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SKEW BRIDGE - Attic Layout


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So as you can probably see, I have now decided on a name for the attic layout.

The long scenic area I have modelled will be known as Skew Bridge Sidings but the layout overall will be known simply as 'Skew Bridge'. As for the short 'viewing window' area at the east end I've not yet come to a decision on any name as I'm still unsure what will feature there.

I do like to name layouts and areas of my layouts after places and locations from my past, usually by looking back over the towns history or even by using names that exist to this day. Skew Bridge is actually a bridge over a canal that remains very much in use today and which provided an ideal vantage point overlooking a local shipbuilders yard from where barges and other vessels were regularly launched.

Here's a copy of an old photo I was given some years ago which I retouched to remove scratches and blemishes that was taken from the aforementioned Skew Bridge in 1949 and shows the launch of the tanker power barge Wheldale H.


As a youngster we were often walked the short distance from school on launch day to stand in the area just to the right to view a launch but that would have been a couple of decades after the above scene.

My layout 'Skew Bridge' is therefore named after the above bridge and has no connection with any other similarly named location(s) that may exist elsewhere.


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I have a "Skew Arch" near me in Raynes Park SW London. I don't think it's official name it's  just that it goes under the railway at an angle. It replaced the tunnel under Raynes Park station which was a typical LSWR on the cheap build about wide enough for 2 horses and low enough to bang your head on. Useless fact the is an arch way in the middle of it which used to be the original access to the now long gone island platform. Any way back to Skew Arch, so even after this was built it was still very low 10ft 6in l think and only one lane wide with a narrow pedestrian pavement that always terrified me as a kid. It was controlled by traffic lights and caused traffic chaos in the peaks. This was eventually replaced in the seventies by a new bridge on the site of the old Raynes Park signal Box. The designers in there wisdom dug a large dip to allow for full height vehicles under it , unfortunately  they didn't  put in sufficient drainage and it even now turns into a covered swimming pool in heavy rain.


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I have decided on a basic rural scene for the end section continuing very much like the long scenic section. I don't have the time for anything else right now and I want to get this finished before it's time to go back outdoors into the garden. There's also the fact that I don't think I have the ability or the patience to do anything that's too detailed. I want to see trains running and this is the best way to complete the layout quickly and get those wagons rolling. I've already got myself an enormous amount of landscaping to finish off.

So it's just a case of forming the land contours around the tunnel mouth on the left side and towards the back scene.


I need to iron out these joins in the backscene boards because they're starting to bug me.


On the right side, rather than mirroring the left with another tunnel mouth I'm going to attempt to incorporate this bridge by building the land up around it and adding sufficient trees or shrubs to disguise the exit hole in the backscene.


The bridge needs to be at that angle for track clearance and is as close to the end backscene as it will go. I don't think the exit hole will be too noticeable once the scene is complete and as it's only for my enjoyment I don't suppose it will matter if it's not completely hidden. Still have to paint the bridge too and I've had it close on 9 years - another reason why I think it's best for me to keep things nice and simple.


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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 in storage awaiting decoration for nine years or so. Using the same method as on the tunnel portals I first gave the whole bridge a coat of the only yellowish colour I have available, Railmatch 'Brake Dust', and once dry I went over it with a heavy mix of brown (Railmatch Frame Dirt) and Black (Railmatch Roof Dirt), painting small sections at a time and then wiping away the surplus paint with kitchen paper.


In order to hide the exit hole as much as possible I worked out that I could close off a large section along the top of the cut out so a piece of MDF was cut to fit and fastened in place. A bit of paint on the MDF and adjacent timber and it looks better already, just a bit of filling required along the join. It was my original intention to fit a tunnel portal here hence the oversized hole.


I then turned my attention to the land surrounding the bridge and began by fitting cardboard formers on which I would then lay the plaster bandage. I've gone as close as I dare to the bridge for now and will complete the fitting later.


The road across the bridge will disappear into the end board but don't be alarmed about the colour of the road as I just gave it the same coat of paint I had been using on the side faces. I will be trying to create the look of a dirt track rather than tarmac which I think would be more in keeping with the appearance of the bridge - at least that's my thinking at the moment.


So that's about it for today. I will eventually lay something on the opposite side of the exit hole, even if just a few shrub type things, to hide any distractions seen through it as here.


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There's been a lull in activity around Skew Bridge for a couple of days but a little bit of progress has been made today with the addition of more embankment around the stone bridge located on the end board.


The bridge is still just loosely fitted into the landscape and I might decide to keep it that way as I don't see any real need to seal it in completely. It doesn't move around so if I can just reduce any gaps around the sides with plaster bandage and use vegetation to hide the remainder it should be okay.


I still need to clean up the gap above the exit hole.


There's now just a short section of embankment to do along the front of the end board and then I can move on to something else. I have to decide whether to start the grassing of all the embankments or make a start on the 'skew bridge' at the end of the long scenic section.

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That's a nice bridge, Mick, and your detailing on the stonework has come out very well.  All looks most promising.  I'm trying to work out what the bridge is made of; presumably resin rather than plaster (which would be too fragile).  If it is resin, then there would be scope for me incorporating something similar on the garden layout...

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12 hours ago, Andrew said:

... I'm trying to work out what the bridge is made of; presumably resin rather than plaster (which would be too fragile).  If it is resin, then there would be scope for me incorporating something similar on the garden layout...

This bridge is actually plaster Andrew but I wouldn't say it was fragile. Obviously you need to protect it from knocks but I've had it stored away on my shelves for 9 years or so and it hasn't come to any harm yet. When I purchased it there wasn't the option of obtaining it in resin but I do also have another one purchased more recently that's cast in resin and which I intend using outdoors on Worsley Dale to replace the aerated block one I had hastily erected.

I was informed at the time of purchase of the plaster bridge that several coats of varnish would be sufficient to seal and protect it outdoors but I never tested that theory and opted instead for the resin one in the garden.

Just been to check on the website where I purchased them http://www.thebradnorbranchline.com/shop.html but it says 'closed for refurbishment' so I'm not sure what's happening there. I do recall that service wasn't the quickest I've ever experienced and communications were a bit lacking as it appears to be a spare/part time business concern but other than that the products are really nice.

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I've spent the biggest part of this afternoon adding droppers to parts of the track which were previously not connected in an attempt to bring the remaining mainline into action. I now have power on both circuits but there's still some points with isolated frogs that require frog juicers fitting before I can have less troublesome running. There's just so many things to do and still so much that requires doing that I'm beginning to wonder if long mainline running is actually worth all the effort!

I haven't posted any videos to show progress on the layout for some time and it was my intention to do so today by having two MGR trains running at once but almost every time I started the recording one or other loco would stutter on a point frog or dirty section of track and spoil everything. A class 60 I brought out today displays similar symptoms to the class 66 earlier and is in need of a clean and service. As was the case with the Bachmann 66 the Hornby 60 hasn't been used for several years so I guess it's only to be expected. There's also the fact that the track is far from clean after all the plastering of the embankments and although I've been round with the track rubber there's still some stubborn bits. My fault for not covering it up I suppose. 

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As is usually the case, after a good night's sleep I've got over my despair and with a just a bit of work I've managed to iron out several of the problems I encountered yesterday. A model railway can be an emotional roller-coaster at times and that momentary loss of power can lead to utter frustration but a short length of wire and a tiny blob of solder can provide a simple remedy. OK, so it's not always as simple as that but there's nearly always a relatively easy solution to the problems we often come up against and the first bit of advice I would offer anyone in a similar situation is to put the tools down, switch everything off and take a break. It will still be there in the morning by which time you'll feel more refreshed and better able to face the challenge.

Yesterday I was actually questioning my decision to start on the attic layout - it didn't feel like it was what I wanted. I think perhaps I've spent too much time up there instead of spreading things about and doing other things too but then maybe if we hadn't had six weeks or so of persistent rain I would have been able to. I was also wondering if I'd made the right decision in opting for a long mainline run in a scenery devoid of the buildings and stations you see on almost every other layout. It just looks so plain by comparison. But then I think with a clear head and remember that I already have a layout with stations and the whole point in building a layout up in the attic is to run all those trains I've been hanging on to for years and which wouldn't fit in anywhere else.  I think an appropriate title for the layout should be 'Trainspotting at Skew Bridge' because that's what it's going to be like.

Anyway you can't expect trains to run through points whether they are live frog or insulfrog if they haven't been connected to the power bus and so the problematic one from yesterday was electrically connected and with the added benefit of a Gaugemaster auto-frog module to feed the live frog. A careful inspection of the track revealed areas where there was still some remnants of plaster residue on the rail tops, a dark stain like deposit, and my circuit tester (if any was needed) confirmed the fact that power wasn't getting through. It took some time to clean but then trusty old 26024 came along with the IPA filled track cleaner and suddenly the world was a better place. 60048 was given a light drop of lubricant around it's squealing axles and was immediately calmed.

It wasn't without further problems though. One of the points in the storage yard that I had decided would remain as an insulfrog started playing up and I began to doubt my decision not to treat it like all my live frog's. It of course relies on contact of the point blades to feed the frog section but they weren't doing what they are supposed to. It's actually a point that I've used before so was really in need of a clean and once I'd done that it's worked faultlessly since. I'm not entirely confident that it will remain like that so don't be surprised if I return saying I'm lifting the insulfrog points and rewiring them as live frogs. Maybe I should have done that in the first place but it seemed like a time saver at the time. Cutting corners I think you'd call it.


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Not a great deal to report today other than the fact I've been adding further track feeds and more Gaugemaster Auto-frog modules. I really like the auto-frog's, they're easy enough to install and then you can simply forget about them. To date I've never had a single problem with any of them unlike the Tam Valley frog-juicer's I used previously which didn't seem too keen on the cold and damp conditions. The Gaugemaster modules also work out cheaper.

Loco performance has improved no end with the additional track feeds and also the ongoing track cleaning. 26024 has been busy all afternoon circling the layout with the track cleaner while I've been able to run trains on the same line at a distance apart without fear of either of them stalling and colliding with each other.

It's been a cold day today and I was a bit apprehensive about venturing up into the attic but I needn't have worried as it was just fine. I think the foil bubble insulation traps the heat rising through the open hatch as well as cutting out the draughts through the roof tiles and it's certainly a much more comfortable place to be than before. It helps of course when you have a log fire burning away in the room below!

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Despite my disappointment with the Dapol Black Label A4's which I've expressed elsewhere, I've had a pleasant afternoon adding more droppers to the power bus and slowly but surely progress is being made. I've now got power to the three sidings on the scenic section so they can be brought into use as required.

You'd think by now that I would be competent with a soldering iron in my hands, after all I must have soldered several hundred droppers to bits of track over the years, but I still find it difficult to get a neat and tidy joint. However today, instead of soldering a dropper to the rail and then passing the free end down through the baseboard I drilled a hole for the wire first, threaded the wire down, bent the tinned end at a slight angle and then soldered it to the side of the rail. It's made a much neater job than before so I'll continue doing it that way in future. Previously I was bending the tinned end of the wire at a right angle and soldering it to the side of the rail first which made for quite a wide join, now I'm soldering with the tinned wire in a more upright position so there's a less visible join.

The 3 diesel loco's I have on track are running very smoothly now but I'll be glad when I've got construction out of the way so that I can then concentrate on maintaining loco's and ensuring wheels and pickups are kept clean. I don't feel able to sit back and enjoy anything just yet.

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On 01/12/2019 at 21:26, DEANO said:

....I struggle with soldering dropper wires to the track so I now use pre wired fishplates much neater and easier for me.....

And I know many people use them with great success Dean. The problem is that the reason we bond every section of track either with a short wire across the rail joints or by adding wire droppers from the rails to a power bus is because rail joiners cannot be relied upon to maintain electrical continuity long term. I know that sometimes they can because I've experienced it myself but I've also learned that eventually many of them will fail - especially so when they are subjected to conditions outdoors. I suppose if you're adding pre-wired and powered rail joiners at each track joint then you are reducing the possibility of failure to some degree as you would in theory need 2 failures to result in a loss of power to a section of track.

I'm currently running a large section of my attic layout using the fishplates or rail joiners alone as the means of powering much of the track and it's working fine in many areas but this is only temporary and I will eventually power each individual section of track. I thought I could get away with it outdoors too at first and couldn't understand what some people were saying about rail joiners failing but they were right - slowly but surely each of them started to fail and I was forced to electrically bond each section once I'd gotten fed up of crimping the joiners together with some pliers.

Like anything with a garden railway, or otherwise even, if it works for you then by all means go for it but be aware of the potential for failure. Nowadays I find there's enough to contend with trying to keep wheels and rails clean in order to avoid intermittent running without having to concern myself with track power feeds too so I do prefer to solder to the rails just to be sure.

I do agree that your solution looks much neater than my soldering!

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I'm gradually working along the scenic section soldering droppers and connecting them to the power bus via a series of 5 amp terminal connectors which I prefer doing rather than having to solder every single dropper. I'm not too keen on soldering underneath the baseboards while up in the attic as there's a lot of combustible material up there so I'm trying to work as safely as possible. That daunting task I saw ahead of me a week or so ago now seems significantly less so and I'm beginning to enjoy it again. I believe my soldering has improved too from my attempts seen in the first photo below..

Yesterday I painted the embankments around the short end board in readiness for scenic work. I just wanted a simple base colour but after using a random selection of colours I've ended up with this...


The tunnel area resembles heather, although it's only flat paint.

On the centre area of embankment I added some additional green paint and there looks to be some nice rocks in there too. Shame to have to cover it all up now but I want some grass and so on.


I took a few videos today so I'll have a look at them later and see if there's anything worth uploading.

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Very similar to previous videos but until I'm able to ring the changes with some other loco's and wagons then I suppose it's going to be. Anyway, here's the latest video which at least features some HTA wagons alongside the MGRs but with the same two loco's as before.


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4 hours ago, ba14eagle said:

Some artwork for your HTA fleet!....

They hadn't been in traffic long before they started turning up daubed in graffiti though not always with such heavy application as exhibited by your example. While I know it's prototypical and there are hundreds, probably thousands of wagons and other rolling stock running around bearing similar 'embellishments', I much prefer just the standard weathering thank you. I actually spent some time removing graffiti transfers from one of my VGA wagons.

Hopefully by tomorrow I should have the rails on the entire scenic section connected to the power bus. I've been doing it a bit at a time because it's not my favourite task in the world but thankfully the end is now in sight. When I'd had my fill for today I began painting a brownish basecoat along the long embankment to the rear of the scenic section and around the tunnel portal ready for some landscaping.



I still haven't decided on what to use on the embankments. I like the look that you can obtain by using static grass but normally it looks too neat and I'm really looking for something a bit wilder. I'm also going to need a fair few shrubby type things and some trees. Like soldering, the scenic side isn't my thing either - in fact when I think of it I really don't know what is. Why am I even doing this?

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1 hour ago, DEANO said:

Great video and very impressive rolling stock collection.

Thanks Dean. I've been collecting the wagons for a number of years just waiting for the opportunity to run them somewhere. There have been times when I thought it might never happen and I'd be selling up without ever getting the chance to put them on track again so that's really the motivation I've needed to return to the attic layout. Without a lot more space it wouldn't be possible to run them outdoors due to the length and number of roads required for stabling them. It would be great to see them outdoors but it's just impractical to be putting them on and taking them off track all the time.

The attic gives me the opportunity to run them of course but when you compare videos taken up in the attic with those taken outdoors I don't think anything compares to the delights of a garden railway.

By the way, you've been quick on the draw with the profile pic!

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