1116 Letting nature takes its course

Report from N gauge Ireland.

From last time, we left the two boards outside with all three point springs covered in petroleum jelly. After a month, there had been some heavy rain, frosts and a mixture of dry and wet atmosphere. The petroleum jelly remained intact, the track had lost its shine and thus would need treatment from the PCB cleaner, but the wood of the board and of the platform looked too damp. These will need wood treatment before we build anything substantial.

After ten days. Frost and animal debris.

Furthermore the wooden board did not dry quickly enough, remaining moist. We suspected this; we now need to test whether a treated board would possess greater resilience to rain and how quickly it would dry, such as if we would need to mop up any water or if it would drain naturally, even with a moist atmosphere.

Light frost on points and on the petroleum jelly covering.

We recognise that we need to cover those areas of any layout that possess points. Longer stretches of plain track could remain uncovered. We could use old roofing felt as a cover for the timber, and track laid on top. The disadvantage of that is how it looks and if it has small flakes of stone: from experience these can interfere with OO gauge, let alone N gauge mechanisms.

Glue a hard plastic block underneath two sleepers and then pin the middle of it.

We also need a better means of fixing track – Peco N gauge sleepers are quite narrow, but the Peco track pin looks to be too thin and probably steel, and might not endure outdoors. Examples of other manufacturers’ track in our possession have slightly overscale width sleepers which can take a wider steel – or even brass – nail. We haven’t checked the width of Peco ‘crazy’ track yet, as we don’t have any. Our idea is to glue plastic between two sleepers and fix the nail into the plastic.

We think we know what track layout to pursue, but now it’s deciding now to wire it, finding the wood and testing means of point operation. We ought to make a class 80 unit first, and the repository of model railway magazines here located a splendid series making one in OO  gauge, and the internet found some N gauge Ireland too.

Charity Shop OO gauge.

There’s been next to no progress. We monitored the web auction sites for OO items, and there has been some interesting stuff, but we haven’t bid yet. There have been plenty of small light railway style steam locos, other Lizzie examples, and in one job lot a loco which would not be out of place in Scotland, a class 25. There was another class 29, but ideally we’d like some N gauge.

We still have not repaired Stepney’s buffer. We have some useful tubing from lollies that we had for our SU2C fundraising, so they should help with providing a shank. Neither have we made a normal smokebox door for the loco. We also have not amended the 06’s buffers to ovals, we have not tried our 155 again to see why it ‘sat down’ in September.

Our shop did extremely well for SU2C. Next to no credit due to this blogger, though.

We also sold an ‘EFE’ lorry. I had my eyes on it, but thankfully someone else bought it first. We’ve had two good railway books donated recently, with some photographs of local interest: one of those books sold the next day.

Winter weather and other work commitments makes garden railway work less likely, but we may write something around Christmas. Please have a look at the Little Melton site if you can, as ‘Recreational Railways’ placed a priority on completing that work, and there’s a Christmas based recollection on there from 10th December.


Our picture this week is to show what we’d do with a spare class 25: we converted a Hornby class 25 to a class 24/1 by inserting a cut out along the cantrail, and by filing down the warning horns alongside the headcode box, and then adding some filler inside. It’s yet to be re-numbered, but we also performed surgery to simulate the cabside recess to hold a token catcher. Here it is alongside our 33 to 26 conversion, with two freight trains. These are simulating near simultaneous departures of Scotland to the south goods trains, with short wheel base Hornby wagons. Most of these we donated to the charity shop to sell. There will be another release of such wagons to the shop in time for Christmas.


Similarly such a conversion can regress a Hornby class 25 to a class 25/0 as well. Yes, I know the 24 has an express passenger reporting number.


1016 Something different?




  1. Inertia
  2. Criticism
  3. Let’s be different
  4. Charity shop railway news
  5. Archive corner


October was a doing very little month: observant readers will note from previous blog entries that the class 06 was missing a buffer underneath the cab. We drilled out the old buffer, and replaced it (oh yes, we note that it ought to have oval buffers, and we might oblige, but it’s not a priority). We also added a BR logo. Next is to improve Stepney, except here we need a buffer and a shank.


But the critic will not only point to the inertia, but say that the layout so far isn’t a charity shop one, that as an outdoor line, it’s not really an outdoor line, and there’s nothing here that is different from the output of most ‘average’ modellers or enthusiasts.

Let’s be different

Thus we decide to do something different: eleven years ago in November, we bought two Peco yard long ‘n’ gauge tracks from a local charity shop. This led to dabbling in ‘n’ gauge, with the baseboards of the OO layout you see now hosting a small ‘n’ gauge layout based on Swanage. Realistically it was a standard branch terminus of single platform with run round, a short bay road and a headshunt. There was also a section of tramway which acted as another headshunt and as a quay side for Peco blue spot fish wagons to inhabit. Only then did ‘Swanage’ become ‘Ullapool’, and a class 33 became a class 26. This was 5ft by 6 inches, and then a 2ft by 6 inches section was added for a longer fiddle yard.

Those two yards of 9mm gauge track (and most of the other track purchased secondhand) are Peco n/s, and can be used outside. A brief internet search shows that there are a few ‘n’ gauge garden railways, thus it is possible, and we at recreational railways know about Bert Groves’ work from the 1960s (the quote I recall is “People ask me if I’m a watchmaker, and I say no, I’m a civil servant”)***[see addendum at foot of page]. I know where to find articles about Mr Groves’ work, and will report more next month. [I found those articles, and you can read a little bit more at the foot of this blog entry.]

The blank canvas.

Additionally, a while back I adapted some ‘n’ gauge rolling stock to represent CIE/IR and NIR items. The models are not brilliant, for example the Hunslet is a scale eight feet too long, and the 121 is at least ten feet too long. What we hope is that it captures the look of the original, and I’m not sure about the GM. Perhaps, just perhaps, we will have one of the few ‘n’ gauge garden railways that attempt to model the railways of Ireland. Currently I would suggest that it’s inspired by Larne, but that might mean having to build a boat.

Hunslet (class 52 bodyshell as the basis), mk1 (Farish BG) generator, two Lima mk1s (1:160 scale), our overlong 121 (much amended Mehano built American outline loco).

Admittedly it’s a work in progress, to prove the concept. It will be left outside for a week or two, the over centre springs on the points covered with petroleum jelly: this worked on the previous OO gauge outside line and should keep them intact. Already we’ve discovered that ‘n’ gauge sleepers can be more brittle and are narrower, which creates problems to drill holes for the much smaller ‘n’ gauge track nails. The track should be capable of being outside, but will the secondhand points survive rain and frost? The wood is fairly well seasoned, but would always benefit from a little timber preservative.

Outside storage to test durability.

And yes, I can run British outline ‘n’ gauge items on it too, as I haven’t tried to model the broad gauge aspect. Let’s see how far we can develop the 2mm scale part, and as it started with two yards of charity shop items, we can count it as a charity shop layout – if only I could remember which two lengths they were. There’s also a few short wheelbase coaches that we can use, and a bodyshell bought in the shop which can assist in making one of the IR or NIR GMs. We won’t neglect the OO layout either.

Charity shop news

This month past was a big month for our shop, collecting for SU2C (so you know who we are now). One of the town’s other charity shops had a Hornby Dublo breakdown crane, looking immaculate in their window. We already have a breakdown crane in OO, so we wouldn’t consider the purchase. The online auction shop of another charity continues to sell Hornby, Triang and Lima items: highlights include a lot including a Triang TT (1:100 scale) class 31, a job lot including a Lima class 52 (hooray! We can run ours with our Warships now), Hornby GWR Prairie tank, lots of wagons, 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 steam locos, a VXC Hornby HST and at least two lots including Triang class 37s. There was also a Hornby construction sector class 47 but we already have lots of Brush type 4s from three manufacturers. We are searching for ‘n’ gauge items by similar methods.

The shop volunteers found a one old penny bus ticket in some donated books. We think it might be from the early 1950s at the very latest, maybe from the 1930s. A friend also bought us an enamel badge with a Terrier loco (like our Stepney) which we can wear as part of ELMLR activity.

Archive time

We’ve neglected this in the last blog. Here’s our year 2000 attempt at the railway in the West Country in the early 2000s. It’s an approximation of St Erth, where we see the class 117 unit for the coast meeting the London to Penzance train with my not brilliant paint job Mk2 air con set behind a Merlin liveried Lima 47.


We also include a 2012 view of amending a Farish 52 bodyshell to make a Hunslet, and an attempt at amending a Farish 33 to become a C class in NIR livery, or ‘MV’ as the books suggest. At the back is part of the late 1980s Metro Publishing stock list for both IR and NIR. This was invaluable in the research work.


Recreational railways has spent more time on writing the last few entries for the Little Melton Light Railway tribute site. These will be published on the companion site over the next two months.

ADDENDUM – mis-remembered quotes.

It was mis-remembering another garden railway article in the Railway Modeller which led to my use of the Hymek as test loco. The curse of a jackdaw memory strikes again, but at least I remembered where the Bert Groves articles were.

The Groves’ family work is recorded in three issues of the mid 1970s publication ‘History of Model and Miniature Railways’, New English Library / Times Mirror. In issues 13, 14 and 21 you will find reference to the Groves family, of H H Groves early work with motors and N gauge scratchbuilding, of Bert Groves South African inspired N gauge garden railway, and in C J Freezer’s article on garden railways.

Freezer tells us that Bert Groves “has operated an N gauge layout in the garden for some eight years with only the minimum of maintenance.” (issue 21, pg 417)

In issue 13, Stewart Hine describes  H H Groves work in engineering, and work in the late 1950s in 2mm scale (this is long before N gauge became commercial), building a chassis to fit a Lone Star (and thus unmotorised) Jinty.

Farish charity shop unmotorised General purpose tank, 20T brake van, Lone Star Jinty.

There are also hints on use of electrical pick-ups to use, as well as that the 2mm layout Rydes Hill was exhibited in 1961 and 1962.

At the end of the article is the quote I mis-remembered: ‘The general public’s most frequent questions was “Are you a watchmaker by trade?” “No” smiles Bert (who is actually a Post Office engineer) “I put up telegraph poles”.’

Issue 14, p265 to p268, describes Bert Groves South African inspired outdoor layout. It gives length, number of points, that plastic building seem to do alright outside, that there’s minimal maintenance and track cleaning is sandpaper or letting locos ‘slip’ around the run to clear the track. We’ll stick to the more modern PCB cleaner, and dusting away the crumbs afterwards. It does tell us that the overcentre springs rust, as they are steel. We will find a solution, either a different metal or a physical point lever to hold the blades in place, and effective electrical bonding.

Issue 14 is encouraging. I found links to other N gauge garden railway articles, and will try to find them and report, as well as my own experiences.