Category Archives: Workin’ On The Railroad

Peco code 75 FB v. BH

I’ve been asked more than a few times whether it’s worth going over to Peco BH track. FB being “flat bottom” profile rail, and BH being “bull head”, a profile found in the UK until the 80s.

Given that OO gauge is a fudge there is always going to be a compromise about track standards. But it has to be said that FB definitely looks superior, even given the restraints.

Streamline FB top; BH bottom
Streamline FB top; BH bottom

Peco Streamline Code 75 Flat Bottom was not designed for the UK market. The track is modelled on HO standards, understandable given the worldwide market for HO, OO being an almost exclusively UK peccadillo.

As you can see from the above image, the sleepers on the FB rail are correctly spaced for 1:87/HO rail, but look too close and narrow for 1:76/OO. The BH has correct spacing and width for OO layouts, given that the rails are too close together for a true scale model. Therein lies an interesting discussion on “gauge” v “scale”. But that’s for another day.

Getting closer to eye-level, the difference appears more like this:

Comparing Peco OO BH - left - to Streamline FB HO/OO - right
Comparing Peco OO BH – left – to Streamline FB HO/OO – right

On a practical note, Peco FB seems to be more fragile than Streamline, so that might be a consideration, and the range of turnouts is restricted at the moment, although given FB’s reception in the railway modelling world this should change soon.

I don’t know that I’d rip up a lifetime’s work on my model railway to install FB, but I’d certainly use it on any new project, even where, technically, BH wasn’t appropriate because its looks outweigh any conflict with FB rail being actually more authentic, and any compromise is far less than the HO/OO thing.

I have some original Streamline left, but in future it will be consigned to tunnels and fiddle yards

Where in the world?

As is obvious by now, this railway is in another – albeit very similar – universe.

And this is a map of my particular corner of the multiverse.

Tamerton Hinterland
The general location – in a galaxy far, far away…

While you’re reading this I am working to fit the Boltorr dam and rail bridge into the landscape before I can actually lay some track.

This involves making the contours look plausible and sealing the Brook so I can install “water” which will flow from the overflow outlet into the original watercourse. It’s not going to be a raging torrent. Just deep pools and appropriate rocks and plant life.

I’m going to have to make a slight permanent way realignment because, at the moment, Peco is only producing regular bullhead track turnouts.

Maybe I should get back to Kernow Model Rail Centre and see if they have any insight into Peco’s plans.

More Nostalgia…

A slideshow of images on the Marsh Mills- Launceston branch in 1962.

The Boltorr branch would have split off, north-eastwards across Dartmoor.

Around that time I was lucky enough to visit a few times the Tavistock Junction signal box. The signalman was Fred Morrish, a friend of my dad’s.

Boltorr Dam – The Next Step…

Okaaayyyyyyy… So it’s taken me a long time. But how long do you think it takes to build a dam?

Well, the structural components are all stoned up. I sprayed it all to get a uniform base to start with. The can was labeled as “Matt”, but obviously “matt” means something different here in the US.

It looks alright, but like a wet wall after a downpour, at the moment. But it’s going to work. I have texturing, weathering and adapting it into the landscape to do yet. So there’s time to sort it out.

The basic elements
The basic elements

I’ve checked the basic fit and alignment on the layout and it’s looking pretty good from any angle.

Looking up the leat, to Boltorr dam
Looking up the leat, to Boltorr dam

And if you were a rambler, having wandered down to the Boltorr Brook, you could look back and see this view of the dam, under the rail bridge.

A long way up - if you're an inch tall
A long way up – if you’re an inch tall

My next step is to get some mortar, a couple of iron eyes and fittings to add to the interest, possibly some plant life in the crevices, then finally fix it so I can lay track over the bridge.

Crossing the abyss...
Crossing the abyss…

What’s your point?

Modelling British outline is a peculiar thing.

There are a number of constraints, historical and practical, which tempt one to compromise.

The first issue is the mismatch between track gauge and scale.

Strictly speaking, Boltorr is being built to a scale of 1:76. More accurately a strange mongrel ratio of 4mm representing 1ft – 12inches. This actually works out to 1:76.2, but this is the least of my compromises.

Still creating...
Still creating…

So, if my layout were built to scale the track gauge would be 18.83mm (4ft 8.5in @4mm/12″), right? Well,wrong. It’s going to be 16.5mm representing 4ft 2.5in. What’s gone wrong?

16.5mm was the de facto gauge for HO models (3.5mm/ft, 1:87), half of O gauge (7.00/ft 1:48 – I know…), the original continental and American compact model standard. 16.5mm is very, very close to being correct gauge for HO/1:87 scale. Unfortunately, when HO first appeared pre-WW2, standard model mechanisms wouldn’t fit in British outline stock because of the comparatively small UK loading gauge, so the larger OO was devised. The downside is that there is a tendency for UK models to look a little narrow gauge on OO track.

So you can see it’s complicated.

However, this iteration of Boltorr is being built in OO gauge. I’ve dabbled with 18.83mm gauge, now known as S4/P4, and it’s possible any follow-up could be built to that standard.

Peco GWR pattern bullhead point
Peco GWR pattern bullhead point

In the meantime, Peco have come to the rescue with their range of finescale bullhead track and points built on the Great Western pattern, which is pretty correct in every respect, other than the gauge. Since I really want something up and running, I’ve settled for that.

There’s a useful review of Peco’s new points here

Next; laying bullhead track and points, and figuring out how to control Cobalt IP switch motors.

Okay… I’m back…

Just a quick post.

Summer’s gone. I’m riding my trainer bike in the cellar (although it’s 70F/21C outside! Nearly November ffs!!!)

But it’s time to think about Boltorr again.

Autocoach for Okehampton
Autocoach for Okehampton
Pause for thought…

The bridge is almost ready. The Boltorr dam/brook crossing is pretty much together and awaiting final assembly, painting and weathering, etc. I’m thinking I’m going to assemble it as a module to maintain its integrity and drop it in then think about the water. Lots of learning and fun there…

Just awaiting a couple of bullhead points from Kernow Model Rail Centre, so track laying can commence.

There are only two (interlocked) switches on this layout, so I’m not going to DCC them. Maybe a nice signal/switch frame instead?

Plenty to think about.