Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A West Country Diversion

The genesis of this project can be seen in my post on the Wealden Area Group blog

The Challenge
To summarise briefly - back in early 2013 Richard Benn realised he had been a member of the 2mm Association for almost ten years, and had yet to finish a layout, so set himself the target of completing one for the end of April 2013. That would be about two and a half year's membership for me, so I joined in the challenge by setting myself a suitably scaled down target of getting one quarter of a test track finished by then.

The Idea
In order for me to get it to Uckfield, it needed to be highly portable, so I went with the "layout in a boxfile" concept - though it inevitably expanded to become "layout in two or three boxfiles".

Nigel Ashton had earlier given me a nice scratch-built stone goods shed, so I was looking for somewhere suitable as a prototype to use this. The stock available from my main project narrowed the choice down to Edwardian GWR (fortunately this matched the goods shed too).

The initial intention was for a simple shunting plank, a goods yard comprising two or three sidings. Unfortunately, I was unable to find much prototype information, either photographs or track plans, for a simple goods yard.

After a wander through various West Country stations I discovered Milverton which had a suitable simple track plan, with goods shed and signal box adjacent to the passenger platform, making for a compact layout.

The station buildings at Milverton were described as being "similar to Bampton", and having a plan for the Bampton buildings, but not for Milverton, I started making Bampton station buildings, using styrene sheet, with stone embossed styrene for the outer shell.

Perhaps Not
Further research revealed a few problems:

  • Milverton station buildings were built in brick, not stone
  • Even without the brick v stone problem, the layout of the buildings was actually significantly different between the two, other than the "H" shape which seems to have been widely used in the area
  • Milverton used facing points for entry to the goods yard, which was going to draw complaints that it was "wrong".
  • So I changed my plans and decided to go with Bampton for the station layout, rather than Milverton - rather larger than my original plans, but an interesting project.

    Bampton was towards the north end of the Bristol and Exeter line between Taunton and Exeter, via Tiverton, known as the Exe Valley line. Passenger traffic was a fairly light service using 0-4-2 tanks (initially 517 class, latterly 4800/1400) and a few carriages - four or six wheelers in early years, autotrailers in later years. Apart from the usual general goods traffic, Bampton was the source of some other significant freight flows:

  • There was a fairly substantial complex of limestone quarries nearby, together with a lime-burning site, linked by a horse-drawn narrow-gauge railway. So there would be coal imports (probably from South Wales, but possibly from North Somerset), and export of limestone and of slaked lime.
  • In October each year wild ponies on Exmoor were rounded up and sold at Bampton Fair, generating lots of traffic as these ponies were transported to their new homes in cattle wagons.

  • Building it
    It's a long time since I built anything large in styrene sheet, and I was surprised at how much it warped in the construction process (at least that's my excuse for why nothing ever quite lined up as it should). Apart from that, construction went fairly smoothly. The other significant problem was that Bampton had large expanses of glass in the conservatory-style waiting room across the front of the station building and in the greenhouse at the side, and none of my selection of glues was entirely successful in sticking these in place.

    Whilst it wasn't actually ready for the target date of end of April, the first baseboard was sufficiently complete for a trip to the Wealden Area Group's May 2013 meeting. No backscene yet, but the platforms were in place, using fine sandpaper to represent the surface, track laid, wired and ballasted (though some of it came loose in transit and needs replacing), and most of the necessary stone walls and grassy areas were looking reasonably presentable.

    What Next?
    Lots of details to add, such as the elaborate B&E bargeboards for the station buildings, the statuary and low hedges for the station garden, a few bushes/trees/lamps and some fencing for the platforms.

    And the next baseboard section will need a couple of turnouts and a crossover (should be a single slip, but I'm not convinced that's really of much benefit) to provide access to the goods yard, cattle dock etc on the third and fourth baseboards.

    Sunday, 1 June 2014

    3d printed GWR wagons

    My perverse liking for modelling Edwardian-era GWR in 2mm Fine Scale is shared by Ian Smith, who designed a few wagons for 3d printing a while ago. These were made available on Shapeways, and I bought a couple (W2 medium-size cattle wagons, which filled a hole in my existing range/plans). They are designed to work with separate etched W-iron units (2-312) which I hadn't used previously, so I tried to modify them to fit onto a conventional chassis by narrowing the solebars slightly. This was not a success - I made no progress in filing away the surplus material, but it was too fragile in the area where I was holding the body and various pieces splintered and fell off....

    I put this project on one side (along with many others), and moved onto other things.

    Recently a change of policy at Shapeways has removed these items from sale to third parties - purportedly they can't be guaranteed to print properly. So Ian has now put on a shopkeeper's hat, and is accepting orders for wagons which he then gets printed for himself and distributes to would-be purchasers.

    The main demand has been for cattle wagons - as well as the W2 medium Ian provides models for the W3 small and W1/W5 large varieties. In addition, an outside-framed goods van and outside-framed brake van are available. There are also some experimental springs and axleboxes, but they can't yet be reliably printed.

    I decided to have another try at these, and negotiated delivery (via St Ruth at Epsom and Ewell Exhibition) of 6 large cattle wagons, 2 vans and a brake van (the latter being received by Ian from Shapeways the day before he set off for the show). I already have a scratchbuilt W3, and they were relatively rare so I don't think I need another (specially one which would show up the inadequacies of my own).

    The 3d printing process appears to suit these models fairly well - large flat surfaces tend to suffer from "banding", depending on the alignment of the model in the printer, and these have no such surfaces, so the problem doesn't occur. On the other hand, it would be much easier to clean and sand such surfaces ...

    There are various suggestions for cleaning the surplus wax from the models - what worked for me was repeated runs through an ultrasonic cleaner, followed by brisk brushing with a toothbrush.

    I patched up the broken sides of the cattle wagon, with the fallback plan of hiding it under a tarpaulin (probably as carrying fruit) and started with it and a van for my first two. The main challenge with these models is constructing suitable underframe details. As I had made up a lot of 2-330 underframes for 4-plank opens and iron minks, all with single-sided brakes, I had plenty of spares to provide brake shoes, levers, v-hangers etc. The other two models, large cattle wagon and brake van, have a longer wheelbase, so will probably need brake gear from an 11 foot wheelbase chassis.

    There have been reports of painting difficulties for this material ("Frosted Ultra Detail", or "FUD"), indicating that the paint "never dries". There may be some justification for these reports, as I found the paint did seem very slow to dry, but it did dry eventually.

    My interpretation of the GWR livery timescale is that freight wagons switched from red to grey about 1904, and my layout is set around 1905, so nearly all my freight stock will be in the red livery. I am currently using Precision Paints buffer beam red to represent it, over a Halfords red primer, but will probably experiment with a few variations to represent older/faded wagons. Prior to 1904 (and the switch to grey livery?) when 25 inch "G" and "W" appeared, the lettering was 5 inch "G.W.R", which could be either painted on the side or on a cast plate. I prefer the cast plate approach, as it's fairly easy to represent with computer printing onto ordinary paper, but I am unclear on the background colour for it - my assumption was black, with white lettering, but the current edition of Great Western Way suggests that it was probably the same colour as the wagon side. A good reason to procrastinate a bit longer before finishing the wagons.

    Interior of the cattle wagons would be liberally lime-washed, the practice lasting until about Grouping, and some of this would have probably dribbled down the outside of the wagon.

    There will be a few challenges with the brake van - extra footboards for the underframe, handrails to add to the sides, and decision whether to use the existing body material (unpainted) as rather dirty windows or to cut out and glaze some proper windows.

    Friday, 30 May 2014

    Knotty wagons

    I will need some North Staffordshire Railway ("Knotty") wagons for the traffic between the Potteries and Market Drayton.

    I have a half-finished heavy (20 ton) brake van kit from Bill Bedford - not entirely appropriate, as these were intended for longer trains than would be running here. This design apparently arose from an accident in 1890 when an 8-ton brake van proved inadequate, leading to a recommendation of a 10-ton brake van for each 20 wagons, hence trains of over 20 wagons needed two 10-ton brake vans, or one of the new 20-ton brake vans.

    I also have a part-finished scratchbuilt 10-ton brake van, based on drawings from "North Staffordshire Railway Locomotives and Rolling Stock" by R.W. Rush (The Oakwood Press).

    Recently I started to fill in the gap by building some more bodies, based on drawings in the same book - large cattle wagon, large and small van, several open wagons, of two and three planks, and a 6-wheel milk van. Most were 12 foot wheelbase, for which I intended to use the Association kit 2-351, shortened as necessary for wagons less than 21 feet long.

    It was already clear that there were discrepancies in these drawings, and comments in the book suggested most of the official drawings had been lost long ago. Acquisition of "North Staffordshire Wagons" by G.F. Chadwick (Wild Swan), at the recent Railex, confirmed my fears - surviving records seem to consist of board minutes (which cover numbers of wagons bought or built, and limited descriptions), but virtually all the accompanying drawings and diagrams have been lost. Many of the wagons were bought in, and apparently in a few cases drawings are available from the manufacturers' archives.

    The Chadwick book is much more extensive than the limited coverage of wagons in the Rush book, and appears more reliable, with more photographs to support its drawings. But it's still clear that there's not really enough hard facts - modelling is going to be mostly guesswork.

    Running down my current models:
    1. The two brake van designs appear to be accurate (apart from a minor difference in wheelbase for the 10-ton van - apparently the usual Knotty wheelbase was 9'7" or 10'6", not the 10' assumed in the drawing).
    2. There is little detail available for the cattle wagons (the Knotty had about 100 available). There are photographs for a medium-size wagon (15'6" long, rather than the 18' large one I had built). I will probably keep the large wagon, on a 12' wheelbase chassis, on the grounds that it seems reasonable to assume at least some of the wagons would have been large, and to add a couple of medium ones.
    3. Large van - I could find no trace of this. The most plausible explanation is that it's one of six silk vans built for the Macclesfield-London route, to run in passenger trains - Chadwick indicates there are no photographs of these vans, but his drawing suggests they were to the same dimensions as the conventional small wagons.
    4. Small van - looks OK.
    5. Open wagons - main problem is length/wheelbase, where Rush uses 19' wagon on 12' wheelbase, and Chadwick indicates variable lengths (15'-17'6") on 9'7" wheelbase for 3-plank and 10'6" wheelbase for 2-plank. Also Chadwick suggests that the 2-plank had solid sides (probably drop-sides in some case) whereas Rush has both 2- and 3-plank with conventional doors. Fortunately they are fairly quick to build, so I will probably scrap them and build afresh, to the Chadwick drawings. I need to re-think my underframe selection, probably mostly using 2-325 (10'6") and 2-328 (9'6"). Brakes were generally single-sided, earlier ones (pre-1890) having no v-hangers, and operating on a single wheel (which should be relatively easy to represent).
    6. The milk van is probably too late (1912), but various milk vans had been built earlier. All were of a broadly similar design, with planks for the lower part of the sides and louvres for the upper part, similar to the GWR Siphon C) - not clear if there was a gap between the planks. Variations included:
    • 4 or 6-wheel chassis
    • inside (sliding) or outside (hinged) doors
    • number of planks - earlier styles seem to have had more planks (and thus a shallower louvred section).

    Fortunately I had also included in the batch  a couple of LNWR cattle wagons, to handle traffic between Market Drayton and Crewe, and I believe the drawings for these are probably accurate (and supported by accompanying photographs), so I just need to select suitable underframes for them and finish them off.

    Tuesday, 24 September 2013


    This is an updated version of the introduction to a blog posted on RMweb here - for a variety of reasons that blog died about 18 months ago. I intend to continue the story here, probably without reposting any of the early material, other than this introduction.

    Having drifted away from the hobby many years ago, I recently returned and decided to take up the challenge of 2mm Fine Scale. I used to be quite happy doing simple kit-bashing and scratch-building of rolling stock on proprietary chassis and bogies in N gauge, but had little experience of soldering (and what I had was long, long ago).

    Choice of prototype wasn't too difficult. I've always had a liking for the GWR. In recent years I've had a strong preference for steam over diesel, though that wasn't true in my earlier years, when I looked upon steam as being old-fashioned, dirty and generally second-best to the then-new diesel and electric locomotives.

    Initially I was intending to model the traditional branch line terminus, somewhere in the West Country, set in the golden age of mid 1930s. Looking around for somewhere specific, I couldn't find anything that inspired me, so I cast my net a bit wider. Going back to early 1900s introduces some interesting changes in the livery - I am not sure I really like the darker green on locomotives, but I do like the Indian red frames and the extensive brasswork, and the fully lined-out chocolate and cream coaches would be an interesting challenge to my skills and eyesight.

    I had been researching my family tree for the past few years, and realised that offered an interesting possibility - Market Drayton, where many of my father's ancestors had lived. This is a town in the northeast corner of Shropshire, adjacent to Staffordshire and Cheshire, and with GWR lines running north to Crewe and south to Wellington, together with a North Staffordshire Railway ('Knotty') line eastward to Stoke. These lines all opened in the 1860s, and closed in the 1960s. Little remains - I believe that Market Drayton station is now buried beneath a superstore and its car park.

    Market Drayton will be a fairly substantial undertaking - two platforms, one being an island, two bays, two separate good yards (one for GWR, one for Knotty), a fairly large goods shed, and a small Knotty engine shed. Having made up a few lengths of Easitrac, just to confirm my expectation that there won't be any problems in that part of the project, I decided to postpone the building of points and baseboards and laying of track whilst I start on the rolling stock that I will need for the layout.

    I acquired two good sources for the area - "By Great Western to Crewe" by Bob Yate and "The Stoke to Market Drayton Line" by C R Lester. From these I could put together a reasonable picture of the traffic through Market Drayton. Nominally my target is 1905, though I might allow it to slip to 1910 if necessary.

    Passenger traffic
    About five trains a day to/from Stoke. Probably still 4-wheelers, though there might be a couple of six-wheelers in the rakes, and hauled by a 2-4-0T or 2-4-2T.

    About six trains a day each way between Crewe and Wellington. Basically stopping trains, unclear whether these would be 4/6 wheel or bogie (Dean clerestory) during this period, but two of these trains would have slip coaches or other through sections attached, serving Manchester.

    Cheshire and Shropshire were both substantial producers of milk, so there would be siphons (and the Knotty equivalents) attached to various passenger trains.

    Goods traffic
    This is rather more interesting than my original proposed branch line terminus. There were two or three local trains a day in each direction, but the Crewe-Wellington line also saw some fairly heavy through goods traffic, about fifteen trains a day in each direction. These included manufactured goods between Wolverhampton and Manchester, fruit and vegetables from Worcester (and broccoli from Cornwall) to various northern destinations and possibly meat from Liverpool to London. I've also come across a creosote tank wagon which ran between Manchester and Hayes, via Market Drayton.

    The GWR introduced fast vacuum-fitted freights from about 1904 - some ran on this line.

    Local traffic included two cattle trains, one in each direction, on Monday mornings - though I've not yet found how the empties returned. There were at least two breweries in Market Drayton, so the transportation of beer by rail seems plausible. There was at least one foundry, making agricultural implements, so coal and iron from the Potteries and finished machines outwards would be likely. I have the names of two coal merchants with offices at Market Drayton.

    So I made a start by building up some GWR goods vans and open wagons, to be followed in due course by a few coaches and then some locomotives.

    Alternate History
    I am also debating whether to use one of the "might-have-been" alternatives for Market Drayton. From what I can see, the Knotty enjoyed a very profitable monopoly over goods traffic to and from the Potteries, and local businessmen vigorously supported the provision of alternative routes to break this monopoly. In particular there was an interesting possibility in the Wellington, Drayton and Newcastle Railway proposal of 1861 (which would presumably have been taken over by the GWR in due course, meaning that all three lines from Market Drayton would have been GWR) - the potential for this line to bring china clay from Dorset for the pottery industry was apparently very popular. There were various proposals for the Potteries Junction Railway between Shrewsbury and Stoke on Trent, via Market Drayton, which did eventually obtain Parliamentary approval - but it never raised enough finance to construct the line.

    Actual History
    Nantwich and Market Drayton Railway opened first, single line branch, operated by GWR from opening (though initial plans had been for LNWR to operate it).
    • Incorporated 1861.
    • Construction started 1862.
    • Construction completed and line opened 1863.
    • Taken over by GWR 1897.
    Wellington and Drayton Railway opened next, double track, and was accompanied by doubling of the NMDR. Similarly operated from inception by GWR.
    • Incorporated 1862
    • Construction started 1864
    • Construction completed and line opened 1867
    • Taken over by GWR 1877.
    North Staffordshire Railway branch from Newcastle to Market Drayton opened third, in 1870. To be pedantic, it was an extension of the Newcastle-Silverdale branch onwards to Market Drayton, the Silverdale branch serving various coal pits and iron works.

    For anybody who is still reading, and wondering where the Gingerbread Line fits in - Market Drayton was famous for its gingerbread. The Market Drayton Railway Preservation Society  was formed in 1992 with the aim of reopening part of the Nantwich to Market Drayton line, apparently using the name "Gingerbread Line", though it appears to have abandoned those ambitions and is now merely a social/historical railway enthusiasts group.