Furloughed. But its not all bad, I’ve been allocated a corner in our 2 bed London flat to embark on a model railway project to pass the time. HURRAH!
I thought I’d start a blog about this adventure and this first post details the progress so far.
I'm a Theatre Production Sound Engineer in London, who grew up in North Somerset. Ghosts of old branch lines that snaked around and through the villages near my childhood home have always been a potent source of inspiration. A pile of Hornby 00 track and assorted western rolling stock has been sat in a box for years, leftovers from a childhood 6'x4’ loop layout that closed to goods and passenger traffic circa 2008.
The project is to build a model railway on a budget in the limited space available. I have some modelling experience and am handy with a soldering iron, drill, files and to some extent paint brushes. I’ll be using this layout as a test bed to learn some new skills and try things out, building as best I can while having fun. I’m not going to worry too much about perfect true-to-life design or operation.
The gist is a fictional GWR country terminus (because we can't get enough of those!), perhaps a preserved line, effectively based on a shrunken version of the old B&E / GWR station in Clevedon, North Somerset. Photos of said station below... I’m naming my layout Kingston Bridge, the landmark still standing about halfway along the disused Clevedon branch from Yatton, and just up the road from my childhood home.
LINNMON to the rescue!
Base boards... I have no wood, and no means to quickly buy wood online at a reasonable price. Step up the ikea LINNMON table! Two 100x60cm white tops, sturdy, and £6 each! Add 8x ADILS legs at £2.50 each and we’ve got ourselves a budget base board. Thank you IKEA.
I’ve laid 2mm cork on the top of both tables as a base - six pack of 300x1000mm rolls from Amazon did the job - though it turned out more like 295x1010mm. So a slight gap at the back that will need filling later. The legs took longer to arrive so the “boards” sat on an existing table to get me started.
I’ve used two small flight case catches to join the boards. They keep the table tops together nicely while allowing for some vertical adjustment for levelling. Only gripe is that the holes on the hook component were smaller than listed - hence ugly countersunk screws instead of nicer pan heads... I’ll fix that later.
I had a pile of used Hornby 00 track, but it wasn’t in good nick and I decided to treat myself to something new. After a fair amount of research I’ve chosen Peco code 75. I like the way it looks on other layouts and having never used Peco track before, I thought it was the time to try!
Well I was too slow, because it seems EVERYONE has had the same idea! Buying track was quite a challenge. It feels as though the parts for this project have been sourced from every model shop in the UK! The original track layout (planned to be all wooden sleeper) quickly went out the window and was adapted to suit what I could get my hands on for a sensible price - I was not going to pay £10 per piece of wooden flexi track!!! I’ve ended up with concrete sleeper flexi track, and wooden points with the exception of two right hand medium points that also had to be concrete. I was determined to get a single slip into the layout, I find them interesting and wiring and operating it correctly would provide some exercise for my brain!
Initially the mix of sleeper types annoyed me, then I remembered my mantra for this project - I can learn to model with both concrete and wooden sleeper types. I’ll have to make up some back story for the mixture of sleeper types later... thoughts on a postcard please.
Rough version of the plan above. The lower sidings might change a bit... that idea was a mileage yard, and that the uppermost track crossing the road might enter a factory yard or building, set into the back scene. Who knows, its a moveable feast. Meanwhile the table legs arrived! Super easy to install and remove, with plenty of adjustment for levelling - at least 25mm. At 70cm high they’re not “exhibition height” but are ideal for sitting and working.
What’s the point?
I have a pile of Hornby point motors, and the initial plan was to use them. However, once I’d committed to the LINNMON tables I decided to surface mount as much as possible rather than hack away creating holes for things. Wire in tube with slide switches for frog polarity seemed like a neater option and a fun learning opportunity, so thats what I’ve chosen.
The switches are part no. SW05898 from CPC.farnell.com, PTFE tube is 0.5mm ID / 1mm OD from Amazon. The wire is 0.4mm silver coated copper... I know I know, I’m probably going to regret not using steel, but I had it on the shelf and It seems sturdy so far... perhaps I will curse myself later. I’ve soldered on thicker wire for the point end so there is more rigidity and less play in the hole through the tie bar. The switches are soldered up to the frog wire with two drop wires for + and - feeds, then set into holes drilled with an 8mm bit and filed to shape. The PTFE tube is set into a slot cut in the cork, then everything is fixed and filled in with a hot glue gun.
Each individual piece of track has drop wires, which are 16x0.2mm 0.5mmSq (20 AWG) from railwayscenics.com - I couldn’t find lengths of wiring under 25m as cheap as theirs, and its great quality. I will be using 32x0.2mm 1mmSq (17 AWG) for the bus wires under the tables - probably overkill but better too much than too little and should be future proof for upsizing. I will run ‘analogue’ Initially but would like upgrade to DCC at some point...
Rust, rust or rust?
Painting the track has been a voyage of discovery. I don’t have an air brush nor the funds to buy one. My initial solution has been Kobra low pressure spray paint In Chinotto brown for a base coat on all track, wooden and concrete sleepers. Used with black dot caps from Graff City, this provides a more controlled spray than the regular spray paint cap. The concrete sleepers have then been brush painted in Humbrol No. 72 Khaki Drill Matt Enamel, and the rails brushed with No. 62 Leather for a rusty look.
The No.62 works well In my opinion for unused extra rusty track but is a bit too red for track in regular use. Thinning it down on top of the Kobra chinotto looks okay but its not perfect or consistent for the main track. I think I’ll try a darker option down the line... Also, brush painting concrete sleepers takes quite a lot of time... I have some Plastikote grey primer that I think comes out roughly the same colour as the humbrol, so I might give that a try going forward in conjunction with some darker rail rust paint.
And thats it for now! I’ve started laying track and a bit of test ballasting, but I’ll save that for a more bite-sized next instalment.
Please comment with your thoughts, I’m trying to learn and would welcome all opinions!
Edited by GWL