Monday, 5 August 2019

Upgrading the Pilton Ponies

I have never been totally happy with either the cab roof on Lew which was a horrible big lump of white metal, perhaps even a scale 6 inches thick , or my terrible attempt at the cylinder covers on my old original Chivers Lew and the Stennnig Taw. By pure chance,  whilst pottering in my spares box , I came across some very handy left- over parts from the Backwoods Manning Wardle Kits. A spare unused cab roof for Lew and two sets of cylinder covers. Never throw anything away !
So two evenings later - due in part to not understanding how white metal and brass don’t bond easily and I now have much improved looking models. The cow catcher on Taw ,which is the Langley kits version, fell off in the process but will be re attached now that the cylinder covers are in place.
The cow catchers are in fact a much sturdier design than those on the Heljan and I need to invest in a few more sets to replace those on the Heljan. My Heljan models have lost theirs repeatedly! The chivers model of Lew awaits the same.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Fixing a Heljan L&B 009 Manning Wardle

As mentioned in previous posts on this blog I purchased three of the new Heljan L&B Manning Wardle locomotive models. These  are to supplement my Backwoods ( built for me by Brian Love and one purchased on e bay) as well as my two originals built way back yonder from the Rodney Stenning and Chivers white metal kits. 
The Heljan models do look superb but it seems I’m not alone in finding that the performance of these models struggles over Peco points. The main issue seemed to be that the pony trucks would not cope with Peco points . Thanks to the internet I have followed a fix for the pony trucks. 
One of the theories being that the Heljan pony wheels are too fine scale and the pony trucks too light. My first modification has been applied to a first generation Heljan model of Yeo with the product code 99501. You can identify this first generation by the fact that the pony trucks don’t have any brass connectors that guide the pony trucks. This was a modification by Heljan to improve the problem of the pony trucks adopted to all the second generation models. I have two of these second generation models but my experience is that the modification does not seem to make much of an improvement to the same problem. That is the pony trucks seem to have a will of their own in negotiating my Peco “ Mainline” 18 inch radius points. So following what I write below I have modified my first generation Heljan and I’m very pleased to report that all issues have been rectified. The model runs beautifully across all points in all directions and very slowly. As my models will never run on the smaller radius Peco points I will, in addition to the pony truck modification remove the coupling attachment that is built into the pony trucks and add Greenwich couplings to the front and rear buffer beams. This seems to work perfectly well on the Backwoods models. 
So how to modify and get your Heljan working ? 
Shopping list ; 
1- Romford 8.00 mm metal wheels 6 hole Disc . I purchased mine from DUNDAS models ref: DW 82 
2- brass round Tube - 2.5 mm outside diameter 1.5 mm diameter . I bought mine from Eileen’s Emporium ref BRT 2515D. 
3- Superglue Gel 
Tools - X Acto metal cutting modelling saw and a table top Modellers’ vice. 

How to modify 
1- unscrew the pony truck and remove the Heljan wheel set from their lugs (?) They simply flip out. 
2- cut a length of brass Tube to 5-6 mm in length for each Romford axle to be inserted into.
3- remove each Romford wheel from their axle ( they slide off with a little subtle pressure by finger)!and cut off each pin point leaving an axle of approx 12 mm length . 
4 - add one Romford Wheel to its original cut down axle. 
5- insert axle into the brass Tube 
6- add second axle and using a back to back N gauge push fit the Wheels to correct back 2 back. 
7- push fit the new assembly into the lug vacated by the original wheel set.
8- super glue gel if desired can be added if required to help bind the brass to the lug - but I haven’t as yet and all seems fine. Total time taken per Pony truck was approx. 15 minutes.
I hope the following photographs help explain this simple but effective modification.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Heljan L&B at Lynton

I have recently purchased a couple of the new Heljan Lynton and Barnstaple Manning Wardle models. As many other Modellers’ will be aware these are shall we say a mixed blessing. Superb in looks but some attention had to be made for me to achieve satisfactory running. I’m not fully finished yet in trying to get these models to run smoothly but I do hope that with some persistence it can be achieved.
For now I’ll let the videos do the talking ..

Excelsior and the ballast train

Re writing history somewhat here are a few views of a Mintrains Bagnall ( not yet in full conversion to its Excelsior condition  ) inspecting the line ready for ballasting the track.

The Greenery bit

The hillsides have now had a covering of hanging basket liner and the addition of static grass using a Noch puffer bottle. I’m quite pleased with this combined effect as it produces the depth of grass I hope and think comes close to what I see in the old black and white photographs.
This is just my initial ground cover and is just a starter. I hope to increase the cover with additional static grass.
I’ve also painted the wood facia with grey primer to help bring everything together and neater. The aim is to finish the facia surrounds off neatly so this is just an addition of paint to reduce the amount of bare woodwork . For the road surface I first attempted using dilute acrylics and as any of you could have anticipated it caused the card to warp. Fortunately this was not too severe and I hope can be remedied by using texture paints. So my initial remedy was then a repaint with the same grey primer as used on the wood work.One shot below shows a landscape view and in doing this shot it slightly distorts the view. My track laying is much smoother than this landscape shot demonstrates!
So for now a few views of the greenery...all structures shown simply placed for the photograph so please excuse any unsightly gaps and how they appear.
Next is more track testing and moving on to ballasting.

Monday, 22 April 2019


Lynton station was built into the hillside way above Lynmouth and in creating the station and yard area a great deal of rock must have been excavated leaving exposed rock and shale.Looking at old photographs I can see  evidence of the rock being just below soil level which is further evidence of the difficulties the contractor faced when building the line. The photograph below of Exe taken to the south of the engine shed is one example showing the level of exposed rock or shale.

Examining photographs shows that this shale and rock was quite visible and exposed right along the west side of the station and that towards the goods yard there was quite a high rock face. Early photographs of the station show that quite a lot of lose rock was still visible at the base of the excavation areas which, over the years, gradually  filled in with soil and became overgrown.
To model this I applied quite a thick layer of Polyfilla over the mod roc plaster bandage land formation and whilst still wet and of a mouldable nature I scribed in an impression of this rock and shale.  

When dry the  " rock " was then painted using very dilute acrylics using a technique called Leopard Spotting. First areas were highlighted with raw umber and then a very dilute wash of black all over. Small rocks were made by breaking up larger pieces of Polyfilla salvaged from the layouts initial rock formations and painted in the same way. This method was repeated all the way along the hillside base. Certain areas will then be grassed over using the basket liner and static grass using old photographs as reference. But here in the photographs is the area around the engine shed.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Moving mountains

Well not exactly a mountain but the hillside behind Lynton station. The name of this hillside? I should know shouldn't I? Let me find out before the end of this post.
The whole of this hillside has been remodelled so as to allow easier access to the previously  inaccessible electrics ( note to myself - next layout - plan it !).
Three sections are removable and the pictures below show one section being removed.
You can see that I have included areas  for  allotment areas with which this hillside was littered with in operational L&B days although I might reduce their size and number.
A very rough start has been made on the grassland using hanging basket liner. The liner comes in rolls from my local garden centre this being a much cheaper way than model railway suppliers and was the method used on my original incarnation of Lynton. I use this two ways depending on the grassland I intend to reproduce that being either rough side up for more unmanaged grassland or smoother side up for more manicured. Both methods  on my original Lynton were then treated with Javis static grass as a mix of various grades and shades and applied simply with a Noch puffer bottle onto an area initially sprayed with scotch spray. I've recently invested in a static grass applicator and will try this on the new model. Other than that the liner here shown is as applied fresh or as rescued from the original. All of which will be given a fresh application of static grass. At this stage it looks very rough and messy and will require work to improve it more and harmonise the look so we should see a much improved finish to that seen here. The grassland by the bay road is the only area so far having had the grassland treated in such a way. Areas that will show the rough hewn rock are also in evidence.
The transformer sits safely in a Walls Ice cream tub ( keeping the electrics nice and cool of course but I  must add a warning sign ) and you will also notice work has been done on the areas surrounding the track bringing the track formation up to spec.
Oh yes....the hilside doesn't have a name.