Tuesday 22 November 2022

New Toy Train for Christmas

Christmas was once a traditional time for toy trains. Not only were toy trains/model trains high on the wish lists of many children (predominantly boys), toy trains also did millions of rounds in shop window track ovals to attract the attention of children and ultimately their parents' money. Societies develops and today it's rare to see a model railway in a shop window and very few children want a model train for Christmas.

The Triang Big-Big Train catalogue no RV 272 Diesel has landed on the Nystrup Gravel rails. Shop manager Petersen isn't amused...

I usually treat myself to an early Christmas present for my railway modelling activities. Last year I bought a static grass applicator. This year I chose a locomotive: a Triang Rovex Big-Big Train locomotive. Not a loco that many serious scale modellers would include in their collections. The 'Big-Big Train' range was introduced in 1966 and with all-plastic track, robust and simple battery powered plastic locos and colourful plastic wagons clearly intended as a toy for children. The range was British 0-scale with 32 mm gauge and in 1967 a narrow gauge loco with a clear Ruston & Hornsby look to it was added to the range together with standard V-skips. 

An illustration from a Big-Big Train set with a curious mix of rolling stock in different scales. 

While the Big-Big Train was 0-scale the Ruston and the skip were clearly to a much larger scale. Anyone with a little knowledge of Ruston & Hornsby locomotives will recognize the model as a Ruston LHT type from the early 1950's. A comprehensive article about the Big-Big Train in 'Narrow Gauge and Industrial Railway Modelling Review' issue 100 from October 2014 compared the model with Ruston drawings and found that the scale of the model is 16 mm scale in height and 14 mm scale in length - effectively making the model a short and stubby LHT. The loco had the same 32 mm gauge as the 0-scale stock and was actually sold in mixed scale sets as illustrated above.

In this image the forward 'lean' is easy to see. I suspect the reason to be a trapped wire to the motor blocking the drive unit's correct placement. Probably a fault that will be quite easy to fix.

For a 1970 toy the detailing is pretty good. The Ruston plate is very close to the original design. The brass handle under the radiator releases the loco body from the frames.

Rear view of the model that true to prototype Ruston LHT's has only one door in the cab.

I bought the loco mostly because it is a charming combination of a simple toy and a rare early ready-to-run 16 mm scale (well almost) model with a considerably level of detail for it's day. I wonder if the developers of the model had plans to evolve the range into a real industrial railway range of products? The model has been photographed on Nystrup Gravel and looks rather good in company with skips and figures. So far I think the loco will go back into its box and into storage. But in the future a restoration and perhaps even a rebuild is possible.

With the body taken off the battery fittings are visible. The brass levers on both sides of the loco enabled automatic train control with the help of posts added to the track. Photo: Seller's Ebay post.

Contrary to most images online of yellow Big-Big Train Rustons locos my loco is blue with black frames. According to the 'Review' article blue locos were made 1970-1971. My loco arrived safe and well packaged from United Kingdom. Contrary to most of my Ebay-shoppings it came in its original box including original manual and even some of the original wrapping paper! I haven't taken the loco apart and done a thorough examination yet. The exterior looks alright considering it is a plastic toy more than 50 years old. I didn't find any damages apart from a few marks from general use. I noticed a pronounced forward 'leaning' of the locomotive that is also easy to see in the photographs. There is no glazing in the window openings as stated in the 'Review' article. I found no traces of glue on the inside of the cab, so maybe my item never had windows fitted. The loco is rather dirty and will need a 'deep rinse crystal double cleaning with conditioner and wax' as available in the car wash. 

I couldn't resist testing the loco with a 1.5 V battery connected to the motor terminals. It worked and the drive train seems to be alright despite its age. The coupling rods did bind somewhat and I suspect it's the wheels' quartering that may be out of synch. A problem I will look into once the loco lands on my modelling table.  

The Big-Big Train has two sites devoted to it online - visit them at www.bigbigtrain.org.uk and www.thebigbigtrain.com

Page one of the two page manual showing hos to disassemble the loco. Manual is dual languaged English/Swedish.

The original box so important to real collectors. 

The post assembly that could be fitted to the Big-Big Train's plastic track and engage the levers making the loco either stop or change direction depending on which side of the track it was mounted. Quite a clever idea that was actually used on a real industrial railway in Denmark. The assembly was wrapped in what I suspect is the original 1970-71 wrapping paper.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Adding More Background

In July I added a large photo print as a scenic background to my small layout. The printed photo wasn't large enough to cover the entire length of my L-shaped layout. I wasn't worried and in no hurry and would evaluate if the background photo fitted my taste. One thing I quickly found out: having a background that's not long enough for the full layout didn't appeal to me. As one of my current small tasks I have now fitted the missing pieces of background to the complete layout. 

The photographic backdrop now also provides an illusion of a railway in a landscape at the loading ramp.

To lengthen the background I ordered an identical photo poster in the same size (90x270 cm) only with the image mirrored horizontally. This is easily done in even the most basic image editing programmes or online services like www.resizepixel.com. With the mirrored print I was able to cut two segments of the new print to add in both ends of the layout, where I still had naked white walls disturbing the illusion of a small gravel industry in rural Denmark.

The layout as it looked before I added the photo print behind the loading ramp.

Loco no 3 going down the ramp with empty skips in the left side of the layout. Basic ground cover is spreading in this area, too.

In the right end of the layout the background now also adds a basic sense of a little railway in a landscape rather than the naked white walls of the room.

While I still have to work a little more with the lining up of the prints, careful placed lighting and a few minutes in a photo editing programme takes care of most of the visible seam between the different background prints in photograps. In daily use when running trains the seams doesn't seem to attract too much attention (mine at least). I'm still considering to replace the background with one looking a bit more like the agricultural landscape around the real Nystrup Gravel facility. But for some time I will enjoy the moist meadow surrounding my small 16 mm scale layout.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Horse Shunting at Nystrup Gravel

Horses for shunting and as traction for whole trains of skips was a usual mode of operation on many narrow gauge industrial railways. Even into the 1950s the standard gauge Danish State Railways used shunting horses on medium to small stations.

An old image from Nystrup Gravel showing the horse used for shunting getting a bit of fresh grass.

Nystrup Gravel originally relied completely on horses to pull the skips from the pits located quite close to the works. Between 1908 and 1910 the company bought one or two Danish built oil engine locomotives. The pits closest to the works had been emptied and gravel was now quarried much further away, making horse traction uneconomical. Horses were still used for shunting, though. In the mid-fifties horses were finally phased out on Nystrup Gravel's 600 mm line.

Although the Schleich horse is missing its harness, it can't keep away from the skips. Perhaps a few juicy tufts of grass also helped?

My model of the Nystrup Gravel shunting horse is a Schleich model of a Shire and most likely too big and powerful a horse for a small gravel line. The model arrived on my layout from my daughter's collection of model horses and is as such not a well considered investment, but a loan. The model is the Schleich 13605 Shire Mare introduced in 2006 and retired from the catalogue in 2009. The Schleich animals are usually of a good quality with life like poses and well painted.

At the small Brundby Brickworks on the Danish island of Samsø horses were the only form of traction ever used on the small clay line. Here a young girl rides the horse (most likely a Norwegian fjord horse) while three workers ride the skips. The men will probably have to load the skips by hand shovels. Photo: Samsø Egnsarkiv B830.

Presumably the last shunting horse on Zealand: 'Klaus' (a commonly used name for a male horse in Denmark) on Tølløse Station, 1958. Notice that the harness is different from the one applied to the horse on the image above. Photo: The Danish Railway Museum.