N Gauge Elevator

Sometimes you come across a new product that, on the one hand takes your breath away, makes you question why it hasn’t been done before, and even if it is a solution looking for a problem. I guess I have just described the viewing experience of Dragon’s Den.

At the N Gauge Show last weekend at the Warwick Exhibition Centre I noticed what I thought was a nice glass display case containing complete trains, the like of which are made by several manufacturers such as Picture Pride.

When I circled the show again I took a closer look and was astonished to find what I can only describe as a double, vertical, electric, sector plate. It held complete trains, on shelves and at the touch of a button those shelves would go up and down and auto align with your tracks. The test layout had entry/exit paths on two levels.

The Nelevation shown at the N Gauge Show in Warwick

The Nelevation shown at the N Gauge Show in Warwick

It is called Nelevation (N Elevation) and further details can be found on their web site.

I was told the kit version would cost about £600, but when you look at the space needed to fan out the tracks on the level, and the number of points required, the costs start to get closer. It will also be available assembled.

I am so impressed by the product (but not the name, but then I can’t think of a better one), and wish the manufacturer well.

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ExpoEM 2015

Leighton Buzzard by Peter DennyThere are some very important milestones in the model railway world. Some of them are exhibition layouts, and some never leave home.

One of them is Buckingham by Rev Peter Denny. To get a feel of how significant this model is, you have to read the Railway Modeller magazines of the time, and see the quality of The Railway of the Month to realise just how good Buckingham was. Peter Denny began building Buckingham in the early fifties, and to him OO gauge wasn’t good enough so it was built to 18mm gauge or EM. It was a fictional depiction of the Great Central and was usually run by himself and his son Crispin. When Crispin became less available to help in operating, Peter built an electro-mechanical computer to help with operation-this was christened Automatic Crispin.Crispin Denny operating Leighton Buzzard

Peter also added a branch line to a terminus called Leighton Buzzard.

When Peter died in 2009 his sons sought a new home for Buckingham.

It was with great delight that when I visited ExpoEM in Bracknell last weekend, the Buckingham branch Leighton Buzzard was on view, with the fiddle yard (actually a rotating sector plate) operated by Crispin.

What struck me was how small it was, and how much Peter had managed to squeeze into the space without making the model feel cramped. The model was of a very high standard and of the same quality as others in the room, but it was forty years old-a great achievement.

Some more details and pictures here.

A view through the bridge Leighton Buzzard by Peter Denny

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Some Pictures

Just some pictures of my little model railway. I am using DCC even though it is small, and the 08 shunter is factory fitted with sound. A few wagons and some road vehicles make the scene look a little busy. I need some people and more industrial detritus.


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Alton Model Centre

Last Saturday I visited the model railway exhibition hosted by Alton Model Railway Group.

On the back of their programme was an advertisement for the Alton Model Centre so I went along. I was very impressed. Not a very large shop but packed floor to ceiling with stock from N and OO and some O mostly British outline.

I will certainly be paying another visit, and maybe will combine it with a visit to the Watercress Line nearby.

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DCC Programmer

Sometimes a tool that does a single job but does it very well is a tool worth having.
Broadway Limited

A handheld DCC programmer

A handheld DCC programmer

in the USA have come up with a device that is self powered, hand held and simple, that just programmes DCC chips with their address. Connect it to a programming track, place a loco on the track and turn on the device.

The display then shows you the current address of the loco. Change the address and press save and the loco is updated. And that is it. Well it does a couple of other tricks, including resetting the chip to factory default by cycling through all the known methods used by different manufacturers.

Now you can do this with your DCC controller of choice but not so easily. Broadway are asking $80 for this box of tricks. And that is my biggest problem. If it was £20 I would buy it now, but not at that price. Hopefully Broadway will do well and with economies of scale the price will come down.

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New Year New Layout

It has been a long time since my last post. I was all fired up to produce a diorama for my club’s exhibition in November but then my spinal disc popped for the forth time. This caused me great pain and severely reduced my mobility, so progress was halted and didn’t restart.

I have now purchased a small shunting layout on eBay which should be arriving soon. I have also purchased an 08 shunter with DCC sound, a DCC controller (I have one buried somewhere in storage) and some 50’s wagons preferably weathered.

I was impressed when shunting the yard on the club’s Hinton Parva layout how much Kadee couplings enhanced the enjoyment. When building wagons 30 years ago in my teens only 3 link couplings would do, but my eyesight is not what it was. The Kadees, although representing US practice, are quite popular on UK layouts. I would be interested on any thoughts on the subject.

There has been a series of articles in Hornby Magazine Oct/Nov/Dec/Jan about fitting Kadees to UK outline RTR stock.

It seems many modern UK RTR rolling stock have the supplied couplings in NEM sockets which can be replaced with Kadees. They are, however, very sensitive to their height above the rails, for which a height gauge is available. In my research it seems that the NEM socket in British RTR stock varies in height.

I will post a few pictures of the layout when it arrives.

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Tiverton2I visited ExpoEM at Bracknell Leisure Centre on Saturday even though I model OO. The advantage of shows arranged by organisations who promote the finer standards in our hobby is that they have so many high quality layouts on view and attract very good traders.


And sure enough there were some excellent models to be seen, although too many in the early stages of construction for my liking.

I really don’t like models with long straight lines, although it is very tempting when building on square boards. So you can imagine my delight with Tiverton from the Devon Area Group. Not only were the tracks formed into beautiful curves, but the baseboards on which they sat were curved as well. The fact it was a GWR prototype added to my enjoyment.


IronStreet2Also there was a small industrial layout called Iron Street Mills which achieved in a larger space what I am trying to do with my diorama. It uses Metcalf buildings and looked ‘right’. The trick is perfect execution with all the little ‘unseen’ details that make the scene convincing. I hope I can achieve such a convincing look.

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Google celebrates Frank Hornby’s birthday

Today, 15th May 2013, anyone visiting Google will be presented with a graphic representing the works of Frank Hornby.

Google2Thank you Google. Find out more of Frank Hornby here.

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Raspberry Pie

The Raspberry Pie (Raspi) is a credit card sized $30 computer. It has an ARM processor, digital screen output, USB interface for keyboard and mouse and other peripherals, an Ethernet port, and it runs Linux from an SD card. raspi

It also has an I/O port that can be directly connected to switches and LEDs, although if you get a connection wrong you can blow your Raspi. There are add on boards that can isolate the the connections and drive higher currents.

So why am I mentioning this in a model railway blog? I have a couple of Raspi’s but have not done much with them yet. I am always thinking of ways of using them in model railways. I notice that there are several signal levers available now with in built switches and with my interest in signalling may come up with an interlocking program, but that may take some time.

It has occurred to me that I could just use one to drive multiple LEDs on my diorama. At first it may seem OTT to use a computer more powerful than a BBC micro to drive a few LEDs, but with lights in multiple rooms a very realistic pattern of switching on and off could be achieved. Also, software could be used to create fire or arc welding effects. Connecting a light sensor to detect darkness would be easy.

The Raspi is so cheap that it can be used in distributed applications where several talk to one another to achieve an objective. They can also be run off a battery, but the Ethernet port consumes a great deal of current, so if you don’t need networking and want to run off a battery, use the model A which lacks this port.

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Pendon Talk

I recently attended an evening talk at Pendon Museum about photographing models given by Andy York, RMWeb.

I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about photography in general and my camera in particular. In these days of digital compacts it is too easy to point and click, check the result, and if it’s not good enough, try again. No need to take care with shutter and exposure, and then wait a week for the results. I did a commission once for a friend with two camera bodies only to find when the prints came back I had a light leak in one of the bodies and the results were ruined.

When I decided I needed an auto focus SLR I went for Canon EOS. It is an indication of the hobby that my first body was 35mm, which I later replaced with an APS body, and again replaced that with a digital one. I only ever used any of them in automatic mode.

During his talk Andy York emphasised using a tripod and setting up your camera manually. Reaching for my compact I was astonished to find so many manual adjustments. I need to read the manual.

Pendon laid on some food, allowed a wonder around the museum before an entertaining, informative, and thought provoking talk for £10. If you live within striking distance of Pendon I thoroughly recommend future talks.

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