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.

Our Upcoming Club Show

This week’s post will be brief as I’m in the middle of preparing for my club’s upcoming exhibition on the 20th of October.  I’ve been the exhibition manager for the show the last three years and the preparation almost consumes the weeks running up to the show, but the hard work is most definitely worth it as we’ve been able to provide consistently good quality model railway shows as a club.  We have 18 exhibition layouts coming this year including:

Any City – OO
Atherfield – OO
Brixham Bay – N
Cringle Street – O
Denver, Gosport Gulch & Pacific Railroad – ON30
Flintcombe – P4
Freshwater – N Scale
Garreg Wen – OO9
Great Swilling – EM
Kamiak Falls – HO
Milford on Sea – OO
Millway Dock – OO
Newquey East – OO
Parkstone Goods – OO
Rookery Lane – OO
Santa Agueda – HO
Springfield – O
Svanda – HO

We will also have good trade support and several demo layouts and displays, and once again our main sponsor is Model Railway Solutions, a fantastic modeler’s shop and source of info in our area!

If you’re in the area that weekend, come along, it promises to be another great show and we’d love to see you.

Checking Wheelset Back to Backs

As well as producing 3D printed parts I also help solve problems on layouts, and one problem which arises is locomotives and rollings stock not running smoothly through turnouts and crossings. This is often due to the distance between the wheels, or back to back, not being correct.  In this post, I’ll show you how I check and adjust this.

Railway wheels, irrelevant of size and design, all have the same basic parts.  An axel, tire, rim, and flange.  The tire rides on the rails, and is held in place by the rim.  The flange sits inside the tire and the axel holds both wheels together, forming a wheelset.

The tire is actually tapered which causes the wheelset to sit centrally between the rails.  As the wheelset rolls along it will naturally center itself due to gravity.

But as wheelsets round a curve a centrifugal force will try to push the wheelset off the rails towards the outside of the curve.  As the wheels go faster the centrifugal force gets larger and will eventually overcome gravity, but the flange prevents the wheel from going past the rail.

The distance between the rails is fixed, as is the distance between the flanges. This distance is called the back to back.  Wheelsets will run if this distance is wrong, providing the flanges fit between the rails, but the problem comes when the wheelsets need to pass through a turnout or crossing.  The distance between the parts of the turnout is specifically set, and if the back to back is not right the one wheel will run in the correct place and the other will bind, jam or ride up over the rails causing a derailment.

With model trains, unlike the real thing, wheelsets are either made entirely from plastic or metal where the wheels have to be electrically isolated from each other so as not to short.  The real railways like electricity to pass through the wheelsets as they use that for train detection. The plastic wheelsets, as shown below, are usually injection molded in one piece and very accurately.  So unless they’re damaged the back to back dimension should be correct.

Metal wheelsets, as shown below, either have one or both wheels isolated from the axel.  This wheelset has a plastic isolator between the far wheel and the axel.

The problem here is the wheel on the far side can sometimes move on the axel as the plastic isolator is only held in place by friction.  This changes the back to back dimension.  Also some manufacturers have better quality control than others and it’s not unheard of for a brand new item of rolling stock to be incorrect right out of the box.

So how can this be fixed?  As always in model railways, there are several ways of doing the same thing, but for me, I like to use a gauge.  The NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) supply gauges for all the major scale and these include back to back checks as well as many other things for checking turnouts etc.  The gauges are also the same size as the loading gauge for that particular scale so you can check tunnel heights and platform clearances etc.

Another tool I tend to use for N scale is the Micro-Trains coupler height gauge. I’ve written about this before in my post about fitting Micro-Trains body mount couplers to older N Scale freight cars, which you can find here.

As well as being a coupler height gauge, it also has a wheel back to back check and a rail spacing check.  In the image above the wheel back to back check is on the near side and the rail spacing check is on the far side.

To use the gauge, simply put the wheelset into the slots; if they fit they are correct.  The set below is clearly out of tolerance.

As the wheel at the bottom of the image is fixed to the axel it’s the one at the top with a plastic isolator which will slide, and using a pair small pliers I can easily slide the wheel up until it’s in the right place.

You don’t have to take the wheelset out of the truck to check it when using either the NMRA or Micro-Trains gauge, but if you need to adjust the wheel back to back I would recommend taking it out as the pressure could easily damage the plastic truck.

With all your wheelsets back to back correctly adjusted you should find your trains run nice and smoothly through your track work.