Friday, April 30, 2010

OO Gauge

As promised, I will now take a look at some of the more common model railway gauges that are available and I make no apologies for beginning with OO Gauge since that is the gauge of layout that we are building. It is also the most popular gauge amongst model railway enthusiasts, at least here in the UK. 
OO Gauge refers to those models that are built to a scale of 4 mm to 1 foot (or 1:76) and, because of this, it has become more commonly known as 4 mm. 
Now to the anomaly that I referred to in my earlier posting entitled "Scales and Gauges". This concerns the gauge of the track in that, at 1:76 scale, the track should be 18.83 mm gauge whereas, in fact, it is 16.5 mm. The reason for this goes back to the 1920s when a 4 mm scale system was introduced by the German company Gebrüder Bing and which ran on on 16.5 mm gauge track. However, this did not prove very popular and it was a short time later that manufacturers began building models at Half O Gauge or HO at a scale of 3.5 mm to 1 ft running on track that was 16.5 mm gauge. This was then used by British manufacturers who continued to use 4 mm to 1 ft for their models, mainly because it was easier to fit the electronic motors of the time into the slightly larger models.  
The introduction by Meccano in 1938 of Hornby Dublo, a range which became popular virtually straight away, helped establish OO Gauge as the dominant size in the UK. However, with the same gauge of track being used for OO and HO, it does mean that trains of both scales can run on the same track. 
During the second half of the Twentieth Century manufacturers such as Tri-ang, Hornby, Lima and Bachmann all produced a massive and comprehensive range of models and equipment and this has just got better and better during the first decade of the Twenty-First Century with more manufacturers, such as Heljan, adding to the variety of models available. Due to its popularity, OO Gauge modelling also has a plethora of kit and accessory manufacturers offering a wide range of items made from a variety of materials from plastic to cardboard to white metal.  
Standardization between manufacturers also means that models and equipment are all compatible and can be used together. Couplings have stayed more or less the same since Tri-ang invented the tension lock system although the design has been updated in recent years. All HO / OO gauge track is also compatible and the standard rigid or set track is easy to fit together and to lay. However, it must be said that some of the flexi-track can be a bit fiddly to use for the less experienced modellers. 
As far as space requirements are concerned, large layouts in OO Gauge do indeed require a considerable amount of space. A typical 10-coach train, for instance, measures around 10 foot or about 3 m and, ideally, need curve radius of at least 0.60 m. So, a large layout would need to be housed in a loft, attic or large shed. Layouts that feature branch lines or goods yards, and which feature shorter trains, can be accommodated around the walls of a bedroom or smaller shed or, even, as a fold-away layout.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weekly Wash-up!

Just a quick update this time since, to be honest, not much construction work has occurred on the layout since Easter. Anyway, we finally managed to do a little bit last weekend wherein we focused our attention on progressing the hill and brewery areas.
The hill has now finally taken shape and received an earth wash prior to further landscaping whilst the brewery has had the first few perimeter fencing panels 'erected'.
The hill was made from pieces of screwed up newspaper, overlaid with strips of Peco Land Form. This plaster-impregnated bandage material does make creating hills and embankments very easy and we have used quite a bit over the past few weeks!
Well, after all of that hard work (!) we thought we would have some fun by giving our Class 45 (45053) a test run with a short rake of coaches on the newly cleaned track - and she performed very well. So, hopefully, we will include her in our next video.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Go Goo Go!

Locomotives do not run so well on dirty track and/or when their wheels are dirty. This is fairly obvious, you might say, and indeed it is but it is something that we singularly failed to realize until quite recently when some of our locos began to stutter and splutter around the layout. 
It was at this point we discovered one of the major failings of DCC operation in that it really does need to have spotlessly clean wheels and track to work well, otherwise locos will suddenly stall or stop for no apparent reason.
Of course, running trains regularly does help to keep the track clean but, with so much work being done on our layout at the moment which, in itself, only adds to all the crud, there never seems to be much time to run trains.    
One particular loco (our Heljan Class 33) was especially bad so we took it to Mikron Models in Taunton for a quick examination only to be told by them that the wheels were filthy - and there was me thinking they were fairly clean. Well, we had hardly run the loco since buying it second-hand recently and so I assumed the wheels ought to be quite clean! Anyway, the lad in the shop kindly cleaned the wheels for us and, hey presto, a much better performance from 33025! We thus decided that all of the locos ought to have their wheels cleaned and, also, that we should set to and give every inch of track a thorough cleaning. This was a fairly daunting task since we do have quite a few inches of said track!
Our cleaning operation was a three stage process:
To begin with we used one of the Hornby track rubbers to clear away any  glue left behind after all the ballasting. 
Then we followed up with some Goo Gone, applied with a lint-free cloth. An alternative could have been white spirit which we have also used in the past.
Next, we gave the rails a fine coating of Wahl's Clipper Oil, again applied via a lint-free cloth. This oil is a highly refined instrument oil and in fact it could be used to clean the track as well, if you want. We used it here merely as an anti-oxidizing agent to help prevent the track getting dirty again. 
Please note that you should avoid using any form of lubricating oil as this will make the locos slip and is very difficult to remove once applied. The clipper oil is not actually conductive but it does coat the rails with a fine, long lasting film which prevents oxidization and promotes good contact between the loco wheels and the track.
Finally we ran the vacuum cleaner around the track in order to suck up any dust and debris lying on or near the rails.
Then we test-ran a couple of locos and they did run very well indeed so we can definitely recommend this procedure as an effective way to clean track. 
Now this is done we are hoping that an occasional application of the clipper oil should suffice in keeping the track clean and the locos running smoothly.
In a future posting I will show you how we cleaned our loco wheels, again using some of the clipper oil. Yes, this is great stuff and no railway modeller should be without a bottle!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Scales and Gauges

I had intended to make my next entry an explanation of track cleaning but, instead, I have decided to examine scales and gauges and leave track cleaning until next time. 
Of course, most serious railway modellers will be aware of the various sizes available but, to the beginner, all of these letters and numbers can be a tad confusing at first. So I thought I would try and explain what they all mean and just what the difference is between Scale and Gauge. 
Oddly enough, the standards for model railway scales and gauges were established many years ago, using a combination of both metric and imperial measurements, and these still survive to this day. 
Scale: This is the ratio of the size of the model compared to its full size counterpart. Therefore, a 1:76 scale model is one seventy-sixth the size of the real thing. This equates to 4mm to 1ft or, in other words, every 4mm of the model is equal to 1 foot of the prototype - and here can be seen the curious mix of imperial and metric units I alluded to earlier. 
Gauge: This is the measurement of the distance between the rails and the standard gauge of full size track, which has been adopted almost worldwide now, is 4' 8½" Anything less than this is called narrow gauge while anything greater than this is known as broad gauge. As far as model railways is concerned the gauge of the track is generally given in millimetres and that which is most widely available is 16.5 mm. 
These definitions of scale and gauge are fairly precise, however, over the years the terms 'O gauge' and 'HO gauge' have become accepted as meaning both the scale of the models as well as the gauge of the track. Thus, in the UK, we refer to 'OO gauge' and 'N gauge' while, in Europe and North America, it is known as 'HO scale' or 'N scale.'
Now, whether you say 'N scale' or 'N gauge' it is really the letter or letters (O, OO, HO, N) that describe the size of the models. Therefore 'OO gauge' refers to models that are built to 1:76 scale (4mm = 1ft) while 'O gauge' refers to models built to 1:43 scale (7mm = 1ft).  
Anomalies do occur, as I will highlight in future posts when I examine the different scales in more depth. However, these are minor inaccuracies which are not so important in the greater scheme of things. 
The diagram below illustrates the the relative sizes of the more popular scales / gauges used by modellers today and I will look at each one, individually, in future blog entries.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Going Uphill.

After a week or two of ballasting and extensive track cleaning, more of which in my next posting, we finally returned to doing some landscaping last week. With the help of my nephew and his girlfriend, we started to create a hill leading up to the road bridge. This will become a small, wooded area or parkland which should, hopefully, act as a nice backdrop to the town. The trees that are there at the moment are just to give some idea of how it might look.
Between the road and the brewery can be seen the town's fire station which is set a little higher than the brewery.
Because of the ballasting work that has taken place and the subsequent need to clean all of the track there have been no trains running on the layout for a few weeks. However, now that the track is clean, I am hoping we can put an end to this dearth of train operations and, also, produce another video or two as well.