Laying track – fiddle yard

It has taken us a while, but we are now getting track down in the fiddle yard. Here is the evidence.

We are using PVA glue to hold it down.

We have two metal ‘U’  tubes to keep it straight, one 8 mm to go between the rails to ensure that one track is straight, and one 10 mm to go between tracks to ensure they are parallel. We started from the central track of the fiddle yard, and are working outwards from there.


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Station canopies

How do we do the station canopies? More specifically the glass in them.

The issue is that they are not actually see-through. Some examples…

Preston station

Blackburn station

York station

Using clear plastic just looks wrong to me. We need something translucent, not transparent.

My original thought was paint them white then apply high gloss, but that was rubbish.

Andy 2 had a go with micro kritstal klear, which looks pretty good.


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Thinking about the station

We have not made a lot of progress recently as we think about how to do the points.

However, that has given me a chance to think about what to do with the station with regards to scenics. Please take this post as an invitation for everyone to express their own views, and not me dictating how it is going to be!

I envisage it with the station building on a bridge, and this is how it was shown in the original plan.

The building might look a bit like this, which is based on Wigan Wallgate.

It would be positioned well to the right, on the curve, where the platform is narrowing. The steps to the platform would be angled. The platform stops where the station building starts; it does not go under the bridge.

On the widest part of the platform is a building 40×120 mm, and to the left another, 26×120 mm (sizes need checking). These would be angled to suit the curve. A canopy will connect them all. Hopefully this can be 3d printed along with everything else. A curved canopy to show the principle.

I am wondering if we can use “Glue ‘n’ Glaze” to make the glass. This would be relatively easy, and a less-than-perfect glass would suit it I think.

The two platforms would be broadly the same.

Now disregarding the original plan… After crossing the railway, the road comes to a T junction. Heading left takes you up a slope, and then right and over the other line on a bridge, and into the city centre on the hill top.

An alternative approach would have the station building on the far side, on top of a retaining wall, so the same height as the first option. It would then be on a road that runs parallel to the railway. A foot bridge then gives access to the platforms.

The same station building could be used either way (hmm, assuming there is space), but platform structures might want adjusting. I think a road bridge crossing the railway in the same place, or maybe a bit to the right, would still be a good idea. There would be less space for the road to rise up and cross the other line; a level crossing feels unlikely given the hilly terrain. But it could go the other way, to cross once the line is in a tunnel.

Either way, I would like to have a high street at the back, parallel to the back scene, populated on the far side by shops like BHS, Woolworths and C&A – in low relief because they tend to go back a long way.


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Putting cork down…

I am conscious that there has been no update since since June, partly due to holidays, so sorry about that! But we are back on track now.

Here you can see Tom, Karl and myself putting in the supports for the upper level fiddle yard, and below Dave and Tom at it.

The boards for the lower level are pretty much down, and cork has been laid down in the fiddle yard. The plan is to lay the lower level track before doing much more for the upper level so we can see where to avoid.

We have a slightly modified track plan (download the PDF here). Three changes:

  1. We are going to use Setrack for the upper level curve on the right side – third and fourth radii – as the tighter curves will be easier to form. This allows the curve to be brought inwards, avoiding the need of the tracks to cross at all at that end.
  2. The upper level fiddle yard is going to be two long loops each direction. This means more trains can be held at exhibitions (when we will be running DCC) and less points.
  3. The upper level has been realigned front-left to cross the lower level further to the left. It will then cross the river on a second bridge. The will allow trains on the lower level to be seen for longer.

So what do people think we should do for the bridges? I have a few  ideas, but that can wait for another post…

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Boards for the lower level

It has been over six months since the last post – apologies fore that. Progress has been made in that time, but as much as anything I kept forgetting to take photos.

The framework for the baseboards is now complete, and with the addition of diagonal struts on the legs, the layout is now feeling pretty sturdy.

We have boards down for most of the lower level now, as you can see in this image.

The only bits remaining are the short sections unto the fiddle yard at each end and the section crossing the dropped board. Current thinking is that we should put the bridge in place now, so we can build around that.

With that in place, tracklaying for the lower level will commence, with the upper level boards done once that is satisfactory.



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Frames and legs… And a modified plan

Let’s start with the track plan…

The track plan for the lower level has been modified slightly in the station throat and fiddle yard. In the fiddle yard, we now have three long tracks for each direction, plus a single bi-direction track. The plan for exhibitions is to line multiple trains up on tracks one and two, with track three empty. Trains on track one are sent round the layout, to track three. When track one is exhausted, we run trains from track two to track one. then from track three to track two. Rinse and repeat.

The bi-directional line is to support the bay platform.

The topology of the station throat is retained, but reorganised to make it more compact. This allows the platforms to be extended slightly, and keeps the throat point work on a single board – board 2 is lower than the rest, and the new plan keeps all points off that board.

The plan for the upper level is to have each fiddle yard on its own dedicated board, each about 8′ by 8″, so the pointwork for each circuit is on a single board. The upper board will be wired to allow DC operation at the club and DCC at exhibitions, so we want to keep it as simple as possible.

The basic frame for each board is now complete, plus a set of legs. Board 2, being lower, needs different legs, so we have two pairs for that. The other three board will then “hang off” that. However, each board will have a full set of pockets for the legs, so we can put up any one board on its own if necessary.

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Baseboard construction is underway

After a delay of two years, we are now with the new N gauge layout!

Over the course of the last week or so, the basic framework for the four sections has been put together.

We are using 12 mm ply, and the framework is built from strips 50 mm high and 1220 mm long, which were pre-cut when the wood was purchase from Savoy Timber, and I have to say to a surprisingly high accuracy. For the dropped board, two strip are 120 mm high. All were painted with PVA glue to seal the wood.

Holes for bolts and positioning bits, which will be used to connect the four sections, were drilled in pairs to ensure they were fit together later.

Dave 3D-printed two jogs to along holes for drilling the holes for screwing to ensure accuracy. “Gorilla” glue and two screws keep each joint together.

Pre-drilling the holes prevented the wood split, though we did experience that a little bit. A clamp and strong glue cured that.

We also made three pairs of legs – two more to go. But we need more wood for that.

Thanks to Andy P for the photos. I realise I should have taken a couple of what we actually made. Next time.

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2019 AGM Group Photo

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A slight delay…

So not much has happened recently, but we did have a meeting on Monday.

The important news is that the committee has decided that no money will be provides for projects until after the exhibition. There is a worry that if the exhibition has to be cancelled again, the club will not be able to afford the money.

The plan had been to get the wood cut during January and February, so we would be ready to go as soon as the small room is available at the start of March. That is now not an option.

The new plan is to build the upper fiddle yards first. Each will go on a single baseboard, and will give us a chance to try out servos and, perhaps more importantly, controllers for them. These boards will be wired for DC, and all the point work for one circuit will be contained on the board.

While that is being done, hopefully the wood for the rest can be cut.

The next meeting will be the third Monday in March, and hopefully at that point we can make a start!

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More ruminations on baseboards

Another meeting last night, and “Kitchen Mike” was again there to help the discussion with regards to baseboards. He brought along some prototypes too.

Baseboard construction

Mike had two “L” pieces about 8″ long, with an upright, showing how strong they are and well aligned.

The verticals are 12mm ply, nailed to 9 mm ply horizontal pieces. The upright, which will support the upper level track, was 18 mm, but would be 12 mm on the layout, and was both screwed and nailed. A spacer, again 12 mm, was then glued to the upright to bring it flush with the vertical. This does require a hole cut out of the horizontal for the upright to go through (vital for strength in the upright).

The baseboard would go on top of that, so resting on top of the horizontal in some places. It may be necessary to cut further holes in the horizontal for point motors (though the ones at the far right could be on top of the boards as they are in tunnels, accessed from the side).

Cross pieces would need the top corners removed to allow for the horizontals.

I will try to remember to get a photo on Wednesday and add it here.


Another suggestion by Mike is to build a “spline roadbed”. We had been thinking of cutting the track beds out of ply, but that is very wasteful in wood, as most of the sheet is just discarded. An alternative, popular in the US but pretty much unheard of in the UK, is to use vertical boards! Each board is only about an inch high, and numerous are glued together to give the required width. The lamination means they keep their space. Spacers are also put in place to keep weight down.

This should mean that the number of supports required is much reduced, because it will be very solid.

This is the website Mike found:

Do we use splines where the track is relatively straight? Certainly not for the viaduct.

Do we use splines on the lower level at the left? This would require cutting into the cross pieces, but I think would be the best way.

If you have a solid spline, 2″ across, 1″ deep, and a 90° arc of radius 12″, you are using about 37 cubic inches of wood. On the other hand, if you have a sheet of 6 mm ply and cut the trackbed from it you use about 40 cubic inches of wood. So in terms of wood usage, there is not much difference. Introducing spaces into the splines will help that.



Previously someone had pointed out that not all exhibitions have double doors, and it may not be possible to get a 4′ by 4′ trolley inside a hall, and this engendered a discussion on a possible 2.5′ by 4′ trolley, with boards stored vertically. It was generally felt that we would stick to the 4′ by 4′ trolley idea, keeping the boards horizontal as much as possibly during transit. We would select exhibitions with good access (which is the vast majority).

Mike brought along some bed fittings attached to two short lengths or wood. One slotted into the other to provide a very secure fit. He suggested the trolley could be constructed so the four sides come apart in this way, splitting down the L of each leg. During later discussion we realised this was not really what we wanted, and again the original plan was the best.

We agreed we need the biggest wheels we can practically find, 5″ if available.

It was noted that if we do mess up the trolley, it would not be that bad if it had to be re-built.



Mike said that January is often (but not always) a quiet time for him, so would like to have the details by then.

The next meeting will be on the 11th, as the last available Monday of the year.

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