutter based on a CNC router driven by an Arduino board using GRBL firmware and Lightburn software (£40) to manage the cutter settings for different materials. Design is done in CAD software. He has used this cutter to considerable effect to produce 2mm scale card buildings for his planned BR-era Southern layout. A core of 1mm-thick card is used for floors and walls. Windows and doors are cut out and a system of slots and tabs ensures fast, square assembly.

The exterior walls are skinned with two layers of 300gsm brown paper, printed over with Scalescenes digital textures and then given paint washes to vary the colour further. The paper is laser-cut for the door and window openings. The outer skin is full height and used for the lower sashes of windows, and the inner layer is half-height and forms the lower sashes. At least I think that is how it works. After a fair amount of trial and error of cutter and laser settings Chris can achieve a minimum thickness between cuts of 0.6mm in card and a remarkable 0.4mm in the brown paper, which allowed him to cut the window astragals with the laser, simply painting the brown paper white in the window frame areas and using acetate sheet behind this for glazing.

This is considerably more accurate than he found possible using a Silhouette cutter. Roof tiles are also produced in the laser cutter, from standard sticky label stock, by cutting through the sticky label but not the backing paper (achieved after some more tweaking of settings), to make strips of tiles slit to half-height for the the vertical edges. These can then simply be peeled off the sheet and applied in overlapping fashion.

The results were really extremely impressive. Best of all, as Chris said, if a mistake is made or if further similar buildings are required, it's a simple matter to cut more card or paper. Here are more buildings he's produced using these techniques.

Chris also had a Templot plan for his layout, inspired by Fowey in Cornwall but tending more towards LSWR practice (if I got that right). Very organised, these Scalefour chaps!

Jim also had plans to show round. These were for his next contribution to the Grampian Area Group's Dunallander layout, namely platform awnings. The etches for these are now ready (although not available for the meeting) and have been the object of considerable prototype research and planning.

Nigel also had a half-built etch with him, for a French B-B electric prototype, but we were only allowed a quick glance at it before he spirited it away. Next time ...

James had brought a DCC Concepts rolling road, which was put to good use to display the fine control of Nigel's NGS industrial shunter. Nigel had also bought along its custom-designed DCC chip for inspection. The design has since changed to reflect component availability, but the tiny size is striking. Yes, that's a one-penny piece.

The DCC Concepts rollers, though not cheap, are nicely made.

After we'd partaken of lunchtime sandwiches and three kinds of cake (gingerbread, Battenburg, and lemon polenta, since you ask) a long discussion ensued on the subject of the the next group layout.

Oh sorry, wrong photo. Here we are:

We agreed it must be a project to learn skills, explicitly intended for disposal after three years, and will primarily be a working diorama to front the 2mmSA Further North roadshow stand at exhibitions. Good presentation will be important. It will be small - three feet long, since no-one is willing to store anything larger - and will aim to show handbuilt 2FS point and crossing work, but will also demonstrate the use of Easitrack and 2mmSA pegged-chair turnout kits. An industrial theme is in the air.

We were sent away with instructions to come up with concrete ideas for the next meeting, likely to be in the Livingston area on 4 April.

Monday, 24 February 2020

February 2020

Blog posts have been a little sparse of late! Alisdair, Alistair, Andy, Chris, Stephen and Graham met at Simon's house earlier in the month for our regular meeting, which was spent running and adjusting Sauchenford, with a little wagon-building going on in the background.

Model Rail Scotland took place from 21 to 23 February, and Sauchenford duly appeared and performed well - a few electrical issues occurred but nothing which stopped running. Although small, the layout held its head up with the best when it came to quality, and seemed to be appreciated by visitors. I didn't get time to take many photos on the day I visited, since I was manning the 2mm Roadshow with the much-appreciated help of Edward Sissling and Mick Simpson. I did take a couple of quick snaps before the show opened:

A key part of its successful performance was the ability to leave the layout assembled for the past two months in Simon's attic, so that we could concentrate on fault-fixing rather than assembly, disassembly and storage. The group is very grateful for his hospitality and tolerance of our disturbance of regular domestic arrangements!

Sauchenford has now retired from service in its current form, although Stephen Harold may resurrect it with different storage arrangements. The group's next project is as yet undecided. Our next meeting is likely to be in Edinburgh on 8 March.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

January 2020 meeting

Alisdair, Alistair, Andy, Graham, Stephen, Jim, and Chris meet at Simon's house for our first meeting of the new decade. The rain poured down outside but this was rapidly forgotten as we got down to another snagging session on Sauchenford. The support structure and layout erection went more smoothly than usual, and the afternoon was spent shunting and learning the position of the uncouplers.

Stephen had brought along a natty transparent spirit-level, a tip he'd picked up at the Scalefour skills session day we attended last year. He got his on eBay; they also seem to be stocked by Homebase for twelve quid. A handy tool which made levelling the layout much faster.

Jim's Jubilee pug now has wheels and ran smoothly on the layout.  A nice-looking engine which justifies the blood, sweat and tears related in his RMWeb chronicle. The driver seems to have burned the smokebox and will no doubt have his pay docked as a result. Will it have paint and couplings in time for Model Rail Scotland?

Simon continues to make progress on his Glenfinnan project, advancing with turnout construction and painting his Foxhunter LNER fish van bodies first with grey primer then with matt bauxite.

And that was it. Thanks to Simon once more for copious amounts of bacon rolls, tea, coffee and panettone (a bit fancy, but that's Shawlands for you). A few more working sessions are planned at Simon's, panettone or not, before Sauchenford's swan song at Model Rail Scotland on 21-23 February.

Monday, 16 December 2019

December 2019 meeting

Alisdair, Alistair, Jim, Stephen, Nigel, Chris, and Andy met at Graham's house in Edinburgh for our final meeting of 2019, on a dark and rainy day. However, we had a few interesting items to discuss.

One was our recent visit to the Edinburgh Society of Model Engineers' new Almondell club rooms and test track, courtesy of Alastair Wright, who is a member both of ESME and FCAG. It certainly gave a fresh perspective on setting out civil engineering works and track ... ESME runs 3½", 5" and 7¼" mixed-gauge track in several different circuits on a site they had to reclaim from waterlogged woodland. Site Boots were very much the dress code of the visit. Here are some photos from the visit.


We also had a tour of their clubrooms which are spacious and conveniently half-way between Edinburgh and Glasgow. ESME members have been working for several years to bring Almondell to its present state and it promises to be an excellent set-up. I have the feeling we'll be back.

Back to the FCAG meeting ... the object of the meeting was, yet again, to improve Sauchenford's trackwork and check which locos and stock work without issues. Some more progress was made with this, and we will have several more sessions before Model Rail Scotland in ten weeks' time. Ulp !!

The "show and tell" session included Nigel's latest project: motorising  a 2mm scale double-decker bus with full steering and trackless remote control.
 He achieved this using a commercial bus body with a coreless minimotor from Tramfabriek and a 64:1 gearbox from an undeclared source, powered by a 70mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery. The bus has a steering axle taken from a Faller guided road system vehicle, directed by a commercial mechanism intended as an actuator for micro aircraft control. This uses a combination of a permanent magnet to return the steering to its neutral position, and a current through a coil working in conjunction with two further magnets to turn the steering axle in one direction or the other depending on the direction of the current. The actuator has a commercial radio control box which also has auxiliary outputs to operate the propulsion motor. Fiendishly cunning. Here's a video clip of its operation, with the creator explaining the mechanism while the rest of FCAG tries, unsuccessfully, to put him off.

Subsequent attempts to drive the bus on Sauchenford were abortive, since the roadway was not built with vehicles in mind and the bus has very low ground clearance. Nigel has obviously not prepared well enough to be ready for his PCV licence test, far less to take on the Laurie Adams tractor challenge. Give him time though ... a furniture van or large horse box would be much more in period and is almost the same size as that bus ...

Jim has been working away steadily on his Caley Jubilee tank. He described his technique for assembling the injector - unfortunately rather out of focus in this shot, but it's the blob nearest the camera - and surrounding pipework.

First, he filed the injector up from brass, leaving a small spigot for eventual insertion into the model. Holes for pipes were drilled in it and the pipework bent up from pieces of wire, which were given bends in the excess material so they could be held steady. They were then tinned, given a fresh lick of solder paint, and inserted into the holes pre-drilled in the injector , before being held in place by blu-tak at the bent end in the excess. Once all was correctly positioned, a quick touch with the iron did the job. By applying the iron at the back of the injector, minimal solder ends up on the front.

Jim has also been experimenting with Birchwood Casey aluminium blacking solution obtained from Eileen's Emporium to blacken various parts of the loco.
He's broadly happy with the result. More details in his RMWeb thread. We also admired the detailed backhead he has prepared for the loco cab.

Chris had brought his 4F chassis which had slightly binding side rods. Both Jim and Nigel spent some time working on these with him.

Alisdair had a small case of varied rolling stock with him which he has been fettling up for the exhibition, including some Buchanan Kits CR and NBR dropside wagons.

Finally a couple of photos of pre-grouping locos waiting their next turn of duty on a sunny day at Sauchenford 110 years ago ... just the kind of daydream needed to forget the miserable day outside.
Jim's 29 class "Mineral Tank - Condensing"
His 498 class "Shunting Tank"
and finally Alisdair's Strath class 4-4-0. Avert your eyes from the tender's trailing axlebox  ...
Our next meeting, in January 2020, will be in Glasgow.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

November 2019 meeting

Andy, Alistair, Alisdair, Gordon, Jim, Stephen and Graham met at Simon's house for another session aimed at adjusting the fiddle yard cassettes for Sauchenford. The first job was to fit adjusters to the support structure legs. The adjusters come with pronged T-nuts.

Drill the legs ...
Place a T-nut in each hole ...
 Tap in firmly ... if you are of a nervous disposition or if the leg is slender or its material anything other than ironwood, you may wish to tap in cautiously, or to apply G-cramps to the sides to protect the leg from splitting if the fit is tight. Of course, as experienced modellers, this did not happen to us, because we would have foreseen the possibility and taken exactly these precautions. And if it did happen, it is very hard to see.
Screw in the feet, turn the supports the right way up again, and job done. We now had a non-rocking layout support. It was time for soup and bacon rolls, and a long discussion on whether we want to do another group layout and why. The consensus was that a pair of (non-cassette!) fiddle yards should be built to go on one or both ends of a 3' to 4' scenic section with well-lit sidings at the public side, controllable from front or back. The idea is to create a series of such scenic units mainly as learning exercises for skills development, rather than aiming at exhibition-standard finished layouts, and to dispose of them without fuss once they have served their purpose. The fiddle yards will be re-used.

This meeting was also intended to have a "show and tell" session and there were a few things to look at. Alisdair had progressed some buildings: a Highland Railway goods shed (the smaller standard design) based on Lairg. I recall the shed at Forsinard was very similar. It's built with a base designed to locate in to a socket in the layout scenery. The roof is from Evergreen styrene corrugated iron.

Also a platelayer's sleeper-built hut:

Grandtully station appeared in a blog entry a few months back, but it has now been painted:
Complementing it is a standard Highland Railway signalbox, completed some time ago:
Jim had his Jubilee Tank with him to let us see the latest state of play: brake gear has been added. The  3D-printed wheels are expected to be delivered from a small but well-connected firm of wheelwrights in Kelso before Christmas, with luck. It’s a turning into a bit of a Cliffe-hanger.

Finally, Sauchenford had an unusual visitor in the shape of Simon's Californian Zephyr which he recently put together from a kit.

Many thanks to Simon for once again hosting the meeting. The December session is planned to be in Edinburgh.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Dunallander at Aberdeen MRC show

The Grampian area group took their Dunallander layout to the Aberdeen club's show this weekend for its first public outing as a work in progress. The venue was the function suite of a well-worn airport hotel and the lighting was not designed for 2mm model photography - and the layout has not yet got its own lighting rig - so please excuse the muddy photos. Some of the trackwork was completed the night before the exhibition so it was very much touch and go for it to be ready, but when I arrived an hour after opening on Saturday services were running smoothly. The lack of scenery was no drawback to Tony Heywood and crew: I think each of them could see a fully-sceniced layout in their mind's eye as they let A4s race downhill through the station with the 3-hour Aberdeen expresses, interleaved with fish trains behind Black 5s and minerals behind WDs.

I will let the images speak for themselves since the Grampian group has its own excellent website which explains the background to the Dunallander project. First of all, some general views to give a sense of the layout's size:
A highlight was Mike Rasmussen's card buildings. Mike, a retired architect, made a photo survey of the remaining buildings in a single day and used that, guided by his professional skill to judge harmonious proportions, to assemble a superb folio of buildings and scale drawings, from which he is steadily producing exceptional buildings from foamboard, good-quality cardboard, and ScaleScenes printed papers which he uses to remarkable effect. By using the same supplier's papers for all the buildings he ensures they have an overall harmony of relief and texture. I won't steal his thunder, but I hope a 2mmSA magazine article will be forthcoming in due course. Jim Watt's etched footbridges also looked tremendous, and I believe there are plans for etched platform canopies from the same source.

Some may smile at the sign over the door in the next photo ... but the curious fact of the day is that the sign has no connection with Jim Watt the 2mm modeller! You'll have to ask Mike ...
  Dunallander (or rather Dunblane North) signalbox:
Mike, enthusiastically explaining how he uses ScaleScenes papers, which he modifies before printing in Photoshop to vary the exact shade.
and one of the many folio pages detailing the design of the buildings at Dunblane station..

Many of Neil Ballantine's locos were in use, including his J37 on a local freight:
Jim Watt had brought some of his Caley stock with him: it looked very much at home in Dunallander yard.
Tony Heywood (right) and Roy Bremner are the leading lights behind the project to turn the late Neil Ballantine's home layout into an exhibition layout. The fiddle yard is newly built, as are some of the end curve boards of the continuous run which had to be modified to fit its new premises.
An exceptional effort from the whole Grampian Area Group, supported by many others including Alisdair and Jim from the Forth and Clyde group and various contributors from south of the Border. Nigel Hunt in particular made the trek north with his stud of LMS locos, but unfortunately I missed my chance to photograph them (and given the dim hall lighting I probably would not have done them justice). With luck there will be many future chances to see Nigel's, and other, express locomotives streaking round Dunallander. A pleasure to savour indeed.