Sunday, 13 August 2017

August 2017 meeting

For our August meeting we abandoned our usual alternating meeting venues of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and drove through the light drizzle to Biggar in South Lanarkshire, whose 2300 souls punch above their weight in terms of preserved gas works, vintage vehicle festivals, proper butchers and bakers (very possibly also candlestick-makers), and so on. Just about the first thing you learn from its Wikipedia entry is that it was served by the Caledonian Railway. The perfect place, then, for a 2mm area group meeting.

Our destination was Jim Watt's double garage, where we were promised not just space to erect Sauchenford, but the chance to check on the progress of Jim's Kirkallanmuir project, which he has chronicled from time to time in the 2mmSA magazine, starting in the June 2011 issue.

First, then, Sauchenford. The scenic section, cassette fiddle yards, and support substructure had been brought from their three separate storage locations, and the aim of the day was to change the layout height by shortening the legs to give our preferred track-height-above-floor dimension of 3'9".

The first job was to erect the substructure with its existing legs upside-down, using the cassette fiddle yards as supports. (And we wonder why the track on them gets damaged!)


New support struts were marked and drilled, then the legs were carefully measured three times, checked twice, and cut once.


In spite of this, we managed to cut one of the legs half a centimetre shorter than the others. We may shortly be ordering levelling feet from that nice Mr Sissling in Bradford ... at any rate, the substructure in all its splendour could now be erected the right way up:


and the layout popped on top, with its new lighting installed. By this time we were full of excellent home-made tomato soup and proper breakfast rolls with copious quantities of bacon from the aforementioned bakers and butchers. The proud parents thus adopted expressions of dreamy contentment, and a wee running session ensued.


Of course what we had really come to see was Kirkallanmuir, Jim's essay on the mineral railways of South Lanarkshire, which is now essentially in working order and ready for scenic treatment and buildings. The following pictures were taken in available light without a tripod so perhaps don't really do justice to Jim's work, but hopefully they give a flavour. Click on the photos for an enlarged view.

Kirkallanmuir's back story is a single-line country branch of the Caledonian Railway. Originally a terminus, the line was doubled after coal mining began nearby, and was extended on into the wilds of South Lanarkshire as a single line. A new through passenger station has recently been built, the old terminus becoming the goods station; a mineral railway connects nearby collieries to the weighbridge at Kirkallanmuir; and a small storage yard is provided for weighed full loads and empties waiting to go up the branch. A cattle bank and agricultural warehouse bear witness to the farmland surrounding the colliery screens and slag heaps. There is no engine shed, but a small turntable allows tender locos to work terminating trains. The whole thing is on three one-metre baseboards, with the double line, mineral branch, and new passenger station represented by cassette storage yards, and the old station, turntable, and wagon yard fully visible in front of these.

Here is the empire with the emperor:


On the board closest the camera, the double-track line from Bonkle is on the left foreground; the colliery branch is in the middle; and the storage yard is on the right, on the viewing side of the layout. The cattle bank and warehouse form the backdrop of the middle baseboard, with the turntable next the viewing side: the mockup card hut marks the site for the Kirk of Allanmuir (to be modelled on Jim's local church). Finally on the left side of third board, the ends of the passenger platforms are just visible through the bridge forming the scenic break as the line theoretically carrying on to Wilsontown, while the goods station is to the right, next the viewing side.

Here's the view from the other end. The ballast colour differs between the yards and sidings, and the more carefully maintained running lines, which are also modelled slightly higher by packing the track with thin card.


The goods station yard has yet to gain its shed and loading banks, but is already full of stock.


The agricultural store in the next shot is a second incarnation of the model Jim made as part of the Group's cameo challenge, written up in the magazine earlier this year. Jim went ahead with his intention to use laser-cut 1mm MDF for this structure, in order to get crisper cuts for windows and doors. The results justify the effort. No doubt Jim will report on this himself in due course.



The central board has some attractive views of trains as five threads of activity take place: occasional shunts to the cattle bank sidings at the rear; passenger trains moving through the scene adjacent to them; constant movement over the goods station throat immediately in front, as the yard pilot sorts wagons; colliery traffic arriving over the weighs, then reversing to the storage sidings (or, alternatively, full loads being drawn out from storage by a pilot then reversed to depart behind a train engine towards Bonkle); and finally, closest to the front, the turntable. In this picture, a passenger train arriving from Bonkle waits for the signal to enter the station.


The loco, a Drummond 171 class 0-4-4T (which, as Jim won't tell you, was derived from a North British 4-4-0T design), shunts its empty stock, while the yard pilot, a 29 class 0-6-0T, sorts wagons.


The signalbox will be on a restricted site opposite the water tank, and so will be an oversailing design.


Jim's 0-4-2 tender loco No 319 emerging from the turntable road. To the left is the weighbridge hut.


Finally some views of the third board. The road to the station is carried over the various railway lines by light plate-girder bridges modelled on surviving CR structures in South Lanarkshire. Here's one of them, spanning a tandem turnout with loose-heel switches and typically rough yard track.


The storage sidings are almost full.



The 29 class, and a 498 dock tank, sit in the brake van lye.

Jim's method is to bring together elements from observed Caledonian practice rather than slavishly model particular structures or layouts, so that the goods station has traces of Blairgowrie in its pedigree, the passenger station of Strathaven, the signalbox will be inspired by Strathclyde Junction, and so on. 

Kirkallanmuir, seven years in gestation, was delayed by an extended house move saga, but activity is once more in full gear. We look forward to seeing the layout again once scenics have progressed further.

Alisdair, over the last month, had assembled some of Laurie Adams' point rod stools etches for Sauchenford. He asked me to take some pictures, but in honesty I could hardly see them, never mind photograph them! Here they are anyway:





Fortified by yet more tea and coffee, we packed up Sauchenford and headed back to our respective homes through late afternoon sunshine, with many thanks to Jim for his hospitality and for the peek at Kirkallanmuir. 








Saturday, 8 July 2017

July 2017 meeting

Back to sunny (for once) Glasgow this month, where Alisdair hosted and Andy, Jim, Stephen, Simon and Graham appreciated the three different varieties of home-made cake on offer.

The main business of the day was to install a new lighting pelmet for the group's Sauchenford layout. Reversing the traditional roles of Scotland's two largest cities, the scenic part of Sauchenford lives in Glasgow and the functional part (the cassette fiddle yards) in Edinburgh. The two were temporarily reunited so the pelmet fixing points could be drilled.


Here it is in place.


The length of garden string in this view was drawn taut while the three boards were adjusted to check they were horizontally in line before the drilling points were chosen. The gardening theme was extended by the bag of rhubarb which was mysteriously hung on the door-handle of the layout room for the duration of our visit. The Visitor's Guide to Scotstoun implores visitors to respect the natives' cultural habits, and avoid prolonged eye contact. Polite enquiry yielded nothing. For all we know, every Scotstoun house stores its rhubarb thus, just as the citizens of my native Arbroath keep their coal in the bath.

The choice of LED lighting strip was then the subject of much experimentation and discussion, but we finally settled for yellower light, which seemed to give a summery feeling; the whiter LEDs worked with the layout's colouring to give a more autumnal tone.

With that settled, the customary bacon rolls were washed down with tea and coffee in the usual lavish quantities. We discussed the next 2mmSA Scottish Supermeet: the date has been fixed for 21 April 2018, at the same venue as before, Perth's Moncrieffe Hall, which worked well for the 2016 meeting. Mark it in your diary now.

At this point, the elephant(s) in the room were finally discussed. Two Jumbos in fact, or to give them their formal title, Drummond 294 class 0-6-0s. Alisdair's mostly-complete BR-period version from a Worsley Works etch met Jim's Caley-era scratchbuilt version, head to head. Click on the photo for a larger image.


"Caley Blue" is a subject of endless conjecture and discussion. One thing is for certain, it was a very attractive livery. My grandfather had no special interest in railways, but he travelled to school daily on the Caley over the Sidlaw Hills from Alyth to Dundee in the early 1900s, and sixty years later he recalled the vivid blue of the 0-4-4 tanks to me with genuine pleasure. But which blue, exactly? Well ... that depends. Look at the difference between these two shots of the same blue loco, taken a few seconds apart, first with the sun behind a cloud, then blazing forth.




Jim has written up his loco in the 2mm Magazine, and the interested reader is referred to the October 1982 issue, available in the Magazine archive. Alisdair's loco is close to completion, so a few more shots before it gets painted may be of interest. Like Jim's, the boiler has a detailed backhead.


Unlike Jim's, the smokebox door is secured with dogs, typical for most of the class in their last days.


The motor is in the tender: in this view from above, the coal load cover is removed.


Underneath, the brake rigging has already been fixed in place.


The drive to the loco is by a wire shaft with tee-pieces engaging in driving slots in the motor shaft in the tender and the gearbox shaft in the loco. (The right-hand tee-piece is hard to see here).



The loco chassis uses the Worsley Works etch frames with Association bushes.



The view from below.


We ended the meeting by playing trains for a wee while. Here, Jim's Jumbo draws a train of pit-props, explosives for shot charges, and empty mineral wagons into the colliery sidings, while Alisdair's 08 shunter from the Association kit strikes an anachronistic note in the background.


For a change, next month's meeting will be in deepest South Lanarkshire. We don't know how they hang their rhubarb there, but we aim to find out.












Sunday, 11 June 2017

June 2017 meeting

Six of us gathered in Edinburgh for June's get-together. The early morning rain was all to the good: it banished thoughts of healthier outdoor pursuits and gave an excuse for a day's modelling. There was a fair bit of blethering but we also got some work done on Sauchenford, the group's layout.

Jim had brought his latest signal from his Kirkallanmuir project for inspection. He's already described this on RMWeb, but another photo doesn't hurt. Note the ground signal positioned in front of the post of the  bracket signal.


Just to show he's no one-trick pony, Jim had also brought along some of his 4mm work. Yes, 4mm ... it seems that in his mis-spent youth he planned an enormous Hornby Dublo 3-rail empire in his parents' loft. Some of the rolling stock survived, and he brought it along to show us. Jim claimed these were built entirely from cardboard. Under some pressure from a hostile audience, he admitted the wheels, axles and couplings are not in fact card, but everything else including the underframes is. Presumably they burst into flames when the brakes are applied. They don't look too shabby for a teenager's models from half a century ago.


Jim also demonstrated the fine art of hooking up the operating mechanism for the ground signals on Sauchenford. It seems you need all ten fingers and laser vision to do this.


Nigel was working on changing the stay-alive capacitors from ceramic to tantalum types on his 02 class shunter (body from a Worsley Works NS etch, scratchbuilt chassis), in order to benefit from their superior performance at the DCC operating voltage. He explains the background in his blog. In this shot, the old ceramic capacitors are still attached to the loco. In the background is a block of old tantalums used to check the space in the cab.


The next stage was to remove redundant components for cab lighting. Here, the ceramics are still in place, with their charge/discharge components visible linking them to the decoder. There was further work to do but at that stage I went off to make coffee, and by the time I got back the job was complete.The new capacitors fitted neatly in the loco cab below window level, no mean feat in such a small prototype.


Stephen had brought with him the White Rose Modelworks 30cm x 90cm lasercut baseboard kit he'd purchased at the recent Bournmoor Expo. It made up into a very robust, lightweight, perfectly square unit. Stephen already has a cunning plan for it, which he proceeded to talk us through. Rather than reveal all at this stage, I'll just show the drawing.


Alistair was meanwhile drawing out a plan for a new layout (hang on ... what happened to his previous plan(s)?). Alisdair and Nigel continued platelaying on Sauchenford while the rest of us leaned on our shovels and watched. Nigel's 02 came in handy for finding dodgy bits of track, which Sauchenford seems to sprout whenever it's in storage for a month or two. This proved the value of the stay-alive capacitors: the 02 was rock solid over the track imperfections and dirty spots which cause poor running in other locos.



The rest of the time was filled by the ritual consumption of bacon rolls (barring Nigel, who has not quite adapted to the Scottish diet yet: we stretched a point and allowed him a chicken salad just this once,  since he'd impressed us with his tantalum capacitors, but we'll be keeping him under observation) and lemon drizzle cake. The sun started to shine by mid-day, but all thoughts of healthy exercise were forgotten. Quite right too.

The FCAG team will be manning the 2mmSA Further North roadshow at the Perth MRC exhibition later this month - if you're going, please be sure to stop and say hello.

[Edited 13 June to correct details of what was going on in the photos of Nigel's 02.]

Sunday, 21 May 2017

May awayday

We don't get out much in the FCAG, so when we heard the 2mmSA was combining the 2017 Expo with the North East Area Group's 35th birthday party, we licked our lips. Not only because of the prospect of a whole day's drooling over other people's models, but because of the catering.

First there was lunch: four choices of main course, three sittings of half an hour each, twenty minutes for your main course and ten minutes for dessert, then off you go lads, we need your seats, carry your plates through to the kitchen please:


Then we had to wait around another hour or two, filling in time by looking at some model railways which some thoughtful gents had brought along with them, before the Light Tea:


The Light Tea, according to the Expo publicity, is "not what would normally be provided at NEAG meetings". Presumably they get the full, unabridged Heavy Tea when there are no outsiders there to watch. No wonder they only meet every two months, they must need that much time to work off the extra calories. By fair means or foul, we FCAG visitors were at the front of the Tea queue at 15:30 sharp, and thus were able to bag the best seats for our Group Photo.


Alisdair spoiled the atmosphere of the day out a wee bit, by actually bringing a model with him - namely, the Jumbo reported on in the previous two months' blogs. The chimney question has been settled: a stovepipe: and for good measure, one of these squat Fowler domes. Rumours that he is doing this purely to wind up Jim Watt are surely untrue. Alisdair is now intensively studying heavy weathering, since the model is to be of a Jumbo in its final days towards class extinction in 1962.


It also has a well-detailed boiler backhead.



As for the layouts provided for entertainment between Lunch and the Light Tea, there was much to look at and learn. I've posted a few photos here. Our thanks to Mick and friends for a very nice day out.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

May 2017 meeting

Back in Edinburgh for this month's meeting. Alisdair, Alistair, Andy and Graham were joined by special guest star Nigel Cliffe, who among other Association jobs is the wheel elf gaffer. Nigel had brought along a box of chocolate brownies and some wagon wheels for inspection.


The chocolate brownies were exceptional. The wagon wheels (2mm ones, not the 1970s chocolate biscuits) were also precision works of art, as were the press tools for inserting the wheel centres ... 


 ... into the correct size of tyre, then, using a second tool, pressing in an axle at the correct back-to-back.


Nigel went over the process - principles and practice - in some detail, and we all had a shot at making wheel sets. We ate the brownies, which had a calming effect; we sipped tea; we relaxed. Then came the sucker punch ... this was not simply part of the Association's educational outreach program. Gaffer Cliffe was looking for new elves! In vain we attempted flight; the brownies had done their work, and we could barely move. Escape was impossible: we were cornered. Press-ganged, you might say. The story will continue in a future blog entry.

We had lunch, then started on the main task of the day: fixing Sauchenford's illumination. The existing halogen bulbs gave uneven lighting - bright spots separated by pools of darkness. A reel of LED lighting was deployed:


along with a reel of masking tape, and after an hour of gradual alterations we had eliminated the halogen bulbs altogether in favour of three LED strips on a lighting bar, arranged to project further in front of the layout so that the trains are not in shadow while the backscene is in sunshine. (These are Nigel's wagons on the layout, by the way). 

We were bothered by a reflection pattern from the rails, due it seemed to the regular spacing of the LEDs, until experiments with tracing paper at a 3cm distance from the strip, acting as a diffuser, solved the problem. Running the LEDs at about two-thirds brightness (using a digital control bought on the Internet) seemed to give the best effect.


After that it was back to the tea and coffee and general chat. Alisdair produced his Caley Jumbo for a progress update - he's been working on detailing the tender most recently, with brake gear and lamp irons evident. But it has nae lum! Not yet anyway. 


Alisdair was not saying whether it will have a proper Drummond built-up chimney, or a BR-era stovepipe. Time will tell. This loco-building clearly requires a special diet, however, as Alisdair demonstrated at the lunch stop on a recent Caledonian Railway Association tour of South Lanarkshire:


Reliable witnesses state that he also consumed a large slab of cake after polishing off that "snack". Apparently he's in training for the North East Area Group's "big tea" at their 35th birthday party in two weeks' time. Where will it end?