July and August 2014. After a fairly hectic May and June getting the layout ready for the Bluebell MRS, things have been a bit quieter. However, we’ve taken the time to fix a few problems which became evident during operation - a few bits of undergauge track (why? - it was all built using S4 gauges!), plus some minor improvements to turnouts, and perhaps most importantly, improvements to the baseboard joints onto and off the fiddle yards. Every layout I’ve been involved with has had problems in this area - why is this so much more difficult than the other baseboard joints?
One area which needs a little more attention is track around the loading dock. Despite my best endeavours to make sure the baseboard tops are absolutely true and flat, the short length of track adjacent to the dock slopes down towards the yard sidings. The slope is only a millimetre or two over about a 150 mm length of track, but it means that wagons run away, instead of staying put - not sure what to do about this, but it definitely needs a solution.
We’ve also taken the opportunity to add a few mini dioramas - sheep and shepherd, cows and cowherd, a couple of boys playing in the stream, and the goods yard, plus a lot of work on trees and hedges.
Perhaps most noticeable is the new fascia, with letters cut out of hardboard, painted and glued to the ‘pelmet’ to mimic an LBSCR running-in board.
September and October 2014. Things have slowed up a bit, so nothing major done - just lots of little things. I’ve finished the up waiting room, and almost finished the signal box (just the finial and guttering to finish), as well as roofing the main station building, and adding the canopy valence to both the down buildings. I plan to make a small allotment next to the signal cabin, so have started work on that. It’s autumn so I think most of the allotment needs to be clear, being dug over, with a few cabbages, leeks, and Brussels sprouts (could be a challenge). All I’ve done so far is add a wheelbarrow.......
I’ve spent a while tidying up presentation ready for the Uckfield show, including finishing the display boards at the front, adding clear acrylic sheet to protect the photos and text, and adding better labels to the subsidiary control panel at the back of the layout.
The next show is Epsom and Ewell (April 2015), so I need to make a list of things to do - finish the station buildings (add windows and doors), replace the original (1840’s) signal cabin with a more accurate representation (the one on the layout at present is a model of the Ardingly box which originally featured on West Chiltington, then Brighton Road). There are four fields at the back of the layout which are currently bare earth, whilst I decide what to do with them. One of them is going to be a ploughed field, so perhaps I’ll have a go at that. Prior to the First World War, oxen were still to be found in Sussex as draft animals, pulling ploughs and carts and suchlike, so that might make an interesting scene (if I can find somebody who makes oxen!).
November 2014 to March 2015
With the layout now ‘complete’ and exhibitable (but far from ‘finished’) the rate of progress has been a little less driven, and I have been able to reflect on what things to do next - including tidying up and finishing a few bits and pieces that may look reasonably complete but are definitely not finished, and other areas which need improvement.
I’ve spent a couple of weeks working on the backscene (which was plain white at the Uckfield exhibition). I’m not an artist by any means, but I’m hopeful that what I have done has improved the layout - it now looks a lot wider than its actual two feet. There is a brief description and a few photos here of how I have done it.
Poor communication between operators can often result in confusion and mistakes being made, which I think can rather spoil the (hoped-for) theatrical effect of a good exhibition layout. Block bells mimicking real railway practice seems to be a good way forward, and there is a description of progress here.
I’ve also been checking the layout for electrical faults, and have found a few badly soldered joints, which need fixing - not sure whether this was poor workmanship, or wear and tear from the last show, or simply a feature of storing the layout in a rather cold garage.
April to October 2015
With three exhibitions attended so far this year and one more to go, a little progress has been made for each. The main additions to the layout for the Epsom and Ewell show in April were the painting of the back-scene, and the addition of the block bells.
Much of my time between April and the Bluebell show at the end of June was spent mending a few bits of broken and damaged stock (fairly inevitable for an exhibition layout), and sorting out a few bits and pieces on locos.
Quite a lot of work was done for Scaleforum on various bits of scenery, but the main addition was the block instruments, described here (with a revised description of the block bells on the previous pages). I haven’t delved into the world of electronics before, but the use of servos to drive the signal arms on the block instruments seemed an obvious choice. I joined MERG (Model Electronics Railway Group) and purchased the necessary items. I was surprised at how relatively easily the kits went together, with their very comprehensive instructions.