After a recent diversion with 55n3 I turned my attention to the FCPyF this morning. Unfortunately the mechanism intended for the new railbus has failed. I’m not sure if I can repair the split in the plastic chassis, if I can’t the railbus will be a dummy with a “trailer” pushing it.

The second failure is with the layout itself, a dry joint between Bodjio and Rio Paleta means there’s an intermittent break in the power supply on the high line. It has been located and is easy enough to repair next time I’ve got the soldering iron warmed up. The PWay crew are marking the spot until then.

As the bright spots of solder indicate, this rail joint is a frequent failure due to expansion and contraction of the rails between the summer heat and winter cold in the garage so to fix the dry joint I’ll add short jumper wires instead of re-soldering the rails, these should prevent further electrical failures. There is also a short circuit at Veinte Veinte but I suspect this is due to the accumulation of junk dumped on the layout while it’s not been in use. Another accumulation of junk is more pleasing, the “something-for-nothing” loco project has been glued together and given a coat of primer…

…to show up its failures. some filler is required around the tank, the smoke stack needs straightening and the cab roof sanding down but apart from that the clockwork loco is on course to the Lake District where it will be used on the Ravenglass and Windermere Light Railway. It’ll also be useful for testing track on the modules during assembly of the modular layout at exhibitions.

The last photo for today shows a stalled, rather than failed, project. To be honest I had actually forgotten about 3102. The FCPyF has no use for additional small locos so this one will also be for the R&W.

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Cassettes for the R&W

I was sure I had a redundant fiddleyard somewhere in the garage but I must have cannibalised it for something else.

Here’s plan B, for use at home my 55n3 modules will borrow a pair of cassettes from my 0n30 micro layouts.

Electrical connection is simple enough (using the rail end prongs, backed up with crocodile clip test leads) but the cassettes will need some form of support so I have made a pair of L shaped brackets.

These will be drilled to enable nut/bolt/washer attachment to the link sections.

It is still work in progress but the theory will work when put into practice.

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As the dust settles…

My 55n3 modules have been successfully tested. In addition to giving considerably better alignment at the baseboard joins the alterations to the track ends mean assembly is much easier too.

I had hoped to make a couple of short fiddlesticks so that a single module could be set up as a stand alone layout for home use. However, searching the garage for a redundant fiddleyard that I thought could be cannibalised for track brought no joy. I must have already used it for something else. That means I’ll need to buy some more track.

On a brighter note, while looking for the necessary nuts and bolts to assemble the modules I found two locos that I’d forgot I had. Both are Airfix/Dapol GWR auto tanks, both may be fodder for conversion to vintage diesel locos for either the R&W or the FCPyF. Alternatively the chassis may be coupled back to back as a larger, articulated, diesel instead of two small locos.

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Further thoughts

I have been giving the 55n3 modules some further thought overnight.

As I decided yesterday I am going to make recesses at both ends of my scenic boards but, instead of using short plug in sections of loose rail I will replace the sliding rails in the link sections with new pieces of track, two centimetres longer than the existing ones. These will be floating, i.e. not pinned down so they can find their own alignment between the adjacent modules, but still connected to the link section’s wiring. Once the links and modules are bolted together the sleeper strips will ensure that the floating track remains in place. By doing this instead of using the short plug in rails there will be no chance of electrically dead sections of track. Allowing the link track to move independently of the link baseboard has two things going for it, not only will it be able to align freely with the module tracks on both sides but it will also avoid much of the risk of damage due to snagging in transit.

In effect this combines the orange and green rails shown in the diagram above. “Ah, but…” I hear you mutter, “…that’s diverging from the group’s laid down standards.”

Well, actually, it’s not. Each module within a layout has its own link section attached.

Providing the combined module and link present the standard outline (as shown in red) with male at one end and female at the other what’s the difference how they’re connected between themselves?

The photos above and below show the modified link section and how the floating track is held in place once it is connected to a module.

I have used the sleeper strips from this link section on two of the four track ends at Eskdale Head and Colby Level. A gratuitous photo of the halt is included below because the other side of this module always seems to get more attention!

I have started the same floating track conversion on a second link section, successfully salvaging the sleeper strips to use for the two remaining track ends on the double sided module. This will leave me with a single unaltered link, and the two short plug in rails, as spare.

I have three links because I made a start on a third Ravenglass and Windermere module but the Hol Beck project (above) was abandoned and the baseboard eventually got reassigned when the FCPyF was extended to Derrotado.

This scene is also now history due to further alterations on the garage layout, but I digress.

Back to the matter in hand, completing the track ends on Eskdale Head/Colby Level will just leave Carters Bridge to be altered.

All that will required there is to shorten the main line rails by 1cm at each end. I’m hoping that I will be able to cut the rails in situ without causing damage to the outer ends of the sleeper strip.

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Warrington, matters arising

Since the last time I was at an exhibition with the 55n3 Modular Group the standard practice for joining baseboards and link sections has been altered, significantly, meaning I need to do some PWay work on Carters Bridge and Eskdale Head/Colby Level.

The 3D printed slotted sleeper sections are now being used, as Simon designed them, for a male/female positive alignment of the rails instead of the (semi accurate) butt joins previously laid down as standard. This means the rails have to stick out from the left end (when viewed from the front). I’m not a big fan of having fixed rails sticking out from the end of portable baseboards, they tend to snag far too easily, so it is my intention to do a bit of gender bending and make all my fixed track ends female with short lengths of rail to slot into place when joining the modules to the link sections.

A picture paints a thousand words, the slotted sleeper sections are shown in grey with the fixed tracks extending from them onto the modules in red. The loose sections of rail are shown in green, the thin whisker on each is a short length of paperclip wire to provide electrical connection between the short loose rail and the sliding rail in the adjacent link section (shown in orange).

This arrangement only applies to one end of each module, the rails in the link sections are free to slide and will form the male link to the next module along as shown above. When in transit the rails on the link sections can be moved so they do not protrude. Electrical connections between modules and links are via the existing system of two pin plugs and not reliant upon the track but the short (green) rails have their whiskers to avoid dead sections.

As a post script on the Warrington outing, Steve Jones posted this rather nice photo on Facebook showing one of my Ravenglass and Windermere trains passing through his “Miteside” Ravenglass and Eskdale module.

He also posted these. A predominance of grey hair and/or balding pates gives away the age range of the layout operators, not just on the 55n3 modules but across the exhibition as a whole.

There are far too few youngsters interested in model railways these days. Who is going to take our places in ten or twenty years time?

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I had a day out, travelling by bus and train, in Warrington yesterday.


Yes, Warrington, not the glittering resort that most people would choose to spend their free time in but an industrial town that’s seen better days. The main line station, Bank Quay, is hardly an encouraging welcome. On one side of the railway there’s a chemical works and on the other the station frontage is nestled in, for want of better words, a hole in the ground. A main road cuts it off from the allure of the town centre.

Or it would do, if the town centre had any allure.

Anyways, the model railway show was some way out of town in an enigmatically shaped building so the urban squalor could soon be forgotten. I was there to assist the 55n3 Modular Layout Group operating Steve Jones’s Bertrand and Miteside modules. Belgian metre gauge tramway next to Cumbrian 3ft gauge mineral railway but they demonstrated how the modular links act as a “blink” between scenes.

Among the other layouts present were Charlie Insley’s lovely Swedish branch line, including a Swedish bus for a Swedish bus driver that I know.

As with last month at Rainford the event was a chance to catch up with old friends, some I’d not seen since before the 2020 lockdowns, that’s what model railway exhibitions are about.

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Going all horsey

There is a delightful scene in this video showing a bygone era, though not that long ago because it’s filmed in colour! The image below is a still taken from the film.

Horse traction is not an easy subject to model but it’ll make a neat little diorama instead of a working layout.

My first attempt has the cutting too narrow, it needs widening slightly so the driver can walk alongside his train.

I have some potential motive power on order in the form of a Lledo horse drawn van but if this proves too small I will need to look for an alternative. The “baseboard” is the polystyrene packaging from a Hornby loco box, it’ll be reinforced around the outside by coating it with a couple of layers of brown paper before the scenery is completed.

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A weighty problem

Further test running with the Bedford K showed that the bogie still bounced at speed, a penny glued underneath it to act as a ballast weight has solved the issue. Satisfied with the smaller railcar’s running I turned my attention to the Bedford O. This railcar has been whining, in much the same way as real Bedfords do, when faced with uphill gradients.

Closer examination revealed that this was due slipping in the rubber band drive. My first idea was to put some chalk on the pulleys but this didn’t help so I cleaned it off again. I then removed the ballast weight, this made the railcar a lot lighter but the mechanism has a lot of play in it with the axles able to rock in their bearings so electrical pick up is still reliable and this railcar has no couplings so it is not expected to tow tail traffic.

No.35 still whines a bit when going uphill but with less weight to shift it can now get all the way from Bodjio to Cumbre. Hill starts are still a problem so it needs a clear run between stations but the intermediate stop at Rio Paleta is on a stretch of level track.

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Another day out

I’m helping with the 55n3 modular layout at Warrington this weekend, as I’ll be travelling by public transport I won’t be taking Carters Bridge or Eskdale/Level but I will be taking a selection of stock to run on the layout.

A, loco No.7. B, motorised van (for use with dummy railcars and locos). C, Isetta (On30 but requested specially by Peter Blackham). D, railbus No.28. E, motorised bogie coach (for use with dummy railcars and locos). F, freight motor (dummy). G, railbus No.1. H, motorised four wheeled coach (for use with dummy railcars and locos). I, compartment coach, J, brake van. K, Bedford K railbus. L, double Ford loco (dummy). M, loco No.67 (dummy).

Much of this morning was spent cleaning wheels and testing the 55n3 stock on the FCPyF (easier than setting up one of my modules simply for test running). One of the railcars would not stay on the track at Bodjio and there will be some new modules at the show so I do need perfect performance. At first I set the railcar aside and looked for a replacement but I like the Ravenglass and Windermere’s Bedford K (and the Bedford O on the FCPyF) so I have rebuilt the front end this afternoon.

Instead of the cab being pivoted between the coach section and the front bogie I have attached it to the bodywork of the coach. I then replaced the bogie with one of a longer wheelbase and attached it directly to the motorised chassis so it can swing freely below the cab. This has solved the tracking issues and the Bedford will be at Warrington on Saturday.

The coaching stock is mainly T&S Models kits. I use these as small coaches on the On30 (2’6″ gauge) FCPyF, where they’re sometimes referred to as the “Welsh” coaches, and as larger vehicles on the 55n3 (3′ gauge) R&W. Same models, two different scales, but narrow gauge vehicles do vary widely in size. Sadly both the double Ford loco in the photo above and the Bedford K railcar are too small to pass muster in 1:48 scale so they are rarely seen on the FCPyF.

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Slow news week

There is not much to report from Sierra Oculta this week, so I’ll just post this instead.

Seen on FaceBook and too good not to share.

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