Share Station - Sun's out and Steaming










Isn't it nice when the sun is out and you can get outside and let off some steam?

Train puns aside, we really do love hearing from all our customers, seeing what you have done with your Maxitrak products and most importantly seeing those smiling faces that make all the hard work worthwhile. This week we have had some wonderful photos of a customers beautiful garden railway set up. Don't you just love the attention to detail

Garden Railway

Of course many of our customers build their locos just for fun  others build to share their love with the younger generation. How fantastic is this little trainee train driver jacket.I'm sure a young enthusiast has been created here, with hours of fun riding around this stunning garden railway.  

in training

Finally we have a proud customer with one of our Rustons. Looking lovely in a new coat of blue paint. I'm told there is still work to do but I think it is already looking brilliant

Ruston Blue.

Thank you to everyone who has sent us their pictures and don't forget you too can share your photos by emailing them to Info@maxitrak.com with the subject line 'Share Station'

© Maxitrak Ltd
10-11 Larkstore Park,
Lodge Road,
Staplehurst,
Kent,
TN12 0QY
Email: Info@maxitrak.com

in training

Making Tracks








A Maxitrak Blog



Having got the points in place the next step was to lay the line on from there; I started with the left fork, running down the front of the garden towards the gate. At this point I went against all the advice so far given and laid a reverse curve on ten foot radius and on a one in forty grade! This may not be quite as obtuse as at first appears when you remember this is part of the return loop so can be worked in either direction. With a bit of point changing this line can always be run in the downward direction, the rest of the loop is laid on a gently rising grade with a couple of level track panels on the other leg of the point so as to be able to get heavy trains away after a stop. If the line is operated normally then every other time round you will be going up this section, as there is a straight leading into the reverse curve you can have a good run at it. This has not been too difficult, three adults have been taken up this section by a Ruston (rated at four adults on the level).

If you are stopped with a heavy train you may need to set back and have a run at the bank. This was quite common practice in steam days on a difficult section, I recall as a child standing on the old Whitstable and Caterbury line bridge over the Kent coast main line at Whitstable in the late 1950’s with my Dad. Trains leaving Whitstable set back to get a good run at the bank, then stormed up under the bridge we were looking over. This left me covered in soot and smuts “I can’t take you back to your Mum like that” said my Dad producing a grotty old hanky from his pocket. He gave it a big lick and rubbed the smuts off my face, it still makes me cringe to think of it!

On the rails


From the curves down to the gate we are running on the big embankment, this is about the most labour intensive part of the whole line. Spare soil was dumped here over a number of years, this was added to by soil excavated from the track bed and roughly laid by eye. When I got the laser level in action on this embankment I was amazed to find I was about four inches low at the far end. As this was the end of excavations for the lower section I was a bit stumped for more soil. The answer was to dig a hole, using the soil for the embankment and then using the hole as an additional feature for the line to run over.
Embankments are best made from sub soil as it is more solid than top soil, so the hole got deeper. The embankment consumed larger and larger quantities of soil so the hole became increasingly large.

You can imagine the amount of soil needed to make an embankment some thirty feet long, two foot six tall and about four feet across at it’s highest point. As it transpires the trestle bridge took a lot less making and has required a lot less maintenance, if you do not have a lot of soil to use up somewhere then a bridge is the easiest option. The embankment was not wide enough initially, ballast was washed away by the rain so even more soil had to be added to form a trough to keep the ballast in. I was also a bit wary of a derailed train coming off the embankment and rolling down the bank if the top was insufficiently wide.

The Embankment

Join us next week for the daunting bridge build.


© Maxitrak Ltd
10-11 Larkstore Park,
Lodge Road,
Staplehurst,
Kent,
TN12 0QY
Email: Info@maxitrak.com

in training

Doncaster Show








Fom the 11th-13th Maxitrak were exhibiting at the National Model Engineering & Modelling Exhibition in Doncaster. The small team of just two, packed up some of our favourite locos and off they went. 

Shows are always an exciting experience, a chance to show off a finished product to a potential customer in person rather than through photographs. Not everyone is able to get down to our showroom and have a look for themselves so sometimes hasty snap shots are all you might see until your loco arrives. We also speak to customers every day on the phone or via email but rarely do we get to see them in person, which is another benefit of the show. We get to put a face to the names!

Maxitrak Stand
Pictured is our stand, lovingly set up to display the diverse range of models that we offer. It's not easy moving these models about but I think the boys did a great job making everything look great.
Below is a picture of our 5" Brush, it's first time at a trade show and increasingly popular.

The Brush

Here is another of our popular models, the 3/4" Allchin in all its variety. We are expecting to see these back in stock very soon.

Allchin

We'd like to thank everyone who took the time to come and speak to us over the weekend, to look at our models or even just for a chat. We really do love meeting the customers and it reminds us just why we do it.

© Maxitrak Ltd
10-11 Larkstore Park,
Lodge Road,
Staplehurst,
Kent,
TN12 0QY
Email: Info@maxitrak.com

in training

Maxitrak Needs You!








Are you a Maxitrak customer who wants to share all your hard work?

Well, it's always incredibly exciting and rewarding when we receive updates on our locos. As such, we thought it was about time that we paid tribute to you, the community and share your progress with all the other enthusiasts out there. Perhaps a problem you encountered and the way you overcame it could answer another engineers question. Proud of your paint job, or just looking to show off one that was done in-house. Or perhaps you are going the whole way and building your own garden railway and would like to share your experiences.


We are looking for your photos, your stories and most importantly your feedback on our products. Please contact us here with 'Maxitrak Blog' as the subject line. By doing so you give us permission to upload images to our site and share your stories.

Below is one of our 5" Alice's running on a fantastically scenic line in sunny Germany. Our locos find their way all over the globe,  as close as Europe all the way to the US and Australia. I can only imagine they run on some equally beautiful tracks.

German Alice


© Maxitrak Ltd
10-11 Larkstore Park,
Lodge Road,
Staplehurst,
Kent,
TN12 0QY
Email: Info@maxitrak.com

in training

Get To The Point








A Maxitrak Blog



With the rockery section almost complete the track led us towards our first bridge.I think bridges add greatly to the enjoyment of the ride and never miss an opportunity to build one. This first bridge was a small affair over a dry gully specially excavated for the purpose (I did say I never miss an opportunity and I'm also not opposed to creating one). As there were bigger and better bridges to come I used this as a chance to experiment with construction methods. I started with an A frame construction with two pieces of angle joined by a substantial cross member. The track it’s self is mounted on two longitudinal sleepers fixed to the top of the A frames. The first problem was when the angle was hammered in to the ground it encountered stones and rocks which threw it off course making the frame difficult to line up. Having reached the correct depth the angle was not particularly solid. On a small bridge like this the short comings were not a great problem but this was not the way to make any larger bridges.
What did look good to me was the longitudinal sleepers, I like the fact that it is not conducive for walking on by full size people and that the bridge looks completely different to the rest of the track.

Bridging the gap

After crossing the bridge we have a short curve round a tree and then on to a longer straight section. This part of the track is laid under a line of large fir trees, the ground under them does not support much undergrowth so track laying was straightforward.
There was a bit of ivy to clear and then the track bed was dug through the leaf litter down to a solid base. The end of this section leads us in to the bottom loop, the gradient here eases as we get to the point. Up to now the line has been completely pointless, this is where the point goes in, if you get my point.

I have tried to avoid cutting established trees and bushes as much as possible, this has meant going round obstacles often on ten foot radius. We have not flinched from doing this even if there are several ten foot reverse curves to be negotiated as at this junction.
The construction of the point is unusual, it is a ten foot radius Y with a snap over change mechanism. Most points are quoted with one line to a particular radius and the other line straight, my one has both lines curved sharply away from each other, both on ten foot radius. This changes the geometry of the point completely, there are only four sleepers between the blade end and the frog, and the frog its self is a much sharper angle. We used a frog from a diamond crossing for this point as the normal ten foot frog would be miles out.
.

All A bit pointless


The snap over point change mechanism is used so a train entering the loop can exit over the point setting it to the opposite direction. When the train returns it will go the other way round the loop and set the point back to the first direction when it exits. This means driver and passengers get a completely different view round the loop every time.
As the point blades are short they run right up to the frog without a joint, the whole section needs to move when the point is changed so the screws fixing the blades need to be lose enough to allow this. The spring changeover mechanism does a second job of holding the blades hard up against the frog, without this the blades would not stay in place. The gap between blade and stock rail is kept large to help the spring snap the blades over center as it is changed in each direction. In spite of its unconventional nature this point has been most successful and never given a moments trouble since installation.
It requires a little oil to keep it free, steam oil was tried but proved too thick on cold days resulting in the mechanism not snapping over when pushing light stock back over the point.

I have not been able to enjoy the reversing action of the point controlling the loop yet as the line has to be worked once forward and once backwards until the top loop is completed. Each direction of travel always goes the same way round the loop unless you manually change the point at some time. I may need to alter the change mechanism with a one way spring or lever if the line is to be run with two or more trains, a train waiting in the bottom loop finds its self nose to nose with the incoming train if the point is left to its own devices!

In Cuba on the sugar lines each train has a man on board who’s job is to get off and set the points ahead, this is in addition to the driver, fireman, lines man complete with telephone and any other hangers on wanting a ride. On the garden line it is the driver who has to perform all these functions for himself. There was one memorable Cuban footplate occasion when the entire crew consumed two buckets of beer, handing it round in coke tins with the tops cut off and dipped into the bucket for a refill. This was all very well but the driver, having consumed several tins full, misjudged the siding on our return to the depot and backed into several bogies at the end of the line. On my line the company rules state that all beer should be kept in bottles, not buckets.

All A bit pointless 




© Maxitrak Ltd
10-11 Larkstore Park,
Lodge Road,
Staplehurst,
Kent,
TN12 0QY
Email: Info@maxitrak.com

in training

A Railway Emerges








A Maxitrak Blog



Just after Easter on 2007, the line was started. We decided on a relatively easy section to begin with, this was the curve around the pond, nothing difficult to start but after just a couple of track panels we were into the rockery on the far side of the pond. This rockery was aptly named, it proved to be about ninety percent hardcore, including brick, concrete and stone. No wonder it only grew weeds! Each piece of hardcore was greeted with equal enthusiasm knowing how useful it would be for the track bed. I decided not to excavate too deeply for the track base as the soil was pretty hard. I dug down about 100 mm, then laid a weed inhibiting membrane as sold to go under decking etc. This woven material allows drainage but stops weeds pushing through. On top came a layer of hardcore hammered into small lumps to give a firm base to the track. We had some work done on the roof of the house and as a result, had a large pile of broken Kent peg tiles to dispose of. This was “good stuff” when broken into small pieces and levelled to take the track. Once laid on the tile bed stone was added to fill the last voids, giving a good economical track ballast using as much available material as possible. 

Around the pond

This has been down nearly a year now and has proved serviceable, though as the excavation is shallow I have had to do a reasonable amount of re-ballasting especially on embankments which are always inclined to settle. This is particularly noticeable where an embankment joins a bridge as the bridge stays firm while the embankment settles. As a test track, I have been keen to try different types of sleepers, the first section is softwood on ten foot radius curved panels. This was originally a portable track to be used on open days at the factory but the uneven nature of our car park proved unsuitable. I anticipate a short life for these sleepers and expect to replace them with plastic sleepers when they become unserviceable but it will be interesting to see how long this takes. The next sections were laid in hardwood sleepers using my old Cromar White portable track. This is over thirty years old but has to date been kept in the garage most of the time. We shall see how much better they fare than the softwood ones! I also have a few lengths of aluminium sleeper track panels. Though these sleepers are no longer obtainable they were too good to be left out! All this is used with standard aluminium rail but on the trestle bridge steel is used throughout the rail being the main structural member of the bridge.

Trusted method


As we come off the curve around the pond we start down the gradient, the first section of track was laid by working gradients out with a stout piece of timber and a spirit level. This is the time-honoured method and is best done by hammering pegs into the ground and working the gradient from the tops of the pegs. This can be a bit hit and miss and so was pretty soon superceded by the use of a laser level. These are quite cheap nowadays and mean the pegs can be spaced much further apart. Do not be tempted to do levels by eye, even when things look flat you will be surprised how out of true it will turn out to be. 

I would not like a completely flat line as I feel you have to really drive a line with gradients, as a rule for maximum loading you should stick to no more than one in one hundred (1%). If you are looking for a more interesting drive and do not mind reducing the train loading then one in fifty is a good maximum (2%). I have a difficult location so have gone for one in forty (about 2.5%), this reduces loading to half the normal number.

Adhesion is the main problem and on occasions may be sufficient to prevent an ascent, though a little sand sprinkled on the line usually gets the job done even in wet weather. The steepest grades should be on straight or gently curved sections, the tight ten foot curves on my line are mostly on the flat. I wanted to establish how the line would run on the steepest grades so laid the first section quite steep. This is now the most difficult section, not helped by the fact that the panels were not all laid to the same grade. There is a great temptation to get a track panel down and try it out, this is not really the best approach as it is easier to grade a longer section of say five to six panels at a time with the laser level. As this section is laid with softwood sleepers I am looking to re-grade this part of the line when the sleepers need replacing, this will not be before the rest of the line is done!

The track begins



© Maxitrak Ltd
10-11 Larkstore Park,
Lodge Road,
Staplehurst,
Kent,
TN12 0QY
Email: Info@maxitrak.com

in training

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