Sunday, October 30, 2011

Something a bit different

Introducing the EMD FP7-DC Demonstrator. 

I was inspired earlier this year by Nick Dibben's "Willow Bridge" in NGS-J 2/11 to dig out some of my US stuff and have a play - which in turn had the Darling Daughters get out their assorted collection of stuff, practically all of which has been purchased because they liked it and is generally of US outline and from the bargain bin at hobby shops (no sense spending a lot on something which has a better than average chance of heading to the floor at the hands of a 2 year old, although it has to be said they are all very good with the trains - mine and theirs).  Amongst the stuff we were playing with were some Bachmann FP7s which I had purchased with the intention of using them and the TPM MU motorising kits to make some EMUs for "Swallow Street".  With that layout being in store pending a rebuild in 2012, the making of the EMUs took a back seat and now that Farish has announced their entry into RTR EMUs (with the hope that they may shrink the 2EPB and MLV from OO down) there isn't much incentive to do anything with the pair of A units nor the one B unit I have left. 

As a result I had a thought and the photo above is the result.  The main idea is from the Victorian Railways B Class - see here - but the B is a Co-Co and a bit longer than this.  So I have dubbed it the FP7-DC Demo.  The FP7 was a passenger rated version of the F7 with an extra 4 feet for the water supply for the steam heat boiler.  As this is a Double Cab version, it made sense to call it the DC.  As there were never any in service the Demo was pretty obvious. 

I have done some filling of holes prior to putting new ones in.  The two donor bodies were PRR and NYC and these had different number boards so this has had to be fixed.  A bit of milling and removal of metal from the chassis was required to fit the second cab on but this was fairly straight forward.  Drive chain wise, nothing was needed to be done. 

I have a bit more filling to do prior to working out a paint scheme - maybe EMD like this loco.  Then there is the refitting of the couplings and putting it to work on the kids layout - probably as Dad's Engine so there isn't too many fights over it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chivers LNER CCT

I had a win on eBay a few weeks back, picking up 3 LNER CCTs from the Chivers stable already built from the USA for the right price (compared to a new kit - and that included very quick by US Mail standards, postage).  I have been hoping to get a few more of these to go with the one example I have from when Chivers was still producing the whole range of their N Gauge kits (unlike the current situation where they seem to drip feed one shop in Preston, UK - I obtained 2 GWR Pythons from their eBay store following a tip off on the 2mm VAG a month or so ago).

When these landed the first thing I noticed was the paint job looked better in the pictures!  Not a problem, as I was thinking of BR era (57 were built in 1950) rather than LNER so into the stripper they went.  The clean up was pretty easy and then I had a closer look at the build.

A few issues need to be resolved.  The Chivers kits are probably the best for minimum flash going around and these are no exception.  There was the odd bit in the window apertures so I sorted that out and a bit on the roofs.  Closer inspection of the roofs showed that while the vents had been fitted, only 4 out of 24 were aligned correctly so I have chopped them all off and will replace them with spares that I have - although I am leaning towards putting Ultima torpedo vents on instead because they are bigger and while possibly not to scale, they look "right" compared to the Chivers option.

On reflection the paint jobs will be three - one is going to get LNER teak to join the collection of LNER vans I have - and I will put 2mm replacement W irons on so I can put it on the 2mm track easily.  One is also going to be painted BR Blue - although possibly not as weathered as the photos on Paul Bartlett's wagon site (link to the right).  The third I am not sure about.  I have one in Crimson so it may be painted maroon to give me the fourth option.  Time will tell.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dapol Class 26 Review

Having read good things about this (and having seen some pictures of the blue one attached to some of the new Mk 1s from Farish) I decided to get one on a whim as it doesn't fit my modelling interests - they were mostly based in Scotland I believe.

My example arrived last Friday (21st) and ran beautifully from the box.  No dramas at all.  The only complaint I had (and this is almost universal with my new era diesels) is the red is on all the time and cannot be switched off - OK when running light engine but not too flash when hauling a train.  The other minor grumble I have is the blue seems to be a bit too green when compared with other Blue Era models I have (and not just the Farish ones - seems Dapol have changed the paint spec).

I went to put a TCS EUN651 chip in it and that was when the trouble started.  The instructions don't warn you the lights are attached to the chassis.  I found out that they are plugged in from a post here on the N Gauge Forum.  Initial efforts to put the chip in proved to be far from easy.  To start with the body wouldn't sit down correctly so after a few attempts I removed the chip and put the blanking plug back - the blanking plug is noticeably shorter than the chip I chose so I wondered if the chip wasn't the best choice.  No dramas really I figured I would email Dapol and ask.

As it happened, the wires leading from the plug leading to the LED cluster managed to work loose.  The infamous Dapol dry solder joints seem to have finally struck me.  Mind you, I don't have a lot of Dapol locos as I have been made gun shy of them by the horror stories of the Mk 1 versions - although the diesels tend not to have these in the same abundance as the steam locos.  Now sending it back is usually the cry in case like this - and fair enough too.  The loco had merely been run for an hour and now one set of LEDs wouldn't light up merely by the owner attempting to DCC the loco.  No tools near it.

Since I was emailing Dapol about the chip I added the information about the light.  Joel @ Dapol replied quite quickly asking, not unreasonably I thought, for photos.  So I sent them off.  Nothing heard from them since so a bit disappointed considering there was a few hours left in the business day over there when I emailed the second time - POETS perhaps?

Fortunately I have been able to fix the LED cluster (seems the soldering of 2mm kits has paid off in other ways!) and by removing some padding and replacing it will some tape (since I assume the padding is part of the insulation protection for the plug) I have fitted the chip of choice and the loco is now happily trundling around DCC and ready to go.  Still have the red LED issue to sort.

I have discovered one other niggle - the coupling pocket.  It would be handy if Dapol included a bogie surround which was minus the pocket - or even a spare which the owner could cut the pocket off.  The pipes and bits which are included in the bag can only be fitted as far as I can tell with the coupling pocket removed.  Now this would render the locomotive as a one direction loco.  Not a problem for a DVT or a steam engine (such as the forthcoming A3 or A4) but on a 26 it is a bit of a pain.  More because if you change your mind and remove the pipes to sell the loco in the future you can't replace the coupling.  So I am not sure - I haven't worked out a train for this loco yet but it may end up hauling some Mk 1 coaches with Sc numbers whereupon I may remove the coupling and put the pipes in.  In the meantime, a short shank coupling is going in and we will see what happens.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sealion II

I have not been doing much modelling of late - work mostly getting in the road and an impending 1200km move in early December having had me pack quite a bit of stuff in preparation being the chief reasons.

I have managed to get the odd things done around the place and one of the more recent sessions resulted in the Sealion previously shown in brass having been painted and the bogies fitted.  I have had a chance to compare it with the Farish offering and the two are significantly different - and not just because mine is black!  The main fault I have with this one (other than the doubtful build of the chutes but too late really and it is hard to see standing still, much less underway) is the coupling distances.  I will have to do something about that, but at this point in time, it goes around my test track (which required the bogies to have brass washers put between them to give a little more height for the flanges) and, once loaded and weathered, should look pretty good with the allocated 33 that it is getting.  I just have to get one of the new transfer packs from the NGS to finish it off.  And maybe a couple more kits so it isn't lonely!

Friday, October 14, 2011


I have been having a play with my DCC gear again having received a number of chips from Bromsgrove Models and Hatton's.  So far, I haven't seen much difference between the TCS 6 pin and the Bachmann 6 pin in the Class 24 I have been having a fiddle with.  Now the general consensus from a number of points of advice all said the Bachmann chip was useful for putting in the trailing car of DMUs (which is partly why I got a few from Hatton's - I have two 108s and a 150/1 and 150/2 at present with 3 101s on order (including a 3 car set) along with the 411 EMU) but given that it is the Bachmann chip and the literature says it is tuned for the Graham Farish range I thought I would give it a go.

The only real difference I have been able to see is in the options for lighting - although I can't seem to get the random firebox flicker to work on the TCS chip to make it look like I have oil lights burning instead of the lights behind the discs.  Maybe it is all too subtle.  In any case, having put the conversion TCS drop in board into my Atlas GP-9, I am very pleased to be able to select a variety of lighting options so my cunning plan at present is to put Bachmann chips into Bachmann locos (and given the price is almost 2 to 1 against the TCS) where possible, and put TCS chips where it isn't (so I will be getting some Z2 chips in due course for my 04s and 08).

Now I don't have a big layout for fooling around with DCC - in fact it is merely a length of Kato Unitrack to test and program on - but it is nice to have all the locos sitting there with their lights on (assuming they have them - the Class 45 conversion doesn't) and being able to move the one in the middle without needing a lot of switches!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reviewing progress

I did some more work on Swallow's End tonight and in the end, decided a number of issues were going to bug me if I kept going.

The first of these - and arguably the most significant - is the fact that doing the "dirt" has resulted in me having to double layer it.  This, I suspect, is partly because I didn't paint the board under the "dirt" brown first and therefore the white showed through the Woodland Scenics scatter too much.  While putting a second layer of dirt on isn't that much of a hassle, it resulted in the dirt being higher than the ballast.  Now previously I have done the dirt first and the ballast last, and I have been using Peco track so the depth of the ballast is significant, compared with the surrounding country side.  This time I did ballast first and dirt second and using PCB sleepers, the depth of the ballast isn't deep enough compared with the double shot dirt.

The second thing which has been irking me, is working in small sections.  Previously I have tended to paint a wide area (mind you in the past the narrowest layout I have had has been 800mm heading upwards to 1000mm and lengths have been in the 2500mm heading to 4100mm so lots of dirt required!) with glue, sprinkling away then flood with more glue and walk away until 48 hours had passed.  Now the 48 hours still holds true but the smaller patches are showing up with boundary marks.  While I know there are boundaries for fences and whatnot there are too many patches with this landscape for my liking.  I have tried hiding them using various methods but I haven't been satisfied with the results.

Consequently I have decided the whole lot has to come up and I will restart.  Because the track has been glued down with PVA or taped down with DS Tape, all this is going to come up as well.  As it happens, the only bit which I will lose is the the concrete slab for one of the coal merchants - I don't think the paper will survive the bath which is coming up!

On one hand it is a bit frustrating that the hours I have spent ballasting and what not around the places which I could do it have come to naught but on the other hand, given that this is a whole new standard of track and rolling stock to what I have done in the past, I feel that I should strive to make all of it better than normal.  My first efforts fell short - and it has cost me time, a packet of scatter material (well most of a packet - there is still some left over) and some glue.  Cheep as learning experiences go.

So tomorrow is shaping up as bath night for Swallow's End.  Then I will see about putting the track down on cork or something similar to get a bit of height on the surrounding country side - not much, 2mm at the most so I get a nice looking track bed - and I will paint the dirt areas brown before I put anything down this time.

And to think I looked at Missy's Highclere and was a bit smug that I hadn't ripped mine up.  He (or she) who laughs last... or pride goeth before the fall.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Return to Swallow's End

After a hiatus of many weeks (months actually) I decided it was about time I did something more on my embryonic 2mm layout.

At last visit, I had made a start on the dirt, and had put down all the track bar the points, having also ballasted the track which was put down.  I am still not convinced, having put soil around the place, that ballasting first, rather than my usual last, is a good idea.  There is more cleaning up to do on the edges than I usually have to do - my logic for ballast last is that is what happens in the real world although, to be fair, in the real world the track comes after the landscape!

I hadn't put the points down because I hadn't sorted out how I am going to change them - the TOU.  I still haven't although I have a couple of ideas which is why I thought I should do something.  The first something I had to do, was make sure all the points were "gapped" correctly.  This involves making sure the frog is electrically separate from the side running rails - which are also having to be separate from each other.

Being a little concerned about the issue of short circuits, I thought about if for a while and decided the simplest thing would be to wire a light bulb into a circuit with the points.  The photo below probably explains it better than I can with words:

Simply power from a 12v source to the light, then to the RH rail.  The other rail connected to the other terminal on the power source.  If the light is on, then the point isn't gapped.  Find all the bits I missed (which turns out to be more than I thought or hoped) and clean up the various over solders and missing gaps - usually where I hadn't cut all the copper away cleanly - until the light goes out.  Move one wire to the frog and see if it goes on with a feed to either outside rail.  If not, then success.

Tonight I have, in between watching TV, checked two of the 6.  At this rate, I will have them all done by the weekend, at which point I will trial fit them on the layout and make sure the frog rails aren't touching anything they shouldn't.  Then the TOU saga begins in earnest!