A Personal Post

This week’s post is a little different, it’s not even about trains!  It’s about something my partner and I do each year to help a very good cause which is relevant to a lot of people in this hobby.

This coming Sunday we’ll be riding our motorcycles in one of the most important events in our yearly calendar – The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

Those of you who’ve known me for a while know we like to try and combine overseas travel with our yearly fundraising ride, but this year we’ll be riding in the UK again given the travel issues.

Despite the situations created by the pandemic the world over, as motorcyclists around the globe we’ll still come together as a community to raise money and awareness for men’s health.  Instead of the usual organized group rides we’ll be riding solo to support the cause.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride raises funds for research and awareness of prostate cancer, as well as providing programs for men suffering from mental health issues, creating resources to break down the barriers for men to talk and deal with their mental health issues, in the hope of reducing the number of suicides. We support the cause by dressing dapper for the ride and, usually in groups, we put on a fantastic show for the public in whatever city we chose to ride in. It really is a day of celebration and joy designed to bring to the forefront men’s health. This year folks will be riding and fundraising, just solo.

If this is a cause you feel is important to you I’m asking you to make a small donation to do something to help stop men dying from prostate cancer, or by losing their lives to mental health issues.

Understandably a lot of people are experiencing challenging times because of the pandemic, but if you are in a position to make a small donation, please do. The link is here – https://www.gentlemansride.com/rider/thedrawnstudio

If you are not in a position to make a donation you can still help – drop a message to a male friend you haven’t spoken to for a while, and just ask them how they’re doing.  Our hobby is largely a social one, and with so many modelers having to shield through these difficult times it’s easy to get cut off and isolated, so let’s just keep checking on each other. There’s some handy guides on the DGR link here – https://www.gentlemansride.com/about/mens-health, so have a read, and reach out to someone who may need a lifeline right now.

Thank you.

Next week I’ll have a train-related post for you, once I get back from the ride.

A Brief Pause

I’m going to hold off posting tonight and prepare a proper post for a few day’s time. The news concerning the new restrictions to keep us all safe and well were not unexpected but I am spending the evening relaxing with my family. We will regroup and proceed as normally as we can tomorrow!

Stay safe, and let’s pick up steam again soon.

A Quick Post of New Parts

This week’s post will be short as I just want to give you a look at what arrived in the mail today from Shapeways.

The large spikes at the top are exactly that; spikes to repair a track system for a wooden toy train. The assembly below contains lots of gears, axels, a drive shaft and a set of drive shaft couplings.  These are to repair several locomotives such as the N scale Doodlebug from last week’s post, an N scale Minitrix diesel, an N Gauge Dapol Britannia and a HO scale Samhongsa brass locomotive.

After the parts are tested I’ll share the outcomes with you, but for tonight it’s back to the workbench, as some unexpected jobs have come up.  Next week I’ll have a review of a new product I found that was a tremendous help in upgrading some older steam engines to DCC sound.

Going Uphill – Part 4

As promised this week I have some photos of my new Tehachapi Loop modules for our club layout ‘Solent Summit’.  As with all model railways, it’s not finished, but it runs and it’s just about ready for the exhibition coming up this weekend.

The main section is the loop itself, built on two 5′ by 2′ modular boards, which takes the line up by 2 and a half inches.  You can see the basic boards in an earlier post here.

Starting at the top and right-hand end, the line enters the module, and splits into two lines to form a passing place.  The signal is a Showcase Miniatures kit and does work, just not yet.  Also, the track joint to the next board is offset because the modules are not currently joined together and I didn’t spot that when taking the photo!

There are also two single signals for trains departing the loop.

The twin lines then run around the module and the descent starts just after they cross the tunnel.

The real loop is a lot larger and has some country roads and tracks leading into the center, but as this is compressed to make it modular, I’ve compromised with a path leading up to the cross on the hill.

The cross, at the real Tehachapi Loop, is a memorial to the men who died working the landscape to build the railroad.

The lines run around the hill through a rock cutting, which also helps disguise the module joints.

The lines continue to descend as they run around the back of the module.

In the view below you can see the lines drop from one side to the other.  The gradient is a steady 2.25% on the inner line and 2.1% on the outer.

Just before the lines converge into one, there are two more signals for the exiting trains, but as the lines are now in a cutting and on a bend, these signals are mounted on a gantry so they can be seen by the locomotive engineers from a distance.

The gantry is 3D printed; it’s a model by fellow Shapeways designer Ngineer and can be found here.

The signal heads are angled towards the back of the loop.

The shot below shows how the gantry signals are visible from around the bend.

The line then stops descending and enters the tunnel. From here the line remains flat as it leaves the module.

On the real Tehachapi Loop, the signal for the passing line is on the same side of the tunnel as the gantry, and the locomotive engineers can see it through the tunnel.  But as I’ve compressed the loop, and curved the line through the tunnel, I decided to put the signal on the other side. Anybody watching the layout will be able to see it once I have the signals working.

So there we have a version of the Tehachapi Loop on a modular N Scale layout.

I must admit as much as I like the module I’m not as happy with it as I had hoped for two reasons:

Firstly, I feel I’ve rushed it and I think the ballasting, rock work and scenery reflect this.  But the great thing about scenery, it can be built upon to refine and improve the level of detail. So once the next show is over I can take a bit of time to work on this.

Secondly is the hill in the middle.  The slope of the land formation from the top of the hill to the cutting by the gantry signal was supposed to be more gradual, but I realized I had no more room between modules when they were packed together for transport. One sits upside down on top of the other and the land at the center of the loop almost touches.  So the hill is designed to lift off which causes, I think, an unsightly joint.   But I think I can conceal this with some more careful scenery work to disguise the joint.  Again, the great thing about model railway scenery is it’s never final and can always be changed. I look forward to getting some inspiration and maybe some advice on how to solve this problem at the show next weekend.

But with these two points said, it runs well and I think the trains look fantastic on it.  And once the signals are all working I’ll be very happy.

It’s now only four days until these are set up with thirty-five other modules, not including the non-scenic yards, to form the ‘Solent Summit Railroad’ at the Warley National 2019 Exhibition.  If you’re coming this weekend I will see you there and if you can’t make it I will get lots of photos and videos of the layout to share with you, including a full walk-around video as I did at the NMRA (BR) Annual Convention in 2015 below, which was only 21 modules.

As it’s such a big layout and we have to pack up and drive back on Sunday night I don’t think I’ll have a post next Monday, but it will give me more time to write a  more in-depth post for the week after.

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!