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I'm Not Committed to Building This, You Understand - Mark 2




It's been a very long time since I last started a layout project. For the last few years I've been stubbornly trying to get on top of the long, long list of stock projects for Blacklade, and the nearest thing to a new venture was the decision about 3 or 4 years ago to sort out my stray bits and pieces of steam stock, fill in the gaps, and try to have a "funny trains" steam period nominally set in 1958 . That inevitably resulted in me buying cheap new projects as fast as I cleared existing projects from the cupboard.


On the credit side, I now have a lot more serviceable models than 5 or 6 years ago, some of which had been "and then I could do... " aspirations for a wearingly long time. And I have a modest steam age fleet capable of running the layout c1958 (never mind the Corporate Image signage...) , even if there aren't really any spares or coverage. I can field an entirely consistant BR Blue fleet, even if there are a few operational party pieces which still need an item or two of stock, or a rough edge removing. A significantly higher proportion of my stuff actually gets used than was the case 6 or 7 years ago


On the layout itself , various outstanding matters have been sorted out, and Blacklade has been exhibited twice, at a large and a small event, as well as appearing in one of the magazines. Bar a ground signal and an aspect or two, it's a finished layout - and one that normally works pretty reliably these days.


And with another exhibition commitment in less than 2 months, I really ought to be focussed hard on finishing off some projects which are nearly there.


Instead I find myself playing truant and reaching automatically for pen and scrap of paper.


I really shouldn't be contemplating any further projects. Reviving Tramlink and some repair work on the Boxfile ought to be the only diversions to be considered. Space is at a premium in the flat, and I have a great black cloud of unfinished and prospective projects hanging over me:




That, it is shocking to realise, was posted 6 years ago now - plus a handful of days. And precisely nothing has happened on any of those fronts (bar Blacklade) in the last 6 years. It's at moments like this that you feel your life running away through your fingers like fine sand.


Well.... yesterday I saw this thread: http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/119680-snack-boxes-are-back-at-ikea/


And I thought the largest size box might make a boxed diorama. It would probably be slightly larger than the boxfile , but really almost the only thing that would work sensibly in such a small space is trams. And trams are unfinished business round my way.


We have been here before.... http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blog/343/entry-7164-im-not-committed-to-building-this-you-understand/


Nothing - of course - happened.


Last year my club floated the idea of a "build a 4' x 1' diorama" competition . Since I rarely get up to the club these days I don't know if anything happened. I briefly flirted with the idea of a 1930s N. London tram scene, disappearing round a fierce 180 degree curve to a fiddle yard behind.


And the idea of the tram platforms at Wynyard underground station as a boxed diorama has crossed my mind before - it's just I have one whitemetal kit
. for which motorisation is less than obvious, and scratchbuilding a fleet of Sydney crossbench cars is "swallow hard" territory. Wynyard in the peak was a very busy place.


But if you combine those ideas with an IKEA "Snack" box.... you might just be cooking with gas. At 57 cm x 37cm x 30cm , there's a fighting chance of finding somewhere suitable in the flat to keep the thing. 37cm wide = 14.5" . Accepted wisdom is that 6" radius is fine for 4 wheel trams , and some bogie cars might squeak round it.




Allow a bit for the thickness of the sides, assume that the radius is measured at the centre of the track, and you have an inch from there to the edge of the drop-in baseboard


The 180 degree curve is potentially very much on.


Some work with pen and paper this afternoon produced this:


This is very much a "find the problems and limits" sketch, not a final concept. We are in North London, 1933-38. This suits my reference book and the trams I have in the cupboard, and the conduit system avoids the problem of building overhead. I think we are around Highgate - Highgate Hill required the use of 4 wheel cars


Availability of 4 wheel cars is not a problem. I have the Bec LCC B I built many moons ago for Blacklade - the homemade plasticard windscreen has come away anyway, and provided it is stripped back and repainted in LT red , it can pass for one of the ex LCC Bs that London Transport inherited via Bexley. The "bashed" Mehano single decker is closer to a MET E class single decker (as used to Ally Pally) than to the bogie first generation Kingsway Subway cars which inspired the bash. Again strip the paint , tidy up and repaint. I have an LCC stores van, another unbuilt LCC B from ABS, a Keilcraft West Ham kit, and one of Street Level models card kits for an LCC M .


Whether a Feltham could be coaxed round 6" radius seems to be very borderline. Whether an E/1 - for which I have a couple of Tower kits - could be induced to do so . It would be nice if they could. London without an E/1 isn't quite right.


A 4 wheel car is 5" long (I've just measured the Keilcraft roof - as the kit is 1:72 , it's the worst case scenario) . The stub spur at the front is a staging track - it allows trams to disappear "off-scene" to the rest of the system. The idea is that most of the front side-panel will be cut out to provide a framed view into the diorama. The spur track, and any tram sat on it, will be concealed by the frame. A little juggling may be needed to get enough length here to avoid fouling the curve. I think that should be possible - there ought to be an inch or so's "give" on the length


This means handbuilt points, at 6" radius. I tried inserting a commercial point into a 180 degree curve on Ravenser - the much greater radius threw an already tight curve out, and resulted in some very nasty troublemaking geometry. I won't make that mistake again.


Therefore handbuilt points on the depot side. I've assumed 5" long points, as Setrack is 6" . That may be generous . As drawn , the depot will take 4 x 4 wheeler trams. Stabling an E/1 may be an issue. If points are 4" long we're home and dry


David Voice's book describes handbuilt points with full continuous checkrail, - that would preclude using flexible track elsewhere , meaning handbuilt plain track. But that might allow gauge widening on the curve. I don't see how to motorise the sliver-of-nickel-silver single blade he shows. This opens up a nest of problems


DCC or DC ? How easy is it to convert old and new BEC motor units (I've heard it can be done)? Now Beetles are no longer available I have to be cautious and hoard some for DC Kits DMUs


Scenery - I have quite a few card kits for buildings in stock , some of them specifically London models from Streetlevel, some of them low relief. I think the working railway viaduct as scenic break between the two sides is probably a step too far - I don't think there's enough width, though the idea of a Hornby Peckett pushing a couple of wagons up and down is appealing


Nothing - except possibly a lengthy drive to an IKEA to buy some flatpacks - is going to happen till at least April

Edited by Ravenser

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Some very impressive work in that post . Unfortunately one thing that the sketch threw up is that there may not be enough width available for a proper viaduct , and vision of a Hornby Peckett had better be given up . 5" is really not a lot to take two tram tracks, a kerb, pavement, and buildings - 2 tracks at 50mm centres will take 4", and I think I may have to make do with a low-relief viaduct showing just the arch face and the parapet wall. This would save me an inch, and allow for a full-height backscene (sky blue) to separate the two scenes, which I think would be needed. Whether the viaduct could become full width on the right hand side I don't know


(The alternative would be to dispense with any buildings in front of the viaduct in the front scene. But that would be very bare and inner city indeed, and doesn't really sit with Georgian Highgate village. It also begs the question why the trams come here in the first place.)


I've discovered the Conrad Electronics site sells Tillig Luna tram points - not cheap, and possibly a little coarse but a practical solution for 3 of the points , and compatible with solenoid motors. The fourth point, on the curve, will need to be handbuilt. Fortunately I've found a US source for a template for a 6 1/8" radius curve, and I can work from that to get the 180 degree curve handbuilt with checkrails and a reliable radius. A handbuilt point could be incorporated in this - though how I drive the point blade I don't know


Working title may be Highgate (Varieties) - I have a Mainstreet low relief theatre kit in stock, and it would allude to a mixed bag of trams on the layout

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I see what you mean. Maybe then just have the viaduct full depth on the right hand side. Or whatever - I just like the idea of the tram appearing beneath it :-)

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I'm sold on the tram appearing under a bridge (I was thinking of under a girder bridge rather than an arch but will have to look at clearances with a double-deck tram) Juggling the rest is probably the biggest scenic issue.


How do you get the viaduct "off-stage" on the left without it becoming obvious that the building(s) are just thin facades? All I can think of is that a low relief viaduct fades into the backscene about half way along, as though it is curving away.


Having a full width viaduct with no backscene - as on Up the Junction - would mean the whole thing becomes a single scene, and I'm not sure the two halves can in fact be put together neatly . Low relief buildings on the other side would become very problematic


And how you handle track on a viaduct as it flattens itself into the backscene I'm not quite sure

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