22 May 2012
Well, after nearly twelve years of seemingly endless "more urgent things to do" we have finally got back to working on the revamping and extension of the main station.
26 March 2009
Since 2000 we've reached the stage where we have a short form station and small corners at each end complete with scenery. This means we have an exhibitable layout capable of running trains in a complete circuit. This was attained a little over a year ago since when there hasn't been any significant visible progress at the front of the layout. Round the back the fiddle yard has been rebuilt to provide somewhat lighter boards and more useable track space. Just at the moment the main focus is on finishing the wiring of this new fiddle yard so the entire layout can be operated from the main control panel. Up until now the fiddle yard points had to be operated manually which required some very long extension cables for the controllers.
Finally we seem to be progressing with some actual construction. 2000 saw the 'down' end of the station, incorporating the MPD, on display at the Calne show as Somerford Stabling Point. This consisted of two original boards for the up end of the station, the corner boards for use in our clubroom, one fiddle yard entrance board and some lash up boards to provide storage 'off scene'. Things have slowed down a bit since then but we've adopted a strategy advocated by the guys who built Carstairs. We established that we could create two intermediate forms before Somerford is once again exhibitable in a complete state.
The first was to be Sutton Viaduct consisting of the smaller, 'right angle', corner boards we need in order to set up the layout at our clubroom and some rectangular boards recovered from Sutton Valley. On these it is currently proposed to have an embankment with a viaduct at the centre, hence the name for this configuration. The second would involve replacing one of the clubroom corners with the larger, 'pentagonal', corner boards. To accomodate the overall increase in size of the layout a different set of rectangular boards are needed. These have already been recovered and recycled, again, from Sutton Valley. As so much recycling was involved we christened this idea Beresford, after the author of the original Womble stories.
The plan barely got underway before, upon digging through our accumulation of old baseboards, we decided on a Highbridge Road revival. Although I'm glad to see Highbridge back from the grave the proposal for the viaduct itself in Sutton Viaduct always sounded scenically interesting. Maybe this can still be planned in one day.
The pentagonal boards were originally designed and built for what would have been a circular layout. This never saw the light of day but as six boards had been partly constructed these were (many years later) pressed into service to provide more sweeping corners when Somerford is taken out to exhibitions (they're far to big for use in our clubroom). Three boards will be used at each end of the layout, giving the first 90 degrees of the end corners. The second 90 degrees, giving access to the fiddle yard, will be boards that are used both on the road and at home.
Three boards form the down, or town, end of the layout. Though built as flat table top style boards the town itself resides on raised bases so the track runs through a cutting before disappearing into the fiddle yard. The buildings in the pictures have just been provisionally placed whilst planning of the town takes place.
The other three pentagonal boards for the up, or country, end of the layout were not so completely constructed as those used for the down end, this allowed us to adopt an open frame approach and construct a sweeping embankment. The basic sequence of construction is shown. First the frames were assembled and a trackbed cut. This was then secured in position using the plywood end profile plates and simple baton risers up from the frame. Small profile pieces were attached to the underside of the roadbed to guide the forming of the embankment sides. Ground surface level was then established using chicken wire, this itself having two main stages. First the pre-railway surface level was formed by installing chicken wire between the front and back profile boards. This was bent and tweaked until satisfactory. Next chicken wire was added to the embankment running down to the ordinary ground level. It was felt that doing this helped give a natural flow to the ground surface.
Once the chicken wire was all in place papier mache was used to cover the wire. In our case this is formed by dunking small pieces of paper in PVA glue then smoothing them into place. You'll notice one board appears to be half white paper and half newspaper. What's actually happening is we do a coat of white (old continuous computer stationery), then a coat of newspaper and finally another coat of white. This doesn't have any structural significance, it just makes it easier to tell which bit's have been done and which haven't during each layer.
The embankment corners received a top coat of skim, this has been coloured using poster paint to avoid white patches showing through the surface scatter. The track has been ballasted using the technique of mixing with cascamite glue powder (2 ballast to 1 glue). This is then thoroughly wetted using a water sprayer (actually a domestic cleaner pump bottle flushed out and filled with water to which a small drop of detergent has been added). We adopted this as when we first tried simply applying diluted PVA with an eye dropper the ballast floated around causing clumping and dry patches. We've subsequently found that simply wetting the ballast with the sprayer and carefully applying the PVA also works. In future we'll be using the latter technique as the cascamite powder mix has given two problems, firstly some areas had large amounts of powder which when dissolved has left gullies and secondly whilst brushing the ballast into place a few spots developed with insufficient glue leaving the ballast unstuck when everything dried.