I recently realised that all of the basic technology needed to operate a micro-layout (direct current circuits, voltaic batteries, primitive motors) had been developed before the 1840s started. Reading a bit further, I discovered the US inventor Thomas Davenport - not the very first person to build an electric motor, but almost certainly the first one to use it to power a model tramcar in the mid-1830s. His design was elegant, but not ideally suited for today's smaller scales:
It took a while for the early railway companies to decide on the best design for points / switches / turnouts. Personally I've always liked the "stub point" design in which the running rails move to set the road, rather than the typical blades. Perhaps it's a design for sleepy sidings rather than high speed main lines:
A broken PECO streamline point seemed an ideal starting point to add a stub point to the layout:
Pulling off the blades was therapeutic for the
Truth be told, my miniscule branch terminus (provisionally nicknamed "Tinories") probably wouldn't have had any fixed signals in 1840. All that would have been needed to control the trains at that time were a pocket watch (so that a train could be given a five or ten minute start along the line before the following train was allowed to depart) and some red flags for the railway policemen to wave frantically in an emergency. But I've always had a soft spot for the rotating disc signals used by co
I always said that my micro-terminus was an experiment - and the whole point of an experiment is to learn lessons. I quickly realised that my layout had two major faults:
(a) the foamcore baseboard was so light (250 grams including rails and fittings) that I had to put a finger on top of it every time I changed a point to prevent it moving about on the tabletop, and
(b) the traverser, driven by a rod under the baseboard, suffered a bit from friction and it often needed some finger-poki
Initially, early railways weren't very interested in third and fourth class passengers. Firstly they saw the big money coming from goods traffic rather than passengers anyway, a misconception that quickly vanished as the first main lines opened. Secondly, the passengers that they did want to attract were the well-heeled people who had previously travelled by stage coach, not the poorer folk who hitched a ride on the carter's wagon (or simply walked everywhere). But it didn't take railway manager
In a previous post I discussed my difficulties finding a suitable auto-coupler for early HO stock, and how I discovered DG magnetic couplers. They are excellent couplers: cheap, unobtrusive, effective. But I was very aware that any coupler that requires a jig to make it up didn't really meet my KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) criterion.
I'd often wondered about using PECO OO9 couplers, which have a hook-and-loop design similar to some continental couplers. I finally decided to buy a co
In an earlier post on Bachmann's John Bull locomotive I described the difficulty of converting the high-sided shed covering the tender drive into any British-style tender. My own rather lazy approach was to adapt the existing body to resemble an early van (although goods vans were rare beasts in 1840; most early railways simply flung a tarpaulin over everything).
Nigel Hill has been rather more inventive, building a couple of very attractive replacement bodies. Both transform the ten
What did railway ballast look like in 1840? Obviously it depended on local geology and the tastes and budgets of the individual companies, but there were some common features that mark it out from later methods. We know that on most early railways the ballast completely covered the sleepers, hiding them from view (a feature that continued throughout most of the 19th century) . Lithographs that include track beds show a smooth plain surface, suggesting individual pieces of ballast were very small
Early railway companies were usually launched in a mood of heady optimism, only for the disgruntled shareholders to learn that building the damn thing was going to take a lot longer than anyone had expected. You may have noticed that the Middenshire & Fiddleyard Trunk Railway continues this venerable tradition. Even so, taking 18 months to ballast two foot of track did rather play on my conscience.
I decided to tackle the problem with sheets of Poundland sandpaper. Early railway
In addition to the Norris 4-2-0, Bachmann produced models of two other early US locomotives, the De Witt Clinton and the John Bull. Unlike the Norris loco, both these models have tender drives. Second-hand models frequently turn up at affordable prices on eBay (affordable, of course, if you don't have to use the US postal service ).
The De Witt Clinton was built by New York's West Point Foundry, running intermittently on the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road during 1831-32 before it was b
Working couplers can be a problem for early stock, as most commercial couplers are designed for the larger vehicles that developed later in the 19th century. Funnily enough, deciding on a coupler was one of the biggest challenges I found when I started modelling the 1840s, which is why I thought a separate post on the subject might be useful.
Most British HO modellers use Kadee couplers. They are robust, very reliable and they make shunting an absolute pleasure. But the HO couplers a
Chris Cox has recently been working on easy-to-build 4 mm whitemetal kits of some of the small and distinctive wagons of the early 1840s, as well as his better-known kits for the LBSCR. He has produced masters for three Birmingham and Gloucester Railway wagons (ballast, mineral and a fascinating general goods wagon with slatted sides), as well as two early London and Birmingham Railway wagons. He was kind enough to send me samples to build, and they are all very impressive.
Sorry this second instalment has taken so long to appear! Just one reminder before I continue my suggestions for the Bachmann Prussia coach: this post and its predecessor are meant to be a menu of ideas, not a recipe to be followed to the letter. Please use or modify the bits that you like and don’t feel that you have to do everything that I did!
6) Tweak 4: replacing the buffers
The Prussia coach has dumb buffers, a very early feature. By 1840 almost all new British coac
Apologies, I realise this is quite a long post! And it doesn't finish here, either: there's a second part that I will post in a week or so. But I thought I would try and give as much info as I could about my attempts to use the Bachmann Prussia coach to produce a more representative British carriage of the early 1840s.
1) What are we working with?
The Prussia coach is a nice model moulded in green plastic with yellow window frames and brown door panels printed (I think)
In the early 1840s architects, engineers and managers were still grappling with the problems thrown up by a new technology that could pick up, transport and deliver hundreds of passengers at the same time. As a result early station track plans often look cumbersome with their long rows of wagon turntables, their separate platforms for arrivals and departures and their rows of carriage sidings crammed in between the platforms.
One early problem for the engineers was moving locomotive
There's not a lot of progress to report on the layout this week, although the wiring is now in place (except for the traverser: at my current rate of progress I will probably write about that in a couple of weeks). The underside of the baseboard is now taking on rather a Heath Robinson-ish appearance with wires running over the point rods and held in place with blutack.
So I thought I'd bulk up this post with a few notes on the Bachmann Norris locomotive. Actually Bachmann made two versions
Well, the navvies have been hard at work and most of the trackwork at the Grand Terminus Station has been laid down. Or if you prefer I’ve finally managed to glue two Peco points and 26 inches of flexitrack onto a foamcore baseboard.
There are a couple of changes from my original mock-up. I’ve used a Y point to give a few extra centimetres of length to the rear track, and I’ve decided to use a horizontal traverser sliding between the two tracks at the end of the station,
A few of my reasons for modelling 1840s railways in HO:
1. I like microlayouts! In the early 1840s most trains were short (many mainline trains only had four carriages at this time, and even that could be a strain for some of the low-powered locos). And an HO layout takes up just three-quarters of the area of an equivalent OO layout, which helps as well. The photo for this post shows my attempt to answer that age-old question "Can you build a station on an A4-size baseboard?" The mock-up su