After spending a long time reading and thinking about Brunel's broad gauge railway, I knew I had to make a start somewhere. The thought of plunging straight into a layout was proving too daunting so, I decided to buy a display case of the type sold by Antics models This case has a plain wooden base, measuring about 330mm x 80mm, onto which I could build a short length of broad-gauge (BG) track.
I wanted to build my track base using materials and techniques that mirror the original construction devised by Brunel. In searching for materials, I found that Cornwall Model Boats supply a wide range of materials and fittings, many of which are potentially useful to railway modellers. For the 'baulks' of my planned track, I bought lengths of 5mm x 2mm mahogany strip, while the transoms are made from 1.5mm x 2mm strips.
One feature of the BG trackbed is the use of pinewood packing underneath the running rails themselves. After some thought, I decided to simulate the appearance of this packing, by sticking narrow strips of 2mm squared graph paper on the top faces of the baulks. The rails themselves would then be glued over these strips. The appearance of one of my baulks, built up in this way is shown below:
I drew out a scale template, with the baulks in their correct relative positions and with the locations for the transoms marked at 8' (32mm in 4mm scale) intervals. Because the wooden strips were slightly warped, I used a straight-edge to hold them in position, exactly over the template lines, while I glued them down with PVA adhesive. At this stage, the actual running rails were not fitted. The 'bridge section' rails, to scale dimensions, were obtained from the Broad Gauge Society (BGS). I glued down one length of running rail, again using a straight-edge to ensure it ran down the centre-line of the baulk. I then used a roller gauge from the BGS to fit the other rail in position on the opposite baulk, at the correct gauge (28.08mm) for 4mm-scale track.
To complete the 'wood-work', I finally added the transoms, gluing each into position over the reference lines marked on my template.
The next task was to add ballast, which I first spread dry into the rectangular openings between the transoms, smoothing down the dry material by hand (finger tips). On the basis of photos from the Bullo Pill accident site (shown in a previous post), I chose a 'medium' ballast in dark brown, to match the ironstone colour typical of the Dean Forest area. After laying the dry ballast, I fixed it down by adding a dilute solution of PVA glue from a dropper. I use about 3-parts water to one of PVA and add one drop of washing-up liquid to the mixture, in order to make it flow freely. This last step is important as, without it, the solution tends to stand in beads on top of the ballast.
Once the ballast is in place, one really gets a good impression of the 'different' appearance of broad-gauge trackwork,
Finally, I printed a simple back-scene. I set my printer to 'draft' mode, which produces a low-saturation image that naturally recedes into the background, when photographed. I placed my old 'Gooch single', originally built from a 'K's Milestones' kit, many years ago, and, for the first time in her life, she stood on some track, in a pose reminiscent of 'official' Swindon photos of the period.
My methods were fiddly to carry out and probably not suitable for a more extensive working layout - and then there is the issue of points! One thought I had, to simplify the process, is that a laser cutter could be used to make wooden frames in the equivalent of 30' sections, onto which the rails could be mounted. Frames for pointwork could be made in a similar manner. Perhaps an idea for someone to take up?
Edited by MikeOxon