Marsdenby (Mk II)

Considering that it’s over ten years since the late John Marsden’s trains were last run I was quite surprised when I gave them a go on Cognito.

Lafayette, a stock Bachmann product, ran hesitatingly first time and got better as the wheels picked up a coating of graphite from the rails.

Lion, a white metal kit, took a bit more coaxing and a dab of oil on the gears but she too improved as the wheels picked up graphite. It was my intention to use ghost power to assist with running Lion, however, the loco is wired the wrong way round. I do not want to take the kit apart but I suppose I could re-wire the motorised coach to match.

Other items from John’s collection are a vertical boilered representation of Novelty and two different versions of Rocket, one as built, the other as in service with coupling/buffing gear on the front end, with some matching coaches. These three locos are all non-runners at the moment. Novelty is scratch built and might just need cleaning and oiling, the two Rockets are of Tri-ang heritage so should be easy enough to take apart for maintenance.

So, what should I do with them? It would be nice to build a small layout but a terminus would not work because of the delicate, and disparate, couplings so it needs a scene for the trains to pass through. A few years after John passed away I tried converting his diorama into an operational layout but it was bodged from the baseboard up and therefore doomed to failure. I am tempted to try again, starting afresh with a proper baseboard this time.

The plan, shown above, would utilise a station roof as the scenic break at one end and an overbridge at the other. Cassette based fiddleyards would make operation easy with minimal handling of the trains. The station platforms would be very low, almost rail level, so they do not overpower the scene and a bay track could be used for odd goods wagons or a spare loco.

Will it get built? That depends upon how long this coronavirus lockdown lasts, I have very little scenic material on hand and mail order is prohibitively expensive, both my local model shop and the village pet shop (for fine sand and grit) are closed.

Posted in Other people's trains, Standard gauge, Toy train chit chat


Stuck at home due to the coronavirus lockdown? Railway modellers aren’t, we have free rein to travel wherever we want.

Providing our journeys are on a small scale!

Having rested following my recent tour of the English Midlands (Clementine Wharf), East Germany (Kleinstdorf) and Sierra Oculta (Frontera), I am globetrotting again, this time on the Cahoots, Cognito and Sane Railway at an isolated spot in the middle of a Spanish desert, reminiscent of so many train scenes in Spaghetti Westerns.

The reason for the trip is to work out a timetable for the railway.

More specifically to work out an operating sequence for the microlayout, but I always like to know what is happening beyond the limits of the baseboard.

Having spent some time working it out I then gave the sequence a trial run.

While I was waiting for the train back to the junction at Sane I got chatting with the station staff. One of them very kindly showed me some old photographs of the station, taken not long after the line opened in the 1840s.

The large mill in the background was the main reason for the station being built.

It closed in the 1920s and was demolished following damage suffered during the civil war.

Apologies for the poor quality images, these are photos of the originals.

No trace of the mill remains today.The grounded coach body, used as a waiting room, and the small outhouse behind it now occupy the area where the building used to stand.

Posted in My trains, Toy train chit chat

Horses for courses

I was up quite late last night playing with Clementine Wharf. The turnout was acting up, with the curved blade not taking current from either end. I tried rubbing graphite into the join at the frog end but it still didn’t work. After some scraping and more graphite, this time at the toe end, it is now working properly.

The trouble with N gauge track is that I’m always wary of applying too much pressure when cleaning delicate areas, especially around the moving parts on a set of points. It didn’t help that the three micros were still in formation when I started either but lifting Clem out of the line up made access a lot easier.

I’ve put Clementine Wharf and Kleinstdorf back into storage to keep them clean. Frontera, being O scale and using Tri-ang Super 4 track is more robust and now serving its intended purpose as a little bit of the FCPyF in the relative warmth of the house instead of the garage.

This morning I have been looking at the railcar fleet to decide what may be best for using with Frontera. It was rebuilt with 305 in mind, so the double ended railcar fits like a hand in a glove, but variety is the spice of life.

When operating at home I’m quite happy for trains and railcars to be turned on an off stage wye and reverse into a terminus, as happens at San Fernandez, so virtually any of the railbuses can be used though 21 and 22 are both far too big to fit on the micro layout.

Freight motor 9 does not currently have a running mate so this is a prime example of the train backing into the station.

However, for use in public it will save a lot of repeated explanations if the trains using Frontera can be driven from either end and do not need turning, the Trojan van and Mercedes railtruck coupled back to back make up such a train for parcels and LCL freight traffic as do railcars 1 and 25, generally working in MoW service but occasionally deputising on passenger duties.

This selection should be enough for exhibition use, there’s no point in carrying more than is needed, but I did give the two steam railcars a trial as well. These are usually turned at the termini when on the main layout but running in reverse is no worse than a loco running tender first.

You can polish a turd, but it is still a turd. These two both use a similar Hornby chassis but 39 is a lousy runner. I have tried adding weight in the loco section, to the point where there’s no room for any more, but it is still no good at slow speeds. On the other hand 69 is a pretty good all round performer, but fails for use with Frontera because it does not quite fit. Replacing 69’s ridiculously large cow catchers would make it an inch or so shorter but I like them as they are.

Posted in My trains, Narrow gauge, Toy train chit chat

Micros for exhibition

Having placed Frontera, Kleinstdorf and Clementine Wharf together on a table I’ve decided to offer them, as a trio, to local exhibition managers.

They need a minimum of one metre long table space and fit together well with Kleinstdorf front and centre hiding the off stage area.

By stacking them together carefully the three micros fit in an oversize shoebox which, in turn, fits inside a laundry bag for easy carrying. A second bag would hold extension leads, coffee mug and other requisites. With everything in two bags the display becomes a “single carry” and can therefore be transported to and from shows by bus or train. Having made it by train and tube to Swanley and back with a layout a few years ago local travel will, comparatively, be child’s play.

Using crocodile leads keeps the wiring simple and allows either Clementine Wharf or Frontera to be used while the other is isolated. Kleinstdorf doesn’t need electrical power.

It looks a bit untidy but this is the operator’s side and most of the spaghetti can be hidden from view by tucking it under the cassette.

Posted in Toy train chit chat

Reworking the mini-modules

Last photo, for a while at least, of Frontera. There are now a few passengers waiting for the train. The border gate remains to be finished off but I’ve not yet decided whether it should be in good repair or falling apart, so it can wait.

If you have been following the saga of the mini-modules you’ll have seen that there are three of them. I do not intend to convert the other two to On30 so they will retain their 9mm gauge track. Neither of them require much work to bring the scenery up to scratch but I have decided to use them in sectional, rather than modular, format. This will make it easier to blend the scenery together where they meet in the middle instead of needing both ends matching each other.

The right hand end of Primrose Valley will be extended slightly to fill the gap then the profiles of both boards can be shaped to give a smoother transition.

They will still be multi-modal in terms of scale though, the bay can be used alone with N scale and the combined pair can be used for either HOe/OO9 or On18/O9 by swapping the station building as shown above.

The Zillertalbahn train (above) was a gift from my parents a long time ago. I never got round to building anything for it to run on because it is the only stock I have in this scale and it seemed a bit extravagant building a layout for one train so this project is ideal for it to share with my On18 stock (below).

When the scenery has been fettled it will just require a couple of fiddlesticks to convert the static diorama (N, HOe or On18) into an operational layout.

Pottering about later in the day I found the “gizmo” that was built into the toy station that came with the Midnight Express set, you may recall that this station was used at Lago Cumbre.

I never did figure out what the big red button in the middle of the platform was for. The arrangement underneath the platform consisted of a battery box and an electric motor assembled on top of another box but the motor didn’t work so I disregarded it at the time. Anyway, I’ve just taken it apart to see if I could find out what it does (or did). The motor was attached to a fan blade, so I blew into the hole in the bottom of the box to see what happened and it made a passable chime whistle sound. I’m not a big fan of bells and whistles as heard on DCC witchcraft layouts at shows but this one is not excessively loud (and need not be annoyingly incessant) so it could be worth installing on the layout somewhere! I’ve ordered a replacement motor, it’s rated at 3V so a couple of AA batteries will be suffice to power it.

Posted in Bodging and Kitbashing, My trains, Narrow gauge, Toy train chit chat

Nearly finished business

While adding the capstones to the bridge parapet this morning I managed to disturb the track, I thought the ballast had set, but I was wrong.

It has been relayed, reballasted and parked outside in the sun to dry. I will leave well alone now until I am certain the glue has dried.

The bridge abutment on the platform still needs either cladding with stone paper or rendering to match the station building, then I’ll add two or three passengers waiting for the train.

The somewhat overgrown state of the platform would suggest that Frontera is not a particularly busy station so it won’t need many.

Stay well, stay home, play trains!

Posted in Bodging and Kitbashing, My trains, Narrow gauge, Toy train chit chat

Unfinished business

Blog entries are like buses, wait for ages then two or more turn up in quick succession! I can’t clean the track between Cumbre and Rio until the new scenery has set so it’ll be Friday, at the earliest, before the trains can run through to Cuarto. That’s not a problem though. In common with many other modellers, especially those who dabble in more than one scale or theme, I have a number of unfinished projects pending. Some of these were shelved because they weren’t turning out as planned, others were overtaken by fresh ideas and subsequently forgotten. The fruit boxes shown below are an example of the former.

I was planning to make an On18 modular layout using them, three unrelated dioramas capable of connection in any order. The theory was sound, Kato’s Unitrack was used and acted as both structural and electrical connection between the sections. In effect it was three sections of set track with scenery attached. However, the dioramas were too small to be viewed as independent of each other when so close together. I did try making scenic dividers in the same manner as used on CRM’s Ferrocarril Internacional modules but it still didn’t work and the idea was dropped.

Fast forward to today and while searching for something to do indoors, as opposed to in the garage, I dug out the three mini-modules and had a fresh look at them. The bay works quite well as a stand alone diorama for N, OO9 or On18 and Primrose Valley can, with interchangeable buildings, be used as a photo plank for OO9 or On18. These two scenes have been put back into storage for a later date. The third module, San Pedro, was originally built as a closed On30 station, imagined to be at the far end of the dismantled branch from Cumbre but when the other two dioramas came about I decided to “reopen” the station, using On18 instead of On30, as part of the mini-module project and started making some alterations. While I am waiting for the glue to dry on the main layout I will have another go with it as an On30 scene.

This time it won’t be San Pedro, the branch (above) from Cumbre was abandoned in the 1950s and I’m not going to make major alterations restoring it to the main layout! Instead it’ll be Frontera*, a small station on the Chilean border. The FCPyF might look run down but it is well looked after when compared to many South American railways and international passenger trains ceased operating through Frontera several years ago. The line across the border survives for a twice weekly freight train and the station just sees railcars on domestic local services for the rest of the time.

As always some knowledge of what is beyond the baseboard helps to put things into perspective, a new international highway crosses over the station. On the other side of the bridge is a wye and a small freight yard. To the right of the scene the line passes through a gated archway, the border itself. The twice weekly freight runs at night, so we won’t see it, but a passenger service may be run using railcars and a cassette plugged in at the bridge end.

I’ve trimmed the bridge deck a bit and made a start on filling in below it, this will eventually be clad with dressed stone. On the border side the roof of the foreground building, never satisfactory, has been altered so it slopes instead of being flat. This building will be rendered and whitewashed, as will the border wall and gateway arch.

That’s all for now, having touched on Manzanera’s music* I’m sat with my feet up listening to 801 Live and enjoying a cold beer.

Stay safe, stay well, stay in.

* The choice of a new name for the diorama is influenced in no small way by this (click), the other two might even be renamed as “East of Echo” and “Lagrima” when I get round to fettling their scenery.

Update 7.30pm

The track has been ballasted and a base cover of stonepaper applied to the bridge. This will get capstones, waybeams and string courses added tomorrow.

Posted in Bodging and Kitbashing, My trains, Narrow gauge, Toy train chit chat