Beginning the Spiral Climb

In many ways this is one of the most exciting parts of the project, as well as being well outside my modelling comfort zone! The experience of building the single-track branch line on my art-deco Burghley Junction layout has been helpful: I have at least built a gradient on a curve, and a fairly steep one on a fairly sharp curve at that. But here I am building a series of curves with a need for a variety of steepness of gradient, with unknown locomotive performance and unknown clearance requirements, too. I am open to the possibility that I may have to take something apart and start again on at least one section if it does not work, and also that I may have to redesign sections as I go along, but this week at least I have made a start. I have not got far, but I thought readers may like to see the little I have done.

Of course, work is proceeding all the time and since this video was compiled I have laid the first metre or so of track and pushed some rolling stock up the curve, so progress is being made. I hope to get the next video uploaded soon so that you can see this.

Almost all the curve you see here will be under the mountain eventually, but scenic construction cannot begin until this track and the curve above it are both in place, with their overhead rails which take the pantographs when out of sight in tunnels. Removeable scenery will be necessary so that incidents in the tunnels can be deal with, although so far it seems that Bemo wheels on Peco track seem pretty stable and derailments are not a big thing on this layout.

For the track base for the line through the mountains I have used 6mm MDF, about one-third of the thickness of the solid baseboards used for the station and the fiddle yard. This makes it much more flexible for gradients, especially essential on curved gradients. This is supported at intervals by short timber sections of carefully graded heights to give the necessary gradient. The line will continue to climb to and around the other end of that section of the layout and then come back on itself, level, for an intermediate rural station and then climb again in a curved tunnel above the one currently under construction before making its way to the other terminus, to be built above the fiddle yard.

It is hard to guess how long all of this will take; it depends upon how much freedom to travel we have over the coming year or two, and how much I get involved in the model railway club, my local church and other community things. The great thing about this type of layout, though, is that there is a huge variety of things to do, and if I have had enough of carpentry and track laying, there is always detail at Innsdorf station and village, and the trains themselves need work, too. I am so looking forward to seeing a little red train snaking through the mountains, in and out of tunnels and over and under bridges that the impetus to get on with the project is always strong!

Tweakings and Adjustments

I must apologise for not having written much lately. While I have been busy with other things, there has been progress on the model railway, but it has not been the sort of progress that would make an exciting piece of video! Having completed the platform canopy installation last month I have been doing thorough running tests and uncovering little snags, literally, here and there where the pantographs of some locomotives catch on the overhead installation or fitted snowploughs catch on trackwork, so I have been taking some time adjusting all these little things to ensure smooth running before I move on to the next major project.

While I have been doing this, though, I have also installed the overhead through the second tunnel from Innsdorf station and including that in the snagging project, as well competing the cosmetic bits and pieces missing from the overhead where it meets the tunnel portals. Photographs of these jobs are included here for your interest.

Lining the tunnel

The next major project will be the construction of the first of the curving gradients up the mountain pass. I must lay the track for this before building any more mountain scenery, and I need to buy some suitable sheet material for the track base, perhaps plywood or thin MDF. I shall try to get this started in the next few days. The experience gained when building the branch line on my OO gauge Burghley Junction layout will be of great benefit in this project.

I still have jobs to do in and around Innsdorf station and the village so things are still moving on there as well – pictures and video to follow in due course.

Also, though, it will not be long now before real-life train travel will recommence and I shall be absent for a few days at a time, over on mwtrips.co.uk!

Completing the Platform Canopies at Innsdorf Station

Last month I posted about the construction of the canopies for the platforms at Innsdorf, but I did not install them because the wiring of the lighting under each canopy required the turning over of the station baseboard to work on the underside, which was not convenient at the time. This has now been done, and here is the story:

This was a good dry-run for taking out the two portable sections which are intended to be “exhibitable” and did reveal some issues, so I took the opportunity to remove about 15mm from the end of the layout (mercifully not yet developed!) to make it easier to extract these sections. We are now not far off being able to call this part complete: back scene and more snow to go, I think! And maybe more lighting … no layout is ever finished, but can be exhibited when complete. Before it can be shown, however, I do need to create a portable fiddle yard and some trestles, plus some display material. If a show came up next month I’d race aead with that work, but it will not be needed for many months yet and I can take my time, balancing that with the construction of the, fixed, mountainous sections for my own entertainment!

Alpine Civil Engineering

A start to scenery in the mountain area

The system I had devised in my head for taking the overhead electrification into the hidden storage area but leaving the hidden sidings devoid of the the clutter of overhead wires has been successfully installed, and I have moved on to begin creating the mountain scenery ready for building the spiral gradients on the other main line which will take it over the one laid a fortnight ago and into the mountain terminus above the hidden section. A small step in a long journey, but a firm start!

Here is the description of that early work:

Taking the Overhead Wires Through a Tunnel

A challenge that was always there from the start and which had been exercising my mind from the day I started planning this model railway was how I was going to cope with taking an overhead-electrified model railway line through tunnels. The overhead on this layout is realistic in appearance but is non-functional, the trains picking up their current through the normal two-rail system just as models of diesel or steam trains would do, but it is just as important that the pantographs keep contact with the wire or else they would cause major problems, possibly including damage, if they are dewired and snag the catenary.

The solution I adopted, and which I have since heard has been done by others, was to glue a length of rail to the roof of the tunnel, soldering the contact wire carefully at each end to make a smooth transition. A pantograph then glides from wire to rail as it enters the tunnel and back to wire when leaving the tunnel, but to the observer the wire simply seems to enter the tunnel as it would in real life. Because of the presence of overhead lines it is impossible for a viewer to get their eyes low enough to look into the tunnel and see that I have thus cheated! See it done on the latest video:

Taking the OHLE through the first tunnel

The next project will be to take the wire to the next tunnel mouth which will be the entrance to the hidden sidings where I shall have to make arrangements for the overhead to end in such a way that raised pantographs are wired as they leave the hidden area for the visible part of the layout. Once that is done I can begin the gradients and spirals, with more complex tunnels, which will take the other track up and over the mountains to the terminus to be constructed above the hidden sidings. In many ways the short section of track on this first line has been the test-bed for the complex sections to come, but in any case it had to be built first because the rest will be built over it!

The Roots of the Mountains

The time has finally come to start the construction of the Alpine pass section of the layout! It has taken a little time to build the baseboard (well, I say, “baseboard,” but some of it is empty framework) because it had to go alongside some rearrangement of the room which is now dominated by the layout rather than the railway being along just one wall.

The plain baseboard which extends into the room will carry hidden sidings representing the rest of the RhätischeBahn network, and above it will be the higher-altitude terminus station. At the end of the room, across the window, will be the winding track carrying the line between the two levels via a small intermediate station. There is a lot of work to do here, and a lot of mistakes to make, I am sure, since my experience in any sort of countryside modelling is severely limited (I think I last built a rural scene about fifty years ago) and in narrow-gauge mountain modelling is zero.

I have some HOm points bought second-hand on eBay in readiness for this moment, and some Peco flexible plain track has just arrived from Hattons by courier this morning (in normal times I’d have caught the train to Peterborough and bought it from Train 4U but it is not listed on their website so I had to look elsewhere). I bought cork underlay last summer when the shops were open, and some adhesive when buying the timber last week. Ready to go …

Slow Progress, But Progress Nonetheless

I apologise for keeping subscribers waiting longer than usual for this post, and indeed for the brevity of the post, but this last couple of weeks has seen me busy with other things, such as delivering a Lent Study Course for my local church and updating my other weblog at mwtrips.co.uk. In addition, as you will see from the video, I have taken quite a bit of time sorting the railway room and workbench ready for the next phase of the layout: time well-spent but not the most entertaining of activities for the blog!

Trying a platform canopy for size and fit

In terms of the actual layout construction, there has been some progress: the platform canopies are under construction, and the video deals with these as far as they have come; and a plan has been drawn up for the mountain pass section of the layout ready for the carpentry to begin as soon as I have a decent stretch of time to set aside for it! This is probably the most challenging and exciting phase of the layout construction and will be its defining feature when in use at home. I don’t think it will be suitable for exhibition. Here is the video:

The Best Laid Plans …

I powered up the layout yesterday to move the trains out of the way for some work on the station and noticed something amiss: the lighting in the station building was not working. This was the only lighting on the layout where I had used incandescent bulbs instead of LEDs, largely because of accessibility problems which made it simpler to push a pair of bulbs up through a hole below the building than to attempt to fix a couple of LEDs in place. The big downside of bulbs, of course, is their short life, and these were far from new, so I suppose I had been asking for trouble.

So, the nettle has been grasped: the station board is on its side once more – I don’t think I need to move it to the workbench – and using a hole-cutter, knives and drills I am making my way up through the baseboard and the plastic base of the building into its atrium where I shall place a couple of pre-wired LEDs. I have to say that images of the Hatton Garden burglary sprang unbidden into my mind as I drilled my way in!

Work still in progress but unless I am interrupted I am hopeful that all will be back in place tonight with the station lit even better than it was before! Meanwhile, thanks to a birthday gift I now have more people standing on the station – it was to place these that I need to move the trains out of the way.

No ski resort is complete without at least one of these!

UPDATE:

Task completed, for now, anyway. I can see me wanting to improve this in due course (especially now that I can see that light leak under the building!!!), but now I really must try to get the layout into a more complete state. You never know when I can start inviting friends to see it, or even take it to exhibitions!

Population Growth!

If you have been following my story you will already have seen some of my people, clearing snow, waiting for buses, visiting the Die Post and shops or ice-skating. These are well-detailed, realistically posed, and expensive, figures from Noch, Preiser and other continental manufacturers. I am fortunate to receive these from time to time as gifts, some I buy when abroad (the RhätischeBahn staff I bought in St Moritz, the skiers in Germany) and some I buy myself in UK shops when I see particularly appropriate characters, such as the snow-clearers.

For use inside the trains and buses, sheer numbers are more important than detail: they are glimpsed through small glazed windows, often when moving, and not really seen properly, so I buy cheap, bulk, unpainted (or badly painted!) figures from unbranded internet sources for these, just as I did on my British 1930s layout a few years ago. The ones I have just bought and am gradually installing in my RhB trains are underscale at 1:100 (which would be correct for TT gauge) and I would guess they are made for the architectural model maker who might use such a scale. However, people do come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so scale is a bit vague with figures anyway, and the great advantage is that these are so much easier to place in the coach and bus seats, which often have little legroom, and again, glimpsed briefly through a train window are certainly good enough for me.

Watch the video and let me know what you think, here or on YouTube.

Installing people in one of my RhB coaches