Friday, 26 April 2013


Masts go up on new diorama

I've been having great fun erecting the Dapol 'ready-to-plant' overhead catenary masts on a short stretch of double track. Despite lacking the important wires, the masts look impressive and installation really couldn't be easier. See Model Rail issue 183 (on sale 16 May) for a full demonstration.

I've been musing over whether I could add some wires to these masts, simply for decorative purposes, as this 2ft long diorama is intended only for photographing electric locos. As the masts are designed to be very flexible (to avoid accidental damage), I doubt whether they'd withstand much tensioning of the wires. That would mean using stiff brass wire, for the conductor wire at least, which is difficult to find in long lengths and would require soldering-up; not a particularly difficult task.  Should make a good rainy weekend project for the future...

As for the trackwork, the twin lengths of Peco concrete-sleepered rails feature my efforts to create the distinctive modern style of ballasting, complete with shoulders and ever-so-slightly elevated track to compensate for the gentle curve. I'm quite pleased with the results, having tried out a few new techniques and materials during construction, by way of a trial run for another project. Having said that, there are also a few things that I'd do differently next time!


  1. That looks fantastic. Although you'd have to say, if you were going to the effort of installing catenery, it really needs wires.

    I wonder, in a diorama/ display situation if you could employ off-scene tensioners. But this would only work in short straight sections.

    ..unless of course, they're just in the process of installing the system, and as yet only the masts have been put up...

  2. These are great. I have installed the n gauge ones on my layout and also deciding wire or no wire. I read the piece in this months Modelrail and concerned about the pantograph pushing the wire up as it passes. Great timing on the posititioning of Catenarys over points as I have been searching this in the last month. I am now looking at what other modern trackside equipment is needed, for example where relay boxes are and how many Etc. if you could help in a future edition that would be great? I have just finished reading you airbrush book and I have to say it was a fantastic read, and will be ordering more if your books. Matt

  3. Hi Matt, thanks for the comment. We've got a few other articles on catenary coming up, and your point about lineside equipment is a good one - we'll try and get something in the mag on this soon.
    Glad you enjoyed my airbrushing book - just received an advance copy of my next book on kit building, which should be out in May. I'll post more info here in the coming weeks.
    Thanks again,

  4. Now and then I visit your blog - today I read this article about your catenary diorama! It looks great (trackwork too), and I am curious whether you will use wires.....
    I use N scale dummies only (Arnold, no function), and a kind of rubber thread for the "wire". Of course, that does not look so realistic as your work - it is just a simple workaround....

    Regards from Bavaria

  5. Hi V160!. Glad to hear that my Blog has an International following! I'm still undecided about the wires and think I'll wait until I have proper layout project in hand - then I'll use this diorama as a test bed for the overhead wires. There are a few ideas for building catenary in the latest issue of Model Rail (183) that is out this week, plus another interesting article in the following issue (184), out 13 June.
    Your idea of Arnold masts and a runner thread is a good one, as it should have fewer problems of tensioning. It might be worth trying something similar in OO gauge, maybe with the type of thread that Peter Marriott uses for his telegraph wires.... food for thought!
    All the best,

    1. Hi George, I've got Model Rail issue 183 and 184 but I can't find anything about catenary in 184, was the article included?

    2. Hi, I'm afraid that the other article - on building your own catenary - was pulled from MR184 at the last minute due to the need for more reviews pages (if I remember rightly). We still have the feature on file and are hoping to run it some time in 2014.
      Best wishes,

    3. For ballasting I use an old squeezable tomato sauce bottle (without the sauce.) You can rinse the screw top after you've finished and the screw top is adjustable to give you a flood or a dribble. For canted track I use Peco plastic sleepers laid under the outer edge of the curve you wish to cant.


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