Category Archives: Videos

Fowler 0-6-0DM Diesel Shunter (Backwoods Miniatures)

Fowler 0-6-0DM (Backwoods Miniatures) Chassis Test

For a very long time now I have been mulling over the build of this tiny little narrow gauge diesel shunter. I think I asked for it on my birthday in my teens and it likely sat in storage for about 10 years before I ever plucked up the courage to attempt to build it. Even that was probably 10 years ago, but anyway… here we are!

My first attempt at building the body required the punching of rivets into the partly formed rivet moulds in the nickel silver etched sheet, which stopped me from working on this model for most of those 10-something years. I eventually plucked up the courage to have a go and I used a small steel rivet punch (that looks like a large needle) and a small hammer. Unfortunately, I thoroughly wrecked the bonnet of the model, created badly matched rivets and made the model look like it had been in some kind of accident with a heard of cows.

I kindly asked the proprietor of Backwoods Miniatures if I could trouble him for a fresh set of etches, which I required for around about £30. I then bought myself a proper miniature rivet punch to avoid such things ever happening again.

I also put together the chassis and gearbox and I think it was one of the first ones that I ever built. Returning to the model after a 12-month break (maybe longer), I decided to have a good look at how well the model is running before I take the plunge and start fitting outside frame coupling rods.

My tests have shown that the pick-up arrangement seems to work fine. I remember modifying it slightly so that it didn’t put too much adverse friction on the free running wheels. The model sits on the rear axle in the smaller of the two bonnets and does seem to struggle to gain traction often with the driving axle spinning with no discernable movement.

Fowler 0-6-0DM Diesel Shunter (Backwoods Miniatures)

Fowler 0-6-0DM Diesel Shunter (Backwoods Miniatures)

Weighting it down correctly seems to be the potential key to success, but I am mindful that all of the wheels will be very reliant on the coupling rods forcing them into motion from the lone driving axle. Luckily for me, it may be possible to make the coupling rods a bit more robust by soldering two sets together (as I have two sheets of parts). This also means I have a couple of chances to get it right without wrecking the coupling rods.

I have practiced with putting two weights on top of each bonnet to see what the ideal balance of weight is to achieve smooth running across all axles, but it does seem to escape me somewhat. I wondered whether the body was rocking on the axles, but I have checked and it seems fine (although, the gearbox rocks a little when in motion). So far the best arrangement involves dropping the weight into the cab (as I am starting to suspect that the patchy stop-start running is something to do with the middle axle.

I have tested all the pick-ups and it seems to work very well with its live-chassis arrangement, but it does need a fair amount of power (between 50 and 80 on my Gaugemaster controller) to get it moving.

Although it would be nice to see it running better, I think it can only be improved by taking the risk and fitting the outside frame coupling rods and seeing how the model copes with having all the wheels connected to the motion. When will I do this? Who knows, it still seems a bit scary. 😉

Grasslands Out!

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Rapido Model Rail Skirtless J70 Steam Tram

J70 Steam Tram Sound Project

It will be no major surprise to those that follow my blog that the release of Model Rail Magazine and Rapido Trains’ J70 Steam Tram is something that I am very excited about.

The main motive power on Brewery Pit is based around these little steam trams that originally operated on the Wisbech and Upwell branchline with some of the trams finding their way to Ipswich and Yarmouth docks in the later part of their lives.

I have built two kits of these steam trams so far. One resin cast J70 from a Silverfox kit and a brass version of the earlier Y6 0-4-0 from a now-defunct Connoisseur kit.

I have always had a dream of scratch building a ‘skirtless’ J70 steam tram so all of the valve gear could be on display. I even started a forum topic on RMweb about this, but it seemed that I would likely have to create a small chassis myself as there was no propriety chassis with such a small wheelbase available.

Model Rail/Rapido Trains J70

To my complete surprise Model Rail then announced that they planned to commission Rapido Trains to create a J70 with open and closed front door options and ‘skirted’, ‘skirtless’, and ‘partially skirted’ versions.

I was lucky enough to run an early prototype of the Rapido Trains J70 back in December while exhibiting Brewery Pit at the National Festival of Railway Modelling and I found it to be a lovely smooth runner, which easily navigated the tram lines on my layout.

I have now ordered three of these little tram critters, each with a slightly different skirt arrangement. That takes my total steam tram locomotive stock up to x5. I keep considering getting another skirted version, but I need to stop listening to that wanting (and expensive) voice in my head.

Excessive Steam trams

Excessive Steam trams

DCC Equipment

Mind you, the model is hardly expensive in terms of a OO gauge model in 2019. At £127, with a range of extras in the box and a booklet, it really is a bargain for such a fine quality item. I also discovered that the model comes pre-installed with a sugar cube speaker, thus reducing the cost of installing DCC sound.

I asked the advice of my friend John Gay of JMRC what can be squeezed into the limited area of the chassis in terms of digital circuitry for sound and he advised I focus on Zimo decoders, so I set myself the task of attempting to not only fit sound to one of these tiny steam trams but to also fit a stay alive capacitor in the limited space.

I purchased a Zimo MX6496N 6-pin sound decoder and purchased a J70 sound pack from Digitrains which came pre-installed on the sound chip, a sugar cube speaker (not realising that the model included one already installed) and a tiny SACC16 stay alive charging circuit.

I decided to fit the sound decoder to the ‘skirtless’ version of the J70 as I thought it would be great to see the valve gear in motion as it chuffs in sequence with the wheels. I noticed a certain clunky movement to this tram while performing running-in duties on the rolling road, and decided to swap out the chassis for the one in my partially skirted model (which ran a little smoother). Now don’t get me wrong, both are excellent runners, but I wanted my first sound fitted steam model to be as smooth as possible.

DCC Equipment for the J70

DCC Equipment for the J70

Chassis Removal

Removing the chassis is very simple, but care needs to be taken with how you hold the chassis as you don’t want to damage or interfere with the valve gear which is designed to fit in an incredibly tight space.

Four tiny screws easily release the chassis from the main body of the loco with the full chassis lifting out of a slot within the diecast moulding of the trams skirts, revealing beneath that diecast boiler is hollowed out to fit the coreless motor and speaker inside.

On the chassis, the little speaker is taped down above the worm gear on a small square bracket with red and black wires prepared for soldering onto the sound decoder. There is a six-pin socket at and circuit board at the front of the chassis that will take the Zimo decoder.

Chassis of the J70

Chassis of the J70

DCC Sound and ‘Stay Alive’ Charging Circuit

The Zimo decoder does not come pre-fitted with a harness to attach the stay alive capacitor, so it requires soldering directly onto the positive ground and negative outputs. In order to do this and allow the Zimo sound decoder to easily fit in the gap between the 6-pin harness and the speaker, I had to first shorter the 6 pins so they fit flush in the harness and then I cut away some of the plastic insulation from the decoder to allow me to access the outputs for the stay alive charging circuit.

The SACC16 charging circuit is a very interesting design, which allows for the installation of various extra capacitors and tantalums (strange yellow bricks which act as a small capacitor). The pack comes with one tantalum and x1 14v capacitor, but there is no way the larger 14v capacitor will fit inside the hollowed out boiler of the steam tram. For now, I decided to fit the tantalum and I might fit an extra tantalum when I install sound in my next tram. As the decoder and SACC16 are so tiny to solder reliably, I decided to utilise some solder paste that I purchased a few months ago, which can simply be rubbed onto the connection area with a cocktail stick and is a mix of flux and solder particles; all you have to do is touch the soldering iron on the paste and it suddenly becomes molten metal for those few precious seconds until it goes nice and hard.

SACC16 Charging Circuit

SACC16 Charging Circuit

I tested the sound decoder on my decoder tester which includes its own speaker. I do this to ensure that the decoder is working fine before I attempt to install it within the locomotive. I then tested the decoder on the steam tram chassis with both of the sugar cube speakers (the pre-installed one and the one that I purchased). Unfortunately for me, the temporary wired speaker arrangement created a short circuit, which burnt out my expensive sound decoder, leaving me in dismay for one evening, but luckily I was told that Digitrains operate a decoder repair service for £18 and sure enough, I had a replacement decoder sent out to me for the easter bank holiday.

It soon became apparent that the pre-installed speaker operates perfectly fine and sounds a little better than the purchased sugar cube in my sonic opinion. In addition, it isn’t possible to install the more oblong-shaped sugar cube speaker into the boiler as the boiler is clearly pre-moulded to accommodate the pre-installed speaker.

I found that if both the SACC16 and the sound decoder are taped down and sit lower than the speaker, near the front of the loco, then the whole package of electronics and motors will easily fit back inside the under-frame of the tram.

J70 Chassis with Zimo Decoder and SACC16 Stay Alive Charging Circuit

J70 Chassis with Zimo Decoder and SACC16 Stay Alive Charging Circuit

Here is a video of the steam tram sound FX in action. Apparently, the sound files included on the decoder include x3 different engine sound packages including heavy loaded engine, light engine and an extra broken cylinder version (which needs to be unlocked with CV values). The sound is very effective and realistic, but I will reduce the volume on the bell as it sounds a bit loud to my ears.

Windows and Details

Next, I pushed out the moulded windows with a cotton bud and replaced them with the etched windows provided in the detail pack. These require the windows to be cut to shape from acetate or plasticard. This is quite a fiddly operation and I found that it was easiest to cut the perspex to the correct shape and then paste the edges with non-frosting superglue and then drop the window frame down onto the plasticard and move it into position.

J70 Window Frames

J70 Window Frames

Completed J70 Windows

Completed J70 Windows

I then glued the windows in place in an open position, as I imagine it was blumming hot in these little sheds!

I also included a little lamp, which is actually unpainted white metal, which I have dabbed a bit of the non-frosting superglue to so it looks like a bulb. I would have really liked to wire the lamp up, but it is complicated to see how it can be done without drilling through the diecast under-frame, but I still may need to find a way to do that in order to fix my preferred couplings to the model, but that will have to wait until next time.

DCC J70 with Sound on Brewery Pit

DCC J70 with Sound on Brewery Pit

Grasslands out!

Q1 on Brewery Pit

Brewery Pit at the National Festival of Railway Modelling 2018, Peterborough

I took Brewery Pit on a road trip from Swindon to Peterborough to exhibit the layout at the National Festival of Railway Modelling in Peterborough.

Over the weekend of the 8th-9th of December I exhibited Brewery Pit at the National Festival of Railway Modelling which was held in the East of England Arena in Peterborough.

I have been very busy preparing Brewery Pit for this exhibition in recent months and have made many changes to the layout including building a new back-scene, making a lighting rig, motorising the points and creating a control panel, all of which I plan to discuss in future blog posts.

Setting up Brewery Pit

I travelled over to Peterborough with my car packed full of model railway on the Friday night before the show while suffering from a bad cold and set up the bulk of the railway in the arena that night. This gave me chance to check that the new point motor system was operating. I then retired back to a hotel to do some last minute work on some other items including the lights on my rig and some of the models I planned to run at the show.

Me and my brother (who kindly acted as my second operator) got up bright and early and got into the arena to make sure everything was working on the model. I got myself a bit confused while connecting up the various lights and I also had a spot of last-minute soldering and wiring to do. Everything was working just fine as people started to come into the show for the advanced ticket bookings.

Days 1 and 2

The first day went by quite quickly as I spent much of the day behind the layout trying to get my Christmas-themed Coca-Cola train to run across the rear line of the layout without crashing into tunnels and buildings. I built the Coca-cola train over the Thursday and Friday nights before the show and although it was a little bit stubborn on that first day of the show, people really loved seeing it and hearing the theme-song playing from inside the containers.

Coca-Cola Train on Brewery pit

Coca-Cola Train on Brewery pit

Brewery Pit in Peterborough

Brewery Pit in Peterborough

I decided to make the Coca-cola train a static display for the Sunday, which gave me more time to operate the layout and talk to visitors. Me and my brother had a fairly consistent stream of discussion about Bulleid’s Leader that was coupled up to the Coca-cola train with many people asking what it was or asking for more information about the kit. A nine-year-old boy eagerly told his Dad about Leader (much to his Dad’s confusion).

Santa driving Bulleid's Leader

Santa driving Bulleid’s Leader

Leader Pulling the Coca-Cola Train

Leader Pulling the Coca-Cola Train

Having left my brother in charge of Brewery Pit, I went off to look at some of the other layouts and there really were some amazing ones on display.

Habbaniya, Iraq 1941

My favourite model of the show was Habbaniya, Iraq 1941. This is a fixed perspective model where the buildings and other items gradually get smaller to the rear of the model giving the impression that the landscape travels much further into the distance than it actually does (I have discussed my love of these models before). This model is a particularly clever one in that it includes various planes, trucks and trees that all scale down gently enough to appear as if you are seeing a whole desert runway scene. It must have taken a lot of planning to achieve.

Habbaniya, Iraq 1941

Habbaniya, Iraq 1941

The Bridge of Remagen

Another model that was amazing was The Bridge of Remagen, which is a fascinating large-scale N gauge layout set in Germany in World War II and focusses on the Ludendorff Bridge. There are lots of fascinating little cameos including bunkers, and flat loaders carrying plane parts and armoured trains. The best feature of the model to me is the river and bridge crossing with very realistic ripply water that seemed to be made from resin and various boats under the long bridge.

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

The Bridge of Remagen

Bournemouth West

Bournemouth West was just behind my layout and is a really realistic model set in the 60s with onboard sound, steam effects and realistic lighting, and the club operating the layout were a really friendly bunch too.

Byway MPD

Beside Brewery Pit was John Gay’s Byway MPD, which is another very realistic model with automatic lighting and a touch panel control panel and some nice onboard engine effects including flickering fireboxes and sound.

Byway MPD

VIP Engines

John had recently digitised Model Rail Magazine’s soon-to-be-released J70 steam tram and Chris Leigh from the magazine brought along the digitised tram to run on his layout for a bit, and sure enough, I ended up having the wonderful opportunity to give it a run with my kit built steam trams for a while.

Model Rail J70 visits Brewery pit

John also let me run his sound-equipped USA Dock-Tank. He’d also fitted a stay alive capacitor system to the loco (much like my trams), which made it perfect for running on Brewery Pit. Find out more about his projects here.

As the final hours ticked away, I bought myself some LED circuit equipment, some nano LEDs and some lamps for setting up over winter and then I and my brother started the job of packing down Brewery Pit and we made our exit from the arena.

It really was a great show and it was so very nice to have such nice comments about Brewery Pit after all the time I’ve put into improving the layout for the show.

Here is a video I made of the show, I hope you enjoy it and Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Grasslands Out!

Visit to: Swindon Railway Festival , September 2016

Today I am going to take you on a retrospective adventure to the Swindon Railway Festival, which I visited on the 11th September at Swindon’s STEAM – Museum of The Great Western Railway.

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I had just returned from a trip to somewhere or other (as I often do) and I was not sure I had the energy to go to the event, but in the end I’m really glad I made the effort.

With Swindon’s ongoing celebrations as part of Swindon 175 there was a strong emphasis on GWR heritage across the full breadth of the GWRs history, including South Wales coal lines, Cornish branch lines and, of course, the surrounds of Swindon itself.

Stand out layouts at the show included Porth St John; a beautiful depiction of Cornwall in the 1930s. I loved the representation of the mudflats beneath the elaborate blue bridge and the fishing nets.

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Photo by Sumita Majumdar

Ynysbwl Fach was also fun to watch and a rarely modelled example of a private coal yard. I think it is maybe the first exhibition layout I have seen that is based on a South Wales colliery. I was even treated to a pronunciation demonstration of the layout’s name (I was close with my first attempt, but didn’t quite get it).

Swindon Model Railway Club’s Fisherbridge was also in attendance with its new collection of 1980s N Gauge rolling stock.

Here is a video from the day:

Visit to: The National Festival of Railway Modelling, Peterborough

Last weekend I visited a model exhibition I have been wanting to go to for years: The National Festival of Railway Modelling in Peterborough.

Finding myself with a weekend with ‘no plans’ I thought I would take the long drive from Swindon (not actually as long as I thought) and take a look.

The first layout I looked at was the N-Gauge ‘Grange-Over-Sands’, with its well represented saltmarsh habitat spanning the front of the layout. I spend a lot of time in my day job studying saltmarsh habitat, so I paid special attention to the little creeks and different patches of vegetation.

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I think ‘Oulton TMD’ (OO-Gauge) was one of my favourite models at the exhibition. It was such a large model and I liked how it was a busy layout, but didn’t look cluttered. I could have spent much longer looking at that one.

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‘Ludlow’ was probably my favourite layout of the show. An N-gauge layout with plenty of sprawling landscape and an assortment of traffic running through the valley on the main line. I really liked the track plan of this layout and it has given me some ideas for a future N-gauge project.

‘Up The Line’ was a very interesting WWI layout built in 16mm narrow gauge. The sound of the distant thump of bombs added to the ambience of this model. I particularly liked the ambulance train (ambience and an ambulance in so many words).

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Another N-gauge model I really liked was ‘Barton Road’ set around London somewhere in the late 60s and included plenty of west country stock (my favourite). It is built in a fascinating ‘T’ shaped arrangement with the off scene fiddle yard placed in the centre of the ‘T’. This allows trains to run off scene at two ends of the ‘T’ and then stock cassettes are swapped to each off-scene area. I really like the arrangement, but, for me, it might need a bit too much concentration to control at a show.

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I also have to mention the BRM Magazine project layout Ruston Quays, what a lovely little model. It shows how much you can do with limited space.

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I got the chance to see a couple of DJM models that had passed me by in my months away from modelling. I saw the Class 71 and would like to keep telling myself I don’t need one in my life, but it looked and sounded great. I also saw the new J94 Austerity which also looks like a brilliant model. There is a nice yellow NCB one that was previously an RMweb exclusive and is now being sold by Kernow (it would look great with a bit of weathering).

So all in all, an enjoyable show. It seemed that every time I filmed a train it cast a curse on the tracks and things would crash or stall, but with a bit of editing I managed to get a decent film out of my footage. Here it is:

Heljan BR Class 05 Diesel Shunter Review (Pt1: Out of the box)

On friday Heljan’s new BR Class 05 arrived on my door step, so I thought I would let you know a thing or two about the model and the prototype:

The prototype
The Hunslet Engine Co 204hp 0-6-0 diesel mechanical was introduced in 1955 and ran in British Railways service until the late 1960s when most of the class was scrapped. A few examples continued life in Departmental and Industrial service and only four of the original fleet of 120 made it into preservation.

Much of their BR working life was spent in North-East England, Scotland, and North Wales.

Likeness to prototype

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This version of the model is based on the later design of the Hunslet, which featured a larger cab with more windows, longer and thicker buffer beam weights, oval buffers, and larger diameter wheels.

This later version only ran in BR Green while in BR service, so anyone who fancy’s modifying the model to its 1950s design will have a fair amount of work to do.

The model seems to match the prototype very well in terms of proportion and general appearance (based on the reference photography I own).

The model even features the coloured jack-shaft seen on many prototypes and the wheel castings are very accurate.

The wheel rims stand out in photography, but anyone planning to do some weathering on the model won’t be too concerned about this.

Level of detail
Heljan models have always featured a wealth of little details and extras. This model is one of the first Heljan diesels I have purchased that has all the details pre-fitted.

All of the details are very finely produced and rival recent Bachmann releases. In fact, you could be easily convinced that this is a Bachmann loco, rather than a Heljan model.

The most impressive bits of detail are the fine mesh that can just be seen between the radiator grills and the cab detail (which features control levers and buttons). The flush glazing is also very impressive.

Wires linking up the lamps are also included (it looks like these will light up). The blue wires that flop over the front buffer beam are also a nice touch.

Here is a turntable video which gives a good overview of the finer details including the etched makers plaque and the cab detail:

Handling
Care is still needed when picking it up as there are a number of details that will not last if frequently handled (including the plunger on the top of the bonnet and the hand rails near the buffer beam).

A few details were bent on the front of the model when I took it out of the box (a hand rail and the tips of the front lamps). I carefully re-adjusted them and reinforced them with some cyano-based super glue.

Chassis
It is a surprisingly ‘solid’ and weighty model. If the motor is good this should be a strong puller.

It rivals the weight of my white metal steam sentinel!

The chassis block and axles are nice and solid with none of that sloppy side-play seen in the Class 14.

The NEM coupling is masked by a colour matched block. I am yet to discover how the block is removed to take the NEM coupling (I might look at this in the next blog).

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Livery application
The BR livery is a convincing shade that matches well with other model manufacturer releases and has the green hue of BR Blue. All black areas are painted matt black.

Box and instructions
The boxes keeps the loco tightly in place, but at the cost of putting a little too much pressure on smaller details.

The instruction sheet has an error where it introduces the model as a Class 33 (Heljan’s previous release). This makes it a bit difficult to be certain whether some of the information that follows (including the motor spec) relates to the Class 33 or 05, but I presume the latter.

However, there is a lot of detail about the Hunslet’s service history included, including livery alternatives and class member allocations.

Conclusion
It is obvious that a lot of time has gone into getting the appearance of this shunter spot on. The weight of the shunter also bodes well for its running qualities, but that will have to wait until part 2.

Brewery Pit at the Chasewater Brewery Locomotive Day

Last Sunday (12th July) I had a great time exhibiting my OO Gauge layout: Brewery Pit at the Chasewater Railway in Staffordshire. The exhibit was included as part of the railways Burton Brewery Locomotive Day.

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Brewery Pit was set up in the Chasewater engine shed where visitors could stop by to photograph the real brewery engines and stock. There is a steam sentinel in the shed, which is of the same design as the one I am building as part of the Five Shunter Challenge. This particular one once worked at the Walsall Gas Works and was apparently the last of its design to be built.

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It was raining at the start of the day, but when the sun broke out at lunch time the crowds of visitors soon followed and enjoyed cab rides and vintage truck displays and the beer tent.

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2015-07-12 13.39.13PSLRIt was great to see Brewery Pit pulling a good crowed, particularly at lunch time. Me and my wife foolishly tried to scoff a full English breakfast as the largest group of visitors arrived to watch the trains run along the layout. I attempted to multi-task, but I admit that the breakfast did go cold.

It was nice to see so many children captivated by the little trains shunting on Brewery Pit. One child insisted that the tram engines were moving too slowly. I tried to explain that they are speed-regulated to 40mph, but I don’t think the child in question was that interested in my justification. One 3-year-old visited three times and had to be dragged away by his Mom.

2015-07-12 13.39.37PSLRI also met up with Joe Stamper and his Dad who brought along their vintage Bass truck for the day. Joe also brought along his delightful model of the Neilson, Reid & Co 0-4-0ST Steam Locomotive that operated in the Bass Breweries in Burton. He tells me that he still has some work to do to it (including replacing the dome). I took some photos of it with some brewery wagons and it really looks the business. Joe has done a great job on the paint work. I’m looking forward to seeing the completed version.

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I was really pleased how many people told me that I had captured the ‘feel’ of Burton-upon-Trent. I only ever see the layout as something that needs ‘more work’, so it is great to get some positive feedback. Many people also asked whether the layout was N-gauge, which doesn’t surprise me as the large buildings at the rear of the layout dwarf the little OO-gauge locos.

My favourite comments from the event were:

  • Toby doesn’t have a face – said by a child watching the J70.
  • Where is Toby’s face? – said by another child watching the Y6.
  • That tram best not have a face! – said by an adult while watching the J70.

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The best bit of the show was watching the brewery engines fire up in the shed and move out outside while we were test running the layout (we then had to wipe the diesel fumes off the track).

See the video below:

I hope that I get to attend next year.