Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zzzz ...

A Märklin Z gauge layout in a briefcase
Well, there is no time to sleep as I am clearly on a roll with regards to scales and now turn my attention to Z gauge. This is the smallest commercially available model railway size, with a scale of 1:220, which nominally represents 1.38 mm to 1 foot and a track gauge of 6.5 mm.
As you can imagine, there was quite a lot of excitement when Märklin introduced their Z gauge to the world at the 1972 Nuremberg Toy Fair for it was presented as something quite unique. This was supported by illustrations that appeared showing a Z gauge railway running around the rim of a hat, a locomotive inside a light bulb and a complete layout for the professional person ... in the top drawer of their desk!
Apparently the letter Z was chosen because it was thought, at the time, that no-one would commercially produce a smaller model railway scale. Therefore, with Z being the last letter of both the German and English alphabets it was chosen to represent the newest and smallest scale. 
Since 1972, however, there have been a few attempts to bring even smaller scales to the market but these remain niche products without a wider following at this time.
Due to its very small size there are, understandably, very few enthusiasts who are prepared to model in Z gauge using scratch built items and other traditional techniques.
Despite this the gauge has caught on and, now, Märklin, the leaders in the field, produce an extensive range of items with enough choice to suit a variety of enthusiasts who wish to model the European scene. Unfortunately, though, there are no British outline, ready to run, models available and very few British retailers stock Z gauge continental equipment.
In 1984, Micro Trains Line Co of Talent in Oregon, under the name of Kadee, introduced a range of detailed wagons and, now, produce a nice selection of rolling stock as well as a variety of locomotives. They also make flexi-track with correct sleeper spacing and a Code 55 rail section.
Because they are so small one mustn't assume that these products are cheap; on the contrary, in fact since, relatively speaking, they are all quite expensive. However, we must not forget that they are, in reality, fine pieces of craftsmanship that are built to a high standard of quality and, therefore, perform extremely well.
So, if you are wanting to build a small but fun model railway in either a European or an American scene then doing so in this gauge is not that difficult. Although, as you can probably imagine, you do have to be fairly dexterous and have good eyesight! Simply connecting the track and placing locomotives on to it is not easy and requires a keen eye and a steady hand!
This railway system is, therefore, not ideal for the beginner but is more suitable for someone who already has experience in building a layout and would like, now, to build something in the smallest of locations, whether that be as a diorama in the home … or the office!

Friday, April 15, 2011

On The Rack

One of the trains making its way up the mountain.
(Photo courtesy of the Corcovado website)
Inside one of the carriages.
(Photo courtesy of the Corcovado website)
Christ The Redeemer - with the station visible just below.
A view from the top on, sadly, a rather cloudy day.
For my final rail-oriented posting following my recent trip to Brazil, I will take a look at the rack or cog railway that climbs and winds its way through the Tijuca rainforest in Rio de Janeiro towards, almost, the 710 m summit of Corcovado mountain.
On top of this mountain stands, of course, the statue of Christ the Redeemer with magnificent views over the city of Rio and its beaches.
The line of the Trem do Corcovado was opened in 1884 by Emperor Dom Pedro II and was, initially, steam hauled before, in 1910, becoming the first railway in Brazil to be electrified.
Your journey commences at Estação Cosme Velho and the train takes around 20 minutes to travel the 3.8 km to the top, with two intermediate stations where trains pass each other. On our way up a 4-piece samba band boarded the train at the second of these two stops and then proceeded to entertain us for the remainder of the journey with their songs  and their music - fantastic!  
The track is 1000 m gauge and the railway uses four two-car trains, built in 1980 by SLM of Winterthur in Switzerland. These use 3-phase electric power (one of the few railways that still does) via two overhead cables at 800 V 60 Hz.
The trains depart, approximately, every 30 minutes and can transport (according to their website) 360 passengers every hour so that, at busy times, you can have a long wait at each terminus! When we went we had to wait an hour at Cosme Velho but only about half an hour for the return journey.
The railway is open from 08:30 until 19:00 each day of the week and, both for the ride and the view from the top, it is well worth the trip.
For more information visit the website at: www.corcovado.com.br.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TT Time

Britannia Locomotive - Catalogue Nº: T.97
A1A-A1A Brush Diesel - Catalogue Nº: T.96
Mainline Composite Coach - Catalogue Nº: T.87
Now that I have made another start at trying to explain some of the more popular model railway gauges I thought I ought to maintain the momentum and take a look at TT which, these days, is more generally known as 3 mm.

TT covers a range of standards that is used by a relatively small number of modellers who have persisted with the size despite there being very little support from the various manufacturers.

Although there are modellers who do still collect the old Tri-ang ready-to-run products, which are now only available second-hand, most 3 mm enthusiasts build their locomotives and rolling stock from kits and run them on 12 mm gauge track. However, an increasing number are using finer sale 14.2 mm gauge track, which is the correct 3 mm scale equivalent of the prototype standard gauge.

It was in the late 1950s that Tri-ang introduced their new 'TT3'  model railway range with 'TT' standing for Table Top and 3 being the nominal 3 mm to 1 foot scale. However, the track was only 12 mm gauge which represented an incorrect prototype gauge of 4 foot.

During the early 1960's Tri-ang produced a handful of British outline locomotives along with a nice range of goods vehicles and slightly shortened passenger coaches. As you can see, I have included some examples above with all photographs courtesy of the Tri-ang website (http://www.tri-ang.co.uk).

Being smaller than OO it was suggested that you could build  a fairly decent layout  in TT - quite literally on a table top but, unfortunately, by the mid-1960's, TT had been usurped by the smaller N gauge.

However, in 1965, the 3 mm Society was formed in order to promote the continuing use of the scale and this it still does today.

To be honest, the old Tri-ang rolling stock did not have very good running qualities thanks, mostly, to its 1950s design and technology. Today, of course, modern rolling stock runs on needle-point bearings and performs much better although, sadly, no manufacturer makes any ready-to-run models in 3 mm scale.

The 3 mm Society, however, does produce a large range of items including kits for locomotives, wagons and coaches together with pieces for scratch-building rolling stock. The Society also supplies an excellent 12 mm gauge flexible track and Peco now also  make some 12 mm gauge flexible track with a selection of points that is, primarily, for narrow gauge (HOm) modellers but it is suitable for 3 mm scale use too.

So this scale is, essentially, for the more active modellers and kit-builders and is not suitable for novices or those who like to build ready-to-run layouts. However, with the support of the 3 mm Society a determined and enthusiastic beginner could certainly make a great start at modelling in this scale. It would be especially good for those with a limited space since the area required to build a layout requires a little over half that of the equivalent layout in OO gauge.

The 3mm Society website is at: www.3mmsociety.org.uk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cutting It Fine

As we did not have that much time to work on the layout this weekend and were only able to complete the first stage of the small embankment that forms the edge of the line along one side of the London Loop.
We had already edged this section with a length of plywood and faced it, on the outside, with some of the Metcalfe OO Gauge Red Brick Sheets (M0054). 
The embankment was then formed using small pieces of screwed-up newspaper which were then overlaid with Modroc, plaster-impregnated bandage (shown below). Finally we painted on a layer of polyfilla to give it a smooth finish ready for painting and landscaping next time.
As you can see from the photograph, the space between the rails and the embankment is somewhat limited so we have had to make the embankment, on both sides, rather low and narrow which means that the resultant cutting is not as high as we would have liked. 
Never mind, at least when it is done it will, at long last, give this stretch of line a finished look and it will then allow us to move on to deal with the large expanse of whiteness that you see to the right of the photograph. Hopefully the mess that you can see here will, during the coming weeks, be transformed into a rather pleasant part of town.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Photo by Steve Jones
Several weeks ago I used a few of my postings to try and explain the differences between some of the various model railway gauges that are available.
I covered OO, N and O gauges and had intended to continue with HO but have, so far, failed to do this. Well, this oversight, despite my title, is clearly no laughing matter so I am turning my attention to HO gauge now and will cover some of the other, less popular gauges, in future postings.
HO is by far the most widely used modelling scale in the world and is dominant in North and South America and all of Europe, with the exception of the UK where OO prevails. It has a nominal ratio of 1:87, with models being built to a scale of 3.5 mm to 1 foot and running on track that is 16.5 mm gauge. This is very similar to the British OO gauge of 1:76 or 4 mm to the foot and which uses the same gauge of track.
However, the scale:gauge ratio of HO is almost perfect for standard gauge prototypes whereas, for OO, 16.5 mm gauge track is really too narrow.
HO was introduced in 1935 by Marklin as a smaller alternative for those people who could not afford to model in O gauge. Now, we must remember,  that O gauge is more properly known as 'nought' or 'zero', rather than the letter O. The name HO derives from the term 'Half O' although it was not really until after the war that manufacturers made a decent attempt at producing accurate models to a consistent scale.
Nowadays there is a vast range of ready-to-run models available although in Europe, surprisingly, there are few suppliers of locomotive and rolling stock kits. However, the situation is different in America with a wide variety of kits for rolling stock and detailing parts. When it comes to scenic materials, structures and accessories, etc, the range is similarly huge and some of these are suitable for use on an OO gauge layout.
In terms of space requirements, HO models can be considered much the same as OO and HO models are large enough to feature fine detail and are sufficiently robust yet small enough to allow a reasonable railway to be built in a sensible space.
In Europe, almost all aspects of the standards for this and other scales are governed by NEM regulations, with NEM being an abbreviation of the German phrase meaning 'European Model Railway Standards'. These recommendations are only advisory and the technical tolerances are, in some cases, quite wide, however, most manufacturers do try and adhere to these standards.

Finally, I wanted to show you, graphically, the difference in size between HO and OO  but have no HO models that I can photograph. However, I did find the terrific picture, by Steve Jones, on the Internet showing two Class 66's in 3.5 mm (above) and 4 mm (below) which I think does the job quite admirably.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pretty Baby

Heljan's new OO gauge model of the Class 23 Baby Deltic should have been in the shops last month but there has clearly been a delay since stockists still seem to be awaiting supplies.
However, in the photograph above, we can at least get a glimpse of how one livery version of the latest prototype diesel to appear in model form will look.
This is D5908 in BR Green with large yellow ends and the Inter-City arrows logo.
The other variations are as follows:
D5900 in BR Green with small yellow ends and BR logo.
D5903 in BR Green with large yellow ends and BR logo.
D5909 in BR Blue with large yellow ends and Inter-City arrows logo.
The loco features a 5-pole, skew wound motor and all-wheel pick-up and drive so its slow speed performance should be fantastic. It is, of course, DCC ready, has directional lighting and comes with additional detailing parts.
It should also be possible to fit the proper sound to this locomotive one day since, as I reported in my post entitled "Baby Talk", one of the Napier T9-29 engines survived the blow-torch and is in the possession of the Baby Deltic Project. This group is now in the process of converting a Class 37 (37372) into a new Class 23, which will then be numbered D5910.
For more information visit their website at:             

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Name's Bonde

Photo by Tim Deakin
Whilst in Rio de Janeiro, we stayed in the area known as Santa Teresa from where you get some great views of Cristo Redentor and Pão de Açúcar and from where, if you are lucky, you can also catch the only working tram in South America.
It is known as the 'Bonde (pronounced bóh-zhee) de Santa Teresa' and it operates between Santa Teresa and the Estação Carioca in the centre of Rio. It commenced operation in 1891, runs on 1100 mm gauge track and its most spectacular feature is 'Os Arcos da Lapa' or The Lapa Arches. This magnificent structure is a former aqueduct which the tram crosses soon after leaving the central terminus. It stands 210 feet high and is 295 yards long, spanning a large public square and two roads.
With our time in Rio somewhat limited and with so many places to visit it was not until our last day  that we found time to try and catch the Bonde and our first problem was in finding a Bonde stop! In typical Brazilian fashion these stops are not obvious and we certainly could see no signs indicating a stop - nor yet any timetables! Actually we learned afterwards that stops are indicated by nothing more than a yellow 'Bonde' painted on the poles supporting the overhead cables but they are certainly not easy to see.
Anyway, after asking several people (another thing you have to do quite often in Brazil) we finally found what we assumed must be the stop and, after waiting for half an hour, one finally arrived. It was empty too and so, we thought, we would have the pick of the seats. However, as we  proceeded to board the tram we were politely told by the official onboard to get off as this tram was being used for driver training! 
So, another 30 minute wait ensued before the next Bonde arrived but this was so full that there was no room for us. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement because, with time against us, we decided that there was just not sufficient time for us to wait for the next tram (since, with no timetable, there was no telling when that might be), ride down to the central station and then return to Santa Teresa before we would have to leave for the airport and our flight back to Såo Paulo.
This proved to be the only real disappointment during our time in Rio, apart from the fact that the only photos I managed to obtain of the Bonde are the two pathetic efforts that you see here.
These were taken while walking to a restaurant the previous evening and, having not seen a tram since we'd arrived, suddenly one appeared and sped by us as I hastily scrabbled for my camera - these trams might be old but they do travel at quite a lick!
The photo of the Lapa Arches that I have included here is one that I found online and was taken by Tim Deakin. How I wish that we'd had more time to enable me to try and emulate his excellent shot!
Ah well, that just gives me one more reason to return to Rio - that and the beautiful beaches and drinking caipirinha's while looking out on spectacular night-time vistas!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We've Resurfaced!

Well we finally returned to working on the layout again at the weekend, after a four-week hiatus, and we are now about to turn our attention to the last part of the town  that needs landscaping.
However, before we started on that, we decided to cover with scatter the Metcalfe card tarmac that we had used underneath the supermarket and petrol station - see top picture. We had never been completely happy with the card here for the simple reason that it looked exactly like what it was - card! There were also some visible joins too which we wanted to hide so we decided that we would cover it with Peco PS-3 grey path scatter.
Now, in the past, we have had mixed results using scatter for road or tarmac. In the car park at Gunnmere, for instance, we achieved almost perfect results but, as this was done many months ago, we had forgotten exactly how we did this. Meanwhile the brewery, on the other hand, proved to be far less successful and is patchy with areas that are much darker than others.
Therefore, wanting to emulate the car park rather than the brewery this time around we proceeded with extreme caution and did a little bit at a time. First we brushed the card with diluted PVA glue and sprinkled the scatter on top and this gave us a dark, uneven finish, similar in appearance to some areas of the brewery. We then switched to using undiluted PVA and this gave us a far more even finish that was lighter too - perfect!
The next job was to pave beneath the supermarket and here we did revert to Metcalfe and their self-adhesive paving slabs (PO210). We had already used these to good effect beneath the Police Station so thought that they would also be suitable for the supermarket.
The final job was to add some trees and bushes to the curved embankment opposite the fuel terminal and, also, some smaller bushes to the front of the fence to said terminal. 
This corner is now as complete as any part of the layout can ever be described as such leaving us free to start covering up that horrible white area of the town.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hidden Treasures

As with so many railway museums in Brazil, the Museu da Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro in Jundiaí is not easy to find. So, if you do intend to pay it a visit you will need to be blessed with good detective skills, plus a smattering of Portuguese, in order to be able to  locate it. 
We had to ask several people for directions because some had never heard of it whilst others, of those who had, did not know where it was! Actually, since it is next to the railway line, it is within walking distance of the station but it is better to catch a bus to the town centre and then walk from there. Believe me, it is worth the effort, since the museum is an amazing place that displays its treasures in a creative and informative manner.
In 1872 the Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro became the first railway company in Brazil that did not need to rely on British expertise and money to operate and it used this  fact as a way to instill loyalty and patriotism towards the company amongst its workers and shareholders.
In those days its rail network reached to the west and to the north of the state of São Paulo and was used to transport coffee from the plantations to the port of Santos.
Fifty years later it became the first rail network in Latin America to operate electric traction and was, for much of its life, one of the major transport providers for people living within São Paulo state.
The company was privatized in 1998 and what remains of the network today forms part of the Ferroban SA freight network.
As for the museum itself it is to be found on Avenida União dos Ferroviáros, 1760, Centro, Jundiaí, SP in the former railway workshops, a huge building of which the museum occupies the central section only. It houses many interesting exhibits including two large HO scale layouts which, sadly, were not operating during our visit. Maybe I should have offered to stay and help get them working again.
The exhibits, and there are many, are labelled in both Portuguese and English and, for a rail enthusiast like me, it is quite easy to spend two or three absorbing hours in what are both fascinating and peaceful surroundings.