It has been a busy few days at the Club. Last Friday, a few of us went in to prepare for the Senior's Open Day. George dropped in with the core of the quarry, Rod helped, Dale and I did a few things on the HO layout - most noticeably painting the fascia boards black - and Derek and Ankie set up Bald Mountain in the main hall. More on this later. Jack was there, too, carpet bowls in hand.
A slight variation on the same personnel ran things smoothly enough on Saturday. The public attendance was disappointing for the Seniors - showing how important it is to get the advertising right - but they emphasised that they appreciated our support. Jack was there again, this time with OO locos. He had an A4 Pacific (miraculously, not the same loco number as Dale's) and a very nice model of an SR Adams Radial tank engine. In my youth it was Hornby Dublo, and you had a choice of 3 locos. Now the Hornby range is 113 locos. How times have changed - more on this later. At the end we packed up and wished Derek a happy holiday in Japan with Ankie.
Sunday was another quiet day - much of it devoted to trying to find things that had been put away to make the place tidy. Geoff the Pres and Dale added more fascia boards and I played with a recalcitrant 3 way point. David, George and Martin beavered quietly away and now, by accident not planning, we are developing continuous scenery along a whole section of branchline - from Port Gary, through John's Falls, past the quarry and over the gorge carved out by the river X. Of course, if we were in Devon, that would be the River Exe. Come to think of it, our branchline terminus is indeed based on a station from somewhere in that area. After tea (nice fruit cake, Helen) we tidied up again in preparation for the BRMA visit on Thursday. After the happy day that Geoff the Sec finishes the shelving in the store room, it will be much easier to find things that have been put away.
Now to the "more on that later" things. Bald Mountain, like many of us, is showing her age. She started off as five modules in, I think, 2006. That has now grown to nine modules. Eleven years of mantling and dismantling, and being carted around the state is taking its toll, so we are seeking input from all and any of you.
She remains good to look at, popular with the younger generation (and therefore their parents), and reliable and easy to operate once set up. And to replace totally would be a bald mountain of work.
However, she too was a learning curve, and the N gauge scene has changed over the past decade.
Things that now give trouble:
1) The legs are too wobbly for an exhibition environment.
2) The mechanical connection between modules is wearing, making alignment difficult (critical in N gauge)
3) The track is prone to work loose at the module ends.
4) The electrical connections between modules are becoming unreliable.
5) The old MiniTrix locos donated by Ian have worn out. Typical of their period, they were powerful, heavy and went round tight curves. The bigger new locos need a wider radius (the bogies don't have swivel clearance).
6) Our new smaller locos struggle (with wheelspin) to haul even short trains around the "figure 8" module that has steep grades on long 200mm radius curves. This is the module that contains the Bald Mountain.
7) 40' boxcars are fine on the tight curves, but there is not the trackside clearance to handle new 70' and 80' passenger cars. (They look silly, anyway). Second hand older shorter models are not easy to find.
8) Once upon a time, the Rapido couplings were universal in N gauge, but now all American rolling stock has KaDee style couplings.
We already have possible fixes for some of these deficiencies, but I don't wish to lead the debate. Any suggestions, and preferably real life experience, will be welcome. Send me an email, or discuss it at Club.
We don't intend to try any miracle cures before our next show so no rush, just bear it in mind while looking around.