Monday, 11 February 2019

Pennstadt is my new Märklin train set!

Firstly, an update on the previous post. The Lenovo laptop didn't work out. We now have a very good Dell laptop. Mind you, it was very slow until I replaced the 4GB of memory with 16GB and also took out the hard disk and put an SSD in. Now it roars along. Secondly, I did build the baseboard out of foam core but strengthened the underneath with a sandwich of 3 layers and beams rather than box sections.

I now have the baseboard finished and the track laid. I was very lucky as I mentioned on the Märklin forum that I was planning to buy all of the track and had an offer from a local chap. This offer was for a mix of new and used track and was generally around half price. I now have the layout down but I found that the board was a bit too deep to reach over easily. I have had to disobey my wife's request that it all be run manually as I have installed point motors and digital controllers in the points on the far side of the board.

It got even better as,  when I mentioned that I was going to extend the rolling stock with some purchases from Germany, my new friend who sold me the track made me an offer of two locos, 6 coaches and a pile of freight wagons, all at exceedingly good prices. I also picked up some local coaches and a collection of freight cars from my local hobby shop (LHS) Scograil. He doesn't sell Märklin but Roco cars work perfectly fine. As a result I now have four locos (or Loks as I am learning to call them), six mainline coaches (Rheingold express), four locos, four 4-wheel, coaches, around 20 freight cars and a few kits for stations and so on. More than enough to be getting on with.

The locos are: Class 23, Class 24, Class 78 and Class 94.  These numbers don't mean much to me at the moment but I am learning.


First off, a panoramic view of the layout:


Class 23

Class 24

Class 78

Class 94

Class 23 Train and Class 24 (in the background)

(with only 2 out of the 6 Rheingold coaches)

The box below, with the lights, is the control box for the uncoupling tracks.

Interim Tunnel and cliffs

What Next?

I have to complete the tunnel and scenery around it. I have kits for two stations that need to be made so that I can think about the rest of the towns can be created. I need to get some freight wagons onto the layout to get a better idea of how traffic could be run. Once I get the last point motor, I will be able to create the "fiddle yard" - or "staging" off the right hand end of the layout. Once this has been done, I  will be able to think about the total traffic flow. I can't wait!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Gentle Model Railways is back again!

Unexpectedly, we are back. This is how it happened.

I sold all of the N Gauge stuff with a plan to purchase a replacement concertina and put some funds into my modelling stash. I ended up swapping my old 20 button concertina (and as it was made in 1885 it really was old) for an equivalent 30 button one (made in around 1910). You can see the story on my 'Other Hobbies' blog. I also invested in lots of new paint sets and tools.

However, my wonderful arthritis intervened so I am in the process of sending back my new concertina. I am also disposing of a Lenovo all-in-one that I bought some months ago. This is going to leave me with about £1,000 un-allocated!. At the same time, my wife was fussing gently about the desk in the bedroom. She is very supportive of my hobbies - mainly so that I support hers - grin. Valerie asked if there wasn't a way that we could clear out the desk. We have been having some issues with the big 27" iMac so we decided to get rid of it - sell it on EBay where it should realise £750 (it is 4 years old after all) - and replace it with a laptop. After looking at the Apple laptops, I realised that I didn't want to spend £1,200 on a replacement so we picked up a nice Lenovo for £330 - and so the money rolls in!

I now had to decide what to do with this rather large pot of funds.  As the big computer was going, I now had a whole desktop free as I can use the laptop in the living room. I have always been attracted to the Horny-Dublo trainsets that are at all of the model railway shows. Track laid on a table top and trains going round and round. Thinking how I could recreate this caused me to consider everything that I had done before. US Outline - nope - too expensive; British OO - nope  - I don't know enough about it; British N Gauge - no, same argument.

So, what did I come up with? Märklin 3 rail! Explain that? I know nothing about German/Swiss/Austrian railways;  there is no decent Märklin  agents in the UK; 3 rail and AC? Still, I have a budget; Märklin have a nice track set up that can be taken up and put down again; everything is proprietary. I have joined the forum and everyone seems to be very supportive - no snarky comments or put downs. Just nice helpful people. I have been asking lots of questions and now have a good idea of what I am going to do. It is a mile away from previous ideas. Although it is DCC (or at least Märklin's version) I am not going to link it to any computer or run the track using remote techniques. After a good bit of working with Anyrail and with help from the forum, I have come up with a simple layout as follows.

Add in one of Märklin's  train sets plus the buildings and some extra wagons and I have spent £500 or so of my stash. I am planning on buying their Era III Digital Freight Set.

We now have the desk clear. I am just waiting for the funds to come back from the concertina and it will all be ordered. I have been looking at a German web shop that has very good recommendations from the UK crowd. Their shipping is reasonable and you get bonus points towards next purchases to encourage you to come back. Let's see how I get on.

First step will be to build the baseboard. As I have the solid desk underneath, and I need it to be light so that I can lift it, I will be using my usual foam core. However, as I don't need the 3" height underneath for point motors, I will be reducing that to 1" and making square tubes of the foam core as supports across underneath. I have the specialised tools for doing that so it should be nice and easy. 

Once I have the basics running, I will be looking at extending this to include a passenger train and then, who knows. I just love those steam engines with their red chassis and wheels.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Gentle Model Railroads comes to an end

This blog has covered all of my model railway and model railroad activity since August 2009 and, now that I am permanently committed to British N Gauge, it is time to bring it to a halt.

I am starting a new blog that covers my move to N Gauge.

Check out Pennvale Sands Blog.

Before you go, thank you for reading this blog.I hope that follow me and read the new one.


Saturday, 3 February 2018

A frustrating two days but we got there

Pennvale Sands moves on. I laid all of the track for the main station, wired it all up and started to test the trains but a few issues cropped up.

Firstly, the Ivatt 2-6-0 that I bought just wasn't going to run correctly. Having had all the trouble with the DCC Concepts decoder and thinking that it was all solved with the new Zimo it turned out that, on the Digitrax speed scale of 0 - 100, it would only run smoothly from 38 onwards. Below that it had a hesitancy which wasn't too obvious until there were a couple of coaches behind it. It was then clear that they were closing up and pulling apart on every turn of the driving wheels.

Secondly, the 0-6-0 Jinty 3F that I was planning on using as a station pilot was only promised by Bachmann "this year" with no indication when. I decided that I would use the Fowler 4F as the pilot (more on that later) and get another loco to run the freight. I wanted a Black Five but my local hobby shop - Orwell Model Railways - didn't have one in stock so I picked a 4MT 2-6-0 instead. Wrong! This is a tender driven loco. In fact, it was so tender driven that the main driving wheels didn't rotate most of the time.

I had one of those nights where you lay in bed and think of all the nice ways you can say to the decent pair at Orwell MS (Kevin and Brett are both top notch people) that you don't want these any more. I was at the door at 10am the next day hoping that I could be casual about this. However, I needn't of worried. I gave them to Brett and explained that I didn't want to have steam any more as I couldn't go through any more of this and he wholeheartedly agreed with me and asked what I wanted to do. Well, I had a little list on my phone:

 371-457 - D6714 BR Green, Small Yellow Panel (Class 37) - whatever that implies and 371-084A - D5177 BR Green (Class 25).

Well, it turned out that he had both in stock. I even got given two new decoders in place of my old ones. There's service for you. These two run like a dream.

That got my running problems sorted. So what else when wrong?

I laid all of the track and installed all of the Cobalt IP point motors and, guess what, I got some of the wiring the wrong way round. It is never explained in any documentation that the feed to the point motor is different depending upon which way round that the point is oriented. My red and black wires feed go into socket 1 and 2 on the motor. That is if the point tail is pointing left. If it is pointing right, the feed has to be swapped, otherwise you get a short when the loco touches the frog. It is all sorted now and all thirteen points work as expected.  The last thing that I had to do was to wire up each frog with a long, yellow wire, so that I can fit up an LED display above the back scene - eventually. 

Here are a few images that show where I am with the work. Firstly, here is a close up of the LED feeds.

This following shot is of the overall main board where you can see the foam core construction and all the wiring. (Don't forget that you can click on any image to see a larger slide show)

Lastly, here is a shot with the two new diesel locos in situ along with the Metcalfe Goods Shed and the back scene.

I have picked up an 08 shunter and a tiny CT Electronik decoder so the next job is to get that installed and running.  There is a story behind that as well! Come back soon!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Was going British the right thing to do?

Unreservedly, YES.  Why? Well, firstly, I seem to have been to my LHS (Local Hobby Shop - it's an American expression) every day since I started this. Secondly, the help that I am getting from the forums - Model Rail Forum particularly - has been in a very friendly manner rather than the "why don't you know this" way that I was finding on the US forums.

It has been a pleasure working my way through the design and then the construction. The layout design got a lot of help from a contributor under the name of bear_1923. Long, well thought out and expressed,answers to my queries meant that I completely changed what I was planning with the result being a clean and simple layout design.

One of the decisions was made for pure commercial reasons - I was going to go for Peco Fine Scale track but my LHS didn't have enough in stock for me to start. I am not regretting going code 80 so it didn't matter in the end. My budgets have just expanded as I have found out that one of my PPI refund request has been settled for a very nice sum.

I think that I will have spent well over £1,000 by the time that I have all the track down and a minimum of stock to run a typical day's service. One expects N Gauge to be cheaper than OO but, of course, the material is the only thing saved because of the reduction in size. The bulk of the cost is in the design, making and shipping which isn't really much different to the larger scale. Hence locos cost about the same (£100 - £150 without sound). I am needing around 5 locos, 10 coaches and some 30 wagons. Luckily, I had all of the point motors that I needed. Kitting 15 points with Cobalt IP motors would have come in at £300.00!

I now have most of the track laid in the main station. I am just about to start on motorising the turntable. I haven't gone for an indexing setup - I have bought a simple motor and will drive it from a cheap decoder. The advantage of that is that I can set the top speed of the decoder to a very slow one giving very good control.

I have, also, decided to throw away the small layout that I built originally as it would be hard to reconfigure into the main set up. I will design a new layout incorporating a wharf and make the baseboard a complete one to cover the available area rather than cobbling together bits into the final board. I am hoping that this layout will last so I want to do it properly.

OK, that's enough for this time. Next time, there will be lots of pictures and some running trains!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Pennvale Sands starts

I have had some extended discussions over on the Model Rail Forum. All of this resolved two big issues. One was the actual track layout, which was very much discussed and changed. The other was the name.

I have decided to call it Pennvale Sands. This is made up of the beginning of our surname and the beginning of my wife Valerie's name. The sands bit is taken from Grange-over-Sands which is on the Cumbrian coast just a few miles down from the fictitious location for my station up near the Lake District.

Another discussion was about the traffic into and out of the station. I had envisaged some constant coal traffic in that a couple of trains a day would come if from local places with short coal trains. - empty wagons These would then be put together and go out to the mines down in Lancashire and the same would happen in the opposite direction with loaded wagons. Some extra wagons would be added from our station. This is now a dead idea. I have been persuaded that it would be more interesting to make the creamery on the branch terminus into a wharf and then we can run fish between the branch and the main station and then onwards to London or wherever.

Also discussed was the goods yard that I had designed(!). It seems that I am still thinking US style as the large storage sidings were out of place in a station such as this. It would have a receiving and departure track and the individual tracks for, say, a goods shed, a coal yard and so on. There, also, was a bottleneck in the design where the double track became single track at the station throat and then went out to double track again. I was persuaded that this would cause issues later when I was getting to grips with the traffic so I did a redesign. I threw away the goods part, turned the layout upside down to put the station at the back and added a bay line to the platform area (for a bubble car when I can afford it).

The final result looks like this:

There is now a head shunt for the goods yard and a release road in the station which means that a long string of coaches doesn't need to be pulled out to release a loco or, if the second line is full as well, the loco can still get out. Overall, I like this as it has opened up the board for something more than just track.

One problem, though, is the branch terminus. I have laid this down and set all the tube and wire point changers. This is the current layout.

However, the line to the fiddle yard is in the wrong place. In fact, it won't go to the fiddle yard but will now connect through to Pennvale Sands. The lower siding - to the engine shed - will now become the link to the rest of the layout. As you can see, when I change that, there is no access from the branch line into the passenger track so I have to lift the points and reorganise them. It strikes me that as I have had to redo the point tubes from one side to the other and extend one side for the new fiddle yard, it could be best to make a new board.

I have laid some track on the main board and am now wiring that part up to get some trains rolling.

I now have plenty of room for my main line passenger trains!

Stay tuned.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

It's the "I don't have a name yet" railway

I have been modelling US outline HO for many years with only a couple of unsuccessful forays into British OO and OO9. However, I have got a bit depressed about the costs of buying stuff from the USA. Finally, I have decided a) that I want to do something where I can pop to my local model shop,that isn't going to cost an arm and a leg for postage/added VAT and handling charges and c) gives me more room for a railway.

Hence, I have taken down the HO layout. I am slowly putting all of the equipment up on EBay and am now building an Gauge layout. My basic area is one leg of 9'x 2' and a second leg of 6' 6" x 2'. In HO/OO this is quite tight but in N it is acres!

The problem is that I know little or nothing aboutBritish Railways having been brought up in South London (Streatham to be exact) and thus was only exposed to Southern Electric in my youth. I have decided that I will use basically LMS equipment as I can cope with 3F, 4F, etc. andI like Duchesses and Jubilees.

I went off down to my local model railway show - Scograil in Ipswich, which seems to have morphed into Orwell Model Railways and now run by Brett (of Scograil) and Kevin(of Coastal DCC fame!). I must say that we are very lucky to have both a top quality model shop AND a genius at DCC - in Kevin Dickerson - within 5 minutes drive from me. It seems that this results in daily visits!

Where am I then. I have designed the layout - basically a medium sized terminus feeding a small branch end of line and a fiddle yard. Location seems to be in the north west. I am thinking of making it a seaside resort where you can see the Lake District in the background feeding out to a small town with a Creamery as its biggest employer (Seascale way).

The terminus looks like this:

and the branch like this

Telling my wife that this would be cheaper than US HO, I went round to Orwell and spent £350.00 on some track, a loco (Ivatt 2MT), some passenger coaches and goods wagons. I then acquired a 4F. Having tried DCC Concepts DCC decoders (I am a Digitrax man) I swapped them out for some Zimo as Zimo seems to manage coreless motors better (thanks Kevin). This was when I was thinking of building just a small board for fun. Having turned it into something bigger and better(?) I then spent another £350.00 on the track for the terminus. Given that I am expecting to run a Jubilee or a Duchess into here with some "blood and custard" Mk1s and some extended coal trains, I haven't yet explained that I am not finished! Fortunately, I have all of my HO stuff to sell so that should offset the costs somewhat.

I am quite disabled with arthritis and can't stand up for too long so my model railway sits on top of some B&Q kitchen units that sit on the floor. This means that I can roll around on an office chair and do most things sitting down. I can't contemplate climbing underneath baseboards so I build everything out of 5mm foam core, extensively braced. This makes a 9' x 1' 4" baseboard light enough to pick up but strong enough when sitting on a stretch of kitchen worktop.

I use DCC extensively and thus have Cobalt IP motors and I drive them from JMRI buy setting up routes for specific trains. These sit underneath the layout but if there is any issue, I can just flip the board on its side and fix it. To make the shunting on the branch more interesting, I have reverted to wire and tube for the point operation but the fiddle yard (which will be behind the branch eventually), will be wired into the DCC bus and JMRI.

I have a good friend who is an artist (see his website at Brunswick Fine Art). He has painted some back scenes for me - and I built his web site for him. I am in the process of fitting these. As the layout may need to be lifted, the back scenes are all removable.

Anyway, that is the story so far. Here is where I am with the layout itself.

The main board.

and the branch terminus

So far, I have been unable to think of a name for this. I am thinking of something like"Grange-over-Sands" or "Wells-Next-The-Sea" - in other words, something that tells you it is a seaside location. So far, I have come up with nothing!