Another result of this resolution was a visit by Steve to the local Barrowmore Model Railway Group, which turned into a membership there. The BMRG is way ahead of the Merseyside club in stock building and Steve’s first project there was to build the ARHS Babyface A-B-A set that were sitting in boxes in a cupboard. This was mainly a case of adding grab irons and other ironwork. The most complex piece was a roof rail, which was build by Richard Oldfield. The final shot shows the effect of priming ready for painting – which will be done in the new year. I should comment that fitting the recommended underframe from Proto 2000 Alco FA2s into these bodyshells required a lot of grinding away of the weight and also the insides of the bodyshell. One of the bodyshells was so thin in one spot, that it blistered when painted, and has to be rebuild with plasticard and superglue. However, these little obstacle are to be expected when kitbashing and building!
Steve then moved on to kitbashes of two M3 Mikados from BLI USRA Mikados – a project started several years ago with the late Chirs Bennett. This is now nearing completion and will appear on the project page once finished! Just one photo as an appetiser – the complete model at the bottom of the shot is an Overland brass M3s.
Meanwhile, back at the Merseyside club, construction of three trolleys was underway by Gordon and Steve: The new 4ft by 4ft baseboards are so heavy that they cannot realistically be carried any distance as when moving them to an exhibition. Therefore plywood trolleys are being built that can be wheeled from the clubhouse into a van (with a tail lift) and then from the van into the exhibition hall on arrival. Two of the trolleys each take two front boards, and the third takes all five staging yard board. This last is still under construction, but the first two are now complete.
This last 8 or nine months has seen us tidying up from the extension on the scenic boards, building some trolleys, starting work on locomotive kitbashes and finally, hosting a visit from an American visitor!
The tidying up from the extension has seen us add scenic material to the right hand end where the layout has effectively now got a 2ft 6inch extension. This has meant carving out a hillside extension in polystyrene (held together with PVA glue) – a very messy job! We then covered this in plaster (pre-colored) and added the roadway with thin medium density fibreboard. Next the rockface was built from rock moulds and these were bedded in with a little judicious carving.
A grass material (from hanging baskets on this occasion) was attached onto PVA. The roadway was extended with colored ‘Artex filler’ material and the grass material was thinned with a beard trimmer (!) before being painted with thinned water based paint. Trees were added as previously described. The wall was extended using pre-moulded platicard and colored mainly with water based pencils to match.
The colored artex filler was used to touch up the gaps in the roadway that could now be filled since the front and back boards had been permanently attached. Artex is an amazing material and, once rewetted, blends in well with new material. Any imperfections can be corrected with a little thinned paint and, once dry, some sandpaper.
The trackwork was again ballasted with a mixture of coal dust and ash. the ballast was sprinkled onto a bed of PVA – painted between the tracks – and isopropanol (IPA) was then sprayed on to thoroughly wet it. Finally dilute PVA was added with a dropper to wet the ballast in between the ties and further IPA was sprayed on to spread it throughout. Once dry this has a matt finish with no trace of the shininess sometimes seen where PVA is used. The two LH photos below show this process in progress and the two RH photos where is has also been applied at the LH end of the layout and with the replaced switch.
While this was all going on, we had a visit from Joe Kacirek of New Jersey. To our embarrasment the layout ran very poorly but this prompted us to a better understanding of the electrics and a resolution to fix the problems. Joe was very understanding! Some photos from Joe’s visit show the stock out.
As a result of this, we have been involved in a continuous fixing of all the little electrical niggles, changing and repositioning switch motors, modifying software and changing cable connectors.
We’ve carried on working hard since last November and have pretty much completed all the baseboard work now. It’s not shown in any detail, but we cut the old staging yard off the back of the main baseboards, leaving just two tracks, which are for testing and programming – one will be DC. A 1ft strip was also removed from the left hand (tunnel) end to give a total modelled board length of 20ft to match the staging yard.
The cutting was done with a rotary saw and finished with a hand saw. The edges were then faced with fresh plywood, suitable braced, glued and screwed. To finish this part of the reconstruction the remnant rear main boards (now about 4ft x 1ft6in) were permanently attached to the front main boards (the original 4ft x 2ft6in) using PVA glue and screws through the bracing points. This means that we have four boards 4ft square and two narrow end boards – one 4ft x 1ft6in and one 4ft x 2ft6in – slightly awkward but – hey!
The photos show the new centre well that this configuration gives us – big enough for even the larger of us (I won’t say who that is!) to move comfortably along, although we can’t easily pass except in the ends.
New legs were constructed for the end curves. Also shown above and below is a (re-) railing track which is switched to avoid shorts. Connecting the boards up in the final configuration meant that we could finally lay the connecting track at both ends – shown below.
A brief diversion here into the techniques used to ensure that where the track crosses a baseboard join, the stock doesn’t derail. Portable baseboards are the norm in the UK and so this is a major problem. Critical to ensuring that track stays aligned is ensuring that baseboards align in the same position each time they are reattached. The best way to do this is to use board alignment dowels. The best ones have a point in the back of one side that lets you align the two sides for drilling. The second and third photos show these in our board (after the curvy edge system had failed to align the boards well enough!).
The wiring on the front had been installed many years ago, and so the switch control wiring was disconnected and then rewired to MERG DCC boards to give the same switch control system as in the staging yard. Note that the DCC switch control boards are always attached to a vertical surface to make maintenance easier. One switch on the front (on a curve) was replaces with a commercial Peco switch – which has proved better, but not perfect.
Everything working on the boards, we then moved on to the lighting and the gantry. After seeing a layout at the Mickleover (Derby) club using an aluminium folding ladder to support the lighting, we managed to purchase a 20ft ladder that would work for us. Although it was not completely level when supported at only the ends, it was rigid and so the slight central dip could be accommodated when mounting the fascia boards.
Lights are DC (12v) halogen, wide angle floods of 20, 35 and 50 watts. We attached these to the bottom of strips of plywood at 45 degree angles with basic lampholder bases. Along the top of each board were the transformers and the wiring. The plywood simply rests on top of the ladders and the fascia hangs off the front. A simple H frame at each end supports the ladder.
All this work completed, we decided to put our stock out on the staging yard and were quite shocked by how much we had – especially as most of our locos can’t pull such long trains. Still quite a lot of weathering, re-wheeling and Kadee-ing to be done though!
Finally a shot showing a consist of new (as yet undetailed) Athearn RS3s and then one with a N&W articulated interloper with a long empty coal train (note that the buildings have been removed for safe keeping). We are now moving on to add more hillside and roadway at the RH end, and then will work along adding detail to the scenery.