Coupling clinic

Now that the track is laid on the first stage of my new layout I need some stock for “testing”. Most of the wagons I’ve built this year already have Greenwich couplings fitted but there are also some WIP projects, acquired items and RTR that need sorting out.

First up is a Parkside Dundas Hudson bogie open that I bought ready made a few years ago from Train Times in Eastbourne. It was already Greenwiched, but closer inspection showed that they are set too low and the single loop that was present had had it’s tail cut off meaning the iron wire used for uncoupling with magnets could not be fitted. So they had to go.

Coupling clinic

The previous couplings had been mounted in a recess on the underside of the bogies, but checking them against the height gauge that is part of the Greenwich system I found that the 6mm height recommended for the top of the coupling shank would be flush with the top of the buffer beam. A recess was therefore needed in the top, but from the state of the bogies I decided it was easier to cut the underside recess right through and pack the hole with styrene.

Coupling clinic

I used a couple of strips of 0.5mm, mounted on the central crossmember of the bogie, to pack a newly made coupling up to be flush with the top, and then filled the remaining gap underneath with 1mm rod. Once this filler material is painted it should be pretty invisible from normal viewing angles.

Coupling clinic

Once installed back on the wagon, it’s clearly not as neat in appearance but has the advantage of actually working. I’m sure I can disguise it a little more, and the coupling at the other end will have the brake stand on top to further hide it. This also needs repair as the hand wheel is missing.

Coupling clinic

Next is a Ninelines W&L open wagon – I have a couple of these almost ready for painting. This time the bottom of the buffer beam is 7mm above the rails so the coupling needs to be packed down slightly. I glued some styrene strip to the moulded coupling mounting to form two level points to add a piece of 1mm sheet and superglued the coupling to that.

Coupling clinic continues

Coupling clinic continues

It works well and doesn’t look too out of place, although I wonder about adding a downward extension of the buffer beam to make it look more like the coupling is mounted on it rather than under it.

Coupling clinic continues

Finally for this instalment of the coupling clinic, I’ve been working on a kitbash of the Parkside Dundas ‘Bro Madog’ bogie coach – an extremely versatile 009 vehicle that has seen many conversions from many modellers over the years, most notably the “Buccabury Railcar” originated by the 009 Society Buccabury Branch group (more on my own interpretation of this idea another time…).

In this case, however, I’ve shortened the coach by taking out four windows on each side and fitted the result to a slightly lengthened Meridian Bagnall wagon chassis. The result is a neat looking observation style coach which suits a freelance new build for my preserved railway layout.

With the kitbashed chassis the lower edge of the body is at the ideal 6mm height for the couplings so fitting them has been straightforward. To make sure the overhang wasn’t going to be a problem I temporarily fitted the first coupling using blu-tack and then pushed and pulled the coach through a set track reverse curve. All was fine so I proceeded to fix them permanently.

Mini Madog mostly made

Although most of the items above still need some final painting and details such as numbering and continuous brake fittings, I do at least now have enough stock on hand to do some proper “testing” of the layout.

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Laid out

Track on first board completed.

Seen above is probably the most progress I’ve made on a model railway in more years than I care to remember. Being able to have a dedicated space at home for the layout has been a real benefit – I know many people aren’t in that situation, and I wasn’t for a long time, but the ease of leaving things one evening and picking them as they were the next has undoubtably contributed to my rate of progress.

On the left hand end I’ve added an extra point versus the track plan to create an additional siding, these are intended to represent the slightly overgrown places you’ll see at any preserved railway where rolling stock waits to be restored. In fact much like this photo I took at the Amberley gala over the weekend.

Penrhyn Quarry coaches at Amberley station

I’ve added a (minimal) height difference between the sidings and mainline as well to hopefully accentuate the difference when I get to ballasting.

Point lever near Brockham station

I also took a few photos of varying forms of point control, from simple levers to more involved remote operation via ground frames and point rodding. The next task before ballasting can start is working out what ought to go where.

Point rodding at Amberley station

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A few steps forward

Uncharacteristically, I’ve been pushing on with track laying rather than procrastinating. It seemed to make sense to use a sub base on top of the foil surface of the insulation board, both to allow flexibility in the layout and to compensate for the slight irregularities in it. I built this up from layers of 3mm foamboard, in sections, with extensions to support the point operating wires.

First point committed.

These parts were carefully cut to allow the switches to be fitted – they have a suitable throw to operate these 009 points as well as switch the frog polarity – and with channels for the wiring to feed through.

Switch fixture

With the advantage of using simple tools – craft knife, wire cutters, glue gun and solder iron – this came together pretty quickly, taking an hour or two each evening over a week.

Fairlight station board

As things progressed, though, I found that the track alignment wasn’t quite as accurate as it could have been and the tracks of the loop tended to widen throughout it’s length. The result was that a fairly elongated crossover was required to bring them back together, and the lead in track from the fiddle yard ended up shorter than I wanted.

At this stage it wasn’t too late to make changes, and after considering things for a couple of days decided to adjust it.

Loop realigned

By bringing the track spacing down to 40mm (it was previously up to 60mm at it’s widest) I regained a few centimetres of lead in and found that the whole station site was on a subtle curve – not quite as planned but nevertheless a pleasing result.

L45H on a passenger service

The final positioning of the sidings, plus their isolation sections and uncoupling magnets, still needs to be done but this feels like a good step forward. Having a working layout is great!

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Carpaccio of Celotex

Progress on the new layout has been slow over the past few months, but not non-existent.

Having bought a large sheet of 100m thick insulation board (the yellow stuff) I’ve cut it down to form the three main baseboard sections. This is a messy job – use a dust mask! – as cutting it with a regular saw leaves a rough and fragile edge and lots of ‘crumbs’. I developed a technique based on cutting slightly oversize with the saw and then marking up the final cut with a long Stanley knife blade and carefully trimming with a decommissioned bread knife. This resulted in some quite thin shavings which I christened ‘carpaccio of Celotex’.

Carpaccio of celotex

Even though this makes for a much smoother and cleaner edge it still produces dust if you rub against it so – to preserve my sanity in the confines of the garage while the boards still need a lot of moving around – I’ve sealed the edges with duct tape. Looks ugly but once the fascia is on at the end no one will be any the wiser.

Sealed baseboard unit

So now that the boards are in place I can get on with trying out the track layout at full size. Here the PW dept’s newly acquired diesel from East Germany, still in remarkably pristine condition, waits on the site of the future platform road at Fairlight Heath* with a short works train.

Future site of Fairlight* station

* working title

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Catching up with an old friend

Last weekend we took the Narrow Planet trade stand to Narr-O in Merstham – a small show held by the Surrey group of the 7mm NGA which had a friendly “open day” type feel familiar from 009 events. As well as seeing some great modelling, often works in progress too, the relaxed atmosphere of these small exhibitions is also good for the social side of the hobby – or in other words you’ll spend most of the day talking.

One particular highlight for me was the chance to see Cranbrook again – I sold this O16.5 layout a few years ago and it’s been taken on by Paul Davies who has been carrying out some scenic repairs. Paul is also an excellent scratchbuilder so was showing some of his own stock with the layout.


The Hudswell-Clarke diesel in particular was a treat. Not just a lovely model but also exactly the type of machine that might have been used on the HWLR in the later stages of the railway’s life.


I didn’t actually get a chance to take any of my own photos, so my thanks go to Michael Campbell for his permission to re-use some of his. You can see a few more – and other layouts from the show – at his Flickr gallery.

Posted in cranbrook, exhibition, model railways, narrow gauge, O16.5, scratchbuilt | Comments Off on Catching up with an old friend