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  1. Quote: "How many of you are attracted to the post by the pictures?" I for one appreciate the highlights from the operating sessions shown here, as my 'heritage' internet access can't cope with the full session from the website. Ok I accept that's my problem, which could be overcome by throwing money at BT and upgrading to the 21st century. In the meantime however I would be sorry to miss out altogether on the everyday story of Altonian country folk. Alan.
  2. Hi Corbs. '...crack on with scenery'. That made me smile. I always considered myself to be quite slow. I suppose it helped that the area was quite small and stuff could be re-used from the earlier version. BlackRat, thanks for the comment.
  3. I was rather late getting back into the swing of modelling this year. The trouble was indecision over how to proceed, which brought everything to a grinding halt early on. While I was happy with the track design and operation of the layout, the overall appearance was a disappointment. The minimal scenery idea with which I was trying to speed up construction, by ignoring anything outside the boundary fence, hadn't really come up to expectations. I still liked the idea in principle, but I don't think it worked too well with the arrangement I had here. However the main gripe was the straggling nature of the beast. I guess I'm a small-layout man at heart, and I found these long sprawling scenes just didn't sit comfortably with me. So what to do? Carry on as normal and hope for the best, or think up some other way of continuing? By May I was getting frustrated at the impasse and lack of modelling. Finally I threw up my hands and decided to just leave this area of the layout to stew in its own juices for now. Instead I moved downdale to the Castleport end of the system, starting afresh on a couple of new modules, and back into my comfort zone by building them in a more conventional fish tank style. I started with a couple of box frames, constructed using the method described in an earlier post. They each measure 23x10x10 inches. The end of June saw them in the state shown below, with lighting and sky backgrounds added. The left hand scene represents an industrial branch serving the coal wharf and dockland. The track at the rear will be hidden behind buildings, just leaving the track along the waterfront visible. The odd looking structure seen at the left is the start of a concrete bunker for the coal wharf. The right hand scene is the Castleport station and town area, with part of a waterside mill in place. During July and August work concentrated on the Castleport scene, which is now almost finished and shown in the images below. Some buildings were re-used from the old Castleport, but there was not enough space here to fit in all the original town buildings. The station is quite an elaborate affair for Tweedale. The original inspiration was St Aubyn on the Jersey Railway, but then a local chap came along offering a cheap rate on some fancy 'art doily' fretwork for the train shed and I couldn't resist. I think his enthusiasm waned somewhat when he realised how quickly he was getting through jig saw blades, but like the fellow on the telly, he felt that having started he was obliged to finish. In the end you get what you pay for, and the general feeling among the Tweedalers is that at least this monument to bad taste is unlikely to withstand the onslaught of smoke, steam and salt-laden river damps for long. The mill at the other end of the scene was cobbled together from bits of the original. I'm not entirely happy with the part at the back, which will probably get reconfigured later. Road access is through the ancient town wall, what's left of it. The local authorities have insisted on crossing gates being installed here after a councillor got a horrible fright when he came dashing through the arch on his bicycle and found the morning goods bearing down on him. The railway company are still dragging their feet on the issue while they try to work out how to squeeze the gates into the restricted space. On the whole I'm pleased with the way the scene has come together. I'll finish the adjoining module next, then assess whether to continue the rest of the layout in this style. The supporting substructure on the main section of the layout would need extending before I could connect this pair of modules to the rest. Until then they will probably sit on a shelf as static dioramas for storing spare stock, but at least they served their purpose of freeing up the modelling deadlock. Cheers Alan
  4. Hi Don, thanks for your input. The minimal scenery was not such a smart idea in hindsight. Unfortunately it was one of the foundations of the layout concept and the main strategy for reducing the build time. In fact I've been seriously thinking of going back to windowed scenes, but it would mean a pretty drastic upheaval, if not completely restarting from scratch. Operating interest is more important to me now than the looks. That wasn't always the case, just something that has grown in recent years. Thank you mpeffers. Its always nice to plan layouts, even if you know they'll never get built. I sometimes think there ought to be a repository for all the 'brilliant' but unfulfilled layout ideas folk dream up, so even if the originator takes them no furthur, someone else may find an idea there that is worth pursuing.
  5. Thanks Rivercider. Your comments got me thinking that seasonal variations might be easily incorporated into the scheme described above, by simply biasing the initial counter positions above or below the centre line at the start of a month - a few rows above during the winter, a few rows below in the summer. Something else to try. David, thanks for your comments. I wouldn't know where to start getting this to work on a speadsheet! As to the other, it's true I've had some lengthy breaks away from the hobby in the past, but I reckon I'm pretty well glued in place now. Thanks Mikkel. I was quite pleasantly surprised at the effect that the plain building shapes at the back had on the look. Perhaps something like that is really all it needs. The stylised look doesn't bother me, and they do give an impression of industrial surroundings, but without having to build fully detailed models!
  6. I'm not one for doing much modelling in the cold dark days of winter, and progress on the layout is only just starting to resume after fizzling out way back in the autumn. However the trains have been running regularly during the interval, and over the past few months the layout has become a testbed for trying out a new operating scheme, which has seen the line running as a single-commodity railway for the transport of coal. I'll start by saying that it is far from being a wholly realistic simulation of coal movement, but I find it interesting to operate, and that is really all I ask of it. The sketch above shows how the coal railway operations have been overlaid on the existing track plan by simply designating convenient locations for the purpose, regardless of what is actually on the ground. The inspiration for this scheme actually came from a 1960's-era card game called Stocks & Shares. The game basically involves buying and selling shares using Monopoly-style money, the winner being the one who makes most profit. The point of relevance here is that it has a rather neat randomisation system for fluctuating the share prices, which I thought I might be able to adapt as a way of varying the supply and demand for goods on Tweedale. For testing the idea I decided to just apply it to coal traffic. Shown above is the cardboard computer that controls the traffic movements. No doubt the digitally-minded would be able to do all this on an Excel spreadsheet or something. At the heart of the adaptation is a 'Load Indicator Card' on which counters indicate the current daily traffic (in wagon loads) for each industry. There are 19 rows and the number of columns depends on the number of industries. The first 4 columns here are for the customer demands (steel works, gas works, power station and coal merchant). The 5th column shows the daily output from the coal mine. The final column records the coal stockpile at the mine. The loads in the customer columns range from zero at the bottom to a maximum value equal to that industry's siding capacity at the top. The output values for the mine range from 0 to 8 (for no particular reason). A shuffled pack of cards controls the movement of the counters up and down the columns. There are 6 cards for each industry, with values of +4,+3,+2,-2,-3,-4. For the mine and 4 customers that equates to 30 cards. The idea is that as a card is picked from the pack, the appropriate counter is moved up or down by the number of rows indicated. Tweedale Railway's No.7 (ex Mainline J72) swaps empties for fulls at the mine's exchange sidings. Due to the low capacity of the sidings, several trips may be needed during the day. Basic scenery was added to this section in the autumn, along with a grey sky background and lighting from a single strip of LEDs. While this would probably give insufficient illumination for representing a bright sunny blue-sky day, it seems to work well enough with the dull overcast here. One of the things I like about this system is the way that it evolves. The traffic flows vary over time in an almost cyclic manner, rather than being completely unpredictable from one day to the next as in some of the more unruly randomisation systems around. After a while emerging trends can be detected, which allow planning ahead to a certain extent, such as the strategic placement of wagons for the following day. To initialise the game (I can't help but think of it as a game), the counters are placed in the middle row of the indicator, and the cards are given a good shuffle. I should add that the layout is run most days for about a half hour stint, and this fits in nicely with a day's worth of coal movements. Picking, say, one card per day from the pack to update the indicator, gives about a month's worth of play before reshuffling the cards. However the evolution of the traffic flows can sometimes be rather slow. As can be seen from the indicator photo above, moving a counter doesn't necessarily mean the number of loads will change. If I'm feeling impatient at having the same wagon movements for several days in a row, I may pick more than one card to help speed things up. This siding at Slaghill Junction is standing in as the gas works for now. Low relief shapes have been dropped down the back, pending more detailed structures later. To make them less obtrusive they were painted with the same grey emulsion as the sky background. I found this resulted in a very peculiar visual effect that makes them hard to focus on, but I kind of like it - sort of ethereal, if that's the word, as if the buildings are looming out of the smog. One other thing that needs to be dealt with is when the supply and demand drift too far out of balance, which they may do once or twice during a cycle of the pack. There are a couple of rules covering such eventualities, and this is where the coal wharf comes in. Rule 1 - If demand exceeds supply and the mine's stockpile drops to zero, coal supply is switched to imported coal from the coal wharf, until the stockpile at the mine has recovered to 8 wagon loads. Rule 2 - If supply exceeds demand and the mine's stockpile increases to more than 15 wagon loads, then excess coal is exported via the coal wharf, at 3 wagons per day, until the stockpile has dropped to the 8 wagon loads threshold. On the other side of the dividing backscene, the track is in place but little else. The coal merchant, wharf and power station are merely represented by temporary placeholders. The line in the foreground, currently in use as an industrial siding, will eventually form the main line to the coast. Health & Safety inspectors are gently steered away from this area of Tweedale! At the beginning of the day the indicator is updated by the clerk at the mine. The mine's output value is added to the stockpile column. After the clerk has calculated the number of empties required, he sends his order to the yardmaster. It's then time to take on the role of train crew and get busy, moving empty and full wagons between the yard, the mine and the customers' premises. As wagons are loaded at the mine (removeable loads), the stockpile value is reduced accordingly. I'm still tinkering with the system, but I like the way its going. While it may not get applied to general goods in the greater scheme of things as the layout expands, I can see it being useful for controlling a slowly evolving background movement of bulk traffic such as coal. Cheers, Alan.
  7. Thanks Jeff. The buildings on Tweedale tend to be built smaller than they should be, but if the standard man can (in principle) get through a door and wander around a room without cracking his head then as far as I'm concerned its fine. Thanks Northroader. I guess it's all relative. The rolling stock is restricted to short wheelbase wagons and small shunting locos, and the rest is built to a size that still seems in keeping with the stock (to my eyes at least). If I was rash enough to undertake a reality check it would soon reveal that the platform is about the length of a mark1 coach, and a class 66 by itself would probably fill one of the marshalling yard sidings. Thanks CK. It is fun, both to build and operate. I reckon the best decision I ever made in this model railway lark was to stop taking it too seriously. Thank you Neil. Other worldly I can live with. Tweedale was never intended as an exercise in miniature realism. It is very much a Rule 1 layout. I do try to build it to a consistent style, and it is operated to a set of rules, but within limits I'm happy to incorporate any quirks and whims that take my fancy.
  8. In the past few months since the last update, the main progress on the layout has been the addition of scenery in the Slaghill area. The photo below shows the shuttle railbus for Poshington waiting at the new Slaghill station... Those of you who remember the old layout may have noticed that while the original Slaghill station was perched on a viaduct this new one is at ground level. To get around the discrepency I'm reasoning that there were two stations in Slaghill, built by rival railway companies in the olden days, before being amalgamated under the Tweedale Railway banner. To distiguish this station from the former high level one, it has been named Slaghill Low (pronounced Slaggy Lur by the locals).   This overall view of the layout shows that scenery has now been added to two out of the three track boards depicted in the last blog post. Due to current difficulties in getting hold of materials, some of the larger constructional jobs that I would have liked to have completed, like baseboard tops, backscenes and layout lighting, have been defered until later. No matter, there are plenty of other jobs that can be done instead, just not in the orderly manner planned.   Zooming in on the relevant area... The combined length of these two sections (you can see the join near the signal box) is about 4'6". The knobs along the fascia are attached to wooden dowels for operating points. In the foreground is the junction section, where the lines from Upper and Lower Tweedale converge. The loco siding, situated in the fork, is used to stable the Slaghill shunter overnight, and refresh the steam loco that brings in the goods from Lower Tweedale during the day. The track leading off-scene at the far right currently terminates in a fiddle siding but will eventually be extended to Poshington and the coast. An extra siding has been added at the back of this section to serve a factory, but for the benefit of current operations is temporarily standing in as Poshington goods yard, for which a storage shed and coal heap have been provided but not glued down.   Moving on... The actual station area is confind to this 2'6" long section, and consists of three sidings arranged in the Inglenook fashion. The local shunter, a Bachmann 03, can be seen pottering in the sorting yard behind the station. The bridge in the background is supposed to represent a part of the high level line mentioned earlier.   The water tower is reputed to have been built by Italian POWs, which perhaps explains its resemblance to the decrepit example that Google shows standing in the port of Livorno here. I ought to add that the model was actually drawn up from an image grabbed several years ago and was better lit than the current Google view. As there is a more useful water tower located at the loco siding, this one may get moved elsewhere later.   A backscene will hide the woodchip wallpaper in due course, and there is a little space behind the boundary wall for some low relief buildings, which I think will probably be needed to add more interest along the back. My initial ideas of confining scenery to just that concerned with the railway are being gradually eroded.   Here we are back at the station, and it looks like there's another soot storm approaching... In order to test out different ideas for the sky background, I painted up some boards in different shades that could be slipped along the back to try out for effect. This one is in black, which certainly makes the models 'pop', and I quite like the novelty of it, but it's probably not something I'd want to stare at for years to come.   The group of industrial buildings next to the station were another Google find, this time from Moscow. Sorry, I've lost the link, and life's too short to trudge around the city looking for it again. The attraction was the pleasing assortment of shapes. I have no idea of their purpose. Although the station here acts as a terminus for passenger trains, the intention is to extend the line in the foreground over a level crossing to a steel works. By the way, the character in the blue coat, red scarf and zapata moustache is Tweedale's 'standard man'. A lot of the layout's buildings are just drawn up freehand on card without measurement, and it is his job is to inspect door clearances, ceiling heights and so on for 00 accessibility. Cheers, Alan.  
  9. Thanks for your comments folks. Quote Corbs: "I know I bang on about RC a lot, but such an idea would be ideally suited to battery power, radio control as it would not require any track wiring." That would certainly help. The simpler the system is for connecting up the better. Quote Gordon A: "Could the baseboards be made wider to include trackside buildings such as a goods shed, warehouse, factory or other industry?" The boards I'm using here will eventually be expanded out to contain scenery. I've just temporarily attached some edging to the bare track boards here to tidy them up for the photos. Quote Northroader: "Dunno about the showmanship and pizzazz, blondes in short skirts might distract the punters too much." Personally I think there's not enough showmanship at shows, but yes within limits. Quote FraserClarke: "I would have thought there is also a family of configurations with the loop in the middle?" Yes you're right. I don't know how I missed those. It looks like they would add another 6 variations to the collection. Quote Neil: "My own taste would be to include some scenery but I know that this would make the joins between models harder to manage unless there was a standard scenic end as well as a standard track end. Maybe each section could bulge out in the middle for the sscenic bit and narrow to just the trackbed for the join?" I agree. I've not really gone into the details but there are quite a few things that would need to be considered for the flexible table-top system. As well as matching scenery at the ends (maybe just a short areas of scrub?), a more robust method of track alignment than the rail joiners I'm using here would also be advisable, also the wiring and electrical connections would need thought, if not going for the RC suggested by Corbs above. OK, as I'm just about to lose my Internet access for the duration, I'll leave you here now and wish you all good health. I'll catch up with you again whenever. Alan.
  10. One layout scheme that has nagged me over the years has been that of a table-top modular system. That is, small scenic boards with simple track arrangements that can be plugged together in any configuration on a table top. I suppose it's just the next level up from set-track really. I've mentioned it before in an earlier post, but it didn't get much further at the time. However the idea has never completely gone away and the system of self-contained track modules that I'm currently using for Tweedale is a direct descendant, but for different reasons. Here the main purpose of the small modules is to allow easy construction on a workbench away from the layout itself. So far I have three of the boards wired up and working, but as yet without the scenery... Together they represent the line from Slaghill (background) to the Upper Tweedale exchange sidings (foreground), and provide enough scope for some simple shunting. Before adding more modules, I'll add scenery to these and experiment with different methods of lighting and presentation.   Now I hope you don't mind while I go off at a tangent for the rest of the post. As I had the boards lying around loose, I got to musing on the table-top system again, and wondered just how many workable combinations of these three modules I could make. As you can see, they consist basically of a small yard, a junction, and a loop. A quick calculation showed that in principle there were 72 possible ways they could be connected. However half of those were repeats (but rotated 180 degrees), while some others were unworkable as they would require additional headshunts. In the end I drew out the track plans on pieces of paper, shuffled them about, and whittled them down to 16 workable combinations... Furthermore there were also 8 workable configurations using just 2 out of the 3 modules...   For those who are into micro layouts and shunting puzzles, it seems to me this could form the basis for a small industrial shunting system, but with more operating flexibility than the usual micro. That is, once you get tired of the limitations of one configuration you could shuffle the modules for whole new operating experience. It must be said that some of the arrangements would be more satisfying to run than others.   Having got this far in my musing, the next obvious step was to consider taking such a system to an exhibition (which is unlikely but never say never). The first thing would be to pre-book a 6 foot table from the venue, then just take along a few modules, with some stock and a controller, and plonk them down in a random configuration on a dark cloth laid over the table. After a period of shunting I would then endeavour to amaze the onlookers, by taking it all apart and rearranging it into a new configuration (with a bit of showmanship and pizazz of course). Not only would it provide relief from the Small Layout Operating Boredom Syndrome, but it would also give the viewers a whole new perspective on the display.   Being set up on a table the viewpoint would be essentially birdseye, and I would make the most of this by giving the modules smoothly curved freeform edges, (bulging out to accomodate scenery), to give the overall display an eye-catching organic shape, as I've tried to depict in the diagrams above. To tidy it up I would also be inclined plug in rounded 'caps' with buffer stops to the truncated track ends. There would be no backscenes - the birdseye view combined with the dark tablecloth should be sufficient to frame the display. Scenically, I reckon a mine, quarry or other straggling single industry would work well. Another option might be an urban canyon, lining the tracks with factories and wharehouses, cropped at the module edges, but also with gaps between to provide interesting sight lines along the tracks for those with cameras or willing to stoop for an eye-level view. One thing that soon became obvious after playing around with these 2'6" modules, is that for the table-top system I'm describing they should ideally be shorter, say less than 2 feet. Actually the whole scheme would probably be better done in narrow gauge. Being more compact and with sharper curves, the display could then take on even weirder shapes. With enough modules it could become positively rococo. Now that certainly would have visual impact.   Anyway this has just been a digression into a flight of fancy. Make of it what you will. Next time I'll get back to the layout proper.   Cheers, Alan.
  11. Hi Ben B, thanks for your comments. I found that adding the extra contact definately improved the electrical pickup. The chassis is rather zippy though. I use a Gaugemaster feedback type of controller but it needs a gentle touch.
  12. Hi Northroader, that's useful advice, thanks. It's not something that had occured to me before but it does make sense. As to the Slaghill siding, the capacity would indeed be increased by taking it off the main line, but unfortunately that would open out the curve to the steel works too much, which needs to be kept at the minimum 21 inch radius in order for it to fit.
  13. Thanks for your comment Scott. Yes, it is a 1 foot grid. Corbs, thank you. I'm not thinking of cannibalising the original Tweedale. I'm quite fond of that old layout and will probably hang on to it while I have the space. Thanks Wenlock. I'm interested to see how this develops myself. Things don't often turn out as I first visualise them, so what I'll end up with is anyone's guess.
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