Visitors, and more visitors.......and a signal
Things are progressing steadily at Spittal. The summer and hot weather often results in a slowdown in activity for a lot of us; holidays, barbecues, family commitments and possibly a little heat-induced lethargy……..I’ve found the answer to the latter. Spittal is being built in a converted farm building with 3 foot thick stone walls, and though it’s south facing it stays wonderfully cool and comfortable even when outside is ridiculously hot; I’m not really a Mediterranean climate sort of person. So the weather can be used as a reason to go over to the workshop ‘because I need to cool down a bit’…………...how long before that excuse gets rumbled? The downside is that any kinks, doglegs, knackered bits in the trackwork can’t be blamed on climate change but are the results of my own somewhat hamfisted efforts!
There’s been a steady sequence of visitors over the last few weeks. Firstly, Splinter and Screwit, the local carpentry firm, extended the layout by adding a further 2.4m baseboard, taking the length so far to 7.8 metres; I’m going to start a bus service to transport operators/helpers etc around the place.
This allows the trackplan to extend as far as the start of the terminus platforms and the spread of sidings into the goods yard:
Two tracks on the left are platform 1 and the release road/carriage siding, next are the bay platform and a release road which also serves the goods arrival road to the right of it. The right hand tracks fan out into the goods yard, with a branch leading off and down to Spittal Point and the fish quay starting at the goods yard entrance.
Once the clouds of sawdust and bad language had cleared, next to visit were the PW gang and tracklaying engineers. The trackwork on the previous board is now nearly finished; just the long carriage siding and the coal drop siding to go, but the latter will have to wait until the coal yard is in place, which won’t be until the wiring underneath is completed……….complicated I know, but I’m trying to avoid crawling about underneath with a soldering iron as much as possible, for a lot of very valid health- and wellbeing-related reasons……… The trackwork now flows onto the new baseboard; 3 more turnouts are in place and just need blades to complete them. Once that’s done I’ll have a small runround loop and access to the headshunt and coalyard sidings, so work on the layout will be frequently delayed by passing trains/testing/playing/wasting time.
While all this was going on, the signalling department were busily working on the breakfast bar at home, surprisingly. The end result was my first homemade signal; something I have been looking forward to with some concern and trepidation but amazingly it works:
Construction involves a 3mm square length of walnut strip filed to a taper in the vice; easier than it sounds due to the nature of the wood. The rest is made of various bits from MSE and a couple of homemade parts. Just 11 more to build…..fortunately there are no 48 arm signal gantries, although the linkages for the 3 junction signals may prove a little testing.
After all this mayhem, peace and tranquility descended on the layout in the form of the local electrical contractors, Tangle and Testitt Ltd, who have been brought in to try and save the world/sort out the muddle/connect things up. I’m actually very lucky to have the assistance and advice in this area of a leading exponent of all things electrical and DCC, without whose knowledge everything would be taking me a lot longer as I’d have to keep the instructions in one hand while doing various 2 handed and 3 handed jobs with the other one…..not easy, especially when the flowing of electrical current is as mysterious to me as the flowing of the River Styx of Greek mythology (you cross it to enter the underworld, apparently).
So with lots of help, the track is all connected up to the DCC bus and it works. A twin 12v DC bus provides power for uncouplers, which also work, and Megapoints servo boards and relays for frog switching, which, amazingly, also work. Lots of little flashing lights and faint clicking and whirring noises accompany what can only be described as smooth and seamless operation; the signal pulls off in 2 stages, and bounces splendidly on returning to danger. Remarkable, really, and it bodes well for future operation. So my control panel now has 1 of 12 signal levers earning its keep, along with 3 of the 11 rather nice retro look rotary switches. I even did a small amount of it myself………..
On a practical note, the servos, controllers and wiring are largely on top rather than underneath, for ease of access from the back of the layout. It’s an advantage of building a layout set on a sloping river bank; there’s a retaining wall (the sort I used to sit on to watch the trains, and fall off occasionally) along virtually the whole length of the back of the station area which will hide it all, and access will be via cutouts in the backscene. You may notice in the photos my rather overcomplicated design of combined servo mount and wire-in-tube link terminal, and you may also notice the mk2 version operating the signal, which is much simpler: servo mounted snugly in a hole cut in the 9mm ply baseboard top and secured with silicone glue, so removable if necessary...this leaves the moving bit at exactly the right height and is much quicker and easier to do while being more secure. A loop in the springy operating wire copes with excess movement, and is easier than attaching the omega loops.
The final visit, on July 1st, was by a group of about 20 visitors from the North East and Borders area group of the EMGS. We had a barbecue in the courtyard outside the workshop, and several of them brought stuff to run on the layout. It was really rather inspiring to see the bit I’ve done so far populated and busy with a variety of visiting locos and rolling stock; onwards and upwards as they say. Hopefully, anyway……..good weather, good food and good company.
And now, for those of you who have just scrolled through the above because you just want to look at the pictures, let’s pop back to 1960:
An almost brand new class 2 diesel on running-in duty is waiting for clearance to head off up the hill towards the ECML and the junction just south of the Royal Border Bridge. It’s heading for Kelso and St Boswells on the Waverley route. The leading coach still awaits its new maroon paintwork. Just behind and on the next track across waits a goods departure for the Alnwick and Cornhill branch behind a far-too-new looking K1. The reason for the delay is a delayed Edinburgh-Kings Cross express on the ECML blocking access to the junction; it’s apparently just leaving Berwick heading south, so the route should be clear in about 5 minutes.
Both types of servo mount visible above, and in the last pic you can see the inconspicuous DG couplings, which work well and don’t look too intrusive; on a layout which will extend to 1.8m in widthe in some places (for scenic reasons) hand-powered uncoupling is not possible, I’m afraid.
The goods stock is kitbuilt and weathered; the coaches and locos have been gauge-converted and fitted with Dgs, but I haven’t had time to weather them yet.
In the pipeline: a goods brakevan, an RT Models chassis to convert my DJM J94, bought when I was intending to model in 00FS, more signalling and the rest of the trackwork on the new baseboard; and then, just for a change……….another baseboard which will take the track to the end of the station.
Thanks for visiting Spittal; sorry if it’s been a bit busy.