Electrification, FCPyF style

The railway has been experimenting with electric traction… Don’t expect to see overhead wires, or even a third rail, though because the experiment has been with battery power.

The Seaside Line, an English 18 inch gauge railway (click here, opens new tab), had an abandoned NCB electric van going spare and the FCPyF is always on the look out for a bargain. Obviously the vehicle needed re-gauging but Cuarto shed took the job on anyway.

The On18 van hasn’t been used since I can’t remember when but I don’t like throwing anything away. It’s a die-cast body and originally rode on a Kato 11-103 chassis. The body has been stripped down and temporarily mounted on a OO gauge Bachmann (?) DMU bogie from my scrap-box. It’s not a very good runner but I’ve given it a good oiling and it may improve with running in.

If it can be persuaded to run smoothly I’ll give it a repaint and glaze the cab windows, if not the bits will be returned to the scrap-box, either way it’s cost nowt.

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

Trollied – 2

A couple of short tracks have been installed at Rio Paleta today.

Any ideas what they’re for?

Want a clue?

And another?

The P-Way gang need to ensure that they do not impede the passage of trains.

They can manhandle the trolley off the line anywhere, but it’s easier where there are proper run off tracks.

There’s a coal train following about twenty minutes behind railcar #20, so the gang have plenty of time for a beer in the Posada Estrella.

Posted in FCPyF 2016 rebuild, My trains, Narrow gauge, Toy train chit chat


One of the smallest models on the FCPyF is my Wickham(ish) P-Way trolley.

This was made by combining a Tomy Plarail caboose and a Bachmann Underground Ernie inspection car. The trolley has not been used much since the layout’s rebuild because the gradients were too steep for it but I’ve added some weights above the driving axle to solve the problem.

While the body and chassis were separated I also replaced the side sheets, the plastic material originally used had warped and become brittle over the years so I used brown paper to renew the tarpaulins. I’ve not weathered the sheets because the paper will get dirty naturally with use.

Much of the FCPyF is inaccessible by road so the Wickham is semi-permanently coupled to a trailer for carrying tools and materials to work sites.

While on the subject of MoW crew trollies, I bought this HO scale Jouef draisine several years ago to use as a small railcar on the Foxbaile Light Railway. When looked at as a potential O scale narrow gauge vehicle the draisine is a very similar size to the Wickham, as demonstrated by the lady standing next to it in the photos… Don’t ask.

Foxbaile hasn’t seen light of day for a long time and I’m considering making an On30 shell to fit over the draisine so it too can be used for MoW work on the FCPyF. With a false roof and sides it may be possible to retain the original engine cowl and the open load space at the rear.

I was hoping to get away with just adding side sheets, like those on the Wickham, but when this was mocked up using parcel tape and posed next to the railway’s Austin A30 van it looked too small.


I have just had a look on Fleabay to see what sort of price the old Jouef models fetch. On reflection I reckon that the FCPyF can manage without another P-Way trolley. While I have no aversion to cutting up old toys to make new ones, there are limits, especially when those old toys are worth considerably more than new ones. We’re not talking Tri-ang here!

Posted in Bodging and Kitbashing, FCPyF 2016 rebuild, My trains, Narrow gauge, Standard gauge, Toy train chit chat

Restricted route availablility

Anyone turning up for the early evening service from Grande to Centrales might be surprised to find what looks like a freight train standing at the platform. However, at the rear of the train is a large caboose fitted with extra seats for the carriage of passengers.

This is indeed a large caboose, very large, so large that it is restricted to operating between Grande and Centrales because it fouls the loading gauge on both the San Fernandez and Cuarto de Pulgada lines.

In theory it is a metre gauge vehicle which has been fitted with 2’6″ gauge trucks to work on the FCPyF. In fact it is an O-27 scale caboose riding on On30 bogies. The problem is not the height but the fact that it rides lower on the On30 bogies than it did on its O-27 originals, this means that the steps foul the cuttings on the way out of Centrales when heading for Rio Paleta or Resurreccion, hence its restriction to the Grande route.

I suppose I could trim the bottom step off each corner but real railways have items of rolling stock that have limited route availability so I see no reason why the same can’t apply to the FCPyF too.

As for the caboose being lettered “Eastern Division” (to show its restricted operating area) in English instead of Spanish, this is because the south east of Sierra Oculta is largely English speaking in a manner similar to the French/English lingual divide in Canada.

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

On balance

Railmotor #69 has had a long and chequered career on the FCPyF. It started off as a tank loco, then gained a tender, then swapped the tender for an articulated coach section. The coach has always given problems, originally riding on a bogie then given a single fixed axle but the railmotor would not run smoothly. I tried moving the axle forwards to relieve some of the weight applied to the loco section but this led to frequent derailments and the railmotor’s temporary withdrawal.

The single axle under the coach has been replaced by a bogie again and the footplate at the front of the loco section has been extended.

This extension incorporates a steel weight to counterbalance the coach and the railmotor now runs up the incline to Rio Paleta perfectly.

Cosmetic details added at the same time are a colonial style headlamp and a Westinghouse compressor and reservoir tank.

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


TOPS, Total Operations Processing System, is an American computer system bought off the peg by BR and developed to do much more than just keeping track of wagons.

BOTTOMS, Back On To The Old Manual System, was used by BR in the early days of TOPS when the computers failed. It is also a simple (and cheap) method of wagon management adopted by the FCPyF.

The FCPyF system is dead easy, each wagon has an index card showing its number, type and couplers. This information is supplemented according to the traffic flow that the wagon is used in, as shown below.

Non-pool wagon, no waybills required. 257 is a two axle gondola (G2) with Kadee (K) couplers, empty (E) to Rio Paleta (RP), loaded (L) to Grande (GR).

Semi-pool wagon, loaded as per waybill, returns to home station when empty. 77 is a four axle flat (F4), Kadee fitted, must be returned to Grande when empty (E-GR) and is routed by waybill when loaded. The attached waybill indicates loaded to San Fernandez (L-SF).

Pool wagon, all journeys dictated by waybills. 201 is a two axle gondola (G2) with tension lock couplers (T). The attached waybill is for working loaded to Grande (L-GR). A few wagons have different couplers at each end. These are indicted as “KT” on their cards and may be called for when a train has to convey a mixed consist of Kadee and tension lock fitted wagons. In this case an extra train may need to be arranged to convey the adaptor wagons to where they are required, possibly also giving rise to a caboose hop for the return working after dropping the wagons at their destination.

When a loaded wagon arrives at a station it is unloaded/reloaded and picked up by the next suitable train. Empty pool wagons are allocated fresh waybills picked at random from a carton and treated as per the instructions, empty non-pool wagons arriving at their destinations are loaded and await dispatching. Used waybills are returned to the carton and shook up. A “suitable” train is one heading in the right direction and with the right coupling system, so wagons may have to wait a while before being picked up.

Cards in the rack for wagons at Resurreccion (low level/left) and Rio Paleta (upper level/right).

Wagons in the sidings at stations have their cards stored in a card rack until a suitable train is available to collect them.

When made into a train the cards for each wagon are attached to a clipboard and become the responsibility of the train crew rather than the yard staff (assuming more than one person is operating the layout).

The clipboard then accompanies the train to each calling point and the cards are placed in the racks at stations when wagons are set out. The cards for any wagons picked up en-route are transferred from the station’s rack to the train’s clipboard. The staging areas at San Fernandez, Centrales and Cumbre also have card racks though the one at Cumbre is only used when a train is too heavy and some wagons are left off stage, in most cases the arriving empties are loaded immediately and depart with the train they came in on.

I was going to get one clipboard for each caboose but this would be a waste because there are never more than three freight trains in use at once on the layout. They being the regular manifest freight working from San Fernandez to Cuarto de Pulgada and back, the local between Centrales and Grande, and the coal train from San Fernandez to Cumbre. Express freight, handled by the railcars, is not governed by the card system.

It may sound a bit complicated, indeed it is a bit complicated, but that’s part of the fun of trying to run a railway properly. Note I omitted the word “model” from the previous sentence, operating like this adds a real feeling of purpose to the trains and when that happens they then cease to be just toys on a layout.

I used a similar system with my American HO scale trains many years ago but in this case it was more complicated with the number of cars per train being determined by a dice. On the FCPyF the number of cars per train is determined by the gradients.

Posted in FCPyF 2016 rebuild, My trains, Narrow gauge, Toy train chit chat

Switching cars

I used to be quite well known as a builder of small shunting layouts, I like shunting, it retains interest in a compact area instead of watching trains fly by on a big layout… Then waiting for ages before the next one turns up.

Trains don’t exactly “fly by” on the FCPyF though, things can happen at a much more sedate pace when a layout is used at home instead of at exhibitions, and I still like shunting.

Diesel #15 was in charge of four loaded coal cars returning from Cuarto de Pulgada this evening. The train was held at the home signal while #60 ran light onto the low level line and stopped when it passed the home.

The coal train was then called forward and brought to a halt again once the caboose was clear of the river bridge.

The line is still on a steep gradient here so the brake was applied before the caboose could be uncoupled from the train.

With this done the train drew into the station platform where #15 and the leading coal car were detached and another caboose added in their place.

While this was happening #60 backed onto the three remaining coal cars ready to take them to San Fernandez.

When the train was coupled up and ready to depart #60 pulled slowly out of the station and down the grade towards Resurreccion.

The road was reset for the high line and #15 backed through the station with the leading coal car to pick up the caboose.

After coupling up the brake was released and the train departed as a local to Grande, though there was no other traffic to add this time.

On arrival at Grande the train stopped with the loco next to the carriage shed.

#10, the station pilot, then took over and shunted the incoming load to the coal stage before parking the caboose on the carriage shed siding.

The next move was to collect two outbound cars from the middle siding and couple these to the caboose.

The assembled train was then shunted back to the middle siding.

With #10 out of the way #15 was coupled onto the head of train, paperwork* checked, then ready for off as a local to Centrales.

All of which demonstrates why freight trains are more fun to operate than passengers. It’s a hobby, a pastime, so it should pass the time away!

* Paperwork – I’m developing a simple waybill system so that freight cars, individually or as groups, can be allocated specific destinations instead of apparently running at random.

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