Sunday, October 31, 2010

A dream comes true, with 4 minutes to go...

As regular readers of this blog will know, over 5 years of work culminated in the layout's first public show on Saturday.  Indeed this was the show known as 'Europe's premier narrow gauge exhibition'.  It was a dream come true and I am very proud of what I achieved, with help from many people, including significant work on the loco side from my Dad.  However, it probably wasn't a great idea to have made expoNG the first exhibition, as we had some fun and games!
In the rush to complete the layout, testing got squeezed and squeezed.  When I was finally ready to finally test all boards together it was Thursday.  Problems were found with short circuits (a big problem in DCC) on two boards.  These were brought inside and the problem solved (wires slightly touching where they are fed close to each other on the tortoise motor connectors).  However there was no time left after that to test the layout electrically, let alone test running, before it was to be transported south.
On the Friday everything went well and the van drove fine despite the M25 traffic and we got the layout erected that evening, but again there was no time to test it.

On the Saturday we arrived as early as possible and began to test.  Nightmare!  The dreaded short circuit problem was back.  It took us over 2 hours to find the problem having isolated the issue to the platform board - 4 bits of straight track, how could that be the problem?  After much re-gapping of copper clad sleepers and other investigative work I took the decision to start unsoldering feeds to try and find the problem.  The first two wires I unsoldered fixed the problem!  We still don't know the cause of the problem but suspect that it was to do with copper clad sleepers touching at board joins, the unsoldered feed meaning it must have been the long siding. 

All this meant that the first time a loco made it around the layout was a grand 4 minutes before the exhibition opened to the public!

All this also meant that the time we had put aside to add decoders and test a couple of other locos was lost - no Merddin, 138 or 87 - sorry!

We gradually built up the running, starting with just light engine movements.  Issues with scenery fouling the stock were easily solved but frustrating for the crowd watching.  I also had to snip off the ends of the tortoise motor arms as they fouled on loco cow catchers.  Worse was to come though as a number of carriages locked on the curves and caused problems and it was a tad embarrassing at times.  However we soon took the carriages that were causing the problems out of service and everything settled down.  That is until the only NGG16 we actually had running failed.  The rear unit stopped completely and all attempts to solve the problem including outside thoughts were ultimately fruitless. 

Having now got the beast home, I have found that the motor is dead - how unlucky is it for that to happen during the exhibition!

So, in the end we ran with a few really good diesels and a smaller than expected stock and by the afternoon things were looking up.  The WHR/FR stand was also attracting much interest/questions too, so we did a good job of advertising the railways!  We were also able to show 138 and K1, although not as runners.

There are a number of areas where learnings from the grand test will be enacted though:

- The alignment at the north end of the platform is too complex, mainly caused by swapping from crazy to mainline peco points.  This needs much more thought and at the moment I expect that I will extend the board by a foot or so and straighten out the end of the platform so that the curves out of the station are more manageable and the board joins are much closer to parallel to the board edge.

- The N gauge points in the hidden sidings struggled, especially the farish ones and fettling/replacement will be necessary plus proper testing(!)

- Certain carriages need greater gaps between adjacent carrs and changes to their pivots which on some do not allow the bogies to swivel easily enough.  Washers, filing and a bit of oiling can solve this.

- Some vehicles need extra weight, but we also need to be careful about the total weight of trains, as Vale of Ffestiniog couldn't pull 5 WHR saloons up the gradients on the layout.

I would like to thank many readers of this blog and others who commented on the scenery and stock despite the running issues.  Indeed it appears that railway modeller are interested in featuring the layout in a future issue too, so it must have looked alright.  I was delighted by how it has turned out and was also pleased that the structure of the layout worked well, the overall lighting was good, the station lamps and point indicator lights worked well and generally the tortoises did their job.  We also managed to take the layout down and pack it away in about an hour, which I thought was good for a layout of this size.

Indeed we had some good fun - Gelert and the WHHR train was branded 'controversial' by a few and Castell Caernarfon ran superbly with it's DCC sound going well too, although the general noise in the hall made hearing it hard for most.
It's hard work an exhibition, and I have much respect for those who do it often, I suppose this one was especially hard for us given the problems, but a team of 4 worked well and we all got to see a bit of the exhibition too. 

So I shall now be taking a break from 009 as I start a new job tomorrow.  Any spare time until Christmas will be used to further 16mm projects, notably the De Winton before I return to 009 in the new year. 

I had a number of enquiries about other exhibitions, but really want to put right a lot of the issues found and that will take time.  I expect therefore to next show Rhyd Ddu in Spring 2012.

Here are some other shots:

oooh 7mm FR stuff!........

and some shots of locos that didn't quite make's 87's body:
 and Merddin:



Stephen said...

Exhibitions are a trial by fire for even the most established layout. You've achieved a hell of lot to get to where you have and it can only get better! Looking forward to seeing it again.

Michael Campbell said...

Good to meet you Colin, and see that first train round ...! It looked a bit frantic first thing but running nicely when I passed later in the day. A great effort to get there, layout and stock looked fantastic.

Garrattfan said...

Hi Colin,

Congrats with the first official and public performance of the layout!!
You (and your father) achieved an astonishing lot in the last few months!

Tom said...

Well done Colin, you've achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time! It was nice to meet you, and the layout having read about it for some time now.

As I said, it looks pretty enough to distract from when people run odd stock combinations when you're not looking!

Looking forward to seeing what the blog will contain now it's 'finished'!

Congrats on the potential RM feature too!