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.