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The Weekend Railway

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So, we built it in one weekend, and rebuilt it with drawbridges the next. The only possible next step was....

Demolition!

It's OK, it's not quite as dramatic as it sounds, but after a rethink, it's currently reduced to the end-to-end that was originally planned.

The inconvenience of the viaduct has been mentioned elsewhere, and with its rather unstable structure and filthy weather forecast for later this week, controlled removal seemed a better bet than letting it to fall down. And now I can walk upright up my garden again.

What took several hours to build took exactly 30 minutes to remove. From this:

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or at least it's one of them.

The viaduct was the least interesting, least resilient, and most inconvenient part of the circuit. We'd worked out plans to make it removable, but the future of the stub fence to which it attaches at one end is also under review, so building a fantastic collapsible 30-foot viaduct attached to a thing that's likely to be demolished soon anyway seemed rather pointless.

And in any case, curvy uppy downy tracks through trees are much more interesting. So that's where the planning effort is concentrated at the moment, and after some highly accurate surveying (based largely on a length of copper brake pipe bent to a 270-degree arc at 24-inch radius) we reckon that a return route to make a complete circuit through the trees - and detached from the questionable stub-fence - is feasible, and more appealing. So that's the next stage as far as the civil engineering goes. In the meantime, I'm sure there'll soon be lots of entertaining wagoncam videos to keep us amused.

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Well, I have to say that was an interesting & entertaining 'experiment' & I look forward to seeing how 'Plan B' takes shape!!

I'm equally interested to know if those 'Dolomite's' will ever be restored to running order (one weekend maybe :-) )

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Experiment is definitely the right word. It's an experiment in many regards, so perhaps now's a good time to set out some of the results.

In terms of the way the trackbed was built and the track laid, the experiment was not so much in what you can get away with, but in how quickly those shortcuts come back to bite. Odd bits of MDF and ply have swollen and warped at a remarkable rate; and despite Chris's research regarding expansion rates, we've also seen the proof that rail gets a lot hotter than ambient air temperature. Same principle as frying eggs on tanks in the desert, I suppose. The interaction between rail expansion and our method of securing the rails - staples bridging sleepers, and not pushed down too tight, is interesting: along the curvy tree side of the garden, alignment hasn't suffered too badly, because the curves and the slack in the staples allow the track to creep sideways. Presumably the S-bends become a bit bendier - and in one or two places it's noticeable that curves are not as smooth as they once were - but on the whole, it seems to be more or less the same regardless of temperature. Chris's epic 20-coach straight is another matter though, and on a hot sunny day warps and wanders all over the place; although again, it does seem to largely sort itself out again as it cools.

We've also learnt that track gets mucky quite quickly - although so far, a simple wipe with kitchen roll has been enough to restore smoothness on the Peco flexi. Old sectional Hornby track doesn't like the weather at all though, and will become noticeably rusty if left out overnight. Fishplates as the sole electrical connexions - and a single controller hooked to the track through a single 1970s Hornby 'power clip' - are holding up well so far, but derailments have dire consequences, as doublecee predicted in post 15. Having said that, the stock (mainly 1970s Hornby again) has stood up remarkably well to scale drops of several hundred feet!

I was pleasantly surprised how easy we found it to keep gradient under control, but then our method of construction made that pretty easy, in that each piece of timber trackbed was simply butted up to the last at one end and secured, levelled with spirit level on top, and then secured at the other end. Much easier to level than any form of masonry trackbed, but also much less long-lasting, of course. The next part of the plan will necessarily involve some more challenging gradients, so I suspect we may find that objective and outcome then differ rather more.

The other experimental result I suppose has been the performance of various locomotives. Generally, the older locos are higher geared - much faster runners - but have less reliable pick-ups, and are more gradient-sensitive. The newest of the lot, Chris's 56XX, seems to run at the same speed for a given voltage, almost regardless of load or gradient, whereas the 1970s locos, especially the tender-powered ones, are much more sensitive to gradient and load. Having said that of course, the 1970s Hornby pannier has so far been defeated by nothing. The Hornby Hall of the same era would manage a 21-coach train, provided the pull-away was done carefully and the engine 'driven' sensitively for the first lap or so until a little momentum built up. In contrast, the pannier simply coupled up to the same train and walked away with it, apparently unconcerned.

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An interesting experiment although I advocate solid construction for longevity. Still it is interesting.

All the old Dolomites in the garden are interesting. Can't ever remember Dolomites here in large numbers. We had the Herald, Stag and TR7 and sundry other 4 door sedans. All were sold by BL Australia. Did you have the P76 in the UK?, known out here by it's owners as the P38 (only half the car it was. :lol::lol::lol: )

We also had the Marina and in 1973 BL Australia squeezed the 2.6 litre 6 cylinder from the P76 into the Marina turning an underpowered pig into an under steering pig with hideously heavy controls and handling that occupied that rare niche between very bad and bloody awful. :lol: A friend of my dad who had a Rolls Royce said that the P76 was actually a brilliant car. It was just ruined by the "bolter onas and putta togethers". One of the advertising slogans at the time said you could carry a 44 gallon drum in the boot/trunk. Naturally everyone has the odd 44 gallon drum or two at home.

Here we did have a true Australian made and designed car in the shape of the Lightburn Zeta made by a washing machine manufacturer in 1963. It had a Villiers two stroke twin of less than a third of a litre which gave you around 16bhp. Wheels Australia Magazine said that the performance 'is virtually nil'. The car was a mixture of noise, vibration,harshness and smoke and tackling any reasonably sized hill required a run up of 'biblical proportions' :lol:. Only 343 were ever made and some have found there way to museums in the U.S and UK.

Roy.

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At the risk of wandering off topic for a minute, I know the Dolomite Sprint was sold in Australia, as one of the best sources of technical info and advice for them is Australian. It's very much a smooth-road car though, with minimal ground clearance under the front subframe. And of course, famously, a dislike for warm weather! P76 was never sold in the UK as far as I know. Your remarks about Marinas amuse me particularly, as weekender-Chris has a thing about the Ital, the face-lifted Marina that was sold in the UK for a couple of years in the early 80s. He only fancies them because he's never driven one.

The Lightburn Zeta's a new one on me. Sounds a fascinating machine. Can't imagine why it didn't go on to world domination...

Believe it or not, a couple of the Dolomites - the red and white ones visible near the house in one or two of the pictures - are fully road-legal runners. All I can say is that the mechanicals are a lot tidier than the paintwork.

And now I'll segue smoothly (!) back to the plot, and say that part of the fun of the WR was the slapdash throw-it-together approach. The work I do on the cars - and that Stuart and I did building the big Shed - is always aimed at lasting a lifetime. It doesn't often make for rapid or inexpensive progress, but I'd rather do a job properly once than shoddily half a dozen times. So the WR was a complete antidote to that, for all of us. Fling it together, drive some trains round it, make some videos, and see how much hasn't fallen down after a week. It's already outlasted its design life by some margin: clearly it wasn't shoddy enough. I'm looking forward to seeing how well the throw-it-together approach can be made to work with the more challenging geometry of the return route through the trees that's currently under consideration for some future weekend when a couple of us are free and the sun's out again.

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I have a small book written by an Australian called Tony Davis who's a motoring journalist. The book is called Total Lemons, one hundred and eleven heroic failures of motoring. The Dolomite is not among them but the Marina, Stag, SD1, TR7, Allegro and many others are. One such as the Standard released in 1947, in 1961 the company became a division of Leyland Motors (that's a British expression meaning doomed)

From the back cover: Total Lemons is a hilarious look at 111 automotive atrocities. Bad design, appalling execution, ridiculous pretension, ludicrous names-it's all here in the motoring hall of shame.

The book is available from ABC books.com.au

Roy.

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Thanks for the book reference Roy. Part of the reason for the lack of WR progress in the last couple of weeks was a battle with a Stag gearbox rebuild. And if you look carefully at previous photos you might find another British motor industry oddity hiding in the background of at least one of them. No Leyland connexion this time either.

And now, before the other Weekenders (and forumites!) disown me for deviating too far from the plot, a small update. Wagoncam made a discovery in the trees today:

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The radius is tighter than ideal at 23" to track centre, and the gradients on the return route through the trees will also need to be a little more challenging than those on the existing alignment. As and when the stub fence is replaced, the existing 'express' route through the trees could again form part of a fast, well-aligned main line circuit as it did before (splitting off before the 23" return loops); but in the meantime, with a 'branch line' engineered return route through the trees, the aim is that continuous running will still be possible without impeding access to too much of the rest of the garden.

Trackbed previously has been laid largely on the simple principle of screwing old bits of timber to convenient fixed objects, as level as possible, and leaving curve-smoothing to the PW expert. But the mean radius for the return loop is sufficiently tight that we can't afford to have kinks in the curve, hence this trackbed-cum-template made in advance. It allows an easy check that the required curve will fit between fixed obstructions, as well as ensuring a constant radius on the track when installed. It's 18mm OSB, which has enough beam strength to do moderate spans unsupported during construction, but also - when cut this narrow - enough ability to twist that a gradient can be maintained throughout the curve. Because bringing the track back through the same trees on the same level would be dull, wouldn't, it?! Getting a constant gradient around that curve (about 240 degrees) will be a new challenge. The objective is 1 in 60, in the recognition that it could locally vary to 1 in 50 without disastrous results. A branch line it might be, but inevitably someone's going to want to run a train so long it reaches all the way round the curve.

The other big engineering problem at the moment though is that both windmills took a dislike to the rough weather a week ago, and vanished, by parts, to pastures new.

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As I have discovered, gradients and outdoor railways don't always mix but add to the fun ! It all depends how long a train you want to run. My lima 47 struggled with 9 carriages but the M7 handled 6 OK with a bit of weight in it. Good luck.

PS I spy an Imp in the garden too.

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Good points both of you. Most of the original circuit was almost perfectly level; the steepest grades were about 1:60 (though that subsided a bit over time!) for the first 8-10 feet of the viaduct climbing from the stub fence, and about 3 feet at a similar grade up 'Grumpy Bank'. My 1970s Hornby 'Albert Hall' would just manage 20 coaches on the circuit(!), although the first lap took some careful driving, and you had to start in the right place. The driving wheels never entirely stopped slipping, though. The 'Magnadhesion'-equipped indestructible pannier would haul anything, of course, but more realistically, modern models would generally haul appropriate trains at realistic speeds. Reactions to the gradients varied greatly: the speed of a 1980-ish Mainline Dean Goods with a couple of dozen assorted wagons would vary from a scale walking speed to maybe 40mph according to gradient, whilst a recent Bachmann 56xx on the same train just ran at an almost constant speed. But of course curvature was slight and large radius on that circuit.

To be honest, that original circuit came out much better than we ever anticipated, in terms of its running qualities. Some of the credit for that must go to Chris's careful tracklaying and use of plastic card shims to maintain levels. As and when a full 'express' circuit is restored, the intention is that it should be similarly well-aligned.

The objective with the return route through the trees is a bit different though. Call it branch line engineering for branch line trains. This whole exercise so far has been something of an experiment, so I suppose this continues that theme. There'll be longer, maybe slightly steeper, gradients and tighter curves, so we'll find out what effect that has on different locos and trains. And ultimately, if nothing will run on it, we can take it down and try a Plan C. With track that was only ever held down by staples, and enough scrap timber still on the pile, taking it down and trying again only really costs time.

(I've just thought - and checked - 'Magnadhesion' makes no difference on Peco nickel-silver track. So how on earth does that pannier pull so well?)

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I've broken the rules! I've worked on the railway, and it's not even a weekend. The objective last weekend was building the return loop through the tree, which would involve getting very intimate with it indeed. That would be hard enough anyway, but held no appeal at all on cool grey days when the wind was thrashing it backwards and forwards. So I logged on and 'went to work' instead, with today as payback - and the sun even came out for a while. Most of that tree is a broadleaf (alder I think) but there's also plenty of ivy, and a holly tree hiding within to catch the unwary. So the nice calm day today was a much better bet.

First challenge was how to maintain a constant gradient around that curve. There are too many obstructions be able to put a spirit level on at a tangent in most places, and of course the gradient across any chord will vary with the chord chosen. So I erected a series of small 'turrets' along the trackbed, with heights increasing according to the target gradient. Once the curve was installed properly, the tops of the 'turrets' would be all be level with each other, so a spirit level could be put across any pair - adjacent, opposite, whatever - and it would show level, regardless of the chord chosen. A photo might make this clearer:

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The spirit level is dead horizontal, therefore the trackbed under the turret is 7 shims lower than at the start of the curve, which was the objective. With the first bracket in place, a more conventional complement of hands was sufficient for building the others. Here's another levelling picture:

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With all the struts done and the curved trackbed in place, progress could speed up again, using the old-established method of holding scrap timber in the right place and walloping screws in. These straight sections still maintained the 1:60 downgrade, and the next photo shows how the return 'branch' trackbed is now several inches below the original:

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Ha Ha, I just love this :-)!! It has to be said (but not disrespectfully) that it all appears to be a bit 'Heath Robinson' in construction but the 'Science' is more 'Einstein' !! My brain went into meltdown when I read all those measurements........ A 'feet & inches' man myself :-) but I'm looking forward to seeing this up & running.

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Brian, I can't disagree with your assessment. I rather like doing things 'wrong' but making them work anyway. Of course, sometimes it comes back to bite me. There's another example in the last photo: the long tube at the top of the picture is the brace for the post at the end of the (removable) stub fence. The brace needs to be able to be stowed away when the fence is removed, so it's mounted to the bracket up the tree with an old Talbot Sunbeam track rod end, allowing all the freedom of rotation it needs, but without backlash. I regard it as the world's longest track rod - unless anyone knows any different...

It's been a sunny weekend, so it was time to get the saw and screws out again. The loop around the tree now has one more diagonal brace, and ribs under the OSB arcs between the braces, to try to stop them sagging too soon:

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then gradually trimming away excess material (to allow it to flex) and glueing on shim stacks for "levelling" in the same way as the first one:

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What with rather restricted access and a shortage of the right tools (as if there IS a right tool for hacking an OO-loading-gauge clearance out of the back of a dead tree against a bombproof fence...), that was Saturday used up.

So Sunday started with properly levelling the Grumpy Bend. This shews the spirit level indicating 'level' between shim stacks 0 and 3:

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None of the supports puts any load on OMG - she's really not up to it! The next task was to build the new trackbed for the climbing spur from the 'junction' in OMG back to the existing level across the sheds. The big Shed drawbridge abutment was lowered a bit, and the new trackbed inclined upwards to meet it, original levels being regained at the drawbridge hinges. This shews the climbing trackbed from OMG Junction:

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So after all that straightness on a supposedly 'branch' alignment, the only possible antidote will be some challenging curves. I tried photographing that part of the new trackbed, but it was getting rather dark, and without any track to make sense of it all (and a section of the old route removed for access), it's impossible to make sense of the photo, it just seems to show tree trunks and timber going in all directions. It's possible that I've ben a bit optimistic with the curves in this part of the new trackbed - we might have to 'relieve' a couple more of the treestumps. I'll have to sharpen Chris's 'health and safety' chisels first though.

But that lot's not the most exciting development today: the most exciting thing is that at last some of the minicam videos are becoming available. There are links to the first three below. These were all recorded in the first weekend - a month ago now! - so they're rather out of sequence with construction-destruction-reconstruction, chronologically, but here they are anyway.

The first is a 'night-time wagoncam' run along the track, as it existed at the end of the first day's construction, from a start up by the big Shed to the passing loop (later remodelled) at the end of the stub fence. The flickering timestamp on the video is an annoyance, but we can't find a way to turn it off. That's the flipside of getting a matchbox-sized video camera for a tenner, I suppose.

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The next day, we did a bit more videoing, and gave my 1980-ish Hornby County of Bedford a run, with a rake of GWRish-coloured coaches. Althuough it's a tender-powered model, it still bobs and weaves a little on straights, just as the originals were reputed to. The camera was blu-tacked to a protuding corner at the end of the scary straight.

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The final video for now answers traingeekboy's request from Post 12: it shows mugshots of all four Weekenders. This was taken while the viaduct was being constructed (you can hear a post being hammered in to the ground at one point, and right at the end a disparaging remark about hammer inadequacy). This was also before the final alignment of the track: some very un-Chris-like kinks are apparent.

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The camera you need is a HD 808 Keyfob camera #11. Make sure that it ships with H264 codec and the timestamp deactivated.

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Did you have the P76 in the UK?, known out here by it's owners as the P38 (only half the car it was. :lol::lol::lol: )

We also had the Marina and in 1973 BL Australia squeezed the 2.6 litre 6 cylinder from the P76 into the Marina turning an underpowered pig into an under steering pig with hideously heavy controls and handling that occupied that rare niche between very bad and bloody awful. :lol: A friend of my dad who had a Rolls Royce said that the P76 was actually a brilliant car. It was just ruined by the "bolter onas and putta togethers". One of the advertising slogans at the time said you could carry a 44 gallon drum in the boot/trunk. Naturally everyone has the odd 44 gallon drum or two at home.

Because everyone loves deviations, I just spotted this elsewhere and thought of this thread:

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Make sure that it ships with H264 codec and the timestamp deactivated.

Thanks doublecee, I'll have a look into that. I'm pretty convinced I've found a firmware that will drop onto the current camera but WeekenderSteve is worried I'll end up bricking it and he'll have nothing to record with anymore! I might steal it back at some point and give it a go, but having a second one for other duties wouldn't be an upset either.

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Well Steve, I think that explains things fairly well :-)!! It would seem that the 'Dolomite' is going nowhere soon then.

Actually, with the usual hindsight I wish I had cut out my 24" radius return curve instead of cement with wooden inserts for track pinning. I was trying to avoid having ply near the ground to minimise it absorbing moisture. I was probably influenced by the fact that I built it throughout the winter when things could be pretty wet. I think I will tolerate it for the summer then maybe rip it out & build a nice curving 'Glenfinnan Viaduct' with a one piece wooden track bed.

On the subject of video cams, I have not checked it out yet but 'GOoutdoors' are selling a 'Muvi' mini-cam at £60 (if you have a discount card). The brochure only came this morning & the offer is from 17th to 23rd only if anyone's interested although I guess there's plenty of similar alternatives on the market.

Anyway, cannot wait to see the trains running & I sincerely hope your Loco's & stock 'stick' like glue to the rails or you might need loads of the stuff!! :-)

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I just want to restate how much I love this layout. Getting them running is job one!

Had to share some pics on another forum.

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Brian, the Dolomites that go, go - though the white one's building up a list of engine-out jobs for sometime this Summer - and the ones that don't, won't for several weekends to come! (And what a fantastic result for the P76. I understand there's one surviving estate. I rather like the look of that.)

I understand your original concerns about ply at ground level - it would have to be very well weatherproofed, and I'm (clearly) not the expert in that department. Others on this forum seem to have made it work though, with a bit of effort, care and preparation. It must be immeasurably harder to lay a decent trackbed in concrete; at least our timbers are largely straight and smooth to start with. Almost all the timber in the WR was tannelised originally, and has proven its longevity by lying around outside for years. But it's lain in ventillated stacks, mostly, so although it gets wet when it rains, it dries out again quickly - as do the elevated trackbeds, of course. I like the idea of your Glenfinnan viaduct. It ought to be possible to adapt the 'thermalite block' method developed by others on this forum to a curved design. If a low sun can shine through the arches, all the better.

Trains will be running again soon I hope, but I've got to finish building trackbed first! Chris is right that I don't want him taking the minicam away. Picture quality might not be the best, but Kelloggcam (see pic in post 6) is also the test vehicle for loading gauge overhead clearance on the new alignment. If it gets replaced by something taller we'll be scuppered, and if there's something even smaller I've wasted a lot of effort making more headroom than we'll need....

I "completed" the low-level trackbed this evening, but some of the curvature looks pretty marginal. The original high-level route was laid to be as smooth and level an alignment as it could be, so I've rather gone the other way with the lower branch-line route; though I think I might've gone too far at one point. I've been holding bits of flexi in place as I go to check clearances and radii, and also testing radius with a gauge (one of the OSB offcuts from around the outside of the tree return curve), and it all looks just about feasible, but until track is secured down I can't be certain. The worst bit is just about visible in this picture:

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As I said in the last post, I was concerned about the curvature on the Woody Nightshade Dogleg, and the only way to check it was to lay some track. Because an odd bit of the upper level track survives near the tree curve, I thought I'd start from there, and advance the railhead to the dogleg. Laying track around the long curve went surprisingly well given my strictly amateur PW status, though there's a little final alignment fettling still to do, and I haven't worried about any levelling shims yet. Arguably this curve ought to be superelevated a bit, but at the moment the track's secured lightly enough that that can be sorted later. Here's the track on the long descending curve:

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and then reached the woody nightshade dogleg. Which is where it all went wrong, rather as expected. An alignment looks like it ought to be possible, but I couldn't make it work. As I said in the last post, the trackbed could always burrow through behind that tree instead, but it's done quite a lot of that already. So it's time for a step back and a think.

Meanwhile, I've made the bridge for the first crossing, up by OMG:

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A friend reckons I'm not a proper railway engineer unless the sun shines through it on my birthday. I'll have to wait and see if it lasts that long.

Although the trackbed's advancing relatively slowly (sorry Griff!), that has freed up a bit of time to process some more videos. They're all from the minicam, compete with infuriating timestamp and variable image quality (it likes nice bright sunshine), but they do give a different perspective on the line.

These are all from that first weekend, again. Video processing might catch up with reality eventually. The first one's a chasecam view of Neil's Class 31 on an end-to-end run on the Monday, before the trackbed was finished around the viaduct. With all the fun of trying to get two locos to run at the same speed on the same voltage, not always successfully.

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The next two are the first complete wagoncam laps of the circuit, one in each direction. Not only was tracklaying complete, we'd even added some unseasonal scenery by the little shed, and eventually a vistor among it too. Unfortunately we'd already had to erect the windbreak on the viaduct, so the view from that part of the circuit isn't much to write home about. Plans for a transparent windbreak were overtaken by the viaduct's removal, but there's always next time. The second video ends rather abruptly on a catch point, though that's not the way catch points are normally supposed to work. The moral of this one is, just because someone's good at permanent way and train-driving, that still doesn't mean you can trust him as a signalman.

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Then a little clip of a Hornby "School", hauling an infeasible load up Grumpy Bank. Mrs Grumpy's side window had just fallen in, giving a different view, so the camera's just hand-held to get the shot:

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The next attempt at a chasecam went rather more smoothly than the one with the Class 31; not least because now that there was a complete circuit, there was more time to find the right voltage to match the train speeds. Though it still needed a little manual intervention. Chris had also tidied up most of the odd little kinks in the track by this time. It's the Hornby County again:

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And to close the weekend, torchlight wagon-cam laps. The interloper in the scenery looks rather sinister in this light. I'm sure the torch is LED not LCD....

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I rather enjoy the view through the trees in the dark. Not something you could see any other way.

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It must be time for an update! Lots of progress recently, but long light evenings leave no time for forum posts. Or video editing/uploads.

Looking back at this thread and others, I note that the pictures in the last post on a given page get viewed a lot less than others. So this is just a space-filler, and I'll put some pictures (and a little bit of maths) in the next post, which should come out on the next page.

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