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SKEW BRIDGE - Attic Layout

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I've spent the last couple of days making more trees and bushes and adding them along the embankment. It seems you can just keep adding and adding and it never seems to fill up!

Today I discovered I had a problem with the Gaugemaster solenoid points. Very occasionally I would operate a lever and the points wouldn't change and on closer inspection the operating arm from the solenoid which fits over the little nipple in the point tie-bar, had slipped off and was no longer connected. I tried to bend the solenoid operating arm down to ensure it remained in place but being plastic I was frightened of breaking it. Instead I marked round the outer edge of the point motor with a pencil, cut along the line with a stanley knife and removed the cork underlay from that area. I then added a thinner replacement strip from some stout card to raise the solenoid slightly leaving it slightly lower than it was before but with the operating arm now firmly seated on the tie-bar nipple. I did the same to 2 further motors and will eventually do the remainder to ensure reliable operation.

It's been 9 long years but finally my class 58's have been released from storage and had their first outings since they featured on the Selby Garden Railway. These 2 are earmarked for sound fitting in the near future but it was great to have them running today even without the addition of sound. It also made a pleasant change to take a loco out of its box and find it fully operational and not in need of stripping down beforehand.

Below, 58048 'Coventry Colliery' pauses for a photo in its coal sector livery while hauling HEA wagons.


And 58041 'Ratcliffe Power Station' in Railfreight livery is captured running light engine.


I've noticed a few strange antics from certain DCC fitted locos in that they would appear to have a mind of their own at times. I wondered if this might have anything to do with the fact that I have a continuous power bus running beneath the layout and so I decided to put an isolation break in both rails of each line at the short non-scenic end and not to have the power bus in a complete circuit. I'll have to see if that makes any difference or whether it's just the chips playing up. I did the same with the outdoor layout and have never noticed any strange activity out there so fingers crossed.

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I've ordered some small bags of scatter material and static grasses in order to try them out before deciding how I'm going to tackle the embankments. In the meantime I've been painting up some more to

A short 60 second video of 60048 and MGR wagons through the new landscape  

Things are now taking shape on the small scenic end section despite me saying that there was no rush to finish this part of the layout. I began this morning by painting the bridge that has been i

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Despite Ciara's efforts I've managed a full afternoon up in the attic and to be honest you'd hardly have known there was a storm at all. I'm not sure the attic would have felt quite the same before I installed the aluminium roll insulation but there was barely a draught up there. I've not done anything special as it's been a day for sorting things out and improving reliability.

I mentioned the problem I was experiencing with the Gaugemaster point motors so here's a photo to show what I was jabbering on about. The problem is where the motor connects to the tie-bar. When the motor is fixed at the same level as the point itself the circular cut-out in the solenoid keeps slipping off the protrusion at the end of the tie-bar. So as you can see, I've removed the cork underlay from beneath the point motor and replaced it with some stout card to raise it back to the correct level for reliable operation.


Here's a point motor installation I completed earlier this evening. This one saves me a lot of walking up and down the attic as it controls the exit from the down loop so now I can just reach over to set the point for entry into the loop and pull the lever for the train to exit without moving further. This motor is located on the other short end section of the layout where there is no scenery as it's positioned across the front of the solar panel inverter.


The tracks running round the above end section have also been lifted and realigned today as I wasn't happy with the curvature. It's meant cutting new sections of track to fit back in but it's been worth it as it now looks much better.

And there's always time for a little photo shoot so apologies if the following loco and wagons have been posed for similar photos previously.


60005 'SKIDDAW' is seen on the down main with the Tilcon stone train passing some of my more recently planted trees up on the embankment. Quite a little forest going on there now.

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I've now installed motors on the points forming the cross-over on the scenic section - this time using Tortoise slow-motion motors that I originally used on an aborted attempt at an indoor layout when I was back in Selby. Again, it's amazing just how much time it takes to do something that at first appears relatively simple but by the time they were connected up and working it was almost time to pack away. I've used a single DPDT switch to activate the points together, powered from an old Hornby DC trainset transformer. Instead of using the inbuilt switches of the Tortoise for feeding the frogs I've used two Gaugemaster autofrog modules that I had removed from the outdoor layout when I switched to the DCC Concepts point levers.

With the mainline crossover now in service I can switch trains from the up and down lines more easily, though not always prototypically. There's till more motors to fit when I can get myself in the mood again.

I found another DCC chip this afternoon so fitted it into 56084 and gave it a run out. It's the first time I've been able to use this particular loco and I'm pleased to say that it wasn't suffering from the same seized bearings as all my others. Here it is running light engine past Skew Bridge Sidings


It's been a few weeks since my last encounter with the following loco and my experience today was only slightly better than before. I just had to try it out again now that I've got the layout up and running but although I've messed around with the sound CV settings it's still disappointing. It's supposed to have twin speakers as far as I can remember but it just sounds like something's missing. It's a shame because it really does look nice.


If there's a good point then it's perhaps the smoke which even if it doesn't look all that great when stationary, as seen below, at least it smells nice!


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I've been playing around with my other Dapol Black Label A4 today but sadly it sounds just as poor as Bittern does. However, like Bittern, 4468 'Mallard' looks really nice with its die cast body and glossy LNER Blue paint finish and the smoke generator isn't too bad when the loco is running at a decent speed with a good representation of exhaust from the double chimney.

Here are a few photos of 'Mallard' in action along the scenic section earlier hauling a rake of 12-wheel Pullman cars.





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The layout is looking superb now, Mick.  The scenery is fantastic, especially some of the trees which are so realistic they even look like silver birch.  And the ballasting makes it all look right.  What a great effort.

At the risk of introducing a negative note - and it's certainly not directed at you - prompted by your smoking A4 pictures, we have to admit, sadly, that even with smoke systems, our steam trains just don't compare to the real thing.  I've just been leafing through "Roaming the Northern Rails" by Eric Treacy, and model smoke just doesn't have the volume and density of real smoke-and-steam exhaust.  It's hard to see how this can change - although when I see some people puffing away with their vapes these days, there seems to be a lot more and denser smoke billowing around than there was from cigarettes.  Now, would a model smoke unit work on vape fluid, I wonder...   Might introduce some interesting smells as well!

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Re 1/76 smoke effects - Andrew, I've seen a Bullied "Spamcan" on "Bournemouth West" , which is fitted with a smoke generator and it looks pretty good- much more volume and blown out the chimney - unfortunately, I don't know who's it is though.

More great scenic work Mick, but those 58's and the 56 need some dirt!!   

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13 hours ago, Andrew said:

....At the risk of introducing a negative note - and it's certainly not directed at you - prompted by your smoking A4 pictures, we have to admit, sadly, that even with smoke systems, our steam trains just don't compare to the real thing.  I've just been leafing through "Roaming the Northern Rails" by Eric Treacy, and model smoke just doesn't have the volume and density of real smoke-and-steam exhaust.  It's hard to see how this can change - although when I see some people puffing away with their vapes these days, there seems to be a lot more and denser smoke billowing around than there was from cigarettes.  Now, would a model smoke unit work on vape fluid, I wonder......

That's a good point you make regarding the vape oils Andrew although I don't know anything about it with regards to its use in anything other than e-cigarettes, but you're certainly correct in the density of smoke it generates! 

The trouble is that in 4mm scale it's not just the volume of smoke we're looking to replicate, which I think would be the easier part, but the consistency of it. It sort of comes out as something resembling ink blobs rather than as a fine mist. It's also not so easy capturing the effect in a photo without additional lighting because the slower shutter speeds tend to blur what little cloud is generated. But saying all that, when you actually see the loco running round the layout blowing out a wisp of smoke it does look rather pleasing, especially compared to one that doesn't. I'm sure in time technology will improve further but as Iain has pointed out, some modellers have already taken smoke generators to another level - the Bulleid can be seen at 5:17 in the following YouTube video.


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4 hours ago, ba14eagle said:

...More great scenic work Mick, but those 58's and the 56 need some dirt!!   

They're all on the 'to do' list Iain along with the 60s but I'm going to concentrate on the layout for now and see if I can get the remaining end completed and the additional storage roads installed. I just need to be able to clear away the bits and bobs I no longer need out as there's currently far too much clutter around.

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Well although I referred to it in my post earlier this is not what I intended doing today!

Using some of the remaining pieces of old wardrobe sides, roughly cut to fit the space, I've been able to extend the storage road baseboard by 12cm. I didn't have any full lengths of board left so it's taken seven and a half small pieces to do the entire length. There's some white at the top....


...and some brown at the other end.


I broke off for tea after I'd completed it and went back up in the attic later with the intention of just tidying everything away and vacuuming up the sawdust but instead I started laying track for the additional 3 roads and continued until I'd used all that I had.


I've called it a day now but rather than purchasing any more new track I'm going to look over some of the old stuff I've got tomorrow to see if it's suitable to use. These are going to be dead-end sidings so there's no real need for new track as there's rarely going to be any loco's venturing much beyond the set of points. The previously used track I've got will no doubt be code 100 but I'll make it fit with the code 75 somehow - even if it means taking out a file to it! I know you can buy adaptors to connect them together but I'll give it a try first.



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The three additional storage roads have now been completed and are operational and so it's given me time today to fit a couple of sound decoders in my class 58 loco's. There's not a great deal of choice when it comes to sounds for the class 58 so I've opted for Howes and matched them with double i-phone speakers. Fitting was straightforward and without problems with both the decoder and speaker being 'black-tacked' safely out of the way to the underside of the roof.

I could do with learning a bit more about the various CV settings and how to get the best from any particular decoder. Currently the 58s are capable of running at a speed that I consider is too fast using the default settings but rather than simply reducing the maximum speed I want to understand how it affects the overall speed range. When I changed the top speed to something I considered more realistic it affected the acceleration of the loco which then took longer to reach the required level. I need to do some reading and learning.

It feels like I've waited a long time to get the class 58s up and running as sound decoders have been on my wish-list for as long as I can remember and yet I never seemed to get round to it. Now I want to get to know the class better and perhaps in the future I can then choose a specific loco to model but for now I'm content to leave them in their RTR identities.

I've not managed any videos today because I spent a good amount of time just shunting trains from road to road and over the cross-overs in order to allow the track cleaner access to each siding. Even up in the attic it's necessary to clean the track regularly. I will instead add the following couple of photos.

Firstly 58048 'Coventry Colliery' hauling a rake of empty MGR wagons. I've used Kadee couplings on the rear of the 58 and on the leading wagon and they work pretty well, the only problem being that sometimes the operating pin on the wagon coupling fouls on points. When the wagon is being hauled and the coupling is under stress it tends to droop slightly and so far I haven't been able to come up with a way to prevent that. Cutting off the Kadee pin prevents any derailment but isn't the best solution.


Below is 56040 'Oystermouth' in Railfreight grey livery which just happened to be standing in the sidings when I captured the photo of 58048 above. I believe this is actually modelled on the loco as it appeared in its brief 'preservation' before it finally succumbed to the scrapman but for now it's pretending it's still 1987 or thereabouts.


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I've used the Wills vari-girder kits to create two plate girder sides for my proposed bridge at the far end of the layout. When I recently used the Wills Lineside trunking I was disappointed with the number of pieces you get in the packs but thankfully there's a good number included in the vari-girder pack. Here's what each pack contains:


I'm still trying to work out the best way to build the bridge and also the best position for it. I was going to build it at an angle away from the end backscene but it also looks okay butted right up to the backscene so that's something I need to decide before I go too much further.

This is the first side I built using some of the above kit parts with the Bachmann wagon boxes being used as placeholders while I work out what to do.


I don't want to go into intricate detail but I also don't want it looking like it would collapse the first time anything crossed over it so the underside needs beefing up a bit. On the road surface I also think it needs a path along each side of the road so I thought about doing it something like this which would give me double the depth beneath the plate girder sides. Is the kerb a bit too high? - maybe it is but it doesn't look too bad does it?


You can see the double depth road base here - it looks fine with some of the rivetted strips included in the kits over the edges of the wood and with the girder sides overlapping the edges slightly. There's also some remnants from the kit which would give a good representation of girders beneath the bridge and that's something else I've been considering.


I'd like to build the two piers that will support the bridge tomorrow to give me a better idea of how it will look although depending on where I decide to position the bridge they may need making differently.

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Hi Mick, the rain has gone for now ,  the side point motor pretty expensive over here would love some $24 , Atlas have one that goes under the point half the price I have one for testing to see if  it will switch Peco points.,  going back to ID#189. 

Love your staging yard ans you are adding more track , my vertical staging yard will probably have 5 tracks be double deck ,the coil train does it ave covers to protect the steel coils from rain, US trains their coil wagons have covers easy to model . ID# 189

I am building up my freight train, don't have a coil train next on the wish list, longer the better, my freight trains be 30 feet in length, longer the better, love long trains.

Started work on my double track rail bride, like your road  bridge with the girder sides, will have a couple like yours on my layout.

Tony from sunny down under

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15 hours ago, aussietmrail said:

going back to ID#189.....Love your staging yard ans you are adding more track....

I've installed track along that extra bit of board in the storage yard Tony. There are now 12 storage roads, all of which will take a full length train although the three I've just installed have buffer stops on the ends so trains have to be reversed in.

I've been having a go at adding piers to my girder bridge and it's coming along okay so far. I just need to work out how the various bits fit together so will be having a look on Google maps in a moment at some similar bridges to see how they look on the road side. You'll have to excuse the bits I've added to make up for the places I measured and cut short but mistakes aside I think we're getting there.


From photos I've seen the tall pier seems to overlap the ends of the girder bridge when viewed from the rail side but I'm not sure how the inner part of the girder section slots into the pier brickwork. It seems to vary from bridge to bridge.


I might just have to adapt mine slightly and add another layer of brickwork on the inner part.


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Transferring the bridge from the workbench to the layout, I've decided that the bridge will be positioned skewed away from the end backscene and not parallel with it, leaving me room to add a few trees behind the bridge piers.

This is how the bridge looked initially but you'll notice I've made a couple of modifications. The over large gap on the backscene (scenic break) through which the trains disappear towards the storage yard has been narrowed by adding an infill of MDF board. It was later painted with the white primer. The bridge itself was reduced in height by 1.5cm as I felt there was slightly too much clearance above the trains and it looked better once that was reduced.


The next photo gives a better idea of how this area will look when everything is finished. Some of the background trees have been blocked in using acrylic paints and will be highlighted later. The piers have now been glued together and the elastic bands are simply holding them while the glue dries. It should make handling everything a lot easier tomorrow.


I've not decided how I'm going to finish the piers yet and I think they will probably need wing walls on this viewing side at least. I'd thought about trying air drying clay to see if it can be used to create a stonework effect as I've got a pack that was purchased some time ago and hasn't yet been opened. Failing that I may have to resort to plasticard.

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Over the past few weeks I've looked at the area where the bridge is going to be located and wondered how on earth I'm ever going to sort it out. I had an access hole through the end backscene but no idea what I was going to do with the area surrounding it.


But now the picture is much clearer. It's surprising how a few pieces of MDF, that came as transport protection for a piece of furniture, can be used to create and transform things. But even though the bridge is looking fine there was still a couple of empty holes in the baseboards at either side.....


...so more MDF, this time of the purchased kind, and some plywood left over from building the outdoor layout in 2012, and the holes are plugged ready to accept some scenery once the bridge is finished


There are now a couple of wing walls in front of the bridge although I'm not sure I'll need to do that on the other side as it's not going to be seen from that angle - I'll decide later.

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I certainly know how to make work for myself. This morning I started out doing this....


....they're 7mm x 3mm cardboard 'bricks' cut from a cereal packet that I intend using to cover the face of my bridge.

Here's where I started on one of the piers, sticking on the 'bricks' with PVA glue.


And after several hours work (!) this is all I've managed to do thus far.


I'm not too concerned about them being perfectly straight or with consistent mortar gaps as I'm just looking for the overall texture. It's all far too small to see detail anyway from a normal viewing distance and by the time it's all eventually painted and weathered it wouldn't make that much difference. I just want to get it done and not to have to spend many more days sticking bricks down.

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54 minutes ago, chris said:

...Individual bricks! that's one way of extending a 2 hour job into a 2 day job...

Ridiculous isn't it. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why everything takes me so long because I'm always looking for the hardest possible way to do anything. A two day job is also somewhat optimistic!

It's a good job it's going to be the only structure on the layout!

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2 hours ago, mick said:

It's a good job it's going to be the only structure on the layout!

Which is the best possible reason for you to spend the time you are doing, to make it a masterpiece!

It really hides the hole through the backscene beautifully.

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5 hours ago, Riddles said:

Which is the best possible reason for you to spend the time you are doing, to make it a masterpiece!....

I never set out to create anything special - just something that's not entirely out of the box. It's been very time-consuming and looking at it I should really have taken just a bit more care with the alignment of the bricks and the mortar gaps but as I've said, from a normal viewing distance it will probably look fine. 

I'm hoping that come tomorrow I'll be able to put the little bricks aside for good or at least for a while. It all depends on how I decide to do the walls or perhaps fences alongside the road. I've just about completed both sides of the bridge now, at least all that I need to do though as before I could have done the left hand wing wall better as there's a mighty mortar gap half way down the bricks. It does of course stand out more because of the contrast between the white of the bricks and the dark mortar gap. Painting should blend them together. There's still some little pieces needed on the edges of the tall pillars and on the facing side of the opposite piers. I still haven't decided whether to bother with the reverse side which would rarely ever be seen.


5 hours ago, Riddles said:

...It really hides the hole through the backscene beautifully.

It does, or at least it will do when I'm able to position it permanently. I'm really pleased with how that end of the layout is beginning to come together now. I'll soon be back making trees again!

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