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Postcards from the Layouts




As Blacklade is effectively completed, and so is the Boxfile there isn't too much to post in the way of layout construction these days. Lockdown efforts have mainly been focussed on sorting out the litter of unfinished stock projects - and if the truth be known, drifting into one or two more. And those things have gone onto my workbench blog..


However just to prove that the silence is not that of the grave, here are a few snapshots from when each of them was last up - "Pictures from an Exhibition" as it were.


Firstly , the last time Blacklade was up. As well as test running the NBL 21 and having a Blue Period operating session I got some of the post-privatisation stock out of its boxes to check it still ran and give it a touch of maintenance. For some reason - probably that the 1980s are of more interest to me, and I have a full suite of stock for 1985-90 whereas there are one or two things I need to sort out for post-privatisation - I've not run as 2000-7 for a long time.


So the Type 5s got an outing each :



57 011 has always been a pretty reliable performer, and as my most compact Type 5 , is designated for fuelling point diesel traffic and engineer's trains in the post-privatisation period. Here she is test running the two green Railtrack opens to check they are fine. (They were.) I really ought to apply a little mild weathering to this one. The loco-hauled substitute set can be seen in the background.


(This loco was bought as a return off the Bachmann stand for about £40, over a decade ago in the days when Bachmann sold their repaired returns off the stand at Warley and Ally Pally. I think the Fox transfers and the plates to renumber her added 50% to the price... Someone else in the group already had 57 010)


And here is the other green Type 5:




This is more of a ghost from my involvement with an abortive club layout project some years ago.  66 532 isn't really that suitable for Blacklade being a good inch and a bit longer than the 57. The container train has nothing to do with Blacklade: I acquired two FEA twins , a Realtrack "ball-bearing" twin and a pocket wagon and built and painted some C-Rail containers. Several of these containers are work-related from the days when I used to work for a carrier. The Hapag 20'OT is a resin Mendip Models kit that hung around in the cupboard for years. This is as many of the wagons as I could get on the layout.: they hadn't been out of their boxes for about a decade.


And now for the Boxfile:




Construction of a Parkside OHV steel High and reconstruction of a Slater's rectangular tank from my youth were written up here . However handsome is as handsome does - they were built to replace one or two existing wagons of questionable reliability in the Boxfile's fleet. So they can't be deemed fully and finally "done" until they've run through an operating session and behaved themselves. Here we see the rectangular tank in action, and as a bonus I've finally fitted coupling bars for Sprat & Winkle couplings to the Hornby Ruston 48DS I bought at Warley last year. It runs nicely - so I also have an extra loco in traffic.


And yes, both wagons are good 'uns. They slide in and out of the back siding very reliably.  Which is something of a relief. The Ruston 48DS also runs nicely, at a very satisfactory and controllable speed for the Boxfile. There is too little space for it to run with the supplied runner wagon for additional pickup so occasionally it hesitates at a frog, but that can't be helped, given the nature of the loco and the layout. All in all I'm pleased with my purchase, and the price at which Hornby pitched it was excellent.


But... on checking the two boxfiles which hold the stock, I find I still have five wagons "carded".  One - the LNER unfitted van - is at least serviceable if run the right way round. More damaging is what is carded. Total stock currently stands at 13 vans (incl Conflats); 10 minerals (incl 1 tank) ;  6 opens. The correct ratio for the layout is supposed to be 4 vans, 1 open, and 2 minerals for an operating session. In other words I have 6x the opens, 5x the minerals  - and only just over 3x the vans. And what is carded is 1 van, 2 Conflats, a Bachmann 16T slopesided mineral, and a Dapol 13T LMS open. At the most optimistic view, I have 11 serviceable vans when I should have 18-20 vans. One of those 11 is questionable, another is slightly questionable, and a third is a rather rough Lima van with a new chassis


And every single RTR chassis - a Conflat, a 16T mineral and a 13T open - falls off entering the back road. That's a very sobering situation.


Surveying the stockboxes I find myself forming some further resolutions to address all this. An old Hornby refridgerated van is being reworked as an ex NER vehicle. It now has a scratchbuilt underframe so I gave it some test runs without couplings using the Ruston , and it seems to run very reliably. Lurking on my bookshelf is the long-unfinished DOGA etched van kit.  These two should at least address the fact that I'm light on LNER vehicles. The kitbuilt chassis on the  Conflat V is tight and rigid. Melting in a bearing with a soldering iron to create a little slop at on end might fix it. And ferreting in my modelling cupboard turned up a Parkside LNER Conflat S kit, and a packet of Bachmann small insulated containers. Since I can clearly build a kit chassis so that it stays on the Boxfile while RTR chassis fall off, this would be a possible nil-cost solution. With a bit of juggling I think I can just about get this into the stockboxes as an extra.


I'm not sure what I do about the RTR wagons to make them run, so if  this ultimately replaces the Bachmann Conflat A a further slot opens up. I have two old Parkside BR van kits in the cupboard, one of which might fill the gap. That would get me up to 15 serviceable vans - a roughly  50% improvement on the current situation, at nil expenditure. 


 I ought to think about adding a figure or two to the Boxfile: nothing too much , but just a touch of life.

Edited by Ravenser
to insulate a container, not insult it

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