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!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Scottish Supermeet 2018

The Forth and Clyde Area Group and Grampian Area Group joined forces to stage the 2mmSA 2018 Scottish Supermeet in Perth on 21 April. We were pleased to see several new faces from Scotland and particularly happy that several members from south of the Border made the long trip north to show their support.

Jim Watt brought his Kirkallanmuir layout, seven years in the making, for its first exhibition outing. Here he is setting up the layout. The triangular sections of the legs fold flat against the end parts for easy transport; each of the three baseboards can stand independently, which allowed Jim to work at home on one section at a time.

My photos don't do justice to the layout, which is in full running order, with buildings and scenery partly complete. Some more shots are in the August 2017 blog entry. Jim's own account of the layout's development on RMWeb is also well worth a read.

Jim had over 100 scratchbuilt pre-grouping wagons in use on the layout ... that's over 200 2mm scale Alex Jackson couplings! Not to mention the rakes of Caley coaches and the stud of scratchbuilt black and blue engines.

John Galbraith of the Grampian group had his new layout Glen Ammen, with a freelance plan and models of real buildings. The goods shed is a Great North of Scotland design from Mintlaw on the Buchan branch. The window frames are from modified commercial etches (an arched section at the top was cut off).

The station building is based on Careston on the Forfar to Brechin Direct section of the Caledonian. Again, the window frames are etches; the rest of the building is scratchbuilt.

Some nice scenic work has been started as well, including this model of a bridge. The water in the burn has not yet been modelled.

David Long had a new layout with him, Ashton Fold, with the track hand-built by David on individual ply sleepers procured from Chris Denning, formerly of York Modelmaking.

The entire structure is from MDF. The framing is from 4mm sheet,  with the baseboard of 6mm sheet. Although the large cuts were made at the supplier, David cut all the rest with hand tools, with enviable precision.

The view from underneath is even more daunting - no place for untidy wires to hide! Point motors are from modified servos, with the servo part removed so they work as stall motors., held in aluminium channel frames. The copper foil busbars are tell-tale signs of DCC control. Like at least two other layouts on display, David was using an NCE Powercab controller. The green board at the right hand end is a frog juicer.

Nigel Cliffe found plenty to discuss with David. The trackwork is beautifully delicate.

Alistair Mearns was shunting Sauchenford, which was appearing without its fiddle yards basically as a shunting plank. Alisdair Campbell's Black Five (from the 2mmSA kit), next his Caledonian signalbox, is the subject of this shot.

Mick Simpson had Callaton, with some new scenic work (the recent Gordon Gravett article in MRJ on making puddles with microscope slides has inspired a part-complete experiment next the VW Camper). The Farish Class 40, renumbered but not yet weathered, was working freight while a DMU ran a passenger service. Mick showed how scale shunting speeds and DCC sound can lift a cameo layout into a different class. Fascinating to watch.

Roy Bremner was manning Tony Heywood's circular test track.

Laurie Adams was demonstrating and explaining his new etched track components as well as his point rodding etches. A 2mm magazine article is in preparation, and Shop 1 already has the components in stock, although they are not currently on the website. Contact the shopkeeper (or Laurie) directly for more details.

Jim Watt gave an illustrated talk on his building construction techniques for Kirkallanmuir.

Nigel Cliffe had his latest wheel manufacturing components available for inspection - a watchmaker's jewelling press, adapted using brass anvils to hold the wheel tyres concentrically to receive the plastic centres from steel pushers, and in a second operation, insert the axles squarely into the wheel centres, accurately spaced from the pinpoint, without damage. 

Stephen Harold ran the bring-and-buy stall, here with 2mmSA chairman Andy Hansen and Mick Simpson snapping up the bargains.

Thanks particularly to Jim, John, Mick, David, Laurie, Alistair, Tony and Roy for providing layouts and demonstrations, to Andy, Graham, Simon and Stephen for handling various admin tasks, and to Alisdair Campbell for once again organising the whole affair. We're already looking forward to Perth 2020 !

Sunday, 15 April 2018

April 2018 meeting

This month saw us back on the north bank of the Clyde in Scotstoun. Almost a full house for FCAG: Alisdair hosted and Andy, Alistair, Graham, Jim, Stephen, Simon and Gordon attended.

Jim had brought his signalbox for Kirkallanmuir to let us see the LED lighting, powered by a button cell, and very nice it looked too. (See his RMWeb blog). The search for colour perfection continues however. Kirkallanmuir's public première is at the Scottish Supermeet next weekend in Perth - see the most recent 2mmSA newsletter for details of where and when, or if you're a member based in Scotland, the recent e-mail from Alisdair.

Andy has progressed a little further with his plans for Aberdour: a full-size plan has been developed from the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map.

Graham surprised everyone by showing the results of odd evenings since Christmas with a soldering iron and a pile of Stephen Harris 16T mineral etches ... all still awaiting their axleboxes, brake gear, wheels, buffers, and couplings, that is to say all the fiddly bits ... but steady progress towards filling Sauchenford's colliery sidings nonetheless.

The Group's Gartcraig layout emerged from years in storage to be handed over to its new owner Gordon:

 This month's talk, from Andy, was some thoughts about the woodwork for baseboards, supported by a series of "blast from the past" photographs. He started out with a brief description of his own first essay in small scale modelling - Lomond Bridge, which although not finescale, and reflecting traditional techniques of the time, taught him many lessons.

Typical braced  2 x 1 (20 x 45mm) softwood butt joints and 6mm MDF surface all screwed and glued (PVA Glue). This is 300mm wide x 1.5m long. Still light enough to carry around and in two sections giving 3m X 300mm (10’ x 1’) when erected. Half the size of Sauchenford.
The top was 6mm MDF glued and screwed to the frame, with trackwork glued on a cork base.
Gluing using several different clamps and weights produced a very sound structure.
Scenery can reinforce or even replace baseboard structure - for example this viaduct.

Showing bolted connections between boards. The piece between the boards would be a template to ensure all holes are in the correct alignment. These can also be used to attach support legs.  Control unit to user choice hangs from the boards with space for spare stock below the scenery and access for wiring etc.

When Andy joined the FCAG group he saw how the late Colin Brady had built baseboards for his Ballachulish layout, using the techniques described by Barry Norman for his 4mm Petherick layout in his "Landscape Modelling" book (would you believe, first published 32 years ago): the 2"x1" softwood frame is replaced by lightweight beams made from pine block spacers sandwiched between 4mm plywood strips, with diagonal strength members and a top from 4mm ply.
Ballachulish baseboard construction. Sadly Colin did not have time to finish his layout, which was possibly a bit large for one person to set up. The partly laminated / braced plywood base board is similar with adjustment to the Sauchenford baseboards.
At the time the Group was planning its current layout Sauchenford, and as a new boy Andy was immediately assigned the job of producing the baseboards. Birch ply was used with an emphasis on careful planning - a cutting list of parts was made and a plan of how it would be produced economically from the standard sheet size. This allowed the larger cuts to be made at the timber merchant, easing transport as well as reducing the space required to make the remaining cuts at home. Don't just make the cutting plan one morning, and rush down to the timber merchant the same afternoon - live with the plan for several weeks before cutting anything, revisit your design decisions, and if there was a reason behind them, write it down on the plan, you are sure to forget it otherwise ...

The cutting list and plan

Marking out for cutting - Anthony Yeates here seen wielding the pencil, before he escaped to the warmer south.

4 mm plywood can be cut using a Stanley knife, here demonstrated by the late Colin Brady (foreground) and Alistair. Cut away from your fingers and, er, use a steel safety ruler! Andy's fine cut band saw, seen in the background, is a dream to use, cutting rapidly and leaving a very fine finish.

The parts cut ready for gluing. Spacers are from 16mm dressed softwood.
Parts glued and clamped together for alignment and to prevent warping.

Left overnight the parts are ready for assembly; they were pinned and glued to ensure accurate alignment.

The assembled fiddle yard baseboards with inserts and end parts as required. Connected using modified hinges with removable pins. Front boards strengthen the structure.

Fully assembled base board awaiting construction of the model; this image was at the 2mm Supermeet in Keighley a few years ago.
At this point Andy paused for breath, and the talk was immediately hijacked by all and sundry to talk about their own baseboards. Jim described how he'd used 4mm ply for bracing on Kirkallanmuir but found it too flimsy and had remedied it by adding 9mm strips later. However, 4mm sandwich beams had worked well for board sides, allowing the top to be recessed by dropping the level of the inner skin. Kirkallanmuir's legs have triangular flap strengtheners which fold away for transport. Alisdair fetched down his mini-layout for comparison, described in a previous blog entry. Graham waxed lyrical about his boards for Macduff, cut from ply sheet using a router, a technique described by Peter Kirmond for his Blea Moor baseboards in MRJ 148. The disadvantages during manufacture are fine sawdust, noise (ear defenders necessary), and the outcome was very stable boards.  Stephen talked about the laser-cut ply baseboard kits available from White Rose Modelworks, which we'd seen at a NEAG meeting some time back. Very precise, square boards as a result, and great time-savers.

Lunch was then served. Grilled bacon, a time-hallowed FCAG tradition, had unexpectedly been banished due to 'Elf an' Safety - the Clean Kitchen (Scotstoun) 2018 regulations - so our rolls were filled with sliced ham, grated cheese, crinkly salad leaves, and cherry tomatoes. These were munched with polite but mostly silent concentration by the group members, each lost in their own nostalgic reverie for the bacon rolls of meetings past. However, a more animated discussion broke out as the cakes appeared. Simnel fruit cake, matured for months apparently; no explanation was offered of what simnels are, but they taste good. Then there was a complicated pistachio and spinach (aye, ye'll no' find thon in the Lidl) sponge, with what looked like green O Gauge ballast topping the icing. It also more than passed the taste test, and little was left of this by end of day. And there were rock buns. And tea and coffee. So all was well. In an unguarded moment, Jim was even seen to drink his tea from a Highland Railway Society mug. The Caley Railway Association hierarchy will be informed.

Sauchenford, however, decided to act up and required a bout of determined track-cleaning before smooth running was restored. After that there was more head-scratching over how to simplify our cassette fiddle yards: basically, throw away the sector plates and slew the approaches to fit the cassettes in, and use plugged connections for reliability.

And that was that. See you in Perth next Saturday, we hope.