Close Encounters of the 7mm kind…

     I mistaken thought that I had managed to put any ideas of modelling in 7mm scale behind me. But a year on from my first experiments I find myself needing an even stronger magnifier to see what I am doing, the arthritis in my hands and fingers isn’t getting any better either. So small components are becoming even more difficult to handle and work, they are also being dropped on the floor more often, which leads to frustration at times. So having taken all things into consideration temptation got the better of me earlier this year and I ended up purchasing a Dapol / Lionheart 74XX Pannier tank.  To be honest I had always wanted one since they first burst on the scene several years ago, so when they became available again at bargain prices I snapped one up. My thinking being that if a layout of sorts didn’t materialise then I could always sell it, 7mm models tending to hold, or increase in value. Dapol had also announced plans to produce examples of Collett’s 14/ 48/ 58XX family of tank engines, which more or less tipped me over the edge.

Photos of 1405 courtesy of Paul Marshall-Potter, those of 7444 by yours truly.

I also bought a three Dapol goods wagons and a few wagon kits to help me get a feel for the larger models. The Dapol wagons were purchased more as an aid to some speedy layout planning really. It is all very well plotting things out on paper, but sometimes a few items of stock come in more useful than card templates when checking clearances  and accurate train lengths etc, etc. Previous planning exercises have proved that I could build a small 7mm scale layout in the space currently occupied by Llangunllo. But I needed to make doubly sure that I could build my sort of layout in its place before I thought about dismantling it. I will explain all about my sort of layout in a forthcoming post.

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A spoiler of things to come?

So I drew up a plan of action, I had already come up with a few layout plans but before getting carried away I set myself a few tasks. First of all I would build a wagon kit, followed by the shell for my intended station building, and finally I would try my hand at track construction.

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I started off with this Peco kit for a GWR AA3 16T Brake van, which I prefer to the larger 20T cousins. Being slightly shorter it is ideal for the sort of layout that I have in mind. Despite the age of the kit, which dates back to the 1980’s the components are very nicely detailed and fit together extremely well. I also found the component parts easy to handle  and for once I wasn’t constantly dropping things on the floor.

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My first 7mm scale kit build waiting to be weathered, the transfers were purchased from  Railtec-models, the Kington name being a custom job. According to my research W56010 was allocated to ‘Tondu’ and survived well into the late 1950’s. So once again I claim modellers licence, which explains how the van ended up at Kington.

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So far so good, ‘Llanrhaiadr Mochnant’ station building was next on my list of projects. The actual building was situated on the Tanat Valley Railway, not that I have any plans to base my layout in that area. At this stage I just wanted to construct the shell of the building rather than a full blown model, The idea being to see what would, and what wouldn’t work in the space that I have available. This particular building was chosen for two reasons, firstly it is on the small side and secondly I feel that it is full of character. The prototype was built from corrugated iron sheet but I am thinking of modelling it as a timber building, and with a slate roof. At the moment the roof is a simple piece of thin card, which for the benefit of the photo has just been tacked in place. The proper roof will be made out of ‘Palight’ like the rest of the building.

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The small extension on the left of the building is the ladies W.C, which in later years was removed and replaced with an extra office.

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Finally a few thoughts on track, when my friends first became aware of my interest in 7mm scale the subject of S7 was mentioned. That was something that I quickly nipped in the bud, for I had no desire to change the wheels of locomotives and rolling stock,  I had spent thirty odd doing just that whilst working in ‘EM’ gauge. So it was down to a choice of 32 mm, 31.5 mm or 31 mm gauge, I was advised to forget the former, steer clear of the latter, and to use 31.5 mm gauge seeing as would be building my own track. So I went shopping for track gauges, sleepers and crossing timbers would be 1.5 mm ply as supplied by Slater’s, I also used their rail. Rail chairs, slide chairs and fishplates were sourced from C & L Finescale.

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A friend who has mastered ‘Templot’ printed out some track templates and away I went. Following my usual track building methods I glued the sleepers directly to the template, which will be glued directly to the track bed using waterproof PVA.

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Despite the slightly narrower gauge, my hand built track actually looks wider than the 32 mm gauge track produced by Peco, which just goes to show how correct sleeper size and spacing affects the overall appearance. Being more than satisfied with the appearance of the plain track and turned my attention to a simple point. Once again I used my usual construction methods and started off building the crossing as a complete unit. However rather than build it up on thin copper strip as I would when working in 4mm scale, I used some 1 mm square brass.

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Once the complete assembly had been soldered together it was cleaned up, rail chairs were slid in place and the crossing was glued to the sleepers using a mix of ‘Araldite’ for the brass strips, and Butanone for the rail chairs. This isn’t the place for a blow by blow account of point construction, and anyway there are plenty of tutorials on the internet. So moving on, what surprised me was how easy the job turned out to be, in fact I am convinced that it was far easier then working in 4mm scale. I believe that is down to larger components being easier to handle and work, a larger file can also be used which speeds up the removal of metal when making the crossing vee and switch blades.

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After approx eight hours work, spread over a couple of days I had my first B6 point. Initial testing proved to be more than successful with both kit built and Dapol wagons gliding  through the point ever so smoothly, as you can imagine I was really pleased. So what next? – well once the tie and stretcher bars have been fitted the point will be wired up with the aid of some jump leads and tested. If my Pannier negotiates it smoothly then the point and track that I have built so far will be glued down onto the track bed, and go on to form the first section of my proposed layout. A ‘Tortoise’ motor will be fitted and everything will be wired up correctly, then tested again. Ballasting will follow along with the staining of the timbers, the chairs and rail will be painted and first section of track bed will be attached to the baseboard frames.

These small projects have taught me a lot, best of all I have enjoyed myself and I think I am almost ready to let go of 4mm modelling. It is funny how my eye has now adjusted to the larger scale and now my 4mm models that look strange. I never thought I would say that but in my case it is true. As I type this the components of another wagon kit are awaiting assembly, I was warned that they could be addictive and so it has proved.

Geoff

 

 

15 thoughts on “Close Encounters of the 7mm kind…

  1. After reading several ‘getting started’ websites I actually found this article more useful!
    The tip of making up a building for sense of scale is so obvious after reading about it.
    Interesting use of brass in making up the crossing piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Garath I’m very pleased that you found this post interesting.

      Good luck with your future modelling.

      Geoff

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  2. Hi Geoff
    Thank you for providing insights into your decision on choosing a 31.5 mm track gauge. Your explanation has really given me a better understanding of its merits and has helped me in coming to a conclusion in favour of 31.5 mm also.
    Many thanks for the information on the sourcing of track components, its very helpful and much appreciated.
    I really value your insights and shared learning and I shall continue following your journey, and progress, with much interest.
    Best regards
    Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a pleasure to help Paul, I myself received much valuable advice from some well known 7mm scale modellers, so it is good to be able pass it on and do my bit 🙂 To begin with I just couldn’t get my head around using a less accurate track gauge, but the penny finally dropped.

      You might find this of interest……….https://85a.co.uk/forum/view_topic.php?id=1394&forum_id=1. The link will take you to the ‘Templot Club’, there is no need to be a member to read it.

      Best Regards,
      Geoff

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      1. Thank you for the link Geoff, and very interesting reading.
        This will be my first tentative steps into hand building track and I have been looking at appropriate resources to help me along the path. So much appreciated!
        Best regards
        Paul

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Geoff
    Thank you for your invaluable insights and the detailed sharing of your journey into 7mm, this is much appreciated!
    I am considering 7mm modelling and have been wrestling with the same question re track gauge. Looking at the Gauge-0 Guild guides I see they suggest 32mm as the track gauge for ‘fine standards’ (33mm for Scale Seven).
    Might I ask what persuaded you to adopt 31.5mm?
    Best regards
    Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Paul,,
      I am so pleased that you are finding my journey into the world of 7mm scale modelling of interest.

      In reply to your question, I adopted 31.5mm standards for the following reasons. To begin with the running qualities of both kit and ready to run stock is superior, there being minimal lateral slop of the wheel sets, which also pass through the frogs or common crossings far more smoothly. That is because the wheels are fully supported as they pass through the crossing so don’t drop as they jump the gap. Due to the finer tolerances of the crossings and check rails the track looks much better, that is despite it being narrower than 32mm gauge. To my eye the 31.5mm track actually looks wider than Peco’s 32mm offering.

      I rejected S7 because I didn’t want the hassle of changing wheels and modifying models to suit, I had enough of that lark whilst working in EM.

      Should you decide to go down the same route then you will find that Slater’s N/S rail is / was almost half the price of C & L’s. Of course the latter’s rail is what they call HiNi which is supposed to look like steel, frankly I can’t tell the difference between it and Slater’s. If you intend using ply sleepers and timbers then once again Slater’s are far cheaper, they also offer a superb mail order service as well, best mention that I have no connection with them apart from being a satisfied customer.

      I am putting another post together about my experiences with the various wagon kits and RTR products, it will also feature more about my track. In the meantime if I can be of any further assistance then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      Hoping my reply is of some use to you,

      Best Regards,
      Geoff

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  4. “…the arthritis in my hands and fingers isn’t getting any better either. So small components are becoming even more difficult to handle and work, they are also being dropped on the floor more often, which leads to frustration at times.”

    I’m having exactly the same problems Geoff, couple that with a neurological illness that gives constant chronic fatique and it’s doubly frustrating! So your latest post has definitely stuck a chord and I’m having very similar thoughts! If I can sell all my OO & N gauge stuff, and a few (lot!) of my 1/72nd aircraft models I might be able to free up enough cash and room to have a O loco,couple of wagons and a small working diorama! At least I don’t have a lovely layout to dismantle first!

    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to learn that you are still suffering Keith.

      It is well worth you thinking of selling your collection and doing something similar, especially if you are having difficulty handling and working on small models. Last year I sold the last of my surplus models, locos that I will never get around to converting to ‘EM’, along with unmade kits. and models that see very little use. I have however kept the models that have sentimental value to run on Llangunllo during in its final days, and Llanbister Rd. So far The proceeds of the sale have financed my 7mm scale exploits to date, and there is still plenty of cash in the kitty for another loco and a few more goods wagons, to be honest I will be more than happy with that:-)

      Best Wishes,
      Geoff

      I

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Geoff. I’ve just had a look at that Minerva Class 14 announcement – that could finally make my mind up!!

        All the best

        Keith

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  5. Good evening Geoff,
    Thanks for another insightful article, I really appreciate you putting thoughts and comments online to share your knowledge and experiences. Despite presuming that I’m younger than you (my preference would be for a diesel ‘trip’ loco (D95xx)) I share your enthusiasm for border-country branchlines and byways loaded with character.
    In recent years I’ve become more realistic about what I can achieve, luckily skills learnt in the past means I’m still able to enjoy messsing about with DCC. But I know ‘O’ gauge is getting more likely next decade.
    Please continue illustrating your experiments and adventures with your new scale. (e.g. your advice and success with 31.5 mm is invaluable)
    Best regards
    Ian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ian,
      I’m pleased that you found my latest post of interest, it makes it all worthwhile:-) If you are under pensionable age then you would be right in assuming that you are younger than myself:-)

      To start you off on the slippery slope towards 7mm scale you might be interested in this…….
      https://www.minervamodelrailways.co.uk/news/class-14-d95xx-0-6-0-dh-model-coming-in-early-2020/ 🙂 I have a Heljan / Hattons 4mm scale example of the class which can sometimes be seen pottering about on the pick up goods at Llangunllo.

      Good luck with your DCC experiments, in the meantime should you have any questions about 7mm scale, and 31.5mm standards then I will do my best to answer them.

      Best Regards,
      Geoff

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