(my first layout)
Diary Archive, 2010

Track Plan, 1990
Where it all began (c.1985)
Track Plan, latest
Track Plan (2010/02/27)
Landscaping Ideas (v. old)

December 13th – So, the exhibition is now well into the past. Time for an analysis.
  I guess that the positive thing is that we survived. There was hardly a minute when something wasn't running, and quite often (especially when children were present) three trains would be running at once. Children especially liked the branch line as it had the 'peek-a-boo' effect as the trains disappeared and reappeared and then a different train would appeared out of nowhere. Of course, the effect was lost when they came round the side of the layout to see what was behind. There was a good portion of praise of the layout and fascination with the size of the trains, and most people who did more than a glance as they walked past said "Thank you" after we had chatted about the layout. I left quite a lot of my usual stuff behind but it didn't matter.
  Sadly, though, there were downsides as well. The worst was the loss of my glasses in the snow. Although I knew where I had dropped them, I never found them. On the layout track 4 had a section that appeared to have gone narrow gauge as it lifted locos and coaches and, often, derailed them, even at slow speeds. The culprit appeared to be an extending length track that had been stretched just a bit too much. Been OK for some 3 years and then 'poof!' and that's track 4 reduced to a static display. However, that can be repaired which it seems is more than my other disaster. While trying to assemble the Henschel-Wegmann set, one of the coupling bars disappeared. It failed to reappear in spite of a thorough search of the floor and layout. These items are no longer available and, so far, my attempts to find a replacement have proved fruitless. The final problem was that several of my locos were overheating and then shorting out. They were still usable as long as they had regular stops in the station or hidden sidings. Other than that, and the lack of visitors due to the adverse weather condition, it was a good weekend.
  [More pictures of the layout can be seen on my Elgin MRC exhibition page.]

November 25th (E-2) – Two days to go! After all sorts of problems finally we are ready. I was asked by one viewer what the layout looked like when it was packed up for transport. So, at last, here are two images. The reason for the partial cover was to protect that layout after an accident when a case fell on it while I was taking a sharp right bend (see roundabouts above). The cover, which doubles as a protective skirt during the exhibition, is attached to the layout using three flush hinges and the two parts are joined with two piano hinges. The bottom of the skirt has a length of wood attached to it that hooks over a similar piece of wood at the front of the control panel. It is then locked using a single 1 inch screw. Unfortunately, the 'lid' has warped quite badly so I will need to add a couple of strips of wood to the ends to straighten it a bit- a bit annoying as they will be seen by the public.
  Yesterday, as my front tyres were only just legal, and as the weather is deteriorating rapidly, I had two new snow tyres fitted on the front of my car. So, now it is up to the weather whether I can get to Elgin or not. Depending on the weather I intend to leave at lunchtime so as to do as much of the journey as possible in daylight.

November 18th (E-8) – Eight days to the Exhibition! During the process of moving the layout down from my workbench (upstairs) to a table (downstairs) I took the opportunity to take this satellite view.
  Sadly, I forgot to put the road bridge in place but I will have to live with that. :o(
  [Nov 20th. Destination changed to two options: large scenic image and/or whole layout.]

November 10th – A proper update at last! Having turned round the layout (a major hassle) to replace a defective signal, I took the opportunity to add some more scenic detail (not a lot). Put into place have been a wall protecting the road going up the hill, fencing around the freight yard, a wall with a gate at the entry to the loco yard and street lighting is back and ready to be wired up again. In addition, the buildings along the road are now firmly fixed in place and ready for internal lighting although whether I will fit the lights before or after the Elgin exhibition is a moot point. Anyway, enjoy the photos (and those that I have added below from the Inverness exhibition.

Nov 2nd – My apologies for the lack of updates. There has been little progress since the Inverness exhibition (click here for photos). Some lighting has been added to the station platforms but, as I am still trying to decide about a train shed the ends near the station building are still unlit. Also, the trees between the loco spur and the road are now all in place. Finally, I have started on an information page for exhibition managers who might be interested in using Breitenfurt – Ost.  

September 18th – From Inverness Exhibition (posted Nov. 10th)

September 7th
Some night scenes.

September 6th – At last I can see the layout as it will be for the exhibition (almost). Not much to say really. It went together like a dream and drew a lot of "Oh"s and "Ah"s from some visitors. As usual I have to apologise for slightly crabby photos but I am having to go through another learning curve with my camera. That's it for tonight.

September 5th – After a lot of hassle (due to the use of the wrong type of paint) the two end "wing" are ready to be put into place. I had toyed with the idea of keeping them full height right to the front of the layout but decided to slope them down to avoid a box like effect. So the two images give you an idea of what they will look like once fixed into place. Annoyingly, the white background rather spoils the effect; sorry.

September 3rd – Having said that I would not bother with the loco area yard lights, I could not resist the temptation! So last night I mounted them and this morning, I wired them up. Sorry about the picture. The lights were actually on but I was having to lean right out over the layout to get this so there was not way I could hand hold it still enough for a non-flash photograph.

September 2nd – The good news is that the Brawa yard lights, although no longer manufactured, still abound on the Web so I managed to get some from Model Masters. Most will be used in the loco yard. The last lot of trees are going into position (between the feeder to the loco coaling facility and the street). So that should be the end of tree planting.
  Yesterday I wired up the branch line and tested it. This part of the layout has always been a bit dodgy, with locos stalling, so I decided to add a Relco unit that could be switched in and out. It didn't work! What I think is causing the problem, and which I had forgotten, is that the Märklin track feeds are fitted with a suppressor capacitor and this would short out the Relco's output. This would, of course, apply to the entire layout!
  No photos today as I am working from the wrong side of the layout.

August 29th – All my lighting, for now, is in position (though two lamps are not working at the moment) meaning that all interior lighting is now led. So that is another task out of the way. Yard lighting is still filament but they are accessible. One worry, though, is that I have no spare yard lights and they are no longer made by Brawa. (Does anyone have any for sale?) I guess I'll have to make sure that I never overdrive them.
  Am desperate to get my hands of some 6mm (approx.) high stone or brick walling to run along the back of the short spur accessing the coaling facility. I have fencing but don't feel that is appropriate here. Can anyone help with a supplier? (I have had a suggestion to use the white foam tray that some meats come in and to slice that into appropriate strips, so that is a possible solution.)

August 27th – Gorse bushes in flower.

August 25th – The layout has been dismantled now so that we could get it back up to my room for wiring updates. The principal change is to replace the remaining Märklin filament lamps with led's. I thought, while I has it up on its front, that I would give you an opportunity to see what it all look s like underneath.
  There are several features that stand out, the most obvious of which is the turntable to the left end. In the bottom left corner you can see several (blue) Märklin relays used for power routing. At the top of the photo you can see the two diode matrix boards that are used to set up the routes in and out of the hidden sidings. Under the right hand matrix board can be seen the circuit board used to house the power routing relays. At some point I may create two more boards to do the same for the station entry and exit. (At the moment this is done using in-line diodes in the wiring loom.) It all looks incredibly complicated but, in effect, it is a load of modules overlaying each other. Maybe one day I will tidy it up. (Some hopes.)

August 23rd – During the last couple of days I've been adding that botanical opportunist, gorse, to the empty areas around the layout. Much of this ground cover has been painted with bright cadmium yellow to emulate flowers, which will place the time of year in early spring. I am especially pleased with that siding by the loco yard – it makes it look as if it rarely used and will soon be completely covered with gorse. Eventually there will be gorse bushes on ledges on the cliff faces. However, this will have to wait until the background is removed from the baseboard.

August 19th – The layout has been transferred to the spare bedroom so now SWMBO has access to her kitchen table again! (She was very patient.) A couple of days later I was having a rest by the right hand end of the layout and thought the view towards the loco shed was really rather nice. So here is a photo of what I saw. And yesterday I made a temporary bridge for the access road. It's very crude - just thick black card - but it will do for now. It looks a bit squint (as if the road level on the left is slightly lower than on the right) but is actually level. What would be nice, of course, is a stone bridges set on an arch, but it will have to wait.
  In addition to the bridge a few other items have been sorted. All grassy areas have been planted (apart from the fact that I haven't quite decided what to do with the back of the background). All road and yard surfaces have been laid apart from a small area in the loco facility. (The hill will be dealt with after Inverness.) A few more trees have been added; there are more to come on the baseboard itself. Finally, odd bits of touching up have been done.
  [Aug 24th. Revised images, using external flashgun, posted.]

August 12th – Getting there slowly. I have mocked up the layout (with buildings not fixed down) and used a good camera and flashgun (not quite properly set up) to get a few 'good' photos. The changes from the last message are fairly minimal but I won't be working on the layout for a couple of days so I thought I would do a quick update. Hope you feel that it was worth it.

August 9th – Another significant step today; I laid the road, station yard and freight yard surfaces. I also finished painting all the cork on the left side of the layout. The freight yard is black emery cloth (a very fine sort of sandpaper) while cobblestones (printed on 160gsm card) are used for the station yard and the street. Finally, I painted the road at the foot of the hill with a special acrylic primer that leaves a rough surface. While it is not at all perfect, I am pleased with the results. Certainly, it all brings the scene to life. (My apology for the quality of the picture but I have lost my normal camera and am having to use a pocket one.) Well, that's it for now. Thank you for looking. [August 10th. Image updated with different camera.]

August 6th – Today I painted the baseboard in the areas between and around most of the station tracks using Woodland Scenics Ground Primer. Even with just that, the effect is pretty impressive. The afforestation is nearly complete but I cannot tell until I can swing the control panel over the two background sections, hopefully in the next couple of days.
  My experiments with a paint for the asphalt road surface, using a special acrylic undercoat, didn't work. However, the paint used will make an excellent finish for the surface of the platforms (the current plastic ones are to be ditched and replaced by wood). I will have to run a Bavarian S3/6 past the first platform (it has the largest cylinder block) to check clearance the new ones are 1mm wider that the Märklin ones. Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading my diary.

July 28th (2) (later the same day) – A friend has painted the backdrop with a sunrise sky. The inspiration for the sky was a photograph taken in North America last month! In addition, highlights have been added to the rock faces. The pictures show the effects.
  The background now has still to be planted with grass and trees. Once that has been done, I need to address the road coming from the (yet to be modelled) bridge leading to the main part of Breitenfurt town.
[Later. Other images of the artist's work can be seen at Andy's Art Studio.]
[August 3rd. Main image replaced with (slightly) better one.]

July 28th (1) – Lot of progress in the last two or three days. First I Purchased three thick sheets of card and had then covered in 3 coats of gesso to give a good smooth white surface ready for painting with acrylics. Two of these were shaped to sit behind the back scene and clear access to tracks. The unused part of the shortened backdrop panel will be used to create two wings at the end of the baseboard.
  The pictures show a couple of general views of the plain backdrop and the cobblestoned area. The latter has not been glued down and may be changed.

July 25th – Yesterday, I constructed the platform for the backdrop. Quite a complicated task as the bottom had to be carved in such a way as to clear all tracks running through and behind the backdrop.
  Having completed painting the background, I started on the baseboard-level scenery. The cobblestoned street and station precinct are both ready to fit into place. The areas around the freight and loco sheds will, hopefully, be covered with cinders and the hill will be an asphalt finish (similar to modern roads). Photos to follow later.

July 23rd – We moved the layout down to the kitchen table this evening so, for the first time, I was able to really see what it looked like from the front. Of course, there is still a lot to do but the picture is becoming clearer.
  Yesterday I received two N scale Faller station canopy kits. These just span 3 tracks in Z so, although they will look horribly chunky, they will give me a good length of train shed and I can get rid of those awful modern platform roofs. I might even be able to add some outside lighting to the station as well, if I am careful.

July 21st (2) – having nothing better to do, I decided to add some grass to the down end tunnel module. The first image shows the result, still slightly damp in places. The second photo was taken through a mirror placed at the front of the layout as I can only work from the back at the present time. Sorry it's a bit out of focus in places but I could not do much about it. I think I had the PVA/water mix a bit weak so some of the grass may fall off, but I hope not.

July 21st (1) – I know it's not a lot but I started on the background landscape a couple of days ago. Painted the rock faces (most of the landscape is rock face) with stone grey. It's a bit dark to my liking but I didn't have any white to mix with it. Next came the earth coloured undercoat. As with the two front quadrants, this will be covered by the trees that are yet to be planted. Finally, I added green undercoat where there will be grass and shrubs. Even without all the extras it looks quite good but overall a bit too dark.

July 15th – Following some viewer comments, my own dissatisfaction with the down end quadrant and seeing the landscape along the side of Loch Carron on the Kyle line, I decided to replace the pines with a few more broadleaf trees. In addition, as the views shown so far have been from the operator's side of the layout, I have posted my view of the modified quadrant (image 1) as well as some views as seen from the front of the layout (images 2 to 4). (As I cannot get at the front of my layout these are on my desk.) I have tried, as best I can, to get the colour balance right; it's still not perfect though.

July 14th – Well, here we have a bit more progress. The first image shows the corner at the up end of the station. As seen by the public this will look like managed woodland with the trees well spaced out and with the smaller trees acting as wind breaks when the taller ones were saplings. The second image shows part of it in detail. The remaining two images are of the down end of the station as below. Here we have natural woodland, with mainly deciduous trees and a few firs (maybe to be replaced later). Unlike the 11th July photo, we now have some undergrowth. I am not sure if I am satisfied with the appearance – it may be necessary either to remove some undergrowth or add more. Once again this is not the public's view as it was taken from the rear of the layout. Also, the flash has illuminated the area under the trees which would normally be much darker.

July 11th – It's been a long time but I virtually shut down on trains for health, and other, reasons. However, I am back now.
  Over the last week or so I have been buying landscape bits and pieces, Woodland Scenics, HM Scenic and PD Marsh, as well as a grassinator, paints and glues. I've been putting off the day but now that I have a couple of exhibitions coming up I cannot put it off any longer. So over the last couple of days I have been applying earth, green and rock grey undercoats to my two front corner quadrants. Today I got down to work planting grass. My first application looked good except that the green was toooo rich! (Actually it was pretty well the same as our lush 'lawn' outside my window, but on the model it was too bright. However, after adding some lighter green and some grey it looked (to me, at least) pretty good. The "static grass applicator" (£12.99 from rob1420_0 on eBay) worked a treat. Once the PVA mix had dried I added trees (about 70 of them in all) and am very pleased with the effect. The trees are just pushed into the extruded polystyrene substrate and are held well. What is missing is undergrowth so I have ordered some. Apart from the grass colour mentioned above, putting in teh trees first appears to be my only mistake. The photo gives an idea of teh effect but I apologise for teh quality. I had to lean across teh layout to take it.
  The next task is to relay the branch line, including ballasting, and 'landscape' the rest of the countryside around it. This will only be loosely fitted in place for the time being so that I can work on the area round the station without catching sleeves on signals etc.

May 12th – Once again, I have to apologise for the lack of updates. What with family visiting, two concerts, one of which was especially challenging, and then a hospital visit for a few days, I haven't felt like doing much else.
  Breitenfurt made it to the Moray MRG exhibition in Elgin OK and I had a good time. The layout behaved very well and I have come home without having to quarantine any of my stock. Since then, I have acquired a new Bavarian Gt 2 x 4/4 tank loco (pictured) and am looking forward to putting it into service. Other than that, there is very little news. However, I cannot put off the day when I will have to start on the painting, etc. of the scenery.
  The accompanying pictures were taken at the exhibition. They show off many of the early locomotives as well as some of the more interesting later ones. The rather odd looking wagon in front of the turntable is a sleeper creosote impregnation wagon with steam pressure generator.

Apr 23rd – I really must apologise for the lack of updates. The last minute struggle to get the layout all working for the Moray MRG exhibition at Easter and the subsequent loss and recovery of my laptop, along with a family visit and lead-ups to two concerts etc. have taken up all my time. I have quite a lot of photos as well as a brand new updated circuit diagrams. (I trashed the original file and have had to recreate it from images on this site.) To make matters worst, I have to go into hospital (for a short visit, I hope) shortly and the worry is getting me down!
  Most of the changes since my last update involve the reshaping of some of the landscape and the addition of houses and shops along with realignment of the street lights. There have also been some minor wiring modifications.
  Anyway, I promise I will do some updates as soon as I can.

Mar 4th – Here are some photos of the three sections of landscaping done so far. There is still some more carving to be done but the pictures give a feel for what I have planned. [Mar 5th – Fourth image added.]

Mar 3rd – My goodness, how time flies. This picture (dated 2010/02/25) shows the first of four parts of the scenery nearly ready for priming. Most of this is blasted rock and the track bed for the branch line can be seen half way up together with the position of the tunnel mouth. In the distance can be seen the hill leading away to the main part of the town (not modelled). Ultimately much of this will be planted with pine and a few deciduous trees. Note that the street lights are left over from the temporary layout and will have to be moved. Since this photo was taken I have completed two more corners (and nearly cut off my finger in the process, which is holding up work somewhat. I can only work on the scenery 3 days a week which doesn't help either. I will put up photos of the additional corners shortly.
  In addition to the scenery, I have started building a cover for the layout. This will consist of two sheets of 4mm plywood, hinged in such a way as to drop down in front of the supporting table so that they can carry additional information on trains running etc.

Feb 21st – Well, that's another layer added, It's a slow process as for every additional piece added I have to leave it to allow the adhesive to dry. There is one more layer to be added and then I can have a look at the other end of the layout. It's awkward work as I have no idea what I am doing. I'll be glad when it is over.

Feb 20th – Well, work has started. It's all a bit slow but hopefully I will speed up as I get going. During the week I cut out a plywood shape and mounted it on the base of the landscape (see picture). So, that first bit of gluing worked fine using pva and a second bit has been but glued this time using Copydex as pva just would not dry. (Good old Copydex, I remember it from 50+ years ago though I am sure it doesn't smell as bad now.) Next I have decided to add the cliff face that will run along the back of the branch line as it climes up to the peak and then a 3rd layer at the left hand end of the back-scene (as the visitors see it). Once all that is in place I will doing the shaping for that end. And once that is well on the way I will start on the right hand end. The idea is to have the whole lot heavily forested with the back-scene coming up behind that. The line of the back-scene will pretty well follow the horizontal line along the bottom of the green area in the track plan. I'm also wondering whether to bring teh back-scene round teh sides of the layout to help deter small 'sprogs' from coming round the side of the layout. Does anyone have any ideas on this? (If so, please use the 'E-MAIL/SKYPE WEBMASTER link at the top of the Z scale home page.)

Feb 12th – At last things are starting to move again. There are several outstanding tasks in three categories. As this is essentially an exhibition layout it is important that the appearance changes between exhibitions, i.e. every six months. The most obvious change is in the scenery so that, along with the branch line, is next on the list. It is also the one that I have been dreading most. I am an engineer, not an artist so you can understand my trepidation.
  Basically, the station is on level ground in the foot of a valley. Presumably, somewhere there is a river but that is off the front of the board (phew!). The river will have carved the valley out eons ago, forming a deep channel with almost vertical sides. So the back of the layout will be one of the sides of this valley and will have to be very narrow from front to back. In practise it will be about 3" (7.5cm) from front to back, and that includes a ledge carrying a single track between two tunnels. Finally, a backdrop will slot in behind the landscape. This will have to be removable to allow me to fold over the control unit.
  In the front of the cliff face will be a row of buildings, not necessarily those already used but similar. There will not be room for the three buildings next to the loco road unless I start hacking the buildings about to make them shallower.
  My basic idea is to use extruded polystyrene to form the underlying landscape. This is easily shaped and not too heavy. The image shows the (literally) back of an envelope first sketches.

The other task I have put into hand is to incorporate some protection for the layout. This, hopefully, will put an end to broken signals (I hope). This will consist of a 6" (15cm) high strip of thin plywood attached to the front of the baseboard using a piano hinge at the bottom. From the top of this strip (again, attached by a piano hinge) a second sheet will fold back over the layout to be screwed to the top of the folded over control panel. This will be removed at home, and will fold down in front of the supporting structure at exhibitions.

Jan 14th – There has been no visible progress on the layout since I smashed those signals. However, I have managed to acquire several new signals at very reasonable prices (including some at half price) so I will probably replace some of the old Märklin ones with Viessmann built ones. That should give me some spare bases that I can repair in slow time using those kits I bought.
  I have reviewed all the signal types and have made a few changes to the design. As only Hp0/Hp1* and Hp0/Hp2 are available, I am using the latter where, strictly, I should be using Hp0/Hp1/Hp2. Similarly with distant signals only Vr0/Vr1 and Vr0/Vr2 are available.
  That's it for now. I will start shortly on progressing things, but don't hold your breath.

* For those of you not familiar with German signalling the system used is speed signalling (unlike the British route signalling system). I use semaphore throughout. So, Hp0 (one arm horizontal) = stop, Hp1 (one arm 45deg up) = clear (to line maximum speed) and Hp2 (two arms 45deg up) is proceed at 40km/h. In the prototype there is, as far as I am aware, no such thing as an Hp0/Hp2. Hp0/Hp1 will be used as block signals and starter signals (e.g. at platform exits) while an Hp0/Hp1/Hp2 will be used, one to each line entering a station or a diverging junction irrespective of how many exit routes there are. So, at the up (complex) end of my station there will be one 3-aspect signal Hp0 stopping the train, Hp1 indicating a high speed route (track 1) and Hp3 indicating a diverging route (one of tracks 2, 3 or 4). (Under the British system there would be a four way junction signal.)
  Technically there should be a Vorsignale at the entry of each of tracks 1, 2 and 4 indicating the state of each track's exit signal but there just isn't room (or the money) available. At the exit of each track there is a Hp0/Hp1 and at the exit from the station there is another Vorsignale before the train enters the tunnel, implying a block signal at the far end of the tunnel.
  I hope that is clear. Sorry if you are confused. You can find out more at one of these webpages:
http://www.sh1.org/eisenbahn/shhf.htm and
except that the latter shows the 3-aspect signals where tracks diverge a 2-aspect.

2010 Jan 1st – Enlarged image of track plan showing latest arrangement of signals added above. This file is larger that most computer screens so that extra detail can be shown. Only change is correction to signals used.

Thank you for looking.