Thursday, 7 March 2019

Scenery and stock

I am trying to move forward in a controlled way. Rather than just doing one thing, I am spreading my time around to get a few things done in a longer time. This means that I am building station buildings, making scenery, completing the track plan and extending the capabilities. \one at a time\;

Building Station Buildings

Over the last few weeks, I have picked up a couple of building kits - one from Kibri and one from Auhagen. The Kibri one is actually a Swiss example but it was on sale at a good price from my local hobby shop (Scograil in Ipswich). The interesting thing was that it stated that it came with lighting. Well, more of that later! The other building was added onto an order from Lippe Modelbahn in Germany as an add-on to an order. They were both nice kits to make but not up to the standard of the model aircraft or cars kits that I normally make. Instructions were fairly sparse. Working on the basis that I am building a "train set", I built them out of the box, using the fact that they are pre-coloured plastic to avoid doing any painting. Valerie liked the Auhagen kit as it comes with flowers for the window boxes!

They went together OK but there are no alignment pins or such so you have to be a bit carefult. The KIbri kit was a bit of a cheat in that there were 12 light boxes to fit around the windows but only one LED! It seems that you need to buy a set of Veissmann LED fittings to make it fully lit. 

Firstly, here is the Auhagen kit made up.

This had nice little appropriate printed sheets to fill in the windows.

Secondly, here is the Kibri kit.

The images provided for the windows were completely inappropriate so I printed up a sheet of light yellow and filled the windows that way. As there was only one LED fitting, I decided to make my own.

I made up twelve of these to shine through the windows. They are all connected to a Marklin 72730 switch box (kindly provided by my Marklin friend, Adrian). In fact, I am so pleased that I am buying some street lights to complete the scenes as the switch box will manage four blocks of lights.


To avoid both ends looking like a toy train, I decided to have one end encased in a tunnel. First off, I built an enclosed tunnel from 5mm foam core. I then fronted it with some sheets of polystyrene foam which I carved with a hot wire. The top was filled in with crumpled Amazon brown paper(!) and covered with plaster bandage. Then the whole shebang was coated with a thin coat of Hydrocal. Lots of various greys and white has resulted in a nice rock face. I have some mountain climbers to add to this sometime! I then dragged out my trusty box of trees that have graced lots of my railways over the last few years plus a few built from a Woodland Scenics kit. I don't think it looks half bad. It nicely mutes the sound of the train (and the whistle) as it goes through.

There is a nice painted backscene to go behind this but, after being taken from my old railway, it needed some careful touching up by my tame(!) artist, Mark. He paints in oils so it needed a few days to dry so that will appear in the next article.

Track Plan

There is an extension to the main board that fits between it and the wardrobe. This extension has three legs (one folding). This extension will become the "fiddle yard" or staging area.  I will be putting the extension up next week so I will take some photos then. In the meantime, this is final track plan, as drawn in SCARM.

All of the points that are on the back of the board are controlled by DCC/Electric set ups. Again, more of that later.

Rolling Stock/Loks

I have learned to call my locos 'loks' in the German manner. I now have four locos. Here are three of them.

These are a Class 94, Class 23 and Class 24. I love the red contrast against the black. I have one more loco - a Class 78 but the decoder has failed so it is off being repaired!

I have quite a good collection of rolling stock, including a fabulous Rheingold set of 6 passenger coaches. However, I don't like keep taking them out and putting them back into their boxes so I have built a nice double decker carry tray out of my trusty 5mm foam core.

The black strips of ribbon help in getting the items out of their boxes.

Next Time

Photos of the extension board, another new loco, a working signal and street lights plus a new controller! I can't wait.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The hills are alive with the sound locos!

Well, with four locos that have sound fitted, it can get a bit noisy. Actually, running is on hold until I get the last of the track, which should arrive tomorrow. Once that is here, I can finalise the fiddle yard and then start panning the traffic, etc. I am beginning to think about a little web program that I can run on a browser to organise the traffic. Valerie is raising her eyebrows saying "I thought that you weren't going to get the computer involved" but I can't see a better way to do it.

Here is where we are at the moment. The hillside over the tunnel is pretty much finished except for forestation. I need to buy a small supply of miniature trees - they give the impression of distance - but that will have to wait until my next budget run - early March! I have managed to get the cows in, which Valerie likes. However, I am planning to put a Faller fairground in that area so we shall see how it all ends up.

I have made up some trays for the freight wagons. There are actually two trays so far.

That's about it for now.

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!