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Blog- IanLister's Blog.... - Progress at last......

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So...what have we been up to for the last couple of months, and why isn't Port Mhorair finished yet?

Well, there's bad news and good news on that front:


Firstly, there's the weather. It's not been great, as you may have noticed...though I'm sure many people have had it worse than we have. All my tools and modelling stuff is in a locker accessed from outside the motorhome, and faced with either wind (locker door blows off) or torrential rain (carefully constructed baseboard gets soaked) there have been a lot of days when I haven't been able to do much.......the puppy has been a full time job in the bad weather too; either out and getting extremely wet and muddy, or in and going crazy through an overabundance of spare energy. All in all, you don't get much done in a motorhome when the weather's like it has been.

Then there's the ageing process. I didn't stop playing competitive basketball until I was the wrong side of 50, and given that I started at the age of 12 that's a fair bit of wear and tear. A recurrence of an old lower back sporting injury put me out of action for about 3 weeks, and then a further 3 weeks of not being able to sit comfortably for any length of time......so 5 minutes here and there perhaps if I'm lucky.

Christmas didn't help either; we had far too good a time to do any model-building.


So......suicidal, then?


Well not quite. The weather's improved, so my baseboards have come out of hibernation and sniffed the springlike air (I've always been an optimist....).

My back's better so I'm back in action again; for how long time alone will tell, but this lifestyle is so ridiculously healthy I'm confident it won't slow me down too often. Optimism again.....

And Christmas is finished so there's a bit more time available:


In my last blog entry or two I wrote quite a bit about trackmaking; inspired by DonW's and David Long's photos I had decided to have a go at using wooden sleepers for all the visible track on Port Mhorair. Well, the first section is done, a train has run on it successfully, and I have no regrets about the decision whatsoever. It's only 500mm long, mind you......



When I laid the track on Spittal Goods I used Easitrac, which was, surprisingly,easy; the name gives it away, really. As a beginner, however, I found painting and ballasting the finished stuff very time consuming and was never really happy with the result. The new method is the opposite. While each individual job is fairly straightforward, the whole building process is quite time-consuming, until you get to the finishing bit. The ballasting and painting was really simple to do, and to my mind the finished article is streets ahead of what I did before.


The process, for anyone interested is listed below:

  • Stick Templot trackplan down

  • Cut walnut strip to sleeper length and sand to width (250 sleepers in about an hour, to give you an idea)

  • Glue sleepers down using Easitrac glue and wash with Vallejo grey wash to tone down colour of wood

  • Cut channels in balsa trackbed and glue tube for wire-in-tube turnout control in place

  • Drill holes for track power feeds

  • Thread Easitrac chairs onto one length of rail and stick down using Plastic weld

  • Solder dropper for power feed to underneath of rail (I'm using a 25mm 12BA cheesehead screw as the dropper, with 7/0.2 wire soldered to it and attached to the track bus under the board

  • Spread Easitrac glue where the ballast will go and apply ballast, tamping down scientifically with finger end; then attack with Dyson handheld vacuum cleaner after about 20 mins. I have found ballasting much easier with only one rail in place

  • Add second rail using gauges etc

  • Paint rail sides and chairs

  • Experiment with washes, ground pastel etc to obtain satisfactory finish according to location, prototype etc

  • Drink glass of single malt

Two evenings work and I'm happy with the result.



The track I've made a start on is the line running west from Port Mhorair to Mallaig; it disappears behind the distillery through a steep rock cutting before entering the west fiddle yard; I'll finish this 1200mm length of plain track (cunningly chosen as it gives me a bit to practise on before anything complicated) and then make a start on the distillery track layout, some of which will be built the same way and some will be simpler, as it will represent inset tracks running through a cobbled yard; I'm looking forward to doing that bit.



So, not exactly rapid progress, but the tracklaying gang are now on the job and things will start to roll a little.


And there's more good news; next week we're having a new all weather awning fitted on the side of the motorhome, similar to the one motor racing teams use. It will give me a 5.8 x 3 metre all year round model railway room....except for when we're on the M1, or the cross channel ferry, or the road to Sicily or Sardinia or wherever.

We're booked to spend May in Morar, so I'll have lots of opportunities for prototype research, with a week on Islay en route to photograph coastal distillery buildings (and possibly the odd sample of the products they produce); and we're spending the high summer in Lincolnshire so we can walk some of the old GN branchlines. If you're in the 2mm association and live in Lincs, it'd be good to meet you.




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