Layout Construction · Model Building · Narrow Gauge

The Crowsnest Tramway Co.

Off topic, I suppose, but I thought I’d share a few photos of one of my favorite layout themes: Roy C. Link’s Crowsnest Tramway Co., the 1:32 version. It was on display at the 2015 Narrow Gauge Convention in Augusta, ME. I had seen the odd B&W photo in publications but never dreamed I’d get to see it in person. What a surprise when I walked into the convention display room!
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If you are familiar with the Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modeling Review magazine then Roy Link needs no introduction. He’s as famous in the UK as Bob Brown and the Gazette are over here. Roy is a master model builder. The Crowsnest Tramway is an ongoing theme. A new diorama pops up from time to time in whatever scale Roy chooses. There have been versions in O14.5 (On2 over here) and 16mm (a popular large modeling scale in the UK) in addition to the one pictured here in 1:32. [A collection of photos gathered from the web.] See the Crowsnest in action at this link: Crowsnest Tramway I love everything about it. The scenery connotes an airy, sparse landscape up in the hills. The backdrop is beautifully done. Trackwork is typical industrial narrow gauge. As far as I know most everything is scratch built. The detail is enchanting. Notice the chickens next to the scale house. Roy sold the diorama to another notable UK modeler, the late Mike South, who brought it with him to Calgary, Canada. After Mike’s passing, it passed into obscurity until located by Canadian Craig Parry. Craig restored the diorama and built the wonderful display cabinet you see above. He has been bringing it to various conventions in North America. As I recall, this Crowsnest Tramway diorama represents the end of the line where lead ore is weighed and then tipped into road vehicles. The D&NE is a modest achievable layout intended to be built to a high standard. And then you see workmanship like this and just ponder…
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Idlenot Light Railway · Model Building · Narrow Gauge

Idlenot Light Railway Tool Van No. 2

Before I started on the D&NE I was building 7/8″ scale models of Welsh two foot narrow gauge equipment. Here’s the story of one of those cars…

“The Idlenot Light Railway Preservation Society proudly announces the presentation of tool van #2 to the railway’s operating department. The tool van was rebuilt from the remains of Glyn Valley Tramway box van #2 discovered some years ago in a farmers yard deep in the Welsh countryside. After decades of service as a chicken coop, most of the remains were quite unusable. But the lads in the car shop were able to construct what must be considered a replica from that heap of rotted timbers and rusted ironwork using only a few old picture postcards as a guide. They claim there are some original parts in the rebuilt van. You would be hard pressed to know which as the workmanship is done in the traditional manner and, I might add, in a superb fashion. Congratulations to these intrepid volunteers!”

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Volunteer work train trundling home in the dappled eventide with Tool van No. 2 in tow. Photo taken on Rich Chiodo’s beautiful Isle of Shoals Tramway.

This 7/8” modeling project was started as an interlude after constructing a GVT guards van for a neighboring restored railway line. The original idea was to march right into a second copy of the guards van for the Idlenot but I wanted to tackle something a little different first. Flipping through the pages of Bernard Rockett’s Glen Valley Goods plan book right after the guards van there are plans for the GVT box vans, similar in size and shape but different in detail. The box van is scratch built except for the running gear, couplings and a few detail bits.

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The brake lever details were cut from 16g steel. The chain is from an old piece of jewelry.

The frame is constructed from basswood timbers topped by a floor of 22 gauge steel. The sides and ends are built from individual basswood planks. All of the ironwork strapping is constructed from styrene. The innumerable square bolt heads are diced from 1/16” square styrene and dropped onto the side braces in a puddle of MEK. Much of the remaining detail, the door latches, the brake gear, etc… is constructed from brass and steel. Oodles of pot metal NBWs adorn the end braces. Sierra Valley Enterprises spoked wheel sets are running in SVE sprung axle guards. They sit a little proud but are a close representation of the GVT equipment. Accucraft 16mm scale chopper couplings – standard on the Idlenot – complete the car.

Complete, that is, except for the roof. After several failed attempts, a decent approach to the roof was uncovered with much help and consultation with the boys over at the car shops of the nearby Isle of Shoals Tramway and my good wife! First, with much planing and sanding, a block of balsa was shaped to the roof contour. Since this roof was to be permanent, the balsa block was simply glued into place. Next, a sheet of 1/16” aircraft ply, cut a little over sized, was bonded to the balsa with yellow carpenters glue. How was it bent to shape? I remembered a passage in D. A. Boreham’s classic, Narrow Gauge Railway Modeling, where he described mounting a roof on a passenger car. The car is propped over two bits of wood with the car sides aligned with the edges of the boards and then the car is heavily weighted. Next morning you have a perfectly formed roof. All it needs is careful trimming to the proper overhang.

For the finish surface, I was looking for a tarred canvas effect. I settled on some cotton material from an old bed sheet. The most important step is to iron it – it must be wrinkle free. How to bond it to the roof? Shellac! I covered the ply with a thick coat of shellac and then carefully draped the cotton cloth over the wet goop. It helps to cut a diagonal slit in the cloth at each corner so it drapes nicely. When that dried, I applied several more top coats of shellac. The final step was to trim the now stiff cloth with a single edge razor blade right to the edge of the ply. A few coats of variegated blacks and grays give the roof the look of tarred canvas.

The final step was, of course, paint and finish. The GVT cars were painted in what was described as a “holly green”. Actually, there are several descriptions of that color but the paint faded to blue and that gives a good clue as to the shade of green. I settled for Humbrol Acrylic #163 Dark Green with some Humbrol #3 Brunswick Green mixed in to punch it up. I was aiming for the shade of green on the rebuilt GVT coaches over at the Talyllyn Railway. Since this is a freshly shopped car, I brush painted it straight up with only a little weathering. The running gear was given a coat of rusty brown and then attacked with washes of blacks and darkened rust. A final dry brushing of dark rust was applied to the door latches and the many bolt heads.

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I tried cutting stencils for the lettering with limited success.

The lettering is reminiscent of the Talyllyn Railway volunteer built tool van which itself is lettered in a style reminiscent of the Cambrian Railways, pre-1922 of course. Mine is not quite that fancy. Its hand painted with white enamel. Okay, I lied. I cut stencils for the “IDL RWY” and sprayed the white but the edges just weren’t crisp enough. I came back with a thin outline in black ink to clean up the edges and fix the line weights. It also gives a little snap to the lettering. But it’s not intended to be shadowing, as such. You shouldn’t really see it. The “No 2” really was hand painted – I couldn’t cut stencils that small and curvy.

A little more dusting and rusting, not much, and a final coat of matte spray completed the car. Hurray! It’s going to earn its living hauling tools and supplies out to the upcoming track work projects.