Dignity and Impudence

Mrs P has a thing about A4s. I have tried to convert her to the One True Way slightly further west, but she particularly likes 60007 “Sir Nigel Gresley” in BR Blue. Unfortunately she is married to a tight git who thought that 170 quid for the “Great Gathering” version was far too steep even if one could be found, and to make matters worse, she knows that I already have 60007, albeit in dark green, renumbered from “Woodcock” when they were going for far more sensible prices as part of a “3 Hour Express” project.

Anyway, it was her birthday in May and the local dealer had “Golden Eagle” on his shelf for £130, so I gave in and bought one. Of course, it’s the right colour but the wrong chimney and tender, and it needed nameplates. Where to get nameplates, a double chimney and corridor tender fittings to swap over ? In less than two weeks ?

Man hath no greater love than this that he should lay down his A4 for his wife.
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A brief perusal of Simon AC Martin’s writings showed that the various bits could indeed be pinged off and swapped over, so clandestinely, over several weeks, my green one was shorn of its fittings and “Golden Eagle” got a makeover. It’s not perfect, I didn’t have time to swap the tender interior mouldings over so it just got the external fittings at first, but it was enough to make me Husband of the Year briefly. I even resisted the temptation to weather it.  photo IMG_0019 2_zpsokamdjt5.jpg
My green one will rise again as 60009 “Union of South Africa“, which I was once honoured to blag a ride on up and down the yard at Appleby by simple expedient of standing drooling in front of it until Mr Cameron himself took pity on me and told me to get on. I forget what I was supposed to be doing, supervising it running round it’s charter train set I expect. Just as soon as I can fabricate a double chimney and tender corridor connection …
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Meanwhile, the Hawkshawe Estate Tramway continues to beg borrow and acquire odd bits and pieces of kit to run its ramshackle operations. The latest refugee from the big railway is 68138, a tiny Sentinel lately of Ayr shed.
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The real one was at Ayr in the late 1950s where it replaced a similar LMS Sentinel, and they appear to have been used to shunt the lairage sidings on the North Harbour. Known locally as “The Chipcart”, they were apparently not universally liked, being awkward to drive and unpleasant to fire by all accounts. This is the Model Rail model, produced by Dapol, and it is gorgeous. Almost everything below the windows is filled with Mazak so it weighs more than you might think and easily handles the three or four wagons required of it, but it is fussy about clean track, not surprisingly. Seen here pottering about in the tramway exchange siding, nobody appears to have bothered cleaning it since it arrived.
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A Home for My Railway – 2

Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.
– Plato

Well I had expected to be writing this rather sooner than two years after I wrote this – https://stuart1968.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/a-home-for-my-railway/? – but it’s getting there.

So this is the current state of play in the garage. Despite my assertation that something would circumnavigate it by Christmas last year it’s still not finished and the only things circumnavigating it are spiders. Big spiders. Insectol kills them far more effectively than carpet glue but at the time it was the only can near enough with sufficient reach and lethality. Halfords Peugot antelope beige doesn’t kill them but it does make them easier to spot.

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Yes, quite. All the junk is still there, work sessions alternate between clearing a space to do a job, and doing the job. Then a space is cleared for the next job. All the walls are now insulated and most of the vapour barrier is in place. On top of this a 2″ x 1″ batten has been screwed to the upright battens (themselves bolted to the concrete walls) to take the rafters. These are 3×1 treated softwood with 1″ slab insulation above.

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My carpentry isn’t great, so these were secured to the battens with 40mm brackets, the ends of the rafters being notched over them. The idea was that the 5p bracket was just securing it, not taking the weight, but it hasn’t quite worked out like that. I was going to reinforce the joints with more brackets inside the corners on both sides but in the meantime another problem manifested itself.

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The cement board roof is supported on two transverse steel trusses, about 4″ deep. The battens were fixed below these lowering the effective headroom by two inches. Unfortunately the floor boarding and slab insulation below had raised the floor nearly three inches. This wasn’t a problem at the high end (the roof slopes front to back) and the very low bit at the back would have a 2 foot wide base board below it, but I wasn’t expecting to bang my head less than halfway down. I’ve got to add some sort of lighting yet as well.

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Of course all the rafters were in place by now, as was most of the slab insulation. But it has been raised by simply shoving the rafters up out of the way one at a time, turning the bracket upside down and refitting it. There isn’t much space between the insulation and the roof but air can still circulate via the corrugations so we’ll see. There, that looks perfectly robust doesn’t it ?

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No, I didn’t think so either so the ends have been reinforced with leftover 2×1 and extended over the batten. This is actually stronger than it was before (there are more screws than the one visible) and I should have done it this way in the first place.

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The slab insulation serves too purposes. Firstly, if the roof leaks it will hopefully stop the rafters getting wet although where the water will eventualy show up is a good question. Secondly it covers up all the spider hidey-holes so I can work without fear of them dropping down my neck.

Of course, the first person I showed looked at it and suggested that as the ceiling is not required to actually do anything except support it’s own weight, I should have just cut some 8×4 sheets of 4″ Cellotex to fit between the steel trusses and filled all the gaps in with squirty foam. Grrr.

There are easier ways of getting a Mk 1 …

But they aren’t nearly so much fun.

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Early days on Portwilliam – Lima Mk1s and a DJH Std 4

Once upon a time if you wanted a Mk 1 you had a choice. You could have a Hornby (nee Tri-ang) one, or the Lima one. Both looked more or less like a Mk 1 but neither was what you would call h-fi – both were crude and neither was flush-glazed. In fact the windows on the Lima version were so deep you could have fitted window boxes and not fouled the loading gauge. Hornby followed their usual pattern when deciding which version to do and issued the BSK, CK, RMB and sleeper, but no ordinary SKs or SOs. I saw Steve Fint’s “Kyle of Tongue” at York in the 1980s – it featured a BG and SK made by sawing two Hornby BSKs in half and sticking then back together in a different order, and I remember thinking how terribly avante garde that was. Then along came Comet and suddenly with a tube of Evo-Stick and an afternoon’s work you could have most of the more common variants.

Now of course we are spoilt for choice – Hornby, Bachmann, Replica, Southern Pride, Comet, Coopercraft (if you can find it) – honestly, you young people don’t know you’re born.

So these three started off as an early 1990s attempt to build a Euston – Stranraer “Paddy” boat train (The “Northern Irishman” to give it its proper title, which apparently nobody did very often), firstly for the ill-fated Kentigern and now for Newton Stewart. I needed BSK/SK/CK/SK/SLE/SLE/BSK and at that point only Comet did all the necessary versions. I rejected the Comet full kits as I much prefer working in styrene so after a lot of consideration I decided on Comet sides, Coopercraft underframes and ABS for the missing bits. Comet roofs and ends would have been sensible too but there was a pile of tatty Lima Mk1s and Hornby Grampians in the stash so I raided these – some of the remains were used to make the Grampian BCK on the ‘Coaches’ page.

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Coopercraft chassis, Comet sides, Lima roofs and ends. I think the interior moulding is Mainline …

I bought all the chassis and ABS bits but only one each of the BSK, CK and SK sides to start with, £70 for the full rake was a bit more than the budget would stand in one hit. Three coaches were partly completed and then Bachmann changed the game entirely. Glacial progress can be useful sometimes, they eventually released my entire boat train and I still haven’t built the layout to run it on yet ! I actually got a bit carried away with the Bachmanns – I also bought an FK and an RU so with a bit of judicious re-marshalling (of geography as well as the train) I can have a BSK/SK/FK/RU/SK/BSK “Three Hour” Glasgow – Aberdeen express.

That left my half-built mongrels a bit surplus to requirements so they went in a boxfile and stayed there for fifteen years. The CK (which was actually complete if not painted) could obviously go with a Porthole BSK to make one of the hybrid two coach sets used in the last year or so of Port Road operations but I didn’t really need the others or the surplus chassis. By this time there was a plan for the BSO/SO/RMB/SO/BSO Easter 1963 railtour set involving more Bachmanns (c’mon Bachmann, three fifths of a train so far…), but apart from these, Mk1s weren’t that common in Galloway. Still, they could always make a short Sealink set or a 1970s ‘what-if’ set at some later date and I’m too lazy to dispose of surplus stock anyway.

Then the February 2016 “Steam Days” appeared. It contained an article called “A Night in Galloway” by GL Pallister detailing a 1964 line bash on the overnight Paddy. As well as a very descriptive account of the nights events (and rather tragic conclusion on the return 8.00 Stranraer – Dumfries) it included a 1960 photo of a Newcastle – Stranraer ‘Day Paddy’ – two Black Fives and seven coaches – most of which (according to the carriage workings book) should be SKs. I was expecting them to be Thompsons and Gresleys but the magnifying glass revealed the first three to be unmistakably a Mk 1 BSK and two Mk 1 SKs !

So another set of SK sides was procured and the SKs and BSK have joined the ‘Day Paddy’ pool. To be honest, at the moment they are the Day Paddy pool, the rest, another motley half-assembled collection of LNER-derived bits, is still in a state of disassembly waiting to see what sort of price Bachmann’s Thompsons are when they eventually come to market. I expect the rest of this particular train will finish up as three or four Thompson hybrids with Comet sides if only because etched and injection moulded attempts at flush glazing never look right side by side in the same train. I might even try styrene sides, Thompsons aren’t the most difficult sides to fret out of 5thou.

The donors for these are all Lima coaches (I put the Tri-ang bits seen in the last instalment back in the box). The BSK was already structurally complete using an old Lima RU but the other two now use a couple of coaches which are as old as Portwilliam. Fitted with ABS buffers and gangways, Kadees within the set and dropped buckeyes at the ends they formed an unlikely branch set in the early years. When I first started building Portwilliam I had a Saturday job in a model shop; customers were few – so few that I was paid in stock rather than cash more often than not which suited me just fine. A lot of the early rolling stock and most of the track for Portwilliam was sourced this way, fair recompense I thought for eight hours every Saturday dealing with the local youths who only came in to practice shoplifting and the older … erm … characters who talked a great deal and drank much tea but bought little. Oh, and the owner’s ex-wife who still lived on the premises and kept me endlessly supplied with tea whilst alternating between screaming hysterically and weeping uncontrollably depending on whether the owner was there or not.

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Fished out of the loft – MJT buckeye at one end on a Smiths hook, No5 Kadee at the other. Buffers and gangways are ABS

I wondered whether to cut them up or not, but by ‘refurbishing’ them in this way they live on (well, the roofs, ends and bits of the sides do) and maintain a link with my very first PP&W model rather than gathering dust in the attic. The Kadees can cope with a streamline small radius crossover and a 3rd radius curve whilst leaving a gap of about 2mm between gangways on straight track – acceptable in the circumstances so I will use Kadees within this set. It won’t be getting re-marshalled in normal use.

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Jack up roof, replace sides, underframe, bogies, all detailing parts, replace roof.

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Accountancy rebuilds

Spring roundup

I know the blog has been quiet, sorry about that. The reason is that the workbench has too, a combination of other things taking priority and an inability to keep my eyes open some evenings. Nevertheless there is some new rolling stock taking shape.

First up is a BR Dia 1/214 van from the Parkside PC07a kit. 100 were built in 1957 to serve the Metalbox factory at Durranhill in Carlisle, they carried empty cans from there to McNeil and Libby’s creamery at Milnthorpe and (more interestingly from my point of view) to the Carnation Milk factory at Maxwelltown near Dumfries. They were built with end doors at one end only, no side doors, and a dozen or so were tripped up from Dumfries Yard to the Carnation plant every morning. They appear in groups of 2-5 vans in various pics of the G&SWR mainline and the Cumbrian part of the WCML.

The weird configuration appears to have suited the loading arrangements at Metalbox which, so far as I can establish (which isn’t very far) consisted of a fan of three sidings possibly ending in a loading dock. At Maxwelltown at least the vans seem to have been shunted one at a time alongside the loading dock and the boxes of tins handballed off via a man standing in the four foot.

Portwilliam is a little too far west for these, my excuse is that they’re delivering tins to the shortbread factory alongside the harbour branch. They don’t seem to have operated singly so this may eventually be part of a batch of two or three depending on how many PC07a kits are in the stash.

The van is built as per the kit instructions, apart from the substitution of spoked wheels, the omission of the side doors, and the substitution of one of the end mouldings for a piece of blank 40 thou styrene. The side planking is carried across the missing doors by simply scribing across, I use an Olfa cutter, other scribing tools are available. The door retaining clips were deleted (nothing to retain !) as was part of the corner plate at the door end. The latter was done by cutting a line down to mark the new edge then using a curved X-acto blade as a chisel to scrape and pare away the excess plastic followed by sanding smooth using fingernail sanding sticks.
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The end door detail was built up using more styrene sheet and microstrip, working entirely from the one decent close up photo I’ve found so far, taken by Don Rowland it appears in his “BR Wagons – the first half million” and also in David Larkin’s “Wagons of the Middle British Railways Period”. The T-section side stancions were made from more microstrip with the bolt heads pressed in with a scriber – a bit of a fudge but much quicker than 10 thou cubes floated on and the moulded bolt heads on the rest of the kit are very subtle anyway.
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The next four are all variations on Parkside’s PC 42 Fruit Van. From left – as it comes the kit makes a BR-built 1/230 van, by removing the ventilation scoops from the sides along with the external fittings for the internal shelves it makes an LMS D2108 van. By substituting LNER brake gear for the LMS clasp brakes in the kit you get another 1/230 van from lot 2135 built at Faverdale, and with some more severe modification you can do an LMS D2097 van.
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The LNER-braked version uses ABS brakegear. The D2097 van is simply a case of removing the diagonal strapping as well as the fruit van details using the same curved blade and sanding sticks. This particular example has extra vertical bracing on the doors, how common this was I don’t know. The very nice Oleo buffers are by Dave Franks.
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Next two planked vans. The left hand wagon here is a D2039 van from the Ratio kit, this one survived into BR livery without the diagonal bracing fitted in later years, but with AVB fitted and collared buffers (ABS again). The right hand wagon is an unpainted Dapol body representing a BR-built D 1/204 van with 8-shoe clasp brakes (the ever useful Parkside PA16 kit) with an etched brake lever from one of the Mainly Trains packs. The body came as an unpainted Dapol spare from Hattons but they regularly crop up in their Airfix and Dapol RTR incarnations second hand.
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An LMS D1986 one plank wagon – unlike the other companies’ one-plankers the LMS ones had fixed sides. The tractor (Oxford Diecast Massey Ferguson 135) is therefore going to pose something of a problem to unload as Portwilliam has no crane. This is the Cambriam kit with Bill Bedford brake gear and homebrewed Oleo buffer heads. The Oleo bodies are moulded on the kit and it includes moulded heads, but these were made from Wizard/51L turned heads with some bored out brass capillary tube to beef up the shanks. I’m sure I’ve had 1.5mm shank 13″ turned heads before but I couldn’t find them on either Wizard’s or MJT’s sites when I came to re-order. Out of stock perhaps, I hope I didn’t imagine them !
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Finally Portwilliam station and yard looking like a badly organised preserved railway …
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… and the next project – finishing off three BR Mk1s from Coopercraft, Comet, ABS and Tri-ang parts. These have been languishing half built since the 1990s, quicker ways of acquiring half a Newcastle-Stranraer boat train are available.
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Too clever by half.

Many years a free calendar found its way into our office from some client or other. Rather than going straight in the recycling this one contained paintings of steam trains so it went on the wall. Some were quite good, some were dreadful, but the one I cut out and kept was a painting of Partick West in the 1960s with a WD clanking and whiffling its way past a Cravens DMU in the other platform. This was probably the first time I had seen a Cravens in colour and it struck me that, in green with speed whiskers at least, it was quite a smart design. It was certainly clean and uncluttered, without the sameness which made all the later Derby units look dull and boring after a while.

St Combs, 1963

Something must have seeded itself because when Charlie Petty introduced it as part of his DC Kits range I bought one and built it. Well, I built the bodies then put it back in its box and forgot all about it until the Bachmann one appeared. At this point I went looking for it and discovered that it had been rather more forgotten than I thought, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Now the last time I moved house I learned the lessons of my previous two house moves where everything was chucked higgledy piggledy into the nearest box, and actually labelled the boxes clearly with the room and a detailed list of contents. I eventually found the Cravens a couple of years later, along with an AWOL mini-drill, in a box clearly marked “LANDROVER SPARES”. Oh well.

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Ten years in limbo

Determined not to let it get away again, it’s now been sitting in my workbench for a while, as my ‘do when bored with everything else’ project. Assisted by some hardcopies fortuitously printed off the Railcar.co.uk website before it slimmed down I started working out what I’d got, and what I needed. Turns out my initial frustration at finding that Bachmann had yet again ‘done’ one of my kit pile was a little unwarranted as theirs would be much happier nearer Rugby than Glasgow. The ScR units were much closer to the DC Kit with only the guard’s door on the driver’s side needing moving.

The fact that the ScR units had one guard’s door the opposite way round to everyone else’s is one of those Modernisation Plan riddles which begs further research but probably doesn’t deserve it. I’ve worked for the railway long enough to know that seemingly illogical decisions are often just that – you could waste hours researching a conundrum which has no more complex explanation than that somebody with a large enough hat said “like that”. I refer further students of this type of BR decision making to the Mystery of Dovecliffe Signalbox.

So, a new guard’s door was required on the driver’s side. Or rather, a new window in the adjacent door was required on the driver’s side, with the original window sealed up. I’ve cut windows and doors in styrene before and I always struggle to get them square, the right size, and with the rounded corners correctly lined up with the sides. But this time the correctly sized window was right there on the adjacent door so there was no need to measure, just rule a line across from the top and bottom edges and set out the verticals by eye – much easier to do if you’re making a mirror image of something only 2.5mm away. The corners were drilled 2mm and the straight edges cut just inside the line with an Xacto blade, then filed back. To avoid cutting too deeply I made a ‘fence’ from scrap fret waste and, lining it up on the adjacent top and bottom window edges, and secured it with masking tape. As the styrene is softer than the brass it’s simply a case of filing parallel to the brass edge until you hit it.

So there you have it – a perfectly formed window in less than an evening. Pity its on the secondman’s side of the unit.

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Just what I don’t need at this stage in the proceedings:

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This is, or was, the last remaining original pair of points on the layout so whilst this is annoying to say the least, it doesn’t really owe me anything after 30-odd years. Given that there’s now about two feet of original track left, not relaying the lot with Code 75 when I extended the layout in 2000 is beginning to look more than a little short-sighted.

I thought briefly of bodging some sort of replacement tiebar in situ with some droppers/hinges soldered to the switch rails but there’s been enough bodging I think so a bit of keyhole surgery has taken place:

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This would be a five minute job on bare boards with no obstructions, it in fact took the best part of an evening (in between other minor chores) the most difficult bit being avoiding accidentally catching the various fences and point levers now installed around it !

Speaking of point levers – yes, there now are some !
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Five bits of styrene and a bit of brass strip, there is one for each of the yard points and either end of the engine release crossover. And yes, that includes the end of the crossover which is effectively a facing point in a passenger line. Unusual maybe but totally prototypical for company and date – Dalmellington again being the prototype. A bit like worked distants on single lines really…

Real men don’t need wiring diagrams

Christmas and Easter came and went in a blur of apathy, exhaustion, lack of mojo and other ‘stuff’ getting in the way, but the trip to Galloway last month had the desired effect and maximum effort is now underway to get both Portwilliam and the garage/railway room finished.

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Wiring work requires the layout to be tipped up like this – not ideal working conditions in a confined space.

Readers with very long memories who followed Portwilliam in another place may well remember that some time ago (around the time of the ill-advised foamboard fiddleyard balanced on the banister rail) I suffered a small electrical emergency when my 20 year old Gaugemaster transformer disgraced itself in cloud of blue smoke and a pong of burning varnish. Since then Portwilliam has been operated using a borrowed Scalextric transformer. I had intended to build myself a portable power pack with a couple of uncased transformers, a big plastic box from Maplins and a variety of plugs, sockets and whatsits – I’ve got all the bits and I might finish it one day, but the other week I bit the bullet, decided that sorting out a supply really shouldn’t be this complicated, and bought a Gaugemaster WM1.

This is a plug-in power ‘brick’ very similar to the Scalextric controller but it comes with a neat little circuit board which splits the output into separate 12vDC and 16vAC feeds and includes a thermal cut-out.

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Transferred downstairs for the duration – more convenient for me, massively inconvenient for everyone else ! The shoe-box

To accommodate this I had to partly re-wire the boards. For reasons involving the proximity of plug sockets and the comparative ease of making holes in foamboard rather than plywood, the jury-rigged Scalextric supply fed the signalbox board which also contains the power feeds to the main line and loop, and a socket for the Gaugemaster HH handset which has powered the layout for as long as I can remember. The problem with that is that almost all the points are on the other two boards, and the natural operating position for the layout (i.e. the only place in the study you can actually stand comfortably) is adjacent to the middle board. The point motors have never been re-wired since I rebuilt the layout on new boards in 2009, so rather than carry all the point motor wires to the signalbox end I concentrated them on the centre board and re-routed the power feeds back that way. Peco point motor switches can be mounted in a quasi-lever frame arrangement, five are required and the spare hole was used for an isolating switch for the exchange siding. The easiest way of mounting this would have been a little shelf on the front of the layout but that would put it at exactly a 6 year old’s eye height so it has been recessed into a little alcove. It needs tidying up bit yet:

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This should probably serve as an example of how not to wire a layout. It started off quite neat but it’s got a bit unkempt as more bits get added. There is actually a scheme – track feeds are red and black, point motor feeds are orange, green and blue. The brown box in the middle is a Peco capacitor discharge unit – necessary to throw both ends of the main to main crossover at the same time, and the chocolate block screw connectors mean that the soldering iron doesn’t need firing up every time I find five minutes to do a bit. Connections between boards are via 25-way computer cables chopped in half, that way you don’t have to solder the plugs up ! Suffice it to say that all Newton Stewart’s electrical installations will either be accessible along the front edge of the board or on top of the board under buildings etc.

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And there really isn’t a wiring diagram for all this. I hope it works…