Why Oh Why?

I sometimes wonder why I chose to do things a certain way. I suppose it seems like a good idea at the time but in practice it always poses harder questions than the easy route. for example, the ceiling. Simple solution would be to clad under the joists then climb in and insulate the loft space. But not me.

First I design the roof to be low profile so no room to crawl in. Then I decide to put the ceiling on top of the joists so as to leave them exposed. This created two known difficulties and one I did not anticipate.

Difficulty number one was getting 5m panels into the loft through the 400cm space between the joists. Pinning them down was easy as was getting the insulation into the area. Having the panels on top created a smooth surface so the insulation  slid most of the way along the 5m length.

Difficulty number two was getting the last panel and associated insulation into place. Next time the ceiling and insulation will go in before I close up the front slope of the roof to allow easy access to the last panel… What am I saying? Next time? What next time?

The problem I failed to anticipate was the heat. I started the ceiling in the cool of the morning, 8am to be exact, but as is the case with British weather, the sun decided to shine. The outside temperature rose to a comfortable 20 degrees but I found breathing in the roof space more and more difficult as the day progressed.

As the ceiling closed so the heat increased, I tried the thermometer at 3pm and the reading was 32 degrees and rising, with that heat and the rockwool dust no wonder I could not breathe.


I know there are a few faults, but it is only a shed after all. The last job on the top half of the build is to insulate and close the sides. this is a simple if time consuming job.


The loo cubicle is up and waiting the arrival of the fittings, the tea station is ready once the plumbing and electric is done, beer fridge to follow.

Some of the railway dioramas have started to be moved into the cabin but it is doubtful that they will go in as they were originally designed to do. Apart from having a bit more space I am also planning to revert to my original design plan albeit slightly modified.


Closed up and ready to start inside

Well the cabin is finally closed in and cleaned up. I have decided to put in a flat ceiling above the joists to allow the roof void to be insulated easier (and cheaper), but still leaving the joists visible. That is the final major part of the structure build, after which the wiring for lighting and power will be installed.

I am currently looking at the option of a wind / solar power generator to provide power for the heating in the cabin. The latter being provided by greenhouse tube heaters. As I have no experience of these I will need to do some studying.

Realising that the human body has certain needs that would interrupt the flow of progress in the man cave, and discovering the required soil and water pipes just behind the cabin, I have decided to install a toilet with the obvious spin off that the kettle is also provisioned. This reduces the social area but the advantages are obvious. I also have enough room for the beer fridge in the same area.

Over the last 30 years my wife has been building a Christmas Village but getting it set up for a few weeks in December only to pack it away again I feel is a waste of time and certainly waste of the money spent on the buildings, so I have decided to use one wall to create a permanent home for the village complete with station and visiting trains. The scale will be wrong but at least she gets to see them all year. I hope that with a bit of creative landscaping I can create a winter scene separated from the main layout with a scenic break.


Weather Tight … ish

As you can see I have been continuing the build on the cabin.


The walls are now clad with hollow core plastic, the leading roof has been panelled and the door and windows are in.


The pond liner covering on the roof has now been topped with a heavy gauge cap sheet, it is supposed to be green but as is normal from a certain DIY superstore it has no less than seven shades of green and grey, still so long as it does what it should why should I worry, after all I can not see it.

The eaves are now closed all round except for where the power needs to be installed, and the rear eaves have been insulated. The inside timbers have all been treated against bug attack. Personally I will never suffer from woodworm or dry rot, I use a garden spray to apply the treatment so it showers everything.

Internally the walls have been insulated and plaster boarded and just need finishing, which just leaves the roof to be insulated and panelled. I intend to insulate the pitch and leave the joists exposed but I need to work out the best method for that because of the restricted space.

Just to ensure the cabin stays as a man cave I have dealt with the door window as one who knows me might expect …


It is not intended to be a work of art or even ‘correct’ but it was fun to play with.



And So It Continues


Having moved the hardcore into the base it was time to cover with the carrstone sub-base. After using up the remainder of the original tonnage, about 5 tons, I needed to bring in another load of which about 6 tons was added to raise the level to what is seen in this picture.


Over the sub-base was installed the DPC. The reason the DPC is folded back is to protect the wall plates from the now constant rain. Things were getting very wet and very muddy. The weather had caused a delay of eight days, that being the time between the top image taken on the 14th March and the one above taken on the 23rd.


On the 24th I built the six main frames on the ground, then it started raining again so they got covered over and work stopped until the next dry day, the 29th March. Although I had arranged for some help to raise the frames, I became impatient after watching a program called Building Alaska in which it took five or six people to lift a single frame and fix it into place. And they were even then complaining about the weight. These are slightly smaller but were lifted into place and secured without help.

The support timbers seen in the picture held the frames upright while the second was lifted and cable ties were used to hold the frames together while they were screwed together.


On the 30th March the first order of timbers for the roof were delivered and by 8pm on the 31st I had part of the roof built and had run out of timber. Work stopped until my timber suppliers could deliver again, unfortunately the Easter break intervened so the delivery was delayed until Wednesday the 4th April with a second delivery of timber on the 5th. It so happened that the plastics for the walls also arrived that day so it was busy.


Today is the 7th April and the roof is up and watertight, the back walls have started to go up so I am back on track for the projected build time if not the cost.

Actually, I could have saved myself two weeks and 18 tons of sub-base, neither of which is now needed due to a change of design. The change was not planned and not even necessary except for one thing … cost.

The original plan was to have the floor as a concrete screed, cost was £75 per cubic meter of which the floor area needed 6, costing £450 plus VAT, total cost £540. Timber joists £288 plus VAT total cost £345.60, no contest.


A note on the roof construction, The unsupported span is a fraction under 5m so I am using 150mm x 47mm timbers for the main joists at 6m long on 400mm centers. The top joists are 100mm x 47mm also at 6m long. The top joists are posted to the main joists at each end with stud timber in the center. The sloping front also supports the roof by deflecting the weight loading.

On top of the joists I have used 25 of 12mm plywood sheets 2.4 x 1.2. This may seem thin by many, but the decision was taken on a number of levels based on past experience. The first was the weight that I would have to carry up the ladder and place on the roof. The second was cost. The third was calculated on the manner of the construction for the building.

The test for the strength of any roof I build is whether it will support my weight, well this roof does that and more.

The plywood was then painted with bitumen paint to seal it against water ingress before being covered with 7m x 6m sheets of pond liner. two positioned side by side with a third positioned centrally over the join. The last two were positioned over the first and sealed down with double sided bitumen pond repair tape. Once the front panels are in place the whole roof will be covered with a heavy duty bitumen cap sheet.

So now we are up to date with progress.


The Railway Has Started … Again

Constructing the cabin to house the railway is only part of the challenge, the other is building the layout. I am an impatient sort, wanting everything to be done yesterday, but I can stand in one place for 3 hours just to take a picture, (yes photography is my main hobby), so I have infinite patience.


The first start was a diorama which kept me busy in the autumn evenings, this was cut up into 5 pieces when I moved it into another room … second start. It rapidly became obvious that that was never going to work because I like big and the room was simply not big enough, especially when I was considering including an air field / show ground in the layout.


The question was, what to do and how to do it? the answer proved to be simple. The cabin will not be ready for some time so instead of thinking big, I needed to think small. In fact I needed to think modular. This light bulb moment came while reading a copy of Railway Modeller in which was being discussed exhibition layouts, all of which have to be modular to be transported.


This approach allows me to work on sections of the layout to completion during the evenings or inclement weather, and makes them easier to store until needed. As the frame is made from 3×2 timbers they are sturdy enough to be moved without cracking and eventually bolted together. The addition of legs and we have a complete layout with only the joins to cover.

You may notice from the image above that the scene is part of the first diorama, this has been cut and placed on the frame so that the other end of the original can be fitted on the left, thus rebuilding the back half of the original. The frame at the back needs to be strengthened with cross members, but the front will be left open with the MDF board fitted to the underside of the frame to provide a lower level. I will eventually use the same approach to recover all of the elements from the original diorama thus eliminating waste.


Broken Ribs Delays Construction … Not

Since the last blog an argument with a very large tree branch resulted in me sustaining broken ribs and some damage to my leg. Funny how close calls focus the mind, 150cm to the left and this would not have been written.

However, we never let a little thing like aches and pains stop the important matter of the cabin being built. So since the incident I have discovered a source of hardcore at the bottom of the garden with which to infill the base.


There is about 38 tons in here so far with around another 4 tons still to be moved, I should perhaps mention that the bottom of the garden is 80m away and I only have a small wheelbarrow. by the time the remainder is moved and levelled it will be just level with the base of the top row of blocks.

This will be covered with the 14 tons of sub-base over which the DPC will sit. Then the ‘easy’ part, 7m/8m of concrete to the top of the wall and the inside is finished and the frame construction can begin.

The area to the right is also being filled, raising the level to the height of the existing patio area which will also be relaid. the area to the left is to be concreted or paved to give easy access for bringing things into the back garden.


Building verses Building

Building verses Building may sound an odd title, but the time of year allows for both. Building the building to house the layout and building the buildings and other items for the layout.

The cold weather has stopped me from laying the walls, frosty nights can cause fresh concrete to crack, however I have had the rest of the blocks delivered, all 13 tons of them, and they are now in the garden from where they can be used easily.

I prefer to have all the materials in the right place before I start a project, otherwise I have to keep stopping to bring the materiel in or wait for the suppliers to deliver. The latter can also mean that good weather is wasted. In England good weather is intermittent so it is always advisable to have everything ready just in case the sun shines.

So having been stopped from any major construction work outside I turn my attention to the modelling inside and to the general planning for what is to come.

I have started to build my own railway company in 00 scale, “Golden Railways”, it will run between Diamond Junction and Platinum Beach Station through Emerald Valley. This will be a single diorama enclosed by a scenic break at each end and will feature a double track, (up and down line), both ends will enter a tunnel, the one by PBS will enter the fiddle yard while the DJ end will link to the main line running tracks. This will allow me to begin working on the layout proper while building the cabin.


Preperation Preperation Preperation


So time has allowed the start of the construction on the cabin. It took a few days for me to dig out the foundations the ground is uneven so the far end is down two and a half feet while the near end is about 8 inches deep. 19 tons of ballast was delivered of which 6 tons is under the blockwork foundation.

I got permission to build this a year ago but work on the house and garden delayed it. interestingly when I dug the foundation I discovered the base of a pre-existing building under the far end which has explained the odd placed walls we had above ground. These have been removed although I have salvaged the brickwork for use later.

I am using dense concrete blocks for the foundation to avoid the extra expense of using shuttering and because part of the base is above ground. The next stage is to align the corner blocks and get them cemented into place. As you will notice the blocks are not exactly level, this is partly due to the ground but mainly due to settlement. I will allow this to continue for a while before putting a concrete screed over the top to bring the surface level before I start building.

By way of explanation, this method of laying a foundation was suggested to me by a planning officer some years ago when I built a 11m x 5m garage for which the 2m high walls were all of 150mm blocks. This design will happily support the foundation and walls to window level above which will be timber framed construction.



Starting again in Norfolk.

As mentioned in the intro, I am now resident in Norfolk with a large garden. The house is being renovated (by me) so until now most of my time has been involved with that work. Now most of it is done apart from rebuilding an old extension, but that can wait a few years.

Now anyone who has ever decided to build a model railway layout will know the initial decision must be one of scale. I decided that I would stick to 00 since I find N gauge to fiddly and 0 gauge to big for most indoor spaces.

So being one who likes to think big (then reduce to reality) my first plan was to build a shed 25 meters long by 10 meters wide. The ground was marked out for the base, then the house interfered. Well it needed to be renovated so we had somewhere to live. Plans on hold … again.

As time passed two points occurred to me, no heating and no power, added to which I would still have to wait until the shed was built, so I decided to use the old extension building, which were in fact a double classroom prefab unit. This caused its own problems, still no heating which was solved by the purchase of a calor gas heater, and no power which had been disconnected from the supply as it was lethal. This was solved in part with an extension cable. But it also had the problem of all the garden tools and spare wood being stored in one side and unpacked boxes in the other.

So I began the layout with an 8ft x 4ft diorama in out rear reception room, the idea was to give me something to do in the evenings as winter approached. The diorama was completed in six weeks. So a small garden shed was purchased and one of the classrooms was emptied, so the railway had somewhere to start being built.


Problem number one, the diorama would not fit through the doors into the classrooms so had to be cut into sections. in the end it was cut into five sections of which two have been rejoined using an extension section in the middle to utilise the full width of the classroom. The other pieces are still intact and are to incorporated into the final layout.


As you may notice from the first image, I want to include a display ground to include traction and steam vehicles, and aircraft. The layout is loosely based around the early 1950’s … very loosely. With the staging built it became very obvious that the display ground was going to be difficult to fit in and the airfield stood no chance. The only thing to be done to this layout since that realisation is the completion of a running track using old points which derail wagons and coaches and even the locomotives, so that will need to be altered. removal of the points will solve the problem.

The running track allows me to service and run the locos, especially those bought for spares or repair or as non runners. Some have remained as non runners until I can replace the motors, but with the motors removed these operate as free runners which I can double head with working locos.

For the time being I am focusing my attention on servicing the engines, customising some locos, building and painting the scenic items for the layout. Thus far the main station has been built along with the signal box and a few other items, Wagon loads are being created to be interchangeable between the various wagons. I will go into more detailed blogs on this work later. What I did find interesting was that the Metcalfe station kit I used was an almost identical design of building to my old school, so a second kit has been obtained for conversion.

So what is happening with the layout? Well the shed, now referred to as the Cabin (man cave), is back on the drawing board. The size has been modified to a smaller size, 12.5m x 5m, which is about half of the original planned length. This is mainly due to the cost of the building and the amount already spent on the renovation of the house. That being said there is scope for the cabin to be extended to 30m or more, (dream on).

On the 8th January 2018 I began digging out the foundations so a start has been made on the final plan. Rain stopped work on the 10th January, but that is the British weather for you, but I have made a start outside and have work to do inside, so I can keep busy.



Model Railway

On this page of the blog I am going to detail the process I am going through to get to the layout I want to build. It will provide some details of the background to my interest, and detail the thought processes, the abortive starts, the changes of mind, and the forseen derailments of the plans.

The start of my interest in railways was in the age of steam, 1958 to be exact, when on a trip to London I disappeared from my parents side on the platform of Kings Cross station. While my mother was going frantic, father was qalm and knew exactly where to find me. They walked to the footplate of the loco to find me talking to the engine driver.

But the start of this adventure was really back in 1964 when I began buying and selling toys, mainly railway items, and found that I was accumulating the beginnings of a collection of rolling stock and locos. The most I paid for any item in those days was £2.00.

It was not until 1967 that my father built me a model railway layout to use the collection, it was in the largest bedroom of our two bedroom home. It was an end to end layout, 17 feet long and 3 feet wide with a 5 foot turning circle at one end.

It took him three weeks to build and contained 3 miles of electrical cable, the hardest part was a two inch section of track which created a dead short, this was eventually solved and the layout was ready for me to play with.

Being mid summer however, I also wanted to spend some time playing outside with friends, so the day after completion out I went, dad never came home early from work … until that day. By the time I returned home an hour later the railway was being ripped apart, never to return.

I sold off the ‘collection’ and walked away from train sets to focus on my main hobby of photography. In that area I was relatively successful and it also provided me with quality time with my father in a subject he also enjoyed.

My interest in photography eventually took me to the Bressingham Steam Railway and reignited the spark of interest in the railways of the steam age, in the 1970’s a friend had contacts in the rail yard at Finsbury Park where the Racehorse Deltics were on shed. There was a special running on the day we visited and I was there to do some ‘professional’ photography.

This was at the start of the period when the Deltics were being phased out, but I continued to have preferential access to the depot, and was even invited to ride the cab from Kings Cross to Finsbury Park at the end of a Nene Valley Special. This was handy as we had parked the car at the latter depot so it saved us the walk back.

Through the 70s I tried one more time to build a layout but a divorce got in the way and once again everything was sold off. After the divorce I restarted the toy ‘business’ and began accumulating more railway items which were packed away in boxes.

After moving back from Scotland I began building another layout in a small garden shed, this was great in the summer, but winter came and with it the sub zero temperatures. With no heating the project was abandoned and in 2010, with the statement of ‘never again’, I sold off all my collection of railway items which had grown considerably.

Some one once said ‘Never say Never’, perhaps I should have listened, because in January 2017 I sold my family home and moved to Norfolk. This move had three main effects in relation to the railway, a one third of an acre of garden allowed for the space to build a dedicated cabin of consider able size, the money from the sale of the house allowed funds to start restocking the layout, and the time to spend on building without the pressures of the outside world to interfere with my plans. Well two out of three are not bad.