Friday, October 31, 2008

Soldering waggly bits

soldering waggly bits
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

If there is one scary task with Garratts it's the waggly bits. Like it or not, any build is going to involve 4 sets of Walschaerts valve gear - the most feared set of waggly bits on any model locomotive. And the bit that everyone is impressed with when you see the model.

My plan had been to use proper valve gear rivets to hold it all together. I've done this before with the 4mm scale model I built and it worked well. So well in fact that the last set only took 20 minutes to assemble and worked first time. I bought what the packet said were 7mm scale rivets, but when I came to use them found there wasn't enough metal in the rods. If I reamed out the holes large enough I'd only be left with a wisp of nickel silver around the edge. Not good.

Soooo, I bit the bullet and dug out the brass pins. Each joint would be made with one carefully soldered in place. What fun.

I've been here before. Several hours of pain where solder ran everywhere I didn't want it to go and locked joints up solid. The pin then had to be filed away, solder cleaned up and another attempt made. In desperation I pinched an idea from somewhere and tried sandwiching aluminium foil behind the part being soldered. The theory is that the foil stops the molten metal and as the solder won't stick to it, you pull it out after the joint is made.

Guess what, it works !

Of all the joins made on the loco I only managed to gum up three. Pretty good and much , much better than I expected. Sometimes it was fiddly to hold the two parts to be joined and the foil in place while piercing it with a brass pin. Some took 2 or 3 goes and where I ended up with problems it was probably carelessness meaning the hole made was too large. Keeping the joint tight was fun too. A couple of times I had to reheat the solder to push the parts closer together. It's very easy with Walschaerts to end up with a very saggy collection of rods if you don't. Those joints that were forked went well, the others are OK.

The tin foil technique made a huge difference. It's certainly better than using cigarette papers. These work but not nearly as well and tend to go soggy with flux. I still just about prefer rivets, and I will try to get some thinner ones for the next attempt at this kit, but I'm not so scared of soldering now

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Schuco Type 2

Schuco Type 2
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

It's the one everyone has been waiting for - a sensibly priced bay window VW Type 2 van !

I picked this 1:87 scale model up from my local model shop for £3.49.

It looks pretty good. At first sight the side windows looked small but I think this is the think black edging meant to look like window rubbers. A re-paint will sort this out.

Obviously it is left hand drive but you can't have everything.

On the Schuco website there are plenty of models on offer and some of them look seriously tempting. I like the farmer wide bed pickup. And the fire engine. The 1:18 scale panel van looks good. And the camper with side opening roof looks just like mine but in the wrong colour. The crew cab is neat. Ooooh a pickup with pole trailer. Even the 1:18 pickup is lovely and workman like. There's even a cute diorama.

Someone has been busy here - there are loads of variants and they all look good. That's quite an investment in tooling. Bet the VeeDub collectors will go nuts for these !

Stuck bit

Stuck bit
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
This is the last cylinder face to be drilled for the Garratt. Having done 3 without difficulty I was confident. At which point the job went pear shaped.

The photo shows a drill bit firmly stuck in the casting. As far as I could tell the heat generated in the drilling had fused the two parts together. Or something like that, I'm sure the scientists out there will explain better than I.

Anyway, swearing it it didn't work (it's always worth a try though) so I took a saw to the stub that fits inside the cylinder and chopped it in half. The blade hit the bit so I worked around it and was eventually able to pull the waster material off. this released the bit and after a quick clean up the part is ready for the model locomotive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Drilling a cylinder

Drilling a cylinder
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
The Garratt Locomotive kit provides a set of nicely moulded cylinder faces cast in nickel silver. This give a good, realistic colour which is better than a brass equivalent would be.

The only trouble is that they are blank - you have to drill a hole for the piston rod. I think this is a job demanding more than just twiddling a pin vice. In fact to get the best out of the model a pillar drill will make a big difference. Therefore, lazy as I am, I extracted mine from the cupboard and set it up.

The castings have a chunky sprue which can be held easily in a vise or even pair of pliers. The metal took a fair bit of drilling (I was right about the pin vise !) with the bit being moved in and out to clear swarf. I drilled to 1.5 mm which seemed to give a good sliding fit for the piston rods. Some bits seemed to work their way through better than others so there is a bit of technical knowledge I'm missing but never mind I managed to muddle through.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Slaters crank pins

Slaters crank pin partsWhen you make the move from 4mm to 7mm, unless you've been very finescale in the smaller scale, the number of parts in a crank pin is a surprise. Romford give you a pin that screws into the face of the wheel and a thick washer to solder on the front to retain the rods.

Slaters supply a bolt to be screwed in through the back of the wheel, a brass bearing to go on the front and locate the rod, a steel washer to go over this and finally a nut to hold the whole lot together. Mechanically, this is an excellent system. Instructions are provided but I prefer to make some extra modifications in light of experience.

First, the back of the wheel is countersunk. This allows the bold head to be nearly flush with the back of the wheel. Ideally you replace the cheese head bolt with a countersunk version, why Slaters don't do this for you is a mystery to me. If the head is proud you'll normally be OK but on some models that bit of metal orbiting the axles will find something to clobber. A flush finish looks better anyway.

Bolts fitted to wheelsI also like to put a touch of superglue on the bolt threads at the back of the wheel before finally screwing it home. This stops the bolt rotating when you try and tighten up the retaining nut. The loco frames will always be in the way of remedial action if this bolt gets loose so stopping it happening now is good planning.

All that is left is to shorten the brass bearing if required - I put the bearing through the rod and file it until it is just proud. If you have two rods on the crank pin (e.g. coupling and connecting rods) then the bearing is fine as it is. Then the steel washer goes on and the nut is done up. The rods shouldn't be clamped tight with the nut - if they are you shortened the bearing too much.

All this is fine most of the time but the Garratt has very limited space behind the cross heads. I looked at this and decided that while I might be able to use the supplied set up by filing the steel nut nice and thin, there was a better way.

Modified crank pinsThe bolt was replaced with a brass version. Then the bearing was filed down as much as possible. The steel washer is then used to trap the rods as usual but the nut goes in the spares pot. This is replaced with a small brass washer soldered to the bolt (brass is easier to solder than steel, hence the replacement), much like a Romford crank pin. The soldered joint is dressed to make it smooth and the resulting part is strong. Result - fresh air between the back of the crossheads and the front of the crankpin. Not much but a miss is as good as a mile in this case.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fitting bearings

Fitting bearings
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
In an ideal world, all holes in etched parts would exactly the right size. However the limitations of the manufacturing process mean that the world isn't ideal, so a good designer will arrange for them to be slightly undersize.

On the Garratt the holes for the axle bearing are about 6mm in diameter. The bearings are 6.6mm so a light touch with the tapered reamer ensures a snug fit.

Years of experience have taught me to be very careful doing this. It's very easy to take out so much metal that the bearing slops around - fine if you are using a jig to line everything up but hopeless otherwise.

It's also one of those jobs where the right tool makes a big difference. I'm using a Draper tapered reamer and it's a whole lot easier than trying to do the same job with a needle file. The later is likely to result in an oval hole whereas I know that what I end up with is to all intents and purposes, round. If you go reamer shopping unless you are a 7mm scale modeller, who can get away with the 7 quid bigger reamers, reckon on spending 12 to 14 pounds on something suitable for the smaller 4mm scale holes you'll be dealing with. The tool pictured will only just go in the smaller holes.

If this sounds a lot of money then console yourself with the fact that the tool will last for years and be useful wherever you find a hole that needs opening out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Uckfield Exhibtion 2008

ProgrammeOK, it's been a week but I've finally go around to writing up the story of our trip to Uckfield Model Railway Exhibition:

Friday: Packed up. Drove down the M40, M25 and M23. Took some A roads to find the B&B we were booked into at Newick. Did OK until we got to the village but still found our accommodation using a combination of luck - and not finding anywhere to turn the car around. Mrs Thomas runs a small guest house which is home to paying visitors, 4 cats and 2 enormous Great Danes. If you don't like animals this isn't the place for you but as we do it's great. Were served with tea and biccies whilst fussing a particularly affectionate moggy. The dogs live in a conservatory which is good as they would be a bit heavy if they decided to leap on your lap !

Made it to the venue around half 6 and after booking in a couple of helpful members assist us in dragging the layout into the hall. It's a short walk but the help is really appreciated and the sign that this is going to be a nice friendly show. Our space has a table sticking over it so stuff gets dumped on this. Setting up commences and is nearly finished when the layout next door turn up and need the space our chaos occupies to get their layout in ! Drat, 5 minutes more and we'd have got away with it.

Once set up and happy everything works (one lazy point motor but nothing to worry about) we head back to the B&B and then on to a pub for some excellent Cumberland sausage baguettes and indifferent beer. If "Kent's Best" is the best Kent can do he better give up brewing for something else.

Saturday: Up early as the B&B only has one shower between 3 guest rooms and I wanted to get in it first. The central heating was over effective and about midnight we decided to open the window in the room and let some autumn coolness in.

Picture HouseBefore breakfast I took a stroll to get a newspaper. Newick has a general store, butcher, chemist (under threat according to a poster in the window) and baker. The later seems to specialist in doughnuts, or at least they like making them judging by the piles already available at 7am !

Breakfast is excellent, fresh eggs from the chickens (didn't I mention them) with our fry-up. The other exhibitors sharing the accommodation have brought S and Z gauge layouts and we chat away about shows.

A quick run to the hall and then a stroll around the high street. We could have got in and started up but with over an hour before opening, some fresh air seemed like a better idea. It's a nice little main street with some of the usual shops. A handy bakery gave my Dad a treat - cheesecakes - not the normal version made of cheese but the ones made of puff pastry topped with coconut strings. You only get them in the south of England and I'm not sure what they are really called so cheesecake it is.

Uckfield CrowdsBack in the hall and the track is cleaned up before we wander around to look at the other exhibits. Our neighbours have brought a GWR branch terminus which is pains me to admit is really quite nice. Not so nice is the curtain erected along the back of the operating space on the P4 layout "Ferring". It's a big model and this curtain is like a wall. No one can understand it's purpose either other than to separate the fine scale operators from the rest of us.

The show isn't huge but it is quality. There are no duff layouts and hardly any you would call average. In fact I'd argue it's probably one of the highest quality shows I've ever exhibited at - not sure what we are doing there but anyway it's too late to get rid of us. The crowds certainly appreciate it and walking around in the morning is difficult especially in the side halls.

Lunch is served upstairs - I had a very nice lasagna while my Dad ate ham rolls. It's nice to be able to eat away from the layout. You get to chat with the other exhibitors and traders. In the show we are all confined to our displays and only get to socialise over the barrier while trying to talk and concentrate on operating the layouts or selling stuff therefore this is a nice opportunity.

The afternoon is quieter but no less chatty. The main question revolves around the Spratt & Winkle couplings. I'm not sure if we have converted anyone to using them but plenty now understand how they work.

In the evening the is a meal back in Newick. Our group of 27 just fits around a single table. Clever organisation means there are names against places and on the back of the cards a list of what we ordered weeks ago - something most had forgotten. The food is good as is the beer (Jack this time) and conversation. Just when we are all tired and merry a quiz finishes the evening and hilarity ensues as we try to remember who various dogs belonged to or decipher 76 T B in the B P.

Sunday: The last day is all about positioning - in the car park. We reckoned that by getting a spot not too far from the door we could load up without moving the car. I managed to find a space as close as possible and then we went for another wander. We'd have been there even earlier except that the chatting around the breakfast table went on longer than expected - a rather pleasent problem to have.

Uckfield MillIn the south of the town you find the station, a single platform terminus with no trains on Sunday, and a really attractive mill complex. I took a few pictures of this as it does have real potential for a model. The station, river and mill make a very compact scene and pretty bucolic. The signal box still exists and we chatted to the lady who works in the taxi office that occupies the top floor. Apparently the river often floods to a depth of 6ft above the banks. This means a new toilet every time the water subsides and watered down beer in the nearby pub.

Sunday is traditionally quieter than Saturday at any show and this was the case here. There was still someone in front of the layout pretty much continuously all day though. The trade didn't seem to do too bad either. The South Eastern Finecast stand opposite certainly flogged a few locos and I think Roxey mouldings did too. We left with an Isle of Man coach from them anyway...

Lunch was shepherds pie which was just as nice as the lasagna and just right. You don't want anything heavy but do need some stodge to get you through the day.

Flockburgh questionsThe crowds started to dissipate in the middle of the afternoon. With an hour to go stock was disappearing out of the fiddle yard and heading for the stock box. We'll keep running something until the death but as I've written before, if you come in at 4pm then don't expect things to be quite as perky as they were 48 hours ago !

As expected the layout was carried out easily to the car park. The prize for packing had to go to Flintfield. Heading back to Holland they were not only one of the first out of the door, but amazingly the whole model packing into two modest boxes carried on top of a small Vauxhall. I'm assuming that the technology is the same as Mary Poppin's carpet bag.

The trip back was easy enough other than an idiot Volvo driver (if you indicate you are overtaking and I don't accelerate so you can go by quickly then GO) and we were back home drinking tea by 9pm.

Much thanks is due to the members of Uckield Model Railway club who were friendly and help full all weekend. It make a huge difference to a show. Special mention should go to Adrian Colenutt, the exhibition manager, who was always around making sure everything was going OK.

And we are supposed to be going back next year. We're looking forward to it already.

More pictures on Flickr

Coach in G1MRA magazine

G1MRA Autumn cover
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

I don't usually mention appearances in society magazines on the blog as the parade of familiar publications would be of little interest to most people - if you can buy it in WH Smith then fine, otherwise I stay quiet. However the appearance of a piece I wrote some time ago on the building a Mercian Midland coach in Gauge 1 prompts me to type up some thoughts I have meant to lay down for a while.

I joined the Gauge One Model Railway Association (G1MRA) a couple of months ago after building the Ruston locomotive. It had been suggested that they might be interested in an article which would help publicise the kit. Ever keen to lend a hand I did the writing duties and then realised if I wanted to see the results I better join the association.

The application form (downloaded from the website) and £22.50 winged its way to the membership secretary and a couple of weeks later the postman struggled up the path with what appeared to be a paving slab in an envelope. This turned out to be a fat joining pack and a couple of issues of the magazine. Very impressive.

The mag itself is an A4 sized publication in colour throughout. It's full of good stuff. The editor seems to enjoy the support of the specialist trade - hardly surprising in a minority scale, if you work in G1 then you are almost certainly a member.

The amount of equipment available amazed me though. If you want a steam loco and have a reasonable sum (around £1800) going begging the a beautiful RTR model can be yours. For less there are several kits that don't require an engineering apprenticeship. I'll admit that I'd love to have a go at these but don;t have the money or anywhere to run them. One day maybe...

So far I am impressed. The £15 renewal will be paid when it comes up next year even if I don't make anything else in the scale.

Visit the Gauge One Model Railway Association Website

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lifeboat Enthusiasts

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
The late autumn and winter months mean reduced action down at the boating pond. To see us through this dark, damp and dingy part of the year, our model boat club meets once a month for a series of talks and displays. Sometimes one of the members does this, but if we are lucky we get an outsider.

This month's presentation was by Adrian Clutterbuck from the Lifeboat Enthusiasts' Society.

All boat modellers and anyone who has anything to do with the sea, have a soft spot for the RNLI. They have fascinating vessels painted in pretty colours and more importantly, do some incredible work. Generally they are regarded a A. Good. Thing.

What with all the hauling people out of the sea, the organisation doesn't have much time to look after its history properly. What they needed was a group of lifeboat anoraks (sou'wester ?) to do all this - hence the LES. Their members collect all sort of information about the RNLI down to the minutest detail. This makes them a fantastic fund for anyone who needs to carry out some research. Want to know details of rescues carried out from a long closed station 30 years ago ? They probably have someone who can help.

Adrian looks after the modelling section of the Society magazine - he brought some photocopies of a couple of his sections along and there is some serious information contained within. Very impressive modelling by the members too. They don't just make boats but the tractors for hauling vessels out of the water and complete miniature lifeboat stations.

More details and an application form can be found on the society website:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MORE Garratt bits

Garratt bits
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
I had pretty much run out of parts I could fit to the Garratt just in time for my long weekend of shows. Yesterday I took a trip over to see Trevor to sort a few things out (in case any one is wondering what happened to the Dunalastair build, that was one of them, it will be back soon) and while I was over there, pick up the remaining parts.

Aside from a few lengths of brass wire (fat, 0.9mm and 0.7mm) and motors gears wheels etc. the big news is that the lost wax castings are in.

These bits in brass and nickel silver give me the crossheads and slide bars amongst others. Without them I couldn't do the waggly bits so now...

The casting quality is very high. There's quite a lot of detail on these bits and little or no flash. The cylinder fronts need to be drilled out so I'll have to find a sharp bit for that as that nickel will be hard. Whatever, this is a whole lot better than making these sort of things out of bits of brass fret and whitemetal !

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition

Minature traction engines
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

How can you describe the MME ? Is it several thousand men (and lets be honest, it is nearly all men) in search of a lathe ? Actually, that's not fair - some of them are after non-ferrous metals or roller bearings too. I suppose I could bang on about the hundreds of high quality models that have consumed millions of hours of their builders time, but then you would be better off looking at the pictures I took.

In fact I think it's better not to try, the photos tell the story much better than any words. There were of course exceptional models, a 7 1/4 inch Duchess for example, and fascinating ones such as a perfect miniature of a grinding machine. To be honest unless you spent a lot of time examining in forensic detail each exhibit you'd miss most of what was on display. And even at a 5 day long show you wouldn't have the time to do this !

Being there for a couple of days working the KMBC stand, I did take one unique opportunity. In a side hall there is a lecture programme, a hang over from days of yore when this hobby was about self improvement as much as anything else. My knowledge of laser cutting and silver soldering is greater than it was. I'd have learnt about painting too if it hadn't been for that pesky Uckfield show meaning I was away over the weekend - next year maybe.

One process I started was that of looking for a lather. Lathes have always represented for me a bit of a pinnacle as far as tools go. In the next year though I suspect I may end up buying one. And this isn't the sort of tool you can get on the high street. Luckily with several suppliers present I was able to fiddle with the various machines on offer and talk to people about them.

My criteria involves a well engineered and accurate machine that isn't very big - 18 inches long ideally. A cheap Chinese machine looked a good possibility at one stage but talking to an enthusiastic user it turns out that the tailstock doesn't line up perfectly with the centre of the chuck, which in turn doesn't grip round workpieces very accurately. Obviously you get what you pay for ! Still - I have started and will happily accept suggestions for anyone who has actually used the machines.

Enough from me though - go and look at the photos.

Update: Watch a short video I made of some of the more mobile bits at the show.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Things you only see at an exhibition...

Old and new
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
I'm stewarding at the Midlands Model Engineering Show for a couple of days. It's got a hard floor and no seats. Lots of good things are on display though - check back tomorrow for pictures and more details.

While on the stand I was amused to see a penny farthing rider complete with traditional costume (is there anything else for riding a machine such as this) using a Kodak digital camera. A incongruous scene reminiscent of the best continuity error in a BBC costume drama !

Monday, October 20, 2008

Uckfield Model Railway Exhibtion 2008

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

Just got back from Uckfield and don't have time to post a proper show report until later in the week. However the main points:

  • The show was excellent, one of the best in terms of layout quality that I have ever been to.

  • We were looked after extremely well.

  • The club members were friendly and helpful all weekend.
  • We enjoyed ourselves.

  • We're looking forward to next years show.

More when I have time. While you are waiting I've posted a few pictures on Flickr.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Flockburgh Folly

Folly baseOn our model railway layout Flockburgh there is a hill. And at the top of the hill there is a scruffy patch of grass (OK, scatter). It's just green with no real texture. Not pretty but at the time I just needed to cover up the plasterwork making up the cliff.

Looking at the layout, we'd always felt that there should be a monument or something overlooking the station from here. Trouble is I never got around to designing and making one. It's never quite seemed important enough. Besides, designing a monument is a lot harder than it looks. Then at a trip to my local model shop I struck lucky.

Hornby produce a range of "Scaledale" resin buildings. They are rather nicer than they have any business being - in fact I bet a lot of modellers miss out on the fun of scratchbuilding structures because there is no need (not true but that's how it will be perceived) when you can just buy them and pop them on the layout. In this range is a nice little folly. I liked the look and poking around the model with a ruler showed it to be rather better as a 3mm scale effort than the intended 4mm. At the smaller scale the doors are a more castley 7ft for example.

Obviously I couldn't use it as supplied, pride meant I had to fiddle with it. In the end this was a coat of grey paint, to match the local stone, and some light weathering. Then I carved a hole in the cliff top and fitted a balsawood stump to retain the model - it has to be removable for transport. To bed the building in some scenic net covered with scatter and nylon grass was built up using PVA and hairspray. This is flexible to survive the tower being removed.

The result looks nice to me. By the time you read this, all being well, I'll have had the opinions of several visitors to the Uckfield Exhibition.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Castle Trains, Warwick

Castle Trains, WarwickHow lucky are the people of Leamington & Warwick. Not one, but two excellent model shops within 5 miles of each other ! Best of all they are very different beasts and so both are well worth a visit.

Castle Trains resides in Smith Street, Warwick. Just around the corner (sort of) from the famous castle. It's cheaper to get into the shop though.

Inside the shop is mostly given over to a huge selection of Ready to Run railway models from several manufacturers. Locomotives and rolling stock from N to G scales are available. I doubt there are many shops that can make this boast. To bolster this there is a good second hand selection for the collector, cheapskate or modeller looking for raw material for a conversions project.

On top of this there are accessories including road vehicles, buildings and by far the largest Woodland Scenics range I have seen anywhere. You also get Games Workshop and Airfix kits, paints (GW and Humbrol), Expo Tools and more besides.

Part of the shop belongs to Lego and other toys - the one thing the area lacks is a proper toy shop and so Castle Trains are making up for this. Ideal if you need an excuse to drop in with their family.

As well as the retail place, you can see Marc at railway exhibitions up and down the country.

For more details, visit the Castle Trains website.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Putting the Garratt together

Current Garratt
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
When I really "get into" building a model locomotive or boat I have the ability to waste great chunks of time doing something that probably seems pointless to those of a more mechanical bend. I simply can't stop myself putting the various sub-assemblies together. Not so I can check they fit, I do that as well, but because I like to see the model I'm making materialise in front of me.

Normally this is restricted to popping chimneys and domes in place to get "the look" but in this instance I have 5 distinct parts to bring to the job. The boiler unit can be hooked up to the power unit frames and then the bodies for these set in place.

To be honest until I receive another tranche of parts new week, this is as far as I wish to go. The whitemetal detailing could be applied to the boiler but I'd prefer to have the thing running before then - it seems a more natural way to work.

Over the weekend I'm at the Uckfield Model Railway show followed by a couple of days stewarding at the Midlands Model Engineering exhibition so this break is just a short interlude. Next week (hopefully) construction will commence with a vengeance.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hind engine

Hind engine
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
According to the instructions the hind (rear) engine unit is the harder of the two to construct. I suppose this is true but it's hardly difficult compared to many etched brass locomotive kits.

As for the front unit there is an inner skeleton. This is slightly more complicated than the last one to allow for the coal bunker. The wrapper is the same as before - half etched for detail and nice and easy to bend.

The fiddliest bit is the rivet detail and beading around the top of the leading edge, 2 thin bits of brass that need neat soldering to retain the detail. A hot iron, lots of flux and little solder do the job here though. Actually I was quite please with myself here as it's none well without resorting to the RSU.

With all that done there is a box to make up for the end, the lamp iron and step to do and the job is done. I've nearly run out of etched bits for this kit. Only the waggly bits to go, so nothing scary then !

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Front engine unit

Front engine unit
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
All I had to do was make a box to fit on the front engine unit. And it still took me ages 'cos I didn't read and understand the instructions properly.

The bodywork starts with folding up a simple brass skeleton which includes the top surface. Then the outer wrapper goes around this.

I folded up the support and tried it on the chassis. The holes for the bolts didn't line up. I puzzled for a while and then realised that I had the wrong chassis for the box I was building.

Then more puzzling while I tried to work out how the part I was holding could be folded up to match the drawings. The problem was that none of the diagrams or photos show inside (the smokebox end) of the unit.

My salvation was tea. After a mug of refreshment a light bulb came on in my head and I realised I had the wrong former. Looking at the pictures and the other bits on the fret the solution was there. Pick up the right part and everything works. And it only took me an hour to get this far...

Anyway, once the inner is soldered up, three 8BA nuts are attached to the bottom so it can be bolted to the footplate. Those on the sides needed to be filed back a little so they didn't overlap the edge and affect the lie of the sides. Some curious little "wings" are part of the metalwork but these would get in the way too so I removed them. I have no idea what they were supposed to do other than get in the way. Perhaps a chat with the designer will enlighten me.

The wrapper is half etched for detail and easy enough to fit. I started at the front centre where a lamp iron provides a handy centre mark. With the front face tacked in, the metal bends easily around the corners and with care produces a square and flat unit. In the end I think there is around 0.5mm difference between the ends - not enough to make me want to fiddle any further !

Detailing is limited to the lamp iron and a front step, both of which attach easily with a hot iron. Inside the end there are some parts to provide inner detail and also a raised platform in front of the smokebox. Some whitemetal parts will follow later but next I moved on to the back end.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Boiler Cradle

Boiler Cradle
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

First up, thanks to Andrew Sturmey for setting me right on Garratt nomenclature. I now know that the part I've just built is the boiler cradle. It's always nice to understand what you are working on !

Anyway, dropping the boiler in is easy enough. Once it had been soldered to the firebox, the resulting part sat slightly too low in the frames - until I assembled the smokebox saddle. This is a bit fiddly as you are fixing little bits of metal to big ones making the solder a bit less cooperative than normal. In the end I build the saddle up as a unit, tacked it in place and then heated things to make the joints nice and neat - when the previously assembled parts separated again !

A bit of fiddling soon sorted this. The only other problem was that the pivot had to be filled down to allow the flat plate in front of the smokebox, location of which is assisted by a series of half etched lines, to sit in place.

The firebox was soldered through the cab front - a large hole is provided for this. A touch at the top made doubly sure nothing would move.

Finally the grate and ashpan was fitted to the bottom. This means the unit no longer sits down and has to be supported by a couple of boxes until the power units are ready. The chimney and dome are currently sat in place as it give me childlike pleasure to see them there. Fixing can't be that far away though.

Update: Apparently this bit should now be called the boiler unit. It's only the cradle before the boiler is fitted. Jargon - you've got to love it !

Monday, October 13, 2008


Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
I only needed two goes at this one...

The firebox is made up of a former, wrapper and whitemetal front plus a couple of bits to represent the fusible plugs that are affixed first. I started attaching the wrapper at the bottom of the fold up inner part. Relieving lines make the corner bends easy and when I finished the wrapper was about 1.5 mm too long on one side.

Taking it off (good job it was only tack soldered), the next attempt started with marking the centre line of the wrapper and former using a CD marker pen. Then soldering started in the centre and moved out each way towards the ends. A little bit of overlap at the bottom on each side was quickly cleaned off with a big file. The whitemetal lump fixes to the front with 100 degree solder. I built up the edges with low-melt to give plenty of meat for rounding off the corners.

The ashpan is a more interesting prospect. It's made up of 4 parts with have to be riveted and formed (folder and bent in places). A lot of tacking, and repositioning took place before I was happy that the result looked like what I could see in the prototype photographs. I'll look forward to painting this bit as it's going to need a lot of weathering !

In theory the ashpan is fixed to the bottom of the firebox and the whole lot slid between the frames. It seems a little wide (about 1mm) for this so I'm going to deviate from the instructions and fit these bits separately. This shouldn't make any difference to the finished model.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Garratt Boiler

Garratt Boiler
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
This boilers clean lines hide a whole heap of work. A fair bit of effort went into making something so simple looking.

For me, the boiler was supplied as a flat part. No problem (!) as all I need to do is break out the GW Models metal rollers and turn it into a tube. While rollers are not essential for modelling, I am rubbish at making round things so decided to invest for the future. There are lots of kits out there for me to build !

At first I though the etched lines along the centre were just marks, then I noticed the dimples for rivets. By that point I'd actually made quite a good job. And then had to undo it.

Rivets punched, the tube was re-rolled rightside out carefully not squashing the details I'd just embossed. Once nearly happy I soldered the but joint seam at the bottom and ran the whole thing through the rollers a few more times. Partly to make sure it was round but mostly 'cos it was fun.

Next a former went in and showed that I wasn't quite there but near enough.

The smokebox is two more lamination's of brass, both of which have to be rolled and then soldered in position. It's fiddly and a certain amount of tack soldering followed by adjustment is needed but using the chimney hole as a guide thus wasn't too bad.

The finishing touch was running a ring of copper wire around behind the smokebox. The spending ages cleaning all the excess solder off the surface. If I can find the RSU I just need to fit the boiler bands for a complete job.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Garratt Pivot

Garratt Pivot 2
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

Pivots. That's what differentiates Garratts from most other types of steam locomotive*. They need to be meaty bits of kit as, assuming the power units are sharing the work properly, all the force will be transmitted through them. Let's face it, at some point someone is going to hang an unfeasibly long train on the back of this just to see what it can do and 7mm scale wagons are heavy.

The set-up is very simple and quite ingenious. A 7mm wheel bearing is soldered facing up in the boiler carrying part (is there a proper name for this ?) and a suitable sized brass rod fitted.

Garratt Pivot 1Another bearing fitted to the power unit acts as the female half of the arrangement. Initially I fitted this pointing down but looking at the packing that would be required to raise the centre section, took it our and fitted it the same way as the other. I'll still need to pop some washers in between the two but less then before.

* Yes I know - Fairlies, Shays etc. have them too but you know what I mean.

Scale and gauge

Dave asks "I am intrigued by the Garratt,,,I have the feeling that it is going to turn out well. One small question (and forgive me if I have missed it somewhere)'s 7mm scale...but to what gauge? I assumed it to be On30 to match with convention, "

One of the hardest things to do in any project is step back and look at it objectively. In this case I know the prototype and so have fallen into the classic trap of not giving the basic information. This happens all the time in magazine articles often, and inexcusably, with layout descriptions. It's not always that obvious nowadays ! Hopefully this will stop me making this error in future thus improving my writing, making me more popular with editors and hence incredibly rich (insert evil laugh).

Returning to the real world, the Garratt I'm currently building is 7mm scale and standard O gauge (32mm). The prototype was one of the first in this country and used on a colliery in Atherstone.

Of course if anyone fancies an On30 Garratt, then I could do a good deal on building a Backwoods K1 kit...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chassis units

Chassis units
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
The power units are constructed simple enough - a pair of sides with the rear spacer fold up from flat. More slot in spacers are incorporated in the front and rear of the cylinders and valve gear hanger to make a strong "eggbox" structure. The nickel silver solders well and the slots all seem to be in the right place. Care is needed to keep everything square and importantly flat.

The footplate is fixed to the top and needs the valanced fitting which means some fiddly holding of thin metal into half etched slots. If the first tack joint goes OK the rest is easy.

Cylinder wrappers are half etched for detail and don't need annealing. They should be fitted from the valance, which they overlap, and then bent around the cylinder. Try working from the bottom up and you'll probably get it slightly high - guess how I know this !

Unlike a normal model locomotive of course, all this has to be done twice but it's not a difficult job although the second unit always goes together quicker than the first !

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Garratt Middle frames

Garratt Middle
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Since there isn't a tender to build on the Garratt locomotive, I had to find somewhere else simple to start and get a feel for the kit. Logic told me that this had to be the middle frames that support the boiler. How hard can they be ?

Not very it turns out. The "footplate" is a single etching to which you add longitudinal strengtheners - 2 below and 1 above the plate. Lining things up needs care and regular checks but this isn't difficult.

Best of all, the metal takes solder wonderfully. I was able to use the smallest amounts and save myself a load of cleaning up.

With the frames done, the exploded diagram that IS the instructions suggests you move on to the cab. First task here is punching out dozens of rivets and here I was really glad I bought a proper GW Models riveter years ago. It makes a fiddly job quick and easy. Half etched dimples are provided in the back of the sheet and these are of different sizes resulting in different sized bumps. Some lines are big, some little and this looks very nice too. I chickened out of riveting the window frames as my attempt just resulted in mangled metal. Perhaps some small dimples would have been better here.

Cab side beading took 2 goes to get right due to me not thinking it through properly. The trick is to mark and start soldering at the back to the top of the handrail stops at the same height on both sides. It's not a big thing but you will notice it if you get it wrong. start at the right end and even this is an easy job.

The slots where the cab fits over the footplate strengtheners had to be widened just a fraction to get the front sheet sitting properly but it was s tiny amount. The sides and floor are added and then the backs. Care with the square makes sure it all the angles are correct - there are no alignment guides but you don't really need them. Plenty of room to get the iron in though.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Garratt

Garratt whistle
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.

Every railway modeller has a favourite locomotive. For some it will be a dashing express engine with shiny paintwork and gleaming brass. For me it is a little know engine that ran on a colliery line. I love it because it is different, dirty, chunky and has lots of waggly bits. From the title of this post you will realise I am referring to a Garratt locomotive - in this case, William Francis.

Needless to say I have built a model of this loco. It runs on my 4mm layout Melbridge Dock - you can find a picture on this page. While it's not really appropriate (I justify it by pointing out one of the 4 locos of this type ran onto Cardiff docks occasionally) since it's my train set, then I get to run what I like. Shunting a 6ft long model with an articulated engine is fun anyway.

I've always had a hankering to build the loco again, but in a larger scale. At one point Backwoods Miniatures, the manufacturers of this 4mm kit, were looking at a 7mm version but this never happened. Then several years ago a kit appeared as a limited run by a consortium called Avondale kits. At the time my wallet couldn't handle the price and apart from one bogie unit I never saw a finished model.

Garratt Locomotive of the same design as the one I'm building

A couple of years ago I was chatting to Mercian Trevor and he admitted to being part of this consortium. He also knew where the master for the etches were. Much prompting from me, and detective work from him and we think all the parts can be brought back together. The original run had never been completed and the moulds still have life in them so the kit may be a commercial proposition again. First though, someone had to go through it and make sure everything was OK. And I was determined that person was going to be me.

Of course it helps that Trevor had always wanted one of these locomotives and always been too busy to do something about it. So I'll be building two of them.

At this point some history would be useful - and I can't do better than suggest you follow this link to a page by the Industrial Railway Society article.

So yesterday I dug out the bits. You get several etches and a bag of whitemetal and lost wax castings. The photo shows the whistle - what a beauty. The other castings are just as good.

The plan is that I am to get "something" ready for Warley. How far I get depends on how good the kit design is and how much time I have to put into it. Whatever happens though, I want to build this kit more than many I've had in front of me so there is a big supply of midnight oil on order...

More information and pictures of Garratts can be found here.

I went Garratt chasing in Wales earlier this year too.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Chassis done ?

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
After a bit of midnight oil burning to get the locomotive ready for a show I couldn't then attend, I think the chassis is nearly done.

All the bits are in place and sometimes everything works quite well. Sadly that sometimes is when the body isn't on. Then there is a bit of tightness. The splashers have been cleaned up inside to give as much clearance as possible there and I can't see an issue.

I've also used some plastic packing to raise the body by about 1mm - not what a proper modeller would do but if it helps I'll get an idea where the problem is if it does.

Worse, the rear wheels aren't glued to the axle like the others as the drive is here and it's harder to keep glue out of the bearings. Since the wheels are Society finescale items they have a tendency to rotate on the round axle. Sometimes you get away with this, sometimes not. This time I suspect not.

Anyway, the next stage is to test the model on the layout and since this isn't going to be available for a fortnight the model will go back in the box for a while.

And yes I know there is a wire sticking up above the middle splasher - I didn't spot it when I took the picture !

Sunday, October 05, 2008

1000 Barrows

1000 Barrows
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Is this keen or crazy ? At Woodex yesterday (smaller than the spring version but still worth a look especially since it's free to go in) the full display of 1000 wooden model wheelbarrows was on show.

The builder has spent years creating the same model in different woods. To be honest I didn't even know that there were 1000 different types of wood but there are.

Some are real oddballs too - poinsettia and rhododendron to name Poinsettia Barrowbut two of the common plants harvested for this. Plenty of exotics too such as zebra wood.

It takes real dedication to pursue this sort of project and I'm glad someone has it because it really is a fascinating display. I did wonder how quickly he can make a barrow now though - practise makes perfect after all !

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Painted chassis

Painted chassis
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
OK, the hornblocks are in - fitted using a Master Chassis jig. This has strengthened up the dangerously floppy metal. The jig, if set up properly should mean the wheel spacing will be correct. I hope so as I don't went to have to alter it !

A quick waft of primer and the sides have been painted in weather black from Precision. Now I need to leave it alone to let this harden while I get the wheelsets ready to go in.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Chassis cut outs

chassis cut outs
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
There's not a lot of strength left in this chassis !

The rear bearings were replaced easily enough. Those that were there whipped out with a hot iron. They weren't in the greatest condition, over reamed and filed very thin on the face due to efforts to make the loco run, so while I'm doing the job new ones seemed like a good idea.

To cut the slots for the hornblocks the top lines were scored heavily with a skrawker and the verticals cut with the piercing saw (only 1 broken blade !). Then the metal could be bent back and forth to free it. A quick clean up with the file and I'm ready to put some metal back in.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chassis bits

Chassis bits
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
The first job step towards the new chassis was to dismantle the old one. First off were the brakes which just needed the top joint desoldering.

Next were the crank pins were unscrewed to remove the rods. That's after I realised they were nuts rather than soldered washers when I tired to desolder one - ruining the wheel sadly. Good job I'd assumed they would all need to be replaced.

The wheels were fitted by cutting a slot across the end of the axle and then forcing a bit of wire into this and the face of the wheel in the manner of a woodruff key. This allowed the wheels to be pulled off whole and I suspect usable again.

Heat and brute force (gently hammering a screwdriver into the end of the axle) took the gear off which released the motor and gearbox.

Finally the odds and sods of wire came off. I've kept these for the minute but doubt they will be recycled.

Stripped chassisThe chassis then had a dunk in paint stripped which proved I did a rather better job of applying the stuff in the first place than I though as I didn't end up with bright shiny metal as expected. Still, it's clean enough for the next stage, hacking chunks out to fit the hornblocks.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

2F Chassis

2F Chassis
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
At Shenfield, the chassis on the 2F locomotive finally gave up the ghost. A badly assembled, solid 0-6-0 chassis is never going to work properly on the finescale 14.2mm track. The model had been limited to operating our passenger train as arriving at the station and running around the coaches was about as much as it could manage without falling off too often. Even this is now too much for it so I need to pull my finger out and re-build it as a flexi-chassis.

Looking at the current state of play I'm amazed the loco worked as well as it did. One of the axle bearing is loose, a crude compensation pivot props up the axle. The pickups stick out at odd angles although these do seem to be working even if they aren't pretty. Hopefully, soon it will all look like a proper neat engineering job and work a whole lot better.