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David Holman
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 Still no sign of my track materials, which should have been here this weekend, so am continuing with making buildings - at this rate I'll have a trackless diorama!

 Anyway, the station building is largely complete now, with the roof and walls painted, along with a couple of lamps, posters and noticeboards. I've lettered one of these MGWR and the other SLNCR, as [wherever Northport Quay actually is], both companies had a hand in building the line, while the GSWR and WL&WR also have running rights. Well, that's my story, anyway. A bit of work with weathering powders completes the picture. A conifer, temporarily pinched from Belmullet, shows how the missing part of the gable end is easily hidden.

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 Thoughts then turned to the warehouse at the right hand end of the layout. Its main purpose is to hide the headshunt exit on to the pier, so it needs to be big enough to do this. Casting around for ideas, an internet search of 'old Irish warehouses' turned up a rather nice group in Ramelton, County Donegal. As well as their modern conversions, there are also good photos of the buildings in original condition, with some nice close ups of the doors and windows. Not sure, but I think they were once part of a brewery, but am sure there are folk on this forum who can confirm.

 So, with this for inspiration, have drawn out something based on Ramelton Quay, which has now been transformed into into a basic shell using foam board. In front of the warehouse can been another project as, in a moment of weakness, I ordered a Langley Models kit of a Clyde Puffer. Not cheap, but then in size not far removed from a loco kit, so fair enough. There is a large, resin cast hull [nicely detailed], with lots of white metal castings. To begin with, it will probably be a project to take down the Club to work on - not least because there are a couple of folk there who know a lot more about boats than me and the last time I built a ship model was probably an Airfix kit in my early teens.

 Clyde Puffers were not exactly commonplace in the west of Ireland, but in my bit of fiction, small coasters go from Northport Quay to various off shore islands, as well as venturing inland to serve communities on the larger lakes. Not unlike their actual duties in Scotland, of course and am very much intending that other coastal craft can be built to provide a change of scene from time to time.

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 Finally, also made up the shell of a corrugated iron goods store, based on one that can been seen on the platform at Westport Quay. It uses Wills corrugated asbestos sheets, which though intended for 4mm scale, actually look fine in 7mm. The various colours are because the sheets were rescued from previous projects - waste not, want not!

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Edited by David Holman
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 Several good things happened today - the latest MRJ arrived, my first dental check up in over two years resulted in no treatment needed [much to my surprise, though I didn't get a sticker] and, at last, my track building materials have arrived!

 I ordered code 100 flat bottomed rail [same as Arigna Town & Belmullet] to create light weight track [Code 124 is more usual for 7mm scale], plus 6mm & 7mm wide copper clad strip for the sleepers. The 7mm is for the point timbers & the 6mm for plain track. I couldn't find any scale 9 foot lengths, so had to buy packs of 18" long strip and cut these up into 63mm lengths with a slitting disk in the Dremel. The photos show what a mess this made, and the jig I built for Arigna Town to make scale 60' lengths of plain track. Essentially, you fill up the spaces with the sleepers and solder one rail in place. This half track is then laid in situ, curving as required and held with double sided tape, so the second rail can be soldered in place.

 

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 There are four points to be made, two Ys , a left and a right. These are going to be copies of the ones custom made for me by Marcway [on Arigna/Belmullet], only this time I'll be making my own using the gauge I turned on my mini lathe. The Y point is a massive space saver, as can be seen from comparing the two pictures below. It is just 30 cm long, despite being 1.8m radius, the same as the standard ones, which are 45cm long.

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  So, this afternoon, after cutting some 9' sleepers, I then taped basic tracings of the three point designs [Y, L & R] to some pieces of board and then marked where the sleepers, rail ends and point V went. The sleepers were then numbered on these and the strips cut to shape and likewise numbered. Double sided tape was then stuck to the boards and the sleepers placed on this. So, at long last, I'm now ready to start track building.

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 Track laying

  It's been a while since I did any track building - indeed, without looking up dates, it was when I started on Fintonagh. That was 21mm, code 83 flat-bottomed rail and though the principles are the same, that is not to say I am an expert and it all comes naturally!

 Things went ok at first - you lay one of the stock rails, then make the 'Vee'. This means filing two pieces of rail and soldering them together. I used 240 degree solder for this, so that I can use 144 solder to fix the rails to the sleepers. So far, so good, however in trying to add the other rails, I quickly discovered I'd made a right Horlicks of the roller gauge, so there was no alternative, but to turn a new one...

 The other pieces are the two switch blades and two check rails. The latter are very important in ensuring stock goes in the right direction!

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 Since then, I've managed to complete a right hand point and a Y point, along with two pieces of plain track, as can be seen from the photos. The latter has a few spaces for economy & I'll be using card or plywood sleepers here, though the left hand siding is going to have some sort of inset track anyway. At the moment, track is just held down with screws. I am toying with some ideas to distress the copper clad sleepers a bit - thus far this has involved scoring longitudinal marks in the surfaces to represent cracks, but I also want to do something with some of the ends, as well as adding fixing spikes. It's nice to have got started at last.

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Track laying [mostly] completed today, though the crane track is still to be done and, apart from running a couple of wagons through the points, nothing has been tested yet. I started modelling in EM gauge, progressing through 0n16.5 to 7mm standard gauge and now Irish 5'3 and 3'. Over a dozen different layouts only two have used Peco ready made track, so I ought to know what I'm doing by now, but the trouble is that several years often elapse between building my own, so some of the techniques have to be relearned!

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 As previously mentioned, the basics are fairly simple. You make up a length of 'half track' in a jig, fix that down and then solder the second rail in place using one or more roller gauges. No 'flexitrack' here & mores the pity... Points might seem harder, but in fact you can build one in an hour or two and what's more tailor it to fit your chosen location, rather than relying set formations. This has certainly helped in the restricted space I have available.

 The main jobs when building a point, once you have set out the sleepers on your plan, using double sided tape, are as follows:

  • Lay one of the 'stock' rails, then make the Vee. These are a bit more trouble with flat bottomed rail, but is essentially just a case of filing two short lengths of rail and soldering them together.
  • Roller gauges are then used to solder the Vee in place and then the second stock rail is added
  • The long switch blades come next and these need a fair bit of filing and shaping. I find it helps to file a small nick in the base of the rail before bending it to go next to the Vee, while alignment at this point really is critical. I use a piece of aluminium strip [about 1.8mm thick] to set the gap at what is called the 'crossing' [or frog] and also to ensure the route through this section is nice and straight. Especially on the Y points, I also find it helpful to file away the foot of the stock rails where the thin end of the blades touch, as this ensures wheels follow the route nice and smoothly.

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The main task today has been laying the track over the baseboard join. With only one of these on the scenic section and only two tracks involved, there is no excuse for errors here! I used my usual method of countersinking cross headed screws in the  end boards, then laying the track across the join and soldering it to the screws, before cutting the rails to separate the boards.

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 A lot of cleaning up followed, to get rid of the flux & then came the slightly tedious job of cutting the insulation gaps in all the sleepers. So, ready to start on the wiring now and then it will be a case of cross everything when it comes to testing to ensure all my stock will run on the new layout. Logic says it should be ok, but experience suggests otherwise!

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 Pre Christmas modelling now drawing to a close. Below is the control panel for Northport Quay - just two switches to work the points as a pair of cross overs. Three push to make switches will be added to work the uncoupling magnets, plus an on/off switch for the shuttle unit on the crane track.

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  Next up the brackets for my tortoise point motors. I've been using these for over 20 years without problems, though there are a couple of issues to bear in mind. Firstly, they are expensive and secondly they need a good 10cm of baseboard framing. Hence these basic cradles, made from 4mm plywood, to turn them on their sides. The original pivot wire now turns a second pivot, which will work the below baseboard tie bars, as per on Belmullet.

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 With track laying completed, couldn't resist posing one of my intended trains, in this case a G2 2-4-0 and two Midland 6w coaches. The workshop now shuts down for Christmas, so very best wishes to you all.

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Thanks - I've just had to go and check because I've made a few six wheelers over the years. Some are Alphagraphix/Tyrconnel kits, others are scratchbuilt on Alphagraphix chassis. Both of these are plastic bodies with microscopstrip paneling and whitemetal castings. There are quite a few pictures of branch trains made up of just two six wheelers, so hopefully this will look the part on NPQ.

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Langley Clyde Puffer

 While nothing happened in the workshop [or indeed at all on Christmas Day], I am no good at all when it comes to just sitting around watching TV, let alone bad TV. Therefore, over Christmas, I like to have some modelling that can be done on a board, on my knees, sitting on the sofa. Hence the Langley Puffer.

 Well, I made a start, but it is certainly not proving easy. The large, resin cast hull is ok and the white metal castings too, but the problem is identifying them. The instructions aren't exactly clear and while there is a useful exploded diagram to help identify the numbered parts, being a ship model, rather than a railway one, there are large gaps in my knowledge, so I'm feeling very much like a beginner again. Help has come from fellow Chatham club member, Brian, who not only worked on the Puffers, but has been able to give me a large, detailed scale drawing of one. This has been invaluable in both identifying parts and other important features not included in the kit.

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 So, over Christmas, managed to get the hull cleaned up and air bubble holes filled. The lower cabin [also a resin casting] needed extensive filing to get it to sit properly on the rear deck, while the port holes needed drilling out and the interior braced with some plywood to cure a bit of warping. 

 The upper cabin is made up of substantial white metal castings, but goes together quite well with a bit of tweaking. It is not fixed down though [nor is the funnel], because the interior needs painting first and I can add a couple of control levers not supplied with the kit. I then glued various cleats and bollards to the deck, using cyano or 5 minute epoxy.

 The other mini project was the forward winch. This is a real bag of bits that another exploded diagram doesn't make entirely clear, while the instructions weren't either - at least to me anyway. One cast gear wheel is missing, but the scrap box should provide something suitable.

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  So there we are for now - enough to show the character of this fascinating model and that it seems to fit in nicely with Northport Quay as a whole, so hopefully will prove a good choice and an interesting challenge too. For now though, it is back to the layout wiring.

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 Since Christmas, have been plodding my way through the wiring of Northport Quay. With just four points and three uncoupling magnets, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a couple of hours work. However, this is handmade track which, along with Tortoise point motors rather complicates things:

  • All the copper clad sleepers need insulation gaps cutting in them
  • The points themselves require both switch rails cutting about three sleepers in front of the vee/frog, with the copper clad sleeper insulation gaps cut to suit.
  • The Tortoise point motors are too deep to fit within my shallow baseboard frames, so have needed home made brackets to turn them on their sides, with a new pivot beam to drive the under baseboard tie bars.
  • Meanwhile the supplied torsion wire on the Tortoise is too weak for 7mm scale and needs replacing with .8mm sprung steel wire, which took a major tidy up of the workshop to track down!
  • Tortoises do come with two built in auxiliary switches, so I always use one set of these to control the polarity of the point, so two wires from the toe end of the point go to the Tortoise, with a third wire going back to the frog. The latter never a bad idea with Peco points, I've found, which rarely prove 100% effective at this.
  • Connection between the two baseboards is via a 15 pin computer D plug and socket. There are actually only 8 wires, but I find it prudent to use alternate pins to minimise stray strands of wire creating a short. Been there, got the T-shirt - several, in fact!

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 At least there are just four track feeds in all, with just two DPDT switches [for the points] and three push to make switches [for the uncoupling magnets] on the mimic control panel set into the lower fascia of the layout.  Over numerous layouts in the last 30 years, I've always used tag strips on the underside of each baseboard as 'junctions' for the wiring. I make a basic wiring diagram and then create a wiring plan which lists where wires go to and from each tag strip. With each tag numbered and a simple code [eg P for points, Sw for switches, Skt for sockets and so on], I then only need two colours [red and black for +ve and -ve] for all the wiring and indeed have got away using just one in the past. Knowing where each end of each wire is all you need to trace any faults.

 So, no wonder it has taken me the best part of a fortnight, but as I've said before in other posts, for whatever reason, I have an inbuilt ability to to put things together back to front at every opportunity, while transposing things from above to below the baseboard only complicates things further. MANY rude words, in new and colourful combinations are inevitable! So, a case of slowly slowly and also carefully plan the best routes for the wires, which I keep in order by using a staple gun.

 The end product of all this was that around 2.45pm today, my Deutz G class shunter made its way hesitantly around the layout. Stage one successfully completed! However, stage two now involves making sure all my stock will run through the pointwork and unfortunately all is not well in this department. Longer wheelbase locos have shown there to be several tight spots, meaning I need to do some tweaking in one or two areas and probably do a bit of a rebuild on both Y points.

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 If this all seems like a lot of trouble to make four points and a few metres of track, it certainly is, but if you want correct gauge, lightweight track, then there is no alternative, so you just get used to it. 

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Fettling

 Have just spent the best part of two full days fettling the track work. Indeed, didn't exactly cover myself in glory with my hand made track as only the RH point behaved as it should. Both the Y points had tight spots, while the LH point blades wouldn't close properly. Some of the plain track wasn't that great either, with the alignment on the headhunt track [leading off stage to the pier], being especially poor.

 Part of the problem [apart from my own workmanship] stems from the fact that I laid the track [and did the wiring] on each board separately, but when I set the two boards up on my workbench, the faults soon started to become apparent - even before I began testing. Enough said! Below is the shelf where the layout will live, now covered in workbench stuff, to allow me see the track work better.

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 Needless to say, the smaller, shorter wheelbase locos were fine, as indeed was my    4-4-0 Wolf Dog, but the SLNCR 0-6-4Ts and other tender engines really struggled. The only answer was to be really methodical, listing all the faults, engine by engine [in both directions] through each bit of track. This helped identify problems common to several locos at a time and where to look.

 First up was the LH point at the right hand end of the layout. The point blades would not close flush against the stock rail & discovered the main reason for this was the holes I drilled through the baseboard were not tight enough to the stock rail, so the dropper wires [to the under board tie bar] didn't have enough room to move the blades. A fair bit of work with a needle file mostly cured the problem, but several locos were still derailing! Turned out that the track going off scene was on far too tight a curve, something that became especially clear when I looked through the hole in the sky to see the track at eye level. Good tip this, for checking alignment. In the end, I replaced a full metre of the outside rail, to give smoother run all the way from the platform.

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 The next problems were the two Y points. A vernier gauge showed  clearances varied from between 0.5mm too narrow to over 1mm too wide! One of the Y points had the same problem as the LH point, so more work with a needle file, along with adjusting the gauge in several places now has all but one of the locos able to negotiate the whole layout without problems. The remaining culprit is Sir Henry, my SLNCR 'Large Tank', where the problem is not enough play in the coupled wheels, so the solution will be to remove at least one pair of washers on the outer driving wheels. Interestingly, it runs ok in reverse, which at least shows the  sprung rear bogie is doing its job.

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 While I was at it, I straightened the dog leg at the entrance to the left hand siding, but decided to leave one or two other kinks in the plain track partly because they don't affect running, but also because they add a bit of character to what is very much a railway backwater, where a scale 10mph is likely to be the top speed. Have also included pictures of the baseboard joins, where I solder the rail ends to screws set into the ends. You can also see the insulation gaps needed with copper clad point track.

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 This morning, I did test runs with some of the rolling stock. Am not worried about any of the passenger/parcels vehicles, as all they will be doing is being pulled in & out of the platform, from the fiddle yard. Goods wagons are another matter, so checked out the shunting moves to both the pier and left hand siding. Fingers crossed, all seems ok, so can now move on to work that is more cosmetic and therefore a bit less stressful!

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Worth saying that, in the absence of someone to 'proof read' your work, photos are a good substitute. For example, have just noticed that in the third photo up, the alignment of the vee and the wing rails could be better - particularly on the left side. A bit more tweaking still needed, methinks...

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Fascinating reversal of history going in here - the SLNC 0-6-4Ts could normally handle track that others couldn’t ! The dreaded F- word though - I don’t enjoy the fettling stage. Does sound as if you are making good progress at least ! 

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Timely.

Just spent the afternoon fettling the track on the Port Briege layout.  When I lifted buildings & ground cover there were a few loose solder joints, so tidied them up and spent some time tweaking.  Can move on to replacing the ground cover now. 

It is a tedious process, but nice when done a stock is running through smoothly. 

Looking good.

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 Took a deep breath and decided to move on from construction and wiring. The next steps in model railway construction often cause a few furrowed brows, though I tend to follow the artistic route and start with the background and gradually move forwards. However, model railways being three dimensional things, it is just as apt to work from the bottom up. On Northport Quay, that potentially could mean the water level and harbour walls, but am continuing with the track for now, which means painting, detailing & ballasting.

 Copperclad sleepers tend to be rather plain, angular things, so have used a craft knife to score their surfaces in places to represent cracks in the timbers. There are some nice photos around of SLNCR lightweight, flat-bottomed, track, including ,'Riley in Ireland', which have been trying to emulate. Have also added representations of the track spikes, using small pieces of 10x20thou micro strip fixed with cyano. Tedium personified!

 Before starting all this, I added check rails to the two sidings and headhunt to the pier, all of which will feature inlaid track of some sort, as yet to be decided. There is a question about this on the site.

 Since then have given all the track a coat of spray primer - this is because without it, the copper clad sleepers can easily show through their shininess with wear and tear.

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Bought them from Marcway as 18" strips: 6mm for plain track and 7mm for point timbers. Marcway do ready cut ones, but only 8'6 lengths, I found and I wanted 9'.

 Not sure wire brush would work - the copper clad is surprisingly tough and even the craft knife scoring is disappearing under the paint. To be honest, the treatment is a bit over the top, but on a small layout like this you can indulge things to some extent, because there aren't  masses of anything to do.

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I have a few brush/flails like this -

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They had a brief popularity in the 80s and still turn up at boot sales, they have both an impact and a brushing action, which you can 'calibrate' as you use it. I find them quite useful, although you need to be aware of the potential for dismemberment - also, most of them were plastic-bodied, but nothing has ever come apart on me.

I have one mounted on an extension, to run up and down the woodburner flue.

 

Just a thought.

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 So, now into the multiple phases of  detailing the track work. Never entirely sure which bits go first, so as usual, will probably end up doing some parts more than once...

 This time, decided to paint the track first & began with an overall coat of Precision 'track dirt', which is a sort of a, well, dirty brown colour. Followed this by painting the rails & from here on, my much thumbed copy of 'The Art of Weathering' comes off the shelf. Hard to believe it was written by Martyn Welch nearly 30 years ago, but with its mix of exceptional observation and experimentation, together with which Humbrol paints to use, makes life [fairly] easy.

 The rails were therefore treated to his 'sidings' mix, which is bauxite [133], gunmetal [53] and matt black, using a fine pointed brush and not worrying overly about fully blending the colours. Hence you get a bit of variation. I then painted the sleepers with a mix of chestnut brown [186] and matt black, plus some gunmetal again, which helps to give the faint silvery sheen you see on well weathered, creosoted, sleepers. Once dry, this was dusted with grey weathering powder, though some areas will be dry brushed with gun metal later too. Martyn also suggests using a very fine brush to add small dots to suggest knots.

 At this point, used some stone coloured DAS clay to create an impression of the yard surface immediately beyond the ballast, while a thicker layer of this is going to be used to form the stone blocks of the inset track later.

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 And so to the ballasting. Every time I build a new layout, am reminded just how tedious this process is to get right, especially as I generally use Woodlands Scenics 'fine ash', which is probably a bit lightweight, but nevertheless, for me, matches the size of ash ballast in 7mm scale. The first step is to carefully spread it between the sleepers. It gets everywhere of course, so a combination of fingers and fine paint brush get it off the tops of the sleepers. A mixture of PVA, 50/50 with water and the usual drop of washing up liquid is then dripped on to the ballast with an eye dropper. It still tends to form small balls, but these soon dissipate, after which you got round again and drip more on. Finally, I use a small screw driver to poke and flatten the ballast around the sleepers, dipping it in water from time to time, which seems to help.

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 There are probably easier ways, but it is what I do and once the whole lot is dry, further treatment will be needed with weathering powders and so on. Told you it was tedious!

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Attempting a bit of subterfuge

 Attention has turned to the baseboard join area. Only the one, so it makes sense to try and hide as much of it as possible. Step one is the ballasted track, where I've used a trick taught me by Gordon Gravett. As with the baseboard surface itself, a sheet of clingfilm is sandwiched between the boards, which are then done up as tight as possible. A couple of teaspoons of ballast are then mixed with undiluted PVA and spooned over the join, then pressed into place, either side of the clingfilm. Allow to set overnight & then separate the boards and remove the clingfilm.

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 Step two involves the platform. For this, I've created a removable section. The platform wall has been made of a subframe of 'greyboard', which is twice as thick as mounting board. I've also used strips of greyboard as the foundation of the platform itself. The platform wall is covered with a layer of Wills stone sheet. Intended for 4mm scale, I find it looks ok in 7mm. My supplies are running low, but managed to find enough pieces to cover the wall - albeit in a range of finishes! 

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 The removable section is about 7cm long and I then glued a slightly longer length of mounting board to this, which forms part of the platform surface. Coping stones have been made from 20thou plastic sheet, with a piece of 20x30 thou micro strip glued to one edge to make it look thicker. More 20thou was cut to represent paving slabs, then likewise glued to the mounting board and like the coping stones, arranged to overlap either side. This then forms a single removable piece which [hopefully] will disguise the baseboard join, by breaking up it up across the whole width. It may be necessary to add a couple of heavy white metal figures on each side to hold it down, but fingers crossed, that shouldn't be a problem.

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Sorry Mick, dont know what ACC is and when I tried looking it up got everything from Aberdeen City Council to Automatic Cruise Control and many places in between!

 The thing about PVA is that it doesn't stick to cling film - or more likely it is the other way round - so guess that if you do a test with say a couple of bits of wood clamped together, with cling film and ACC, that will tell you.

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18 minutes ago, David Holman said:

Sorry Mick, dont know what ACC is and when I tried looking it up got everything from Aberdeen City Council to Automatic Cruise Control and many places in between!

 The thing about PVA is that it doesn't stick to cling film - or more likely it is the other way round - so guess that if you do a test with say a couple of bits of wood clamped together, with cling film and ACC, that will tell you.

Maybe its ACC New Zealands no-fault accidental injury compensation scheme https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accident_Compensation_Corporation🤣

The paperwork is pretty good for sticking things together, haven't tried it for sticking down ballast though

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