Elkton Creek Smelter II

I painted and assembled some parts of the Elkton Creek Smelter kit this weekend, and even put something of a roof on it.

I installed sheets of transparent film behind the windows before gluing the roof down. The kit came with a single transparent sheet marked with individual windows for modelers to cut out. To save myself a few hours, I used larger sheets of transparent film, cut roughly to the size of each wall or partition. This also had the added benefit of providing more surface area to glue the sheets in place.

I’ve been contemplating whether to add light to my structures, but I think I’ve finally decided not to in an effort to simplify the layout. After I stopped fretting about adding interior details, the model has been coming along much more quickly. There will be plenty of complicated wiring ahead as it is.

The “tarpaper” roof that came with the kit was simply a printed sheet of paper, with no depth or texture. I decided to step it up and cut strips of black construction paper, then laid them individually across the roof. I trimmed the ends after they were all laid down, and am pleased with the results.

In other news, I’ve been researching under-layout switching options, and have decided to use Circuitron’s decoder-equipped SMAIL machines. These aren’t cheap, though, so it will probably be months before I can actually run some engines. 

Before I lay the track down, I will need to remove the springs under the turnout points. This will allow the SMAIL machines to switch the turnouts slowly, with no resistance, but without the springs or the SMAIL machines in place, the points will be loose and cause the system to short out. 

Adding to the cost, I will also need to use “remote” mounts to secure the switch machines in a horizontal position. The module is too shallow for conventional mounting.

Why Little Snoring?

Some readers might be wondering at the name “Little Snoring,” so I want to take a moment to explain.

There is, in reality, a parish called Little Snoring in Norfolk, England. The name derives from “Snear’s People,” (Snear-ingas), Snear being a Saxon invader whose name meant “bright” or “alert.” This has long been my favorite place-name, and it is fitting for a village that will have little trains snoring and snarling about, so I decided to use it.

I don’t intend to model the real Little Snoring; in fact, the nearest railway station is in Sheringham, about 18 miles northeast of Little Snoring. Instead I intend to borrow elements from a number of real locations in an effort to create a plausible but fictitious place. Likely, I will borrow most heavily from Hemyock, but there will certainly be other structures and ideas from other places–maybe even something from Little Snoring. In fact, St. Andrew’s Church might be worth my bodgings:

All in all, Little Snoring Railway will be an “ideal” branch line terminus, to be filled with my own whims and interests as I see fit to add them, and as they seem to fit into the overall project. This approach will provide a lot of flexibility once I begin the process of collecting and modeling engines and wagons. (This is important: I live in the U.S., where the availability of U.K. models is spotty at best.)

Scratchbuilding with Cardstock, Part I

I’ve been working on N Scale Architect’s Elkton Creek Smelter kit, slowly, and will post pictures soon.

I have also been toying with some textures in Photoshop (some were downloaded from Scalescenes.com months ago, and others I found online, ad hoc) in an attempt to design a station that is somewhat akin to the one that used to be at Hemyock. Aside from a few quirks, Hemyock was a typical British light railway station designed by William Pain, who designed a number of stations on the Highworth and Hemyock branches. I originally planned on using a N Scale Architect station (and I still might, depending on how this experiment goes) but the few models offered by that company are distinctly North American and would need some altering.

For those who don’t know, one major difference between railway stations in the U.S. and those in the U.K. (and just about everywhere else in the world) is that most U.S. railway stations are built at ground level, requiring stairs to climb into passenger cars. By contrast, almost all stations in the U.K. are built on distinct platforms with ramps on one or both ends.

Here are pictures of Hemyock Station, front and back, showing the arrangement:

Hemyock Hemyock Rear

To create Little Snoring station in miniature, I plan on printing most parts on cardstock and then folding, cutting, layering, and gluing. Windows are particularly difficult to model, so I will be using plastic molded windows from Tichy. I will also be using Tichy doors for continuity of depth. I don’t want the model to look too “flat,” as commercial cardstock structures tend to do. (I purchased a cardstock kit from Metcalfe last year and, although building it was fun, it tended to look like more like a paper model than a tiny building.)

There are still some missing pieces (sills and lintels, for starters), but here is the attempt I have made so far to approximate Hemyock in 1:148 scale:

Little Snoring Station Page 1


Turntable II

I chose the Peco turntable due to Peco’s promise of a compatible turntable motor, which I’d read about a couple of years ago in a bulletin. Looking into that now, though, it appears that the motor hasn’t yet been released and I’m left wondering if it will be. In the meantime, I will be putting a simple decoder on a Hankscraft 1 rpm motor, which I already have. Tonight I decided to play around with ways to attach the motor to the underside of the turntable.

I almost threaded some small bolts from the topside of the well (which likely would have worked, although I’d have to disguise the screws later) but then I rediscovered a tin full of adhesive zip-tie mounts. These should work just as well, without the mess; I just stuck them to the underside of the well and zip-tied the motor. Here they are in action:

Before using the turntable I will need to fill the bearing with epoxy, as the motor’s shaft is a bit too narrow.

Edit: on July 30 I emailed Peco:


In 2015 I was browsing a bulletin about up-and-coming products from Peco, and noted that there was a turntable motor in development. However, although the turntable motor was slated for a 2016 release, I’ve not seen nor heard of it since, save some third-party sites which claim that it is still in production. Is it? And if so, when is the anticipated release date?

I’m planning to use a 1 rpm motor to power the turntable, for now, but I very much anticipate the day when a compact, working, fitting motor is released. Other commercial solutions are far too large and complicated.

Thank you for your time,

Aaron Mitton

Today I got this response:

Dear Mr Mitton,

Thank you for your email.

We are progressing with the turntable motor unit, and aim to have it available later this year.

Kind regards,
A. Beard, PECO Technical Advice Bureau

Howe & Davis Ltd., Underleys, Beer, Seaton, Devon EX12 3NA

Elkton Creek Smelter I

I purchased the N Scale Architect’s Elkton Creek Smelter kit earlier this year and have been scratching my head trying to figure out what to do with it. Initially I wanted to put it on my Inglenook Sidings layout, but for a number of reasons I didn’t. It’s mostly been sitting in a box on the shelf waiting to be built.

Sadly, the kit has no place on my new layout either… at least, not on the terminus module. It is a large kit with an oddly specific footprint.

 It is likely, though, that I will be expanding the layout onto a second smaller module in the future, making room for the smelter. So, with nothing better to do today, I started the tedious process of removing the Tichy windows from the sprues, trimming the tabs and flashing from them, and then cutting away the walls and other structural components from the sheets.

I spray-painted some of the micro-plywood walls red, then spray-painted the windows and doors white. I started putting in some windows, but didn’t have time to finish.

Turntable I

Using the template provided in Peco’s turntable kit as a guide, I put a hole in the module surface for the turntable. Having limited space for “real” tools, I used a hole-saw attachment for my Dremel. It worked well except the lock-nut loosened up early on, which made the hole a bit too wide.

I ruminated over this problem while laying down strips of 3.25″ x 36″ Midwest brand cork. Halfway through I realized that, if I used the scraps of cork to line the hole, I could sand it to the proper diameter. It worked perfectly. I covered the entire surface of the module with cork, then sanded it down to reduce any rough edges.

Module Surface

I built a shallow frame for the terminus module using 3/4″ birch ply and 1×3 dimensional common boards. Before inserting the 1×3 ribs, I printed a 1:1 scale blueprint of the layout (a great feature of Anyrail). This enabled me to avoid placing the ribs directly beneath turnout switches and the turntable, as these will require some clearance for under-table motors. I also drilled holes in the ribs about 1/2″ from the surface side wherever tracks will pass over, for wires to pass through.

The floors are not at all level in our house and the bookcase doesn’t have levelers, so I’ve attached levelers to the ribs located 10″ in from each end.

Terminus Track Plan

I downloaded a demo version of Anyrail, a track-planning program, and after devising several dozen variations of Hemyock I’ve finally come up with a track plan that I’m happy with.

I was determined to include a turntable for operational interest and a roundhouse for storing locomotives.

So, without further adieu:


Little Snoring Smelter

All track components, including the turntable, are Peco Code 80. All turnouts are electrofrog, which should (with a few modifications) keep operations smooth after I switch to DCC. Eventually, I would like all locomotives, all turnouts, and the turntable to be operated by a single handheld controller.

Big thank you to Tony’s Trains (which, incidentally, is only minutes down the road from my house) who assisted me with ordering all track. Ordering from Tony’s was more convenient than ordering piecemeal elsewhere (and it was considerably cheaper, too).

Bookcase Benchwork I

This past week I started building a poplar bookcase which will eventually be crowned with a shelf layout in N-gauge. The layout will be loosely modeled after Hemyock Station on the Culm Valley Light Railway.

Culm Valley

The bookcase is roughly 60″ long and 54″ tall, with 11.25″ deep shelves and a 14″ wide top. It will replace two existent bookcases along a wall in the study. The layout proper will be 66″ long and 16″ wide. Eventually, I will build modular additions which will be stored away when not in use, and the layout will be removable for expanded operation.