Saturday, 30 July 2011

A Slight Hiccup in the System!

It's been a bad few days in the Beard household. I made the mistake of getting Pete the Plumber to fit a new outside tap and 4 shutoff valves in the lines that did not have one. You can turn them off and change a washer or a whole tap! Anyway one of them was not made properly and leaked - through the lightfitting in the Dining Room ceiling. Luckily I had a spare shutoff valve. And then there was the shed. I looked at it hard and noticed that the roof covering was getting ragged on the front so I had to clean off all the clematis from the roof and that revealed that it was life expired so then I looked at some of the woodwork and that was full of wet and dry rot so off it all came and then I saw that the edges of the roof itself were rotten so I've had a wonderful time renewing all that. All I'm waiting for now is the special paint which is £20/litre delivered. OK, that explains why its been quiet.

What have I been doing? Well, since we last spoke I have assembled 10 sets of Microtrains 1015 couplers in brown. Nice job. Does anybody know where I can buy the mounting screws in a shorter size? It would save filing the screw thread down when I've mounted the coupler and the screw pokes up through the walkway. I know this only applies to body mounted couplers on open ended cars and gondolas but it is important. I could always change the trucks I suppose. In which case I've enough couplers!!

A SW1200 arrived in the mail. Not a happy thing as its cab roof had fretted so a nibble had been taken off the overhang where the rear headlight should be but no longer is, in fact it is missing and the horn is missing. Now I'm hoping to replace both but now I must make it rule "Original Packing Only" when it comes to buying. Luckily Humbrol #3 is a good colour match for CNWR Green.

The Bachmann 2-8-0 has also arrived and that is magnicifent. It's a shame that its lettered for the Chesapeake and Ohio but still...........and it clears the revised sandhouse.

And finally I managed to do some work on the layout this evening. I've cut out and assembled the 10mm foamboard so it covers the baseboards.

The next thing is the actual planning followed by the drilling of big holes for the Tortoise actuators to come through the baseboard to. Should be fun.

Sorry there are no photos this time but sheds are boring just like plumbimg!

Happy Days,

Mike Beard.

Monday, 18 July 2011

A Slow Time was had by All.

Things have not been going forward that quickly on Alderson. As I said before you are reading in real-time what I am doing in real time and I am lazy! I also have a bigish dog to look after and a house that always needs something doing to it NOW according to she who must be obeyed.

So, where are we? Well, not that much further physically but a lot further forward mentally. I have a copy of Model Railroaders "N Scale Model Railroading" by Marty McGuirk and I recently acquired their "Building a Model Railroad Step by Step" by David Popp. Now both are very interesting and each raises issues all of their own but they have one thing in common and that is that they both use hollow doors as a basis for the railroad. I'm building what my wife refers to as little coffins. The reason is obvious. I'm using Tortoise point machines. Both Marty and David used either code 80 Atlas points with point machines mounted on their sides or Peco code 55 pointwork with only a finger to operate them. Well, not a great way of operating Peco points who are renowned for their lack of conductivity. They only use the toe of the point and that can have an infinitesimally small contact point leading to no electrical flow. OK, the Peco pointwork is being used with a DCC system so it may be that the whole track is wired live and that all the locos used are long enough to bridge any gaps. I'm not an expert on DCC, in fact "I know nothing" as the saying goes. And it will stay that way too. Now both layouts also feature a good 2" of pink insulation foam. I thought about using this as a top covering but then thought that the mechanical amplification of the movement of the Tortoise point motor would be far too great and put the point tiebar under far too much strain so I'm covering my baseboard tops in 10mm thick foamboard so I have some way of having the odd depression etc where I want it and I'm going to use double sided self adhesive car tape about 1mm thick and 9mm wide for the roadbed, applying one strip either side of a drawn centre-line. Because it's self-adhesive I hope to be able to ballast without having to stick it down using a diluted white glue but I bet I do! I must remember to remove the tape where ever a tie-bar is of nothing will ever move. I'm adding a 10mm thick x 15mm wide strip of pine at each end of each board to protect the foamboard from bumps etc and to give something for the track ends to be firm to and on. If I add a backscene then the rear will be protected and I have to add a trim at the front to cover where the ply shattered where I cut it using my rip saw and so that will protect the front as well as adding somewhere for the sandhouse to sit if it is seriously within the structure gauge. I won't know until the Bachmann 2-8-0 arrives although I do have an NMRA gauge which may have a structure gauge on it. The idea is to temporarily attach the 10mm foamboard to the baseboard tops with long pins and draw out the trackplan full size on it and then drill through the foamboard using a small diameter drill for where the point operators will come through. That will leave a dent in the wooden baseboard to and then I can enlarge that up to my hearts delight! I'm hoping that by using 10mm foamboard I'll avoid having to cut a huge diameter hole in the baseboard top for the turntable and so weakening that part of the board. I thought about all this while I was fixing my shed roof on Saturday.

Now I've also looked at the trackplan and I think if I ever get really pushed for space then I could always do this:-

This works out to 5 foot 3 inches x 5 foot 3 inches. If you have any suggestions the please mail them to me at ""

If it gets this small it would probably being going into "The Smallest Room in the House".

I have made a little headway with some of the buildings. For "Factory 34" I have reduced the number of panes in each window back to the same number as in the HO scale version and I've added some extra air conditioners and the bases for some extractors. I've painted the windows in a fetching shade of blue. I have realised that for reasons I just don't understand I have avoided the colour blue completely so now I am conscious of it I must be careful not to overdo things with it.

Factory 37 is a Model Power "Coverall Paints" factory. Now until the track is laid etc all I'm going to do is work on the frontage. As there is no need not for any back to this building it can be twice as long as intended so I've put it together like that. Now I've got a Heljan Printing Works to which the Superior Sandwich Factory donated an end to replace the fancy "shopfront" so this "Shopfront" has been chopped and donated to the long "Coverall Paints". I'm thinking about lifting the whole building somewhat and adding a loading door and platform on the railroad side somehow but quite how I'm not sure of just yet.

I have also assembled a LifeLike Depot building that has a nice generic look about it. Now I found a pot of Badger 16-14 Light Tuscan Red which is about the right shade for a CNW depot and gave it a couple of coats of that and then I found that it should have gutters and that there should be boarding showing under the roof so I added the boarding from Evergreen and I glued some cross struts under the roof for the gutters to sit on. The gutters could be Evergreen half-round 30 thou or Ratio (UK) guttering. I my case I used both! I also replaced the rather austere chimney with a lovely cast white metal one I happened to have about my person. All I have to do now is add the downspouts from fusewire, and some namebaords, one each end as that was apparently CNW practise. Now I notice "Woodlands Scenics" do a "Depot Set" but can somebody tell me the significance of the mirror? The shame is that as all the LifeLike doors are moulded closed there is no possibility of adding a little scene within a scene. The platform will go when I add a full platform to the layout:-

Can I have a little rant? I have looked on eBay for some Intermountain boxcar kits and yes, there are a couple there and quite reasonably priced too but when those folks who are prepared to export outside the US ever make a sale I don't know. A $7.75 kit seems to merit a $32 postage tag. Now of course this results in "No Sale" but I have found others who are happy to post a locomotive to the UK for less than $10. So please Mr Trader, think before you quote a postage price if you want to make a sale in these hard pressed times. Rant over.

Help required! Could anybody tell me who sells N gauge switch stands? I know that Railway Express Miniatures make them but how can I get in touch with them so I can buy one detail set and a further 12 switch stands. Any help would be appreciated!

Happy Modelling,

Mike Beard.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Alderson - the Baseboards! or I am not a carpenter

OK folks - it's confession time. I am not a carpenter. I'll go further than that, I love wood but it HATES me! So I have to devise ways of constructing baseboards that I stand a chance of succeeding with in some way or another. So Giles original design for baseboards seems to be based on a sheet of half inch 5 ply 48 inches by 24 inches. That sheet of plywood is split up as underneath:-

Now the 9" x 5" bits form the ends. You'll see that you get 4 ends per baseboard plus a bit! Very confusing but I only used one thickness at each end so I had two ends left over per baseboard plus a spacer that was about 3.75" tall. It's 3.75" because each cut has a thickness. The baseboard top is 39" x 9" and the two sides are 39" x 5.5". The reason that the boards are so tall is that I am using Tortoise point motors and they are about 4" tall so to protect them during transport and moving about I've made the insides 5" tall. I'm also going to mount a set of controls for each baseboard in the front side so I'll need some height for that too. The baseboards come out like this:-

Well, I wish they did because originally I had the sides 7.5" tall and I had to rip them down by 2" using a circular saw. Now even using masking tape to protect the plywood it still shattered along the cut edge. I did mention I wasn't a carpenter! So I built two boards 39" long and then I thought that I needed a crossover so I added a board 12" long for it to sit on. I could have fitted the crossover in one form or another onto the two baseboards but it all got far too busy. Having made the 12" board then I made an end board. This is to act as a switching extension of 9" long which means that I can probably get a switcher and two 40' boxcars or similar on it. I'll use it when no scenic module is connected to the "country" end of the boards. Just a bit of flexibility, that's all. So a picture is worth a thousand words so:-

Here we are in the garage with the baseboard perched on a very old Workmate and this shows what will be the Roundhouse end of Alderson. The boards are held together with coach bolts and wing nuts using repair washers each side so the wood does not get damaged. Alignment is taken care of by using a pair of Pattern Makers Dowels at each joint. They are not cheap at £7/$10 a pair but I have a few left over from years ago and it's a shame not to use them. They look like this:-

Now they are exactly 1" diameter and basically I start by clamping the two boards together and ensuring correct alignment by feel. Then I drill a pilot hole, 1/4" diameter where I want the dowels. I separate the boards and then bore a 1" diameter hole the depth of the flange of the dowel and then I drill through for clearance of the "male" part of the dowel in the female board. About 3/8" normally does it. I clamp the boards back together and drill for a couple of coach bolts to draw the boards together. Some folks only use coach bolts but I find the dowels give me an exactness I need especially using Atlas code 55!.

This is the view looking the other way along the baseboards towards the depot and "country" end of Alderson.

Now this is the board that I "slipped in" when I checked through the working of Alderson and found it was severely deficient when it was worked by one company. I'm amazed that the Atlas #5 points have such a "tail" on them and I wonder if a crossover in #7's would have been the same length? Anyway I'll get another industry or two into the station area by means of this board.

Now this is the "portable country end" which will give me some switching space when I don't have a scenic module attached. It's nothing grand and is put together from those spare 9" baseboard end sections and the offcuts. I just hope it works!

A few snaps of the undersides now:-

All I have used for assembly is white PVA glue and a handful of nails. It seems to work for me!

Now all you folks with 800 square feet basements will be laughing your socks off at this and if I had an 800 square foot, no a 64 square foot area I could call my own so would I! As it is this has to be portable because we have the house for sale and who knows what size room - if any - I'll end up with?

And finally my apologies that this blog is so stilted but it is being done in "real time" so as I'm doing it I'm writing about it so I've just described some of what has been going on since last time.

Happy Modelling Folks,


Monday, 4 July 2011

Factory 34

Gosh - the title of this chapter seems a bit Russian for Independence Day!

Factory 34 is actually the main building on the right hand board of Alderson and it's based on that old favourite the Heljan Superior Bakery. This is it in one of its many incarnations:-

and this is what it looks like when you open the box:-

A nice set of mouldings.

Now some 6 years ago I had a nice time in hospital having some real corrective surgery and my pal Tony Smith, who used to run the model shop in Shrewsbury, wandered in and gave me a copy of Art Currens "Kitbashing HO Model Railroad Structures". Well, it's like its owner a bit dog eared now but well worth it. For Factory 34 I studied the Hardly Abel Manufacturing Company and the Superior Sandwich Factory.

Now the N gauge Heljan basic factory is different to the HO one in that the N gauge one is 4 units long but the HO one is only 3 and also on one side the third bay has a personnel door while the fourth bay has a loading door.

So what to do first? I reduced the side with all 4 bays the same to 3 bays. Then the other side I split into two, and then I split the left side into two again. Now I wanted to keep the sloping roof line so I reduced one of the two left side units so that the windows were reduced by two panes vertically and then I found that if I cut the top of the unit at the same angle as the main roof and re-glued the triangle then I could extend nicely. Then I cut the remaining part so that the windows were full height but the arch was missing. Then I re-assembled the parts like this:-

I added a blank wall made from 3 layers of 20thou sheet plastic like this:-

and I added some interior bracing too like this:-

You can see that I made the right hand opening full height with a roll up door with the mechanism above it made from a piece of sprue. The "rain hood" is one of the roofs from the Bachmann Coaling Tower re-cycled! Now the recessed area makes a fine loading dock so I took a sheet of Ratio (UK) wooden walling and cut it to size and then added more as the walls underneath to raise the platform to the correct height. Then I cut up some Ratio (UK) blockwork to raise the whole building to match except for under the left front where I re-used the arch that I cut from that unit previously.

The roof is just one bakery roof but as I have shortened the roof by one bay by careful cutting and mating I managed to get the two chimney bases together and re-distribute the rooflights so I could built parts over them. The extension forward roof is a combination of all sorts of bits turned this way and that and the ventilator covers a big hole!

Although this picture shows the whole building the extension is in "mock-up" form and the roof "gubbins" is embryonic. Strangely the two chimneys in the kit are not matched in any way so I used some plastic tube I had which was about the right size to replace them. The cyclone is the tapered part of a retractable ballpoint - actually "The Shropshire Star" - and the blue bit is also part of the pen. The sand coloured cone on top comes from the similar creamery kit. The T vent is made from drilled out sprue and the red "blower" is mounted on a platform from Evergreen siding sheet. The grey kit ventilator covers a big hole as mentioned before. Since this picture was taken I've added supports and braces from 20 and 30 thou plastic rod.

So now we come to the corrugated material extension. This was all made from Ratio (UK) corrugated iron sheets. It's a bit coarse to be corrugated iron in 2mm/160th scale so I used it as a more "proper" building material. I had to join pieces together to get the width I wanted:-

Not quite Art Currens way but still. The windows come from the Heljan kit, roof lights, the little 2 pane one does not seem used at all.

You can see how very luckily the window exactly fits the sheet spacing. The hole is to accept the pipe from the blower and I've added a head and drain for the roof. The drain gets trimmed to fit the angled roof later.

And this is the front of the extension. A little door for people, a loading bay roller shutter door, another window fitting the sheet size exactly and a staircase lit by little windows. The sign came from those nice folks in the n_scale@yahoo.groups to who I am greatly indebted. So the box was assembled using a great deal of bracing and a full floor cut from a Wills (UK) roofing sheet. Being moulded I believe it is less prone to deforming. It's me, not you. My "hobbyhorse".

So I braced the extension like this:-

looking down on the inside and like this looking up where I have blanked off the loading bay using 40 thou black plastic card:-

and the roof looks like this:-

Now I don't know where the sheet material for the roof came from. I suppose I was at a show somewhere and bought a couple of sheets "just in case".

And now we come to the building as it is currently:-


Road loading bay


Original roadside loading end. I have some thinking about what to do here. Certainly when it comes to the windows the N scale Heljan ones have many more panes than the HO equivalent and it would be nice to change them back in the old building and some more vents etc.

Finally you may have noticed this lurking away on a roof:-

In fact this pressure vessel is made from two of the things you find in 1970's gondolas!

Happy Modelling,

Mike Beard.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Moving on around the Loco Yard

It's been a few days since I've said anything much here about Alderson and that is because it's difficult to discuss thought. Since I wrote last time I've been lucky and had three deliveries from friends in the United States so I have had a lot of fiddling to do. The first piece of building that arrived was the Bachmann Coaling Tower. Now I always thought it a little crude but when I looked at it through my reading glasses I realised that I was quite wrong in my assessment and in fact its really rather nice. What does let it down is the crudeness of its roof mouldings which are more HO than N in detail. So I razor sawed off all the silvered roof and replaced it with some Kibri Corrugated Sheet I just happened to have. I capped off the roof at the inverted V with Evergreen angle, 0.060". Now even I dont believe that any railroad company would put up so few handrails and I think Bachmann have been economical with the mouldings! So I'm adding a handrail where I think one is necessary to conform with local rules. And I've mounted the coal chute "up" rather than down. Unfortunately this reveals the moulded in Bachmann details that want filing off. I thought the chute was moulded in black plastic but is actually painted that colour. The next item to get my attention was a Pola sandhouse. Um - a bit wide so I cut off two planks of the hut structure from each side. This is a very narrow layout! Then I assembled the hut onto a false floor and raised it by about 3mm on a slice of Ratio (UK) wood planking. The sand bin was reduced by a similar amount in width as was the rather well moulded sand pile itself. The sanding tower had to be moved wholly to the roof of the hut to keep the footprint size down. Now there seems to be no provision for fixing the "can" to the woodwork and also the can had a couple of vicious sink marks in it. One was on the top so I used a filing punch and produced a thin plastic circle to cover that and the over one was covered by a collar made from Evergreen 30 thou half round. In the end I filed a bit of the woodwork away to for a slight step and added a U beam cross piece for the collar of the can to stick to. The feed pipe seemed to have been lost in the moulding process so I added that from 20 thou round plastic. That all seems to fit quite well. Finally a Bachmann Water Tower arrived and it fits - with no modification you'll be glad to read - except a bit of the base will need removing and perhaps the ladder should be somewhat more vertical!

Now that I'm happy that the left hand board is viable I'm going to go ahead this week and build all the baseboards which are basically plywood 39" x 10" with the underside of the trackboard being 5" high up the side of the sides. I use plywood because generally UK straightwood warps all over the place. For instance I always use plain, square Hemlock stair spindles for layout legs because they won't warp and they are all cut to the same length! To go on there I'm going to cover the entire board with 10mm thick foamboard and then on top of that I'm going to print out the entire layout full size on A4 sheets of self-adhesive labels and then on either side of the drawn centre lines I'm going to add 9mm wide "Automotive tape" as an underlay. Now Automotive tape is very sticky and onto that I'll lay the Atlas code 55track and ballast it. You have to remember to cut it away where the point tie rods are! I'm lucky in that I used to be an engineer and I have AutoCAD so I can draw out a point once and use it left or right hand time and time again. I can also draw out a short length of track and double it, and double it again etc. I'll have to drill holes for the wires, point motor operators etc. Front and rear of the layout will, eventually, have a thin skin of board just to finish it off although I may have a backscene board. Controls for each board will be recessed into the front of each board. There will be a power busline for 12V DC controls to the track and a point motor busline to drive the Tortoise units. The voltage for this depends on what AC power supply I can find. Two diodes will provide the changeover half DC voltage. The Tortoise units will have their PCB's modified to only make contact at the end of throw rather than the more instantaneous result of the current design.

So that is the work for the next few weeks described. Oh, and I'm still working on what I'm now calling "Premier" works which is item 34 on the trackplan. A pair of 34' semitrailers arrived in one package so I was able to cut the apertures for the road vehicles to load at. Now all I have to is assemble the 4 sides and suitably brace to stop warping and then detail to suit and couple to the older building.

I hope to report some good progress next time with more pictures too.