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Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:28 pm
by UrbanHermit
Long time no hear from me. Last heard of working on an ambitious round-the-walls terminus-fiddle yard layout I called South Lascombe, I got over-awed by the size of what I was taking on, especially the electrics (20-plus electrofrog points and point motors...), and I am ashamed to say work ground to a halt.

But lately I have found myself in a most unusual situation. The domestic authorities have been on at me, believe it or not, because I haven't been railway modelling.

Point is, I spent good money having our grungy cellar made habitable, and it's been going to waste, which I admit is a crying shame. Worse, I haven't even been taking our autistic son (in his thirties now, but still child-like in many ways) down there to play trains. He loves trains, and buying him a train set was my excuse for getting into the hobby in the first place.

I've been feeling pretty guilty on both counts, but what's been causing the issue with my son is that the 8 by 4 oval down there, that grew out of the original train set, was getting a bit beyond it, showing both its age and the mistakes I made in my inexperience. Too-soft boards beginning to sag, train-set electrics causing dodgy running, damaged track from when it had to be dismantled between uses and humped about. It was getting just about impossible to get anything to run properly on it.

I can hardly justify resuming work on my own layout while leaving the oval to rot. My son's favourite trains are HSTs, and they don't get room to show their paces on an end-to-end. And an oval's useful for running-in locomotives.

Ah, I thought, rehabilitating that oval could be a good way of easing myself back into the hobby, practice techniques, and build my confidence. Then I might even do something about The Big One. So I steeled myself, went down into the cellar, brushed away the cobwebs, took up all the track from the oval and removed those horrible boards from the frames, which are still usable. Fortunately I already knew I'd have to do this someday when I bought the plywood for South Lascombe, and so I had two 4 by 4 boards ready and waiting. Nice solid 9mm stuff.

But first, some planning. The track layout was something else I thought could do with improvement, so I went looking for inspiration on the net. The biggest source I know of for 8 by 4 plans is 'Free Track Plans for Your Model Railway'. Many of the plans there are the sort of thing Cyril Freezer once called 'a train set with ideas above its station', but that was more or less what I was looking for: not super realism but something that would let both my son and myself have a bit of fun. Even so, not much there appealed to me, but this one did.

With this layout my son can watch his HST zoom around the oval while I operate an end-to-end branch line service and do a bit of goods shunting. When the HST's running the branch can represent a preserved railway with interchange at the top station, and when my son's not there I can run steam trains round the outside and the whole thing morphs into the GWR. The branch line's loop-the-loop via the diamond crossing gives a longer run in a compact space, and the wackiness of the train crossing over its own path rather tickled me. But the layout didn't quite satisfy me as was.

Since I am fortunate enough to have access to both sides of the layout (only the left-hand end is against a wall) I don't need the operating well. And I didn't want that passing station: it's too close to the lower terminus to be convincing and, worse, it's on a second radius curve, leading to ridiculous gaps between platform and coaches. And I think two stations is quite enough for a layout this size. Getting rid of both features gives me the chance to have a hill over all three lines at the left end to give a visual break from the looping on both main line and branch, trains popping in and out of tunnels (which is fun, after all) rather than being seen to go round and round.

There is no room for a run-around loop at the upper terminus. The suggested way of dealing with this is to have a second engine waiting in the siding to back onto the outer end of the train, but though that's an interesting bit of operating, having a stand-by locomotive on a country branch is pushing credibility a bit too far for me, though I suppose a preserved line might stretch to it.

At first I told myself I'd have to live with it, and that sticking to 8 by 4 would be good discipline to keep things from getting out of hand. But then I remembered that I still had some bits of chipboard left over over from the kitchen cupboard carcasses I've mounted both baseboards on. Intended to support drawer runners, they are about sixteen inches long and very sturdy, quite sturdy enough to form cantilever supports for a baseboard extension. And I had enough room, and enough spare timber and plywood, for it. What could I do with an extra sixteen inches?

I got playing on AnyRail, and found I could do three things.
1) Squeeze in that run-around loop at top right. There's only enough room for a tank engine and two coaches, but that's okay for a branch line.
2) Widen that island platform a little, to make it more realistic.
3) Decrease the angle between the terminus at bottom right and the edge of the baseboard, bringing all the tracks within two feet of that edge and creating just enough room in the middle for a village street scene.
I did play around with the idea of a crossover between main line and branch at top left, but decided it wasn't necessary. There's more room for the station without it, and though the sharp reverse curves of a setrack crossover are just about acceptable when it's just a short loco shunting round, it does look a bit funny when coaches are negotiating it. And getting from the main line to the branch is going to involve shunting anyway. After all, it's only a quiet branch line and so the daily branch goods would be the only train involved, reverse shunting of goods trains was common enough in steam days, and it all adds to the fun.

So the baseboard, which was already in the dim and distant past extended from 6 by 4 to 8 by 4, is now 9 foot 4 by 4, and the track plan looks like this.


This one really is going to be built. I've committed myself. While trawling through Hatton's site recently I came upon the limited edition Hornby GWR HST and knew immediately that my son would love it. He's got an HST already, but it's the old ex-Lima one and its performance leaves something to be desired. We live in GWR territory, and if we were at our 'local' station (Neath, 16 miles away) this is what he'd see passing through.

The eye-watering price gave me pause, but while I was hesitating I saw Hatton's selling out of the coaches to go with it, almost day by day. By the time they had only two different kinds left I knew it was now or never, and decided to bite the bullet. I owe him, for neglecting what's supposed to be partly his layout. I tracked down the coaches at Jane's Trains in Tooting (what a nice, helpful lot they are), and the investment has been made. While I was at it I treated myself to a Hatton's / Dave Jones 48xx for the branch. I'm not going to let another wodge of money go to waste. It's bad enough having all that Peco Code 75 track and all those Cobalt point motors sitting around accusing me.

And there ain't much time to waste. I need to have something up and running by Christmas, so my son can have that HST for his present. The frame's been extended, the boards are on and painted, the track laid and fixed down. Right now I'm soldering the droppers to the rails. Well, not right right now, because I'm sitting here typing this, but you know what I mean.

And yes, the layout's even got a name, which the old oval never did. It came to me while thinking about the hill I hope will dominate one end of the layout. Underhill.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:08 pm
by manna
G'Day Gents

You've got your work cut out, if you want it all running for Christmas, but that's what model railways are all about, you want it, go for it. Good luck, and I hope your son enjoys it, mines 42, (not Autistic, but my grandson is) I bought him a Class 128 Parcels DMU.


Re: Underhill

Posted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:19 pm
by Dad-1
Work grinding to a halt on extensive layouts is probably more the 'norm' than those
that get finished.

That's why I now say, small is beautiful,
Get something running and spend the time getting the scenics right.

Geoff T.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:05 am
by manna
G'Day Gents

Edgware GN, is 20' x 8' and is very easy to operate, but it is a roundy round, and single line, with three controllers, and 'Digit' (finger) operated points.


Re: Underhill

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 10:58 am
by UrbanHermit
Well, it's not exactly small, more medium size I suppose, but I'm keeping it simple. Yes, with digit (not digital) points operation.

It will certainly be up and running (after a fashion) by Christmas. After soldering on the first set of droppers to the outside oval I couldn't resist having a test. I connected the droppers directly into my NCE Powercab and got out the most reliable runner I possess (a Bachman 57xx), and the whole layout was live. I know this isn't good enough in the long term, but even if i haven't finished all the wiring by Christmas my son will still be able to see his HST go.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:59 am
by Mountain
It is lovely that he loves his trains as it is a good hobby to enjoy. I would have recommended saving money buy buying secondhand locos and stock and using code 100 track as it is more appreciative of deeper wheel flanges and is far more durable if one ever needs to lift the rails and relay etc. Having said that code 75 is more realistic to most rail types except for the heavier rail for the iron ore trains that were used to go in and out of Port Talbot (Margam) area heading east. The rail network on the main line here has very beefy rails to cater for these weights and it does look far more like code 100 then code 75.
I have a few HST's myself but none of the newer type. I agree with you that the prices are often just silly these days, especially when one realises what ones models are made of. If the prices we pay today have cast metal bodies and this detail then I would agree it is worth it, but for plastic bodies one has to be kidding. It is only because the price rises have steadily been going up that many have not noticed. Limited edition is one way to hike up prices. One will fine people buy like mad when the actual production is hardly any less per unit sold then the regular production model in many cases, but those termed limited edition sell out as so many buy them thinking it may be their only chance to get the model. One wagon which never came into limited edition status during its production took me nearly 20 years to get a rake of 14 of them in any livery! (I was willing to repaint them if needed). So low were each years production. Yet limited editions were churning out and they were plentiful of other items!
Are you aware there is a model railway club in Swansea which is very good, and I believe there is another somewhere in the Neath area? I can't remember. Also someone mentioned one in the Port Talbot or Bridgend area (I can't remember where) as when I was at the Swansea exhibition a couple of months ago, one of the layouts was from another local group.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:10 pm
by End2end
Although you've a mountain to climb still (or a hill to get under in this case :lol: ), I have been trying to add lighting to my HST coaches (I am still yet to buy the exact black roofed power and dummy cars I want).
I am a ways off finishing them yet but here's the thread/posts if you fancy a look.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:31 pm
by UrbanHermit
I am actually using code 100 track on this one (as opposed to my stalled end-to-end), because (a) I am re-using as much as possible of the old track, and (b) the layout is impossible to fit into the space available unless I use setrack points - I did do a feasibilty study on AnyRail, and that quickly became obvious.

I take your point about so-called limited editions. Production runs are so short these days that just about any model is in effect a limited edition - blink and you miss your chance. But I would have bought this model no matter how it was labelled, because it is so right for my son.

Yes, I was aware of the Swansea club, but it's a bit of a step from my home (that's what comes of choosing to live in the back of beyond), and their meeting times are a bit difficult to fit into the family routine. And yes, there is / was a Neath club. They used to meet at the Cefn Coed Colliery Museum near Crynant, a few miles down the valley from me, but the museum appears to be semi-derelict at the moment and I'm not sure how this has affected them. In any case their remit (recreating the days of steam in the Dulais Valley) is a bit restricted for me.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:39 am
by UrbanHermit
Just a couple of photos to prove that I am actually doing something.



The buildings are from the old oval and are just there to give a bit of life. I'm going to build new stations for this one.

And here's my latest acquisition.


I've heard that these have a bit of a reputation for being noisy. This one isn't: it's smooth as silk straight out of the box. But oh dear, it really does not like setrack points, which makes using it on this layout a bit problematic.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 2:05 am
by Mountain
If you move the first left hand siding back a track length (The position of the first left hand point of the middle picture) you can have a longer platform.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 8:27 am
by UrbanHermit
Very true, but the station's already as big as it needs to be for a two coach branch line train, and I want that space for the signal box. Not to mention, there'd be less room for the village street scene I want to put down the middle of the board.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:46 am
by Mountain
Check the back to back on the 14xx loco and check the wheels (Especially the rear trailing wheels) have sideways play as the older versions would easily negotiate first radius curves. I rather think this is a back to back issue as it is most likely that the wheel flanges are hitting on the point check rails. See if you can visually find out what is happening when the train goes over the points.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:29 pm
by UrbanHermit
Sorry, I realise I didn't make myself clear. The problem isn't derailment but stalling. And this is the new (ish) Hatton's / DJM one. My only other six-wheel loco, a Bachmann 57xx, usually sails over dead frog points, but this little whatnot refuses point blank.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:39 pm
by Mountain
Ooh. I forgot the Hattons version. Umm. Could you add extra pickups? If all wheels already have pickups some of them may not be working as expected. Check it does have pickups and the rear most wheels and also check all pickups are in contact with the wheels if the wheels are slid sideways on their axles.

Re: Underhill

Posted: Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:46 am
by UrbanHermit
I've been a bit occupied with other stuff the last couple of days, but thanks, I'll check up on that the next time I get the chance to descend to the underworld, aka my cellar. It does strike me that the wheel spacing is more uneven than it is on an 0-6-0, and I wonder if that's got anything to do with it.

Some might say the real cure is not to use dead frog points, but I don't have a lot of choice on this layout.