Interim model railway update

Phoenix Yard (Mark 1)

With the success of the recent Great Model Railway Challenge TV programme, as aired on Ch 5, together with the upcoming Warley Model Railway Show at the NEC I decided to build a very simple “shunting plank” layout to try to draw visitors to the SLS stand. Have it available so that they can see what can be done and have a go. Whether they want to take on the whole shunting puzzle exercise is immaterial, ideally yes but even a trial go will be progress.

We can sell the Society and our published material if the passing visitors stop and engage. The hardest part getting that break of step for the initial pause as they walk by.

The fact that it also gives me an option for a small portable fun layout for home use too is the bonus. The final choice of base is a simple 4ft x 1ft piece of shelf timber I had in stock. In the build I had tried the Plum Hollow base, useable but with issues, and adapting another piece of existing potential layout board (a recycled DIY table top). The latter almost made it, as a folding version, but with a slight modification for use as the fold would have been through a point. It was only the time for the extra woodwork for the hew half that killed the idea. A Mark 2 iteration with full scenery may well appear for Alexandra Place and York.

Why Phoenix Yard? The reason is almost everything on it is recycled from other projects. I have taken the basic “Inglenook” 8 wagon (5-3-3) format for the scenic side and added two small sidings in to a  hidden section. This allows for a single coach workmen’s train to appear. It also allows alternative locomotives to be swapped in/out.

The longest spur, for the 3 wagons plus locomotive, can accommodate engines up to a Bo-Bo diesel or an 0-6-0 tender locomotive. As the shorter locos would allow cheating with 4 wagons a moveable velcroable buffer stop may be incorporated.

As a comparison with the GMRC project of 24 hours of building, the track is partially down as I write this. Time spent, excluding pre-planning, about 3 hours to paint the base, juggle the track until I was absolutely satisfied with its position, and fixing it down.

Draft view of the layout
The track laid out before the board was painted. To the left the public area/ working zone, on the right the hidden/fiddle area.

Plum Hollow

As part of the above exercise the base earmarked for Plum Hollow project was manoeuvred around the house and tried in the car. This indicated that the project will have some issues in moving it around if proceeded with but will just fit round the corner in the staircase. It was this problem that led to evaluating the folding base for a larger version of the Phoenix Yard build.

New cars

Our old Zafira developed an engine problem that meant we had to change it quickly. We now have much smaller Vauxhall Corsa. One immediate issue for Plum Hollow will be working out exactly how high the scenery can be. The board will fit (just) as a bare carcass if the rear seat is down flat but with the rake on the back of the driver’s seat any added height will be critical.

With regard to new cars as always there is progress and regression, as examples, the DAB radio is excellent for sound but requires more retuning than older FM sets to switch masts to get local radio as you travel cross-country; there is no CD option, and most importantly, the supposedly anti-dazzle rear view mirror is useless at night, the old flip type worked these don’t!!

 

Plum Hollow – a sort of update

Plum Hollow, minor progress

Picture of the kits
Test build on paper of the trial hut and 2 of the 5 sheets for the next trial project.

For a variety of reasons the Plum Hollow layout project has had almost nothing done on it for some time. That was not a case of out of sight out of mind, simply a case of other workload intervening.  The scenic side is the next step, hence today’s test kit build. The aim was to see if a  printed paper/card kit scaled down from the originally intended HO (1:87) scale to US N scale (1:160) would either (be 1) too fiddly to construct or (2) not look good enough after completion. The test suggests both answers are negative, the outcome therefore is positive and therefore a run printed onto card-stock is worth trying. This simple build with unreinforced paper prints suggests constructing the kits will be manageable with card-stock backing.

As progress since the last update the polystyrene blocks have been bought as has the 4mm scale Dapol signal gantry kit I intend to use as  lattice girder railway over river bridge.

There is a possibility that the existing base boxes may get re-purposed into another project and replaced for this one.  If that happens an update will be posted. If it does it will be for a quick build project for the Warley (and onwards) shows; with this one it will be time that determines the outcome.

As a final point the scaling experiments for this exercise indicate that the ratio of printing the pdf plans at 54.4% is correct.  Although they are not currently accessible to check when I’d made the buildings for Reindeer Landing (N Gauge side) they always looked too small; it is possible they had been printed at 25% (The area reduction) rather than 54.4% which gives the necessary shrinkage in each linear dimension.

SLS Workload

This is one of the reasons for the delays mentioned above.Situations Vacant adverts are included in the current Journal going out to members in the hope of filling some of the vacancies. Once that gets delivered to members the adverts for those vacancies where open recruitment will be possible will also be circulated to non-members. In the meantime several officers are doubling up, even tripling up, on roles to keep us going. The trouble with being a volunteer – you tend to volunteer whenever crisis looms.

 

SLS Website

main Plum Hollow page

 

 

 

Plum Hollow, introduction (N Gauge model railway)

The three boxes and top.

My new layout – Plum Hollow, Illinois.

Plum Hollow, set in Illinois and to be built in N gauge, is the replacement layout for my former Reindeer Landing layout and supplements my Pebbles End layout. There is a running overview of Plum Hollow on the main website but unlike previous layouts the updates will be made via blog posts (as here) with links onto that main page.

Update – 1: Base construction commenced.

Using fruit boxes.

The first query I suppose is do I still call them baseboards?  The construction uses standard fruit boxes obtained from local supermarkets and topped off with a single large cardboard sheet. The latter came from our local cycle retailer, the chain store Halfords, and again free after asking as traders have to pay have their trade waste removed.

The three boxes and top.
The three boxes and top. The dark box is the peach box, the other two were plum boxes and recycled from RL.

 

under bracing
The completed angled under bracing for strength.

The boards are not complete, I intend to add a polystyrene slab above the base using 60mm sheets from a local DIY store so as to add some extra depth. The depth is so that I can add a river crossing, most American scenic railways appear to have such a crossing, and also so that under track level electric points can be added. I had thought of using a push rod, wire in tube method, but that would restrict positions where the layout can be operated from. At this stage it is likely that I will use a control panel separated from the layout via an umbilical connection allowing flexibility in operating position.

The completed three box structure is 1180 x 590 mm in the surface length and breadth  or 46 1/2″ x 23 1/4″  in imperial measurement.

Modelling decisions – still TBC

The main issue outstanding currently is deciding on which coupling type to use. Some of the stock has damaged couplings so a decision is not academic. In N Gauge the Rapido type is standard but it is not easy to decouple for switching. Also some of my older stock I have discovered pre-dates the NEM coupling pocket system so swapping couplers requires a new fitting to be added. There are several automatic systems available, but they are do not appear to be universally compatible.

For the short-term my plan is to get the track loosely pinned down and powered up so that operational practicality can be assessed using the stock that has the working Rapido couplings. Once that is finalised, and the scenic treatment also determined and mocked up, the couplings issue will be determined and if magnets are required get them installed.

I also need to refine my scenic sketches so that I can add a screened off area to facilitate stock exchanges off set and exactly where I need to cut the polystyrene layer for the river valley.

Notes:

  1. Apologies for the heavy edit after the working page draft was accidentally published earlier as a post! (July 2017)
  2. Reading this through I noted the dimensions were not given. Now added in above and on the Plum Hollow main page. (Nov 2018)