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Slow Train to Baltimore


Well, after several months trying to make time available at a time of day that I could drill and saw without bothering the neighbours, I finally got my boards built over Christmas.


Construction is sheets of clear polystyrene glazing held rigid with 20mm x 20mm x 2mm thick aluminium angle (all from Woodies – no connection, just another overcharged customer.) The idea is that all wood warps, so I need something that doesn’t. I posted this on rmweb to see if I got any helpful suggestions about ways to improve. The main recommendation was that I should have used 50mm, and the other comment was “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see”.


Anyway, they’re together now, topped with a cheap bed roll (Army Bargains, off Capel St) and then 3mm cork sheet. It should work for sound deadening but I don’t know if the trains will stay on the track yet.


I’ve measured it and I get a deflection of 1mm max on a 1.2m board, so I think I may be ok.


Here are some pics. I’ve started laying track on it since these were taken.



















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And here is the start of some pointwork. I’m making vees using a method suggested by Brian Harrap on rmweb (http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/37678-handbuilt-track/) The basic approach is very simple – fold to shape, solder the fold, cut off the excess, then file to shape. I still managed to get 2 duds by not folding properly, or trying to adjust later. I’m not sure how well they’ll work, but they seem strong and slightly less fiddly than the first one I made in the recommended way.



3 common crossings: 1st is OK, but the web of the splice rail is showing through; 2nd one doesn’t have the two rails level and is unfixable; 3rd is just a bad fold.






Clamp the folded rail to the board and solder the gap. (Don’t forget to clean first – I used emery paper, a fibreglass brush and alcohol before putting flux on with a paint brush.) The result is quite strong and will withstand filing to shape.





After a few bodged crossings, my 4th one worked out.





dsc 0736, 0737

This is the trackbase, sleepers laid and ballasted, with the 2 vees sitting roughly in position. It was at this stage I realised that a crossover isn’t just twice as hard as a single set of points. It’s a whole order of magnitude more difficult. Oh well, in for a penny....




Clearly an awfully long way to go and progress is much too slow. Still, it's an entertaining way to relax for the last hour of the day.


More to follow.




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Taking up from where I left off, I got one track down, and the straight side of the crossing installed. Attached (hopefully) is the world's most boring model rail video. It's a man pushing a wagon - but hey, it's 21mm gauge, P4 standards and it stays on the track through the crossing. Hope it does the same when I get the diverging road in place! And when I get the points moving.




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Thanks guys. You know, it just occurred to me that pushing a wagon through a set of points by hand is exactly what I used to do when I was 2.


No change there then.


A bit tired to take down the tools and do more tonight, so here's a few photos of how I built the track. Pretty much the same as before, but my soldering technique is improving thanks to the tips everyone gave. Exactoscale have moved in with C&L and now neither type of track is available, so it's probably as well I'm working on ply and rivet constructions.


First step was to try to locate the 2 vees at 21mm from one another. Sleepers and ballasting were done on the cork before I had a board to lay the track on. Through sleepering puzzled me. With 00, you don't need it because the track separation is so great that you can use 2 full crossings, but with only 24mm between tracks, you have to lay a set of sleeper timbers spanning both sides of the crossing. I couldn't find a picture, because the track usually hides it unless the photo is taken from directly above. I eventually managed to take a look at the crossover at the north end of Grand Canal Dock. (I think I may have covered this before.)



Enough waffle, here's the pics:







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Next up is the other closure rail. Not so successful here. This one will need to be adjusted as the alignment is wrong and the clearance is too loose. I'm having trouble getting it off though.


(I think I may need to rephrase that: the rail is reluctant to allow itself be unsoldered.)


Anyone for the last few choc ices there?







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Thanks John, Bosko and Rich.


John, I haven't forgotten that 24mm would be too tight for a curve, but this section is purely straight, and I can ease things out on curves. I hope that will do.


I'm itching to get back and do a bit more, but had to work late this evening, so it'll be the weekend at least before I can get more track down.


Here's a few pics that failed to upload at the end of my posting session last night. (Incidentally, does anyone know why the site has turned them on their side: they display right way up on my computer.)


1st, one running line complete.

2nd, gouging a hole under the sleeper that will move the turnout.

3rd, fettling the joint between the stock rail of one turnout and the point rail of the other, because I hadn't soldered them in line.

4th, making more holes in the cork underlay.











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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I'm cock-a-whoop this morning because last night I completed my crossover and it works!


I'm attaching, hopefully, a short video of me pushing three wagons over and back. The idea was to whizz them as fast as possible and see if they fell off. They didn't. :dancing:


Next up, wire it up and supply power and changeover switches for the frogs. Then convert one of Mr Murphy's nice 141 class to 21mm gauge and see if it can manage the crossing. Then try to figure out how to make the Alex Jackson coupling. Then see if my 141 can shunt a wagon or two across.




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  • 7 months later...
  • 6 months later...
  • 4 months later...

Hmmm, long absence. Had a beast of a year at work in 2013. Got things underway again this year, and wired up the crossover. 141 sails across it. When I tried to upload the video, it took so long I gave up. I'm trying again at the moment, and if it works I'll post it here.


Other progress is a bit back and forward. I started building some white metal kits, but got concerned about lead, lead filings, kids around the house, and decided a lead ban was in order. That left me looking for other building methods - basically plastic and brass. Plastic is obviously easier, so I made a start there, but got stuck for parts like springs, axleboxes and the like, most of which are available in white metal. I ordered some Exactoscale plastic ones, but only 1 was delivered, and then Exactoscale went into hibernation before merging with C&L. Meantime, I quite like soldering (trying not to sniff the flux) and thoughts turned to possibly getting brass parts etched. (And that looks even more interesting after seeing John's 22ft flats.)


Then I started reading threads on 3d printing and Cameo cutters, and also built some Bill Beford sprung bogies, adjusting them to 21mm gauge, but what I really need is a new etch so I don't need to cut and splice them.


Overall everything was pointing to the need to learn some CAD software, so I'm currently trying to get up to speed on TurboCAD for Mac. I've also been learning Templot for track plans and templates, so it's lots of learning and very little actual modelling. I hope I'll move on to more solid matters soon.


I'd post a pic of where I've got to with turboCAD, but I'm trying to upload a video of B141 powering over the crossover, and youtube owns my bandwidth, so I'll confine it to a text update for the moment. More to follow soon, I hope. (Trots off back into hibernation, probably.)



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Possibly the funniest thing I've read on here in a long time Alan. The everlasting trials of a modeller!


I saw a news thing about solder fumes in 1984 and hold my breath every time I solder - hence why I despise brass, but please don't despair, even if you are a Mac user.



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Thanks Richie,


I couldn't get my video to upload, but I did find this about the risks of soldering:




(I hope the link works.)


It seems inhalation of flux is mostly a cause for concern relating to asthma. The lead risk is from filings, bits of solder, and general ingestion hazards. I think I'll carry on with the brass so.


The document reminds me of my all time favourite, from my leaving cert physics class - the teacher asked, "what can we do to minimise the risks of handling radioactive substances?" and some bright spark answered, "Get a grown up to help you?"


So all I have to show at the moment is this leaf spring. It's not much, but it took a lot of effort to get this far, and if I can improve it a bit and get it cast, I can start making components for wagons and coaches, and before you can say boo to your neighbourhood goose I'll be making chimneys, domes and who knows what.


spring 1.jpg

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Good to hear that you are still beavering away and exploring the world of CAD & 3D design. The real fun begins in exporting from Turbocad to the photo engraver or 3D printing formats.


I would not panic too much about lead or the soldering, from an occupational health perspective our exposure from hobby use are likely to be very low and unlikely to result n harm, in terms of heath effects there is little difference between soldering, using solvents to weld plastic and spray mist from painting.


Good hygiene and adequate ventilation are probably the most important, with reasonably priced spray booths and extractor fans for soldering on the market.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I'm wrestling with TurboCad. Attached are the pdfs of my drawings for a batch of GSWR box vans, based on a drawing kindly provided by Alan O'Rourke. The plan is to build a box framework first, and then fit a series of overlays, building out the planks, doors, frame and ironwork, with everything to sit on an SSM sprung P4 chassis (very tasty little folded up brass jobs.) The drawings are essentially a series of 2D elevations - I haven't got far enough with the 3D yet.


I thought I'd have got started tonight mind, but every time I reopen TurboCad it sprays a raft of duplicate lines into my drawings. I've almost got around this by forming each drawing into groups before I close up, and moving the grouped lines into a separate layer before cleaning out the crud, but no company could expect to survive selling software this bad.


Let me rephrase that, surely no company could survive selling software this bad.


Anyway, templates for 10 boxvans:-


boxvan4 box.jpg


boxvan4 frame.jpg


boxvan4 ironwk.jpg


boxvan4 misc.jpg


I've left out the planking file, but it's a bit dull. (Well, ok, it's all a bit dull. Sorry. Anyway, let's see if this works, but not tonight.)



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It might be worth while looking at getting a Silhouette Cutter! I would recommend preparing a template drawing for one wagon and doing a test build to check fits and minimum width/sizes for strappings and other details, to avoid repetitive errors before batch building.



If you haven't gotten to deep with TurboCad it might be worth trying Draftsight its free 2D software http://www.3ds.com/products-services/draftsight/overview/.




The main disadvantage is that the TurboCAD is that the file format is incompatible with the programmes used in photo etching, laser cutting and 3D printing and its necessary to export the file to a dxf. or a 3d modelling format which can result in all sorts of interesting problems.

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Thanks John,


I've been thinking of the Silhouette based on the rmweb thread about it. I thought I'd try building something first though. I'll take your tip on the test build.


I went for TurboCad to try to get my head around 3D drawing, thinking of maybe using Shapeways for some builds, and this 2D effort is intended as a first step. I just bought some Bill Bedford axle boxes, leaf springs and buffers from them, and the quality seems good though I gather the price for larger 4mm items is high.




On the plus side, I managed to upload a video of a test run over my pointwork last Saturday:



If you listen carefully, you can hear the youngest P4 driver in the country (only 4) talking me through the moves he's making. He's a remarkably careful driver.


Incidentally, while trying to find my video, I found this equivalent one (but with a better soundtrack):



I don't think it's any of you guys.



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I would recommend preparing a template drawing for one wagon and doing a test build to check fits and minimum width/sizes for strappings and other details, to avoid repetitive errors before batch building.


I did a test build, as you suggested, and discovered I was building in HO. Oops, scaling error. :doh:


Making some changes now.

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I did a test build, as you suggested, and discovered I was building in HO. Oops, scaling error. :doh:

Making some changes now.


I went the opposite way accidently building a MGWR 6 coach possibly I S scale from a drawing in Model Railway magazine, I only noticed something looked when I built a matching pair of coaches from a drawing in a later edition of the magazine. I transferred the dimensions directly off the drawings without checking the scale.:confused:

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  • 5 months later...




Well, this is what I’ve been up to – card models of GSWR convertible wagons.


Following a self imposed ban on white metal, because I don’t want lead filings around the house, particularly at a desk where I take coffee and biccies late at night, it was back to the drawing board for construction techniques. Prime suspect number 1 was styrene, but I wanted to draw the outline on TurboCad, and wasn’t too sure about putting styrene through the printer at work, and it won’t go through the printer at home.


A chance reference on rmweb to poor durability of styrene, and potential for the old fashioned approach of using Bristol board and shellac made me wonder what shellac was, and whether it was still available.


Google said shellac was made of beatle shells. OK, sez I, that sounds pretty environmentally sound and non-hazardous, let’s see can I get any of that. MRCB on Cornmarket in Dublin were happy to oblige. KM Evans at Mary’s Abbey were selling Bristol board and scalpels. Marks sold me some glue, so I was set.


Next up, a plan. Consulting Murray and McNeill’s history of the GSWR, there are several side on photos of wagons. Scan them, draw over them, and then work out the scale – 14mm from railhead to buffer centerline. Rescale the drawing, and Bob is looking suspiciously like your uncle.


Next, see how many bits of wagons you can fit on a sheet of board.


2 false starts in styrene.



Next up:

Iteration 1. Use mounting board as a backing. Not so good. I’d got the scale wrong. The wagon was too narrow. The mounting board blunted the scalpel in seconds, and the whole was too coarse.


Iteration 2. Use Bristol board throughout. Better, but as John and Richie suggested, wraparound design wasn’t good.


Iteration 3. Individual sides and ends, built up in several layers. Getting better, but the fit was poor. I hadn’t calculated how much the width and length would increase over several layers.


(Photo shows Iteration 3, bulging a bit on the ends.)




(Next, from right to left, 2 in styrene - too wide; 1 in HO - too narrow and too high; and on the left, Iteration 3 in card - sides and ends not quite meeting up. Bah.)







Iteration 4. Adjust the lengths. Sides are 3 layers – planking layer, backing, and two for the outside frames. Ends are the same. Make the outermost side frames slightly longer so that they sit outside the ends. Make the inner backing layer slightly less high, to let the underframe sit inside the cosmetic wagon frame – 4mm should do it. Leave a straight panel on the bottom of the outer frame for strength – you can cut it off later.


Stick it together. Now, that’s beginning to look a bit better.


Iteration 5. Wouldn’t it be better if I used sleeper timbering for the frames? It’s only 1.3mm thick. Answer – No. Back to iteration 4.


(Photo is Iteration 5 with its precursors in the background, and yes, the door really is crooked.)





Next, copy your bits onto a sheet and printout for bulk production.





Cut, cut, cut. Glue, glue, glue. It’s therapeutic work late at night, and working from a printout really improves the accuracy. Everything is marked out accurately and square before you even have to think, and all you have to do is cut and glue carefully.









Next, the underframe. Des at SSM does a lovely little sprung etched brass undercarriage which he said he’d be able to provide separately. A few emails show Des is under pressure. You want how many? 42? 3 or 4 maybe. I’ll see what I can do. Last seen riding off into the sunset….


Never mind, I have the technology, I can build it myself. Spend Christmas doing drawings for etchings and underframe. Might as well do a bogie while I’m at it. Get them both etched together.


Bogie is based on Bill Bedford’s designs – inspired by, not copied from. Better ask him if that’s OK. He’ll never mind – nobody else is stupid enough to be modeling 21mm gauge in P4, so there’ll be no demand.


Bill comes back and says he can adjust his bogies for my gauge and will be happy to sell them. Should have guessed that anyone who will produce Highland Railway carriages isn’t exactly in the mass market anyway.


So this is where it all sits down, waiting for a w-iron / solebar. Money has changed hands. Deliveries are awaited. They’re promised for mid-February. So at present I have 11 built and parts for 2 more. 10 was the plan but I seem to have got carried away somewhat.


Roofs can’t go on until I figure out how to join the uppers to the unders, and then add some weight. Painting can’t be done until everything is together.


And then there are those AJ couplings to figure out. Those boys have me running scared.


And lettering.


All good fun and games.


(Pics of the baker's dozen tomorrow, or in 3 months time maybe, who knows?)


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Very impressive indeed - good to see attention being given to genuine Irish prototypes. All too often repainted Hornby stuff is the best that's available.... Leslie's "Provincial" wagons, of course, are the exception to this - a very valuable addition to the "goods" scene.


I have a model built by an Inchicore worker in 1905 or so. I must take a pic of it and scan it. It's painted in the GSWR wagon livery (as seen in those photos above) of a very dark grey, almost black; much darker, even, than locomotives were!

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Nice work Alan.


Building in styrene is mainly around having an adequate thickness of material and bracing to resist warping. These days I normally use a 3 layer construction for buildings and structures. I have a number of plasticard 4mm wagons that are still pretty good after 20 years and a large scale model of Schull & Skiibereen No4 Erin that's built like a tank.

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