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Ben Alder

The Construction of the Far North Line

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It's perhaps time to give a progress report on my replacement to Kylesku & The Mound, viz. a through station based on Helmsdale and a terminus following the general layout of Thurso. Complete authenticity will not be attempted for the usual reasons, but hopefully they will pass muster once in a viewable state.
I have mused over the reasons for this change in the last two pages of my Kylesku thread- here- and a number of views of Helmsdale are included in the village website-here-, which will help set the scene.

There has not been a lot of visible work done, but the track has been laid and is being tested before fixing in place, and some additions to the baseboards to allow for the change of emphasis have been put in. I also took the opportunity to ensure that all sections were at the same level, rather than some pieces being a1/4" or so at variance. The boards are stone-age 3/4" blockboard, and are patches and retrievals from previous builds, but are solid and steady- no fomeboard extensions this time. Track is as before- C&L 00 and peco Code 75 points, with Peco on the to be hidden loops.

The layout of the two stations is making better use of the space available, and by a bit of subterfuge, should work more conviently than the last setup. The main compromise is to model a small portion of the Helmsdale platforms, and to use a loop behind the backscene as the rest of the station area. This loop will also serve as a headshunt for the terminus, which means only one station can be worked at a time, but as this is a solo setup its not a problem.

 


Edit- as there is now a photo preview of this thread, I thought that a more finished view of part of the layout, rather than a bare baseboard, might be a better intro to the build!

 

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Some photos now of where I've got to- not a pretty sight, but it takes time to get to a passable looking train set. This stage is vital though, and I've taken my time over it. I'll start with the through station, as Thurso is a bit further behind in progress.
Firstly, the cleared and added to site of The Mound and Kyle shed- the filled in T/T can be seen.
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The area was covered in 5mm foam before any track was laid.

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And eventually the track is downand ballasted, although still loose ATM- uncoupling magnets and any quirks have to be fond and sorted.

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The station layout- a double platform with crossovers, a singled ended goods siding, a two road shed and turntable, and two sidings mainly used by the PW dept.I will disguise the non platform end of the station with some rising ground.A simple track plan- only two signals needed!- but with plenty to do. The 0-4-4T is on the exact site of Kyle T/T, and shows the extent of the change I have made to the use of this side of the room. The colour pic in shot is taken more or less from the same spot as the photo, and gives an an idea of what I'm aiming for.

Some more shots to follow soon.

Edited by Ben Alder
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Looking good so far! Will be following this with interest as I have family from Thurso.

 

Cheers

James

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Good luck with this. The major changes seem like a brave but sensible move, and I'm sure you'll be much happier with the result. Fascinating prototype and subject, and it looks like you've got off to a great start with it.

Ian

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Hi Ben,

Will watch this one with interest - having not been further north than Inverness until Summer last - when my wife and I spent some time in Dornoch I found myself travelling around the far north line - although not the same in a '156'. I have also acquired a lot of reading material and some small booklets not found on your everyday bookshop charting the history of the line. Will look forward to further updates.

Bill.

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Guest Natalie Graham

Helmsdale is a station I have always thought would be a good subject for a model. It will be interesting to follow your progress.

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Thanks for the encouraging words- they do help spur me along; its a big step for me to be starting over again- I had intended to make the last layout be permament,and if I had prepared the lean-to better then it would have remained so. I do like this stage of construction though, when something concrete is laid down and a shape can be seen. You will note that the point motors are all surface mounted- this came to pass after fitting one underneath the baseboard and soldering five attaching wires to it in a 30" headroom and realising that the last time I did this I did not need glasses to see what I was doing and I didn't have a back that picked fights with me at the slightest provocation. So,ATM. it is Peco and aux. switching for the points to avoid the occasional continuity problems that happened on the last layout, always at the most unreachable ones. I am still chewing over methods of switching these, and have looked at latching relays and the suchlike, and any thoughts on this are welcome. I have looked at Tortoises, Cobalt etc., but the size and price puts me off- several of these motors are going to be disguised by buildings, so have to be compact.

 

The track is ballasted with Tracklay- a system I have used for years now with complete success- miles ahead of the loose ballast and PVA approach that is held up as the norm- and I will show its application.

I paint the sleepers beforehand with a mixture of acrylics- usually a base coat of a browny shade , and then a mix of greys , brown and earth shades at random, with siding sleepers getting more of the lighter colouring. This is done somewhat with a broadbrush approach, just to create an individual look to the track. These will be gone over again when finally in place, but the tedious task of painting each sleeper individually when the ballast is in place is a job you only do once. I know this........

 

The Tracklay is a flexible roll of single sided plastic, and a length of track is placed on the sticky side and loose ballast scattered on it, pressed down, then the excess shaken off and saved for again. Time taken to ballast a length of flexible track?Five minutes at the most, with no loss of sanity incurred either. The rail sides and chairs still have to be done, and this is a job that waits until the track is in its final position as the paint tend to lock the track into place. I have used Greenscene 4mm black ash ballast for the running lines, with the 2mm version for adjacent sidings and a dirtier mix for shed lines,with some of my old track in the lesser used sidings.

 

Pointwork has been done differently this time- on Kylesku the Peco points sat on the Exactoscale foam bed and the C&L track was aised to its level, which meant that the points had to be ballasted "wet", which wasn't totally successful because of moving point blades and the fact that the thickness of the Peco sleepering stood out in photos. So, this time I used Peco underlay, Copydexed it and ballasted it with the Greenscenes loose ballast. A hole was cut in the foam trackbed and the point dropped in, so now the Peco rail is now at the same height as the plain track. Some photos to show this.

 

The plain track,painted and unpainted.

 

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Being ballasted.

 

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And the three stages of preparation.

 

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Pointwork ballasted and ready to be planted.

 

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The painting palette- my usual choice of acrylics is shown.

 

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Points are pinned down, with a bit of vertical movement, and plain track will be held in place with cork infill and a touch of Copydex where needed, but I am a believer in letting track float rather than seized solid to the baseboards - trains run perfectly with this arrangement, I have found.

 

Lastly, two poor views of the limited storage sidings tucked into the eaves where The Mound used to be- there is a continual run round the room and three loops to tuck spare workings away. Actual fiddling will happen at a scenic break between the two stations- not yet in place.

 

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Beware the great light switch in the sky!

 

Glad to see you are back - this is looking a treat already. Can't wait to see the green stuff added.

 

Was beginning to wonder what you had been up to over the last couple of months. As usual - no pressure to produce stunning work. :good:

 

BTW - nice trick with the ballasting.

Edited by artizen

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Oh am I looking forward to this!

The brilliance of the creator of Kylesku combined with my favourite station, Thurso, looks to be a winning combination

Good luck with the build and I eagerly await regular updates.

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Great to see the progress you have made since intimating the change of set-up. The new layout is taking shape and you have certainly achieved a lot in a relatively short time. It is interesting to view the bare baseboards then following on with all the aspects of layout building taking place bringing structure to the scene. The ballasting system is something new to me and I look forward to seeing the various stages of this aspect.

 

Keep moving on with the good work, these Caley locos will be running soon.

 

Oh - good to see an A4 amongst the Black 5s on the shelf!

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I have been busy the last two days, breathing electrical life into the terminus, and although not in a finished state, because of the interest shown in Thurso, I thought I'd post some images as it is as of tonight.The terminus will manage to adopt the track layout of Thurso in steam days fairly accurately, albeit shortened, obviously, but with a degree of interpretation with regard to the engine facilities. I have included a turntable- there was one at Thurso till the early 50's- but due to space restrictions I am going to have to swing things around 180 degrees, and run onto the T/T and reverse through it to the shed. To add a bit more interest to things I also beefed up the facilities to a two road shed with an extra road. After all, if backwaters like Burghead and Tain could have sheds of this size, then a relatively large terminus would need such capacity ;)

 

A couple of overall views looking towards the buffer stops.

 

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Then two of the general shed area. On one a photo of the prototype can be seen, giving an idea of the compact size of the original. In the other the creator appears in the mirror, looking rather puzzled it seems :unsure:

 

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And lastly, a fuzzy shot showing the most important part of the scheme- the loop and headshunts that have enabled me to fit the two stations in the room more efficiently than the last ones. The two left hand points are the Helmsdale platform roads and the right hand one leads into Thurso. Anyone notice the slight problem with this set-up?

 

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To put the station in context to Kylesku, the platform is the same, and the main line is on the same trackbed, and the bare wooden bit in front of the engine shed is where the goods shed was, with the overbridge in front of it. I think this new arrangement will give a more spacious feel to the area, and has got rid of the curve beyond Kyle station bridge that did not come out well in photos. It is also going to get some nice natural light, which should make for interesting images, once I've got to that stage ......

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Good to see you making progress Richard! Like the other posters, I look forward to seeing future installments.

 

So what are you going to call it Thick or Wurso?

 

I too have been sketching plans for a HR terminal with a lot of inspiration from Wick and Thurso; I am not sure how far I will take the scheming but I should sort out my space issues before long so one of my dreams can start to take shape!

 

I do like the panoramic view of Thurso on the wall too. What is the source?

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Great to see progress Ben. This stage is important and I know you must rush it, but roll on the scenic work so we can really get the feel of it.

Don

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Good progress Richard, I am envious that I am not able as yet to start my new project.I think there is something magical about this stage of the development of a new layout as you start to see realised what was previously just in your mind's eye.

Edited by nerron

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Richard,

 

Looks like you have made an excellent start and I shall be a regular customer at this thread from now on. Good luck with the project and I look forward to seeing something to match your last high quality efforts.

 

I think mounting the point motors above the baseboards was a good call, I considered this myself but then opted for a very narrow baseboards to improve access. Time will tell if I was right.

 

Another charming prototype setting also, I can smell the fresh air!

 

Andrew

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Hi Ben

 

Sad to see the old layout go, but all the best with the new one, and I am looking forward to seeing it progress, Its quite strange really, that I have taken to holidaying at the Kylesku, it is a wonderful place. My best memory of last year, was having breakfast, in the Kylesku hotel and watching a pod of dolphins go by, about 50m away.

 

Gary

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Richard - it takes a braw mannie to take apart a really nice layout, then to replace it with another from the same part of the world - I shall be following your progress avidly

Jack

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Good to see you making progress Richard! Like the other posters, I look forward to seeing future installments.

 

So what are you going to call it Thick or Wurso?

 

I too have been sketching plans for a HR terminal with a lot of inspiration from Wick and Thurso; I am not sure how far I will take the scheming but I should sort out my space issues before long so one of my dreams can start to take shape!

 

I do like the panoramic view of Thurso on the wall too. What is the source?

 

More encouragement from you all :blush: - I hope I'll be able to come up with the goods after all that. I'm taking time to get the track running well, and any decouplers and sections installed before fixing down. My original plan was to do the through station before I tackled the Kylesku rebuild, but it made more sense to do all work needed at the same time, which is slower in one way, but probably more sensible in the long run.

My little poser last night hung on the junction between the two stations. Due to the room set-up and position of the access hatch, Helmsdale had to be configured the way it is set out, and the two roads run onto the loop that serves the teminus as well. Perhaps unfortunately, it is the South end of Helmsdale that runs into Thurso so it is going to be worked "back to front" from the prototype. This is not going to be a problem in practical terms that I can see, but is one of the hostages to fortune that arise when attaching a real name to a model set-up. I hummed and hawed about making names up for the two stations, but decided that nothing I came up with would sit comfortably with me, and would probably end up continually explaining why they looked like H... and T..... So, I'll just have to excuse myself from any variations from the prototype layout :unsure: .......

 

 

The picture on the wall shows Thurso c1956-7 when it was well used, and one of the reasons I model this era, being old enough to remember as a small boy this level of activity. The continual decline of freight throughout the diesel days was too depressing for me to recreate,

I'm afraid. The actual picture came, AFAIK, from a book that was given to the "Atomics"- those incomers who arrived in large numbers to work at the Dounreay site- to prepare them for where they were going to, and floats too much on the far side of copyright laws to feature more prominently. I have thought of speaking to the archive section of Dounreay re.this picture, as it rather a good shot, with regard to making it available more widely, but its something I haven't got round to yet.

 

60027 Merlin said

 

"Keep moving on with the good work, these Caley locos will be running soon."

 

I certainly hope so, and they were the catalyst for the decision to shift stations on the layout. The Pickersgills and 812's didn't feature much on the Kyle line latterly, being more at home further north and east, and will be well used on the new line. Helmsdale had two or three 4-4-0's of the class at one time, and the Small Bens ended their days around here as well., and I have had a bit of a windfall with regard to these engines over the autumn. My hybrid Ben used parts of the NuCast/Sutherland kit and the CR engine was from the same sources. These engines usually hung around in twos or threes, and due to some fortunate poking around the electronic ether I managed to get a couple more. One weekend on ebay, two Pickersgills turned up, one a kit and another ready made- and I got the kit for a reasonable sum. Then, while browsing through the Scale four forum - a site well worth a visit now and then- I found that the guy who owned the Nucast tools-Autocom?- was retiring at Xmas and was going to do a last casting run, so I put in for a 4-4-0 minus its chassis parts and also the bits I'd used from the Small Ben. It was a bit vague whether he would manage or not, but, lo and behold, they came through the post mid December. I'm delighted with this additions to the stockpile, and will do at least one more Pickersgill and I think a stovepipe Ben can be added to the roster as well. I'm going to be busy for some time I can see.

 

 

In addition to this, a 16xx was picked up on ebay- half built but not needing too much to finish it off- its a bit of a pity it arrived too late for The Mound, but will be equally at home at Helmsdale, and no doubt do some trip/ station pilot work there. This is going to be one engine that I can't bodge with a Bachmann chassis - it is quite a bit smaller than the 57xx, so a motor and gearbox is planned for it.

 

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love the layout - I used to live in scotland and have been to thurso. its quite a nice place ( when not raining!)

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It has rained and blown a gale for about a week now, with bu***r all light either- not the best time of year up here, I'm afraid. I have managed to get a lot of work done on the layout though- its been so unpleasant I've even stopped going to the pub for my nightcap....

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Hello Richard,

 

great to see the progress on your new layout.

 

Markus

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Hi Richard, just been catching up with the new layout, and looking forward to developments like everyone else.

 

Those panniers are a welcome sight, will be interesting to see how the 16xx turns out. Any thoughts yet on what gearbox and motor you'll be using for it?

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Hi Richard, Sorry to see the demise of Kylesku and the Mound but really looking forward to seeing the progress on your new project. I did not realize that Pannier Tanks got to Scotland! I may get one to shunt Lessismore Sidings. Keep the pic's coming as before. All the best Andy.

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Hi Richard, just been catching up with the new layout, and looking forward to developments like everyone else.

 

Those panniers are a welcome sight, will be interesting to see how the 16xx turns out. Any thoughts yet on what gearbox and motor you'll be using for it?

 

I have a store of Portescaps stached away, and plan to use one of them - a bit excessive perhaps, but I've wanted to see how they work for a long time now. To be done sometime soonish.

 

 

Hi Richard, Sorry to see the demise of Kylesku and the Mound but really looking forward to seeing the progress on your new project. I did not realize that Pannier Tanks got to Scotland! I may get one to shunt Lessismore Sidings. Keep the pic's coming as before. All the best Andy.

 

Wiring and track testing is just about done- I am having wobblies about bogie mounting S&W couplings to the coaches to keep to one make of coupling, but I like the body mounted Kadees. I'm going to trial a few to see how they perform before I fix the track down, as this has a bearing on where I fix uncoupling magnets- trying to think ahead here. The GW Panniers were rather area specific, I'm afraid, but one did end up at Perth shed after withdrawal, so it could be argued that it was sent elsewhere to fill in.

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Another week of track tweaking and general trialling has taken place, and finally all is in its rightful position and ready for fixing down. I have slewed over a couple of the hidden loops to allow for a bit more space at Helmsdale, and adjusted the T/T approach road at Thurso to reduce the severity of the curve, and the turntable has been fitted in its new home- it even got some lubrication for the first time since it arrived at Kyle.

A couple of photos to show the final set-up at the terminus. Despite appearances there has been a good bit of work done since the last ones were posted and several problems were sorted or replaced.

 

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The seemingly endless quest for a coupling system is ongoing, and following one or two postings about bogie mounting S&W couplings to coaching stock, I decided to try this out myself. I had used these couplings on coaches before, but fitted to the bodies, which led to problems with some of my curves, so Kadees were fitted instead. These work well, but running two systems has been less than ideal- I kept the S&W's on goods stock as Kadees just don't cut it on 4w wagons to my eye- so, following successful running of a few prototypes, another job has been added to the ever growing list. It will also be an opportunity to retire several coaches that have reached the end of their useful life.

 

It also has enabled me to tackle something that had been annoying me for some time now; viz. getting a realistic distance between coaches. I know the existing stock has way beyond scale gaps, and it was always a job that never seemed to reach the top of the pile. Here are the first ones done- rough and ready, as any work done was mostly on the layout and involved shortening buffers and connections that got in the way of the couplings. It'll be all tidied up when they are taken into the workshops!

 

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The foreground coaches have the Spratt and Winkles fitted, while the background ones have Kadees fitted to the bodies, and rather an excessive distance between them.

 

 

A close up of the gap between the new coupled coaches.

 

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And two Mk1's.

 

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For the moment I am about to start filling in between tracks with cork to provide a base for the start of scenic work, so it is going to be a case of stop playing with the trains and get on with chapter two of the construction. Thing should speed up from now as there is no need, hopefully, to spend time checking and testing everything twice or more as has been the case up to now. We'll see....... :unsure:

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Wow - RIP Kylesku, I think you are doing the right thing I know you had some misgivings about the old layout even when you first started posting on here.

 

It does take a certain amount of courage to totally flatten it all and start afresh, I think it will look fantastic, Thurso is a nice location and in latter/simplified days one of the stations I'd like to model. Helmsdale likewise as an 'If space was not an issue'.

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