February - December 2017
The first part of the year was spent getting Plumpton ready for Scalefour North - improving running, and making sure all the stock was in good condition. I’m happy to say that all the effort was worthwhile - winning the Walton-Evans trophy for best layout.
After S4N, Plumpton was left in its boxes, while we erected as much of Pulborough in the garage as possible, rewiring most of the boards, and trying to flatten out a couple of the larger boards which have sagged a little over the past 30 years or so (or perhaps were built badly in the first place.......)
Pulborough was well received at the Bluebell show in June - its first outing since 2009, following a very extensive reworking of the scenery, and the rewiring.
Two more shows (Burgess Hill, and Tolworth) kept us busy for the rest of the year
During the year we’ve added a few bushes and trees to the layout, and finished the garden and other detail around the creamery.
My experiments with 3D printing have yielded results, with the production of the finial to fit on the roof of the signal box - shown in the photo left. My method is described in detail here.
Perhaps the biggest change has been the removal of AJ’s from all stock and locos. After many years gradually improving the operation of the AJ’s I have finally concluded that I can’t get them to work reliably to my satisfaction for an exhibition layout. They’re ok at home where I can suspend operations for a while so that I can fix something, but at a show this is not sufficient. Things rather came to a head at Scalefour North where my faithful operating team came close to mutiny over their frustration at the occasional problems we had. My reasons for abandoning AJ’s are covered here. They obviously work, or they wouldn’t have lasted so long, but not for me. Over 100 wagons, 60 coaches and 30 locos is just too much to maintain.
Sound is an important part of the railway scene, and the most obvious way forward would be to switch to DCC. However, with a large roster of engines, it would take a long time to convert them all, and I can’t see a halfway-house where I could run a mix of converted and unconverted locos side-by-side. Something for the future perhaps. However, I have, as a compromise, added a sound system with strategically located speakers enabling drivers to whistle during shunting operations, mimicking real-life operation. Details are given here.
Most of the rest of the time between shows has been focused on finishing one engine (High Level Models Black-Hawthorn), and starting a few others - two Terriers, and two C-class 0-6-0 goods tender engines.
January - December 2018
The early part of the year was again spent on Pulborough, getting it ready for Scalefour North, where it won the Walton-Evans trophy for best layout (repeating Plumpton Green’s success from 2017).
With only one show for for 2018, we’ve had lots of time for loco building, and have completed two Terriers, (Stepney and Martello), as well as two C-class goods engines.
There are still a few things to do on the layout, mainly improving the trackwork, and adding the last few cosmetic chairs and fishplates. The two major items are the point rodding from the ground frame (a task for 2019 - I can’t put it off forever), and the crossing keeper’s cottage, which we have now started.
The cottage has been altered a fair bit over the years, mainly at the back. My collection of old photos only shows the front of the building, but a bit of research looking at old maps gives an idea of its original shape, and combined with a little modeller’s licence will produce a pleasing building I hope.