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Sunday, 5 October 2008


Not a huge amount of work done on the railway. Most noticable is the addition of the second baseboard and legs, this now means I can put the scenic section together.

It doesn't seem quite as large as I thought it might but it's not too bad. Apologies for the poor photo but I didn't have the flashgun to hand. You're looking from the Beddgelert end with the polystyrene to the left giving an idea of the start of the high ground. You can also see the framework base of the large cottage that will, along with the chapel, sit alongside the road next to the station.

This is a photo from the opposing end. I've not built up the trackbed here so I've just laid the XtrkCad printouts onto polystyrene to give an idea. You can make out Russell and 3 bogie coaches placed just after crossing the Glaslyn and about to enter the tunnel on the way to Bettws; well, you can if you use your imagination! So the next stage will be a lot of trackwork and awkward woodwork to build up the trackbed.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Not quite dead.

Colin Lea asked about an update so, after 4 months, I thought it was about time to get on with it. So, after a faff trying to remember my password, I'm back. Truth be told I haven't done much since last time. ThecClassic summer apathy to modelling and being busy at work have held me back. The main project has been cracking on with Moel Tryfan to provide some motive power for the layout. Hopefully you approve. My whitemetal soldering is improving although I certainly prefer brass. Fitting it to the Prairie chassis has involved a lot of hacking. The bufferbeam has been reduced in profile, the inside of the tanks thinned and the top of the chassis filed down to within a micron of its life but I can now just about jam the thing in there.

It now sits roughly parallel and only about 2" (to scale that is, not 2 actual inches!) higher than it should. The bogie is roughly assembled. Before anyone points out that it's too far rearwards I'll let you know that it's only under there to prop up the body. The chassis still needs to have it's rearmost extension filed back to allow the bogie to be positioned correctly.

Elsewhere I'd made good progress with Livingston Thompson. The Backwoods kit is as good as expected although I over-softened the tank wrappers when annealing them so I'll need to use some filler to flatten the ripples on it's top. As the kit was quite an old one and it had been stationary for a while I thought it best to give the motor a good run, hence the wires sprouting from the cab; the motor is permanently fixed where the firebox is on the actual loco.

I decided to put the effort into Moel Tryfan, partially because it's a true NWNGR loco but more because I was having some issues with the first power bogie for LT. The con rods and coupling rods have a very small clearance and I was getting bored of filing all the components back and trying to rejig the alignment and thought it best to put it to one side and breathe deeply.

There's also been some progress on rolling stock, a plasticard shell for my first building, a bit of terrain profiling behind the stn area and a lot of playing with the new airbrush and compressor. Hopefully it'll be less than 4 months until you next hear from me!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Holiday and Research

I am now back, fresh and enthused, from a bit of holiday including a week in Snowdonia. Bethania has been photographed and, fortunately, looks pretty much as I recall it. The chapel in the right hand corner will be a definite feature of the layout. I haven't decided which of the 3 other buildings around the hamlet to incude.

Hopefully this picture gives a feel for the rising ground behind the buildings which I intend to judiciously widen enough to run a railway through and then model to get the sense of the mountainside.

Another perk of the trip was to spend a bit of time around the Ffestiniog for their Bank Holiday Weekend. It was the first time I'd been back since coal-firing had become more prolific. Although these are a visitor and a pair of non-mainline locos the sight and smell was something to behold, as had been the previous day's round trip in the Obs behind Earl of Merioneth. L-R they are: Jerry M, Lilla and Britomart.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Still going!

Why is it that I'm never near a computer when I remember to update the blog! Anyway after a month a quick update. At the start of this period I made the mistake of going to Narrow Gauge South; I say mistake as I came back with a GEM Baldwin, 2 sets of Worsley Works sides, some Parkside Kits, oh and a Backwoods Double Fairlie and Russell! I think I'll be busy for a while.

The exhibition itself was excellent although with a time limit I was very focussed and rattled around quite quickly. I was particularly impressed by Mols Coed as, being FfR/WHR based, it included a lot of the items I was interested in and Laurie Maunder was very friendly and helpful discussing, among other things, constructing Backwoods Double Fairlies!

Elsewhere on the layout the wiring has been tagged up and prepped into looms with a DIN connector allowing the controls board to be removed. That board is a temporary one at the minute while I decide how to actually do it. I'm going away from the Modratec lever frame as the points/signalwork really wouldn't have much interlocking. A bit more track is in place now and some of the tortoises have been fixed in place.

In 2 weeks time I'm off to north Wales so I'll be getting a load more photos of the actual area and having a first effort at taking photos for a back scene. Has anyone got any experience of the resolution required when printing the backscene? I know 150 dpi is a usual minimum for printing photos. I'm also tagging it in with a trip to the Porthmadog NG Model Railway Exhibition as well as introducing my wife to the area and, most importantly, the narrow gauge railways!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Hopefully you can make out in the photo above that some more track and sleepers have been laid. The three points on the first board are now glued down and a fair amount of track laid around them.

Here's the first photo of stock on my layout! There's a NWNGR coal wagon and brake van along with an FR 3 ton slate wagon n the first 14" siding. The WD Ambulance van is on the siding at the end of the loop and the NWNGR workmans' coach is just on the crossing from the loop onto the main towards Beddgelert.

The underneath of the layout is already covered in spaghetti so I thought it was high time to actually complete the wiring diagram for this board and try to cut down on the wiring looms as much as possible. As you can see thre's quite a bit already and this doesn't include the point motor circuits or electromagnets. I did think about getting away from a load of this by going DCC, with the real aim of realisitc slow speed running. However the more I looked at decoders and my stable the more I realised that only locos the size of Russell or above would really be able to accomodate them so it's been put on hold. If anyone's got any other info, experience or cunning ideas then I'm more than open to suggestions.

Friday, 7 March 2008

PW under way

Although this week has seen a lot of experimentation I have actually made some progress. With the siding point laid the sleepers were glued in place for both that siding and the other one. Rails were then soldered in place on the top siding. After a bit of fiddling I've found that a small coping saw cut in the rail only causes a small bump from the stock. As a result the rails have been cut into at the top to represent the 30ft rails being used, matching the sleeper spacings. This looks great at the minute but I wonder if I'm being too pedantic and it'll disappear when it's ballasted/plastered in. That said the rail breaks are great for insulation gaps. Later I'll gently rub off the copper to insulate the two rails and add mock fishplates to the joints. A great advantage of laying onto glued sleepers is that I don't nee to use fishplates to join the rails. Each sector is powered by wires soldered to the bottom of the rail and run down through the baseboard.

The experimentation has revolved around couplings and uncoupling. To lay the track I needed to finalise the uncoupling magnets. So to test and work out how high to place the Greenwich permanent magnets and SEEP electromagnets I had to make up some couplings. For those to work I had to devise my way of mounting the couplings at the right height to the stock. I copied someone's idea of pinning the couplings to a balsa block at the right height and, after a load of work, decided this was weak and awkward. The best idea I had at the end was to place a blob of Blu Tac against the coupling height gauge, stick the coupling gauge in it and then offer up the wagon; much better!

So now I have some wagons with couplings, knowledge on how to place the magnets and therefore was able to place the magnets and lay the track. All in all a lot of work to lay a 14" siding but work that needed to be done! The baseboard frame is also making good progress which is fortunate a I don't want to lay much more track until the board and frame are as one.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Motors and Locos

This photo shows the outcome of my efforts at building a circuit. Modratec use SPST switches and they showed a circuit using an Op Amp that can power a Tortoise which would usually use a DPDT to switch the current. I don't really understand how it works but it does. A pair of LEDs were used to show which way the point had motored; these will be used to show the route chosen on the control panel for the layout.

Apart from a Chivers Russell on a slightly dubious Minitrix chassis this is my current loco stable. the Ruston and Hunslet were aquired through Ebay but the Avonside was built by me for a previous layout based on the Penrhyn Quarry Rly. The lining looks better in the photo than in real life! Unfortunately both the Ruston and Avonside are too late for the period I'm modelling but I'm sure they'll still come out for the odd run. I'm a big fan of the Hunslets but this one has two problems; firstly it has massive flanges which become a bit of an issue through some of my points with the increased back-to-back sizings and, secondly, it doesn't have outside frames like the original. I may think about trying to fabricate some and fitting extended flycranks but that's all for a much later day, especially as 0-4-0 Hunslets were not a feature of the NWNGR.
In the mean time I have a Chivers kit for the NWNGR Single Fairlie, Moel Tryfan. This has been bought alonside a new Dapol GWR Prairie chassis which is lovely. Runs increadibly, has fine rods and the chemically darkened metal looks great. Technically it's 2mm short and the drive should be to the rear axle rather than the centre one but I think it'll be ok. Even better is that it has fine flanges and a 7mm back-to-back so I won't have to adjust the wheels on the axles, phew!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Points, Signals and Lever frames

Trackwork has progressed but really isn't that interesting. More interesting is the way that my mind has started wandering. I was trying to work out how to arrange the interlocking and control of the points. Doing a bit of research I came across these lever frames from an Australian company called Modratec.

They come as a custom-made kit that you assemble. With a clever bit of software you design the interlocking and functions you want and they provide all the tappets and locks to give you a proper lever frame. I could then use this with the point motors, signals and even facing point locks to operte properly. They're not cheap but, compared with a lever frame from MSE or similar, they become quite reasonable for a load of operability. Even better my dad, as an FR trained signalman, would hopefully help with organising it and getting me to run it properly.

All of this has also led me to look at signals. Assuming Bethania is at the joining of 2 block sections and with the quarry line as well this starts getting a bit complex; incredibly complex compared to the NWNGR who had essentially given up on signals by the 1920s! Oh well, off to research whichever McKenzie and Holland signals they used and try to work out how it would operate.

Friday, 15 February 2008


Things have now started. The track-plan is now finalised and construction has begun. Colin Lea has rightly pointed out that this would have been an unlikely line in reality but from the point of view of a developed model railway I'm happy enough! It is true that about a mile of the Glaslyn has been compacted into something like 150m to enable the river crossing and entirely fictitious tunnel on the other side. Similarly it has removed the long horseshoe that would have taken the line to the SSSQ's incline rather than the branchline off to it that I have created. Isn't Narrow Gauge modelling great when you can just make stuff up. Hopefully there is a strong hint of reality in it and I shall try to be strict with myself in the future.

The first baseboard fram is now done. 2x1 with 1.5x1 strengtheners. It'll be open frame with a plywood cross section raised 3/4 of an inch above the frames to allow the Glaslyn to run underneath.

Exciting picture, eh? More interesting might be the trackwork. It's all being laid on copperclad strip using Peco Flat Bottomed Code 60 rail (Z gauge normally). To be similar to the original 41lb/yd rail would need to be about code 40 which is prob too small and nard to get hold of. The code 60 is available and relatively low profile. It is also high enough that the flanges won't run on the ballast! So far I've almost completed the point into the top siding and I've started putting together the main line crossover at the Beddgelert end. In another effort to increase realism I've moved the checkrails closer to the stock rails. It looks better but now I'll be pushing all my wheels out to give a 7.5mm back to back gauge. Almost to scale! Another advantage is using XTrkCAD I can produce templates for the turnouts involving odd curves and build them accurately away from the layout much like settrack. The tie bars are inverted copper clad strip with brass track pins pushed through from below and the blades soldered to them, as recommended in the 009 handbook. Plan is to use tortoise type motors to drive them and I'll aim to interlink the motors to give some form of interlocking.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Watkin Path/Khyber Pass

Further up the mountain the Watkin Path climbs alongside the South Snowdon Slate Quarries' inclines. Although this isn't going to be modelled I coudn't resist putting it in. For those that don't know this bit of the path was used as the Khyber Pass in Carry On Up The Khyber. So here's a piccie!

Monday, 14 January 2008

The start

Well this is it. I'm starting a layout and a blog at the same time. I know a bit about railways but not so much about computer trickery so it could be interesting to see where this goes.

The layout is set in Bethania, a real hamlet alongside the Afon Glaslyn up the valley from Beddgelert in an area known as Nant Gwynant. Today it has a chapel that's been converted into a tea shop, a bunkhouse, a few cottages and a car park as it sits at the start of the Watkin Path up Snowdon.

At the end of the 19th century the North Wales Narrow Gauge Rlys gained the rights to build a rly from Porthmadog to Betws Y Coed through Nant Gwynant and Capel Curig. Bethania assumes that this line was built and a success and Bethania had a private line to the South Snowdon Slate Quarries. Sitting at the foot of the Watkin Path up Snowdon it will also have a small tourist appeal. At the minute I'm not sure whether to set it around 1910 (clean-ish locos and stock) or in the early 1920s assuming there has been a resurgance in slate and tourist traffic (clean-ish locos and stock and some ex-WD stock).

The track diagram gives an idea of roughly how it will look. The masterplan is to be as accurate to history as I can. The chapel and terrace will be modelled, NWNGR locos and stock will be used in NWNGR livery. This will be a bit of a challenge as it was influenced so much by the Portmadoc Beddgelert and South Snowdon Rly and later the Welsh Highland Railway, none of which would have existed had the NWNGR been a commercial success. That said Russell will be an allowed compromise, as will the assumption that a link was built between Beddgelert and Rhyd Ddu.

Hopefully more to follow!