Wednesday 30 November 2011

Straight platforms it definitely is - I think.

I will stick with the original plan for straight platforms. However, to ameliorate the inevitable tendency for them to look like planks of wood - which is of course what they will be - I will ornamentalise them with rows of working platform lights and a station clock. I bought examples of these when I was recently in France, but a couple of weeks ago I happen to notice them for sale in Tom Brown's Stamp Shop, in Edinburgh. Despite the name, the shop stocks all sorts of model railway stuff.

On the listening front, Choral Evensong on Radio 3 this afternoon featured several pieces by Victoria. Wanting to continue in that reverential vein, I fished out my Hyperion CD of Victoria only to discover that the case was empty! A complete mystery as I am not usually that careless with my music collection.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

What a mess!

My efforts to curve the platforms of the station on my layout have ended in vain. The cost of doing it has been to take up too much board space and also reduce the lengths of useable platform. The justification had been that curves would soften the lines of the platforms and make the diorama more pleasing to the eye. The original three straight platforms had given the scene an 'autistic' feel.

Anyway, I'm tired, so I am abandoning the project for tonight with the baseboard looking a right mess.

Not even Pinchas Zuckerman and Daniel Barenboim playing Beethoven Violin sonatas can assuage the feeling of having wasted an evening. The picture is from very early recording sessions when along with Jacqueline du Pre they recorded all Beethoven string sonatas and piano trios in a matter of a few days. The result is an invigorating box-set that has given me pleasure over many, many years.

Monday 28 November 2011

Joining flexitrack

Every stage of this project produces several irritating "nothing is as easy as it looks" scenarios. Joining pieces of flexitrack has done so too.

Sections of track have to be joined with fishplates. See these pictures.

 Initially, the rails protrude over the end sleeper.

So one slips a fishplate over the ends which allows the bare ends of the adjoining rails to snugly fit inside the other end of the fishplates.

And the rails are joined. However, the fishplates only go as far along the rails as the first sleeper because there are little catches on top of the sleepers which stop further sliding. This leaves an unsightly space. There are two solutions. One either slips two spare sleepers into the gap; and there is a good youTube video about how to do this.

Or one slices off the  catches on the end sleepers allowing the fishplates to slide further along the rails.
And tonight's CD will be:

Sunday 27 November 2011


When this layout is finished, there will be a soundtrack playing from somewhere within the carboard buildings surrounding the station. It will be, of course, French and primarily chosen from my large selection of French electronica CDs.

Playing "Lou Etendue" again today, I wondered whether I could put into words or labels what its appeal was; it is a very varied work. So here are some adjectives that describe it: whimsical, dark/brooding, melancholic, pulsating, melodic, incessant, hypnotic, peculiar and highly varied sonically ie uses some good samples. It does have lyrics but lyrics have never been that important to me so I cannot evaluate them.

I decided when I woke this morning to re-jig the layout so that there was a gentle curve to the platforms. I got round to trying this about 10 minutes ago and have made a complete hash of things. I'll try and use my track-planning software to have another go and will report back tomorrow.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Joining pieces of flexitrack

Just as well there isn't a time-scale for making this layout.

Today, I tried to lay some track in position so that I could make definitive markings on the baseboard for where wiring should go and therefore for where holes should be drilled.

Problem 1. When one bends flexitrack the inner rail protrudes more the outer rail and so has to be cut.

Cutting track requires specialised cutters that leave a straight edge otherwise one has to file down the cut edge which is obviously a nuisance. So, I bought the appropriate cutters.

Problem 2. Unfortunately, even with these specialised cutters, only one side of the cut is straight, the other side is left mashed up. So, it is imperative that one applies the cutters with its back against the end of the rail one wants to keep. However, HO/OO track should be cut up and down, so to speak, cf N gauge track which is cut sideways.

That's fine for the first rail one cuts, but one has to turn the cutters around to cut the second rail and so the cutters are now the wrong way round with the front of the cutters facing the edge that should be straight.

 In the end I disobeyed the instructions and cut the track sideways as per N gauge.

This afternoon's listening has been one of my most played CDs ever: Lou Etendue by a Frenchman called Toog.

Friday 25 November 2011

Sketch of proposed finished layout

I found this sketch on the back of some notes  taken during an accountancy course that I am currently undertaking one day a week at a college in Glasgow.

It really does capture my dream for what this layout will look like when finished.

One fundamental difference that I notice and now worry about is that in the sketch, the platforms have a seductive curve to them whereas the layout is moving ahead with very, very straight platforms.

Today I have listened to (twice) sacred choral pieces by Lassus. I like my choral music to be either lush or austere. On first hearing I found these performances technically brilliant but they left me cold (and bored). However, because I couldn't be bothered changing the CD, I found myself listening to them again and this second time round found the sound very palatable - although neither lush nor austere. Not sure how I would describe it; the best I can come up with is "surprisingly dense considering the small forces at their disposal".

Thursday 24 November 2011

The Chopin Nocturnes.

Maybe the nocturnes sound light-weight to some ears. I find them profound, moving, surprising and complex. Each time I play one I hear something different. It took me a while to enjoy Rubinstein's rendition - for years I played only Barenboim's. I've downloaded (it has to be admitted) five  different pianists tackling them. I'm sure they all have something distinctive to offer. Maurizio Pollini offers elegance; Arrau, strength etc etc. There is years' of pleasure involved in immersing oneself in the nocturnes.

In the mean time, here are some photos of BB9003. I look forward to this beauty pulling a string of dark green carriages slowly out of my station towards .........

Wednesday 23 November 2011


Sorry, too late back from Edinburgh to do any serious work on the railroad.

However, did find time today to listen to some CDs by Romanthony - great pop voice.

Tuesday 22 November 2011


When I was a child, model railway track came in short sections, each perhaps 20cm long. There were straights, curves and points. One can still buy track like that. However, for some years now, it has been possible to buy something called "flexitrack". In the case of HO track, this comes in 1 metre lengths and can form either a long straight section or be curved right or left by simply flexing it one way or the other- it is flexible.

There are  advantages to flexitrack. Firstly, one does not have to make so many joins between sections. This results in a smoother run of track. Also, every connection one makes between two sections of track can lead to reductions in electrical connectivity, so the fewer the sections the better is the flow of electricity round the track.

Secondly, one can tailor the curvature of the track to the exact needs of the situation: one is not constrained to the pre-set curvatures of the short-section system.

Thirdly, one can cut the track into the exact length required for any situation.

However, one has to be careful about how one cuts the track.

I'll tackle that issue another time.

Today's listening has been DJ Krush, Holonic.

Monday 21 November 2011

Good old Germany.

The rest of my Trans Europ Express coaches arrived from Michael in Freudental in Germany. There had been a lot of mucking about at my end in trying to transfer the payment but Michael's bank in Germany had been very helpful communicating with me in English. Michael had also been very helpful and patient. And, he included a little "present" of HO scale station accessories!

Anyway, here are some photos of the complete Trans Europ Express - difficult to get it all in the frame.

Tonight, I have been mostly listening to Botchit Breaks - dug out from my CD cupboard as a change from iTunes.

Sunday 20 November 2011


Unbelievably, after wiring up a piece of track to the DCC Controllers, the engine actually moved. Well, if a technically incompetent person like me can instal a DCC chip into a loco not actually prepared for such technology - and this little Jouef is ancient - then anyone can do it.

Would like to have posted a video of this event but a rather feeble still will have to suffice.

And by the way, today I have been mostly listening to the complete string quartets of Bela Bartok performed by the Keller Quartet. Very, very consoling.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Fitting a DCC decoder into an HO Jouef steam loco

The first task is to cut the two wires carrying electric current from track to motor.

The ends of the wires have to be stripped of their plastic covering using my new wire stripper.

4 short sections of black heatshrink tubing are cut off and slipped over each of the engine's wires ready to be moved into position to cover the soldering joins between motor wires and DCC decoder wires.

I decided to sever the connections to the front light incase that caused a short circuit to the chip - not sure about that but better safe than sorry.

Changed my mind and placed the heatshrink tubing around the 4 wires coming from the chip - they were longer and easier to place the tubes around. I'm only using 4 of the plethora of wires coming from the chip. The others are to send instructions to headlights, tail lights and other functions.

Next I tried to solder the 4 pairs of wires together - you really do need two pairs of hand to hold everything in position plus the solder plus the soldering iron. I'm convinced that one of the four joins will be unsuccessful. Both ends of the wires to be joined went black and after trying the whole procedure again, the result was the same. It was as if the metal wires had been transformed into  molten black plastic from the plastic sleeves. One has to live in hope.

Next one slides the heatshrink tubing over the solder joins and melts them into permanent position with a hairdrier. This prevents the metal joins touching any other metal and short-circuiting.

Finally, one joins the actual chip (the black square in picture) to the wires by plugging in that white endpiece that the wires go into. A most UNSATISFACTORY fit - does not feel plugged in at all but one is scared to push too hard in case something breaks.

Oh well, we'll see what happens tomorrow when a short section of track is wired up to the DCC control system. Do not believe it will work, I'm afraid.

Friday 18 November 2011

Tonight I have been mostly listening to ...........

The soldering iron has arrived so tomorrow I'm going to tackle the installation of that DCC chip into the wee French steam engine.

Tonight, I have been mostly listening to the Brindisi Quartet playing string quartets by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. Very moving. Feel tearful.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Wiring an old loco for the computer age.

This is the loco that I am going to practise on - an old Jouef  040 - TA.

My understanding is that one has to locate the DCC chip between the track and the motor. In otherwords, one interrupts the flow of electricity coming from the track and diverts it into the chip. Whether the chip decides to release that electricity to the motor thus allowing the loco to move depends upon the instruction that one sends to the chip. Those instructions come from the controller and travel along the track up through the wheels of the loco and thence to the chip. Hope these three diagrams illustrate this.

Here is the situation at present. The electricity reaches the motor through two wires connected to the wheels which pick up the electricity from the track.

So, the first task will be to cut these wires.

And then wire-in the chip so that two wires (thin black and yellow) going to the chip pick up the electricity from the track and two other wires (black and red) then carry the electricity from the chip to the motor.

Hope that my understanding of these DCC principles is correct. As soon as my soldering iron arrives I shall test them out. Will be very surprised if it all works out.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Tonight's alcohol.

It's not possible at the moment to do something every night on this railway project - I don't have the tools in place. However, a soldering iron, heat-shrink tape, wire strippers and fine solder have been ordered and when they come I'll tackle the installation of the DCC decoder into the little steam engine.

In the mean time, here are, in chronological order of consumption, the three  beverages that will provide tonight's alcoholic units.

Pineau des Charentes:

Jurancon Sec

Cotes du Roussillon