On the road to Uckfield 2019

Next weekend, 19th and 20th October, Bottom Works Sidings will be making its second exhibition appearance at Uckfield 2020.

Uckfield is always worth a visit, probably being the best show for finescale modelling in Kent and Sussex. It’s a shame this year they’ve let their standards slip by inviting BWS but there we go!

If you are visiting the show, do come and say hi, and feel free to comment on the good and bad bits of the layout. Mark Tatlow and Andy Jones will be helping out so if anything falls off it’s Mark’s fault.

Oly won’t be around though, he will be in Inverness instead. Personally that seems a bit of an extreme measure to avoid 3 link couplings under OHLE but each to their own!


Little improvements for the Oxford Janus

It’s been a while since my pair of Oxford Rail YEC Januses got any attention – readers with long memories may well remember the last time they appeared on the blog: A pair of Janii… Or a brace of Januses?

Anyway I finished that post saying that I’d sort the handrails out. Some time ago at one of our modelling days, I took the opportunity to sit down with some 0.45 brass wire and the soldering iron, and put together the required handrails ready for install. These looked nice and tasty on completion:

And after a coat of primer and a black rattle can, we were really in business:

These were then stored in the modelling draw awaiting me feeling in the mood to fit them – I also wanted to fit better decoders and some form of stay alive to the loco as we found them to be very sensitive to my dodgy track laying at Railex, and it seemed sensible to sort that before fitting new fine bits…

Fast forward about 5 months and with BWS’s next appearance at The Uckfield Show looming in a couple of weeks, I thought I should probably get my arse in gear and sort them! Space inside the Janus bonnet is incredibly limited, particularly width ways, so fitting the decoder and stay alive was a bit of a squeeze but with the bodies back on and test running showing a definite improvement over dirty track, I got the handrails glued into place. To top this off I also fitted the Narrow Planet works plates that I’d been carrying around in the loco box for ages!

I’m pretty happy with the finished results – the handrails definitely look better than the originals even though they are far from perfect, and with running improved as well it’ll be good to get them out in the public eye.



At night…

… I’ve always thought the ‘proper’ railway takes on a different character at night, the glow of signals reflect off the polished railhead and the glow of the signalbox lighting illuminates the surrounding area. Even better, there’s still places on main lines in the UK where this is the case.

It may be 23.45, but the signaller on duty in Stockport No2 still has plenty to keep him busy, constantly walking up and down the frame between block instrument and levers, in this case giving the road from Stockport No1 to Heaton Norris Junction for the late running 6E27 Liverpool-Drax Biomass working.

Wagons Roll

Don’t worry, we are still here!

Well it’s been 2 months since BWS was out on the road at Railex, and while it was nice to have a little time off after, we were both soon back on it.

As per usual, progress has been a bit slower over summer but I’ve been working my way through a variety of wagons that have been sat in the stock box unfinished for a number of years. In most cases these have been flat wagons that I’d never painted the deck of, not previously found a technique I was happy with. Coming back to these with a fresh pair of eyes, new techniques and a year or so more of experience, I immediately found a result I was happy with, and this has subsequently been applied to all the wagons, albeit with plenty of variations.

The idea of finishing these was to create a pool for use on metal trains on BWS. On digging them out the stock box however, it was pretty obvious I had rather more than would be required for a 4ft layout so it’s become a rather larger project, with future, larger, layouts in mind, from which I can select a few to take to shows with BWS.

First up a couple of plate wagons, straight from Parkside kits:

A Boplate from the Cambrian kit. I have another of these waiting for paint still in the queue:

A couple of Twin Bolsters, these are both from Red Panda Lowfit Kits, and still require some Vac cylinders (left them off to add weight and now can’t find them…). I’ve just found a couple of Bachmann conflats which also got converted to Bolsters so will supplement these with a pair of those at some point:

As I keep pushing my modelled date forwards, having gone from early 1970 to early 1973, mainly as my interest in air brake wagons has increased, these Double Bolsters are probably now pushing it – they would likely have been converted to Plate wagons by this time. However I like them so they will stay for now. I might mark them up on the other side as Internal Users to get away with them!

Moving onto something with a roof, this Shokvan is a Red Panda kit, and will be employed delivering something fragile to the world, possibly tinplate – just don’t ask what it’ll be used for!

Finally, and again a victim of the moved timeframe, these are 2 of 3 Hornby Toad E brake vans that have been weathered up. They are just too much of a nice model not to use though….

There’s a few more metals wagons to do, which will more than cover off the basic fleet needs. After that I’m planning on turning my attention to some more specialist wagons, Trestles and Coils mainly, to cover off the principle types of metals traffic in South Yorkshire during my era. In the meantime, there’s a couple of little jobs to sort on BWS to get it prepared for Uckfield in October – mainly bits I ran out of time to sort before Railex!


Upgrading pickups on the Bachman 08

Due to a bit of an oversight in the design process, early Bachman 08’s have always had issues with pickups that bear on the tread of the wheel, rather than the rear face as is more conventional. However, I’ve never actually had too many issues with this and the example we ran on Stoating Bank covered a couple of exhibitions with no problems.

However since moving on to SQ, we had found the trusty 08 had become a bit unreliable and it therefore spent most of the Canterbury show in the stock box. After the show I cleaned the pickups and the wheels and all seemed well again on BWS in the build up to Railex.

However, as anyone who has done a show knows, it’s impossible to replicate the conditions of a show in advance, and I was disappointed at Railex when after a couple of runs down the layout, both our 08’s were misbehaving. (Que Mark moaning…). This meant there were considerably more electric worked trains than the original plan dictated, although this turned out to be quite popular with the visiting public.

So how to improve the Bachman 08’s pickup arrangement? Given it must be quite a regular modification to make, a quick Google search on the subject didn’t bring up many results, the best I could find was buried in a thread on the Scalefour Society forum – so here is how I interpreted that and did it myself:

The existing pickup strip runs along the underside of the motor – a fine wire can be soldered to this under the flywheel and run down above the existing pickup behind the frames to drop out below.

A couple of strips of copperclad superglued to the bottom of the chassis keeper place in roughly the middle provide a good place to work everything else from. The droppers passing through the frames can be soldered to the inner corners of these out the way.

Using some pickup strip, this can then be bent up and soldered to the copperclad strip, so that it pushes against the rear of the driving wheels. There is no given way or style of doing this, just whatever works best for you.

And all done, the pickups should exert a roughly similar pressure on both sides, so that you don’t end up with the driving wheels sitting at one end of their sideplay constantly, but other than that there doesn’t seem to be much that can go wrong.

You can then paint the shiny bits that aren’t in contact with the wheel faces a nice grimy black shade to blend them in with the chassis, although to be honest from the low angle shot above you can’t really see anything anyway.

And that is that. Less than an hours work and test running has shown things to be miles better than before. The original pickups are still doing their job too so the locos now have 2 pickups per wheel, much improving on the original setup…. the only real question is why didn’t I do it previously!


Railex: now that the dust has settled.

Well, what a weekend that was – after a manic couple of weeks building up to the show, surprising myself at how long it takes to do jobs you don’t think will take long, I finally finished the last couple of coke wagons at 18.10 on the Friday evening, allowing paint to dry while I loaded the car, and then got a text from Andy who was about an hour in front telling me traffic was terrible on the M25 – I eventually arrived at the venue at about 20.20, where the decision was made to quickly set the layout up, check it worked then do a runner for the curry house! Fortunately there were no problems encountered on that first run meaning stomachs could be lined safe in the knowledge all would be alright.

An early start on Saturday morning saw Andy giving the layout a good thorough shakedown, and learning the somewhat convoluted (temporary) point control setup while I finished off a few little bits and pieces. At 09.50 with everything done and us ready to go we had a chance to have a brief look at the other entries in the Cameo Competition, rapidly coming to the conclusion we wouldn’t want to have to judge a winner! Mark, in his wisdom, had decided turning up at 10.00 and learning the layout ‘on the fly’ was the best bet, only to also have a crap journey round the M25 and not turn up until gone 11.00!

Anyway, with Saturday’s operating team finally all in one place, things settled down into a pattern of operation that seemed fairly consistent, although Mark moaning was the most consistent thing by far. The layout got very busy at some points and it was actually quite hard to see the front on occasions!

The layout ran well for the weekend though, there were a few more problems encountered operationally than I would have liked, but these were down to us learning how things work and don’t work, rather than any physical issue with the layout itself. Despite having packed loads of spares, the servo point control seemed reliable (I’d convinced myself it would fail constantly after the problems setting it up) and no soldering irons were required all weekend. The main issues were learning a few items of stock didn’t work with one another around some of the curves, the best example being my class 37 epically buffer locking with a rake of Accurascale hoppers as it came onto the layout derailing everything at the very moment the competition judges were inspecting the layout!!

After saying goodbye to Andy, Mark and I tucked into another curry on Saturday night (this time in the company of Brian and Paul from Shawplan, and much piss taking) before heading to exhibitors social event for a pint before calling it a night.

Sunday was relatively trouble free operationally, the principle issue being Oly getting stuck on the M25 for ages and therefore not arriving until well into the afternoon, meaning Mark and myself were a bit worse for wear after 4 hours continuous operation! Oly did, however, bring the family and as such we were able to bring in Evie as our latest conscript/operator.

Taking down the layout went smoothly, although I got caught out by time and should have started packing stock away earlier than I did (there was quite a lot…). It does look like we will be ideally placed for a rapid getaway from shows in the future.

The layout got a lot of positive feedback and I was surprised by how many people knew the area and the stock very well. Personal highlights were some quite in depth chats with Charlie Petty (of DC kits but also Chairman of the EM2 society and pretty well versed on all things MSW), Alan Whitehouse (of Mini MSW fame and author of one of the books that got me going on Woodhead in the first place) and Mike Edge (who enjoyed the industrial loco fleet).

We are out again in October at Uckfield which I’m looking forward too, especially with a few modifications to the point controls which will simplify operation no end. What’s more, none of us need to travel round the M25 so we should have a full fleet of operators for the entire weekend!

I’ll leave you with a few shots I took of the layout over the weekend. Probably not the best (I’ll do a proper photo shoot at some point) but hopefully giving an impression of what was going on.


BWS Update 11: We made it! (I think)

After an intense couple of months working on the layout in almost all my spare time (in fact so intense I haven’t had a chance to update the blog since March) we have now reached the point where Bottom Works Sidings will be making its exhibition debut at Railex this weekend, at Stoke Mandeville Stadium just outside Aylesbury.

Although I’d put the same amount of effort into any show, and expect the same standard of operation, there is something a bit scary about debuting at what is probably the countries highest quality show, alongside some layouts and modellers that probably put my standards to shame… I’ve got Mark and Andy helping me for the weekend though and while Mark thinks he thinks he can sell the layout on the merits of his signals my plan is just to blame him for anything that goes wrong!

I’ve found it surprising the amount of time that has been consumed just on small bits and pieces around the layout, those that aren’t essential but help make the scene. I’d also not factored in much time to work on any rolling stock in my last post, one of the reasons I’ve been so busy recently and not cool as a cucumber like I dreamt may be the case.

Anyway, to get any readers who are interested in the mood, here are a few photos of the layout now things are ‘complete’:

It’s a cold January morning in 1973 and Stan has just arrived in the yard to relieve the night shunt turn. His plan for the day involves staying in the warmth of the crew room with a brew and avoiding going out into the bitter cold as much as possible. The remnants of a light snowfall a couple of days ago still lie on the ground.

A view through the trees past the buffer stops in the sidings towards the 3 loops during a quiet moment with no traffic in evidence. The sidings in the foreground are primarily utilised as overflow capacity for the coke works, either empties waiting their turn under the loading bunker or fulls awaiting their next departure slot.

Over in the coal yard, the majority of the snow has melted away. The driver of the JCB has gone into the office to check some paperwork before continuing his duties stocking the site.

The road leading to the train crew room drops away to the exit gate out onto a narrow lane that runs this far, and presents a semi-rural scene despite being so close to heVy industry. About 100 yards beyond the hedge, another fence line will cross the landscape protecting the quadruple track Barnsley to Mexborough main line.

If you are attending Railex at the weekend please do come and say hello and we will do our best to have a chat providing the layout isn’t having a meltdown!