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Whitefriargate Goods (aka "The Boxfile")

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Late last year I spent a fair amount of time repairing and sorting out my boxfile layout. A blow-by-blow account of the work has been posted in my layout blog - see here:






 but I think it might be worth posting a short description of the layout itself as a thread in this section


Whitefriargate Goods (to give it its formal title - which hardly ever gets used) was one of the early boxfile layouts. In 2004 (gosh) Phil Parker suggested at a DOGA AGM that we should have a competition - "Build something in a boxfile" - with the entries to be displayed at Warley for public voting. 


My initial reaction was that it couldn't be done. You couldn't get points to fit inside a boxfile - it wasn't on. I had in fact slightly misunderstood Phil, who was thinking in terms of dioramas, but anyway I dug out the Peco point templates and a boxfile to demonstrate to my own satisfaction the impossibility. 15 minutes later I had discovered that not only could it be done, you could get two Peco small Y points back to back and still have room for an 08 in a headshunt without fouling the point blades




Matters developed from there , and at Warley it was one of two working entries, and came joint first. (The other working layout featured fold out boards that permitted a tiny circuit. I don't know what happened to that layout subsequently)




One of the rules of the competition was that you had to be able to close the lid of the box, and this influenced the dismantlable buildings. It has also meant that storage was easy and (fairly) safe. The unprotected rail ends proved a mistake


These photos are some years old and predate the recent upgrade, but the layout itself is unchanged








Stock , including the locos, is housed in two more boxfiles:




and the whole lot likes in a storage drawer under the bed




The track is code75 livefrog, thoroughly buried under ash and Metcalfe cobbles, and points are operated by Peco solenoids. This was my first attempt with point motors and I did not realise the need for a CDU. An external CDU was constructed a couple ofr years ago and substantially improved operation:




Operation is as a shunting puzzle, using 7 wagons (3 off stage on the holding track, 3 empties onstage, and one wagon under the wagon hoist) It usually takes an hour or so to work through, because the 'file is demanding to shunt


Finally some stock:





(I've just got couplings on this one...)


P.S. :  All being well, the Boxfile should be on display on the DOGA stand at Stevenage on the Sunday...




Edited by Ravenser
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Thanks for the kind words from everyone


A couple more photos:




A Silver Fox resin body with an old style Bachmann 04 chassis under it , and added pickups. One of the original 05s used at Ipswich


Almost all the wagons are kits or at least reworked - there's just 4 RTR chassis in the fleet


These two were Ratio kits from my teens which somehow survived and were reworked and rebuilt for the layout. (Older members will recall that we broke RMWeb three or four times in the early years, with a little help from a couple of web hosting companies. The rebuild of these two was posted on my workbench thread on RMWeb 1.0 or 2.0 - long gone - so the picture is perhaps worth retrieving from my folders)


Some wagons, like these, were recycled from past layouts after being in boxes, others were kits that wouldn't really fit into my "normal" 1980s modern image period, and others still just seemed to happen along the way


The Boxfile was also intended as a test-bed for Sprat & Winkle couplings. My feelings about those are fairly mixed....


- Yes, they are better than tensionlocks - less obtrusive, and capable of automatic uncoupling, potentially even of delayed action though I've not really got that to work. Even if manual intervention is required it's less hassle than with tensionlocks


- They are a terrible faff to make up. Three wagon's worth is a full evening's work. Kadees are much easier


- They are very easily bent by a collision with the file walls or anything else


- The Boxfile isn't really suitable for them. An uncoupling magnet in the middle of a crossover wasn't a great idea, but there was nowhere else for it to go. I have problems with couplings parting at the interfile joint: this can't be a track problem now I've eliminated the track joint. I think I installed another magnet somewhere - I'm wondering if it was round here.


- I suppose I really should chemically blacken the prongs at some time


All in all the Kadees on Blacklade are much quicker and more reliable . I normally get the various uncoupling magnets on Blacklade to work though delayed action is a little elusive even there



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  • 1 month later...

 Great little layout, I remember seeing it a few years ago and watching it for ages. Are you showing it anywhere this year?



Thanks for the comments. It's only just been resurrected, and I've no exhibition bookings as such, but it may make a static appearance on the DOGA stand at Ally Pally

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  • 1 year later...

This may be worth updating:


Wagon Reform Programme


Since then a little more progress has been made.


I acquired a Hornby Peckett, in black , discounted at Rails. It runs beautifully, it's tiny , and I've finally put wires below the buffer heads so it can couple with Sprat & Winkle couplings. (The NEM pockets are still in place). I now need to give it a proper operating session on the 'file. I'm hoping that a very smooth-running slow running loco will improve operational reliability even more.  I took a peek at the Hatton's Barclays at Ally Pally, but until there's a 14" Barclay in a nondescript livery available at a discount I'm not getting the chequebook out... 


I've decided to swap out the Parkside BR van from the fleet, as it was one of the remaining delinquent wagons . It's been given a set of ENPARTS van transfers , Kadees, and more weathering and cascaded to Blacklade, to supply DMU spares to the fuelling point. It's being replaced by an elderly ex Lima (I think) van , which is a bit flat-roofed but more importantly seems to stay on the track. This came from Ravenser Mk1 and has been languishing in a box in the study for ever. It was one of my first detailing projects and acquired a Parkside clasp-braked underframe. Unfortunately none of the BR vent vans with clasp-braked underframes had planked doors - so I ended up rubbing down the doors and repainting them. TOPS boxed lettering was replaced with a suitable number. Not perfect but it will pass muster at "normal viewing distance"  . Another vehicle out of storage into traffic - or almost so....


I bought a Parkside LNER van kit at Ally Pally (being a bit light on LNER vehicles for the desired stock ratios). For a wonder this has been built and painted. Perhaps I should have replaced the Parkside buffers with whitemetal castings and I'm not sure I've assembled the LNER vacuum gear linkages 100% right but still... 


All I have to do is fit couplings to both and have a play to check they work. They've been sitting on my bookshelf for at least a fortnight

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  • 2 months later...

Life proved a little more complicated than I hoped, as the switch working the headshunt points died. 


It had always been a little loose, as it had lost the outer  retaining nut at some point. This became worse once the  boxfiles were mounted to a chassis and the switch fitted through a hole in the backplate, and eventually this switch died completely. 


I found an unused spare in my electrical bags, and during the week I finally got around to fitting it. Since the switch in question is inside the wagon hoist building in the corner it proved necessary to remove the lowest stage of the wagon hoist - fortunately this broke out cleanly without damage.


Fitting the replacement switch in place, and soldering on the wires was an awkward job, but eventually I managed it, and the point is once again working fine.


And, after an inordinate length of time I've finally got the couplings on the two new wagons , and both wagons have been tested with the Peckett.


They stay on the track. 


Considering the wagon being replaced wouldn't , this is a considerable improvement. I am slowly  eliminating the things that don't work and turning the Boxfile into a reliable layout. We are now down to about 5 dodgy wagons, and the Peckett continues to run with remarkable smoothness and slowness. The fact that its wheels are quite a bit smaller than those of the Black Beetles under two of my other locos no doubt helps, and I suspect the gear ratios are much lower


The new LNER van is not quite as good as I'd like.  For some reason it seemed necessary to widen one side of the floor with microstrip and I seem to have overdone it slightly. At least the door on one side projects a little further out - and as the Boxfile is built on ultra-tight clearances, this is enough to foul both the wagon hoist doorway , and the interfile division . If the van is turned the other way , all is well..... So that is how it will have to run.


And although the van has all 4 feet on the floor , something is not quite right below and it does not run as freely as it should . One wheelset is free enough, the other seems a touch stiff. I've checked and there are no brake blocks fouling.


But it does run , and it does stay on the track. 


To finish , a couple of pictures from the Peckett's previous outing :




At some point I will get around to blackening the couplings. The Peckett is tiny - but that's all to the good on this layout


And a more general view of the Boxfile during the operating session




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  • 1 year later...

An update with a couple of blog postings relating to the Boxfile:


Wagons from the cupboard

Commissioning and running things


The Boxfile has seen a reasonable amount of use in the last 15 months. It's easier to get out than my main layout, and most of the bugs seem to have been knocked out now.


The Hornby Peckett and Ruston Ds48 are excellent runners , well-suited to the job, and have made operation more satisfactory. On the strength of that  I've also finally succumbed to a Hattons Barclay 0-4-0T , as the 14" version was available at a discount, in a decent livery. This awaits coupling bars fitting , but seems to run very well. With reliable traction and nearly all the wagons sorted out, operation has become a lot more satifactory than it was. Consequently it's getting run reasonably often


I've made a big push on the container flats - the principal remaining pocket of unreliable wagons. One Bachmann Conflat has been bumped to Blacklade's service fleet with a wagon bogie load, and two kit-built Conflats drafted in as replacements. The Conflat V is still a problem, and needs further thought - this will all make a fresh blog post once I finish writing it up.  I've also acquired a couple more vans : an ex SR van from a Ratio kit, and another ex Airfix LMS van from a detached body that surfaced in one of the boxes in the cupboard. This has now acquired a claspbraked underframe and just needs couplings fitting : something that has been delayed since I returned to work.


And flushed with success on the wagon front, I've started trying to sort out the reliability of the Sprat and Winkle couplings, which is probably the last major sourtce of unreliability. In the process I've relocated two of the three uncoupling magnets I originally installed, and one of them actually turns out to be useable. So auto-uncoupling is starting to be practical on occasion, and I'm getting much closer to the original reliable hands-off vision. (That will be another blog post once it's all sorted out)

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