New Workbench Tool

Sometimes I really wonder about how I’ve ever managed to build anything. It seems to be a regular occurrence that I’ve blogged about tools that seem like something I would have had for years, that I’ve been making do without. This time, its about a small portable workbench vise, from PanaVise. This is their entry level PanaVise Jr (201) model vise, but its compact, and plenty big to hold HO Scale freight cars upside down while you are installing brake and underbody detail. For years I’ve made do with an ever more cat fur coated foam cradle for this task.

Recently received PanaVise Jr in the box, out of the box, and holding a boxcar.

In the week or so I’ve had this, I’ve now gotten back to working on the brake and underbody detail on the first of many boxcar kits I am building that reached the point of being ready for that, but never got any further as underbody detail is not my favourite project. It still isn’t, but having a proper tool to hold the car while I am working on installing it can only make it better!

Scenery for my Narrow Gauge Shelf

Sometimes, I find I set things aside, and they just slip off my radar. I wrote almost two years ago now about the small free lanced narrow gauge shelf and getting it wired up at that time. Since then, I’ve completely ignored it until last weekend.

As I am waiting as seems so often the case on delayed packages to keep working on the layout, I was looking for something to do. I realized, quickly getting some basic groundcover on the shelf would let me move some things around, and get my narrow gauge equipment out on display.

Basic scenery going down on the narrow gauge mini-layout/display shelf

Since this is kinda a freelance, the scenery is pretty much what I feel. There was an area designed for a platform for my Lynton and Barnstaple/Southern models, and then some back and forth runny around stuff for my Talyllyn model which is getting some scruffy dirt/grass, and an area in the foregound which will have a gravel road of some sort. I need to get some lineside fencing (which is now ordered, another package to wait for!) and things to add some detail. I’m going to add station fencing at the back and a station name board as well. Along with some ballast on the tracks, the little bit of ground cover does an amazing job of taking it from an Ikea shelf with track glued on it, to a diorama in a few short hours of work and waiting on glue drying!

It needs some touching up, and whenever I get a static grass applicator (or borrow one as the cost outlay for the size of my layout may or may not be worth it) and some touchups, but, its good enough for now to at least put in the bookcase and get some more models out on display. Hopefully the mean time between working on this will be a lot less than 2 years after I get my laser cut kits from the UK (hopefully in July, definitely by August) to get some more scenery on this done.

Looking more finished, and slid into the bookcase beneath The Railway Village model. A layout room reorg of book cases has been going on of late!

Lynton & Barnstaple Railway “Taw”

I love it when a new purchase arrives, in this case, its a new purchase that I’ve been waiting on for almost two years. Such is the way of things with the Model Railroad Industry and Pre-orders nowadays, you order then wait what feels like forever to actually pay and receive it. Though this model was in some ways, extra cursed. I placed my order January 20, 2017, so almost two years ago, and after an initial delivery from the factory in China to Denmark where Heljan is based, some making it to market in the UK where the prototype is, and being panned with failing motion and a variety of problems, they were sent back and heavily modified at the factory and re-shipped. Fortunately for me, my order didn’t ship the first time they were delivered, by the time the version I’d ordered was arriving, it was abundantly clear that the whole batch needed to be recalled and reworked.

The locomotive I am talking about, is Heljan’s “Lynton & Barnstaple Railway” Manning Wardell 2-6-2T in OO9 (British Narrow Gauge). I don’t model the L&B, but at some point I was exposed to it (and the efforts to re-open the line and rebuild the locomotives which were all scrapped), and thought its a cool prototype. In later years, it had become part of the Southern Railway, and there was a cross platform connection at Barnstaple Town between the narrow gauge and standard gauge. I have thought for a long time this would make a cool diorama/cameo layout, and had bought some apropriate Southern Railway OO Gauge models, but never had access to any Narrow Gauge, and kits were out of my budget/skillset. When Heljan announced they were doing it as ready to run, it was around the same time Bachmann was releasing Skarloey in their Thomas line, which I bought and re-detailed back into the locomotive Skarloey is based on and which Bachmann 3D scanned, Talyllyn.

So, after all the missteps and waiting, my model of Taw, one of the three original locomotives finally arrived on December 23rd, and through being out of town, Christmas and work, I finally picked it up this weekend. My afternoon today was spent unboxing, checking it out, looking to see if it looked ok, and then running it for about half an hour forwards and backwards and with/without coaches to see if any problems exposed themselves.

IMGP0945RawConvNothing like a present to yourself at Christmas Time, then again, It has been on order so long it’s already missed being a Christmas Present once before and two birthdays!

As it is, even the new version has apparently had some of the same issues based on the comments on RMWeb, a major UK model forum (worth checking out even if you aren’t into british trains and models, lots of discussions on technique, and an active North American section). So I’ve been awaiting the opening and running in with some trepidation, knowing this time it had been shipped to me, and getting dinged for $36 in tax and service charges by CBSA, means if it doesn’t work, it becomes a hassle in sending it back for warranty repairs or replacement.

So, in narrow gauge, the couple of models I have are effectively display pieces. I am allegedly building a mini layout/shelf display for them (I say allegedly as I haven’t touched it in months).

My L&B “Taw”, in its later Southern Railway Paint as No.761. Looks gorgeous out of the box, but how will it run?

Turns out, as far as I’m concerned, it ran perfectly. I have a loop of 12.25″ radius Bachmann EZ Track in N-Scale specifically for narrow gauge british (N Scale Track is the same width as OO9, very handy!) I put the loop of track out on the hardwood floor, and spent an enjoyable hour with the locomotive running around the circle both ways, pulling coaches and on its own to look and listen for problems. It ran smoothly, stayed on the rails, and no bits fell off. Given that most of this locomotives life will be spent in the display case, having nothing explode in an hour of test running, probably means I’m safe for the future on the rare occasions it gets an outing, it should be ok. If a manufacturing defect was to appear, based on what I’ve seen from others on the forum, it seems it would have done so in this early running in period.

Videos of the running in:

Yes, it was just like being a kid, the only place available to me to set up my loop of N-Scale/OO9 track was on the floor of the office/layout room. There is something to be said for sitting on the floor watching a model run around in circles somtimes!!

IMGP0964RawConvNothing says having fun with trains like a loop of track on your floor!!
OO9Display.pngTaw and Talyllyn in my display case. A pretty solid if small collection of Narrow Gauge Locomotives!

Taking a Break from Benchwork

Back in early 2017, I started on a small Ikea Shelf layout for narrow guage equipment, not based on any prototype or anything, just a shelf diorama to display some 009 Gauge models I have bought or customized.  Today, to break from working on the new layout, and to frankly, get it off my workbench where it was dominating the space, I finished wiring feeders to the track, and did some test running with Talyllyn.  The little shelf seems to run fine.  I’ll need to run it in more before balasting and doing some basic scenery, but a couple of hours this morning while watching car racing got it done and off the bench.

Bottom and top views of the narrow gauge diorama/layout on an Ikea Inreda shelf.

For now, since all the wire I’d cut weeks ago is now soldered into place, the shelf and its frame have gone away into the ever emptying closet (turns out building the benchwork has inspired me to finish the clear-out started before moving!).  With my workbench back and feeling like I’d accomplished something rather than just putting it away in shame, it was on to other layout projects and preparing for selling more surplus models in September at the Lakeshore Model Railroaders Flea Market on September 16th, but I’ll post more about that closer to the date.

Ontario Narrow Gauge Show

Today I attended the Ontario Narrow Gauge show for the first time.  It’s a show I’ve heard about for a number of years, but have only had a passing interest in narrow gauge until I decided to leap into it last year with my OO9 Talyllyn project and the HO Scale 40.5inch gauge Porter I’ve built.  The show is a reasonably small show, and very specialized.  No tables full of junk, just lots of high quality modelling by people really interested in what they are doing, as most niche areas of the hobby are.

IMGP8098RawConv.jpgOverview of the upstairs room of the show.

The show was well attended, with a mix of a few vendors, several layouts, static displays, and a contests area.  Narrow Gauge lends itself to lots of different things, and that was on show today.  Prototype narrow gauge to completely whimsical free lance was there.  My interests are definitely more in the prototypical end of narrow gauge (i apparently lack whimsy in my modelling! Crazy things from my mind just don’t seem to translate to successful projects).

Collection of layout and diorama photographs from the show.

While I normally don’t enter into or consider competition to necessarily be a good part of the hobby, in certain circumstances, it can be ok.  I brought my two locomotives to enter into the competition, not because I have any desire to see them judged, but because the awards here are voted on by those in attendance.  It’s not a competition to meet some created standard of quality or impress a judge, but a vote of those in attendance as to what they liked best.  There were some amazing models, and the winners all deserve recognition for their work.  Unlike many competitions, it didn’t feel like one where people were being pitted against each other, but where it was mostly an opportunity for very talented modellers to show off their work.

“Critters” and Locomotives from the Contest Tables.  Narrow Gauge has prototypes and inspiration both in the real world and the crazy freelance world.

On top of the modelling on display, they show had three very well done clinics.  One I skipped (I’ve seen it given before) by Jeff Young and Peter Foley on their book project on the original Huntsville and Lake of Bays Railway, and two I hadn’t seen.  One by Ron Guttman on tools and the right tools for some different modelling tasks.  The third was the most interesting to me.  A clinic, including hands on with Pan Pastels.  I’ve never used them, but some of my friends swear by them for weathering models.  The session was presented by Gerry Cornwell from Mt Albert Scale Lumber.  I learned a lot in it, and now understand a lot more about how Pan Pastels work, and see lots of opportunity for me to apply them to future projects.  I will most definitely be picking some up at some point down the road.  When that is, who knows, but I’ll no doubt write about it!  Pan Pastels are available at many art stores, apparently at Michael’s (though I’ve never seen them there), and at Curry’s in the Toronto area.  Gerry recommended a vendor in the US who puts together packages specifically targeted at Model Railroaders, Stoney Creek Designs.

Painting and Weathering with Pan Pastels clinic.  Hands on with something I’ve heard a lot about, but never seen being used or had any idea how they worked before today.

It was an enjoyable day out.  Hopefully in the future I will have a narrow gauge layout worthy of showing off at the show.  I am certainly looking forward to attending again in the future.

From RPM To Freelancing

So, typical of my sometimes scattered interests in the hobby, I’m following up a post on attending a Prototype Modellers Meet, with one on a freelance narrow gauge shelf layout.  Strangely, the rolling stock for the layout will be partly prototypical, with my 009 Gauge conversion of Talyllyn being the primary motive power, along with display space for a Lynton & Barnstaple Railway passenger train at the back of the shelf.  The shelf itself, is just a little switching puzzle/run around for moving wagons from one side to the other using Talyllyn.

Its one of my “IKEA Shelf Specials“, a micro layout or diorama designed to fit into one of the standard sized IKEA Besta fame/bookcases, on a $10 IKEA shelf for the base.

IMGP6215RawConvNarrow Gauge IKEA Shelf Layout track plan in progress.

Having gone through a variety of designs and layouts, I settled on the design above.  A sweeping track at the back, which will be home to a Lynton & Barnstaple passenger train with a platform and station canopy behind, and the shunting puzzle in front of it.  It’s not really based on any other shunting puzzle I’ve seen, more an attempt to maximize what I could do in the space, and clearly not based on any prototype!!  My plan is to operate it as a single locomotive with 4-5 wagons, and the goal being to move the wagons from identified spotting locations so that everything winds up on one of the two sidings opposite where it starts.  The operating scheme is still a work in progress, and its mostly designed as flexibly as possible to let me run things around.

Track laying in progress.  The first image shows the back display track and base for the platform in place, the second shows the printout transferred to the IKEA shelf using a chalk marker, and the third shows the laying of cork roadbed in progress.

I have used Midwest N-Scale Cork for the roadbed, I debated putting the track straight onto the board, but having the roadbed gives me options for when I decide what the look of the basic scenery will be in terms of ballasting or raising the open spaces around the tracks.  I can either use the roadbed to create a profile, or fill the gap areas to get a level look.  If I didn’t use a roadbed, I’d have fewer options moving forward.  I haven’t really thought much about scenery other than doing a crushed stone/simple platform and possibly a canopy at the back platform.  With the plot of the track plan, i was able to cut away and mark the centreline of the tracks using a chalk marker, then, once the track plan was laid out, start laying the cork along the outer boundaries, then filling in the central areas.

Completed Roadbed on the right, and the track about half tacked down using DAP Silicone Caulk on the left.

I am using Peco OO9 settrack for this, because it is readily available and Peco track has a great reputation.  This is the first time I have used silicone caulk to lay track.  It works nicely to adhere after weighing the track down during the curing.  I’ve found that the track seems to be noisier glued with the caulk, hopefully ballasting the track will kill the noise off some.  During the track laying process, I’ve also been running electrical tests with the Peco track and switches to figure out how I need to wire the layout.  Electrical wiring and such is not one of my strong suits in terms of understanding where feeders are needed, and what to do to make sure everywhere has power when needed, but not creating electrical shorts or frying locomotives!!  I think I’ve got it now, my plan is to install drops and continue to test as I go until the layout operates reliably without having to set the switches in a certain way to ensure power is routed where it’s needed.

Its been nice having this set up, as when I’m working on it, even though the range of travel is less than 2′ each way, its more running than I’ve managed in a long time in our apartment!  It’s also a rabbit hole that the decision to buy one locomotive for a project has led me to know building a narrow gauge layout!  Still, it’s been a fun diversion from other projects, and a chance to work on skills I otherwise wouldn’t be working on.