Sunday, 25 October 2020

Lapsang Souchong and Other Teas

Not much to report this month – spilt tea and lots of procrastination. But all in a good cause!

Firstly, I stained the ballast to ‘blend’ it in to the surroundings. A bit of a pun there, as I used the liquid from spent teabags. The lightweight filler I used is absorbent, so the colour soaks in nicely. The Lapsang Souchong also gave a mild, smoky smell to the layout - if only briefly.

I shall do no more colouration for the time being, as more white filler will need to be applied once the buildings and platforms have been added. Only then can I begin the serious colouration. The soaking properties of the filler mean that I can use subtle washes, rather than solid paint – hopefully preserving the texture for all to see. At least I have toned down the glaring white look for now. The golden brown of the tea blends in nicely with the surrounding plywood.

Procrastination has largely been concentrated on what stock to run on the layout. The fallback position has always been to run British Rail diesel era locos and railcars. That would be problematic for purists, as the Wantage Tramway (which Burghmire is loosely based upon) wasn’t a railway in the strict legal British sense. It operated under different rules and regulations. No signalling, no facing point locks, no one-engine-in-steam rules etc. - quite apart from the supposedly lightweight trackwork, tight clearances and tight curves that would prohibit most BR locomotives and passenger stock in real life.

Equally problematic would be creating reliable, realistic working models of almost all the motive power that actually ran on the real Wantage Tramway. The exception is the Grantham Tram, a double-deck, steam powered passenger-carrying tram which would be plenty large enough to power and weight adequately for reliable running. All other motive power was extremely diminutive. I have absolutely no intention of even beginning to think how to recreate these locomotives in 2mm scale, never mind getting them to run reliably and be able to pull trains!

In any case, Burghmire isn’t supposed to be Wantage, even though Wantage is the original inspiration. It is an open book waiting to be filled with whatever I deem appropriate and viable. With that in mind, I shall try a number of ideas over the next few months. I have a few commercial chassis to exploit, including a few examples of the diminutive Arnold Kof which I have successfully converted to 2mm finescale in the past...

Arnold N - HN2002 - Diesel locomotive - Kof II - DB - Catawiki 

...and a few other types. I have also ordered a few oddball railcar bodies from Shapeways, amongst other things. The plan is to experiment with these over the next few months, turning down wheels, adapting commercial chassis and doing a bit of scratchbuilding.

There isn't room to work on the layout and use my workspace as a workshop at the same time, so the layout will have to be put away for a while. This blog is really about work on the layout, rather than the stock. That means I shall not be doing much in the way of updates here for the foreseeable future. No doubt the stock will appear on the layout in due course, when I can give a summary of what I have achieved - successful or otherwise ;)

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Selective Snow

Scenic work has started with the ballasting. Not the usual style though. Burghmire requires a rather more primitive interpretation of the term than is usually applied. In the early days, Wantage looked quite neat, using ash or similar to give a nice smooth surface. This was when the line used longitudinal sleepers.

In later days, conventional sleepers were used. Latterly the 'ballasting' and the general appearance of the site looked very untidy. The ballast material was still very fine though, nothing like the granite chips we normally see on model railways.

Sleepers are almost completely hidden. There are also piles of ash and other stuff, which add considerably to the atmosphere. Therefore, the ballasting requires its own dedicated modelling exercise, integrated to some degree with the surrounding scenery.

I decided to use lightweight filler as the main material. This not only has the advantage of being very light, but is also easier to work when wet or dry than the gritty, hard alternatives. The first stage was to push an excess of the filler down between the rails. I found that a finger worked best for this. I then used an improvised plastic tool to scrape out the excess. This was made from the spacer on some wall plugs. This was just the right width to fit between the rails. Made of slippery plastic, it was easy to clean with water.

I also used various other metal and plastic tools to scrape the filler out of flangeways and the rail web. Even when dry, the filler is easily worked with files, saw blades and knife blades. There is still quite a bit of work to do, but I am very pleased so far with what I have achieved.

As can be seen from the above photo, I also installed an ash pit outside what will eventually be the loco shed. I wasn't going to bother when I originally laid the track, but recently changed my mind. I applied epoxy adhesive to the outer ends of the sleepers to make absolutely sure they would stay in place. I then used a circular saw attached to a mini drill to cut out the slot between the rails. I made a box out of plasticard and stuck it firmly in place. The epoxy will eventually be hidden under a representation of ash and coal dust. As most of the track is surrounded or covered with platform edges and buildings, the final detailing of the ballast will have to wait a while. 

Talking of scenery, much thought has been going into what Burghmire should look like. As far as the railway buildings go, Wantage works OK. The surroundings don't really fit well though. This map extract shows what I mean. The front of the layout is at the top. As you can see, the back of the layout (bottom of the map) would on the whole be a vast nothingness, with little or no atmosphere.

The plan is to tighten up the railway boundary as much as possible at the rear to give the layout a far more claustrophobic atmosphere. I plan to install a tall wall at the back, close enough to the track to allow some low relief buildings behind. I found some wall components on eBay, including pillars from China and brick wall components from Auhagen. They are supposedly HO scale, but actually scale quite well for 2mm scale. The photo below shows roughly where the walls would go - though I shall adjust the height of the walls and the spacing of the pillars.

I have also made a mock up of the loco shed and goods shed from card. I shall have to reduce the dimensions of the goods shed slightly to get it to fit, but I should be able to model the loco shed pretty much as it was at Wantage, though with styling differences.

I thinking of doing the train shed over the platform in the same style as the boundary walls too. I found this delightful photo of a station in Mexico where the main pillars are similar in style to the model ones I have bought. All with the aim of giving Burghmire its own distinctive atmosphere.

Monday, 14 September 2020

On A Roll

 I am suddenly in the mood for modelling again! More wiring has been done, including board 3 and the uncoupling magnets on board 2.

The 3rd board (non-scenic) has just one track and no accessories, so the wiring is very simple. Here is a view from the operating side...

...and underneath

I added a 6-pin socket to maintain consistency with the other boards. Technically, none are required at the moment, but it provides a bit of future-proofing.

Here is a view of the underside of the main board. A problem with a very small baseboard is finding enough space for all the wiring, which in my case is necessarily little less than would be required for a far larger baseboard. Again, the 6-pin socket wiring (hanging loose in the photo) is largely superfluous at the moment - just one wire in use connecting a point frog on the man board with the switch controlling the point blades which is on the main fiddle yard board.

I shall tidy up the wiring a little bit, which shouldn't take too long. The only problem found so far is intermittent connectivity on one of the turntable rails. I shall need to look into that. Otherwise, everything is working as expected, which is quite a relief.

I am more or less ready to begin the scenery. The track layout is inspired by Wantage, but the station surroundings there are not ideal. I plan to site railway buildings similar to those at Wantage in their real places. The rest though will have to be substantially different, to create some kind of atmosphere. More on that another time.

Friday, 11 September 2020


 Progress on the electrics continues with batteries,wires and switches, amongst other things.

On the fiddle yard, I have now finished revising the electrics for the turntable. The battery holder from the Kitwood kit has been replaced by one originally designed to hold 3 batteries. This has been adapted so that 2 batteries can be used alternately, rather than simultaneously. One battery at a time noticeably slows the rotation of the turntable, which is a big improvement. With 2 separate batteries, I can switch from one battery to the other in the middle of an exhibition if necessary, without having to physically replace a discharged battery with a charged one straight away.

 Operating the turntable now requires 3 switches. A DPDT switch controls the direction of rotation, with a centre off. A slide switch is used to select which battery to use to power the rotation. Finally, another DPDT switch reverses the polarity of the rails. A red dot has been painted on the turntable to show which switch position should be selected. Complicated, but it requires only simple components! I have also installed a 6-way socket at the extreme left of the shelf as I now require more than just track power to be transmitted between baseboards.

On the main baseboard, I have installed the shelf. I have added a 6-way socket to match the one on the fiddle yard board. They will be connected by a jump lead. Also added are blue push button switches for the 4 uncoupling magnets.

The uncoupling magnets have been fitted to the underside of the baseboard. I am waiting for some diodes before I finish wiring these.

Next, I shall probably turn my attention to wiring etc. for the third baseboard.

Friday, 4 September 2020


 The scenic board is now fully wired with working turnouts. Here is a short video - sorry about the long pause at the start.

I am particularly pleased with how well the loco traverses the single blade point near the start of the video. I had been a little worried about how well it would work. Here it is in close-up on the right of the photo. I did it this way to avoid awkward soldering. No one will notice the omission of one of the point blades from a typical viewing distance.

And here is the complete board. Just a shelf to add at the back now, like on the fiddle yard board.

I also need to add some uncoupling magnets. Then, the electrics will be more or less finished.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

More on the Turntable

The turntable installation is now more or less finished on Burghmire. I added the approach road. I also managed to slow the turntable rotation quite a bit by running it off one battery instead of two. I shall try fitting a resistor, at the suggestion of a colleague, to slow it down even further. I still need to fit a buffer stop. That can wait until I have a better idea of the stock I plan to run, as overhangs can vary.

Getting everything level was a challenge. The shelf the turntable sits on slopes away from the main baseboard and is set at a lower level. Also, the rail height on the turntable is much deeper than the code 40 that I have used for the rest of the layout. Fortunately, everything seems to have worked out well.

The turntable is really for the long term. Not for locomotives, but for some very 'interesting' railcars I hope to model in the far future. Not the usual candidates either. I think that with a tiny layout like this, the stock is proportionally far more noticeable and important than on a large layout. Running unusual and interesting stock should add a lot to the interest and the atmosphere.

If ever the real Wantage had a turntable, it would probably have had to be off scene, like mine. Where it is located, it can be used if stock needs turning at Burghmire and at the far destination too. One turntable for two completely different places.

Here is a better view of the baseboard as a whole, viewing from the operating side. I still need to make a simple locking mechanism for the sector plate. I must also add a fascia to the 'public' side of the board - but probably only towards the end of the project. Otherwise, this board is now more or less complete.

Here is a photo with it attached to the scenic board, viewed again from the operating side. The scenic board is about to get the same kind of treatment as recently applied to the fiddle yard board - i.e. fitting the point operating switches and fitting a shelf to tidy up the appearance. This board will also need a few uncoupling magnets. The layout will then be fully operational.

Thought is also going into the scenery for the layout. The general layout of the railway buildings will be inspired by Wantage. Unfortunately, the real scenery around the tramway station there doesn't work very well in such a limited space. I need everything to be far more crowded and full of detail to make the layout atmospheric and interesting to view. I will also strive for a different architectural style to leave observers in no doubt that Burghmire is somewhere totally different to Wantage.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Fiddle Yard Progress

I decided to fit the shelf to the fiddle yard board as my next step. Best to experiment here first before doing the same on the main board. I am generally pleased with the result. As expected, it considerably tidies up the appearance at the back of the baseboard.

I managed to conceal the operating wire for the point mechanism too. The cover is experimental - I shall do a proper job when I do the ones for the main board, in due course.

The turntable was something of an afterthought. I bought a kit a short time ago, but couldn't think where best to put it. The wide space on the new shelf is an obvious site, on reflection. The turntable revolves a bit too quickly to operate with any precision at the moment. I shall have to work out a way of slowing it down. The mounting spacers etc will be tidied up once the glue has fully set.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Here We Go Again!

Apologies for another prolonged absence - due mainly to life, which has got in the way almost totally over the last year or more. I should be able to see more free time from now onward, but model railways will still conflict with other interests and obligations to some degree. The deadline for the 2mm Scale Association's Diamond Jubilee Layout Competition has been put back a year until June 2021, so I still have over a year to complete Burghmire. At my pace, that is unlikely, but I shall give it a try.

First on the list is to get the pointwork on the main board operational. I have continued with the idea I used on the fiddle yard. So far, the plywood projections to hold the point switches have been installed. The wire-in-tube connections from the tie bars have also been installed.

As with the fiddle yard, the protuberances look a bit odd at the moment, but will eventually help support a shelf for coffee mugs etc. so it will all look neat and tidy in the end.

Here's the underside. You can see some of the wire-in-tube installations at top right.

I haven't mentioned it here before, but I was working on a small 2mm finescale layout before the DJLC was announced. It has a strange history. At first, it was just a mock up for an idea I had for a new layout, made out of old scraps of plywood and timber. I then realised (with some prompting from colleagues) that I could just lay the track and it would make a great test track. It has a steepish gradient and slightly exaggerated superelevation, making it ideal for testing for any stock I build. The baseboard is such a hotch potch of bits and pieces there is only one name I can call it - 'Sadbuttrew'!

 It worked fine. I even took it to a local area group meeting where a colleague tested a new loco chassis on it. The more I looked at it though, the more I saw a scenic layout emerging in my mind's eye. With that in mind, I altered the shape of the baseboard slightly and relaid a short section of track on the left hand side. This meant moving a couple of the point switches. I recently installed Blue Points for those. It is now fully operational again. There are only 4 turnouts, including an interlaced 3-way, as shown below.

I saw this layout as an opportunity to set myself slightly loose from the straightjacket of British railway modelling. I had some nice ideas for developing it scenically, including a backscene cobbled up from fantasy artwork found on the Internet. Not quite real, but believable - in another world.

Looking back, I wish I had just continued with this layout, rather than starting Burghmire, but it's too late now.

Next on the agenda is to get the scenic board on Burghmire fully operational - basically just installing the slide switches that will operate the pointwork and connecting up a few wires. I can then start on some scenery. Hopefully, the next update won't be long!