Author Archives: Steve Hales

Forthcoming Exhibitions

Mauch Chunk has now attended four exhibitions in its current configuration; It is proving popular and has won two awards.   As a result of Coronavirus restrictions, several exhibition were cancelled. As Mauch Chunk has now returned to the Barrowmore MRG, new exhibitions are being planned. Watch the space below

Mauch Chunk will be attending the following shows in 2025:

  • Macclesfield – early April 2025
  • York – end April 2025
  • Spalding – November 2025


Back to Barrowmore

On 16th September, Richard, Dave Faulkner and Steve moved Mauch Chunk back to the rather more spacious Barrowmore clubrooms. From here it is hoped that the layout will again go out to exhibition. We plan to test it and fettle it in November this year in preparation.

A new home

After a few months in a farm trailer, Mauch Chunk has finally been moved to its new home in my converted garage. Neighbours Pete and Richard helped with the move and the layout fitted into the new rooms almost literally like a glove (as planned of course!).

The photos show the farm trailer, the move (in a Luton van with tail lift), and storage of some parts in a store room and the rest in the new ‘hobby room’.

We have been able to erect two scenic boards that can be worked on. The electrics are all connected and points can be changed with the Big Bear program and trains can be run (a little). The last photo shows my grandson directing me which trains to move where!

Once the storage boxes have been re-organised, scenic repairs and improvements will be started.

The (final?) Big Move

Yesterday – 7th August 2021 – Mauch Chunk was moved from the Barrowmore clubrooms and brought over the Pennines to Yorkshire. This effectively ends five years with the Barrowmore club during which Mauch Chunk has been transformed with a new fiddle yard, mostly new baseboards, new fascias, lighting, wiring, control systems and almost completely new track – all to the highest standard.

It was also been extended to 28ft x 12ft and is now quite formidable! Indeed, it won the the best visitors layout award in Glasgow, the best non-British layout award at Warley and an invitation to retire it to the National Model Railway Museum!

It will be worked on at my home in the East Riding, where my wife and I moved 3 years ago, but it is currently stored in a large trailer on a local farm.

Members of the East Riding Finescale Modellers model railway group are planning to help with further detailing and scenic enhancements as well as maintaining the rolling stock.

Warley 2019

Warley National Model Railway Exhibition – 22nd-24th November 2019 – National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham  B40 1NT

Again the work on Mauch Chunk had taken place a good while ahead and the layout was dismantled before Mostyn went to Gaydon. All new point motors (MP1s) and control system in the fiddle yard, a new signal on the locomotive servicing track (DCC controlled), new telegraph poles – some hollow and etched. A long wheel based Luton box van proved more than spacious enough and loading proceeded smoothly.

There were no changes to the stock which had not even been removed from their boxes since Glasgow. Sadly, some of it – particularly the locos and passenger stock – misbehaved causing shorting and loco failures. This was diappointing. Otherwise the layout ran well – the new cooling system for the Lenz control system worked well and the MP1 point motors in the fiddle yard throat also worked flawlessly. The crowd was excellent on both days, and some really liked the layout.

Warley confounded warnings and was actually a pretty pleasant place to exhibit. The exhibition team was Steve Hales, Richard Oldfield, Gavin Liddiard, Dave Faulkner, Mike Rapson and partner Becky.

This video was taken by a visitor (Nealos101) and is available on YouTube:

A bonus was winning the Continental Modeller ‘best non-British layout’ award.

Etching, Soldering and woodwork

We’ve been doing more etches and soldering to make the signal gantry that stands against the back wall, controlling use of the locomotive servicing track that runs against that wall all the way through to the engine house, refueling facility and turntable.

Photos of this gantry were not clear about all the features so similar gantries were identified in Joel Rosenbaum and Tom Gallo’s pdf book: Jersey Central Lines Official Photography. Steve drew the stanchion artwork and PPD then etched these for us on 0.7mm brass. Richard then used these as the basis for the gantry scratchbuilding most of the other components. Finally the arm was actuated with a servo controlled by Tam Valley Depot’s dual 3-way Servo DCC accessory decoder. This is a new approach for us and means that we can control the signal from software (Big Bear) as well as push buttons. The build is shown here as well as the result

This is our gantry compared with the prototype shot! Prototype photo by kind permission of Morning Sun Books [taken by Charles Houser Sr, The Houser Collection from page 82 of Jersey Central Lines in Color Volume 2 by William J. Brennan].

As well as this masterpiece, the hollow framework utility cable posts that can be seen in some prototype photos were drawn up by Steve, etched and then built by Richard using bullhead rail for the sides. Steve then planted them on the layout and modified a few other posts.

The trolleys get a lot of wear in transporting Mauch Chunk to exhibitions but also in supporting the other Barrowmore layout, Johnstown Road, when Mostyn is erected. We decided to strengthen the trolleys with easily removed ‘lids’ which Gavin built. This has made the trolley boxes much more rigid


More reliable operations – changes

We have started working again on Mauch Chunk since getting back from a succesful exhibition in Glasgow. We had two problems there that impacted on operations, although hopefully the public didn’t see anything substantially wrong.

Firstly we had overheating of the Lenz LZV100 command station. This was partly because I didn’t take the lid completely off the really useful box we’re using for the control panel. However, overheating did occur again later even when the box was completely open. Clearly passive air cooling isn’t enough when we are operating so intensively for 7 – 8h periods.

To remedy this, Gavin has put a fan in one end of the box, holes in the other and reorganised the interior to allow a good airflow. The Lenz LZV100 is now also mounted on a hollow support to allow airflow beneath as well. It should work nicely and will allow us to leave the lid on next time!

To put the icing on the cake he (and Dave Faulkner) have also wired the block protector boards to LEDs that display when a short is occuring – this will make it much quicker to detect problems.

Secondly, we had problems with the Peco point motors (in the staging yard) misbehaving. This is likely to be due to poory alignment/positioning which has occured as a result of heavy use and the way that they operate – with a thud in each direction.

We decided to try a servo design which has a more genteel motion. As there was not enough vertical space for Tortoise motors, have gone for MP-1 point motors from MTB Model (click here) in Prague. These are supplied by DCC Train Automation in the UK (click here). To control these with DCC we also purchased Digikeijs DR4018 accessory decoders, also from DCC Train Automation (click here) which each control eight motors.

We had to include some cross-baseboard links for control to avoid wasting the channels on the accessory decoders. Although it is a pain to replace and rewire all the motors in the yard, provisionally it looks as though it will be a good investment. We will report here on our experiences.



Glasgow 2019

Model Rail Scotland – 22nd – 24th February 2019 – Scottish Event Campus (SECC), Glasgow, Scotland, G3 8YW

This time the work on Mauch Chunk took place a good while ahead and the layout was dismantled a week ahead of the show ready to pack – much less stressful. New etched fencing to the road at the west end of the layout, rebuilt fences along the trackside (now more to scale), many more trees and many new telegraph poles were the main scenic changes.

As impactful were the changes to the stock: the locomotive stock has now mostly been weathered – particlularly the steam locos, which many at the show noticed. Passenger cars had corridor connections added and other stock, particularly smaller tank cars, were repaired and weathered. There were again more customised NE cabooses – making 24 in all. Some more recent diesels have not yet been weathered as considerable detailing will be carried out before this is done.

Behind the scenes, new 4:3 ratio monitors were used for Big Bear and this greatly improved the operator experience – Peter Thurston who wrote the software visited over the weekend.. A CCTV system was used for the Westbound operator to see the uncoupling magnet. Finally, Phil Sutton drew and Richard and Gavin applied new fascia lettering and symbols. This transformed the layout and made it look nicely professional.

Gavin and Mike had fun loading the layout into a short wheelbase Luton van rather than the long wheebase van we had ordered (don’t ask). It was rather tight!

The layout ran well initially, but later the Lenz control system overheated on several occasions. The Peco point motors in the fiddle yard throat also began to fail on day two and needed considerable fettling to keep them working.  The crowd was excellent on all three days, and many were very complimentary.

We ran several ‘multi-occupancy’ roads in the staging/fiddle yard and this allowed us to run several short consists and light locomotives, giving more of the loco stock a viewing to the public.

It felt as if Mauch Chunk had come a long way since previous exhibitions and it was more enjoyable to operate. The exhibition team was Steve Hales, Richard Oldfield, Gavin Liddiard, Mike Rapson, Gareth Evans and Dave Millward.

The final bonus was winning 1st prize in the ‘non-association’ layout category. Photos inlude shots of the working side and one of Peter Thurston who wrote Big Bear software, is based in Scotland and visited us in Glasgow.

Model Rail Scotland interviewed me (Steve) and you can see the result (!) here:





Prepared for Glasgow

We’re all prepared for Glasgow!

Last week we set out all the stock and tested it in new consists and configurations. Everything (well nearly…) ran well and since then several items have been further weathered. Richard’s new K1s 4-8-0 has been completed and is running and photos also show an ABBA F3 set hauling a long freight Westbound.  Other photos show the locomotive and other stock lined up in their fiddle yard roads.

Finally, the new fascia lettering is coming together!

We hope to see some of you at the Scottish Exhibition Centre on Friday through Sunday this weekend.

Preparing for Glasgow – part 2

Work is still progressing on preparations for Glasgow – most of it in intensive sessions coinciding with Steve’s visits to Barrowmore from East Yorkshire.

Photos show Steve weathering boxcars with Pan Pastels, these were then sprayed with fixative and/or acrylic matt varnish. The spraying does fade some of the colours, particularly the brown and organge, but has the advantage of fixing them.

Richard continued making corridor connections for all the passenger cars from black card, scored and folded into concertinas then superglued to the car ends. A LOT cheaper than the commercial options and looks just as good.

Dave (Millwood) continued to help by ballasting the gap in the platform and making more of the cantilevered telegraph poles for the extended LH end wall. Steve also made and planted many more telegraph poles for the RH end and the front.

Richard replaced the broken plastic handrails (they are so fine) with brass wire equivalents on half a dozen small tank cars – a substantial task. Gavin airbrushed the latest K1as camelback prior to decaling.

Finally the stock was set out to arrange train consists prior to reboxing it in the correct order. Note the new caboose tail ligthts.