Sunday, 12 February 2017

February 2017 meeting

Back in Edinburgh for this month's meeting, with the wind and sleet to remind us it's February. Time for the results of the Forth and Clyde 2016 Challenge to be revealed. The idea was to model a diorama in 20cm x 16cm, with the only stipulation that it must include some track to 2mm standards. Andy, Jim and Alisdair had completed models to show.

Andy chose to model a coal merchant's siding in a rural setting; he literally put it together in an evening. Cleared of silver birch trees and structures, the board will cunningly be re-used as a fiddle yard traverser in his next project.

The red-painted drum is a paraffin tank, for retail sales as the coal merchant does his rounds.

Jim's creation has already appeared in his RMWeb postings, but here are a few more shots. The pictures say it all really.

Alisdair's diorama featured in last month's blog, but a month later there is slightly more vegetation showing:

The lid with its LED lights lifts off, revealing the frame and backscene which can be re-used for other dioramas.

It's worth clicking on the image to see the detail in the bed of the burn.

As for the rest of us, Stephen was mid-way through his model at last report, but was kidnapped by his fanily this weekend so we didn't get to see it. Simon's model featured in last month's blog entry. Graham and Alistair are in sackcloth and ashes for not finishing anythng worth picturing, in spite of four months to do the job. I'll spare you our pathetic excuses.

Jim had also brought along for inspection the locking-box for the lever frame of his layout "Kirkallanmuir", which he also described briefly on RMWeb.  This is made up from his own etches: the tappets have notches etched in place, and each bridle irons with its locks is made from a single etched unit with multiple layers which folds into place like a particularly fiendish piece of origami. The only time a lock needs to be separately positioned and soldered into place is when one is required on both sides of a tappet. This makes construction much faster and more reliable. Hopefully Jim will write it up in detail for the 2mmSA magazine.

After we'd ooh'ed and ah'ed over these various offerings, and had some lunch, finally some modelling got done.

Alisdair had got hold of a Severn Models "Tools and Wheelbarrows" etch and proceeded to entertain us for the rest of the afternoon as sundry bits of wheelbarrow flew off into the wide blue yonder.

There was some unparliamentary language. But by the end of the session, a wheelbarrow had been conjured up from the flat etch. It has to be said that a 2mm scale barrow is not large.

 Although a complete non-sequitur to the foregoing, here is an image of Alisdair's skrawker for carving surface detail into styrene sheet. Although often described, it is not always obvious exactly what form a skrawker should have. Alisdair makes his from a used Swann-Morton scalpel blade ground to shape using an abrasive wheel in a mini-drill.

Jim spent a couple of hours working on Sauchenford to re-install the ground signal Alisdair stood on at the December meeting, and to bed in some point levers which he'd etched. These too are small.

So small, indeed, that one of the three levers he installed mysteriously disappeared when our backs were turned and could not be found despite considerable searching. Alisdair didn't stand on it, or so he says. Perhaps it is still stuck in the scenery somewhere. Fortunately Jim had made a spare, so all was not lost.

And with that important detail concluded, it was time to return to reality and head off into the rain. If you are visiting  Model Rail Scotland later this month (and if not, why not?), come and have a look at our dioramas on the 2mmSA stand: C15 on the hall plan, next the Scalefour stand and opposite the Gauge 'O' Guild. See you there!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

January 2017 meeting

The first meeting of the New Year saw us back on the west coast. Alisdair hosted and Alistair, Andy, Anthony, Stephen, Simon, and Graham drank his tea and coffee and ate his bacon rolls and cakes.

Some modelling was done as well however, around the kitchen table in best Area Group tradition..

For most the focus was on the 2016 Challenge: produce a diorama on a 20cm x 16cm base with, at minimum, some trackwork to 2mmSA standards - an opportunity to try out new techniques, or an excuse to model something different from a main project.

Jim was absent this time, but nonetheless we felt his presence in the room because of his latest status report on his goods yard scene on RMWeb, which he'd followed up with a few stern e-mails telling the rest of us to get our fingers out. So who obeyed?

Alisdair has built a cameo inspired by the 3' gauge Upper Works Railway in Lochaber, which linked the British Aluminium Company works near Fort William to its extensive hydro-electric schemes at Loch Trieg and Loch Laggan, and serviced the tunnels, valve shafts and pipelines along the way. It's not complete, but already looks impressive.

As a civil engineer he identifies with the subject, which he discovered hill-walking in the 1970s; presuming the railway to be defunct, he crossed a burn using one of its spindly, handrail-less bridges, and was mildly startled when a train rattled past him on its way downhill a few minutes later.

He has modelled a scene with twin pipelines crossing a small burn, and the 3' line on a timber bridge behind.

A cardboard box was adapted to become a proscenium arch and lighting unit - the latter using LED strips and a remote control (whit!) to vary their intensity.

As usual Alisdair's structures look the part: the stonework of the culvert where the pipelines are exposed is subtly convincing. The poor colour balance in my photos doesn't do justice to the model.

Simon has killed two birds with one stone: his father Russ modelled an N gauge station building over 40 years ago and, for his 80th birthday, Simon decided to place it in a suitable context for display. So his diorama is an island platform with a retaining wall as a backscene.

Even with the building loosely placed on the platform it looks at home.

The scene is named "Dalmally" ... which will have a few people scratching their heads, since Dalmally is on the Callander and Oban and has a two-storey stone station building, whereas this specimen is clearly a typical West Highland Railway design. The explanation is that the building originally graced an N gauge layout inspired by the idea of a West Highland branch to Tarbert (Loch Fyne), with an intermediate station at Dalmally. So there ... Rule 1 applies.

And for those of you reaching for a tape measure, yes, it is not strictly 16cm x 20cm. There are exceptions for 80th birthdays, and anyway the building is longer than 20cm on its own!

Andy has spent most of his time building a bathroom and kitchen in 1:1 scale recently, but had brought wood and Easitrac. With domestic tasks out of sight and mind, he finally started his diorama:

Alistair progressed his model of a railway scene with low-relief tenement backscene:

Anthony, visiting his old FCAG haunts after (we assume) getting a special day pass from the NEAG, was working on a coach bogie.

He also had a nice box of his own stock with him. At the top, two open wagons from Jim Watt's Buchanan Kits etches; below, his own scratchbuilt Highland Railway brake van and open wagons, plus a Highland 6-wheel composite and a double-deck sheep van, both from his own etches.

The coach is worth a closer look: it is built up from four (or was it five?) layers of etch. Anthony admits to chosing a prototype with absolutely no tumblehome, which simplified matters a little. The centre axle simply slides in inside bearings; there are no Cleminson trucks. All very nice.

Stephen was working on a buffer-stop for his diorama. Fired with enthusiasm from the meeting, he continued to work on the trackbed once back home, and sent this photo (from which we can deduce his scene will have two track levels). Whether voodoo or acupuncture is involved is not known, but it seems to work for Stephen.

My progress was a little less spectacular, but I did make a start on soldering up some of the windows for the GNSR loco shed at Macduff which will be my challenge entry. Jim Watt very kindly drew up and etched these for me: they fold up in a "Z" ...

with the centre part spacing the two sets of astragals apart, so that a piece of glazing material can be slipped in between the layers. 

These are windows for the store, 1cm high: the arched windows for the shed itself are larger and work the same way. I'm looking forward to starting those.

So John Knox Jim's fiery sermons to the FCAG congregation seem to have had some effect, and even the greatest sinners (who are mysteriously all from the East Coast) have started on the long road to redemption. Only four weeks now to the deadline!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

December 2016 meeting

Once again we had an Edinburgh session, with six of us round the table. A fair bit of nattering to start with, since Stephen had brought pictures from a recent trip South (Wigan and Manchester shows). Meanwhile Jim installed a second group of his ground signals on Sauchenford with the help of a craft knife and a 1/8" chisel, and after reclaiming his Kindle, Stephen started filing the point rails for a turnout.

Jim had also brought along his FCAG Challenge diorama for inspection. It now has track laid and the weighbridge table in place. Just as well for the rest of us that it's not a competition!

Alisdair continued work on the styrene sheet platelayer's kit he started last month, adding brick paper and a whitemetal "granny" on the chimney. A pile of sleepers and a pair of ballast bins were also conjured up from black styrene. Quite a satisfying group.

Alistair did a bit of painting, Andy caught up on his reading (his excuse was the need to recover after his recent '"flitting" from Mid to East Lothian), and I struggled on with my Catfish kit - successfully executing the bit marked "fiddly" in Stephen Harris's instructions, much to my satisfaction. 

As the light faded, mince pies caused a general downing of soldering irons: Jim's satisfaction at installing his second set of working ground signals was only slightly dented when Alisdair found the first set by treading on them. Alisdair's mass is about 16,000 times that of the ground signals, even without the mince pie, so the contest was uneven. All was not lost however: "I didn't put my full weight on them", he explained helpfully. Stupid boy! said the bubble above Jim's head.  The poor wee ground signals will spend Christmas in hospital as a result. But we parted friends.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

November 2016 meeting

This month's meeting was in Edinburgh. Alisdair, Jim, Stephen, Alistair and Graham followed the usual formula of discussion, lunch, then a modelling session. We positioned ourselves at the window to make the most of the good light from the winter sunshine.

Jim has been hard at work on his 2016 challenge (a 20cm x 16 cm diorama), which is to be a goods yard scene to try out techniques for buildings on his Kirkallanmuir layout. His eye had been caught by SMART Models' range of downloadable texture sheets at the Glasgow show earlier this year, and several buildings have been put together as trial runs before settling on a design for the final build. The texture sheets look best when printed as Brian Taylor recommends, on matt photo paper, but even on the plain 80gsm copier paper which Jim used for his trial builds they looked very effective, particularly when combined with further computer artwork for signage.

He started with 3mm foamboard faced with card from MRJ mailing envelopes, cut precisely to accept window frames from etches of his own design. 

The etches fold up to provide glazing bars on both sides with a pocket for glazing material, so they can be painted (different colours on each side if necessary) before the glazing is put in place. They look very neat.

Cutting the window apertures in the card neatly is something of a chore and Jim is considering laser-cut card or 1mm plywood as an alternative. We look forward to seeing the completed diorama; the mock-up already looks nice.

Jim also had examples of the various designs of pre-grouping point levers he has already described on RMWeb, and he soldered up a few more during the afternoon. 

Alisdair spent his time building a PW hut out of styrene sheet for the group layout, Sauchenford. By the end of the day he was pleased with his progress.

Apart from over-grilling the bacon rolls for lunch, I gradually progressed the Catfish etched kit which has been on the back burner for some months now. At the end of the session I realised I'd soldered the body a massive 5mm too high in the chassis, much to the amusement of the rest of the group. However Stephen came to the rescue by providing a second pair of hands and a second soldering iron for some rapid surgery to free the body without totally wrecking the chassis.

I was later able to reposition it correctly after some filing to fit. The solebars are going to need a bit of work to straighten them up though! I am now approaching the bit which Stephen Harris describes in the instructions as "fiddly". Ulp ...

I also dragged out for inspection the plywood baseboards and the 50% scale cardboard mockup made a decade ago for a planned depiction of Macduff, a GNSR terminus on the Moray Firth. Maybe I'll finish it (or start it, more like) one day.

Alistair was also working on a model-of-a-model for his planned urban layout, shaping balsa blocks into tenement housing. Stephen meanwhile was soldering up track panels the traditional way, in a 2mmSA jig with little slices of solder to keep the chair blobs a consistent size. The intended purpose of these panels was not revealed. Stephen also had a 7mm Dapol 08 with him. At last, something you can see without an Optivisor!

The afternoon wore on, and by the time we wound up night had fallen. The street is only a few feet from the window and my neighbours became intrigued by the sight of a group of old codgers wearing curious magnifying headgear and bright lights hunched over  ... something ...  on a long table. Were we doing a jigsaw, one neighbour asked my wife.  Well, that's what passes for excitement in douce Morningside. At least they didn't think we were dissecting a corpse.

All in all quite a productive day.