Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Distraction grows

When I’m fired up with an idea, things can move rather quickly. Shortly after I posted the last entry in this blog, I pulled out some 4mm scale wagons and a locomotive to gauge how things would look and function.  The answer would appear to be quite well. The long siding will take three 16T mineral wagons, and as the wagon turntable will dictate that wagons can only be moved singly, thus adding to the amount of movements that can be made.
A quick test

Emboldened by all this success, I committed pen to paper, (OK, stylus to iPad. But that just doesn’t sound as good,) to produce one of my little sketches that should help everyone visualise the scene.

Quite a likeable looking project
I think that the concept has a lot going for it. Especially for the modeller who likes to work on highly detailed models of locomotives and rolling stock. With the layout being so small, the focus can be on these things.
It might even work best in 7mm scale, as the items would be bigger. Of course, the layout would be bigger too, but quite likely still under 3' 6" square. It's a good job that British O scale is difficult to get hold of in the USA otherwise I'd be in a lot of trouble.
Anyway, that’s quite enough to be going on with for now. If I come up with any further ideas, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A distraction

I hate getting distracted. But in my model railway world it happens all too often.
I’ll get working on a project (like I am with my Cuddle micro) and all of a sudden a new idea pops into my head.
This is due to expanding my “Top Ten” layouts list to 15 to include a Neil Rushby box file design.
I ended up sketching an idea to expand the layout into a drawer. Simply because I have a drawer that would fit a micro layout.
An innocuous sketch
Quite pleasant, it was nothing more than a harmless doodle. Then I found this remarkable image.

A not so innocuous photograph
Somewhere in the Derbyshire Peak District, a primitive crushing plant that ground limestone for farmers fields. The whole image is dripping with atmosphere. It’s the kind of scene, that if Roye England had been cycling the Peak District, instead of the Vale of the White horse. Would have found its way into Pendon. There’s so much that screams out in this image. The dusty gravel road, the rundown crusher building, and that utterly majestic tree. The picture being taken in the winter, shows the structure of the branches to full effect. How could one not want to model this scene? Even if there is no railway in it.
No matter, I’ll just re-arrange the features in  the picture, and see if I can fit them in.
It made sense to me, as the layout is so small that a full size plan was in order. Working with 4mm scale PECO track as the basis and the only turnout being a Y to save space. The whole thing seemed to fit together rather nicely.

And a full size plan 
The highest point point in the landscape would be upper left, as you look at the image and  the lowest point along the right hand edge. The crushing shed is at the back in low relief. Wagons could be cable shunted in and out of the there, fed from the wagon turntable. A couple of smaller sheds, connected by a dusty gravel road complete the scene so far. Sadly, the majestic tree has not found its way into the scheme yet. That’s not to say it couldn’t. Especially as the board I marked this out on is about an inch and a half too short.
As it’s drawn, even in this tiny space, it could be a two locomotive layout.
A wheezy, ancient locomotive from the quarry would shove a loaded wagon onto the turntable. Where it could be hauled into the crusher for processing. Loaded wagons of larger stones could be picked off the turntable, and hauled away to the main line by another, less ancient, locomotive.
I’m definitely curious as to if this would make a workable layout. I can’t afford to have two layouts on the go at the same time. Can I?

Monday, June 1, 2020

The way forward

The other day I was checking through this old blog researching for the next Micro Model Railroad podcast, and I discovered that there has been over 96,000 visitors here. Some of the posts have multiple thousands of viewers.
Even now, some two years after the last entry from the Minneapolis National Narrow Gauge Convention almost two years ago, people drop in on this little old blog regularly.  Thank you very much for doing that.
I’ve been giving it some thought. I still have plenty of pages of sketchbook ideas to share, even some on my iPad now too.
One thing I thought I’d do is present a series of “case studies” if you will. Posts about locations I have found that might make interesting micro layouts or small model railways. 
Each post would contain photos, sketches and information about the location to give you ideas and perhaps get you started on a project. 
I hope you’ll find them interesting. 

Two year wait

Well. It appears that it's been almost two years since the last blog post. Where did the time go? It went to Facebook that's where it went. I have pretty much concentrated my hobby time there. We will see if I can't go about putting that right. 
The Micro Model Railroad Cartel has also returned. Dispensing information and options about the art of Micro Model Railway design, construction and operation. Hosted by Tom Conboy and assisted by myself.  We hope you'll take time to check it out, give it a listen and join in. Episode 4 is out today. In it Tom and I talk about exhibiting your micro layout, and I get a weight off my chest about Free-Mo layouts. Enjoy. It probably has not escaped your notice today that this months Cartel Conversations was released this morning. In this issue we talk about exhibitions, and I get a weight off my chest about Free-Mo layouts.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

38th National Narrow Gauge Convention report.

It was difficult to know which blog to put this post under, I have so many of the darned things. In the end, I plumped for this one to give it back some life, and because at least there were some small layouts at the Convention.
I've already discussed meeting The Crowsnest tramway and the retirement of Purespring Watercress. So I'll try to keep away from those subjects.
Arriving at the convention hotel, it all seemed rather more informal and friendlier than I was expecting. I was quickly directed to Purespring's location in a room full of Canadian and English modellers, (Yes, a layout had come from the UK to attend the convention) and quickly set my layout up. With that onerous task out the way, we went to register. We were given our badges and goody bag and that was it. We didn't even have to prove who were. The quality of layouts in the exhibition halls was amazing, and I felt quite out of place with my scruffy little effort.
The convention started in the evening, without any ceremony, and to be honest I was a bit disappointed at that. An official welcome would have been fun. The doors to the exhibition halls were opened and people sparsely drifted in and out. At the same time, in the floor above us, clinics of varying types were going on. Both modelling and prototype related. A few more folks came into the show halls between clinics, but that first day was very quiet.
More people dropped in to the morning session on the second day and things got rather busy over at my little layout. I almost talked myself hoarse at times. 
Afternoons at the convention are taken up with layout visits, and as I was particularly interested in having a garden railway at our new house, I decided to visit those primarily. I saw layouts that ran well, and I saw layouts that didn't. I got warts and all tales about building garden railroads which made me totally reconsider my future plans for the garden.
The second evening session was much busier than the first, and I found I talked myself hoarse again. I wanted to attend some of the clinics but found myself too busy talking to even consider going to any, that at least was a very positive sign of interest in the layout. This made the same true of visiting the vendor hall, where I only managed a few short visits. As a person who scratch builds nearly all his work, I was somewhat taken aback by the prices of some of the items for sale. 
The Friday sessions were very busy with viewers as they worked to fill in their voter slips for the competitions. Many people complimented Purespring, including the staff from the Bachmann Model Railroads display. I was told several times. "I voted for you."
The highlight of the evening though was when Bob Brown of Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette asked me to write an article for the magazine. Bob was a wonderful, kind gentleman to talk with. Passionate about the hobby and really wanting to push the idea of small model railroad layouts.
Pack up came after the Saturday morning operation session. Things were quiet that morning so I did find time to visit a clinic on Minnesota Logging Railroads that was quite interesting. 
Living as I do, so close to the venue, I packed Purespring up and took it home, visiting the home layout of Dan Dossa on the way, which I really enjoyed before returning for the closing and competition results.
I was quite surprised entering the Hall for the finale, there were a lot more people there than I expected. With people drifting in and out of exhibition halls and clinics for three days you don’t get much of an idea of how many folks are actually there. There wasn’t much of a spread of ages among the modellers though, and the majority were of the older generation.  At 55 I felt I was among the youngest. There were prizes to encourage younger modellers but there was only one of them, but he was producing quality work. Many times I've heard people bemoaning the lack of youth in our hobby,  but this was really my first experience of it.
I didn’t win any trophies, but that didn’t matter I’d introduced many people to Micro Layouts, Watercress farming and cabinet style presentation. 
After that we ducked out before the charity auction. The days had been long, longer than an eight hour work day, and my wife and I were exhausted.
Seeing all these excellent layouts close up did have an effect on me. It may have taken me many many years to reach this conclusion, but I need to concentrate my modelling on the things that I know about. I really enjoyed informing people about Watercress Farming and the Vitacress Farm Railway. I have no need to try and model in US HO scale or even On30. There are many great American modellers producing far better models than I ever could. My knowledge and interests lie with Minimum gauge railways (the Watercress Farm and the works of Sir Arthur Heywood etc;) and Lincolnshire Potato Farm Railways.
Before the results announcement I was asked by Art Vandewater, who co-ordinated the showing of all the excellent layouts on view, if I'd ever consider attending another convention. On balance, I think I would. There was a lot that I didn't see. There were several clinics I would have like to have attended, and I would have liked to have seen more home layouts as well. I don't think I'd travel all the way to Sacramento next year but St. Louis in 2020? That's a possibility.

Some views of the Many Garden Railways I saw.

Now, some scenes from the layouts in the exhibition halls that caught my eye.
A scene on Dolores 
Most of the Dolores layout is in this view  
The Island Railway was a great double sided design
The other side of The Island Railway.
A section of Soggy Bottom Lumber
White Pine and Northern. 
A humourous scene on a section of Soggy Bottom
A nice Mill on Soggy Bottom
In closing, I'd just like to register my thanks to everyone who helped make the convention the success it was. From the organising committee and people who opened their houses to visitors to watch trains, to all the volunteers who helped in whatever shape or form. Well done everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Purespring Watercress. The end of an era.

The layout. The end.
That's it then. All done. Purespring Watercress is officially retired. It will see the light of day no more in this form.
The layout recently attended the 28th National Narrow Gauge convention here in Minneapolis, where it was very positively received by the attendees. Many of who were unfamiliar with English agricultural railways, micro layouts, and even cabinet style layout presentation.
Over the 4 days of the convention I talked myself hoarse on the two full days Thursday and Friday, explaining about the farm, the railway and the operation.
The highlight of the weekend for me was meeting Bob Brown, editor of the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette Magazine. He was positively excited to see something this small on show and encouraged me to submit an article for the magazine. Which I shall do in the near future.
The layout, though it operated smoothly over the course of the convention was not without its issues. The turnout in the scenic section could not be operated, lest it created a short in the layout causing operation to grind to a halt. The turnout in the rear too, had problems and had to have a wire soldered between the toe and closure rail so that it would operate reliably.
One car trains were the order of the day, two cars would derail, The layout was really showing its age. After surviving a flooded basement and getting battered in my recent house move, it must have all been too much for the old girl. It won't see the light of day at a show again.
That's not to say that I won't build another Purespring Watercress Layout. I am too indelibly associated with the concept to ignore the idea of presenting the idea in another form. Much like my favourite layout at the show. The Crowsnest Tramway, once owned by Roy C. Link and now in the possession of Craig Parry in Canada. Roys Crowsnest concept has been around in several forms and scales since the 1970's and is still going strong.  That was the big thing I took away from the show. It has taken me years and years to realise this. I need to stick with what I know with my modelling projects, and work with that.
Purespring Watercress, Sir Arthur Heywood and Lincolnshire Potato Farm Railways. My future layouts should be based around those. I know nothing about US Standard gauge and Narrow gauge. I don't need to try and create something that American modellers are doing far, far better than I.
So it looks like I will be selling off all my American stock. It will free up some space in our new house, and probably even help finance the new layouts. Perhaps even bringing life back to this old blog too.
It's been a while blog readers. I'll try and do better at keeping this up to date.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Once more unto the breach...

Here we go again then. It appears that I am well on the way to building a new micro layout. The spark generated by the finding of the old munitions layout structures and placing them in an APA box has turned into something more serious.
Having much of the material ready to hand has certainly helped for after a few days I already have something looking like a model railway.
The first thing was to delve into my supply of APA boxes and make one.
I made one change in the build. I didn't put a floor in, just in case access was needed to wiring as well as being able to access coach bolts that would be used to join the fiddle yards. Erring on the side of caution, I also added a brace to the frame. I'm not entirely sure that this is needed, as APA boxes are very well made, and my chosen baseboard material 10mm cork faced foam core is light and rigid. Still, "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it." I always say.
Box constructed, brace added and holes cut in the sides for fiddle yard access
I came across the 10mm foam core in Michaels craft store quite by accident. I think it was planned to be the basis of cork notice board projects or something similar, But I immediately thought of it as perfect as a micro layout baseboard, much like the APA box. at 30" x 20" it had to be trimmed to fit inside the APA. but it looks good in there.
Baseboard surface in place.
With that in place. I could begin on the track planning. The size of the structure dictated the track plan would be a simple Inglenook. Each siding would hold about three of the wagons based on Bachmann vee skips I'd worked on before.
Concept being developed. Track placed, view blocks being established.
Inlaid track is an important feature of this model. Originally I'd considered making this from 5mm foam core board as that matched the height of the code 100 track I was using. But as I cut more and more of it to test the idea the less I liked it. So I tried styrene sheet instead. Liking that much better as things developed.
But as I test fitted foam core flooring I noticed how good things were looking.
The right hand side. I might model a blast door across the track to hide the exit to the fiddle yard.
Left hand side. The view block room in front hides the exit very well.
I like the angles, the viewpoints, the way the tracks appear and disappear off stage. The two offices in the middle are ripe for being detailed. In my minds eye I can start to see the walls and roof of the cave starting to take shape. Things are going well.