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AFK A room sized layout that hosts intensive operating sessions.

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Initial progress on this project has been slow due to other calls upon my time. Some of these have been model railway connected and some have not. The interregnum has allowed the opportunity for some reflection rather than just setting to as a reflex response. The proposed changes are shown on the plan below.


49362902576_795f64fbca_z.jpgops decant 020 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


From a track layout point of view five new points and a crossing will be required to expand the layout. These will all be handbuilt as is the rest of the pointwork.. Quite naturally as much of the layout as possible has been left unaltered. The rationale behind the changes is outlined below but the underlying problem is that the layout has become overwhelmed by the traffic now offered. In addition a new siding will also be added at Urteno.


Track alterations.


49362438583_f04c4ac554_z.jpglacbuilt by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


The existing layout is shown above for comparison with the intended layout. The diagram is a more accurate depiction of the layout than the sketch above. The observant will note that the old three way point on the south side of the station, the line leading to Relforka, was replaced some time ago by two conventional points.


On the north (right hand) side of the new layout the old goods loop and end loading sidings have been turned into running loops and the goods shed has been moved to a brand new loop which will incorporate a wagon turntable. This will allow a flat wagon to be swung round to unload against an angled platform face as was common in French NG practice. The goods shed will be a minimum structure containing little more than a front wall as the extension of the baseboard into the aisle (towards the bottom of the diagram) will be kept as narrow as possible. Stock will be protected by a clear plastic sheet. The goods loop will hold eight wagons whereas the old one only held six. On the other hand the now repurposed siding held an additional four wagons.


The old goods siding will be extended as a loop intended to hold eight wagons acting whilst acting as an additional storage area for the station. Wagons destined for unloading can be left here and shunted into the goods shed loop when the wagons there have been dealt with. Loaded wagons can similarly be left on the loop in the short term. The adjacent loop, previously occupied by the goods shed, will obviously hold six wagons as it did previously but it is anticipated that it will become a headshunt, reversing the orientation of the yard which was previously worked from the south (left) end. As anyone who has followed the operation sessions will be aware this practice has caused numerous problems over the years as there is a conflict with through mainline traffic. Although the headshunt will be short it will allow direct access to the two new sidings at the south end of the layout. These will hold eight and six wagons and the current, semi moribund, bulk unloading point siding can hold four clear of the current loop which accommodates seven wagons. This holding role will be much reduced if the sidings function as marshalling roads but it will still be available for short periods as trains stand after arrival or awaiting departure.


One other option under consideration is the piercing of the backscene in the Goat Pen. The Goat Pen, you might recall, is the road leading to the offscene industrial area into which the railway is set. (It obviously obtained its name in a more bucolic era.) This is shown as B for the Bevoliax carpet factory on the as built diagram. The Bevoliax factory has been transferred to Urteno with the installation of the Verdamolln paper mill. Whereas previously the siding saw relatively little use, even after the Spolatto agricultural machinery factory was placed there, it now sees much more. The difficulty and increasing frequency of placing the fireless loco and complicated SG wagon formations on transporters onto the siding is exacerbated by the proximity of the trolleybus wiring. A decision has been taken to evaluate possibility of placing a cassette onto the area behind Ghealdaban halt on the turn back curve. This are has fortunately not yet received scenic treatment.




The construction of the six points and crossings and the laying of the new sidings will be the relatively easy aspect of this project. Something like seventeen point controls will need extending across the new baseboard and some, but by no means all, of the point microswitches will need resiting. Six existing control panels will also need bringing forward from their old positions which may or may not include rewiring. Given the disruption that this will cause it seems to be as good a time as any to finish the colour light signalling system which was begun years ago. Nine signals of varying complexity are needed to complete this installation. The level crossing over the Karushnastrato also needs completion. It was originally intended that this would be a working lifting barrier but this will now be considerably complicated by the sub baseboard fittings and may be installed as a static item only.


The layout was designed to come apart, although the southern end is fixed. The prospects are that the layout will have to be partially dismantled to undertake the work as outlined. It could be some time therefore before the layout resumes operations.


Ian T



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It has been some time since I last posted on here.


Three progress reports are available on the website which can be accessed from the Latest Information.


I have also loaded my other layouts onto the site. These can be accessed from the same page.


Included below is a shot of the garden set up which is currently being rebuilt.


49654849581_592f4ea291_z.jpg3 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


There are a lot more photos on the gerden railway and an introduction to the GNoSR layout.


Ian T

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After a long rebuild, interrupted by things modelling related and otherwise, the track alterations at Lacono are now finished.


As I have run out of copperclad sleepers (more on order) I have turned my hand to some townscape developments.


A few are photos enclosed to show that the AFK is still alive and kicking.


49816024393_5760ccde81_z.jpg45 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


The new track layout at Lacono is visible here looking along the length of the station from the north end.

Five new points and a diamond crossing have been shoehorned into the exisiting layout to increase capacity.

Two new running loops and two marshalling sidings should help the station cope with traffic.


The photo is already out of date in that a new goods shed and retaining walls have been added to prevent stock taking a dive to the floor.


49829331033_1eb7555c45_z.jpg52 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


7. The garage has now got a second storey, mainly so that I can work out the arrangements for the chocolate factory behind it. The name translates as “Everything for Cars” and the whole inspiration, down to the name, was lifted from a photograph of a train running through the streets of Luxembourg in the 50s. The breakdown wagon can no longer hide in the Goat Pen so it is making a nuisance of itself at the most congested point in the city streets, where the Karushnostrato crosses the railway. Cars requiring minor attention simply stop in the middle of the road.


Hoopefully the railway will soon be back to running again.


Ian T

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The AFK is back in action!


It is some time since I last posted about the AFK. The few of you who are regulars on here will remember that it shut down for a protracted rebuild at the end of 2019. This was extensively documented with a series of posts on a Narrow Gauge website and can be accessed by accessing the link above.


The first operating session after the closure has now begun. There have been some problems as the layout beds down to the changes but this was expected. Much of the layout has been untouched, apart from acting as storage for stock, for the rebuild. As with any complex electro-mechanical device, standing idle for a protracted period generates its own problems. A number of snags also became apparent when operations restarted because equipment was slightly damaged during the rebuild, but not so obviously as to be noticeable. Microswitch activators had occasionally been knocked out of alignment and wires had dropped out of multi-pinned connectors. These are all easy to rectify but often do not come to light until something fails to do what it should do! After a couple of days running and rectifying, things have improved and most of the layout is now behaving itself.


A full complement of pictures is now available on the website, although a few are posted here as tasters.


The website has been published and should be showing the late May version. My Google browser version does not seem to have updated but it has in others. If you cannot find Session 7 could you let me know and I will get onto technical support.


49929417901_3ca33fbb28_z.jpg7-07 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


7. By 04.30 the Urteno goods is ready to depart Lacono and the goods shed has received the SG vans from the concentration points in the capital and the major cities. These will be unloaded during the morning before being reloaded during the afternoon for goods going out from the AFK. The SG tanker on the next road across has been brought in to take a load of tar from the gasworks. The four track yard emphasises the changes that have taken place here. The two loops to the left are new, as is the goods shed building. The snowscene, at the back, will eventually be traversed by the goods train standing alongside the trainshed wall. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is not possible to vary the different seasons shown in each setting although the accessories can be changed!


49929719607_1289a4b312_z.jpg7-12 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


13. By 06.05 the local goods has finished sorting out its train at Boursson and waits on the main for the down railcar to pass. The railcar is supposed to take priority but it has been put through the loop to make things easier for the crew of the goods. The signal is showing “depart from loop” (yellow) and once the railcar has passed the loco will run round and then wait for the up railcar.


49929719767_ab3c86eddd_z.jpg7-14 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


14. Although it is early spring the cafes have reopened their outdoor tables and are serving breakfast. “Coffee granita, Sir”, served with a Carrodantis chocolate topping, chocolate made the Modican way. It is well before 05.30 as the Fenditavalat shunter pulls past this vignette as it prepares the morning goods in the capital of Calviero canton. This is an example of the accessories mentioned in caption 7. It has been living in a box throughout the “winter” but has now come out again. The “winter” accessories, such as the toboggans, are now back in their boxes. It is a bit early for the “summer” scene setters, such as the bathers at the lido, to return just yet.


Ian T

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The latest batch of photos is now available.


49955290236_586ac50887_z.jpg7-38 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


37. The branch railcar, meanwhile is preparing the pick ups for the goods at Glissent. It has pushed a six wheel van into the road and is picking up a van from the Co-op siding. The van in the road will then be pushed in for loading with wheat to go to Fenditavalat. This will doubtlessly be a cause of consternation to someone as the train loadings do not really account for the few six wheeled vehicles, which usually throw a spanner into the works. The railcar is as far into the siding as it is practical to go and the wagons are pushed out of the “long grass” by hand. Having already had one problem this session with “long grass” (photo 18) there is no need to temp fate. Access to the Co-op siding, as with many other places on the layout, is tight and the road sign has been removed to prevent it catching rolling stock.


49955573712_714ac224b1_z.jpg7-44 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


43. Another “traditional” picture in this series of articles. The express will be hauled by the Swedish diesel and the local, terminating at Urteno, will be pulled by the Austrian I-B-I. As we have now entered one of the “off seasons” the express simply consists of two coaches and a mail van. The Pullman, an extra coach and possibly an observation car will return during the summer.


49955574267_98a35c62ac_z.jpg7-53a by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


52. The special goods has crossed the fields in the valley bottom above Glissent. It is held outside the station at the four aspect home signal.  The Eromarbordo branch train has a couple of vans of to transfer to the up local goods. This will require the branch train to stand on the mainline to the south of the station whilst the traffic is transferred onto the local goods. Once this has been done the branch train loco will run back onto its train  and the special will pull in to cross the KTT local and then wait for the branch local to follow it into the loop. These complex manoeuvres are common on the AFK once special trains begin to run. They help to underpin the need for a more complex signalling system than might, at first sight, be needed. That gives me an excuse to built continental semaphore signals in all their strange, to British eyes, manifestations.


Ian T


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1 hour ago, Barry O said:

How stable are the Narrow Gauge wagons with a standard gauge wagon on it? they look a bit top heavy.


To some extent the answer to the question is that it depends on the quality of the track.

On straight and level track with no dip across the rails they are stable.

The AFK has few places that meet these desirable conditions, unfortunately!


On the whole I have found no real problems with stability although the bogie open in the picture shown above had a large and heavy metal weight removed from the vehicle.

The main reason for this was mainly to help the locos to pull the SG wagons up the steep gradients along the line.


The majority of SG wagons are by Lima and made of plastic so they don't present a problem.

Many of the others were made by Billerbahn or Rai-Mo and are also of plastic.

The modern Lenz and Brawa wagons are heavier but have not created problems so far.

The real test will be a Billerbahn kit for an acid carbuoy wagon made from white metal. It weighs a ton!

I have never seen one of these as a "runner", partly because it is not particularly well designed with regard to the running gear and partly because it would probably strip the gear box of any O gauge loco!


Transporters were used on 75cm lines which is what O-16.5 roughly represents and did not usually create stability problems.

When they did come off they wreaked havoc, however.

There are one or two photos of SG bogie opens, like the one referred to, which fell off some Polish transporters.


Sista taget ut also contains some spectacular photos of the derailment that closed the Braas branch in Sweden.

This consisted of a Tp3500 and some stake wagons on transporters loaded with Volvo dumper trucks. 

There wasn't much left afterwards!


Ian T

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The operating session contimues with around thirty photos available here.


49959858856_3b0875b4dd_z.jpg7-68 - Copy by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


67. Not so fast! Firstly for the loco, which received extensive maintenance/repairs at MaD, the AFK’s main works. The MaDmen discovered that the quartering was shifting because certain wheels had come loose on the axles. Out came the araldite and the wheels were attended to, although the body fixing then fell apart. After sorting this out and reattaching some broken pick up wires to the pony truck, a short internal section of the boiler was also removed and the ‘old gal’ was like a spring chicken once more. It does raise questions, however about the pre-session examinations that are carried out. I don’t mind doing this kind of work but it is irritating in the middle of a running session. The chassis bought for the replacement shunter will doubtless find a use sometime or other. Not so fast too. The crew were so excited at having a loco that worked that they coupled Lacono’s beer supply into the local goods being formed for the afternoon KTT train. This potentially hideous error was discovered in time to keep the beer flowing in the capital.


49985452428_f3be364e78_z.jpg7-71 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


70. The Urteno pilot waited for the railcar to arrive before running up to Varden where it will shunt the siding. Eventually a phone will be provided here for the crew to contact Urteno box to obtain a release for the points. This is an awkward location to work because of the steep gradient and merits a page in the Working Instructions. It is easiest to shunt wagons in and out in separate movements. The loco will pick up an open of wood for the paper mill. The fence behind the loco protects the railway stock from errant shots on the golf course.


49985968686_9a2d6f2f4f_z.jpg7-79 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


79. We are talking about the vagaries of Schlusselwerk locking here so if any expert can tell me in English whether this dodge was possible I would be pleased to know. My reading of German texts, with inadequate self taught German suggests that it was possible. This is the AFK frame at Boursson based on German Streckenblock techniques. It is incomplete and needs attention before it is finished. The locking tray is still absent as are the route setting levers. Unfortunately it has also warped slightly. At the left we have the two tone block bells which announce that a train has entered the section. Next to that is the block instrument, an Eingleisenstrecke Bautyp C with only three ‘flags’. The route setting levers will go below this. The two 180º throw levers work the entry points at each end of the station and the four crank handles at the right work the signals. These can be rotated either way to obtain the ‘take loop’ indication if needed whilst the through route engages the distant on the extra turn, as was conventional, although the pointers are currently missing. The AFK is unconventional, inevitably, because the German hardware is connected to French signals. In the middle, left until last, we have the keys for the Schlusselwerk system. The keys, in grey, were used to unlock points for shunting purposes. Removing one from the machine operated a locking bar which prevented the signals from being worked, and vice versa, thereby creating a sequential locking system. As I said, I believe it was possible to accommodate the circumstances that have arisen at Boursson this morning.


Ian T

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The latest photos from the current operating session are now available.


50008153193_c76dd06bb0_z.jpg7-100 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


100. The KTT afternoon goods shunts two vans of seed potatoes into the Co-op at Breĉo de Glissent. Although one hour is allowed for shunting here the train has to work around the mixto and the railcar which reduces its usefulness. The new timings include a generous margin for running late in case more time is needed, as it will be today.


50008153593_9749c6563c_z.jpg7-103 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


103. Less than one hour after the previous electric railcar and Post van left, the I-D-I runs down onto its counterpart on the opposing service. The two trains crossed at Nordabordo and a similar (identical down to the number!) railcar has brought the
TPO up to the main square. It really is time that the proposed electric loco got built! Regarding 929, the big diesel, I have never understood the sight lines over the huge bonnet. As I have remarked before it must have been very difficult to couple onto NG stock or to see a shunter guiding you in. The driver, just visible through the open door, has changed position for the move through the city gate. It wouldn’t do to inadvertently crush any cars by reversing this behemoth in the streets. Two more driving position changes later and he will be ready to depart. The guard is calling up through the open door to say that he is now coupled on and can make the move. It must have been cold operating like this in the Arctic winter!


50008191223_564de28fcf_z.jpg7-106 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


105. The railcar makes another quick reappearance, this time with the goods trip from Rivaborda. It was quite common to find such railcars working goods trains on the electrified continental secondary lines. Theoretically this should be the third item of electrified stock to appear within the square within the last 90 minutes but I doubt that I will ever possess so much stock.


Ian T

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The operating session continues.

Other matters have intervened but another thirty photos are available.

It seems to take the website a little time to load up so you may have to wait a minute or so to see the photos.


50040100518_3fefca5659_z.jpg7-125 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


125. The activity in the goods yard coincides with the preparations for the evening commuter and schools’ trains. One objective in extending the yard was an attempt to stop conflicts over the diamond crossing at the entrance to the yard and the need to occupy the mainline in the absence of a headshunt. An unforeseen consequence of the changes is that this area has now become busy at this time of day. The Urteno railcar is leaving the shed whilst the pilot and the mill wagons stand in the tunnel. The ECS also includes the trailer for the KTT train. The intention is to run both trains into platform 3 today rather than reverse the KTT train into platform 2 with a trailer on the rear, as has been previous practice. The KTT railcar will follow this train into the platforms. The incoming KTT local is being shunted by the train loco which is scheduled to run to Urteno if necessary. The bogie flat, which carried farm implements earlier in the day (photo  50) has been brought to Lacono. It will probably be easier to return it to Relforka in this manner than complicating the shunting of the two local trains.


50040654571_9261d45ce0_z.jpg7-142 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


144. The railcar “meanwhile” is crossing the Magasoromban, to use the indigenous term. It makes the stop at Ayleha, out in the wilds of Rolnth canton, adjacent to the chapel. This is the only official down train scheduled to stop here but a blind eye is often turned for Marronĝaccan speaking locals.


50040654851_e8a95ebf56_z.jpg7-154 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


157. The retimed schools’ train stops at every conditional halt across the Kasatritikakamparoj but as it approaches Breĉo de Glissent it finds the home signal at danger because shunting is taking place. There are only a few passengers on board by now and the railcar is almost an empty stock train on the last leg of its journey into Relforka as it does not connect with anything.


Ian T

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The operating session has now finished.

The relatively quick completion can be attributed to every other activity that I am interested in, such as cricket and church music, being banned by the government.

There are around forty photos on the website.

It will take the website a short time to load due to the numerous photos.


50071393036_252d89c090_z.jpg7-162 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


165. Having crossed the railcar at Boursson the down KTT goods ambles along the valley bottom. The train has spent one hour standing at Boursson because, unusually, there were no wagons to set out or pick up and, for once, it had been correctly marshalled in the yard. It is on a tight timing on this section of its journey to get into the clear at Glissent so that the mixto is not delayed. There should not be any problems this evening as the front two vans and the hopper will be detached at Sojonno but there are no pick ups from the factory there..


50071646817_3dfc859dda_z.jpg7-177 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


180. The ‘coal sidings’ got their name in the early days of the layout from the coal wagons parked there waiting to return to the colliery. They were shed from trains over the tonnage limits for the Vulpafaŭkangulo. The name has stuck, although fewer coal wagons visit nowadays. The general coal loadings have been cut with opening of the paper mill to keep things balanced. Yesterday (session 6) these sidings were plugged for much of the day which is why the new long siding was added. By 19.30 today there is not too much space as the ferry traffic is sorted out from the southbound wagons and those needing to go to the goods shed. In effect the sidings have developed into a useful, albeit small, auxiliary marshalling yard and at the same time the loop nearest to the aisle has become much more freight orientated than it used to be. I suppose, as well, that this small part of the layout effectively operates as the equivalent of an Inglenook Sidings layout. It must be said that the locking of a typical British layout would involve the signalman in a large amount of work as the stock was shuffled between roads but, under the home brewed system that I am considering, this will not be the case. The difficulties of fitting colour light signals to this location have caused me to reconsider the signalling scheme. The outer extremities will remain as colour lights but the station itself will probably have semaphores, perhaps pneumatically operated. Given the upgraded status of the sidings I am sure that the ‘men’ will also be demanding some sort of accommodation, preferably at some remove from officialdom. Clearances are tight but it might just be possible to squeeze in a shed beside the bridge abutments.


50071647302_4bd5ac4aa4_z.jpg7-181a by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


“185a. I thought that I had published this photo before but I could not find it in any of the previous sessions. It was definitely published in Narrow Lines, the 7mmNGA magazine. The slacker lounges in his deckchair at the bottom end of the siding out of sight of the foreman. He is a 1:48 figure and was demobbed from the Luftwaffe. I painted him into the ‘blues’ of the local sugar factory that I once worked in. The ‘kit’ was very good quality. I still use it today, twenty years on, whenever I go out running. Believe it or not there is track in the ‘jungle’ in front of him although the wagons that reach this point are pushed in by hand to save straining the loco mechanisms. The siding literally goes to the edge of the bank and the coupling gear of wagons at its extremity hang out over the fast flowing current. There are only a couple of small wheel retainers to prevent wagons taking a dip.


50071648362_4cec13cf7b_z.jpg7-192 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


196. The up railcar is also away from the junction. On the tail tonight is the AFK’s observation car. This is under construction at the moment and has been put onto the tail to see how it runs, particularly with regard to clearances. The balloon roof is much higher than the arc roof stock but I don’t expect problems because the line is obviously cleared for SG wagons on transporters. I am not sure that the trailing saloon has slipped into position properly because the window rail does not appear to be parallel with the cant rail.


It is envisaged that a long shut down will now be needed to undertake some of the work listed at the end of the session's commentary.


Ian T

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48 hours after the last operating session finished and the layout is a shambles.

A full report will follow but I think that the single photo below says enough.


50075801927_8ed3e13e32_z.jpg2 by Ian Thompson, on Flickr


The middle and northern boards at Lacono have been removed for the first time since 2006.

The north end board is propped against the swingbridge baseboard and the trainshed is at the end of the aisle against Aspargo control panel.


The Big Yellow Book allegedly contains details of the layout's hardware, although it has been patchily updated over the years.

To be fair it did indicate the existence of two securing screws of which I was unaware which helped with the dismantling.


The problem with this multi purpose type of project is that a lot of work has to be done whilst the layout is in bits.

As we sit here at the start of July I would be surprised if the layout will be operable before late October.


Ian T

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  • 3 months later...

Contrary to rumours, and despite an absence for some months, the AFK is not dead.


The latest review of neglible progress is available here.


There are no photos to go with this post as they simply show mundane tasks associated with rebuilding.


Ian T

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nterim report 9 is now available.


I attempted to upload a photo from flickr but they seem to have changed their system.


I am losing my will to live with these stupid internet companies.

As usual it seems to be, "It ain't broken so lets b*****r about with it so nobody now knows what to do."

Any idea of long term stability or user friendliness seems to be anathema to these techno-geeks


Anybody any ideas about how to upload flickr to this forum or is it going the way of Photobucket?


If you want to read the report AND SEE PICTURES click here.


Ian T

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When you reply to a topic,add ypu photo as a file "add files" then once it has loaded, position the cursor where you want the picture to be added

 Left click your mouse on the location you want. . Then click on the + button on the picture and ot should load.



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