Going Uphill – Part 3

Over the last few months I’ve been busy working on customer layouts as well as getting my own layout ready for the Warley National 2019 Exhibition, which is in less than two weeks.  So I haven’t had a lot of time to work on the 3D printed projects, but that will pick up after the show.

You may recall, back in March, the Tehacipi Loop modules were fully working but rather bare.

Well, about a month or so ago it looked like this.  I admit I was starting to panic!

The base construction is a mixture of cardboard and blue foam offcuts packed with newspaper.

The newspaper worked very well in giving an uneven natural shape for the plaster cloth to follow but the downside is it absorbs all the moisture from the cloth, and in a cold workshop, stays wet.

I had to place the only available heater, an oil radiator, under the modules to help the plaster cloth to set.  I also found that using hot water to dip the plaster cloth into also helped it set quicker.  Well, it seemed to and working in the cold, my hands appreciated it!

Once the cloth had hardened sufficiently, which took a day or so, I separated the two modules and pulled out the newspaper, which was still damp.  The cloth then dried completely.

You can also see from the images above I’ve sprayed the track with a grimy color.  As I passed the spray can over the track I followed round with a cloth and wiped the tops of the rails.  The rails will need a really good clean once all the scenery is done but this helps a lot.

The next step was to add some ground color.  This is important as without it the white of the cloth will always find ways to show through. Just over a week ago the loop module looked like this.

I use either a green or brown undercoat which is just a cheap acrylic paint thinned with water.

Once dried the track was ballasted; you can see my pots of ballast ready to go on the corner of the module.  The rock outcrops have also been positioned, and colored, in the same way I did the trestle module, which you can read about here.

Over the last weekend this module, and the incline boards which go with it, have been totally transformed and now have all their scenery finished.  But I don’t have photos yet, you will have to wait until next Monday for that, as they were still drying when I left them.

The Warley National 2019 Exhibition is on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2019 at the NEC in Birmingham, UK.  You can read more about the show here.  We’ll be at stand number B53, almost in the middle of the hall! Along with my loop there’ll be 6 other new modules added to our layout, so plenty of new works to see.

And if you think the exhibition doesn’t look big, remember that our layout at stall B53 is 65′ by 26′.

Next week I’ll bring you some photos of the modules in their finished state. If you’re coming to Warley you’ll be able to see them in action, but I’ll endeavor to get some good video of trains tackling the loop to post here as well.

Derailments Aren’t Always Easy To Fix!

It’s been a busy two weeks since my last post; I needed to focus my time organizing my club’s annual exhibition, which was another great success as we continue to build on the event year after year, and I’ve been doing some traveling.  This week’s post will be about a train from another country, not that I was there, but I found it interesting.

Every now and again we, as model railroaders, have trains fall off the track, and if you’re unlucky they can end up somewhere that’s hard to reach.  This also happens in the real railways but it takes considerably more effort to pick the trains up.  Normally when there’s a derailment, which can’t be corrected with a re-railer, the rail cranes are called out to do the heavy lifting.  If the train is too far from the tracks a road crane is usually called in.  But sometimes the accident happens where there simply are no roads.  This happened in Scotland on the 28th June 2012 when a CBRf freight train of twenty-four PCA tank wagons hauled by a Class 66, number 66734, hit a landslide on the line from Corrour to Tulloch, along the shore of Loch Treig.

Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the locomotive slid down the bank towards Loch Treig and came to a rest a good distance from the line. The job of sorting out the mess was given to QTS who removed the crashed PCA tank wagons and repaired the line in just 12 days without any cranes.  They captured the whole event on this time-lapse video.

But the locomotive, weighing 130 tonnes (286600 Pounds), was simply too big and heavy for even rail cranes to safely reach and the nearest road was 4 miles away.

So the locomotive was covered up to protect it from the Scottish weather until August 2013 when the job of removing it begain.  The locomotive was declared an insurance write-off and QTS again took on the challenging job of breaking the locomotive up and removing it piece by piece. It took 70 days and again QTS captured the whole event on a time-lapse video.

All in all, this was an amazing achievement and 85% of the parts from 66734 were reused on other locomotives, but sadly this locomotive is no more.

So next time we have a train fall off at the back of the layout just remember how hard it could have been!

3D Printed Gears

If you’ve been following my posts over the last few years you’ll know that I’ve produced several 3D printed gears for a variety of scales.  These have been available in my Shapeways shop and through my individual posts about the gears, but I realized I didn’t have a section on this site for them.  So that’s what this post is about.

The new page, which can be found here, or by using the drop-down menu above, has all the gears currently available.  There are several more in the testing phase, which will be added when ready, as well as several that are waiting to be done; often when I see a damaged locomotive going cheap I pick it up with the intention of making a new part to repair it.

So far the finished replacement gears and axles are for:

N Scale

Bachmann- 4-8-4 Northern (3rd Generation)

Bachmann 2-8-0 & 2-8-2 (1st Generation)

N Gauge

Minitrix 9F

OO Gauge

Bachmann/Mainline 0-6-0 J72

Bachmann/Mainline 4-6-0 Hall

HO Scale

Bachmann 4-8-4

Gützold v60/br106

O Scale

Rivarossi O Scale F9

G Scale

USA Trains 0-4-0 20-Ton

I’m also doing some experimenting with different materials for the gears; you can find the first post about that here.  For very small gears I’ve yet to find a better material than the Fine Detail, although for the larger gears the material is a little brittle and prone to breakage, so I’m hoping to find a suitable material for those.

I’ll be taking a break and not posting next Monday as this coming weekend is the Poole & District Model Railway Society’s Annual Exhibition. I’m the Exhibition Manager, and as fun and rewarding as organizing an event of this scale is, I’ll be needing a rest on Monday! So I’ll be back in two weeks.

Solent Summit At Warley

Again this week my post will be brief, due to my club’s upcoming show, but I did want to let you know that this year our Modular US N Scale layout, ‘Solent Summit’, will be going to the WARLEY NATIONAL 2019 exhibition on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2019 at the NEC in Birmingham, UK.  You can read more about the show here

‘Solent Summit’ will have five scale miles of scenery, which is the largest exhibition layout we’ve done, with lots of new modules, one of which is my Tehachapi loop module, which looked like this the last time I shared it with you.

Hopefully, soon I’ll have some more to share with you as it looks very different now.  We also have a very interesting automated signaling system using laser range finders which, when finished, will also be shared with you.

For now, it’s back to the show planning, with a bit of Tehachapi senery work as well.

A Little Time Off

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted, but don’t panic I’m still here!  It’s been a busy summer, and as we neared the end of it I expected things to be a little quieter but I’ve been working at show and exhibitions supporting my wife’s business, which I hope will enable me to increase my purchase of trains and train-related travel!

Next week I’ll be back to my normal posts but for this week I just wanted to check in and let you know about a couple of shows which I’ll be at.

On October 20th the Poole Model Railway exhibition will be at the Poole Grammar School in Dorset.  You can find more about that here.

Along with my fellow modellers from the Gosport American Model Railway Group we’ll be taking all of our modular N Scale layout ‘Solent Summit, to the ‘WARLEY NATIONAL 2019′ show on the 23rd-24th November at the NEC in Birmingham.  You can read more about the show here.  The ‘WARLEY NATIONAL 2019′  is one of the largest shows in the country which is why we can take such a big layout.  With five scale miles of scenery, Solent Summit will be 65′ by 30’.

So if you’re coming to either of the shows I’ll see you there.

And as promised next week I’ll be back to my regular posts.

Plugging it all Together With Anderson Powerpoles

In July of 2016 I shared with you how we join our modular layout, ‘Solent Summit’, together electrically using ‘Chock Blocks’.  You can find the post here.  Since then we’ve improved on this system by using Anderson Powerpole plugs.

The ‘Chock Blocks’ worked well for several years but the more we used the layout, and the larger it gets, we started to notice more and more that wires would get pulled out, the pins in the male sections would need spreading to ensure a good contact, and we were chasing electrical problems.

So we looked around for another solution.  There are several out there and they vary in design and price, but in the end we settled on Anderson Powerpole.  These are not the cheapest but the quality and reliability, so far, has been outstanding.  These have also been the standard connector for the NTRAK Modular Railroading Society since 2005.

There were three things that stood out to us, other than the quality of the product.  Firstly, the plugs are universal, which means there is no Male or Female sections, just one plug which connects to any other Powerpole.  Secondly, the plugs can be assembled in any order to make a connector to suit your needs; if you connect a wire to the wrong location you can simply move the Powerpole.  Thirdly, the Powerpole casings are the same size for the three different wire size fittings so you can easily combine different wire sizes.

The only disadvantage to the system, apart from the cost, is you need a special crimp tool, but that’s it.

The basic system looks like this; a crimp tool, plastic connectors and wire crimps.

The connectors come in a variety of colours.

The crimp tool is fairly large but very easy to use, as you’ll see later on.

The crimp connectors come in three sizes; 15 amp, 30 amp & 45 amp.  As we’re working with model railways 15 amp is more than sufficient, but we also have some of the 30 amp crimps simply because they are designed for larger wire.  Below are the 15 and 30 amp crimps.  The circular part is for the wire and the shaped section fits into the plastic connector.

For my new Tehachapi Loop modules I’ll be using the 15 amp crimps.  This orange wire needs to be linked across the two modules.

I strip the wire back by about the same length as the circular section on the crimp using a regular set of wire strippers and twist the ends together.  Twisting the ends ensures there are no stray strands.

The crimp tool has three positions, one for each crimp size.  The tool is ratcheted so it won’t spring open, allowing you to place the crimp in the jaws without it falling out.  The wire can then be placed into the crimp and the tool squeezed.  Once the tool reaches the right amount of compression on the crimp the ratchet releases and the tool opens up.  As I said before, it’s very easy to use.

The end of the wire is now crimped and is very securely fixed.

The plastic housing has a metal plate inside which the shaped section of the crimp pushes over.  Once it’s in it won’t pull back out; the cutaway image below (from Wikipedia) shows how it fits.

The plug can then be added to a plug block which can be assembled in any configuration.  Each plug has grooves on two sides and a raised section which fit into the grooves on the the other two sides.  And as I said before should you get one in the wrong place, one of the greens for example, it’s easy to slide them apart and correct the positioning.

To make unpacking and packing the modules quicker, as well as protecting the wires in transport, we’ve glued a singe Powerpole plug to the underside of the modules so the connector group can be secured.

The Powerpoles push together easily and hold well, but when you want to pull them apart it can be done without a lot of force.

As you can see they’re ideal for modular layouts.  In the main connector I have several small wires and the larger main bus wires, which use the 30amp crimps.

The Anderson Powerpoles are available from lots of places including Amazon and Ebay as is the crimp tool.  We have now converted all of our modules to this system and so far it has proved to be well worth it.