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Narrow-Gauge Maintenance




I have mentioned in some recent posts that I intended to work on the scenery of my layout and, in the course of doing that, I found some problems with the narrow-gauge track, where it climbs from the station area, up over the main line towards the quarries.


What followed has been a frustrating few days, when my little railway has been showing its age! I suppose it is hardly surprising that some of the track is giving problems, as it was first laid in 1979.




The above photo, dating from May 1979, shows my wife demonstrating her skills with laying plaster bandage over chicken wire alongside the brand new track, which is now the station area. It seems that the track was never properly supported, where it leads onto the bridge in the left-hand side of the photo and so, of course, the rails eventually parted company with their plastic base! I have now rebuilt the underpinnings with the help of some plaster filler and thought that everything was sorted :)


Alas, when I ran the first train, it passed over the newly-repaired section with aplomb and promptly derailed on the next curve - a feat which it repeated with absolute consistency! More testing then revealed a similar problem on another curved stretch, which was working perfectly just a week or so ago.


I was left with the feeling that repairing one problem seems to cause two more to spring out - in this case, quite literally, as some curved sections of rail had sprung out of their moulded plastic 'chairs' - presumably the plastic has de-plasticised over time.


In the course of diagnosing the problem, I discovered a useful addition to my modelling toolbox. I have a pair of Pentax 'Papilio' binoculars, intended for butterfly watching, which have the ability to focus as closely as 18" (~50cm) from the objective lenses. This makes them rather like a long-working-distance binocular microscope that is great for looking for defects on model railway trackwork! I made some track spacers, to set the gauge, and made a 'temporary' repair with superglue (the sort of repair that becomes 'permanent' until it fails again), so that my narrow-gauge engines are, once again, running smoothly.


To celebrate this success, I have taken a few photos of narrow-gauge operations around the quarries. For these, I applied another new gadget, in the form of a Seagull SYK-5 Remote Flash Trigger. This enables my small compact camera to trigger my high-power flashgun in sync with its internal flash. The Seagull trigger has an adjustable time-delay, which is needed to overcome the pre-flash that most compact cameras use when focusing. Now, I can get my small camera into otherwise inaccessible locations but still use a high-power bounced flash, as I described in an earlier post.


My first view is from behind the narrow gauge engine shed, where a newly-laid incline leads down from some lime kilns. The timber yard is just ahead, while the loading dock and North Leigh station are to the left. I've 'extended' the backscene a little from what is actually there, to hide my off-layout work area.




From here, the track continues over my newly repaired section, crossing over the main line and passing under a now disused quarry. A little further on, the line to the saw-mill diverges to the left, while the right-hand track leads past the workshop towards the working quarries.




At the quarries, the men are ready to attach a couple of mine trucks for taking down to the loading dock at North Leigh station.






Elsewhere in the forums, I was reading a thread about using an on-board camera to film 'from the footplate'. It reminded me of some experiments that I did a while ago using a mini video camera mounted on one of my NG locomotives, which shows how the various scenes fit together:





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Hi Mike, congratulations on having solved the track issues! Quite amazing to see that first shot from 1979, it comes across as if digital photography existed then. Is it a scan?


I like close-ups, one or two of them must have been very close-up indeed, but then with your butterfly photography you'll be used to that. The video does work well, especially where the loco curves around the rock-face - it's also a little disqueiting how close it gets to that van! :-)


If you're going to start looking with macro lenses at this section of the layout, maybe those figures deserve having their bases cut off? Nothing like keeping your feet on the ground :-)

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Hi Mikkel.  I suspect that track issues are going to continue to surface as it ages further but, for the present, all is running well!  The first photo is from a transparency, re-photographed using my macro lens, as described on my website at http://home.btconnect.com/mike.flemming/technic2.htm


I find that there is a huge difference between still photography and video and confess to having little knowledge of the latter.  I like to take my time studying a photograph, whereas video rushes by and forces one to follow at its own pace.  As a dedicated photo-editor, I perhaps rue the fact that video is not so easy to edit, so I cannot crop out where the backscene ends, for example - you can even see my arm on the controller at one point!  Similarly, I can place the still camera  to hide the bases of the figures but the video reveals my attempts at deception :)


Those old Airfix figures are really quite nicely moulded and I simply 'plonked' them down, to put a bit of 'life' into the photos.  When I eventually get around to painting my newer figures (!), I shall take more care and make use of 'Tacky Wax' but I'm pleased you looked closely enough to notice such things.



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