Wednesday, 12 January 2022

January 2022 Forth and Clyde Area Group Meeting

 A sort of happy New Year as the random collection of individuals who form the FnCAG failed to meet in person, not, as some may think, to avert needless violence nor to avoid the sub-zero conditions of the December meeting. The group had made a decision not to have a physical meeting this month, to avoid assisting Mr Omicron in his bid for world domination. As a result, we reverted to a virtual meeting held by means of the technological magic called Zoom.

Hence it was was a virus-free and warm meeting for the fourteen chaps (for such they all are) who gathered round their computer screens on Saturday afternoon. So that was two Als, an Andy, one Chris, Graham, two James's, Martin, a Nigel, the far-flung Roy, Simon and Stephen. The more numerate among you will have realised that this list does not total 14, not even a baker's dozen, but only an ordinary mortal's dozen. That's because a special mention and warm welcome has been reserved for Ian and Mark, two new members of the Group, who joined us for the first time. Both of them are refugees from the tyranny of the N Gauge regime of wide checkrail gaps, narrow gauge and funny scale. (1:148! Really, what were they thinking? Could they not just have used the pre-existing logical scale of 1:152? After all, 6.5789477mm to the metre is surely easy enough for anyone to use? Was it all really Cyril's fault? Or was it, as some believe, a secret underground cabal meeting of The Coorse Scalers? Were there really secret N-gauge meetings in the gardens of a Downing Street residence? The questions are endless and really deserve a public inquiry, but The Establishment will never let that happen as names could be named and They can't let one of their Own be shamed. Source: Q-Anen)

Anyway, back in the real world, the subject on Saturday was "Carriages" or, if you prefer "Coaches". A number of folk gave small presentations with Jim being furst (to quote the Lanarkshire vernacular) to strut his stuff. He talked us through the construction of a Decent Models 45 foot Caledonian carriage which he had had lying about for some time, but had been spurred into action by the death of John Boyle, the originator of the etch. It ended up looking like this:

Rather nice, you'll agree. And here it is in a train on his layout, including some earlier builds of other carriage diagrams.

Jim has written up the build on RMWeb at

Next up was Roy, who has a large number of various Masterclass Models kits to make up. These were produced by Chris Higgs as limited edition etches, and Roy built up a stock of about 30 kits which he has slowly been working his way through, although this massive programme of carriage construction has been disrupted by Roy's work on Dunallander. He showed the starting point of a particular kit:

Followed, after an explanation of the build, by some completed and partially completed items

Roy has also been building some Worsley Works carriages and finding them, although not so complete at the Masterclass etches (as you'd expect in something which is sold as a scratchbuilder's aid), certainly very useful, although, in the example he showed, there had been an error in the bogie spacing - easily corrected. 

All good stuff and, when finished, will give Roy a fine collection of various rakes of coaches, well removed from what can be done using proprietary stock (which, of course, would be in the wrong scale anyway...)

Although, of late, Nigel has not been doing much in the way of carriage building, he showed us some North London vehicles which he had built in the past from some David Eveleigh etches. He showed us some construction photos including this one demonstrating the noble art of soldering the roof onto the sides. This method of construction has its strengths in getting rid of the difficult to hide the joint between the roof and sides rather than the usual method of construction with the body soldered to the floor pan or underframe. 

The kits made up into very nice stock as the finished articles show

Martin, as a beginner, recited his experience with his build of another Masterclass etch, for a BR Mk1 coach. He had had some difficulty with making the etched bogies which rely on getting the axleboxes to align on the bogie by using the bearings to line them up. This works well for the first couple of etches but gives problems on the outer etches as the bearings aren't long enough, causing difficulty in keeping those bits of etch aligned when soldering. Nigel pointed out that it is easier if you have resistance soldering iron, as you can keep the iron on the job after turning off the current, until the solder has cooled. (Once again, your scribe yearns for such a beast to help with his extremely untidy soldering.)

Martin was also having some issues with ill fitting parts on the underframe and keeping things perpendicular. All the same, he is making progress as photos of the body show.

Martin is also having a go at a Worseley Works 45 foot Caley carriage.

Martin's talk led on to general discussion of cleaning up before and after soldering, with fibreglass brushes being recognised as a last resort, given the difficulty in getting rid of short bits of fibre. The use of a Garriflex brown block being good for cleaning up a large surface. Using Cif (other cream cleansers are available) and a toothbrush under running water was accepted as being a good way forward. Just remember to put the plug in first and wash your partner's toothbrush afterwards. Another good alternative is use of a jewellery cleaner dip solution.  Best way might be the use of a cheap ultrasonic jewellery cleaner, using just water. Pop your manky metal in the cleaner after every modelling session and after drying it will be nice and shiny for your next session.

Alisdair showed a number of pictures of various carriages he has built over the years including this one of three Highland Railway passenger brake vans.

From left to right; a Bill Bedford etch with Association bogies, the same Bill Bedford etch cut down appropriately with a hand-knitted 6-wheel underframe and a 4-wheel van from a nice little etch produced by The Editor of the 2mmSA Journal - All hail to Anthony!

Well that was it. Disappointing not to have met in person, but Zoom has its strong points for doing presentations and it does let our far-flung members attend more often than they would otherwise.

Next month's meeting, on 12th February, may, or may not, be physical. We'll have to see.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

December 2021 Forth and Clyde Area Group Meeting

Picture it, a dreich, dark afternoon in the post-industrial wastelands of West Lothian; lowsing time for a bunch of dishevelled chaps, blue with cold, haggard with overwork and with the light of the joy of life dulling from their eyes, trudging out of the 2mm Scale Association Turnout Strip Sweatshop which had been temporarily set up in the meeting rooms of the Edinburgh Society of Model Engineers. Yes, it had been the Forth and Clyde Area Group's introduction to the harsh reality of the production of those nice shiny bits of copper-clad which emanate from the Association's Shop 1.

Eight doughty individuals made their way to the meeting place on Saturday, little realising the  "pleasures" in store. As well as Overseer Nigel, the labour consisted of the usual 3 Als, only one Jim, Graham, Stephen and, for the first time in his physical manifestation, Martin, who had previously managed to attend a number of Zoom sessions, but that nasty four-letter word, work, had prevented attendance in person before.

Given the current concerns over the Covid Omicron variant and the recent Scottish Government guidance, we were all wearing masks whilst circulating in the meeting room, and windows were kept open to assist in prevent the blood from circulating in the once warm humans in the room.

Anyway, as you may have gathered from the foregoing, The Area Group has taken on the mantle of producing copper clad sleepers and turnout strips for the Association, under the direction and guidance of Nigel. Our first session was to produce a batches of 50 turnout strips. Nigel had brought along a guillotine and the patented Blackburn Sleeper Chopper Machine; marvellous in its ingenuity and powered by a motor sufficient to dim the lights throughout West Lothian when starting. Nigel took a couple of victims willing volunteers to show them the ropes. It turned out to be really quite simple in the end, and very few fingers were sacrificed to the Sleeper Chopper Machine (SCM). Here we have the Nigel guillotining the sheets down to size to fit the SCM, Jim on the SCM itself and, hiding at the back, Stephen on Quality Control, weeding out those bits which did not come up to scratch.

The other part of the operation involved Martin counting and Alastair bagging the strips. There is a set of scales behind the detergent box which was used to avoid counting every strip. However, the battery ran out part way through the session, probably discouraged by the temperature in the room, resulting in resort to counting, which did give problems to one of the more arithmetically challenged amongst our number. (That's why he was taking this photo.)

The scales weren't the only thing affected by temperature. After a while, the reject rate of strips became much higher. It was decided that this was probably due to the brittle behaviour of the material in low temperatures, so the operation was abandoned. However, we had produced a goodly number of bags and had proven that we could churn the beasties out in fairly quick time, providing enough people were present to create an efficient production line. Perhaps we'll have to limit our production sessions to warmer days, at least until opening of windows is no longer required in the battle against Covid.

Our former Press Officer, Graham, has produced a wee video of the process:

As not everybody could be employed on the production line, folk had brought along their own projects to work on. Graham was producing etched chairs using the doofer demonstrated by James at a previous meeting. He has had much more success with that than the "official" way by using the 3D thingummy available from Shop 1. Yet again, a case of finding what works for you.

Stephen, with his other hat as a 7mm modeller on, was drawing up a plan for an 0 Gauge compatriot (i.e. he was drawing up a plan for a layout to be received by that compatriot, not for a companion in that strange scale) . Disciplinary measures are underway.
New boy, Martin, had brought along his first 2mm model, a scratchbuilt Caledonian Railway outside framed covered van. An excellent start, particularly on what is not exactly an easy prototype. He was busy creating another on the day. Masochism clearly runs deep in his psyche.
Alistair ("i" and "t") was beginning to cut out the walls for his farm building. It's his first essay into using styrene sheet, having been previously a user of mashed and flattened dead trees, and he was tentatively picking up the differing techniques necessary.

Alastair ("a" and "t" this time) was also doing some builderwork, knocking together a wee Ratio hut for his embryonic South Queensferry layout. It's building into a nice wee model.
And the third of the Als (with an "i" and a "d") was wielding his piercing saw on his slow voyage towards the depiction of an exNBR C15 4-4-2T. The class 37 in the background definitely had a Not to be Moved sign, so he was unlikely to get run over.

Over in the far cornet , Jim was churning out another 7ton Caley mineral wagon, made from his own Buchanan Kits etch. "How many is that now, Jim?" "Never enough. Can always do with another one or two. Now be off with you and your impertinent questions!"

The first line of the above paragraph contains a typo; Jim was not working inside a brass wind instrument, but was working in a corner. Sincere and humble apologies from the author to any who may have been misled.

Nigel was finding the cold all too much... We had to point out that lying in front of the 37, was not going to result in a swift release from all woes.

And so, that was the last meeting of 2021. Given the situation, it might be our last physical meeting for a while, but we'll have to wait and see. Our next meeting, on Saturday 8th January 2022, will have a Zoom session anyway, which may be all we have. Ah, well. 

Best wishes for Christmas to all our dedicated readers.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

November 2021 Forth and Clyde Area Group Meeting

Another Conventicle of the Forth and Clyde congregation of the 2mm Scale Faithful was held with the purpose of upholding the cause of the One and Only True Scale. Held  on November 6th in the woods at a secret location in the wastelands to the south-east of Uphall, participants undertook the precaution of arriving long after the official time for the gathering, thus avoiding the N Gauge troopers wielding the Oath of Abjuration lying in wait amongst the pines.

When, eventually, the Conventicle assembled and the roll call was taken, it was noted that it consisted of Nigel, Andy, Graham, Steven, Simon, 3 Als and 2 Jims. Those with calculators will note that this means that a total of ten people attended. This, indeed, was a record since the Group started meeting at the secret location of the ESME club rooms at Almondell. Although there was a Zoom session planned for later in the day, nobody Zoomed in, so, forlorn and abandoned by the outer world, those present girded their loins and set their minds to maintaining the faith by blethering (and blethering and blethering and blethering ...) about the joys of 2mm modelling, cabbages and kings. This involved much standing around and drinking cups of tea.

Eventually, some of those present took out their tools (oo-er, missus!) and proceeded to do some modelling, or in the case of N#1, enlightening the more technically recalcitrant as to the use of an Arduino to control servos. He advised that beginners could do much worse than obtaining an Elegoo Super Starter kit which comes with copious instructions. (Apparently Elegoo is compatible with Arduino.)

N#1 then proceeded to show the use of the bits in the kit for controlling a servo, showing how it easy it is to control speed and limits. Whilst simple stuff to the cognoscenti, there will be a steep learning curve for this scribe (who has just received his starter kit today.) Thought I'd taken a picture, but didn't so you'll just have to shut your eyes and imagine. 

A#3, having decided that etched chair turnout construction was not for him, was experimenting with using Easitrac sleeper base as the basis for interlaced sleeper turnout construction. He found that slicing off the moulded on chair from a sleeper would allow the dropping in of a pegged slide chair. That may prove to be the basis of an entire turnout from Easitrac components. He'll see what happens with check chairs for the crossing area. It looks like an interesting concept, which will be very useful if it proves viable.

J#2 was also playing about with servos, and showed us the fruit of some experimentation with ways of helping the wee beasties cling on to the underside of layouts by a variety of mounting brackets.They operate in similar way to a Tortoise with a single arm moving about a fulcrum, but tend to take up a lot less room than the aforesaid shelled animal.

A#1, keeping the true faith defiantly non-digital in the face of the above attacks on the One True Way, was scribbling way furiously on his sketch pad with a plan for a small layout. 

When, saddened and bereft by the lack of company from the nether regions of the Group who were not in attendance at the putative Zoom session, a couple of the brethern attempted to cheer us up by showing what they had been working on in recent times in the privacy of their own homes.

J#1 showed the progress on the goods yard of his Caledonian layout, Kirkallanmuir. Looking good with the various buildings in position along with the derrick half-inched from Connerburn.

A#2 also showed progress, this time on his accidental Highland layout, Aucheidh, with various bits and pieces in position on the layout along with some stock to fill out the gaps. Interestingly, the hand of J#1 can also be seen in this layout as well, as he had produced the etch for the station platform fencing, giving a very nice touch.

Lastly, but by no means leastly, we come to the toolset which G#1 had brought along to enable work on his next attempt at an etched chairplate turnout. (Contrary to the announcement in the previous edition of this broadsheet, he has not given up on this method of construction, only on his first attempt. The journalist responsible has received a severe censuring and has been hauled up before the Disciplinary Elders, where he or she received the severe fine of provision of a pint of refreshing amber liquid to G#1 in the Horseshoe Bar)

"Nothing surprising here!", I imagine the intelligent reader will exclaim when perusing the above daguerreotype of the toolset, "That's only what one would expect." Ah!, but what does not appear in the image is G#1's secret weapon, developed by the Swiss Army. Not sure what they developed it for, but perhaps it was for burning stones out of horses' hooves. (Try that now and hunt saboteurs and public outrage will ensure that you will be thrown out the Pony Club. And rightly so.)
He claims it is a 100 Watt soldering iron and showed us it in use making alignment pins for holding rail. It certainly seemed to do the job soldering pins onto brass strip. The smoke emanating from the ends of the fingers which held the brass strip, lent a certain piquancy to the atmosphere in the room. Whilst the instrument was certainly efficacious in applying heat, the downside was that the owner was late for his tea as he had to wait for six hours before packing it away to ging hame.

The rest of us departed after a few rousing choruses of the Association song. The next meeting of the faithful will be sometime in December at a secret location near Uphall.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

October 2021 Forth and Clyde Area Group Meeting

And so they flocked to that wooded shrine to small railways and general model engineering excellence, in the badlands between Livingston and Broxburn, ESME. Yes, yet again, it was the far famed and lauded 2mm Association's Forth and Clyde Area Group Meeting, when these staunch and devout devotees of The One True Scale (all hail to the 9.42mm track gauge!) gathered to join together in communal praise of mechanical mice.

This month congregation of nine, consisted of the trio of Als, with the others consisting of Andy, Graham, only one Jim, Simon, Stephen and lastly, but certainly not leastly, from the far west, crossing land and sea to attend, our man from the fabled, misty lands of the West, Richard.

After the usual blether about general modelling matters, this time with a very historical slant, the Glasgow Model Rail exhibitions in the Maclellan Galleries featuring high on the list of topics amongst the brethern (blethern?), each member grabbed a socially distanced table, setting up their modelling projects. Then, of course, borrowing the tools and materials they had forgotten.

Al#3, having given up turnout construction with individual chairs soldered onto copper clad sleepers for the putative Area Group layout, was making a turnout for his own planned layout of South Queensferry in the late 19th century. Given the place and time, turnouts had interlaced sleeper construction allowing Al to use Easitrack sleepers for the bulk of the turnout. He was pretty pleased with the progress he had made by the end of the day, with the crossing in place. Next step will be working out where to put the necessary copper clad sleepers to support check rails and the point blades.

Richard was producing another NCB hopper wagon, from his own etch design and had brought along some of the ones he had already produced. A fine model; he's going to need a great many to support his layout depicting Fenwick Pit.

Simon was building an Association BR standard goods brake van. Sorry, no photos, but he had brought along some of his recent output (not including his multitude of fish vans). The beaver tail observation car is from a 3D print from Shapeways. He is still puzzled as to the best way to glaze the subtle curves of the tail. He also brought along his completed tandem turnout for the aforesaid Group layout. Looking good - all it needs now is a layout to put it on. (The tie bars are temporary until we decide the particular universe from which we will select our chosen means of point operation.)

Whilst on the subject of turnouts, Graham had brought the turnout he had been building for the layout. After struggling with the use of the etched chairs, he had been making amendments to the turnout, but finding that upon resolderingof the plates to the sleepers, adhesion went aglae resulting in many bad words and a stern resolution to abandon the use of etched chairs. So that's 50% of those in the Group who have tried that system have decided it is not for them.

Stephen was planning a layout to fit his man cave, using a classic layout as inspiration. Originally he had been planning for a roundy-roundy, but recognising limits in size while maintaining a decent minimum radius, he is now going for an end to end. Whilst the plan is ambitious, he is canny enough to plan for construction in stages to keep the impetus going, with some colour coding representing his current thoughts as to the stages.

Al#1 was cutting out the walls for the farm outbuilding he has been planning. He is slightly baffled by the relationship of the various sections of the building. The drawing he is using shows only elevations, with no plan and it does appear that some imagination will be needed to make something which works.

Al#2 built a set of access steps from the yard to the goods platform of his layout. He had also started on a removable sheep ramp for loading the top deck of double decked sheep vans. Down such rabbit holes does the sport of railway modelling lead us...

Jim was building a wagon, again from one of his own etches, a CR mineral wagon (I think). He needs rather a lot of these beasties for his layout, Kirkallanmuir.

 It fell unto the lot of the aforesaid Jim to give that day's talk, this one being a short demonstration on bending wire.  Jim's calling as a mouth mechanic had given him plenty of practice in bending highly recalcitrant stainless steel wire, which has stood him in good stead for modelling. He showed us a couple of his orthodontic pliers: one type which have a great advantage of coming parallel at 1mm open jaw, meaning the tips are fully touching when the pliers are closed ensuring an excellent grip of the wire,(a situation not usually met with in ordinary pliers):

And another type with one tapered circular jaw against a flat jaw, for creating curves. Nae picture, but.

Jim demonstrated different means of straightening wire depending on the hardness of the wire. Guitar string should spring into a reasonable verisimilitude of an infinite radius curve when out the packet, but semi-hard wire like phosphor bronze will need running between thumb and opposing finger applying the appropriate force in opposition to the pre-existing curve. A bit of an art, easily learnt, but not easily verbally described so I'm not going to bother. As for soft wire, this can be straightened quite easily, either by stretching or by rolling between two hard surfaces. 

 As examples of bending of each grade of wire, Jim showed us by example, creating a UJ coupling wire from guitar wire and a downpipe from half hard brass with brackets in soft wire. Given the size, neither photographs well using my box Brownie, but you can gasp with wonder at these blurry images:

An excellent demonstration, enjoyed by all, including the hecklers at the back.

Next month will be Show and Tell time, with a Zoom session for the Ootlanders. Date to be decided.