What a waste

I’ve recent assembled a short length of track, using some components that it had lying around. It’s purpose was simply to replace a length of flexi-track that I used to have on the back of my workbench to stand stock on between working sessions.

The amount of waste material generated by track building is something that has always bothered my, particularly moulded plastic rail chairs where the sprue they are on seems to account for most of the material used. I guess that, from a cost perspective this doesn’t make a huge difference, as I expect most of the cost is in the intricately detailed mould for the chairs themselves rather than the material used; but what about the environmental impact?

My two 60′ panels of track (480mm in 4mm scale) generated 29g of waste plastic (without breaking or losing any of the chairs). Since the (steel) rail I bought came in 500mm lengths, there are a couple of sort offcuts of rail to add to the waste pile too.

I’ll put that in our recycling bin, in the hope that it finds its way to being recycled (although who knows whether it actually will).

This isn’t meant to be critical of the components used or their supplier, it’s just an observation. It has got me thinking about the environmental impact of railway modelling though, particularly the waste from packaging, moulding sprues and metal waste from etched brass or nickel silver frets.

Plastic chairs are really unavoidable for finescale track, but for the sleepers there is the alternative of using plywood, which is what I think I’ll be doing for future projects. Although I’m now thinking about the energy used manufacturing ply and cutting it into sleeper sized strips…


Review of the year 2014

I must admit, I’ve not been using this blog as much as I thought (and hoped) that I would, largely due to a lack of spare time.  However, I thought a little retrospective of my modelling in 2014 as the year draws to a close.

Firstly then, Foundry Lane.  This year saw my EM shunting plank’ retire from the exhibition circuit with its last appearance at the Leamington and Warwick Model Railway Society’s show at Stoneleigh in March.  The layout performed without fault and I now have an abundance of stock for it as I have most of the Black Country Blues stock available to use.  The decision to take the layout off the circuit was an easy one though and I’ve no regrets.  Looking back I’ve learnt a lot from the experiences of building and exhibiting it, but it has served its purpose and, while it still passes muster, I’m aspiring to achieve more realistic results with my future projects.  It lives on as a shelf for storing unfinished projects above my workbench!

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Black Country Blues is, of course, a group project so is technically outside the scope of this, my personal blog; however I’ve spent a fair amount of my modelling time this year adding further rolling stock to the fleet or improving (well, finishing off) existing stock.  The group took the layout to five shows this year; Stafford, Doncaster (its second appearance now in its completed state), DEMU Burton, ExpoEM North and Warley of which I attended all except Doncaster.  The layout continues to attract positive comments from viewers and even managed to come away from ExpoEM North with the Vice President’s trophy for best layout, which (considering the high quality of the other layouts there) was an achievement we are all very proud of.  Stafford and DEMU shows were relaxed and enjoyable weekends.  Warley was hard work – although to be fair I was expecting that.  To be honest, I’m quite looking forward to the proposed plan to run the layout with steam era stock as it will take some of the pressure of providing the majority of the rolling stock off me!

peakbolster E bolsters catfish

Fryers Lane should have been the main focus of my modelling time and it sort of was.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m prone to getting distracted, which would explained how I ended up modelling a Mk 1 Capri rather than completing the trackwork!


The track did eventually get done (although there are still some detail parts required around the turnouts) and I’ve begun adding dropper wires to connect things up electrically.  Buildings have started to appear on the layout and I think I now have a reasonable idea of what the finished layout will look like.  I now have a deadline to work towards as I have my first invite to exhibit the layout in September 2015.

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Thanks for reading the blog.  Wishing you all a merry Christmas and all the best for 2015.

The end of Foundry Lane

Earlier this month Foundry Lane appeared at its last exhibition when I exhibited at the Leamington & Warwick Model Railway Society exhibition at Stoneleigh.  The layout (and most of the stock) behaved itself and the show was enjoyable – plenty of time to chat to visitors and other exhibitors.  I thought the Society’s efforts to make use of Twitter and Facebook to promote the event were great and something that I’m surprised more clubs don’t do.

Anyway, that’s it for Foundry Lane.  The layout isn’t being scrapped, it will continue to serve as a test track (and shelf) for as long as I still have EM gauge stock under construction.

Here are a few photos of the layout on its last day out.

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Fryers Lane – track laying at last!

With Foundry Lane now retired and with a BCB deadlines now a thing of the past I’ve been able to allocate a bit of time to my P4 test plank layout Fryers Lane.

In the rear corner of the layout I wanted a building positioned so it suggested that a road was approaching the railway to meet at the (off scene) level crossing.  This means the viewer will only see the rear of the building, so I chose a subject (the Hatherton Arms) which had a couple of interesting extensions to the rear, as well as having an open archway through to the road.  It will be positioned at a slight angle, something like this:


It’s been a long time since I’ve done any track laying and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it.  It’s nice to see the two dimensional Templot plan begin to come to life.


When I built Foundry Lane I used ply sleepers and C&L chairs.  This time, I’m using Exactoscale track base and it certainly speeds things up a bit!

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Standard gauge workbench

I wrote sometime ago (here) about wanting to build a small easily portable layout as a bit of a side project.  The Scalefour Society’s Standard Gauge Workbench has prompted me to have another think about this, particular as (now the whirlwind of Black Country Blues project has calmed down) I was lacking modelling mojo.

What I’m hoping to achieve is a small portable layout that I can chuck in the back of the car to take to exhibitions which will also allow me to have a bit of a practice at P4 modelling and try out a few things that Iwas thinking I’d incorporate into Wolverhampton Low Level.  I’m slowing building up rolling stock for WLL, but at present don’t have anywhere to test the running qualities of the stock I’m building.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing with a plan based upon Bloxwich, although in the interst of saving space I’ve pruned the Chase line down to a single track!  Fortunately research into the location was simplied through an existing topic on RMweb (here), Phil Bartlett’s Railway Modeller article from August ’98 and “Walsall Routes” by Vic Mitchell from Middleton Press (not forgetting the ever giving Flickr community where a number of useful photos have been shared).


Progress so far has seen the track plan finalised and a basebaord constructed.  Overall dimensions are 1435mm x 450mm; I anticipate a 1200mm fiddle yard at either end to allow through running (I might even include a passenger service if I can get my hands on a suitable DMU) in exhibition format.  For home use I think I’ll just use the one fiddle yard and operate it as an “Inglenook“.


I had made a start on track construction, but that turned out to be a bit of a false start due to dimensional inaccuracies with the template I was using, that should be resolved now though as I’ve drawn it all in Templot and calibarated the printer!

Site visit #3

Last night I started work on the next section of the station building, getting as far as cutting out the front and back plus two ends, marking out and cutting the window and door apertures.  This section has a central archway with three rectangular windows either side on the front and a door and two windows either side of the arch on the platform side.  Despite having been to the station on a couple of occasions specifically to take photos which might be useful (and collecting numerous copies of and links to other people’s photos), I found I was lacking decent views of some of the details so today took a trip over to take a few more.

On arriving, I found that far more of the site was accessible than it had been on previous visits and I was able to take a walk along the former down platform as far as the footbridge, before stepping down from the platform onto a footpath which runs along the middle of the track bed.  It was strange feeling to walk along the platform with the station announcements from High Level audible in the distance!

After walking around the station building taking photos as I went, a painter and decorator who is working on the building spotted me and came over to have a chat.  The station’s latest guise is as an events and conference venue going under the name of Grand Station.  Personnaly, I don’t think much of the name (although I guess calling it “Low Level” might not give the right impression), but from what I could see of the interior and exterior the quality of finish is excellent and it’s great to see a building which had stood empty for so long finally being used.  The main function rooms are on the down platform (beneath the canopy and behind the glass screens in the photo above) with entrance to the larger of the two function rooms being through the main booking hall with its decorative and freshly painted ceiling.

Anyway, the main purpose of my visit was to get some better snaps of this section of the building:

Which I did, although I won’t bore you with them all in this post.  So far progress on this section of the model looks like this:

Before leaving, I couldn’t resist the temptation to park my car at the spot where the track used to emerge from under Wednesfield Road bridge (the bridge is gone now, infilled and replaced by the retaining wall behind the car) – as if it was a light engine on its way from Stafford Road to take over a working from Shrewsbury – imagine that; an A4 on the up Cambrian Coast Express……

The expanding parcels fleet

One of the things which appeals to me about modelling parcels train operations of the early 1970s is the variety of rolling stock in use.  Alongside the BR designs (BG, GUV and CCT) there would have been a fair amount of pre-nationalisation designs knocking around too and these are what really interest me.  In 4mm scale we modellers are quite well catered for with Bachmann and Hornby including a number of suitable vehicles in their ready-to-run ranges.  In addition there are a number of suitable kits available, mainly from Parkside Dundas, some of which I’ve been building recently.

I started to build this LNER CCT (a Parkside kit) about 18 months ago, but wasn’t sure what to do about axle guards as I was concerned the sprung ones I had might not work with 14mm coach wheels.  Steve Carter’s thread on his BR CCT build over on Modellers United prompted me to take another look at it and hopefully make a bit of progress.


In the end I’ve gone with MJT compensated ones to the BR heavy duty pattern.  I’m not sure they are quite right for this van, but they will do for now.  Rather than use the mount supplied for the rocking axle, I’ve mounted it on a length of brass rod soldered to the heads of two brass bolts.
To get the ride height correct I had to cut holes in the floor, then add a new floor at a higher level.  As normal, I’ve added a square of plastic to brace the sides in the middle of the van body.  I think it will be interesting to compare how the van runs with compensation when compared to this I’m fitting with sprung suspension.

A couple of hours in front of the TV on Friday night saw a start made on these Parkside SR CCTs.  They are two each on the planked and plywood varieties.
The fine weather over the weekend allowed me to get a coat of primer on the assembled bodies.
Chances are that they’ll now remain in this state for a while.  Amongst other things, I’m trying to decide whether I need to replace the handrails and door handles on these (and the LNER one) with some brass or whether to leave them as they are.

At the DEMU Showcase yesterday I had a look at their new Hornby LMS CCT, along with their LNER fish van.  Both of these are types which have been available for some time as Parkside kits.  It was disappointing to see that the Hornby models don’t appear to offer any real benefit in terms of additional detail over the kits, they are certainly not up to the level of detail of Hornby’s Southern BY, although (to be fair) the recently announced price reductions go some way to compensate for this, I suppose.  The CCT looks like it should convert to EM or P4 without too much difficulty – I didn’t measure, but think it wouldn’t take much to fit suspension if desired.  I’ve got a couple kits stashed away, so don’t expect I’ll be buying the Hornby version.

While at Showcase also I picked up a couple of bogies from Replica Railways to use the sideframes with the Brassmasters compensated bogies on my Lima GUVs, one fitted so far:

I need to do something with that handbrake wheel!