Saturday, 10 February 2018

February 2018 meeting

 Andy, Alistair, Simon, Graham and Gordon met at Alisdair's in Glasgow this month. There were a few models to look at: Simon had painted the Severn Models kits he started last month:

Nice interior detail:

and the Buchanan Kits Caley goods brake:

 Andy had a go at a Buchanan Kits lattice-post signal this month. It was quite exacting to put together but the instructions were clear. He didn't claim it to be a perfect build, but said he'd learned a great deal for the next one! The finial is a work in progress. And, yes, the signal operates.

The demo this month was from Alisdair, who has been continuing to detail the sewage works destined for Tony Heywood's Hest Bank. He wanted a quick and effective way to fabricate the distinctive post-and-rail safety fences and ladders around the filter beds and the various tanks.

Rather than go the etch route, he decided to use copper wire from old GPO four-core phone cable, stripped of insulation and stretched straight with pliers. A simple jig was made by skrawking two parallel grooves into a piece of aluminium for the fence rails, with a series of short grooves at right angles to these for the posts.

A length of wire, destined to be the middle fence rail, was aligned in the groove and held in place with "hot tape", then a fine file was used to cut a notch half-way through it at each post position.

A notch was also made in a length of wire destined to become a post.

This was then trimmed with a scalpel roughly to post height, erring on the generous side.

Small pieces were chopped from a length of solder, the junctions were fluxed, then the posts were tacked in place on the middle fence rail. No need to be too tidy at this stage.

The posts were now trimmed with the scalpel to be just short of the other groove, into which the top rail was then taped. The top rail junctions were fluxed and soldered in turn. Again, no need to make perfect joints - the idea is to get a roughly-accurate structure with enough strength to be handled. The tape was eased gently away with a scalpel blade and the blobby but square fence was transferred from the aluminium jig (which sinks too much heat to allow nice joins) onto a piece of card.

Now the joints were fluxed and worked over again with the iron, pressed down with a tool with a slight "click" being felt as the wire finds the notch. Care is taken to keep the joints as neat as possible.

Finally the emery board was used again to reduce any remaining large blobs and generally tidy up. The resulting fence can be inserted into its base by drilling holes for the posts; not all posts need to be "planted", it works well to plant every second or third one and trim the intermediate posts to size.

For the ladders, lengths of wire were squared off using a couple of strokes of an emery board on one side, turning over and repeating, then treating the remaining two sides: by no means perfect, but a few seconds' work produced a visibly squarer result. These were to be the ladder rails.

A single strand from a length of multistrand flex was gently straightened to be used as rungs. The jig this time was a 4mm strip of copperclad paxolin, a remnant from turnout construction in P4 days. The copper was eased away from the edges with by scraping with a scalpel, then slots for the rungs were scrawked in precise positions using a 1:10 slide board of the type written up by Geoff Jones in the 2mmSA magazine some years back.

The fine wire was now wrapped tightly round the paxolin strip and teased into place in the slots, then pressed down firmly with the rounded handle of a tool.

The rails were tacked at one end with solder then fluxed and held taut while working down the edges with a hot iron.

The hot tape is deployed again.

Blob size is less important than strength here. Any very large blobs are cleaned up with a touch from the iron, but the idea is to get a convincing impression at normal viewing distance rather than aiming at etch-precise ladder rungs.

The whole thing is then cleaned up with the emery board, the fine wire at the back of the jig is cut off with a sharp scalpel blade, and the ladder eased off the jig.

The sharp scalpel is used to trim any stray wires:

and finally a handrail can be added if required.

It looks convincing when placed against a filter bed, even without being tidied up further.

A quick look at some of the structures in the sewage works, still far from complete.

The valve hand-wheels in fact started life as wagon wheels from an N Brass narrow-gauge etched kit. The ladder in the shot below is an etch from a signal kit.

The safety chains across the fence openings are more pieces of fine copper wire.

That all took much longer to write than Alisdair took to do his demo. And then he whipped up bacon rolls, tea and coffee for his audience. We were duly impressed.

The rest of the afternoon was spent assembling and cleaning Sauchenford, then checking operation and making a list of the inevitable maintenance jobs which seem to sprout whenever a layout is left to its own devices for a few weeks.

Next month we'll be back in Edinburgh if all goes to plan, and before that we'll be manning the 2mmSA Roadshow stand at Model Rail Scotland. Do drop by to say hello if you're visiting the exhibition.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

January 2018 meeting

An Edinburgh meeting to start 2018 - with a good attendance: Jim, Stephen, Alisdair, Alistair, Chris, Nigel and Graham. Obviously, New Year resolutions were still in the forefront of many minds, because there was relatively little nattering and an air of serious industry was established fairly early on. Nigel has been dropping hints about a wee layout for his wee diesels (well, ok, he has not really started to sprinkle Scotticisms in his daily speech since he moved north of the Border, but that is surely just a matter of time). Anyway, giving substance to the layout rumour, there he was, filing up crossings for points, using his handy Eclipse instrument vice:

Here's a closer view of the vice.

A nice piece of kit, apparently no longer made. When Nigel quietly dropped in the information that his example was a skip rescue, you could hear the grinding of canny Scots teeth a block away.

Nigel's evangelical zeal, however, was reserved for Polycell Advanced Quick Drying Pollyfilla. (Other brands exist, but this formulation seems to work well for 2mm needs). This stuff is available in a tube for a fiver or a small drum for £8, and is a very versatile medium for modelling stonework for buildings or walls. It's quick to mix, easy to butter onto a piece of card or styrene using a scraper, and the result is flexible when dry, yet easily scribed to give crisp stone course detail, and readily sanded or distressed with a toothbrush (an old toothbrush, I hope) to soften sharp edges.

Unlike conventional fillers, it doesn't need to be built up in thin layers, and it readily bonds to itself so that mistakes can be corrected. The material can be cast (mould and clingfilm) and the finished result can be cut cleanly with a craft knife - the coping stones on this section of wall were produced by slicing up another piece of dried filler.

It takes water-based paints readily - Nigel was wielding a small tester pot of grey from the decorating shelves of a DIY warehouse.

Alisdair was working on his sewage farm, cursing the railings as far as I could make out. It is apparently a bit fiddly.

Jim meanwhile has painted his signalbox (see the November and December blogs). His own account is on RMWeb. A few more shots won't hurt however. The interior has all the necessary details, flags, duster draped over a lever, block instruments ... it's not clear if the flags can be unfurled though.

A fire hisses gently in the grate, with the tick of the clock the only other thing to break the silence. The signalman has gone out for a minute to ask what happened to his roof.

Ah, there it is. A couple of exterior views for good measure:

Stephen, as well as carrying out his self-alloted role of group librarian, was busy with squared paper designing a layout for his layout room. We recall he went through this stage before when the layout room was freshly made and the venue for a memorable housewarming. Then the inevitable happened, and his family filled the room with junk when he was off earning a living. (This seemed a familiar scenario to most of us at the meeting). Clearly, his New Year resolution is to fight back and reclaim his space. We will see! but we are with him in spirit.

Chris had come armed his 4F chassis, aiming to get the group's advice on the next stage. The classic role of an area group - sharing knowledge.

Alisdair took on the role of chief adviser, but most others had an opinion as well.

Meanwhile Alistair was in Andy Warhol mode, making a perspective sketch from a rather nice looking prototype plan for a stone workshop building from the slate quarries of Easdale off the west coast of Scotland.

Whit! Haud on a wee minnit!  There were no slate quarries in Leith! Mearns has gone off message again, and that small urban terminus layout of his will never get finished at this rate. Or beyond the Templot stage for that matter. However, each to their own. We know better than to argue with him.

This month's lecture was an account of a steam preservation project in Kenya, presented by Graham. Brevity was not its main feature. The interested reader can learn more here.

Nigel had brought some excellent Seville Orange cake (thanks Carol) which followed soup and bacon rolls ... and endless tea and coffee. Some nattering did take place after all, and one subject for discussion was the 2mmSA Perth Supermeet on Saturday April 21st. Mark your diaries, and if necessary negotiate with your better halves, now, to avoid disappointment.

Next month's meeting will be on the 10th in Glasgow, and the Short Talk will be by Stephen, who as the only professional railwayman in the group will doubtless have something of interest to tell us. If you'd like to come along, let Alisdair know via