Monday, 24 October 2016

Sandy Shores, Sandy Feet!

Almost all of the retaining walls that keep the sandy dunes from spilling onto the track or into structures are built. The only exception being behind the station shelter. The photo below shows two of these old standard gauge sleeper built walls - one propping up the sand dune in the foreground, and one behind the water tower.

With that done, the time had come to bring the layout out of its snow covered hibernation, and into a summery state! Out came the external masonry paint and suddenly the dunes were much more obvious. I didn't take a photo of the transformation per se, by the time I had finished it was too dark to distinguish the golden yellow to the white plaster that still remains. I actually used a different paint from the type I used last time (seen on the left in the photo). The new paint is much closer to the colour of the play sand (you can just about see the new colour top right and all around the track in the photo below).

Realising the stark difference between the black sleepers and the colour of the new paint reminded me that I ought to try something that I've not done before - painting the sleepers and rails. A mix of gunmetal grey and brown stone from the Vallejo range was mixed together to form a colour suitable for the sleepers. This is the same shade (ish) that I use for weathering the wooden structures. The rails were painted just with straight brown stone. Using reference photos, it seems to be not too far from prototypical colours. Although even that varies a lot! Anyway just doing the 8 sleepers in the photo below took forever, so this is going to be a labour of love to do the whole layout.

The next two photos were taken on my DSLR because I just couldn't get my ageing compact camera to play ball with the fading light. You'll notice that the dunes have had their first layer of play sand added. and unlike the test dune section I did, I don't think I'll bother painting over it. I'll just add another layer of sand on top to hid the gaps.

I'm hoping you might also have noticed that I've tried to replicate the weathering on old railway sleepers.If you look closely you can see the streaks of rust on the sleepers where the rails and chairs once were. I might also make slight holes to suggest where the bolts would have gone through.

The photo below shows all these components coming together - the sand dunes, the railway sleeper retaining walls, and the painted track. It has all made a huge difference!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Sandy Shores - More white stuff!

God I can't wait to get rid of the whiteness of the layout! Not only is it a pain to photograph, but it's pretty jarring on the eyes. Still, there is more to come before I can start painting, unfortunately. I've spent the last couple days covering up all the polystyrene with filler. Nothing exciting to take photos of, but as you can see in the photo below, I've also done the same to the concrete roadway as well as all the dunes.

I left that to dry overnight, and in fact it still isn't quite dry even now. Regardless, I wanted to make a start on the breakwater. For this I used my tried and trusted method of DAS clay. If you want to see how I do infilled concrete trackwork, you can see a previous post on my blog - here. This area still need a lot of work as you can still see the sleepers underneath. I'll wait till the current lot has hardened before I do any remedial work.

I also started building some of the various wooden sleeper retaining walls that will be needed around the layout. Here is the first one resting roughly in place awaiting painting before it can be bedded in:

You'll also note that pillbox has been properly bedded in, with its concrete base still visible. I'll try and make the pillbox look slightly more weather beaten at some point.

So not visually very exciting, but a lot of progress nonetheless!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Sandy Shores - Re-designed Right-hand Scenic Section

Despite the lack of progress recently, earlier on in the week I did cut off the right hand jetty. Before I even had plans to change it to a more substantial stone structure, I thought it would be easier to remove it completely since the ply track bed was not the right shape. Happily this also saved time today when it came to making the rest of the changes.

With that now out of the way, I added a softwood block under the end of the trackbed and a single screw held it all in place. So jumping forward to the progress made today. Sometimes you just have to destroy stuff to make things better!  The area to be removed was marked out and the clearance for road vehicles was checked by the loco shed lean-to before going any further. You'll also note in the photo below that I've had to add a "hook" to the new breakwater to fit the crane on.

Now comes the destructive stage! A large area of polystyrene and filler was removed using a small saw and the residual glue scraped off.

To make sure I cut the new bit of land properly, I drew a template out of newspaper a bit larger than it needed to be so that I had enough room to make adjustments later on when it came to fitting it in place.

A while later, the new bit of land was cut out of a single bit of polystyrene - the sides chamfered around the breakwater to give it slightly sloping sides. Hopefully marking the edge slabs around the top has helped to distinguish the various features for you all. It's very difficult taking photos of something that is almost entirely white!

You'll also note that I've been cutting out some more polystyrene landforms, and if you look closely you'll see I've decided to not have the rear lean-to but have another bank there instead. I've also marked out the location of the two beach huts - you can see I've found a shed that is almost the right size to give an idea of what it'll look like.

A couple of notes - firstly the improvement doing this has made to the layout is absolutely what I wanted. It really has made a huge difference, so it was absolutely worth the effort. Anyway, once all the polystyrene is glued down I can cover the rest of the layout in filler. The breakwater and quay walls will be made out of clay, as will the concrete roadway. I've also decided not to have the road going over the loco shed track. Instead I'd like to model an area of ash covered track - seems more fitting given that locos probably have their fires dropped etc here at the end of the day.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sandy Shores - The Fiddle Yard - Part 6

Not a very visually exciting update today I'm afraid, and not much done, but at long last the fiddle yard is complete! To start off the day, I cut up some more ply blocks and worked out the lengths of spring steel needed for the wiper contacts which were then duly cut. After a bit of shuffling, I worked out the best location for assembly to sit and it was screwed down to the board. I couldn't get it in the perfect location because of the softwood block that the lazy susan sits on, and I'll explain what problem that has resulted in later.

Anyway, once I adjusted the bending of the ends of each wiper to stop it snagging on the table, the last set of wipers was constructed and screwed into place. As you can see, as predicted yesterday it's quite a tight fit because of how close together the loco stabling roads are.

Now it was time to wire it up, making sure I made a note of what wires controlled which wiper/track. I still managed to cock up one bit as I got one of the feeds the wrong way around. That was fixed eventually, and the whole lot cable tided to adhesive bases to keep the wires out of the way.

So going back to the problem I mentioned earlier. Basically, because I had very little room in the fiddle yard to separate the loco stabling tracks apart, once the turntable is rotated to certain tracks, 2 tracks become live at the same time. I don't really see what I can do to solve this problem except to move the loco stabling tracks further apart, or remove one entirely. The cause of it is that the outer two stabling tracks line up with two neighbouring tracks on the turntable.

I've also noted that the wipers have a tendency to push the table up, so in actual fact it may be necessary to add barrel bolts anyway!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Sandy Shores - The Fiddle Yard - Part 5

Success! The wiper contact method is working, and I have the approach road to the fiddle yard almost completed. I have started wiring up the rest of the fiddle yard, but I wanted to test the concept today before I completed all the wiring. No point going too far ahead without testing first.

Here's a short video with proof of it working. Note I need to trim the rails on the other side of the turntable as some of them catch the approach rails. You'll notice the table jam at one point in the video if you pay attention.

As you can see, I got on alright with lining up the turntable manually, so a latching mechanism is not on my priority list at the moment. Before it attends an exhibition I may get some small bolt latches as some of you have suggested, but testing has shown it's not crucial yet - so I won't bother making my own. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not keen on the rod and tube method because it gets very fiddly to solder and use, but a small bolt latch would be OK if I can buy multiple brass "sockets" for it to slot into.

So I'll now show you how I got the fiddle yard to that point!
The first job of the day was to cut up some copper clad sleepers and glue them down on the approach road. I chose to cut them the same size as sleepers because they will be visible from the scenic section. Note also how I re-drilled and screwed where the two trackbeds meet so that I can still access the screws once the rails are down.

Once the glue had dried and the sleepers were firmly in place it was time to carefully solder the rails in right position. This proved tricky because the turntable is slightly too high here, so I had to solder the rails even though they weren't always in contact with the copper clad board. It took a few attempts, but I got there in the end!

Once that crucial joint was done, I soldered the rest of the track to the copper clad sleepers. My soldering isn't neat, and I really should get a soldering station as the tip of my iron is completely clogged. My own fault really!

The final job to do today (once a bit of wiring was completed) was to start on the wiper contacts. Dad allowed me to use some spring steel he had, and I was actually surprised how smoothly it all went together. You can see how the spring steel is curved at the top to stop it snagging on the copper clad boards. As this was mainly for testing, I didn't bother fastening it all down properly.

At this point I was dying to test it, so out came the controller and transformer. Then nothing. Strange, the layout was working last time. I decided to try another transformer just in case it was faulty, and luckily that solved the problem. I guess my older gaugemaster transformer finally gave up the ghost!

As you can see, the Trix track tester showed everything was working well - fantastic!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sandy Shores - The Fiddle Yard - Part 4

Looking at the photos from today, it's surprising how little I've done considering I've spent 6 hours solid on the layout! I didn't get the wiring done today, but I did connect all the pieces of copper clad board together to each rail of the table. It's nowhere near as neat as others have done, but it's good enough for me!

I think most of the day was spent continuing to fettle the turntable and surrounding ply to make sure it was as level as possible. I ended up making the locating holes on the underside of the table a bit deeper to make it sit flush, as well as sanding some of the softwood battens for the same reason. For some reason one of the blocks that the lazy susan sits on was a bit too low so that was quickly solved by adding a scrap of card underneath to bring it to the right height.

Back to the rails briefly, I also glued the copper clad boards in the fiddle yard and soldered the loco stabling lines in place. This also turned out to be a pain in the proverbial! This N gauge track actually has a larger rail depth because it is embedded into the sleepers - making it both too high and also fiddly to remove the sleepers. Another job for the Dremel then! The rail profile was cut down (in some places a bit too much but I was extremely careful to get the rail heights the same as the table when it came to soldering). Note how I used a peg (and a heavy weight for the far tracks) to hold the track in place whilst soldering.

Eventually all three tracks were soldered and tested against every turntable road to check they were correctly aligned.

As the sun set, I finished off for the day by reexamining the scenic entrance/exit. I realised that I needed to put another rail join here between the two ply trackbeds. I also had some trouble because the wooden block (under the track, left hand one) was uneven. Given that this caused the main layout trackbed to sink a bit, I cut out another block to place to the right of the existing block thus keeping the two trackbeds at the correct height. This also means I can actually screw the scenic section trackbed down properly.

Whew. So, tomorrows job is to lay some copper clad sleepers on both sides of this join, solder the track to it, and then cut the gap. This means that the whole fiddle yard top can be removed to access wiring in the future without tearing up any track! Looks like I'm going to have to put a new screw hole in the photo above though because it currently sits underneath the track.

Anyway, after that I can finish wiring up the fiddle yard, add the contact wipers under the turntable, and maybe even test it.

I wasn't really expecting to write that much on this post, so sorry about that waffle!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Sandy Shores - The Fiddle Yard - Part 3

Work has continued on the fiddle yard over the last couple of days. I decided that since the two existing bits of ply in the fiddle yard were not the right shape, and given that it would be easier to get everything at the same height if there were fewer pieces I decided to rebuild the fiddle yard out of one bit of ply. Therefore, a template was cut out of newspaper to get the right shape (although something thicker would've been better as it wouldn't have moved.

I also decided that since the turntable had moved further away from its original position I should cut off the existing entry trackbed and incorporate it into the new single ply piece:

After an hours worth of fettling the new ply top, it was time to fit it in place. I countersunk the screws (the photo below shows progress only part way through the operation), and made sure that it all fitted in place nicely including the lighting rig etc.

Now that I finally had something test-fitted in place, I turned my attention to the table. In the end I ditched the ply strips and screwed the lazy susan onto some left over bits of softwood. A washer was included otherwise the table would not be able to spin freely!

Next up was to test fit the table in place. Despite allowing for the slightly un-round shape of the table when marking out the ply top, it was still too snug. In the end I decided the best way to sand the table was to use a sanding attachment on the Dremel. In between showers of rain it was round at long last!

Apart from cutting out a few bits of copper clad board, that's about it for the last couple days. This does however mean that tomorrow, all being well, I can wire up the fiddle yard and maybe even get the wiper contacts in place ready for testing.

Exciting stuff!