The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 8: What 2018 has brought us

If you’ve been one of possibly one people and five search engine crawlers following along with these posts you may remember that I made a New Year’s Resolution to complete this layout.  Check out this level of progress for December 28th 2017:

Laying Cork Trackbed (3)

Notice how the mirrored wardrobe doors of my old flat are in the background of this image.  The move from that flat back in with my parents was very disruptive and continues to affect my productivity, as can clearly be seen from this shot taken in almost one year to-the-day from the previous one:

Scenic Framework (2)

In spite of my failure to achieve a full layout in this timescale, it is still quite a good result to get this far considering the amount of learning curves I had to tackle:  Ballasting the track, mounting backscenes and building a framework for the scenery.  And that is in spite of all the downsizing I’ve had to do to fit into a smaller living space.

Backscene Art (3)

So, what of 2019?  To be honest, I don’t really have a New Years Resolution for this year.  I don’t believe that you should tie your hobbies to a time period in this way and you should just let yourself enjoy the process; hell, you may end up enjoying the build more than running it!

The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 7: Platform Two is built

Aethelhurst station has been laid down at last.  Platform two has been constructed over a week’s worth of evenings out of the excellent Metcalfe platform kits and is looking quite splendid.

The only thing that really marred this achievement was the fact that I couldn’t also construct platform one before I lost the use of the downstairs coffee table once my Dad and our Dog got back.  I was hoping to get any railside structures on the layout built and placed so that I could lay the layout on the coffee table and thus have an undisturbed space to let the scenic glue set; I have no such room in my bedroom apart from the bed, and given that even something as lightweight as a cat can make sleeping uncomfortable for the occupant, I doubt I’ll be able to nod off with a layout on my lap.

In addition, thanks to my prior cowardice when it comes to weathering the track, I am now faced with the very real possibility of failing my 2018 New Years Resolution and extending the construction period of Timeslides into 2019.  This got me thinking…

What does “complete” even mean?

The one thing that has to be understood about any creative project is that there really is no objective concept of “complete”.  Anyone who doubts this can ask an art expert about Richard Dadd, the infamous Broadmoor Painter.  The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke – widely considered to be his most important work – was never considered finished by it’s creator despite being worked on for nine years!  There are apparently parts of the painting that are layered so much that they actually pop out of the canvas in the third dimension.

With this in mind, it makes sense for me to actually define what I consider to be a complete layout; Generally-speaking, for Timeslides to be complete, both scenes have to be fully recognisable as a preservation-era Station and a run-down goods yard.  Simple enough, but let’s take this from a project-management standpoint and define specific tasks that need to be done:

  1. Both stations are complete with enough detail for viewers to know their names and the contexts in which they exist, with Aethelhurst being the preservation-era station, while the second station is set to be called Eadley Halt, situated just outside the goods yard as a simple wooden platform about 15 metres (99mm in real terms) long.
  2. All visible areas of track are ballasted, and all points work afterwards.
  3. All scenery is constructed, with any hills being formed, painted and detailed.
  4. Scatter is laid on the layout wherever needed.
  5. The hill overlooking Aethelhurst station has at least a few trees overlooking the site.

This should give us a presentable, if basic, layout to aspire to.

Chocolate-Block Connectors:  Trading one hell for another

There is something I need to get off my chest before we proceed to view the platform:  Working with chocolate block connectors is a lot more fiddly than I expected:

Yard Wiring Redux (3)

What you see here is the reworking of the wiring under the goods yard into a more presentable and flexible state than it was previously, replacing bad soldering with the aforementioned connectors.  The troubles began upon discovering that the thinner wire that had worked so well for soldering was an absolute nightmare to locate under the screws, so I reverted to thicker wire which meant ripping out all the soldering done previously.  Oh well, it was a rubbish job anyway.

Now that the screws can actually grip the wire, you’d think things would be as straightforward as shoving them in and screwing them down, right?  Nope.  If you want to insert two wires into a single terminal (which you have to do if you want even a basically-sophisticated setup), you’ll need to unsheath a longer length than you’ll think you need (about 1cm in the case of the Peco blocks used here), try to intermesh them as much as possible and – taking care not to let the strands of wire stab your fingers – twist them as much as you can before carefully inserting them and screwing them in as far as possible.

Even then, it’s not an easy job especially when you’ve got many to do.  Still, rant over, and if it saves frustration for just one modeller it would be worth it.

Platform Two

Building the platforms may well have been a long and semi-frustrating process, but it wasn’t without it’s highlights.  In a truly exciting moment for me as a modeller, I was able to mock up Aethelhurst station and get a first glimpse of what it would eventually look like:

Platform Construction (12)

Necessarily lopsided on account of the fact that Platform Two is cut off near the baseboard edge, the station still looks the part.  I am especially proud of an idea I had when siting the Sweet Shop; placing it in between the station building and the subway allows the prospective businessman to capture customers going to/from both Platforms One and Two, effectively doubling his potential customer base.

As revealing as this moment was, it still couldn’t escape my attention that the platforms were on the deck; typical heritage railway carriages don’t come with step access, and I don’t have the luxury of claiming that some American businessman bought the station and transported it brick-by-brick to some ranch in Texas, thus we need to build the walls underneath the platform surface.

Platform Construction (13)

Overall, the Metcalfe Platform Kits can be fiddly to assemble, especially when the platform curves (which, being a freeform kit, the modeller inevitably will want it to).  The instructions are as clear and precise as they ever were, however, which is a relief for a kit that won’t have a definite final form.

One tip I can share with you is to choose your adhesives wisely.  The platform walls come as a single piece of card folded up to produce a double-thick wall, so the use of contact adhesive works wonders; apply and spread it on both sides, wait around four minutes for the glue to get tacky, and then press the sides together along the length of the wall to get an instantly useable part.  For any other assembly jobs it is generally best to stick with the recommended UHU adhesive, as that permits some adjustment while not taking too long to settle.

The end result was a truly superb-looking platform with enough length to accommodate a train of four typical heritage coaches and the locomotive.  I was so pleased with it that I unboxed my prized heritage train of the Q1 and Maunsell Coaches to model it for a photo:

Platform Construction (16)

Until next time…

The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 6: Timeslides

At last, around one-and-a-half years into the project, the layout has a name.

The name ‘Timeslides’ comes from a Red Dwarf episode of the same name.  The premise of the episode is when Kryten is developing some photographs (in a timeline where the prevalence of Command Line interfaces rendered digital cameras unworkable, apparently) when he notices that the film has “mutated”, producing endlessly-repeating motion pictures locked to a particular moment in time.  Not only does this happen despite it breaking the laws of physics – where does the energy required to keep the images moving come from, after all? – but it also permits people to step into that moment in time by converting the film to use in a projector and literally stepping into the scene!  Things take a turn for the absurd when the dwarfers discover one final property of the photographs that can only be described as an assassin’s wet dream; doing things in the photos alters time itself!

The first part of that essentially encapsulates the theme of the layout.  The station half of the layout is to represent the present-day preservation appearance of the line, having been restored to represent a snapshot in the line’s history.  The goods yard half depicts a much more sorry part of the tale, with heavily-weathered and crumbling infrastructure showing a line clearly earmarked for the infamous Beeching axe.  Not a perfect analogue but it came to me one day, so not being cut out for slogans or puns, I’ll take it.

Finally moving on from track weathering…

I’ve said before that weathering the track on your layout is one of the key details that separates a model railway from a mere train set; little did I know that achieving a decent effect that didn’t jam the points and ruin electrical continuity was such a major job.  The amount of time I eventually spent on this job is probably what I thought it would take on a layout twice the size of this one, so needless to say, I shall be entrusting track weathering to a more rapid method next time!

Still, with this done I can finally move onto more satisfying aspects of the scenery.  I had a week off from work planned recently and as such I planned to move away from the flickering screens that take up so much of our time these days, capitalize on the extra time and get to work on a more tangible, physical hobby.

Tunnel Portals (1)

Above is a selection of scenic items I had procured for the layout, undergoing the process of priming.  Two Peco tunnel portals, four whitemetal SR concrete platform lamps and two station signs.  I am aiming to represent an SR station similar to the ones you find on railways like the Watercress Line and the Spa Valley Railway, so while the lamps look the part I think I’ll keep the station signs for another project.  I guess I should’ve researched for my station before buying the signs; In my defence I did go to Upstairs Downstairs on the Isle of Wight while visiting a friend there, and I’m sure you know how a good model shop can inspire a frenzy of purchases!

The tunnel portals I had bought earlier at Gaugemaster come with a dark grey plastic finish, so the first order of business was to apply many coats of paint onto them to give them a weathered sandstone finish.  One coat of primer, two coats of Humbrol Matt 94 Natural Stone, one thinned application of Humbrol Matt 103 Cream (wiped off the stone faces to represent mortar) and one dry-brushing of a dark grey weathering mix.  I’ll let you judge the results for yourself:

Tunnel Portals (5)

With regards to weathering the track, I did learn a valuable lesson in the end, which is to never rely on the points to carry electrical current, especially if they’ve lived in a toolbox for over a decade.  Despite my best care to prevent any paint finding its way into the moving parts, and a lot of subsequent attacks with a track rubber and sanding of the blades, I could not get my sidings to work reliably, not even when testing with my newest, most reliable locos.

Yard Wiring (2)

Nobody wants to go through all that painting only to discover that a large portion of their track cannot fulfil its primary function anymore, so my only recourse was to wire up the switch that originally provided power to the headshunt to power the other two sidings.  Another arse of a job for the week…

Yard Wiring (3)

I’ll be honest, I probably won’t show you the wiring job I did underneath the baseboard because it’s too embarrassing – I’ll probably replace the lot with a more professional job using screw-block terminals, anyway.  Initially, I used wire too thick for the heatshrink I had, only to discover that when using the same stuff on the thinner wire it didn’t shrink enough!  In the end I settled for a hack-job of wrapping the wire junctions in masking tape just to test it safely.  When you combine this with how nervous and twitchy I was about scraping off my weathering paintwork and soldering connections to the rails, perilously close to the plastic sleepers, I honestly didn’t expect it to work…

But work it did.  The Q1, despite developing a nasty habit of riding over the track when traversing the first point at the throat of the yard, did manage to run fairly slowly throughout the yard into all of the sidings.  Its a pity that no other locomotives in my collection are as well suited to the yard as the Q1:  The Merchant Navy and Class 47 are too long, the Large Prairie has problematic pickups and the 94XX Pannier suffered the same fate as the points living in the same toolbox, resulting in poor running and a dog-eared appearance.

Still, at least the buffers look the part when mounted, with UHU glue once again working wonders to bond plastic to metal and cork.  The tunnel portals also fit upright onto the baseboard, although there is a clearance issue with the planned scenery (a road above the western portal), and the goods shed, which has forced me to adopt a different angle to the portal.  It will be interesting to see how I eventually hide the wooden buttress that holds the backscene up.

Tunnel Portals (9)

So all in all, what could I do in a week?  disappointingly little, it turns out.  I was hoping to have mounted the plastercloth scenery and be ready for ballasting by now.  Still, it is what it is.  Let’s hope the scenery itself gives comparatively little trouble.

The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 5: The Great Divide

I’m making it law on this blog that every post contains at least one link to my Flickr account 😉

Joking aside, It would probably be helpful to include a link to the latest batch of photos documenting my progress on Flickr, given that both the photos and blog posts compliment each other, for words can say what pictures cannot and all that philosophical carp.  Today’s story begins when I got bored with weathering my track, squinting at rails 80 hundredths of an inch in height painting them a subtly-different colour from the rails.  I had no idea that such a small layout could demand so much painting at that level.

As is the way with the middle of the project, the choice was between something I’d rather put off, and another thing I’d rather put off.  And with that, I broke out a sheet of recently-acquired 9mm plywood and got to work making good on the fundamental concept of this layout.

Making good on the name:  Constructing the Backscene

Ever have one of those ideas that you think of as a minor addition to your project and yet they turn out to be genius?  This was the case with using the guide rails pictured below:

Backscene Construction (9)

You see, their original function was to keep the backscene straight across the centre of the baseboard, as my experiences of warping with plywood is pretty bad.  Quite by accident, however, it made the bracing process a lot simpler than it would’ve been otherwise, as it clamped the backscene in the correct orientation.  A little PVA glue sealed the gaps and added to the integrity of the structure.

Backscene Construction (10)

But alas, such successes cannot last.

By the time it came to cutting out the side supports, the plywood was back to it’s old tricks again – chipping, de-laminating and generally ending up looking like the kind of workmanship found in a boiler cupboard.  While this isn’t too critical, it is something to keep in mind for exhibitions in future.

This was where the guide rails really paid their dividends, as I could act with confidence that the centre of the backscene was going to stay put.  The side supports were of a simple triangular profile, with a void in the middle for dealing with derailments mid-transition.  From there it was a simple case of screwing the parts into the layout battens, and nailing the supports to the backscene, which serves the dual function of straightening and strengthening it.

Backscene Construction (13)

The end result is a sturdy backscene, 20cm high for the best compromise between compactness and scenic space, that effectively separates the two scenes.  It was such a simple job in the end, yet it’s effectiveness is undeniable.

The Goods Yard:

Backscene Result (1)

The Station:

Backscene Result (2)

Bonus Trivia:  The shortest railway stations in the UK

Here’s a bit of odd inspiration I came across at my new job (I’m a Junior Lab Technician now, coming up in the world!).  It involves two railway stations in Scotland, less than ten miles apart just north-west of Inverness, called Beauly and Conon Bridge.  Just before I reveal the length of the platforms, I’d like to point out that the class 158 DMUs that serve the stations can only open one door to let passengers disembark.

That’s right.  15 Metres.  A Class 158 has carriages 23 Metres long.

Come to think of it, the goods yard could be receiving it’s own station after all…


The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 4: Buildings and Track Weathering

I must confess that I have not exactly been looking forward to painting the track, given the length of time that it took to get the test pieces presentable; and these were just made of a single Peco Double-Straight each.  It seems that I have entered the sluggish middle-part encountered on any project; this is where the excitement of starting out has worn out it’s welcome, yet you’re not close enough to the end to be energized to finish what you started.  This is the main threat to the completion of any project – more so than any material or monetary shortages I find – so it is imperative that we find reasons to smile about how far we have come.

A dusting of industry – weathering the track

Its quite amazing how something so simple as painting your model railway track can do wonders for it’s level of realism.  Covering the shiny rail sides and sleepers with coats of subtly-different shades of brown is probably the rite of passage which allows a train set to graduate into a model railway.

Track Painting (2)

The shot above is probably the one which illustrates this best; already the track has taken on the kind of sooty, dark brown appearance that the accumulation of rust, dirt and brake dust would bestow it.  Obviously, the rail heads would have to remain shiny and exposed, doubly-so given how notorious N Gauge is for problems with current-pickup on short-wheelbase locos, but when combined with the crushed stone ballast, the track is likely to really look the part.

Creating the look of a SR-themed Heritage Line

Having been raised on a diet of heritage lines in the south such as the Mid Hants, the Swanage Railway and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, there was no doubt as to what the setting would be for my first layout.  Originally the plan was to model the Meon Valley Railway in an alternate timeline where the movement to preserve the line was successful, even if it pains me to admit that the Mid Hants would never have existed.

After a great many evenings working on the Metcalfe buildings upon my new modelling desk, I am in a position to mock-up their positions, which I have done below.

Building Placement Test (1)

Two things are readily apparent here.  The first is that there is significantly less space behind the goods shed than Anyrail would have had me believe, which will lead to a little creativity when it comes to the road bridge I plan to use as a scenic break.  The second is that the platform shelter is disconcertingly close to the edge of the layout, with the outer platform being cut off at the baseboard edge.  I’m going to need to avoid fragile details to that platform, such as lampposts and station signs (we can always say that the sign on that platform is beyond the baseboard 😉 ).  The lesson here is that Anyrail may be a great program and a real timesaver, but if I’m to create accurate layouts in future, it is not to be completely relied upon.

A quick visual inspection will tell you that the Metcalfe country station is not of Southern origin, but it is in fact based upon a standard design of the Cheshire Lines Railway.  With this in mind, a facelift with the help of some Humbrol was in order; Green platform shelter pillars, green window frames and green window sills are enough to immediately evoke the SR in the eyes of the viewer.  Pity that when I thought of this, the windows were already assembled and mounted, leading to a moment of l’esprit de l’escalier on my part.  Even so, I’m sure you’ll agree that it turned out rather well in spite of my short-sightedness:

Station Building SR Modifications (1)

Station Building SR Modifications (2)

So, what’s next?

Easily the top priority once the track is painted is to build the backscene which bisects the layout.  Admittedly, the backscene is another thing I’m trying to put off, given that all the paintings I’ve ever done make as much sense to the eye as a piece of abstract art in the middle of an engineering drawing.  If it makes me feel any better, I guess that my choice to model a countryside scene on both sides, even if its a little cliché, does mean that the scenery should be simple to paint.

Until next time…


The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 3: Spoiling myself, 2mm style

A Bulleid Q1 and Maunsell Coaches in N Gauge.

So the London Festival of Railway Modelling has come and gone for the year, leaving a trail of empty bank accounts in it’s wake.  At least, if the other patrons had an experience like mine.

My current collection of N Gauge rolling stock, treasured though it is, consists of a motley band of locomotives and wagons in a toolbox, as they have been stored since childhood.  A 94xx Pannier Tank, a Large Prairie Tank, a Bulleid Light Pacific and an Intercity Class 47 make up the locomotive roster, and the ravages of time and movement have not been kind to a couple of them.  Needless to say, today I take better care of my trains.

As for the rolling stock, A smattering of vans, open wagons and bolster wagons make up the goods fleet.  Amazingly there is only one passenger coach in the whole box!  A chocolate & cream suburban carriage with pizza-cutter wheels and a missing underframe, which would be fine if the motive power was a Peckett saddle tank like Teddy here, but I have serious doubts that such a tiny machine would be able to cope with insulfrog points even if I did have the will and ability to make one in such a diminutive size.  Another highlight is the trio of Mk1 Parcels Carriages in Intercity colours that I got with the 47, and examining it next to a product of our time produces some interesting comparisons:

A Graham Farish Mk1 Parcels Carriage and a Dapol Maunsell 3rd Class Carriage Side by Side.
Representing a product of the early 2000s, the Intercity Parcels carriage reflects a time when modellers were predicting the terminal decline of British N Gauge.  On the other hand, the standard of the Maunsell would’ve blown minds in OO circles at the time when I began playing with model trains in the same period.

There are too many improvements to count.  The pizza cutters on the bogies?  Gone, replaced by finer, chemically-blackened wheels.  Fine detail abounds, of both the moulded and separately-fitted varieties.  NEM pockets fitted as standard, making conversion to Kadee knuckle-couplers a cinch.  Tiny decals on the windows.  Working, yes, working corridor connections (although not flexible enough for setrack, as I found out to my embarrassment).  It even has pickups on the wheels for what I assume could be a plug-in lighting system.

In short, this standard of detail in such a small size – ready-to-run, no less – would’ve been inconceivable in my youth.  Still, no train goes anywhere without motive power, and for that purpose I have deployed the most powerful 0-6-0 ever to run on Britain’s rails:  The SR Q1 Class.

A Dapol Q1 in N Gauge.
Copes remarkably well with the less-than-ideal job I did laying the track, particularly when facing the curved points.

Designed by Oliver Bullied CBE as a War Department machine for the Southern Railway, which lacked a decent goods haulage capability being preoccupied with passenger workings throughout the densely-populated south.  Peculiar features such as the casing around the boiler were designed with non-strategic materials in mind, such as using the plentiful but structurally-anemic Idaglass Glass-Fibre Insulation to lag the boiler.  The class long outlived any expectations of an Austerity design and soldiered on until 1966.

This Dapol rendition uses a tender-drive mechanism with a cardan shaft running through the cab, a luxury which is more easily afforded than on, for instance, a 4F, owing to the Q1 class’ high-sided tender.  Moulding and rivet detail is very precise and well-proportioned.  Separately-fitted detail abounds, with the sanding gear being particularly prominent.  Running qualities are stellar even before running-in, with a smooth and powerful quality being readily apparent.

So as I sit here, £185 poorer (£90 for the Q1, £23.75 for each carriage), I look forward to a time when I can view this procession lazily trundling it’s way around the layout, surrounded by the cheerfulness of preservation on the station side, and the mournful decay of a declining railway in the goods yard; okay, in the latter context the Maunsell carriages wouldn’t fit, but the Q1 was ultimately a mixed-traffic machine, and it’s many pickups will serve it well going over the basic starter-set pointwork.  This year’s turn at Ally Pally was a rare moment of extravagance for me, and one which yielded some very pleasing results.  Want to know the full story?  Next Week 🙂


The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 2: Scenic Conundrums

When I began this layout I never thought that the first house move it ever went through would be so early in it’s life. There was only track onboard with a couple of wires for power, so unsurprisingly it reached my parents house more-or-less intact, but that got me thinking: Would I be so lucky next time?

It’s both an interesting and unsettling question, as I’m one of those people who wince at any damage to personal property, the effect rising exponentially on account of the hours put into it’s creation.  There are a few ideas in my head right now, such as making the platforms out of Plywood like Youtuber New Junction has done, keeping buildings and other fragile detail as far inboard as possible (meaning the outer platform would have no protruding features such as canopies and lighting masts), and even a full cover for the layout.  In a way, this is like building a layout for the exhibition circuit, minus the modelling pedigree required to achieve such results, which every minute spent on this project is forcing me to appreciate!

Shifting the terrain

A lot of vexation has resulted from the prospect of constructing the scenery, not least due to the aforementioned predicament of it being a mobile layout; this was the original plan as drawn up in Anyrail 6:

N Gauge 3ft 3in x 2ft 3in Track Plan

Clearly, there was some work to be done, especially with regards to the left transition point.  Although I could have created the end of an airfield on the right hand side, with something of an air pageant going on with parked warbirds, it simply wasn’t worth the compromises suffered with regards to train lengths.  Enter the revised version:

N Gauge 3ft 3in x 2ft 3in Track Plan - Take 2

Quite a dramatic change in terms of operational interest, even if the upper half looks a little more vanilla for it.  I had briefly considered building a high-level station where the treeline is on this plan, using flexible track as a way of building skills for future layouts, but no amount of fiddling with the upper scenery would permit enough space.  Pity, I could have built a disused high-level station that passengers would have viewed as they traversed a footbridge from the still-operational station building, leading to the low-level station where the trains arrived.  The high-level station could’ve doubled as rolling stock storage, too.

On a related note, The setting for the layout has undergone a humbling.  I was originally inspired by the tragedy of the Meon Valley Railway in Hampshire, with it’s lifelong predicament of being a stillborn main line to the south coast, it’s large platforms seeing traffic befitting a provincial branch line.  You can probably start to see the issue, as I’d need platforms long enough for 8-12 carriage rakes to make the scene work with 4 carriage trains, and the layout in it’s altered state could only provide platform space for strictly for the latter.  Needless to say, I’m still enamoured with the concept of an underutilised backwater main line, so perhaps one for a garden shed.

Another factor in the move away from a specific prototype comes from being inspired by the work of Budget Model Railways on Youtube.  I often worry about the future of Railway Modelling as a hobby, specifically about how many of the younger generation are being inspired to take part, and these two recently did a sterling job of highlighting the fundamental “model railway” vs. “train set” elitism within the hobby:

Eye-opening in many ways.  I was clearly aiming too high with my layout (my very first one, no less), and that was probably a factor in my sluggish progress in the first few months of it’s construction.  In a way it’s quite vindicating to know that you can get highly attractive results with a layout using rather simple, some would say “amateur”, methods.  More to the point, these methods can be completed reasonably quickly, which is handy since I plan to honour my New Year’s Resolution by having a complete layout by the time 2019 rolls around.

Power Woes

A fairly minor amateur error has occured.

In my excitement to get my track plan nailed to the baseboard, I neglected to properly test the electrical viability of the layout, specifically the headshunt on the Goods Yard side.  You see, parking a locomotive there is impossible since I’m using Insulfrog points that only pass power onto the track they are switched to.  Since the power leads feed into the main circuit – thankfully under the scenery, as some of the sleepers there are no more due to piss-poor soldering – setting the points to direct the loco into the headshunt will prevent power feeding into the goods yard, stopping all traffic.

Thankfully, a fairly simple solution comes in the form of adding power feeds to the headshunt, along with a switch to allow me to isolate the yard when the points are switched to the running line.

Back to Basics

Metcalfe Kit Construction

As much as I’d like to pepper my layout with unique 3D-Printed buildings, fancy signalling electronics and generally build an exhibition-quality effort, I know I’ve got to get a grip and merely aim for a decent effort.  There’ll be plenty of time, money and therefore layouts to hone my skills later on.  In the meantime, I can rekindle my love of Metcalfe Card Kits (pictured above), how intuitive and cleverly designed they are and how attractive the final result is.

So, to myself, It’s my first damn layout, give me a break…

The N Gauge Dual-Scene Layout Log 1: Work begins in earnest

I haven’t posted about this model railway layout here before, since I began the project before I got back into the Girder Gibbon Blog.  Therefore, before I go off on one, here’s a quick refresher.

The Premise of the Layout

N Gauge 3ft 3in x 2ft 3in Track Plan Uncovered

Essentially, there are two halves to the layout, with each one acting as a fiddle yard for the other during operation.  The top half depicts a typical country station, not unlike the one at Isfield on the Lavender Line.  I’m a little torn as to whether I want to make replicas of the elegant Mock-Tudor buildings of the Meon Valley Railway (Scroll down to 2/3 of the way down to find LSWR excellence), since they occupied platforms fit for trains up to 12 carriages long, whereas my station in the image is a little smaller than Farnborough North, which can barely house four carriages on each platform.  In short, such splendid buildings may be a little wasted here.

The time period of the top half is, of course, the Preservation Period.  I don’t think there has ever been a better Swiss army knife for the railway modeller, with regards to running whatever pleases him, anyway.  This means bright, well-kept stations, along with a menagerie of smaller steam and diesel locomotives; Q1s, Prairie Tanks, Class 33s, et cetera making up the main passenger workings with a trio of Mk1 or Mk2 carriages in tow, and a few demonstration goods workings headed by a Gronk or a Pannier Tank.  On the hill overlooking the station, an additional event will be taking place such as a steam rally, fun fair or perhaps, now that I remember that T Gauge is a thing, a narrow gauge railway!

The bottom half is a little more rural, and depicts such a goods yard as Mislingford, again on the Meon Valley Railway.  This was in the middle of nowhere, even by the standards of the other communities the railway served, and to my mind it ought to be treated as such by the ravages of time.  Just before closure, passenger trains are short, few and far between, in the style of the “Sulky Service” that was once subjected to the Bluebell Railway in the mid-50s.  Most trains are processions of old, worn-out private owner wagons, trundling behind an equally unloved goods machine.

This is the same railway occupying two different points in it’s history, with the neglected goods yard being deliberately run into the ground to dissuade any attempts at resurrection, and the triumph of the preservation groups in reversing what seems to be terminal decline.  Consider it my love letter to all the happy memories I have.

The Story so far…

Track Pinned Down (2)

This just about sums up the progress of the layout.  Baseboard has been constructed, cork underlay affixed and track pinned down, nothing more.  The buffer stops are mocked up, but I’ve definitely settled upon their positions.  Not a hell of a lot for 8-9 months work since conception in Anyrail 6, I must admit.

What also doesn’t help is my sheer ineptitude in affixing the ballast in a test-piece:

Track Test-Piece (7)

Now, I must explain that my original idea was to use a mixture of fine and medium grades of ballast to make it more visually interesting.  This was surely achieved, but probably for the wrong reasons, as the larger lumps achieved the same thing as large lumps of carbon does to the microstructure of Steel – They made it harder to spread the ballast effectively around the sleepers by disrupting the flow of the smaller places, resulting in a lumpen appearance that was easily disintegrated by finger pressure even when dry, much like the lumps of carbon result in a harder, but more brittle metal.

Perhaps too much washing up liquid in the classic 50/50 mix of water and PVA glue?  I only made a tiny amount in a paint pot so portions are hard to control at that scale.

Current Shopping List

  • Gaugemaster Controller – before I do anything else, I really ought to make sure trains can navigate the line without problems; I should only need one controller since the track plan is nowhere near complicated enough to justify the track being separated into electrical ‘Blocks’.  Perhaps one of their Simulation models is in order…
  • Peco 6′ Way Gauge in N – even though I’ve laid the double track to the correct spacing for Setrack (26mm between rail insides), I’ll still need to know how high the platforms ought to be; speaking of which…
  • Building Kits:
    • Signal Box
    • Metcalfe Platforms
    • Goods Shed
    • Engine Shed – not sure whether to build this by scratch or not, given the curve to the permanent way.
    • Station Building
    • Tunnel Portals – These are needed to help decide how to dimension the hill above the station.
  • Ballasting Supplies:
    • Ballast Glue – I may give the PVA/Water mix another go, but failing that, Noch do a decent alternative 🙂
    • Ballast Spreader – I’m aiming to get this layout complete by the end of 2018, so might as well save time early on.