Saturday, 20 October 2018

October 2018 meeting

Once more in sunny Edinburgh for this month's meeting. Alistair, Alisdair, new face Alastair, Stephen, Andy, Nigel, and Simon met at Graham's house.

Alisdair gave a short talk on "wagons from plastic kits", starting with a look at the 2mmSA 1887 RCH kit and how it can be bashed into a number of interesting variants: he showed us a North British 3-plank and a Highland 5-plank wagon:

He also reminded us of the Buchanan Kits strapping etch designed for this wagon, which can be used to create the characteristic Scottish "cupboard door" mineral wagons:

The mouldings are rather thick in this kit and can be considerably improved by thinning them down with a large file, then scribing planking on the back:

More modern prototypes covered included BR 16-ton minerals: comparing the Association plastic kit with the Stephen Harris etched version, and the relative amount of time required for each:

One issue with plastic kits is the tendency for their sides to bow in (while the prototype tended to bow out after extended use). Alisdair counteracts this with a strip of Plasticard slightly wider than the wagon, inserted and left for a few weeks so the sides regain the correct shape. The Association Ministry of Works coal wagon kit was also discussed, with a warning that neither of the two etched chassis suggested for this moulding fit it well (see the instructions for 2-501c), and that careful work is required to make a convincing wagon.

While this was going on, Nigel, ever industrious, worked away at wagon wheel assembly:

Stephen had a Revolution Trains' Cargowaggon in 1:148 scale for us to admire. The printing is very fine:

After lunching on bacon rolls, we moved on to consider the business of the day. The objective was to do further work on Sauchenford's fiddle yards, cutting and fitting brass plates where required. This necessitated a fair bit of "planning": everyone had an opinion.

Our external assessor for the day, Mick Simpson from the North East Area Group, arrived in time to polish off the last bacon rolls and some cake. He showed us his party trick of making chocolate biscuits disappear:

He also dispensed much valuable advice regarding Electra couplings. He was able to watch Alisdair explaining finescale techniques to Alastair, who also works in 5-inch gauge live steam, and who'd come along for the first time to get some advice on the layout he's planning based on the original, pre-Forth-Bridge South Queensferry station. I think he'd expected 2FS to be more delicate:

Next month's meeting is likely to be in Lockerbie.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

September 2018 meeting

Alisdair, Alistair, John, Andy and Graham met at Jim's house in Biggar this month. The main business of the day was elimination of the sector plates from Sauchenford's fiddle yards, replacing them with cassette connections. Much scraping, sawing and screwing went on, no fingers were damaged, and we hope this will make the layout easier to operate in future.

Half-way through we paused for refuelling of soup, bacon rolls, tea and coffee. Then it was back to work (well, it was back to work for Alisdair, most of the time the rest of us leant on our shovels and made helpful comments). There was a small amount of show-and-tell. Alisdair has been experimenting with his Silhouette cutter, and had reduced some WCJS coach sides from the Caledonian Railway Association's pattern library (members only access - but you can become a member here) from 4mm scale to 2mm, onto 5 (I think) thou styrene sheet. He'd brought a test print with him.

It will be interesting to see how that project progresses. Andy had brought a part-completed loco chassis and Graham had some partly complete Foxhunter LNER fish wagons (does anyone know where he can find more of these kits?)

Jim had his footbridge for Dunallander, reported on last month and also in his RMWeb report, in an advanced state of construction. Comment from me is superfluous!

The ribs on the etched roof are added from styrene strip.

There was also the chance to view and admire Jim's Kirkallanmuir layout. Here are a few random images.

The point rodding and mechanism covers add realism to the trackwork.

A driver's eye view from the Down loop, waiting for the road to Bonkle. (Yes, all the signals work, including the ground signals).  It's about to pour with rain. The stationmaster is beside himself with fury, unable to find the porter whose task it is to fill, trim and light the signal lamps as dusk approaches. Someone's going to get wet ...

Kirkallanmuir Weighs signalbox.

A few detail shots of wagons: the first two were, I think, built from kits by the late Geoff Balfour; his Midland wagon was re-liveried by Jim. The Addie wagon is Jim's build of a 2mmSA 1923 RCH 7-plank kit (part 2-551 here), hand-lettered.

Then there was more tea, coffee, cake and chat ... and a casual question about Jim's version of the Alex Jackson coupling led to quite a detailed explanation of the various jigs he uses to make them. No photos I'm afraid but Jim may be cajoled into giving another tutorial session at a future meeting.

Talking of which, the next FCAG meeting will be on October 20th, in Edinburgh.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

August 2018 meeting

Alistair, Alisdair, Jim, Stephen, Andy and new recruit John met at Graham's house in Edinburgh. Once the news-swapping and story-telling had quietened down a bit we were treated to Alisdair's thoughts on coupling tender drive units to loco gearboxes, with the coupling shaft passing through the tender coal door, loco cab, and firebox door, based on his experiences of four different styles.

His first attempts were made with moulded plastic universal joints fitting 1mm rod, previously available from the 2mmSA, and still offered by N Brass Locos. These worked well enough, but the 1mm rod was visually intrusive in the loco cab.(And the N Brass units use 1.5mm rod, which is worse).

His second style aimed to make the unit less obtrusive. 'O' gauge loco handrail knobs were fitted to hollow 1mm brass tube, and a stub of wire inserted through the hole meant for the handrail. The wire stubs engage in slots cut in the motor drive shaft in the tender, and in the gearbox drive shaft in the loco. Sturdy, but still obtrusive.

Alisdair's third version was conceived after building the Bob Jones-designed 2mmSA Black 5 etched kit. This contains a fold-up etch for the drive shaft which worked very well. Attempts to produce a built-up copy of this failed however: when soldering, it was too hard to stop the unit collapsing in a random heap of metal.

The next attempt followed the advice in the 2mmSA handbook: slots in the tender and loco drive shafts, and a wire shaft formed into tight loops. Again, this worked, but Alisdair found the drive shaft length to be overly critical, and the shafts had a tendency to drop out and get lost.

Still in search of the ideal drive coupling (strong, unobtrusive, minimal assembly, not dimensionally critical) he settled on a design based on 0.008" steel wire (8 gauge guitar string, about £1.25 on eBay) and slices of brass tube (Mastertools brand, pack 09944, eight 20-cm lengths of tube between 1.1 and 1.4mm, available from traders at shows or from eBay for around £6. The tube sizes don't fit into each other, but still a nice cheap source of material).

First a T is formed in the wire. (Ignore the brass collar in this shot for now).

Next, the distance between the tender and loco drive shaft slots is measured, fairly accurately. This will be the length of the drive shaft. 0.5 to 1.0mm is subtracted to give some play for curves. This dimension is measured on the wire shaft and a slight kink made at that point with fine pliers.

Now the end of a piece of brass tube is slotted with a fine file (something like the 0.4mm edge-cutting gapping file, item 1-502 in Shop 1), and cut off to make a small collar.

This collar is slid over the long end of the shaft and past the kink, then fluxed, held tight against the tee, and flooded with solder. (A third hand helps). Then a second collar is slid on facing in the opposite direction, and the kink is finished into a second tee for the other end of the shaft. The second collar is soldered on in the same way. Opinions differ on whether the two tees should be in the same plane or at 90 degrees to each other. Both styles seems to work. (The photo below shows a demo piece for tee formation, with only one collar on the wire and not soldered in).

The result is a very unobtrusive drive shaft which is hardly visible when in motion. Here's one on Alisdair's Jumbo. Yes, a tender axlebox has fallen off is receiving attention in the workshop!

Care is needed not to "break the back" of the loco and tender when lifting. Alisdair's are permanently coupled, with soldered wires to transfer electrical pickup from loco to tender. Others use a variety of semi-permanent connectors: Jim has described his method in the 2mmSA magazine.

After that we had lunch - bacon rolls, pear-and-raspberry sponge, tea, coffee - then Jim showed off his latest etch design, the footbridge for the station on Dunallander, the late Neil Ballantyne's layout now being further developed for exhibition by the Grampian area group. The bridge is an accurate model of the former footbridge at Dunblane, now resited to the preserved station at Bridge of Dun near Montrose.

Chris Higgs has contributed superb 3D-printed landing supports which really capture the look of the real thing:

Jim made a start on construction: we were half expecting him to simply fold it up in one session, like an origami master producing a paper chrysanthemum ...

... but then he produced a soldering iron and did it the traditional way. By the end of the afternoon the side lattice for the first staircase section was complete:

The glazing will slide into pockets between the etch layers, so it can be added after the structure is painted. We look forward to further progress in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, Stephen, Andy and Graham busied themselves with more mundane etched kits; Alisdair carved Sauchenford's fiddle yard cassettes into more manageable shapes; Alistair, as ever, sketched designs in the background. By 4.30pm we'd had enough and, after further refreshments, all headed off back home.

Our next meeting will be a little earlier in the month than usual, on 1 September, in Biggar. 

Saturday, 21 July 2018

July 2018 meeting

This month's meeting was in Lockerbie, hosted by Stephen, who welcomed Alisdair, Alistair and Andy to inspect his nicely-fitted-out railway room (much drooling from these three space-challenged individuals - a spur for Andy to get on with his loft conversion) before settling around the kitchen table for some discussion, bacon rolls, tea, coffee, etc.

Soon it was time for the Monthly Talk, scheduled to be delivered by Alisdair on the subject of tender-to-loco drive shafts ... but he'd forgotten his notes. Dog ate my homework, sir ... he's promised to bring it to the next meeting instead.

Thereafter the soldering irons and etched kits came out.

A brakevan at an advanced stage of construction: possibly Andy's:

Stephen was working on as Association 2-380 air-braked van chassis for an N gauge body:

Alistair was imagining the backdrop of tenements for his urban Edinburgh layout, still in gestation:

Stephen's generous hospitality was much appreciated by the visitors. (Since your usual correspondent was on holiday this month, these notes and photos are available courtesy of Andy).

Next month we return to the East of Scotland with a meeting in Edinburgh.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

June 2018 meeting

A sunny Edinburgh was the venue for this month's gathering. Nigel, Alisdair, Alistair, Andy, Chris, Stephen and Graham attended.

Nigel was armed with a copy of Gordon Gravett's opus on modelling broadleaf trees (published by Wild Swan: Google for ISBN 1905184883), a quantity of layout wire, and several pairs of pliers, with which he busied himself twisting up a few tree skeletons.

The idea was to try out the lightweight Advanced Polyfilla as a bark medium which will tolerate the odd accidental contact from a hand or elbow. The Polyfilla was painted on, with the intention of adding further coats after the first one dried.

By the end of the afternoon the results looked quite promising.


Stephen had brought a number of photos of the recent Chelford 2mm expo which were eagerly received. Graham had a stack of old magazines "free to a good home" in a desperate attempt to create some shelf space. He was also the presenter of this month's short talk, on researching Scottish railway history (a summary of sources is here, and will be expanded as time allows) ... brevity is still not quite in his grasp, but to be fair there was quite a lot of audience participation. Once the flow of words had finally ceased, bacon rolls and cake, tea, and coffee were summoned up and conversation resumed.

It took a certain amount of prodding to get some modelling under way but eventually the optical aids came out, along with the craft knives and soldering irons. Here Alisdair is soldering up a Buchanan Kits wagon etch.

That's about it for this month. In July we will meet in Lockerbie for a change, but before then the Forth and Clyde group will attend the Perth MRC exhibition on June 23/24 with the 2mm Further North roadshow. Please stop by to chat if you're visiting the show!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

May 2018 meeting

For a change this month, we decided to visit Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. Most of us had visited it at some point in the past but it was time to renew our acquaintance.

Summerlee, the site of an ironworks which closed in 1930 and later of a crane factory, is Scotland's principal museum to the iron, steel, and boilermaking industry which first developed in the Monklands area of Lanarkshire, a few miles to the east of Glasgow, which became the town of Coatbridge. The collection includes artefacts from the cast and malleable iron, and steel manufacturing industry, and many of the specialised heavy machine tools developed for boiler manufacture by local firms. There are also several locomotives and a short length of working tramway.

It's a good place to take kids (no surprise we liked it, then) and takes several hours to go round - not quite on the scale of the Beamish museum in County Durham, but full of interest nonetheless, and with a small but capable café on site ("capable", because they offer bacon sandwiches amongst other delights. See April's blog). Plus, unlike Beamish, entry to the museum is free: the whole place is funded by the local North Lanarkshire council. The location is almost completely encircled by rail lines, mostly still very active with Glasgow suburban electric services, and by part of the former Monklands canal system.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of what we saw, I'll limit the description to a few snaps of railway interest.

Andy, Alistair, Alisdair, Simon and Graham came for the day out. We had a choice of two adjacent stations to arrive at: Coatbridge Central on the former Caledonian line, where the 1899 station building survives, no longer in railway use: 

and the deliciously-named Coatbridge Sunnyside, on the North British line to Airdrie, Bathgate and Edinburgh, where the 1888 station building is still very much in use, now even offering a café in the building:

Most of the canal network at this point has been drained, but the bridges remain. Here's the rail bridge crossing the Monklands canal just south of Coatbridge Central, with a footbridge tucked under the main bridge.

Within the museum there are a couple of railway sidings and a few items of railway interest. Here's the group posing in front of 4-wheel vertical-boilered Sentinel 9628 of 1957, "Robin", which worked at the nearby foundry of R. B. Tennent Ltd. at Whifflet. Tennent's were keen on Sentinels: they bought their first, an ex-demonstrator from the Sentinel factory, in 1953, then purchased "Robin" new four years later, and followed up with two further second-hand purchases in the following year. They worked until 1984: the other three shunters are at the SRPS. Behind "Robin" is an Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 diesel-hydraulic shunter of 1966.

Another exhibit is a South African Railways GMAM Garratt, isolated on a short length of Cape Gauge track, built at North British Loco in the mid-1950s. Like the Sentinel, the Garratt is sorely in need of a touch of paint. I hesitate to criticise the museum on that account however: having been involved in painting three main-line metre-gauge Garratts I'm well aware of how long it takes and what it costs (and sadly, how few years it lasts before it all has to be done again). For all the peeling paint, the GMAM is still an impressive machine.

There's also a couple of industrial tank locos which I did not photograph, and two Scottish-built steam rail cranes, including an impressive six-cylinder machine from a local steelworks which could hoist or luff, slew, and travel simultaneously so that the ladles of molten metal were dealt with quickly.

A surviving section of the former rail connection to the crane works gave a chance to see check chairs with the check rail removed:

And finally, if you have ever wondered what load to put in a pre-grouping pig iron wagon from the days of non-integrated iron and steel works, here's a Summerlee iron pig from the 1920s. It's about three feet long. These were cast in sand beds on the ironworks floor, fed from a central sprue (the "sow") from which they were later detached, just like a lost-wax casting on a much grander scale. I had visualised pigs as much shorter, squarer objects, so it was instructive to see this. Each pig weighed about 100 lbs so there would be 22 or so to the ton, so I suppose the typical 8T or 10T pig iron wagon would be loaded with around 200 pigs. Pigs were stored crosswise in square stacks while waiting to be loaded.

Next month we will most likely meet in Edinburgh. Probably too much to hope that we'll get another day of sunshine such as we had in Summerlee!