Friday, 2 December 2016

Another look at point rodding, Part1

Its almost two years since I installed Wills point rodding on the old layout, but since then Modelu  have arrived on the scene with a rather nice Blackall's/GWR point rodding stool.  I took a look at this new product earlier this year, and was very impressed with the finely detailed 3D prints. Since then they have been stored away along with some 0.4 mm square wire from MSE, and a Brassmasters etch for the cranks, compensator's and other bits and pieces.  I expect you are wondering why I didn't leave things as they were, after all the old rodding didn't look too bad really.  But I knew it could be better, and I like to experiment with new products, techniques, and ideas.  Its what drives me on, and keeps me interested in modelling.

I'll be honest, hold my hands up and admit that I've been putting the job off for a while now, for it can be a fiddly, frustrating detail to add.  Anyway I set myself the goal of having it sorted by Christmas, because the thought of doing it has been hanging over me like a dark cloud.  Its silly to think that way really, and all too easy to talk yourself out of doing a particular task.  But once you decide to get on with things it often turns out far easier than you imagined.  So I started to strip the old rodding away, preparing the surface for its replacement as I went along.

Normally I like to lay point rodding whilst track laying, but in this case it wasn't possible.  So I hit upon the idea of assembling as much as possible on my workbench, and then installing it onto the layout in sections.  So I took a rubbing of the track work, marking the positions of the FPL's, cranks, compensator's and stretcher bars.  I also visited CLAGS website, looking for hints, tips, and general information on the subject.

I don't know how I managed without my rather tatty soldering mat, for its a godsend when assembling small parts like you see here.  The other side is in pristine condition, so there's plenty of life left in it yet.  Before removing the parts from the etch, all the holes were opened up with a broach, and the baseplates were attached to a piece of ply sleeper strip.  Holes were then drilled right through the sleeper strip, and the wire pivots were pushed through into the soldering pad.  Which makes it easier to handle the parts whilst they are being soldered, and cleaned up.  The ply will also provide a firm base which can be sunk into the underlay on the layout.

I always use 145 degree solder, and 9% phosphoric flux for jobs like this.  If the parts, and soldering iron tip have been well cleaned, then the solder will flow instantly, giving a sound joint.  Rather than add the solder to the joint as you would when soldering an electrical connection, a small speck is applied to the soldering iron bit, and carried to the joint.

My workbench is currently swamped with projects, so I made a temporary working area with my old trusty 'workmate' and a chunk of ply. The point rodding plan was then attached to a piece of 'Palight' foamboard, and a start was made on assembling the first run of rodding. Ignore the track under construction in the background, that is a separate project.

This is the first section, its waiting for two more cranks and a single compensator.  As you can see I've also attached the rodding stools to another piece of sleeper strip, I found that neat EvoStick PVA bonds them firmly in place.  Apart from acting as a base, the ply acts as a handy grip for threading the stools onto the rods.  Once each stool is threaded, they are cut off and cleaned up, stools were originally spaced at six foot interval, later increased to nine.  So I've spaced mine at a touch over six feet to give an equal distance between them.

Close ups are ever so cruel, this view shows the arrangement of the point rod cranks, and signal wire pulleys as the emerge from the locking frame under the signal box.  The rods under the track are just being tried for size, before being bent to shape and attached to the cranks.  The Brassmasters bases are a touch on the large size, but once painted they won't appear as big.  Apart from the pulleys and single rodding stool, which are from the MSE range, all the components are from the Brassmasters etch.  Everything is mounted on ply point timbers, and secured with cyano.  The facing point lock is a Wills moulding which survived from the old rodding installation, and will eventually be covered with a protective ramp

Another view with the signal box and walkway in place, the latter will be moved slightly forward, once the installation is complete.

The first complete section of rodding prior to painting.  So whats the verdict, well for me the combination of Modelu stools, Brassmasters etched cranks, and MSE 0.4 mm square rod works well. Its certainly easier to construct rodding in this manner, and it looks far better than anything I've used before.  Obviously you need a lot of patience, and need to take your time, forward planning is essential.  But these components make point rodding achievable if you are prepared to invest a little time.  The last run down to the trap point on the goods siding is now ready to be installed, and since typing this up. the rodding in the above photo has been bent to shape and connected up.  

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A brief update.....

Well I've finally got around to removing some of the old Wills point rodding, and the ground has been prepared for its replacement.  In fact the first section has since been installed, some photos should appear next week, once the whole job is complete.  Then the layout will be dismantled until the New Year, as space will be needed for family visits over the festive season.  My so called dedicated modelling room becoming a store for Christmas presents, and furniture as the house is rearranged.

In the meantime a few recent photos of some trains, which makes a pleasant change.  I have plans to model a sister engine for 1455, but with top feed.  Not sure which it will be yet, but it will be to the same spec. ie)  a modified Airfix body on a Comet chassis, with Gibson wheels, Mashima can, and not one of the Hattons / DJM models

A rare outing for the Bubble Car, and a glimpse of the new point rodding.

Finally the returning pick up goods coasts down through Llangunllo behind Collett Goods 2217. This is the maximum train length that can comfortably be handled by a tender engine on the layout.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Talking Toads....

When I returned to the world of 4mm scale modelling after many years in the wilderness, Airfix and Mainline had just arrived on the scene.  Both had a GWR 'Toad' brake van in their range, and I ended up with the Airfix version.  Sadly, both appear to be a mix of diagrams, nothing new there, and the latest models from Bachmann and Hornby are little better.  Which isn't surprising really given their parentage.  But despite all that my old Airfix model has served me well, in later years it ended up being converted to EM, gaining an inside rocking axle in the process. Then, following a rebuild it emerged from my workbench as the Kington Toad, its still far from perfect. So I've been looking at a few alternatives, the obvious choice being the Ratio GWR toad kit, but even that has its faults.

Paul Marshall-Potter is currently doing some interesting conversion work on a Mainline Toad, which he has fitted with a Morgan Design chassis.  The full range of Morgan chassis are available from the Scalefour Society, and you don't have to be a member to purchase one from their public eshop.  That got me thinking, because they also produce a chassis for the smaller AA3 van which can be modelled by doing a cut and shunt on the Ratio kit.  At one time Keyser, more commonly known as (K's) produced a cast kit for the small AA3 16T van, examples come up for sale now and again, along with the etched kit that was once produced by Jim McGeown under his Pocket Money Kits label.  But expect to pay silly money if you come across either, Frogmore also produce several etched kits for a variety of toads, and after a long wait, they are now available again from Dart Castings.

I have always fancied a model of the smaller AA3 16T brake van, and being shorter they are certainly useful for small layouts such as mine.  So rather than butcher a Ratio kit, I took the plunge and purchased one of the Frogmore kits for the AA3 van, with a steel veranda. Now just watch a decent RTR model arrive on the scene.

This is what you get for your hard earned cash, the body is a one piece fold up etch, to which various detailed overlays are attached.  The roof is supplied flat so needs rolling to shape, a task which should be made easier thanks to the half etched plank detail on its reverse side.  A pair of etched 'W' irons are provided, one can be assembled to rock, but if compensation isn't required both can be assembled in rigid form.  A pair of etched works plates can be found on the main fret, which is a nice touch, and a separate etched sanding lever linkage is also provided.  Cast whitemetal axle boxes, and a short length of tubing for the stove chimney complete the kit, no buffers, decals, wheels or bearings being provided.  The kit is let down by the instructions, which are very basic, and poorly printed, the photos being small and totally useless, which is not something that you expect today.  So its certainly not a kit for the beginner. There are also reports of inaccurately etched parts, but I will approach the build with an open mind, and let you know how I get on.  But don't hold your breath, for this one is well down the to do list, and one of the reasons for that is the point rodding.  Yes, I've actually made a start on it and all being well most of it will be installed by this time next week.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Ditch or Leat ?........

Earlier this year I was out and about with my camera looking for features to model, and came across this ditch, which isn't far from where we live.  I've walked the path alongside it with my old canine pal many a time, but how often, if ever have you seen one modelled?  Its course is marked by the line of trees, and once out of frame on the left it disappears into an underground culvert, which takes it through the village.  From time to time it emerges into the open, before diving underground once again.  At one time it circled the village green, a short spur leading off to a pond. the latter is now filled in, and any hopes of building dams and searching for tadpoles are a distant memory.

The ditch passes under the cart track on which I'm standing, by means of a large diameter concrete pipe, which is covered with earth and old timbers.  It then winds its way through agricultural land behind me to the nearest river.  Now all this got me thinking, and whilst reinstating the railway embankment on Llangunllo, I thought, why not model a ditch, or a leat?  The latter is nothing more than a man made artificial ditch, dug to supply water to power a mill, or other industry.  Once the water has done its work, it usually ends up in a pond.

The course of the ditch follows the joint between the grassed area and the new plaster.  Though you can't see it, a natural depression was formed between the two without any help from me.  Sometimes things just happen like that, its as if they are meant to be.

The old grass was removed, and the bare plaster painted to match the main embankment.  The bed of the ditch was painted a murky brown colour, then sealed with neat PVA,  A few small pieces of gravel being added before it all set solid. Once everything had dried, a couple of coats of gloss yacht varnish were applied to represent the water.

It was then a case of replanting the grasses that had previously been removed, and adding new, darker tufts around the edge of the ditch. That's because grass is always greener around a water course, or in areas where it collects.

Inspired by the village ditch that I mentioned earlier, the one at Llangunllo enters a concrete pipe, which is just visible in this photo.  Its nothing more than a piece of Plastruct tube, which was cut in half length ways, and bedded into the wet varnish before it set.

The other end of the ditch continues down the embankment, and is deemed to drain into a pond or quarry, neither of which is modelled.

A few changes have been made to the allotments, the track leading to them is now narrower, shorter, and the whole site is more overgrown.  Any fencing will have to wait until the point rodding as been fitted.

Anyway, having passed under the allotments and the lane, the ditch emerges from the river bank to meet a sluice gate.  This would have been opened to reduce the water level in times of flood, or if the ditch were a leat, it would have been opened when a flow of water was required to power machinery. Now the backscene is in place this whole area is being slowly worked up, I just do a little at a time, take a photo or two, and see how it all looks.

The sluice frame was made from balsa, and ply sleeper strip, the winding mechanism being made from two Gibson crank pins, with a piece of brass wire bent to form the winding handle

A storm is brewing over the distant hills, as a ray of sunshine illuminates the river bank and the sluice gate.  The gate itself was made from Slater's embossed styrene planking, with etched wagon strapping for rivet detail.  The river is low today, but once that storm hits, water will flow down off the surrounding hills and the water level will no doubt rise.

After each modelling session I run a few trains, in this view 4678 storms up the bank from Presteign with a short goods train.

...................................before reaching the summit of the line, and coasting down to Llanbister Road.

Finally, many thanks for all those who cast their vote on my recent magazine poll, according to my blog stats. 91% voted in favour.  In the meantime take a look at this, and before you ask, no, its nothing to do with my poll :-)

Thursday, 3 November 2016


Well as you can see the new backscene is in place, its the same one that I used last time, and has been modified in the same manner by cutting most of the foreground away.  Following the manufacturers suggestion, and instructions, I've used a spray adhesive to secure it in place this time. 3M Display mount being my adhesive of choice, and its worked a treat.

This was the first section of the layout to get the treatment, the alignment of the scene is slightly different from on the old Llangunllo. Which was more by design than accident, as I wanted the scene to fall in a certain way further along.

The goods yard looks totally exposed to the elements, I certainly wouldn't care to be bagging coal up there on a typical grey Welsh day, let alone in the depths of winter.

Rather than stop short at the scenic break, which in this case is marked by the bridge.  The new scene wraps around the cassette deck, which I feel creates a sense of distance.

I mentioned earlier about aligning the backscene to fall in a certain way, and this is what I was aiming for.  You see I wanted those trees in the background to end up behind the station building, and around the approach to the bridge.  The idea being to blend the modelled hedgerow into them, in hope of creating more depth to the scene.

Looking towards Llanbister Road, I didn't expect to have reached this stage so soon.  Over the next few days I'll be working on the embankment between the platelayers hut, and the allotments, after that the new point rodding will be laid.

Following this post, David asked, "Can you show us how the backscene wraps around the cassette deck" ?  So here is a photo of the current arrangement, as you can see, its very much a case of work in progress.  This section of backscene has been glued onto a preformed, curved length of hardboard, which is supported by a light softwood framework attached to the baseboard frame.

Its my intention to create a fully scenic cassette deck, which will give the impression of the branch carrying on into the distance. Obviously the cassette seen here won't be a part of that, but at the moment its allowing me to play trains whilst I experiment with certain ideas, and other modelling projects.  The picture will become much clearer in a future post, but that's some weeks away.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The green, green, grass of home...........

Well here we are back on Blogger, and my experiment with Wordpress is over.  Talking of experiments I've been exploring the world of 7mm scale modelling, but having done an awful lot of planning, and pondering, I've decided its not for me, though it was a very close call at one point! So having got all thoughts of the so called 'senior scale', and other distractions out of my system, I returned to work on Llangunllo.

I started off with this section of embankment, which is a mix of all the materials that I've mentioned in previous posts.  Static grasses, have yet to be applied, that will be the next job, once the local artist materials shop has a fresh supply of 3M Display mount. Cheaper alternatives are available, I've even used hairspray in the past, but you can't beat the proper stuff, which drys clear, has an extremely firm hold, and doesn't discolour over time.

This is how I've used the Silflor, Heki and Noch materials, the bush, and tall grasses in front, and to the right of it, are from the Silflor 'Early fall proliferation area mat'.  MiniNatur 4.5 mm 'Late fall' static grasses will be applied next using a simple 'puffer bottle'.  These particular grasses are a faded green / straw colour, midway between the colours of the Silflor, and Noch materials.  They will be used break up the larger areas of grass, and to blend everything together.  Well that's the plan, the idea has worked well in the past, so should do so again.

A couple of hours later an overgrown hedgerow had appeared, which has been made from leftover pieces of Seamoss, the bits you find in the bottom of the box, that are useless for constructing trees with.  The embankment around the cattle dock was tackled next, the dock itself being modelled in a disused and overgrown state.  The grass here is nearly all Silflor, much of it being laid in small clumps, I wasn't happy with the location of the lamp hut on the far embankment, so its been moved towards the rear of the station building, where its out of harms way.

Hanging basket liner is being used in main for the embankment beyond the bridge, the section seen here under the arch is mostly 'Heki'. But as the embankment disappears into the distance, the good stuff is used less, and less.

There is just room for two 57 ft coaches in the platform, though passenger trains of that length are rather rare.  Longer trains have to slowly draw forward, as did those on the real railway.

Looking in the other direction, since this photo was taken, the remainder of the embankment beyond the platelayers hut, has been covered in long grasses, and the backscene now reaches as far as the goods yard.

The layout is now coming to life, and the Llangunllo that I knew is slowly coming back to me.  This time next week should see most, if not all of the scenery completed, save for the smaller details, then what ???

Thursday, 13 October 2016

More News From Llangunllo...

In truth not much has been happening on the modelling front, and that's been down to a major DIY project, gardening duties and a holiday. However the goods inwards department has been busy, a recent arrival being a supply of Silflor which I ordered directly from the manufacturer in Germany.

This is 1:87 scale 'Late fall pasture', which is ideal for creating dried grass, the sort that you come across towards the end of summer.  I've also purchased some of the same material in 1:45 scale, to represent taller overgrown grasses.

I also took a punt with what is described as 1:87 'Early fall proliferation area'.  Both landscape mats will be torn into clumps and mixed with other materials.  Thus giving a variety of textures, colours and height.  These mats don't come cheap, but then quality never does.
I have managed a little modelling in, and around the goods yard.  I felt that a small coal office and store might fit into the scene.  So Henry Stephens now has a new, more humble premises from which to ply his trade.
I was never really happy with the original building, and felt it let the old layout down.  In fact the best part was the sign that my good friend Iain Robinson produced for me.  So I salvaged that along with the etched window frames, and looked for something more suitable.  Coal was stored in the old Llangunllo yard, but I decided not to provide any such facilities in the new one.  For it was common practice for coal merchants to bag and weigh their wares on site.  Our local merchant would park his ex army Austin K2, or in latter years his brand new Bedford TK, beside the coal wagons, and shovel coal directly from rail wagon to truck platform.  He would then bag and weigh his wares in one go, either delivering his orders straight away, or taking the bagged coal to his secure storage area, which was behind his cottage.  A right eyesore that was, but fortunately he had no near neighbours to complain.

Heaven knows what Henry thinks of his new office, or should I say shed.  Its a simple 40 thou styrene structure, well braced internally to prevent any chance of warping, and overlaid with Slaters 2mm embossed planking.  The windows, doors and fittings are from the excellent Brassmasters range.  With a corrugated iron roof, and rainwater goods from the Wills range of material packs, but slightly refined to give a finer look.  The sign, salvaged from the old building has found a new home, and is braced by two wire stays.  The shed was first primed in grey acrylic, then the wooden planking, door and windows were picked out in cream and green enamels.  Once dry a few strokes of the old glass fibre pencil removed some of the paint, revealing the grey primer beneath.  Then washes of dirty grey, and green to represent weathered wood, and mould stains were applied.  A little talc, brushed over the wood work gave it a more faded look.  Shades of rust weathering powders were applied to the rainwater goods, and roof, to give it some texture.  Plenty of long unkempt grass was planted, in hope of everything blending together to give an air of neglect.  A simple corrugated iron shed,  which is nothing more than a cut down Wills lamp hut, which first saw light of day at Penhydd, provides a place to store the shovels, pick axe, and other tools.  The coal man probably takes shelter there, when the near horizontal rain is whipping across the exposed landscape.
You will have to excuse the lack of couplings on the 16 tonner, its one of several that are waiting to be fitted with smaller, coupling mounts and loops.

Inspiration for the office came from within the pages of 'The New Radnor Branch' by Nicholas de Courtais.  The real office was a little too grand for a backwater like Llangunllo, so my model is based on it, rather than being faithfully modelled.  This is an early view prior to the shed being tidied up, weathered and glazing installed.

Another view of the shed, clearly showing the door handle, letterbox and signage.
Moving on, earlier in the year I took advantage of the warm weather and primed my A44 driving trailer.  The body and underframe were not screwed together when this photo was taken, hence the gap and misalignment between the two.  To the best of my knowledge all of these coaches were painted in BR maroon and fully lined.  But I'm hoping to find an example in unlined crimson, which should make for a pleasant winter research project, something to keep me occupied during the long winter nights.  I think the A44 makes a pleasant change from the usual detailed Airfix auto-coach, or the latest Bachmann Hawksworth version, both of which are all too common.
Well that just about brings everything up to date, later this week I expect to put the Silflor to good use, and all being well the backscene will finally be installed.