Sunday, 15 April 2018

April 2018 meeting

This month saw us back on the north bank of the Clyde in Scotstoun. Almost a full house for FCAG: Alisdair hosted and Andy, Alistair, Graham, Jim, Stephen, Simon and Gordon attended.

Jim had brought his signalbox for Kirkallanmuir to let us see the LED lighting, powered by a button cell, and very nice it looked too. (See his RMWeb blog). The search for colour perfection continues however. Kirkallanmuir's public première is at the Scottish Supermeet next weekend in Perth - see the most recent 2mmSA newsletter for details of where and when, or if you're a member based in Scotland, the recent e-mail from Alisdair.

Andy has progressed a little further with his plans for Aberdour: a full-size plan has been developed from the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map.

Graham surprised everyone by showing the results of odd evenings since Christmas with a soldering iron and a pile of Stephen Harris 16T mineral etches ... all still awaiting their axleboxes, brake gear, wheels, buffers, and couplings, that is to say all the fiddly bits ... but steady progress towards filling Sauchenford's colliery sidings nonetheless.

The Group's Gartcraig layout emerged from years in storage to be handed over to its new owner Gordon:

 This month's talk, from Andy, was some thoughts about the woodwork for baseboards, supported by a series of "blast from the past" photographs. He started out with a brief description of his own first essay in small scale modelling - Lomond Bridge, which although not finescale, and reflecting traditional techniques of the time, taught him many lessons.

Typical braced  2 x 1 (20 x 45mm) softwood butt joints and 6mm MDF surface all screwed and glued (PVA Glue). This is 300mm wide x 1.5m long. Still light enough to carry around and in two sections giving 3m X 300mm (10’ x 1’) when erected. Half the size of Sauchenford.
The top was 6mm MDF glued and screwed to the frame, with trackwork glued on a cork base.
Gluing using several different clamps and weights produced a very sound structure.
Scenery can reinforce or even replace baseboard structure - for example this viaduct.

Showing bolted connections between boards. The piece between the boards would be a template to ensure all holes are in the correct alignment. These can also be used to attach support legs.  Control unit to user choice hangs from the boards with space for spare stock below the scenery and access for wiring etc.

When Andy joined the FCAG group he saw how the late Colin Brady had built baseboards for his Ballachulish layout, using the techniques described by Barry Norman for his 4mm Petherick layout in his "Landscape Modelling" book (would you believe, first published 32 years ago): the 2"x1" softwood frame is replaced by lightweight beams made from pine block spacers sandwiched between 4mm plywood strips, with diagonal strength members and a top from 4mm ply.
Ballachulish baseboard construction. Sadly Colin did not have time to finish his layout, which was possibly a bit large for one person to set up. The partly laminated / braced plywood base board is similar with adjustment to the Sauchenford baseboards.
At the time the Group was planning its current layout Sauchenford, and as a new boy Andy was immediately assigned the job of producing the baseboards. Birch ply was used with an emphasis on careful planning - a cutting list of parts was made and a plan of how it would be produced economically from the standard sheet size. This allowed the larger cuts to be made at the timber merchant, easing transport as well as reducing the space required to make the remaining cuts at home. Don't just make the cutting plan one morning, and rush down to the timber merchant the same afternoon - live with the plan for several weeks before cutting anything, revisit your design decisions, and if there was a reason behind them, write it down on the plan, you are sure to forget it otherwise ...

The cutting list and plan

Marking out for cutting - Anthony Yeates here seen wielding the pencil, before he escaped to the warmer south.

4 mm plywood can be cut using a Stanley knife, here demonstrated by the late Colin Brady (foreground) and Alistair. Cut away from your fingers and, er, use a steel safety ruler! Andy's fine cut band saw, seen in the background, is a dream to use, cutting rapidly and leaving a very fine finish.

The parts cut ready for gluing. Spacers are from 16mm dressed softwood.
Parts glued and clamped together for alignment and to prevent warping.

Left overnight the parts are ready for assembly; they were pinned and glued to ensure accurate alignment.

The assembled fiddle yard baseboards with inserts and end parts as required. Connected using modified hinges with removable pins. Front boards strengthen the structure.

Fully assembled base board awaiting construction of the model; this image was at the 2mm Supermeet in Keighley a few years ago.
At this point Andy paused for breath, and the talk was immediately hijacked by all and sundry to talk about their own baseboards. Jim described how he'd used 4mm ply for bracing on Kirkallanmuir but found it too flimsy and had remedied it by adding 9mm strips later. However, 4mm sandwich beams had worked well for board sides, allowing the top to be recessed by dropping the level of the inner skin. Kirkallanmuir's legs have triangular flap strengtheners which fold away for transport. Alisdair fetched down his mini-layout for comparison, described in a previous blog entry. Graham waxed lyrical about his boards for Macduff, cut from ply sheet using a router, a technique described by Peter Kirmond for his Blea Moor baseboards in MRJ 148. The disadvantages during manufacture are fine sawdust, noise (ear defenders necessary), and the outcome was very stable boards.  Stephen talked about the laser-cut ply baseboard kits available from White Rose Modelworks, which we'd seen at a NEAG meeting some time back. Very precise, square boards as a result, and great time-savers.

Lunch was then served. Grilled bacon, a time-hallowed FCAG tradition, had unexpectedly been banished due to 'Elf an' Safety - the Clean Kitchen (Scotstoun) 2018 regulations - so our rolls were filled with sliced ham, grated cheese, crinkly salad leaves, and cherry tomatoes. These were munched with polite but mostly silent concentration by the group members, each lost in their own nostalgic reverie for the bacon rolls of meetings past. However, a more animated discussion broke out as the cakes appeared. Simnel fruit cake, matured for months apparently; no explanation was offered of what simnels are, but they taste good. Then there was a complicated pistachio and spinach (aye, ye'll no' find thon in the Lidl) sponge, with what looked like green O Gauge ballast topping the icing. It also more than passed the taste test, and little was left of this by end of day. And there were rock buns. And tea and coffee. So all was well. In an unguarded moment, Jim was even seen to drink his tea from a Highland Railway Society mug. The Caley Railway Association hierarchy will be informed.

Sauchenford, however, decided to act up and required a bout of determined track-cleaning before smooth running was restored. After that there was more head-scratching over how to simplify our cassette fiddle yards: basically, throw away the sector plates and slew the approaches to fit the cassettes in, and use plugged connections for reliability.

And that was that. See you in Perth next Saturday, we hope.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

March 2018 meeting

Alisdair, Alistair, Andy, Stephen and Graham met in Edinburgh on a truly dreich day. The plan was to have a running session with Sauchenford, but first Stephen gave us a wee presentation on "Jigs I have known". He moved through these at a fair rate and I didn't get photos of all of them, but here goes.

In the beginning was the plain soldered track jig:

designed for 8'6" paxolin sleepers; the fence at the back of the jig had to be milled narrower to allow 9'0" sleepers to be used. Later designs of this jig have a movable fence to overcome that restriction.

Points require track gauges:

the simple button gauge on the left, the check rail gauge on the right, which has flats to allow use over the crossing nose, and the end of which is 9.42mm diameter so it can be a button gauge as well.

The next jig was a home-made track-straightening and point filing jig: this was said to be written up the old Beginner's Guide, but I have checked mine and it isn't in it! Maybe it was in the 2mmSA magazine. Here is the rail-straightening part. from the days when rail came in a coil. The rail is threaded through a set of three discs and gently pulled through to remove the curve, repeating as necessary until it is as straight as possible :

We then went through a few point jigs - home-made vee soldering jigs: this one, made from card and MDF, has three off-numbered vees on top and another three even-numbered vees on the other face.

Nowadays the Association Shop sells nicely-made milled Tufnol crossing jigs:

They can be found on the Shop website here under "Construction and Assembly Jigs", along with the associated crossing assembly jigs in milled aluminium.

Next up was a Blackburn track construction jig:

and etches for the Blackburn system, the Cox system, and the Fence Houses system of bullhead chairs were passed round for inspection.

A Bill Rankin-designed point jig was next up:

Its inspiration was a requirement to batch-build standard-geometry turnouts for a large fiddle yard. This is on the Shop list as "Turnout Assembly Jig".

A triangular track jig allowing for gauge widening on curves (point into centre of circle to widen gauge) was also shown, but was camera-shy. It's on the Shop list as "Track Gauge Triangular (Brass) Standard Gauge".

The bog-standard back-to-back gauge was shown, on the right here - it has been modified by filing out a chunk so it can be used on a loco axle with a gear. Alternatively the design on the left does the same thing.

And then there was an unknown jig! acquired from a 2mm modeller changing scales. Anyone know what it is?

We also had a look at a wheel quartering tool for steam loco chassis construction, at the top in this shot:

The square objects are plates, built up from several etch layers, to hold the loco wheel with its half-axle and a hole (or slot, to allow different throws) for the crank pin. These hold the wheels at the correct quartering in the jig, which is then tightened to press the axles into the muff precisely square. Not shown are the little shims which are slipped between wheel back and frame to ensure running clearance. I have one of these tools and it works very well.

At the bottom of the same photo is the "loco chassis frame assembly jig", in this case with extra spacers from a Fence Houses chassis to suit its thinner frame material.

Stephen ended at that point and we had lunch, then put Sauchenford up for a running session. Alisdair has finished installing the Laurie Adams point rodding and it does make a significant difference to the look of the layout. Unfortunately only the operators really get the benefit of the view!

The main observation is that it is challenging to retro-fit rodding to a layout, and much better to plan it at the construction stage. It is also very difficult to colour where it is in contact with ballast, without marking the ballast too. Again, better done before ballasting.

With the running over and done with, we had a discussion on how to make the layout more interesting and convenient to operate, finally deciding that we could simplify the design of the fiddle yard boards to reduce the number of moving parts and track joints. We also allocated tasks for the 2mmSA Scottish Supermeet in Perth on April 21st .... mark your diary now!

The rain had eased off at last so we headed off home. The next FCAG meeting is on 14 April at a location to be announced.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

February 2018 meeting

 Andy, Alistair, Simon, Graham and Gordon met at Alisdair's in Glasgow this month. There were a few models to look at: Simon had painted the Severn Models kits he started last month:

Nice interior detail:

and the Buchanan Kits Caley goods brake:

 Andy had a go at a Buchanan Kits lattice-post signal this month. It was quite exacting to put together but the instructions were clear. He didn't claim it to be a perfect build, but said he'd learned a great deal for the next one! The finial is a work in progress. And, yes, the signal operates.

The demo this month was from Alisdair, who has been continuing to detail the sewage works destined for Tony Heywood's Hest Bank. He wanted a quick and effective way to fabricate the distinctive post-and-rail safety fences and ladders around the filter beds and the various tanks.

Rather than go the etch route, he decided to use copper wire from old GPO four-core phone cable, stripped of insulation and stretched straight with pliers. A simple jig was made by skrawking two parallel grooves into a piece of aluminium for the fence rails, with a series of short grooves at right angles to these for the posts.

A length of wire, destined to be the middle fence rail, was aligned in the groove and held in place with "hot tape", then a fine file was used to cut a notch half-way through it at each post position.

A notch was also made in a length of wire destined to become a post.

This was then trimmed with a scalpel roughly to post height, erring on the generous side.

Small pieces were chopped from a length of solder, the junctions were fluxed, then the posts were tacked in place on the middle fence rail. No need to be too tidy at this stage.

The posts were now trimmed with the scalpel to be just short of the other groove, into which the top rail was then taped. The top rail junctions were fluxed and soldered in turn. Again, no need to make perfect joints - the idea is to get a roughly-accurate structure with enough strength to be handled. The tape was eased gently away with a scalpel blade and the blobby but square fence was transferred from the aluminium jig (which sinks too much heat to allow nice joins) onto a piece of card.

Now the joints were fluxed and worked over again with the iron, pressed down with a tool with a slight "click" being felt as the wire finds the notch. Care is taken to keep the joints as neat as possible.

Finally the emery board was used again to reduce any remaining large blobs and generally tidy up. The resulting fence can be inserted into its base by drilling holes for the posts; not all posts need to be "planted", it works well to plant every second or third one and trim the intermediate posts to size.

For the ladders, lengths of wire were squared off using a couple of strokes of an emery board on one side, turning over and repeating, then treating the remaining two sides: by no means perfect, but a few seconds' work produced a visibly squarer result. These were to be the ladder rails.

A single strand from a length of multistrand flex was gently straightened to be used as rungs. The jig this time was a 4mm strip of copperclad paxolin, a remnant from turnout construction in P4 days. The copper was eased away from the edges with by scraping with a scalpel, then slots for the rungs were scrawked in precise positions using a 1:10 slide board of the type written up by Geoff Jones in the 2mmSA magazine some years back.

The fine wire was now wrapped tightly round the paxolin strip and teased into place in the slots, then pressed down firmly with the rounded handle of a tool.

The rails were tacked at one end with solder then fluxed and held taut while working down the edges with a hot iron.

The hot tape is deployed again.

Blob size is less important than strength here. Any very large blobs are cleaned up with a touch from the iron, but the idea is to get a convincing impression at normal viewing distance rather than aiming at etch-precise ladder rungs.

The whole thing is then cleaned up with the emery board, the fine wire at the back of the jig is cut off with a sharp scalpel blade, and the ladder eased off the jig.

The sharp scalpel is used to trim any stray wires:

and finally a handrail can be added if required.

It looks convincing when placed against a filter bed, even without being tidied up further.

A quick look at some of the structures in the sewage works, still far from complete.

The valve hand-wheels in fact started life as wagon wheels from an N Brass narrow-gauge etched kit. The ladder in the shot below is an etch from a signal kit.

The safety chains across the fence openings are more pieces of fine copper wire.

That all took much longer to write than Alisdair took to do his demo. And then he whipped up bacon rolls, tea and coffee for his audience. We were duly impressed.

The rest of the afternoon was spent assembling and cleaning Sauchenford, then checking operation and making a list of the inevitable maintenance jobs which seem to sprout whenever a layout is left to its own devices for a few weeks.

Next month we'll be back in Edinburgh if all goes to plan, and before that we'll be manning the 2mmSA Roadshow stand at Model Rail Scotland. Do drop by to say hello if you're visiting the exhibition.