Monday, 13 March 2017

March Meeting

Mostly preparation for the next outing - Epsom in April.

Alan S had acquired a fourth scenery box - rather smaller than the rest, but conveniently shaped to match certain warehouses that won't fit in the existing three boxes.

Optimum order of assembly of scenery and trackbeds was established, by trial and error, to be recorded in the forthcoming manual.

Keith brought along the MERG controllers bought and assembled for the layout. There was a fairly extensive running session, with the controllers approved by those who tried them.

A couple of troublesome point blades were dealt with - at least temporarily. Trackbeds were taken away for more extensive treatment.

This month's implausible visitor - from David S, an ex-GWR heavyweight carrier with accompanying girder load. I think it's the Pollen E (diagram A7), originally 4 wagons, each with 3 axles, linked together and used initially to carry main guns for dreadnought battleships. Later it was split into 2 units, each of 2 wagons.

As this month's blog entry seems rather short, I have raided the archives again. Photo from Richard, before I joined. Back in those days assembling the layout looks so much simpler - no scenery, no legs, no lighting rig, just grab a couple of convenient tables ...

Monday, 13 February 2017

February 2017 - tweaks and gremlins

Various minor improvements were evident at the February meeting.

Keith had rearranged the trackbed box - the two halves of the trackbed are now fastened separately to the floor and roof of the box, instead of being screwed together in a confusing manner. Also there is now a screw fitting to the trackbed, to pull it down and reduce the bowing which tended to produce runaways during shunting.


 Alan S had rearranged the scenery boxes, numbering them as 1 to 3, that being the order in which their contents are positioned on the layout.

He had also provided battens for the duckboards, to provide another inch of elevation for vertically-challenged operators.

And finally Alan's main warehouse was on show, in an almost-finished state.

Richard was working on the extension to the backscene, to go behind Alan's warehouse and hide the fiddleyard. It should be finished by the next exhibition (Epsom in April), though Richard is off to Australia and will miss the next two meetings.

Testing of trackwork and uncoupling magnets revealed that the gremlins had struck again - a dead frog, positioned in a completely inaccessible location. The offending half of the trackbed was removed, and an extended diagnostic session identified a dry solder joint which was fixed.

An overview of the warehouse end of the layout, with new backscene in place, and selection of wagons for the layout - mostly a mixture of BR and GWR vans, from Pete K.

A close-up of the warehouse and backscene, during experiments to check the clearances.

Monday, 9 January 2017

January 2017 - Layout Manual

Having rashly offered to produce the planned "Manual", I spent the first part of the session taking photographs (almost a hundred!) of the process of assembling the layout. A few of these are included below.

Finishing assembling the legs

First scenery sub-board being added

Connecting up the lighting

Adding one of the smaller scenery sub-boards

Next we attacked the "To Do" list, and managed to knock off a few items. For example, clearance problems within the dairy building were investigated, and it became clear that the Dapol milk tankers, though over-scale, were not the cause of the problems - rather it was the steps on the sides of the shunting locos. So the solution is easy - enforce the ban on locos entering buildings (both warehouse and dairy) which will be written into the Operating section of the manual.

 Richard had brought a draft version of the next stage of the backscene - to fit behind Alan S's warehouse and block the view of the fiddle yard.


 The recently added backscene had created operating problems - namely it was too high for most operators to see over...
The fix was "duckboards" resting on the scenery boxes, but these aren't quite high enough for the more vertically-challenged operators, so they will need to be raised by another inch or so.

It was decided to acquire/build three MERG controllers dedicated to the layout, rather than rely on borrowing controllers from individual members, and contributions were collected to finance these.

Substantial chunks of the layout were allocated to members to take away for further work at home - Keith taking the track boards for various tweaking, and Alan S taking the scenery boxes for labelling and rearrangement to better fit the ever-expanding range of buildings.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Exhibitions schedule - December 2016

The exhibition invitations for the coming two years were the main focus for this meeting, the last for 2016.

Lightermans Yard Show Calendar 2017-2018

22-23 April          - Epsom
20 May                - Bournmoor
14-15 October     - Farnham (AGM)
21-22 October     - Uckfield
11-12 November - Tolworth
17 Feburary        - Tonbridge
14-15 April         - Crawley

 We are committed to the NEAG at Bournmoor in May 2017 and possibly to Epsom too.

The discussion focused on the two following weekends in October 2017, and whether we should drop Farnham (AGM) or Uckfield. However, the general consensus was that both are good shows, although Farnham would require a van and some overnight accommodation.

In addition there may now be a further Wilmington Exhibition 7/8 October 2017. However the initial reaction is that we have already shown twice on 'home ground' and these dates would mean three different shows in as many weeks in October.

At this stage, We will may decline Tonbridge in 2018 as it's only a one day which may be too much to deal with. Crawley are still awaiting our confirmation.

Transportation of the layout and personnel was discussed at length and a formula for shows inside or close to the M25 could be managed with two cars. Bournmoor and Farnham (possibly) will involve hiring a van and both require some accommodation. Several member/operators will travel independently or by train to shows in the South East (with minimal costs) on a daily basis.

Inevitably there will be future alterations to this schedule. It was felt that, although it is very complimentary to the layout, we should not necessarily jump and fulfil every invitation.

Servo Driven Point Motor

At the end of the exhibition discussion, Keith produced a demonstration model of a servo driven point motor prototype using MERG and other components, with the idea of producing a possible point mechanism kit. As usual, this demonstrated Keith's legendary skills and also created wide interest.

Component parts: Servo motor £1.50 approx; MERG programming box £20 (one off cost); MERG programmable card kit £6; add a switch, Easitrac point and power supply.

Merry Christmas and a happy productive 2mm New Year!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Warley 2016

Saturday 26 November 2016. Group visit to the Warley Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC Birmingham.

Many thanks to Pete King for organising travel and entrance to the exhibition for the party of four who made the early train from Euston; Pete K, Alan S, Gordon and Richard. On arrival in the Exhibition we met up with our Hon West Country member, Pete Townsend.

Much to Pete K's obvious delight we were confronted with the full size re-build of the GWR 'Betton Grange' locomotive (none of the 80 Grange class survived the torch), many of its parts were savaged from Barry scrapyard, some re-engineered and, for Warley, the boiler borrowed from Cogan Hall (eventually to be replaced by the boiler from Willington Hall). Apparently having undergone so much refurbishment and much new work, 6880, the 81st Grange, will be classified as a new locomotive.

Next stop the 2mm Association stand where an array of demonstration and build activities were taking place. We focused on a demonstration by Mick Simpson of 'scale' sound effects applied to a 2mm diesel loco and DMU unit, their engine noise and horns just audible against the background exhibition 'hu-bub'. Under the demo track 'plank', Mick revealed the use of independent battery and switch operated servos used as point motors wired for both DC and DCC. This is a very neat and cheap solution to a complex part of the construction of some layouts. 

This simple demonstration layout also sported working 'catch points', a 'fiddle yard' extension and 'off the board' train storage at either end. Mick has threatened some 'scenic' additions.

Apart from the stand, the 2mm Association was represented by Copenhagen Fields, with new work on the marshalling yards in evidence. The display always attracts large numbers of spectators, and probably accounts for much of the interest shown in the Association, even conversions and new members. "No it's NOT 'N' gauge!"

Much of our time at the show was occupied by 'window shopping' with the occasional purchase.   

Another treat for Pete K was in the second full size locomotive on show, the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol No 9 from Aberystwyth.

A delightful layout that caught our eye was a G scale narrow gauge live steam Hambledon Valley Railway. The sight of real steam applies a certain prototypical realism (unlike Photoshop additives).

A very satisfactory visit and a sleepy return to Euston on Virgin, thanks Pete.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Gremlin hunting

The November meeting started quite well.

David S had brought two loading gauges, one concrete and one rail-built.

Alan S distributed some experimental DG coupling checking devices - black blocks machined to fit on top of the rails, with slots at appropriate positions to check heights of buffing plates and loops.

They also included a jig to mark positions to drill holes in DG base plates, and in the mounting plates on wagon chassis, to allow them to be screwed in and adjusted - but he had found the procedure to be too fiddly to be useful.

One of these in use, checking the heights on Alan's own jinty.

Latest contribution to the layout's wagon collection - box vans and a plate wagon from David S, using some of Keith's cast resin bodies.

This month's unlikely visitor - a part finished Princess Elizabeth, from John Lewsey (himself a rather infrequent visitor to the group). A Nigel Hunt kit, construction described on RMweb here

At this point a smell of burning was detected from the power supply, and the gremlin hunt started. Testing separate parts of the layout isolated the short as being present in the half of the layout away from the fiddle yard - checking the separate circuits for point motors and uncoupling magnets revealed no problems, so the short lay somewhere in the trackwork circuit. Connecting cables were switched, and eliminated as the cause of the problem.

Eventually the short was narrowed down to one position of a specific set of points. Initial diagnosis suggested the switch was at fault, so the control panel was dismantled and the offending switch replaced.

Unfortunately the problem persisted, but eventually poking various parts of the offending set of points dislodged the gremlin and the layout resumed working properly.

By this time there wasn't much time left to attack the "ToDo List" generated from the previous month's experience at Wilmington Exhibition, so this was deferred until next month.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Wilmington Exhibition - October 2016

A somewhat exhausting weekend, virtually on  home ground.

Assembly of the layout was well in progress when I arrived at about 7.45 on Saturday morning, then slowed somewhat as all the various scenic sub-boards were carefully slotted into place.

By opening time (10 am) everything was up and running, and early testing confirmed no major problems.

Alan Smith's warehouse (latest incarnation) made its first appearance on the layout.

A good overview of the right hand side of the layout - next outing should have the backscene extended to fill the gap.

Another train arriving, adding a few more wagons to keep the shunters occupied.

Shunting in progress.

The design of the layout severely restricts length of trains - loco plus five wagons maximum.

More intensive shunting - both of the Jinties in operation.

Topping up the coaling stage.

Some of the loco roster.

Class 24 diesel and Q from Keith, 4F and Jinty from Alan S.

Eagle-eyed viewers may spot that the top of the water crane is missing - broken in transit and awaiting repair.

A peek behind the scenes - trains formed in the fiddle yard/traverser, waiting their chance to add to the wagons in the yard.

A serious photography session before opening time on Sunday morning.

Unfortunately none of the fruits have yet made their way to the blog...

We were in a separate small hall, away from the main hall and the church, so the crowds of spectators were never overwhelming.

Most were very appreciative of the layout, particularly the front scenery, and we kept a few of the younger viewers busy trying to find all the pigeons.