Weekend Reading: Modelling Branchlines by David Wright

Branchlines_WrightOne of the things I like to do when I am traveling (and when I am not 🙂 ) is visit public libraries. It gives a glimpse into local literary tastes and sometimes interesting public architecture. The Halifax Central Library is definitely worth the visit. The building is almost new and impressively not just a big glass box. I also enjoyed the book return conveyor/elevator/sorting system which is purposely visible at points.

One of the book sections I am sure to go through is, of course, the model railroading and railroad history. In this case, I discovered a copy of Modelling Branchlines: A Guide for Railway Modellers by David Wright. My host agreed to sign it out for me and I read through it over a couple of days.

My initial impression was that this book was a bit of an odd duck by North American publishing standards. Rather than addressing a specific area of modelling technique, it covers a “vertical” segment of the hobby, the UK branchline. It includes a general history of branchlines in the UK, a basic overview of general layout construction methods, layout plans based on specific prototypes, some freelanced plans, some specific detailing and  modelling projects and some advice on colouring with prototype reference photos.

This unexpected approach is, once one gets used to it, an interesting read. The general technique sections provided some useful ideas that I want to try. I consider the real meat of the book to be the prototype line information and associated layout plans. The section describing the construction of a stone station building from card and modelling clay covers an approach I have not seen described in detail and that I definitely want to try.

Modelling Branchlines is in print and available from the usual online behemoth. If you are interested in the prototype subject matter and some excellent trackplan treatments thereof, this book might be worth picking up.


Vacation Photos

The Nor’easter in Halifax has subsided enough for the casual railfan to venture out. Primed with excellent advice from Chris at Prince Street, I visited CN’s Rockingham Yard to see if anything was stirring on a blustery afternoon. Nothing happening at the north end visible from the public viewing platform.RockinghamNorth

But in the distance, headlights! For the first time in my life, I relocated in an attempt to spot some trains.

After a bit of a wait, CN 9576, a GP40-2L came out of the trackage leading to the container port. I presume that it had just spotted a cut of cars. Camera phone at the ready, I managed to take a lot of closeup shots of chainlink fence and one halfways decent one. Op success!CN9576_Rockingham.jpg

Perhaps I will manage to get out there in the early morning when more things are happening. Now off to a hobby shop!

Final Bit of Subroadbed and Traverser Start

After a week of distractions and right before a March Break trip, I got something done. First off, I cut replacement pieces of Homasote for the back track that is accessed only from the traverser and main/runaround traverser approach. These replace the scrapped bits that were not flat. I salvaged them from the flat bits of the ruined 2×8 sheet. The rest will go in the trash, sadly.lastbits

Secondly, I started cutting out pieces for the traverser. I have been undecided about the details of the design but have decided to go with what might turn out to be the first of multiple iterations. The main issue is that three inches top to bottom gets tight once you allow for a 1/2″ top and 1/2″ base. I may end up using aluminum angles for stiffening if the plywood doesn’t do the job.

Here is a shot of the base (19″x38″) and the front edge piece. It is 4″ because nothing has to go over it. The back will have no edge so that the traverser can extend beyond the baseboard edge. This lets the middle traverser track line up with the back track. My current intent is to have a half building with loading doors over the part of the traverser between main line and the front track. There is definitely some mocking up in the future.traverserbase

I have some 75 lb. drawer slides which I intend to hang in the normal manner in order to have the drawer-like adjustment capability. This will help me compensate for any dodgy carpentry. With that much overkill, I must be an O scaler.slides


One feature of hand laying track is that you have easy access to the bottom of the rail, at least before you spike it down. I take advantage of this to solder my track feeders to the bottom of each piece of rail before I spike it down. I drill a hole directly under where the rail will go between two ties and feed the wire through. After ballasting, the feeders will be entirely hidden with no odd lumps to explain away.feeder

Securing Rails at Baseboard Joints

I was away from the thick roof over the train room last week so nothing happened until today. I began the first installation of brass screws to which I will solder the rails next to the baseboard joints. There are purpose made fittings available from the UK but I want to try the old standby. I chose #6 screws because they were the smallest that came in 1 1/4″ length which is required to get into the plywood through 1/2″ of Homasote. I now see why some inset hardwood blocks at the joint since #6 screw heads are huge compared to the base of even O scale flat bottomed rail.

My initial intent was to put the screws between the ties but the screw head was bigger than the official gap of thirteen scale inches. I then fell back to removing the relevant ties and putting the screws where the ties will go. I will then cut and fit the ties around the screws. Hopefully, with paint, weathering and ballast, the screw heads will be unobtrusive.

Here are the screws installed for the main and runaround:Imeantthat

That tie in the middle is right beside the joint, too close to get a screw holding hole under. I know this now…uglytruth

Ties, they don’t just hold rail up, they can cover holes!

Prototype Track

While I was out acquiring some brass screws to use in securing rails at baseboard joints, I took advantage of the nice weather and the proximity of the CN GECO spur to take some photos of turnout details. I am about ready to lay the first turnout and I was dithering about things like how many gauge plates and where do they go? One of the reasons I chose the GECO spur as a source of inspiration is that, if I have questions, I can just go and see.

  • What do the turnouts look like overall? Here is the siding into the Griffith Laboratories plant.griffithoverall
  • Is there really a grade or am I crazy? Not that these are mutually exclusive states but, yes, there sure is. This is a level shot. I bet the local residents enjoy the flange squeal when night switching is done.GECUcurveup
  • How heavy is the rail? 100lb’s and some of it was drawn in 1948. (This means my Right O’Way code 100 rail is too light but not by too much. I claim wartime expedient.)raildetails
  • How many gauge plates and how many rail braces? Depends. 🙂 There are two accessible examples and, of course, they disagree. The Griffith siding looks older so I will take that as a guide. I will consider mixing things up a bit for visual interest.griffithpoints.jpgGriffith has one gauge plate just beyond the points and four adjustable rail braces with a one tie skip for the last one. Note the short ties on the skip and last brace. I wonder what led to that?ipexpoints2The IPEX turnout has two gauge plates and five non-adjustable braces. Those braces look like somebody made them in a shop with plate and a welder.ipexbraces
  • Hook plates under the frogs? Not here, apparently.griffithfrog.jpg
  • What do the switch stands look like? This bit appears consistent between both turnouts. The Griffith stand also has a switch broom in a holder. A nice detail to add. I wonder if the crews carry shovel for when a broom doesn’t cut it?griffithswitchstand

Making Tracks


This morning I made a start on the laying the rails. Given that this is going to be all-in Proto:48 with tie plates an scale sized spikes, this is going to take a while. Good thing that I generally enjoy it.

I wanted to get a bit of track at least tacked down enough to run on to prove myself that I can still do it. I realized that I had put it off longer than I would have in the past and decided to get myself over it. All went well with no more than the usual number of lost spikes.

Some notes:

  • The raw wood ties are easier to get spikes into. I think the stain I used hardens the pine somewhat.
  • Raw wood spikes make it easier to see what I am doing due to the contrast.
  • Sanding makes it easier to get intermediate tie plates under the rail.
  • I need to swap the Optivisor back to the shorter focal length lens for this job.
  • Distressing ties is much easier if you don’t get excited and forget to do that before you lay rails…