Tuesday, 27 January 2015


For such a short line (@7.5 miles), the CVLR didn't half like crossing things, I can't help wondering whether they just liked building bridges. There were 29 of them, so almost one every quarter of a mile.

Actually that isn't strictly true, three of them were at Culmstock Station and supported the running line and two sidings, although looking at the photos, its pretty difficult to decipher where they actually were.

I'm interested in the big bridge side of things as that is going to be the first diorama. Reading through the excel sheet made it easy to spot that the last bridge upgrade to support the running line was made in 1947 - before that date timber spans were being replaced with steel girders or concrete. Although I'm currently focussed on 1962 onwards, its good to know that anything stock wise going back to 1947 could be photographed on it and not look out of place. Maybe I should consider tracking down drawings of the Barry coaches...

Following advice from Geoff / Llangunllo, I purchased a copy of Bridges for Modellers by LV Wood. I found a secondhand copy of the reprinted book including postage for a shade over £12 on ebay, money well spent. I certainly understand a bit more about bridges and how they interface with the landscape around them, even if I can't find exact copies of what was used on the CVLR.

I had been hoping that the Wills Vari-girder was going to provide a nice easy shortcut, but having looked at my notes taken when measuring up the bridges at Whitehall Halt, the Wills product is simply too large. One of the CVLR bridge panels measured up at 43" x 48", whereas the Wills ones are 66" x 72.

They were not deep bridges, I suppose a function of the axle loading limits applied to the line meant they didn't need to be, but with a scale girder height of 14mm, they are actually going to be quite small and require a thin road bed.

Fortunately, the bridges look to have worn a full layer of ballast over the deck giving me some options in material thickness terms. Under the ballast, they had a concrete deck with cast iron plates across the top - you can make them out in these shots of the second bridge at Whitehall.

I've had to lighten that second shot considerably to show the details in the shadows, at least I won't have to model all of that!

There are some grand bridges out on the line, one more or less every time it crosses the Culm River.
I think nature wants this one back though...

I think a trial build of a bridge girder is going to be next up - it'll be something constructive to do between carrying on with that excel sheet.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Dealing with Data

One of the joys of modelling the CVLR is the sheer amount of data available, the difficulty is how to collate all of that information so its easy to find what you want. I've been pondering over it for a while, looking for a simple solution to all of the multimedia sources available. In the end, I started from the perspective of what I was trying to achieve, what I needed to do that, and how I wanted to see the data that enabled me to make the right decision.
The key objective is to be able to work across the whole spectrum of the railway - changes to the line, types of traffic, rolling stock, engine types and infrastructure and to do so in a concurrent fashion. Part of choosing what to model is down to the versatility I can get from each diorama - some subjects are going to be able to represent a wide timescale and be suitable for a selection of locos, some others will not, and that is going to impose extra restrictions. It doesn't help that I have chosen the late 1962 onward period as that is where there was a lot of change in infrastructure - keeping tabs on what is suitable for what period, in what state of dereliction / abandonment is the tricky bit.

In the end, I have chosen to use MS Excel because it offers the flexibility and functionality I want. The primary sheet is shown below - its very much a work in progress so you'll have to forgive any spelling mistakes or format errors you observe.

The idea behind it is to document the line in terms of distance from Tiverton Junction towards Hemyock in rows, noting all the features of the line.  Heading from left to right are columns relating to years in order to capture the various changes.

There is a long way to go yet, the starting point has been to read through the description of the line chapter in The CVLR Book by Colin Maggs which has given me the basics in a chronological order (I have got as far as Hemyock, but I figured a sample of the sheet was enough, its almost illegible as it is). The next task is Appendix 1 from the same book where all the bridge numbers are listed, together with a distance from Tiverton and a brief description. Lots of the desired information is captured in the photograph captions, so that will be the following turn of duty, before starting all over again with the Messenger / Twelveheads Press book! Its going to be a pretty long task, but lets be fair - I'm reading about the thing I want to model so its not exactly testing :-)

Once the line features have been noted down, locomotives, rolling stock (passenger and goods) and finally goods traffic will be added to the bottom of the sheet. My theory is that one picks a subject from the line list, scrolls across to the right to see the changes over that objects life, picks a year of interest and then scrolls down to get an idea of the traffic, engines etc that would have been observed passing past, through etc.

Excel works nicely in that extra columns or rows can be added as a when new information becomes available, extra sheets can also be added to contain copies of photos or interesting features. There is a danger that collating the information becomes the hobby, but over the long term I need some way to help drive decisions and choices. Will it work, well there is only one way to find out...

Friday, 9 January 2015

CVLR Coaches - The Ex Eastern Region Thompson Suburban Brake Second (part 4)

My mistake, I used the D* word which immediately meant somebody was able to point out an error in the assumption I had made about the commode handles, thankfully I hadn't used the F** word!

It has worked out for the best though thanks to a chap called Adam - he questioned whether the handles would have been removed on both sides, or just one - simply because they had locked the doors on that side as the platforms were always on the other side of the coach. I went back through the reference material and could only find three photos of the platform face of the Thompson coaches. In two of them, it was impossible to say for certain whether there were any commode handles, but in the third it was beyond doubt.

I'm pleased the filler used was talc and paint - it came out quickly using a pin vice and 0.5mm drill, the handles were then inserted again with a touch of weathering to blend them back in.

Although it was a backward step, it was a pretty quick recovery and has also meant that its possible to identify which end of the coach would always have been facing the junction at Tiverton or the terminus at Hemyock. I can number each coach properly now, as well as form up representative trains. We'll call that a win.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

CVLR Coaches - The Ex Eastern Region Thompson Suburban Brake Second (part 3)

Getting a set of EM wheels into the bogies was a bit harder than I expected, I think I was spoilt by the ease of the conversion on the Hawksworth coach. The first problem I noted was that the gap between the bogie sideframes was only 0.2mm wider than the dimension across the faces of the wheels. The sideframes were also incredibly stiff, and whilst that is OK for running, both issues made it difficult to fit the wider wheelsets in. On the first bogie I attempted to do it without cutting the front and rear stretchers - all I succeeded in doing was knocking one wheel on the squiff on the axle. I gave in and cut the stretchers in the positions shown below

For the second bogie, I cut in the same places, but on both sides to minimise any disturbance to the wheels when fitting. The sideframes were thinned down to get the extra clearance for installation using a brodling bit in a Dremel - messy, but quick and easy (the right hand side has been done in this photo).

Beyond that, it was as per the Hawksworth, cut the brake moulding into quarters and glue in to suit the new wheel sets. Glue the stretchers back together, sculpt a little out from the coupling recess for the Sprat and Winkle coupling, then glue that in and paint with LifeColour Frame Dirt acrylic.

With the bogies done I resolved to have a better go at sorting out the holes left in the body sides after removing the brass handles. Any traces of the paint used in the door shut lines was removed with 75% strength IPA, applied gently with a brush and removed with tissue.

Where the recess was very shallow, it was deepened with a 0.55mm drill in a pin vice. The filler / paint was mixed up using some talcum powder and Humbrol Acrylic (No 20)

The two were mixed together on some foil until I ended up with a maroon paste.

The paste was then forced into each hole using an old scalpel blade, the excess being removed once again with a tissue. The end result is a fair improvement, if not an invisible fix.

The windows were then given a final clean with a cotton bud and I was happy to call it done (bar a digit change for renumbering). Shown in a few photos below, its different enough to have been worth the effort, without standing out too much. I'm pleased I managed to rein myself in weathering wise and keep it subtle, something I'm generally not very good at. All I need now is something to pull it...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

CVLR Coaches - The Ex Eastern Region Thompson Suburban Brake Second (part 2)

The coach comes apart relatively easily, although the risk of breaking a plastic locating clip is always high - its really designed as an 'assemble once' fixing so be prepared to glue something back on.

The steps on the bogies are fairly fragile and having proved this by knocking two of them off, I can highly recommend using a flat bladed screwdriver to gently prise the bogies out of the coach floor.

The couplings are released by undoing the screw at the pivot point, then turning the coupling at 90 degrees to the body to release the small spring. There are four plastic clips, one in each corner that are moulded as part of the glazing. Gently inserting the screwdriver blade between the side of the floor and rotating against the clip frees them although one of mine broke (it glued back OK using MEK, as did the aforementioned steps). I needed a pair of pliers to grab one of the webs on the underside of the interior insert to pull it out, but that is pretty much it.

Looking inside the body shows a blend of colours as a result of the primer and top coat.

The first job was to paint the inside of the guards compartment and roof in a light grey with the passenger area in a mid brown.

Although its a bit difficult, its worth painting around the recess for each window, it has a huge impact on reducing the prismatic effect on the glazing.

Thats a cruel close up, but using cheap acrylic paint meant I could gently scrape it off the glazing with a sharpened cocktail stick. As a comparison between a treated and untreated coach

Further improvements can be made to touch in the odd area where the white primer shows around the window edge - I did this as part of the weathering.

From what I've been able to understand so far, the brake second was effectively a renamed brake third meaning that the seat fabric was unlikely to have changed. I had a lot of help from a friend called Graham who also sent me a link showing a good example of the seat fabric that could have been present.

Looking at the interior as supplied, my thought was to try and tone it down a touch

Given that its going to be viewed through the windows (and probably not close up very often), it was a quick job to throw some paint on and dust it down with some weathering powders.

When installed it certainly looks more subtle

The door handles have also been removed at this stage - the coaches had them when they arrived on the CVLR, but they disappeared fairly soon after. I'm experimenting with filling the holes with short lengths of plasticard rod, then a filler composed of paint and talc. Its not hugely successful as I've used the roof dirt colour to do so - I think I'm going to have to try and track down a good match to the main body colour instead (I'm only half way through filling in the above photo).

The bars in the end windows of the coach were made by scribing a set of parallel lines into a second piece of glazing that was then glued behind the original coach windows.

The coach body was then reassembled, the sides masked off and the roof and ends blown over with Lifecolour Roof Dirt. The same colour was brushed into all the recesses around the doors, windows and panel lines, the excess being removed with a piece of tissue. Weathered black was painted over all of the handles, then an underframe dirt colour was airbrushed over the underframe and bottom of the ends. A bit of black was drybrushed under each window on the coach end to represent the water that had run down after a previous window clean.

That brings the body up to date, I've converted one bogie to EM so need to do the other one and fix the couplings, paint both of them in the matching underframe colour and put it all back together. A spot more weathering to tie it together and bring out some of the detail will probably take me the rest of the week - sounds a pleasurable way to spend a few evenings to me.

Monday, 22 December 2014

CVLR Coaches - The Ex Eastern Region Thompson Suburban Brake Second (part 1)

As I mentioned in my first post of this blog, this year Hornby introduced the Thompson Suburban Brake 3rd Class coaches which have been a contributing factor in finally setting me off on this journey. The first of my pre-orders has arrived and the second is on its way according to an email today.

Its a corking little thing really, but then that response is hardly surprising as until this week, it had been 25 odd years since I opened a brand new Hornby coach. They've come on leaps and bounds since I was a kid and the level of detail and printing is very satisfying to see.

To my unexperienced eye, the paint work is good, detail is nicely moulded and I find the printing unbelievable at this scale. The solebar footboard wobbles around a bit down the length of the coach which is a shame, it was never perfectly flat on the prototype but its a little over accentuated here.

I don't have any drawings to compare it too, but scaling off various photos, it all looks and feels to be in the right ball park. If you've poured over the photos for a while, a couple of things make themselves known

  •  The ventilators in the doors are flush with the bodyside but it would be more prototypical if they were proud.
  • The door handles for the guards compartment. Its a great job in moulding them in plastic this thin but the lower mounting of the cranked horizontal handrail should be level with the door handles and door stops but is unfortunately lower.
Do they detract from the coach overall? Not really, the handle mounting is one of those things you can spot when you know about it, but its pretty close and I suspect the ventilators can be enhanced with some careful weathering and highlighting to make them pop. The web has proved very useful in finding a colour shot of one of the coaches as it ran on the CVLR, this one on the Disused Stations website of the The West Countryman Railtour on the 24th of February 1963 at Hemyock is very good at showing what I mean.

There are a couple of other interesting points worth mentioning here - the coach is showing its ID number top and tailed with the prefix E, despite by my reckoning having been on the CVLR for about four months or so. The writing above the solebar is also two lines of text and to the right of the door, the model shows it as a single line to the left. 

Stand back a bit though, and its difficult not to be impressed overall. 

There are a few cosmetic changes that would better reflect the coaches as they ran on the CVLR.  I'm not sure if there were any cosmetic changes between the Brake 3rd as it is and the Brake 2nd as they ran, but assuming its down to interior colours - the most obvious change is the vertical brass handrails next to the doors. They were certainly on the coaches when they arrived for use at the CVLR, but photos show them have disappeared by 3rd November 1962. A set of vertical bars to protect the 'driving windows' in the guards end would also help to capture that CVLR look.

I guess at this juncture then, its time to take it apart.


My test track is a strange thing, built last year utilising some Neil Rushby points that I had stored away from the last EM phase that didn't get off the ground. It was assembled using offcuts of timber which is why it is shaped this way.

The two main curves are 30" and 36" (the latter on a slight gradient) whilst the points were deliberately arranged to give me a set of doubled reverse curves - the idea is that if things work on here, they should work anywhere. It is wired up with all lines constantly powered and switched vees using slide switches that also throw the switchblades. It can be used for DCC as well as DC which is why there are just two wires to connect.

I sunk the magnets from the MSE starter kit into the cork roadbed, cutting the holes slightly undersize with a knife to ensure that the cork gripped the magnets - easy to remove and put somewhere else then. With the wagon, coach and Pannier, I discovered just how strong the magnets actually are

I have some tidying up to do of those loops too...

It gets a bit boring playing with just a couple pieces so another wagon has had the S&W couplings installed and I made a front loop for the Pannier too. In keeping with the rear loop, this one is demountable as well.

I started by filing a taper into a 1/8" square section of brass.

A length around 1/8" was cut off - this can then be inserted into the hollow section of the front sandboxes.

An offcut of scrap brass was cut to make an L shape bracket and soldered to the tapered section.

They both fit neatly into the sandboxes

The view from underneath

A coupling loop was folded up from 0.5mm brass wire and then soldered into place,  I used a toolmakers clamp to keep the bracket and tapered section together.

The assembly was given a good scrub in Viakal with a toothbrush, cleaned off, burnished with a fibreglass brush and then chemically blackened.

I gave it a minor tweak to set the alignments then dropped it into place in the Pannier chassis.

With the body on

Time to play test some more.