Sunday, 10 January 2021

January 2021 FCAG meeting

Our first virtual meeting in 2021 had the theme of portable toolkits. It was quite instructive to see the alternative approaches of different group members. As before we had a pretty good turnout: both Chrises, Jim and James, Alisdair and Alastair, Mick, Nigel, Richard, Martin, Simon, Tony, Andy, and Graham.

Jim went first. His portable kit travels in a slim wooden box donated by a friend. He added wooden dividers and locators to hold tools in place, and pieces of magnet strip for items like the steel rule.

The box is the permanent location for most of the tools he uses regularly. When manning the 2mmSA demos stand at a show, some other items come with it: a desk lamp, soldering station, a silicone soldering mat, plywood scrap allowing stronger pressure on a workpiece when required, and a brass pad as a surface to cut etch tabs with a curved scalpel blade. The brass pad is also useful as a non-porous surface on which to dispense drops of cyanoacrylate adhesive before applying them where required with a scrap of wire.

Mick uses a lightweight flight-case style box: his example was acquired from Maplin, now defunct, but a large variety are offered via the usual online auction sites. It's about 40x25x15 cm.

Inside, a wooden workboard with rubber feet is placed on top and holds the remaining contents in place.

After lifting the board out, we see a pocket for a folding lamp at the left, a stack of two trays in the middle, and a space for larger tools and a short test track at the right.

We had a short discussion on lamps, since exhibition halls are often so badly lit that a portable lighting source is indispensable. Mick's is by Ottlite, available from eBay, but relatively expensive. It can be separated from its stand for compact storage.  Jim’s cheaper battery-powered example came from Squires - not one of their stock lines, but a "show special". There are plenty of alternatives available online.

Mick's stacking trays are made up from mounting board scraps cadged from a helpful picture framer. He uses these to produce made-to-measure stock boxes and storage boxes as well, and has instructed his fellow NEAG group members on his techniques, although you'll have to go back ten years in the archives before you find this mention. By the way, the NEAG blog is well worth an extended read, if only to see the consistently high quality of photos Mick has produced over the years. It doesn't actually explain how these boxes are made though! Mick explained it to us as cutting the parts from card, taping them together with masking tape, then soaking the joints with pva glue and leaving them to dry out.

Here are a couple of the card boxes: for stock storage ...

and for tool storage by theme - in this case, his favoured Electra couplings.

Chris M. simply uses a plastic box from the Really Useful Storage Company (other brands are available ... )

He typically doesn't travel with the whole box however, and prefers to take smaller boxes from within. Here are his boxes for files: cheap ones and decent Vallorbe files sourced from Cooksons Gold.

Another handy source of storage cases for projects is pill boxes. This one provides seven compartments, but other designs (intended for daily use) can be had with four compartments. The lids have to be opened carefully to avoid catapulting small parts into the middle distance.

For illumination, he uses a heavy-duty Makita work lamp, handy for non-modelling projects as well.

Nigel, like Mick, favours flight cases. (Maybe it's an ex-Chairman thing). Scalpels and similar sharp instruments travel in a plastic box with foam liner so the points are out of the way of fingers.

He prefers not to carry heavy or bulky equipment such as soldering kit when visiting friends or demo'ing at shows. Card modelling is much less demanding on transport and on facilities (and the disruption produced) at the destination. A self-healing mat, plus a piece of acrylic for use when a hard cutting surface is required, are in the case.

Another handy tip is to have a brightly-coloured tub for the "project of the day" when moving about the house, or between house and an outside workshop. It forces you to think through planned work before starting.

Chris G. showed us his heavyweight, or at least heavier-weight, solution: a wheeled trolley 80cm high, weighing 12-12kg with contents. His example cost about £40. The advantage is that his tools can live there full-time, and nothing is forgotten when working far from home. It's especially handy at exhibitions where parking is far from the hall.

The sides fold out for easy access.

 Below is space for further trays for bulkier items.

Graham also uses a plastic box, but a cheaper design whose sides have a slight draught ... this is not quite as good for storage as the Really Useful or similar boxes with straight sides, and the slope is more likely to dislodge the contents.

There is a lift-out lid tray which allows some items to be easily accessed without unpacking the whole thing:

A seperate box for small tools lives in the main part of the box, as do bulkier items. His folding work light is a USB power bank with a light seemingly added on as an afterthought - but it lasts most of the day at a show. It has lasted five or six years but no longer seems to be available online.

A soldering station, metal iron stand with tip cleaner, cutting mat, soldering mat and sundry magnification aids all travel in the bottom of the box, along with the vital instruction sheets for etches and copies of prototype photos. Forgetting these has a severe effect on modelling productivity!

James suggested the answer to the bulky soldering iron problem - a slim but powerful iron with adjustable temperature, available online for less than a tenner. Another handy tip was Tesco rigid plastic pencil-cases as storage boxes: £1.50 a pop.
Tony's source of storage boxes is Indian take-aways. Tandoori chicken produces an especially useful size.

But his main theme was the benefits of parts checklists. Before starting a build, he assembles lists of the part quantities required, both from the 2mmSA shop and from other sources. Here’s an example:

This saves time during the project and in related projects afterwards. It led to discussion on how this resource could be made more widely available.

Mick revealed that he keeps a work log with each project in its (custom-made) box, logging the hours spent each time the box is opened ... with the "disadvantage" that, several decades later, there is nowhere to hide when the box for an uncompleted project is opened with its tell-tale timesheet ...

Alisdair has a handy metal tool-box with a scrap of cutting mat tucked inside its lid.

 Usually however he carries a larger mat, as well as styrene and brick-papers.

That completed the toolbox review - not the most earth-shattering topic, but it was fun and everyone learned something new.

Attention now turned to the Next Group Layout. Most members have been working on (or at least thinking about) the turnout they have promised to build ... regular readers may recall that we aim to build each of the four turnouts several times, as a learning exercise. Jim has been working on the tandem, and took us through the build sequence he has followed over the last week.

Although Jim usually works with interlaced sleepers reflecting his chosen pre-grouping prototype, we will follow LMS/BR practice for the group layout, so we assume the tandem has been relaid with long timbers

First the timbers were cut to length and secured to the paper Templot template with Pritt. The annotations are for timber length and chairplate type, the latter not followed in every case in the light of experience. The red lines on the template are insulation demarcations. The length of Easitrac base is to show how the next turnout in the unit will match up. If these points were being made for a home layout, it would be much more convenient to make the next turnout as a single unit with the tandem.

With the timbers in place, the first stock rail is added, with a set in the correct place for the switch. Regarding the chairs, designer Laurie Adams' 2mmSA magazine article (Aug/Sep 2018) described adding the chairs after the rail is temporarily held in place by forming the outer jaw, sliding them under the rail edge-first, then raising the inner jaw. Dave Searle devised a bending jig to pre-form both jaws (Feb/Mar 2019 magazine)  before sliding them in from the gap between the sleepers. Our tandem builders (Simon and Jim) found these techniques troublesome and preferred to form the chairs with both jaws wide open in the jig (now available as stock item 1-148 from Shop 1), solder them to the sleepers on the template by eye, and only then slide in the rail, push down the jaws and solder in place. This technique also has its disadvantages though, when jaws are accidentally flattened, resulting in a quick bit of surgery to slide the old one out and a new one in. "A bit of a faff" was Jim's conclusion, but he got there nonetheless.

The first crossing vee is built in-situ, from two pieces of rail with the correct taper formed in a jig (Jim uses his own design of taper jig, written up in the 2mmSA magazine for Feb/March 2012). By assembling the crossing this way, the point rail forming the tip of the crossing vee can be placed precisely where the template indicates, then the splice rail can given the correct set-back for smooth running. See the helpful diagrams in section 5.6 of the 2mmSA "Track" book. The tip is gauged from the stock rail with a button-gauge.

Now the second crossing vee is added (to the top left of the shot) in the same way, with the tip gauged from the point rail extending back from the first crossing. Adding the third crossing is more complicated, because its point and splice rails extend back into the knuckle and wing rails of the first two crossings. One is very short and must be formed from a single piece of rail of precisely the correct length between tip and knuckle, if smooth running is to be achieved. This cannot be adjusted later since the rest of the turnout is built assuming this crossing is correctly positioned. An advantage of Jim's filing jig is that it includes an angled plate against which the knuckle bend can be checked until it fits perfectly. The other point-to-wing-rail unit is longer, and required an insulation gap in any case, so Jim used two separate pieces of rail, with a gap around 0.010" judged by eye.
This short piece of rail forms the point rail of the third vee. The tip was tacked in position and the wing rail flange gap at the first vee established using a short length of spare rail as a spacer, with a short straight-edge (the end of a six-inch steel rule held vertically) to ensure the path through the crossing is perfectly straight. Chairs and rail are then tacked, adjusted and finally soldered securely. The splice rail is then added, and the same procedure is followed for the wing rail of the second vee. If these alignments are incorrect, wheelsets will strike the knuckle when trailing through the crossing, risking derailments. The check rail should prevent wheelsets striking the crossing nose in the facing direction, but wobbly wheels or incorrect back-to-back settings will still cause a nose strike if it is not correctly positioned. See figure 2.16 of "Track".
Next, chairs were added for the other stock rail, which was then slid into place:

and the knuckles of the other side of each crossing were formed and added. The button gauge and spare rail lengths for the flange gap can be seen in this shot.

In use, the bent piece with the lump of Blu-tac was placed to provide the flange gap for the second wing rail. The straight piece was positioned in the gap of the wing rail already in place, ensuring that the second wing rail's knuckle is aligned correctly. Both pieces were smeared with Vaseline so they were not soldered in place when the chairs were flashed to the rail.
At this stage, wagons were rolled by gravity through the crossings to ensure everything was smooth even without checkrails fitted.

Next, the closure and point rails were progressively added, and temporary tiebars put in place. Rolling tests with wagons under gravity, and pushed by a finger-propelled second wagon, were made at every stage.

Jim derived some satisfaction from finding that wagons rolled through the crossings first time. Skill and experience play their part, but his top tip is to be very particular about accuracy and ensure that every step is correct before moving on to the next. Come to think of it, that is the golden rule often quoted for building locos too.

Having gone through the construction sequence for the tandem, we reviewed Nigel's design for the baseboard, which he had undertaken in Fusion 360. For those of us not professionally engaged with 3D design, it was a revelation to see how animations and live rotation while  selecting different drawing elements helps discussion of how exactly the design will work. The intention is to use 3mm ply, laser-cut from the Fusion file, with aluminium angle added to strengthen certain edges.

Some of this discussion had taken place by e-mail, but we went on to consider how to position the proposed S4 Society mechanical lever frame so that linkages to turnouts would work easily and avoid the baseboard cross bracing.

The next virtual meeting will be in 13 February at 2pm, and will focus on CAD tools in 2D and 3D and their use. This should be an interesting session since we have some members who use CAD professionally, others who are experienced amateurs, and others just beginning the journey. I suspect we will run short of time!

Monday, 14 December 2020

December 2020 FCAG meeting

Our December meeting was once again a virtual affair, using the Association's Zoom account with the Chairman's kind permission. Since it was a truly dreich winter day, I think most of us were glad of the excuse to stay in.

Alisdair, Martin, Jim, James, Tony, Richard, Mick, Simon, Andy, Graham, Chris G. and Nigel appeared on screen for a down-to-earth Show and Tell session. Martin went first and showed a nicely-weathered rake of wagons, which had benefitted from his painting skills from wargaming figures. Unfortunately, I did not get screenshots of his work (sorry Martin) but maybe he'll give us an entire session on weathering another time. 

Martin had also recently tackled an an Easitrack turnout kit, which had gone well until he started to file the planing of the switches. This caused problems. We talked about the various methods of tackling this job, and it turned out to be an issue for many of those who'd tried the kit - more of this later. As usual, each expert had a slightly different way of tackling the job, so the discussion took some time. 

Martin raised another good question: which is the best 2mm steam outline kit to cut your teeth on? Mick pointed out that the usual advice, namely to find an 0-6-0 tender prototype, is given because this gives twelve contact points for reliable pick-up and thus maximises the chance of something running smoothly first time.

Richard had also tried an Easitrack point kit, and this time I managed to take a screenshot.

Construction was straightforward and took him a week of evenings, but like Martin, Richard found things went wrong when it came to filing and fitting the switch rails. Mick recommended sliding the stock rails through the chairs for three sleepers past the tiebar, allowing the switch rails to be slipped into place. The stock and switch rails can then be unobtrusively bonded with a small strip of brass. Another of Mick's tips was to replace the solder tag on the crossing with a longer piece of brass strip, long enough to pass through the baseboard. This allows the crossing to be removed easily if it's necessary to adjust or replace the closure rails.

Richard was brave enough to show us a cruel close-up of how, in frustration, he had attempted to get the switch tips to sit in neatly against the stock rails, after being told in a previous meeting that joggles were for Great Western modellers only and that porridge-eating, caber-tossing, loch-swimming, hair-shirted inhabitants of Ardnamurchan were not permitted such simple solutions. The alternative he came up with was to file a recess in the stock rails themselves. This caused some concerned murmuring from the experts who pointed out that although this will work well in the facing direction, it is likely to cause problems when passing through in the trailing direction as wheelsets are likely to bounce off the recess when it ends suddenly and derail.

On seeing the photo, the diagnosis was that the planing length of the switch tips is too short. According to the 2mmSA "Track" book, "A" switches should have 11mm planing and "B" switches, 15mm. Sometimes cruel photos have their uses, for diagnosis would have been difficult without it.

It turned out that not only Richard, but several others were slightly confused by the book, which deals with filing of crossing vees and switches in the same section, bouncing around somewhat between the two. The "file-bend-file" technique of filing a taper on one side of the rail until just reaching the web, then bending the rail so that the filed taper is in a straight line with that side of the rail, and finally filing the taper on the other side of the rail, is intended to be used for switch blades as well as crossing rails. Several people mentioned that when filing the second side, it's only necessary to file away the upper head of bullhead rail, leaving the foot substantially complete so that the switch has a little more strength. The wheel flange only runs along the upper head after all. 

The experts also mentioned that, although joggles are not their cup of tea, most of them put a slight "set" in the stock rail - a single kink really, rather than the double-kink of the joggle - but only enough to take the rail a few degrees away from straight. This allows the switch rail to sit in more neatly. Easier to do with soldered track than in the Easitrack kit, however. (And ... tell it not in Gath, whisper it not in the streets of Ascalon ... even the Caley used joggles when they had to - such as in a true three-way point. See here).

Further anent track, Andy showed us his tiebar design, which he wrote up in the magazine a few years ago.

James shows us a small test track and power supply unit he completed recently, as well as a DCC track voltage tester he's currently working on. I missed photos of these too - sorry James! - but again, it would be interesting to have more details in a future meeting.

Simon has been batch-building LNER fish wagon chassis. His working practice is based round plastic ice-cream tubs ... it is necessary to spend several evenings eating ice-cream before starting. After that, they are used to keep the different stages of production neatly segregated, so a batch of chassis can be worked on a few operations at a time, slowly (or quickly, in Simon's case) bringing the whole lot to completion.

Other work has included a 2mmSA LNER Toad kit and a mystery-origin kit for a vaguely Southern brakevan picked up out of curiosity at Perth show some years back. No doubt someone knowledgeable (Chris Gough perhaps, our local Southern aficionado!) can tell us what the exact prototype was. Are these things on the end platforms sandboxes?

Finally, Simon showed us the timbers for the tandem he is working on for the group layout. He's a set man, not a joggle man, before you ask.

Tony has also been batch-building, and showed us a box full off Black 5 tender inner frames and cabs. Yes, there are nine cabs in the box, all mostly complete.

Jim showed us the latest progress on Kirkallanmuir's station building, which has gestated from its unfinished state shown here:

to a detailed model with window, door and lettering detail added from his own etches. His RMWeb write-up, as usual, gives full details.

The building shell is from 0.040" styrene with 0.020" window sills and 0.010" overlays for quoin details etc. The method of cutting the 40-thou' material is to press heavily an a steel rule and make many light-pressure cuts with a sharp scalpel blade: typically 5 or 6 for 0.020" and more for the thicker material (or score and snap). Jim eschews safety rulers but others spoke highly of them. Alisdair mentioned that cheap Chinese-import rules are in fact better for the job because the poorly-finished edge has the effect of gripping the styrene more firmly that a higher-quailty but smoother-edged rule.

Chris took us though his the latest stages of his LMS 4F build (2mmSA chassis with a Mike Raithby body etch).

Issues he had to solve included the drawbar design, the motor mount, and the gearbox: the chassis etch has a fold-up gearbox but the tabs and slots had not etched well and did not locate properly. Ultimately, and with advice from some more experienced members at a previous physical meeting, it was easier to remove the etched gearbox and fabricate one from brass. The splasher tops in the body kit were another source of issues: Chris learned the hard way that the tops are designed to go above the sides rather than between them - only then is there enough clearance for the wheel flanges.

Nigel showed us progress with finescaling the N Gauge Society Hunslet industrial diesel. On taking to bits an early prototype example, he discovered there is very minimal clearance between a spur gear in the model's drive train and a standard (1.5mm) 2mmSA driving axle centred by its drop-in replacement bearing:

His proposed solution is a special axle muff which shaves 0.2mm off part of its length to clear the spur gear. If that does not prove practical after checking for tolerances on more recent production models, a plan B exists using a thinned axle.

Mick had an intriguing set of illustrations of how to make card wagon bodies from standard file dividers. The prototypes are from local industrial railways. First the sides are drawn on the card:

 The plank lines are scored before the sides are cut out.

The model is assembled square:
End stanchions and hopper sides are added:

Here a 2mmSA chassis has been used to complete the model.

The final shot is of a similar North Eastern pre-grouping hopper in card, a model he completed in 1984,

Alisdair brought us up to date with progress on his Highland Railway "Yankee Tank" 4-4-0T. The chassis has advanced to a state where it is square and flat, and everything runs smoothly. The frames are from 0.55mm brass, which he found much more pleasant to use than the thinner material often recommended. They are also blackened with a Carr's proprietary liquid, rather than painted, which will hopefully overcome problems with unsightly chips as the model is handled. 

The brake rigging (brass shoes, nickel-silver hangers, PCB cross-shafts, and a wire pull-rod) locateinto a thin tube which receives the pull-rod, visible below.

Stay-alive capacitors are shoehorned into a space below the footplate. A lump of lead keeps the bogie from floating off the track.
The boiler was rolled round turned bands, soldered, then cut away for the motor, as seen below.

The tank and cab sides were cut from sheet with a piercing saw.

Boiler fittings have been turned on a lathe with needle files.

That pretty much completed the showing and telling. The next virtual meeting is likely to be on 9 January 2021, with a tentative theme of "travelling toolkits".

Whether you are of the Set or Joggle persuasion, the Forth and Clyde Area Group wishes all 2mm modellers, in Scotland and beyond, a Merry Christmas and a guid New Year tae yin and 'a.