Saturday, 27 October 2018

Class 45 Howes DCC sound - speaker replacement

As part of the updating of the DCC sound for Charlton, I fitted a new speaker into the Class 45.  This was the first locomotive I tried to put a chip into, and I used the small round speaker supplied with the Loksound decoder. I had never been happy with the sound quality on this locomotive, so I replaced the original speaker with a much better ESU 20x40mm speaker.  The difference is quite startling and certainly less tinny.  I have now settled on using either iphone speakers or the ESU 20x40mm speakers on all the locomotives.

Class 45 at Charlton station.

Original speaker.

New speaker.

The use of better quality speakers and running multiple trains together, means that difference in the volume of different locomotive has become quite apparent.  As a consequence, I have been playing with adjusting the master sound levels on the decoder, programming them using my NEC Powercab.  I am now getting to a point where one locomotive does not completely dominate the others.  What is also very noticeable, is that running in a train that is not sound fitted, after using several sound fitted locomotives, the non-sound fitted locomotive is very one dimensional in comparison.  So from now on, I am only going to use sound fitted locomotives on the layout.  I only need a maximum of four locomotives plus a DMU to operate the layout, so this is quite achievable.  I plan to fit sound to a number of locomotives over the next few months, for key classes suitable to North Devon, such as a warship and a Hymek.

Class 45 running around its train.

Leading an engineers train out of the sidings, back towards Barnstaple.

On other project fronts, the class 31 has had the Hornby TTS chip removed and this has been replaced with a Howes sound decoder - this now drives and sounds like a dream.  The class 122 is nearing completion out of the workshop, although my air compressor has broken recently, and is providing irregular spray patterns - which has held up the class 122 dmu. This has the added complication of poor quality spray finishes on some of my projects, which will need to be remedied when a new compressor arrives.  Until then, there is always more detailing to go on the layout - the car park has been added to the layout and this requires finishing off and detailing - especially the addition of a fence which has made absolutely zero progress.  I have ordered a few trees for behind the station and the station lights still require being added.  Although these details still require sorting out, especially the station lights, I am confident that with a couple of days modelling I will be able to finish these projects.  So I am happy to start looking for exhibitions to take the layout too.  Problem is I have no idea how to obtain invites for shows.  I would like to start early next year exhibiting the layout so any recommendations on how I would achieve this would be most welcome!!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Layout detailing and Dapol paint woes

The layout has continued to make some slow but steady progress, with the fence along the back scene being joined up to the tunnel mouth.  This area has had some details added to it, such as some scrap outside the signal box, having been left from the rationlisation and closing down of the signal box.  The air of the station is intended to be something that is run down post Beaching, but somehow manages to cling on and not be shut down by BR, although it is now the terminus of a truncated branch.

The area of detailing behind the signal box, on the way to the fiddle yard.

More weeds growing along the railway wall.

Slightly elevated view showing the fence and tunnel.  The car park will be to the right of the office block.

Aerial shot showing the detailing at the end of the layout.  There is more to do, but it is coming along.

This area of the layout is now heading towards completion, although there are a couple of jobs to finish, which is the building of an interior for the office block and adding a car park and fence here.  The car park is a sheet of plasticard that is currently in the paintshop, but the office interior and fence are yet to be started.  Some more trees are also needed to sit behind the station and also on top of the tunnel, just to blend these ares a little into the backscene.  The other really important task is to fit lights to the station and glue down the station building with some signage added.  These are all relatively small jobs, but they all take time.

In terms of rolling stock, I intend to run two DMU services on Charlton, one being a BR blue 122 and the other a BR blue 108.  I made a start on detailing the Dapol class 122, with the standard first step in the weathering being an all over body wash of grime, wiping most of this away with a cotton bud dipped in white spirit.  The results of this on the Dapol 122 (and also a class 22 I am doing at the same time) were a disaster.  Either the white spirit or the enamel thinner attacked the Dapol paint finish and I was left with a body shell that is best described as a bit pickled.  I am currently trying to rescue this paint job with an airbrush, blending in some weathered BR blue. The end result will be a DMU that will carry more grime than I was originally intending.  Reading on the web I am surprised that no-one else has mentioned anything similar.

This is how the Dapol paint looked after applying a weathering wash.

I am now desperately trying to fix this with the airbrush, blending in this paint.

So to keep me sane I have also spent a little bit of time running trains recently. Keeping the layout moving and operational helps me to find a little bit of inspiration to finish the layout detailing - when motivation is a little on the low side.  So a class 25 backing onto its train and about to depart on the 18:25 to Barnstaple Jn and on to Exeter, sometime in the late 1970s.

Class 25 backing on its train.

And heading back to Barnstaple Jn, and Exeter.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Some Charlton detailing: a Yard lamp and office building, plus station signs.....

So a little bit more progress has been made on the layout over the weekend, with the addition of a couple of working lights.  I am getting close to finishing off the scenic side of the layout and wanted a couple of working lights on each of the main boards.  This does present a little bit of a problem, as the boards need to be separated when dismantling the layout and I do not want further wires to have to be placed across the boards when I set the layout up each time.

The new lights in the fertiliser office and outside the provender store.

So I decided to place a small battery pack under each of the main boards, from which several lights can be run.  Given that the lights are only using small leds, the batteries should last for a very long time.  I glued the first battery pack to the underside of the board and wired it up to some lights.  The first is a small yard lamp and the second is part of an Express Models lighting strip, placed into the interior of a the small office next to the provender store.  Both these lighting units work happily off the 6v supplied by the batteries.  

The new office block with the lights switched on- this definitely requires an interior.

The office block is a ready to plonk Bachmann building, which I think works nicely in the small space provided.  Originally I was scratchbuilding a warehouse, but to be frank this had got nowhere over several months.  The office block will be used by the fertiliser distribution company, with fertiliser being unloaded at the provender store or on the adjacent area of cobbles.  

The office block is set into the cobbles and requires a little bit of work to blend it in properly.

Some other small detailing work was also carried out over the weekend.  The station has had some signs added, although I am not sure if I am happy with them.  The signs were purchased on line, allowing the individual station name to be presented, but they have a very glossy finish.  They have been mounted on some concrete station boards and placed on the station, in some pre-drilled holes, although not glued down for the time being.  I am going to wait a while to see if they start to bug me or not before gluing them down.

View across the station, with a new track side fence added and station signs evident.  The first tress have been added behind the station.

One of the new station signs, although I am not sure if I like the glossy finish....

The tunnel at the end of the layout has also had some static grass added.  The covering is currently a bit uneven, due to the corner of the layout being difficult to work in, especially with the static grass sieve.  Some detailing and tidying up needs to happen at this end of the layout, with the addition of some bushes and some hedges.  Lastly, the concrete fence has been finished, joining up to the tunnel, running along the backscene.  Some clutter has been added to the layout here, imagining some of the dismantling that took place as part of the Beaching cuts, although the station itself survives.

The Barnstaple end of the layout, with the tunnel starting to come together and and some clutter added to the permanant way.

So more scenery work to go, but also some more steps towards completion.  I need to add a car park this weekend, next to the office block, and add some bushes to the tunnel. There are also some trees to add along the backscene behind the station, to fill out the scene a little.  However, all in all, it is heading in the right direction I think!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Iphone speakers and DCC sound

A few posts ago I decided to experiment with some speakers for my sound fitted locomotives.  Both the Class 45 and Western had smaller speakers, both of which I had become increasingly irritated with the sound quality on.  Both speakers produced quite tinny sounds and were quite trebly in the sound they produced.  So after a bit of web googling I opted to buy a couple of small double Iphone 6 speakers from Roads and Rails.  This evening I swapped over the smaller rectangular speaker in the Western for comparison.  The difference is quite outstanding, although on the videos, it is less noticeably.  The biggest difference is the base end of the sound, which is now far more distinct.  The general sound functions are hugely improved. The swap over took 30 mins but has increased the sound reproduction no end.  The lesson, use a higher quality speaker in the locomotive!  By the time you fit a sound decoder in a locomotive, you are looking at a £200 locomotive.  The speaker is a relatively cheap part and one that will improve your enjoyment of using the locomotive no end.  Another job for the weekend now is to change the speaker in the class 45....

Start up old speaker

Start up new speaker

Running old speaker

Running new speaker

Sunday, 30 September 2018

BR mk1 coach lights part three......

Some seven years ago I ordered two Express Models lighting kits for BR mk1 coaches, being a BCK and SK.  In 2011 I finished the BCK (see here; well seven years later I have finished the SK!  It is somewhat frightening how much time has passed since then!  I now have a finished, fully lit short rake of coaches for operation on Charlton.

Finished mk1 SK coupled up to the BCK.  The effect of the ligting is clearly visible in this picture.

Again the effect of the lights at dusk are clearly visible, coupled up to a western, ready to leave towards Barnstaple.

The first thing to do was take the coach apart and remove the glazing, separating the roof from the coach sides.  The bogies, underframe and roof were all weathered with an airbrush separately, whist the coach sides were treated to a wash of weathered black and frame dirt, with the majority of the paint being wiped off. The interior needs a c. 5mm reduction in height, achieved using a dremmel, to allow accommodation of the lighting unit.  Once this was tested for a good fit, the interior had the seats painted and some passengers added.

The coach which has been taken apart ready to start.

The various components ready for reassembly; note the painted seats and passengers added.

The glazing was then glued back to the coach sides and the sides were glued back onto the roof, with some plastic strip added to the gap between the two.  This join was filled with glue and glaze, and after it had set, it was painted weathered black.  This stops light bleed between the coach sides and the roof.  The coach was then reassembled and some blending together of the underframe and coach sides was achieved using the airbrush.  The bogies were then screwed back into place, with the picks up soldered onto the brass strips, to collect current from the coach wheels.

The join between the roof and the sides has had some plastic strip glued into it, then filled with glue and glaze before painting black to seal the join.

The fit of the lighting unit, with the interior cut down to accommodate the unit.

This has been a really good project and one that moved through to completion reasonably quickly.  The connector between the two coaches uses the Bachmann coach pipes which fits into the nem socket.  The end of each coach has a 3 link coupling added, to make it compatible with my rolling stock.  I have read several internet forums that say not to use 3 link couplings on coaching stock, due to the problem of uncoupling from the locomotive.  I have not found this to be the case, although of course sometimes it takes a couple of efforts.  However, different locomotives are easier to use.  The western coupling is easily accessible, whilst the class 45 coupling is very difficult.  However, it is essential to couple from the coach to the locomotive, as it is nigh on impossible to couple from the locomotive onto the coach under the end connector.

Ready to head back to Barnstaple.

The Express models lighting kits are very good, although they are quite expensive.  I have a further one to fit to a BSK.  However, I recently saw a thread using lighting kits for MK1 stock from 'layouts 4 u', which are under half the price, including an anti flicker unit.  So I have ordered a couple of these.  I would like a 3 coach rake to operate Charlton at exhibitions, although the 2 coach rake makes the payout fully operational now with 1 passenger train. It is great to have proper coach lights to complement the sound and lights of the locomotives.  I just need to get a move on with finishing this layout!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Charlton - further progress and some train running

Another stint of away working had disrupted the push towards finishing Charlton.  Whilst the whole layout is now operational, there is a lot of detailing work to still be done.  The layout had been put away for a couple of weeks, so this weekend I put it up in the living room and set about running some trains - in order to find a little bit of inspiration for a final push.  There are multiple jobs to complete on the layout, each of which takes a little time, so it can feel that progress can be a little slow.  However, I have finished adding lights into the SK coach, meaning I know have one fixed rake of coaches to use as a passenger service.  

Short rake of MK1s with lighting completed ready for use on the layout.

The class 45 runs the early morning passenger service into Charlton - the effect of the coach lighting is clearly visible in this video.

Class 31 shunting some goods wagons around the fertiliser store ready for off loading.

I loaded up the fiddle yard with a passenger service, a parcels train, a small fertiliser goods train for the provender store and an ECC china clay working. These are the general formations that will operate the layout, with the only addition to this being a DMU.  It was great to get a feel for how the layout operates and the sequence of arrival and departure of trains.  In the main the simple track plan works well, although it is slightly intensive using the 3 link couplings on each train, especially under the coaching stock. 

Class 31 ready to drop the emptied wagons into the siding.

A class 25 has collected some ECC wagons from the local quarry and collected the empty fertiliser wagons, now ready to head back to Barnstaple.

A western runs round its train and is ready to head the service back to Exeter St Davids.

Playing around with the layout has meant that it has been possible to compare the DCC sound outputs of several locomotives running on the layout at once.  What is quite clear with these locomotives running around, is that there is a large difference in the sound outputs from the locomotives, both in volume and in quality.  These locomotives have been sound fitted by myself and have used different speakers - and the end result is some variation in sound output.  I am now going to do some more serious experimentation with speakers in an attempt to improve the sound quality of the locomotives.  I have ordered some iphone speakers and will look to replace the speakers in the Class 45 and Western over the coming weeks.  However, a fleet of 3 sound fitted locomotives plus a DMU are more than enough to make the layout fully operational.  So some focus on finishing off enough trains to make the layout work is in order, with a class 22, a class 25, a class 42 and class 52 the chosen locomotives to operate the sequence, at least initially.

Parcels train heads into Charlton.

A western departs back to Exeter, via Barnstaple jn.

So lastly, back to the layout, an office block has been purchased to place alongside the provender store.  I am currently painting a fence for this.  I need a fence along the front of the layout too.  Another fence is needed to join the tunnel to the main layout board, and this too has been constructed.  So lots of painting of these now, to move these ares through to completion.  The station also needs detailing, and I have started painting up some station signs to finish off this area too.  So some glacial progress, but progress none the less. 

A class 31 backs some wagons towards the provender store.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Charlton Provender store and signal box - some layout detailing

This weekend I had the rare commodity of some time to spend modelling!  The area of cobbles that has the provender store set into it, had been held up by the painting of a fence.  This fence was completed and glued down, acting as a barrier between part of the cobbled area and the rails.  The provender store was glued in place and the ballast was finished around the now derelict signal box.

The provender store now glued into place with some grass being added.  There is some more to do here, including thinning out of the grass (weeds!).

I have then spent the rest of the weekend glueing down bits of scatter grass and bushes - a combination of small bushes made from rubberised horsehair and also some commercial ones.  I also used dollops of PVA glue to glue in static grass around the base of buildings, and have started adding a little grass to the station.  The aim is to create a layout in the 1970s that has survived the axe, just, but is now a shadow of its former glory.  Hence there should be weeds growing everywhere! There is some hovering up and thinning out of the static grass that needs to take place, but it is starting to all shape up.  I am very pleased with how this area of the layout looks.

The after view, with some clumps of foliage added around the based of the buildings.

The before view with the provender store glued down.

So next steps are to sort the station out with custom nameboards and some station furniture to bring this to life a little and finish off the car park behind the station.  Hopefully I can get into those bits next weekend.

Some flowering weeds have been added to the siding.

The scribing of the cobbles was well worth the effort in this view.

Close up of the weeds at the base of the provender store.

View of the dereliction at the end of the station.  Note the weeds have taken hold even in the guttering of the signal box!