Saturday, 16 May 2020

May 2020 FCAG meeting

The FCAG met by Zoom this month, with a record attendance: Stephen, James, Chris M, Chris G, James, Jim, Simon, Alasdair, Alastair, Nigel, Andy, Graham, Mick from the NEAG and Tony from the Grampian area group. We had a busy  two-hour session of "On My Workbench".

First up was Chris M., who has been pushing on with his Fowler 4F chassis build after the advice on gearboxes from Nigel and Jim at the last meeting. Everything now runs fairly smoothly and he can now turn his attention to finishing the model.


Jim showed us his build of the late John Boyle's etched kit for a Caley 45' coach. Starting with the bogies, he took us through construction of the underframe (with 14BA studs soldered in as bogie pivots) and the gradual build up of sides, ends, the roof (which he remade in hard 4 thou brass shim), buffers and other fittings, and finally ready for the paintshop. The pictures tell their own story. Full details are on Jim's RMWeb write-up.


Chris G. then gave us an update on his nascent - but rapidly-developing - Bosalek project, which can also be followed on RMWeb. Pointwork built, baseboards laser-cut and assembled, landforms starting, buildings being positioned, and everything to a very high standard.

Next up was Mick, who has several chassis projects on the go. One of them was to revive a J26 which was prone to short-circuits. Mick's solution is a new tender drive, built around a layshaft driving all three tender axles via worm wheels.

Meshing was tricky and was achieved by finely adjusting the shaft end bearings. A Nigel Lawton 8mm diameter motor is held in place using a brass ring turned to a smooth push fit on Mick's lathe which in turn is soldered to a brass plate which sits above the frames, with double-sided PCB used to ensure no shorts.

The tender body is from an etch for a B16 and has added brass bar weights. It runs smoothly and slowly without Simpson springing, so Mick does not propose to add any - in any case the loco has them already, and will be wired through to the tender, so a nice-running loco should result.

Alastair updated us on progress with his South Queensferry layout, based around 1890 as construction was finishing on the Forth Bridge less than a mile away. Two Ikea shelves form the baseboards and a Templot plan is pasted down ready for tracklaying. Unfortunately I failed to screengrab his photo correctly so you will have to imagine it .... but we did also get to see his sheet metal bench (his other hobby is 5-inch gauge live steam) and the guillotine he intends to use to manufacture sleepers.

Nigel talked us through his recent build of a French electric loco which has curves in multiple planes. His forming method is nothing more than a good smooth-jawed vice to pin the etch gently against a suitably-sized rod, then persuading the sheet metal to the correct shape with a smooth piece of wood. Others, it seems, prefer to roll on their thighs.

 The chassis is a short-wheelbase Tomix tram chassis; Nigel made a slot in the boxy area below the underframe to carry a DCC chip..

Since the shot below, some further livery detail has been added, giving a touch of red and yellow. It's an impressive beast.

James had an interesting little straight-DC controller which he'd built from a PP3 battery, a pulse-width modulation circuit board, and a voltage and current display. Very neat. A 2mmSA magazine article is reputed to be on the way.

Tony showed us his Black 5 build, from the Association kit. The boiler has been drilled for fittings, the cab is partly built and awaiting overlays, the tender is coming together, and the chassis was painted this morning. It should be wheeled by next weekend. There were a few tales of one step forward, two steps back, but overall he is happy with progress.

He also showed us the latest changes to Dunallander after the experience of exhibiting at Aberdeen last autumn. In order to ease the radius of the curve at the end of the layout, while still fitting in the limits of the Roy's shed, the goods yard has been narrowed by six inches and a couple of sidings removed. The reminder have been straightened and are now more accurate for Dunblane, on which it is based. Here are "before" and "after" shots:

The layout has also been altered from a continuous-run with a traverser to an end-to-end with individual fiddle yards - the operating team feels this will work better at shows.

Alisdair showed us the further progress he's made with the track maintenance train of the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, where he is (or was, before the lockdown) allowed to work off his excess energy as a platelayer once a week. The basis for the coach is a Masterclass Mark 1 BSK, with B4 bogies from an old Association etch. The Weltrol is scratch-built I think. The detail of the load includes chairs and baseplates. There is rivet detail on the fastening ring plates.

Finally James showed off the button gauge he'd turned up in the lathe ... for P4!

The 2mm one is on the right ...
Apparently he found these so useful when building 2mm track he wanted the same thing for the larger scale. A nice example of cross-fertilization to close the meeting. We all seemed to survive without tea, sandwiches and cake, so we'll aim to run another virtual session next month.

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.