Author Archives: Steve Hales

Hill Rework continued…

In the past month I have plodded on with the two hilsides: Photos show initially Flagstaff mountain which has been made considerably higher and four inches has also been added to the back to make full use of the boards – this widening has been done all along the layout.

After building with the polystyrene and carving, the polystyrene was covered with a plaster/PVA/paint mix. This was then further painted a brown earthy color. Finally PVA was again painted on and old-fashioned carpet underlay was glued down – and pulled off once the glue was dry to give a layer of undergrowth to go under the floc that will fall from the trees! This will be trimmed with my beard trimmer.

The roadways were edged with 3mm ply or a similar thickness of MDF. Both were cut with a jig saw and attached with grip adhesive and a nail gun. Note that at the RH end (Packer Hill), various indentiations were included to allow for the prototype detail. We have managed to get this detail from a couple of YouTube films taken from train trips. Wall stones and rocks will be carved out of PVA-strengthened plaster. Some rock faces have already been carved above the road and look pretty reasonable.

Gavin has started to cut the baseboard away to build the riverside on the curve – there will be no water as this is on the inside of a river curve – just deposited river stones.

Finally Gavin’s curved fascias can be seen under construction made up from laminations of 3mm plywood. Astonishing!

Packer Hill rework

After getting back from Chatham Exhibition, we took a break before erecting the scenic boards of Mauch Chunk. Once these were standing again, Gareth’s son, Celfyn (Welsh for Kelvin) found the boards were just the right height for climbing through! Steve’s daughter Anna’s dog, Bryn, is also with us for a couple of months while she moves into her first house (we hope) and he is being very laid back about all the noise I am making rebuilding Packer Hill.

The first main task was demolishing the temporary polystyrene ‘hills’ at either end in order to construct the new, larger ones. Polystyrene sheets were laid and stuck together with various glues of various efficacies! Eventually, they all dried and we were able to carve them with a mixture of a multi-tool and knives. Baseboard edges were lined with plywood.

Once this was completed, the roadway was laid in ply around the edge of the hill above the track. The base of Flagstaff mountain is being similalry rebuilt.

The other issue we wanted to resolve is the use of Big Bear with our Lenz equipment. Remember that we fudged at Chatham exhibition and used an NCE PowerCab to control the pointwork. Peter, the developer of Big Bear, has been very helpful and has now managed to recode Big Bear to work with the Lenz 23150 USB/ethernet adaptor – brilliant! This means that we have been able to lay out the control board again and it has been made to fit into a Really Useful Box for transport and operation.

Chatham 2017

Chatham MRC – 3rd/4th June 2017 – The Victory Academy, Magpie Hall Road, Chatham ME4 5JB

This was Mauch Chunk’s first outing since 2011 and the first with operators from the Barrowmore club. More significantly, in the past six months, 13 of the 17 baseboards have been built from scratch as well as the lighting gantries and control system. This was also the first time we used Big Bear and TeamViewer to control the layout from two laptops.

Because of the high standards used in the Barrowmore club, the layout ran reliably and well and proved popular with the somewhat disappointingly sparse crowd. Over the course of the weekend, the Barrowmore ‘fettling’ table got ALL the locomotive stock running smoothly – the first time ever. The novice operators seemed to find the layout easy to operate on the whole and put on a good show.

As a result, steam power – mainly brass but including the two kitbashed mikados – was to the fore, as were brass double enders and babyfaces. Many plastic F3s, RS3s and several switchers were also in evidence. Everything on the layout was from the era between 1945 and 1955.

This was a good start to Mauch Chunk’s new life as a Barrowmore layout and bodes well for the future – once the long fixing list is completed!

Mauch Chunk at Chatham on YouTube

photos by Richard Oldfied, Steve Hales and Continental Modeller

Getting ready to go (to Chatham exhibition)

Over the last three weeks (while Steve was on vacation in Scotland, touring Whisky distilleries on Islay), the team: Richard in particular, but also Gavin, Steve (when he got backl), Phil, Mike, Gareth and Dave; have been getting Mauch Chunk ready to go to the Chatham exhibition.

In particular, Richard has ballasted the new track, completed 10 caboose modifications, and carved and painted the new LH extension of the river wall. Richard and Phil have done more work on locos and stock and others have smartened up bits of scenery. Steve has recorded the stock and packed it all away and modifications have been made to the Big Bear layout plan with several additional routes added.

We’re ready to go (tomorrow) for Mauch Chunk’s first exhibition in six years and the first with the Barrowmore team.

Barrowmore Open Day May 2017

As Mauch Chunk was well on the way to being ready for the Chatham exhibition on the date of the Barrowmore open day on Saturday 20th May, it was run for the small number of public who turned up. These photos were taken then.

Gavin’s gantries

Leading up to the Barrowmore Open Day, Gavin built us some elegant and practical lighting gantries. These were based on the idea previously used on the ‘ladder-based’ gantry used for phase 2 of Mauch Chunk but Gavin has developed it to a point of brilliance.

The main factor in this was the use of spot bulbs mounted in ‘naked’ GU10 lampholders. This time we have used mains power, 5W, 420 lumen LED spotlights with 120 degree coverage. We used Wago 3-position connectors for each bulb to keep the mains power safe and connected beams with ‘kettle’ type connectors.

Gavin built ‘Bennet’ style gantries modified to have extra long arms and legs to go over the wide scenic boards of Mauch Chunk. The beams were also modified by extending the front edge down to use as the fascia. The arms hold the fascia about 6 inches forward of the baseboard front and ensure that the whole of the scenic area is illuminated.

Large holes were drilled in the back face of the beams every foot to hold the LED bulbs and these were angled at about 45 degrees by mounting on triangular cross section wood. LED bulbs do not get hot so there is no heating of the wood.

When the bulbs are removed, the beams can be stored together for transit.

It all works brilliantly!

Scenic work starts

Richard has been doing some fantastic work extending the river wall at the left hand end of the layout. The river alignment at the RH end has also received some attention from Richard and Steve. Richard then painted the front fascia with grey undercoat and Gareth and Steve took the old varnish off the river bed preparatory to reworking it. Lastly and most recently, after some initial work by Richard, Gareth (shown) and Mike, Gavin has spray painted all the new track and roadbed a mucky color – nearly black!

Up and Running! (or 2 steps back and 3 steps forward)

We’ve got it up and running! This wasn’t as smooth a process as we would have liked though: The first time the layout went up we discovered that the frog juicers weren’t behaving – they switched the current to the frogs but too slowly when the wheels went over and shorted. In retrospect they are designed for turnouts wired so that the switch rails moving will cause them to operate. As our switch rails are permanently aligned electrically with the adjacent track, this doesn’t happen.

Solution: Buy 39 Peco turnout accesory switches and rewire the turnouts. All peco turnouts done by Steve on Monday 8th, 7 tortoise motors also rewired by Richard on Tuesday morning. The frog juicers were abandonned under the layout for the time being. Eveything is now working.

Next problem – a MERG board overheated producing acrid smoke. Quick turn off and board replaced solved problem.

Last problem – Big Bear DCC wouldn’t talk to the Lenz system. We have temporarily resolved this by using an NCE PowerCab to control the turnouts and in the meanwhile, Pete of BigBear DCC is rewriting some of the code for usĀ  to ensure that Big Bear will work properly with Lenz – excellent support!

Getting near the end

Although there is still loads to do, we have been finishing off a lot of the little jobs and the track is now all laid and the wiring is (99.9%) complete. We erected the layout from the trolleys on Saturday 6th May for the first time and checked the electrics, fixed a short and a miss-joint and Dave started some scenic work.

Trolley rebirth

The trolleys built for transporting the baseboards during phase 2 of modelling while at the Merseyside MRS were considered very useful. As we are all of us getting older, we decided to rebuild these and modify the design a little for the new boards. One of the biggest changes to accomodate was that end protectors would now be put onto the boards before they are mounted on the trolleys, rather than use the trolleys AS end protectors.

Steve removed the hinges from all the trolleys – the new design fixes the ends on with nuts screwed into self tapping bolts. The end protectors are also attached in a similar way.

Steve built a fourth trolley to take the corner boards. While all this was going on a swarm of bees arrived justĀ  few feet away and provided endless entertainment and distraction!