Landscape refining and engine oiling

Another successful evening in my garage saw a host of subtle improvements to my styrofoam landscape, smoother running from my Smokey Joe 0-4-0 thanks to some sewing machine oil, and a slightly longer siding to accommodate a two-carriage DMU.

I have to say, the blue is starting to get to me. It really needs painting. But before that can happen I need to refine the shape of it and figure out a seemlingly endless list of other details. Before I started work on it this time, the sheets of styrofoam were plainly obvious, and far too square to be believable. So I hacked away some more, taking off edges, introducing more randomness, and smoothing things off. It’s a subtle improvement. I think I shall probably still have to hide a lot of the edges underneath hedgerows and trees to make it even less obvious, but at least now it’s looking a bit more like a landscape and less like 4 sheets of underfloor heating insulation.

The most important refinement though was to the inclines underneath the track. I had previously hacked out the channels using a steak knife, so it wasn’t exactly smooth. Today I took a different approach, filing instead of sawing, extending the length of the inclines a little and smoothing out all the bumps. The track still needs persuading to lie completely flat, but once it’s actually pinned down it should look great and be nice and smooth and even.

A similar technique was used to create the road bed. I’ve planned out a road, coming in at the back and off again at the side, crossing the track in two places, and giving access to the car park behind the station. I could have just painted it on, but it occurred to me that since my entire floor is mouldable I could do an even better job by actually sculpting the road. It’s now got a slight camber to it at the edges, which has the dual effect of creating a defined edge for the curb of the pavement. Once painted up, this should look a treat! I also cut out some pieces of cardboard to experiment with the level crossings. I’ll probably use a more solid piece of card eventually, and embed it into the road a little.

Also, while I was in town, I bought some sewing machine oil. Nice and cheap from a local wool shop, and is perfect for lubricating locomotives. Smokey Joe was a little jerky, and sounded rough, so I took the top off and oiled all the moving parts. After a few laps to settle in, it’s much better. Still not perfect, but from what I read on the forums that’s typical of 0-4-0 locos due to the limited options for electrical contact.

While I was at it, and I also got my green Lima DMU out. It’s a three-carriage passenger loco, and I hadn’t planned on using on this layout simply because it’s rather big. Leaving out the middle coach it will fit on the main station, but is still too long for the top station. One option is just to live with it and assume that the DMU doesn’t stop at the top station (it’s technically a ‘halt’, after all). Or, if I’m feeling adventurous, I could scratch-build a station with a curve in it, so that it’s long enough to accommodate two long carriages. I’d worry about the clearance though, what with the overhangs on my tight radius curves. Either way, it looks good and drives well, so I’ve increased the length of one of my sidings so it’s long enough to hold those two long carriages.

Time for a drink. And a smoke.

My car has been making an odd noise for the last couple of weeks.  We first noticed it on the way back from my cousin’s wedding (congratulations Mel and Lal!), when we stopped at some traffic lights in Castle Cary and heard a faint ticking noise coming from the engine.  My wife described it as being like a leaf caught in a bicycle wheel.  My keenly trained ears quickly assessed it to be in sync with the rotational speed of the engine, and experience told me it was probably something running dry.  Obviously the engine could do with a top up of oil, and I mentally scolded myself for not checking the level before we left.

And then, well, things got in the way.  It was raining.  We were ill.  I was busy.  There just wasn’t an ideal time to pop out and top up the oil, so I just carried on driving to work and back with that ticking noise in the background, a constant reminder that actually the engine wasn’t all that happy, and that I really should do something about it.  Finally, this morning, just as we were about to head off to Tesco for the weekly shop, I remembered and checked the oil level.  It was indeed low.  It wasn’t even registering on the dipstick.  My bad.  So I hunted around in the garage and found the oil, but realised too late that it wasn’t nearly enough.  So I put what we had into the car and drove to Tesco, where I parked up and walked round the corner to the garage to buy some more.

Where three to five are gathered

Image courtesy of wedgienet @ flickrAt the weekend, which for some reason began on Thursday, we had visitors.  Not just any run-of-the-mill, common or garden, everyday type visitors.  Oh no.  These were special.  Anne-Marie and Sarah are our best friends from Colchester.  I lived with one of them for two years, Ellie lived with the other for two years, and they’re now living together in what used to be my house.  It’s all rather confusion really.  We’ve been through a great deal, the four of us, the good and the bad, the ordinary and the random, the practical and the spontaneous.  So close is our relationship that they no longer fit into the category of ‘friends’ – they have managed to transcend that definition and become more like family.  They are the sisters I never had.  And I love them both very much.

Anyway, enough of this mushy stuff, back to the story.

AM and Sarah came to visit on Thursday, having made the journey in Sarah’s little blue Fiesta all the way from Colchester (a good 4 hour drive, not including loo stops), and arrived on our doorstep laden with hugs and presents for Samuel.  Both their presence and their presents were very much appreciated (see what I did there?).