Monday, 16 December 2019

December 2019 meeting

Alisdair, Alistair, Jim, Stephen, Nigel, Chris, and Andy met at Graham's house in Edinburgh for our final meeting of 2019, on a dark and rainy day. However, we had a few interesting items to discuss.

One was our recent visit to the Edinburgh Society of Model Engineers' new Almondell club rooms and test track, courtesy of Alastair Wright, who is a member both of ESME and FCAG. It certainly gave a fresh perspective on setting out civil engineering works and track ... ESME runs 3½", 5" and 7¼" mixed-gauge track in several different circuits on a site they had to reclaim from waterlogged woodland. Site Boots were very much the dress code of the visit. Here are some photos from the visit.


We also had a tour of their clubrooms which are spacious and conveniently half-way between Edinburgh and Glasgow. ESME members have been working for several years to bring Almondell to its present state and it promises to be an excellent set-up. I have the feeling we'll be back.

Back to the FCAG meeting ... the object of the meeting was, yet again, to improve Sauchenford's trackwork and check which locos and stock work without issues. Some more progress was made with this, and we will have several more sessions before Model Rail Scotland in ten weeks' time. Ulp !!

The "show and tell" session included Nigel's latest project: motorising  a 2mm scale double-decker bus with full steering and trackless remote control.
 He achieved this using a commercial bus body with a coreless minimotor from Tramfabriek and a 64:1 gearbox from an undeclared source, powered by a 70mAh lithium polymer rechargeable battery. The bus has a steering axle taken from a Faller guided road system vehicle, directed by a commercial mechanism intended as an actuator for micro aircraft control. This uses a combination of a permanent magnet to return the steering to its neutral position, and a current through a coil working in conjunction with two further magnets to turn the steering axle in one direction or the other depending on the direction of the current. The actuator has a commercial radio control box which also has auxiliary outputs to operate the propulsion motor. Fiendishly cunning. Here's a video clip of its operation, with the creator explaining the mechanism while the rest of FCAG tries, unsuccessfully, to put him off.

Subsequent attempts to drive the bus on Sauchenford were abortive, since the roadway was not built with vehicles in mind and the bus has very low ground clearance. Nigel has obviously not prepared well enough to be ready for his PCV licence test, far less to take on the Laurie Adams tractor challenge. Give him time though ... a furniture van or large horse box would be much more in period and is almost the same size as that bus ...

Jim has been working away steadily on his Caley Jubilee tank. He described his technique for assembling the injector - unfortunately rather out of focus in this shot, but it's the blob nearest the camera - and surrounding pipework.

First, he filed the injector up from brass, leaving a small spigot for eventual insertion into the model. Holes for pipes were drilled in it and the pipework bent up from pieces of wire, which were given bends in the excess material so they could be held steady. They were then tinned, given a fresh lick of solder paint, and inserted into the holes pre-drilled in the injector , before being held in place by blu-tak at the bent end in the excess. Once all was correctly positioned, a quick touch with the iron did the job. By applying the iron at the back of the injector, minimal solder ends up on the front.

Jim has also been experimenting with Birchwood Casey aluminium blacking solution obtained from Eileen's Emporium to blacken various parts of the loco.
He's broadly happy with the result. More details in his RMWeb thread. We also admired the detailed backhead he has prepared for the loco cab.

Chris had brought his 4F chassis which had slightly binding side rods. Both Jim and Nigel spent some time working on these with him.

Alisdair had a small case of varied rolling stock with him which he has been fettling up for the exhibition, including some Buchanan Kits CR and NBR dropside wagons.

Finally a couple of photos of pre-grouping locos waiting their next turn of duty on a sunny day at Sauchenford 110 years ago ... just the kind of daydream needed to forget the miserable day outside.
Jim's 29 class "Mineral Tank - Condensing"
His 498 class "Shunting Tank"
and finally Alisdair's Strath class 4-4-0. Avert your eyes from the tender's trailing axlebox  ...
Our next meeting, in January 2020, will be in Glasgow.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

November 2019 meeting

Andy, Alistair, Alisdair, Gordon, Jim, Stephen and Graham met at Simon's house for another session aimed at adjusting the fiddle yard cassettes for Sauchenford. The first job was to fit adjusters to the support structure legs. The adjusters come with pronged T-nuts.

Drill the legs ...
Place a T-nut in each hole ...
 Tap in firmly ... if you are of a nervous disposition or if the leg is slender or its material anything other than ironwood, you may wish to tap in cautiously, or to apply G-cramps to the sides to protect the leg from splitting if the fit is tight. Of course, as experienced modellers, this did not happen to us, because we would have foreseen the possibility and taken exactly these precautions. And if it did happen, it is very hard to see.
Screw in the feet, turn the supports the right way up again, and job done. We now had a non-rocking layout support. It was time for soup and bacon rolls, and a long discussion on whether we want to do another group layout and why. The consensus was that a pair of (non-cassette!) fiddle yards should be built to go on one or both ends of a 3' to 4' scenic section with well-lit sidings at the public side, controllable from front or back. The idea is to create a series of such scenic units mainly as learning exercises for skills development, rather than aiming at exhibition-standard finished layouts, and to dispose of them without fuss once they have served their purpose. The fiddle yards will be re-used.

This meeting was also intended to have a "show and tell" session and there were a few things to look at. Alisdair had progressed some buildings: a Highland Railway goods shed (the smaller standard design) based on Lairg. I recall the shed at Forsinard was very similar. It's built with a base designed to locate in to a socket in the layout scenery. The roof is from Evergreen styrene corrugated iron.

Also a platelayer's sleeper-built hut:

Grandtully station appeared in a blog entry a few months back, but it has now been painted:
Complementing it is a standard Highland Railway signalbox, completed some time ago:
Jim had his Jubilee Tank with him to let us see the latest state of play: brake gear has been added. The  3D-printed wheels are expected to be delivered from a small but well-connected firm of wheelwrights in Kelso before Christmas, with luck. It’s a turning into a bit of a Cliffe-hanger.

Finally, Sauchenford had an unusual visitor in the shape of Simon's Californian Zephyr which he recently put together from a kit.

Many thanks to Simon for once again hosting the meeting. The December session is planned to be in Edinburgh.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Dunallander at Aberdeen MRC show

The Grampian area group took their Dunallander layout to the Aberdeen club's show this weekend for its first public outing as a work in progress. The venue was the function suite of a well-worn airport hotel and the lighting was not designed for 2mm model photography - and the layout has not yet got its own lighting rig - so please excuse the muddy photos. Some of the trackwork was completed the night before the exhibition so it was very much touch and go for it to be ready, but when I arrived an hour after opening on Saturday services were running smoothly. The lack of scenery was no drawback to Tony Heywood and crew: I think each of them could see a fully-sceniced layout in their mind's eye as they let A4s race downhill through the station with the 3-hour Aberdeen expresses, interleaved with fish trains behind Black 5s and minerals behind WDs.

I will let the images speak for themselves since the Grampian group has its own excellent website which explains the background to the Dunallander project. First of all, some general views to give a sense of the layout's size:
A highlight was Mike Rasmussen's card buildings. Mike, a retired architect, made a photo survey of the remaining buildings in a single day and used that, guided by his professional skill to judge harmonious proportions, to assemble a superb folio of buildings and scale drawings, from which he is steadily producing exceptional buildings from foamboard, good-quality cardboard, and ScaleScenes printed papers which he uses to remarkable effect. By using the same supplier's papers for all the buildings he ensures they have an overall harmony of relief and texture. I won't steal his thunder, but I hope a 2mmSA magazine article will be forthcoming in due course. Jim Watt's etched footbridges also looked tremendous, and I believe there are plans for etched platform canopies from the same source.

Some may smile at the sign over the door in the next photo ... but the curious fact of the day is that the sign has no connection with Jim Watt the 2mm modeller! You'll have to ask Mike ...
  Dunallander (or rather Dunblane North) signalbox:
Mike, enthusiastically explaining how he uses ScaleScenes papers, which he modifies before printing in Photoshop to vary the exact shade.
and one of the many folio pages detailing the design of the buildings at Dunblane station..

Many of Neil Ballantine's locos were in use, including his J37 on a local freight:
Jim Watt had brought some of his Caley stock with him: it looked very much at home in Dunallander yard.
Tony Heywood (right) and Roy Bremner are the leading lights behind the project to turn the late Neil Ballantine's home layout into an exhibition layout. The fiddle yard is newly built, as are some of the end curve boards of the continuous run which had to be modified to fit its new premises.
An exceptional effort from the whole Grampian Area Group, supported by many others including Alisdair and Jim from the Forth and Clyde group and various contributors from south of the Border. Nigel Hunt in particular made the trek north with his stud of LMS locos, but unfortunately I missed my chance to photograph them (and given the dim hall lighting I probably would not have done them justice). With luck there will be many future chances to see Nigel's, and other, express locomotives streaking round Dunallander. A pleasure to savour indeed.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

October 2019 meeting

There was a good turn-out of FCAG members for this month's meeting: Andy, Jim, Stephen, Alistair, Alisdair, Nigel and Chris met at Graham's house in Edinburgh. The objective was to continue testing Sauchenford's fiddle-yard cassettes in an attempt to get derailment-free entry and exit, something which has so far eluded us.

The layout support is intended to be assembled by two people in a few minutes. Instead, we tried to assemble it with six people, as a result of which it took more like half an hour to erect.

 Things went better with fewer hands.

Once erected it was found not to be level. Alisdair took charge, since he is now a one-day-a-week PW surfaceman on the local Bo'ness and Kinneil preserved railway ... plus, he is bigger than most of the rest of us. A spirit level was deployed, inconclusively. Attempts were made to blame the floor.
Finally he demanded a length of string and showed us how to detect a humpy-backed board using three rods of identical diameter.
The conclusion was that it did not matter too much if the base was level, since it would be necessary to pack up the layout boards anyway.

The Short Talk this month was from Nigel, who told us about his recent experiments towards producing an simple, low-cost sound system for the "Burntisland" P4 layout of the Scalefour East of Scotland group.
The idea is to use a Raspberry Pi (or Arduino or similar single-board computer) to play a range of sound clips. The requirement for Burntisland is to create the ambient noise of a nineteenth-century ferry port with train occasionally passing through the scene. The script Nigel has written for the Pi can play eight sound clips simultaneously from an arbitrarily-large selection. First of all a 20-minute-long seaside sound background is played in a loop (the length avoids any impression of repeated sounds). Seagull noises are also played in a loop, but faded up and down  to simulate approaching and retreating birds. Other noises can be triggered by push buttons (for example, the ferry's siren, or rattling chains for the linkspan) or by reed-switch or optical sensors. On Burntisland, the sequence of trains leaving the fiddle yard is known, so the software allows appropriate sound clips to be ready in the correct sequence and then started as the train enters the viewing part of the layout.
The point of the system is its minimal cost (just £30 for the Pi, with a mobile phone as a command console or a £50 touchscreen for the luxury version, plus wire, push-buttons and speakers; and further cost reduction may be possible once development is complete using an embedded-application device like the PiZero, at one-tenth the cost). It avoids the cost, complexity and difficulty of retrofitting DCC sound to scratch-built models and handles train and non-railway sounds equally well. It allows soft menu selection from the touchscreen when this is advantageous (cueing up a series of trains from a list) but permits fast selection by physical button when timing is critical (synchronising sound with on-scene actions). All in all a most interesting idea which adds further realism to finescale models.

As we consumed soup and bacon rolls, Jim showed us the current state of his Jubilee Pug project:
Further details are on RMWeb. The stainless-steel 3D printed wheels are still under development but the machining operations required to finish them have more or less been agreed.

Chris has made progress with his 4F chassis and  had also brought along his first 2mm point for us to admire.
The rest of the meeting was spent adjusting fiddle-yard cassettes. Several were passed for for service and several others were condemned and will be reduced to their component parts for possible reuse. The cassette system on Sauchenford seems to have caused problems well out of proportion to its complexity. What we have learned is that careful storage is necessary to avoid damage to fiddle yard track and cassettes alike, and that none of the three or more designs we have tried to connect power reliably to the cassette is satisfactory. Aluminium angle is a nice material for structural use but not so good for reliable pickup. On the other hand, a cassette system combined with a swear-box would be an excellent way of financing a layout.

Next month's meeting will, we hope, be in Glasgow, and will continue the theme of testing and fettling.