30 December 2008

The track dilemma

Well, very little has happened over the past few weeks. This is not for any reason other than the pressure of other commitments. As soon as I can, I will be back in the loft and resuming progress.

But this seems like a good point to discuss the track issue, which I have obliquely hinted at a couple of times in previous posts. At present all my track is Hornby sectional track, mostly rather old and dirty, not especially reliable, and rather cheap-looking. I have always thought that Hornby do track grudgingly (they seem to make it because they have to, not because they want to). And in my experience, their pointwork, especially the curved points, can be unreliable. My Hornby curved points tend to derail all but the heaviest of stock unless manually set with some force. One of them was the cause of my prize GWR Castle class loco derailing at speed and crashing off the tabletop layout onto the floor earlier this year. Repairs were needed, although I have to say that thanks to the excellent repair service at Boswells in Oxford, the cost of this was far less painful than I feared at first.

For these reasons I have decided not to use Hornby track unless necessary, and to opt for Peco instead. From what I can tell, Peco track has a much better reputation, and there is also a wider range of track styles and point designs to choose from. For example, they do a very nice code 100 flexible track with concrete sleepers. I think I will use that for the main running rails: it's appropriate to the era, and the clean rails will be good for reliability. Christmas money is already earmarked to cover the cost of that. Because of the inherent expense of buying points (especially the double-slip point I need for the station throat) the new trackwork will probably have to be bought over an extended period. So in the interests of progress, I may need to use some of my old Hornby track for a while.

Many people recommend code 75 track instead of code 100, and it's easy to see why; the rails are in better proportion and you get a more satisfying appearance. But the gauge compromises of OO scale mean that you won't ever get truly realistic track in OO. Having better proportioned track doesn't ever quite compensate for the reduced gauge when running OO-scale models. And besides, much of my rolling stock is 1970s Hornby and Airfix, whose wheel flanges would, I think, struggle with the smaller track cross-section. So I think code 100 will suffice for now. Maybe I'll use code 75 for the branch line, where the allowed rolling stock will be limited to my more recent acquisitions, mainly short DMUs and some light freight.

05 December 2008

Storage sidings

The storage sidings are almost complete...

In this picture, the track beds are fixed but the track itself is not. The design for the storage sidings was finalised at the start of this week after some playing around in XTrkCAD. Five sidings is not that many but I think I will probably have about five trains. There will also be some sidings topside that can be used to park trains if I end up with more.

Concerning the track itself, I have still to decide whether to use my existing Hornby sectional track. The reason why I wouldn't is because it is very grimy and contact is sporadic at best. I tried cleaning all the track a few months ago, but the grime has returned already. For the hidden storage tracks I don't want to be worrying whether the rails are clean enough; trains have to enter and leave the sidings smoothly and under their own power. So I might have to invest in new trackwork. It will probably be flexible track just because the straight lengths and curve radii are not exactly standard according to Hornby geometry.

The next job is to test the running height along the sides of the layout. I want to do that over the weekend if there's time.

01 December 2008

First baseboard completed

Quick update: the first baseboard is now finished...

It took a while to do, although the results don't appear to justify the time spent; Karen's reaction was "you spent 2 hours in the loft and it doesn't look any different!"

I am a trifle worried by the height of the board, especially at the sides near where the roof meets the purlins. I'm not sure whether there will be clearance for tracks along the edges of the board at the full layout height. Some tests will follow.