Sunday, May 21, 2017

I'm a convert....

They say that you have to try something to know whether you like it or not, this is the only way you will find out. I tried mushrooms once and now like them. With regards to scenery I had always used the plaster method. I had read about this soft rock method, but the old South Coast Rail layout had utilised the plaster method. I was quite happy using it and over time, the end results were okay.
In the previous blog I had mentioned reading about the soft rock method. So I experimented with my old office cushion and was pleased with results.
The electric carving knife was duly located buried at the back of the cupboard. (It only usually came out at Christmas time to assist carving the ham and then retired inside till the next one) Thanks for the tip Jim, the electric knife works a treat.
The first use of the knife worked well until the switch fell off. All I could see were two contacts inside which equalled 240 volts. The only way I could use the knife was to put an elastic band around the switch. This had a down side which means that I had no way of switching it on or off. Once plugged in then away it went. Plugging in a plug usually required two hands, one on each plug to push them together, but what I really needed was another hand to hold the writhering knife blade once it made contact. So far I haven't managed to cut anything including me.
Another issue was that the valley walls were slightly larger than an office cushion. So the search was on for more material. The shed yielded no extra, nor

did a quick search of the house. I was very close when the wife offered up a foam mattress that has been standing idle in the linen cupboard waiting for a visitor to try it out. I resisted hacking up the mattress but thought if I hacked off one end then it could be then relegated to a visiting child's mattress. But then I remembered if I couldn't cut a bit of timber straight what chance did I have of doing a good job on the mattress?
The prize x 2
So then I hit the stores and hardware stores. I even went to Bunnings thinking they are supposed to have everything invented but come up a blank there as well. In desperation and still sans foam, I remembered why pay for foam when someone is probably chucking it out on a council cleanup? Our local cleanup is not on for another few weeks but I just wanted to get this valley work done.
Strike me lucky, last Thursday I was driving my wife to her mums and all this junk started to appear on the kerbside. I spotted a chair on the verge and I knew that foam and chairs go together. I had to pull around a corner and walk back to the spoils. But when I got there there was no cushion or foam. So back in the car and headed back to towards her mum. Then all of a sudden we both spotted what looked to be a pile of foam on the opposite side of the road. I even pulled the car up in a non stopping zone (but left the engine running) and raced across the road to see what was there. Talk about winning the lottery, there was a big pile of at least four foam mattresses just sitting there. Bingo, I grabbed two from the bottom of the pile, raced them across the road and into the back seat of the car.
The foamous left hand side of the valley
I wasted no time once the foam was home in getting the electric knife into action. As it was very thick I cut each section into three slices. All that need to be done was to attach it to the chicken wire and fire up the soldering iron. I was lucky this section of board was near the roller door as the soldering iron produces a large amount of probably toxic smoke when it burns. I set up the summer fan behind me an blew the smoke outside.
Rock strata getting etched in
Most form of scenery work always comes together progressively, a few stages and its there. So looking at the above photo this is the first step and then paint is applied.
Paint now applied
I still have a bit of 'Harold' (the paint colour) left and this forms the base coat. You can see in the above photo where I have dumped a pile of black oxide which I paint over the brown to provide shadow and variation.
The left hand corner is getting greener
The left hand side will be finished off at a later date as it will be accessible in front when the trestle is in position. Doing scenery work is not a quick exercise. I have spent quite a few hours over the last week on this area.
More foam is added higher up the valley wall

Looking at the above photo it looks on the rough side, don't panic as it will all come together. The next step here is to get the soldering iron into action carving in the rock texture.
This bit caps it all off
If you don't have one large section of foam to do the whole section it is okay to use smaller sections as I have done. The sections can be glued together or wired together. Any gaps that show up usually get filled in with scenery.
The capping has now been painted and blended in
The above photo shows how the top bit has been coloured and some of the gaps have been filled with foam and other bits of greenery. You can see how close the trestle will be to the wall of the valley. What a co-incidence the curved trestle matches the natural curve of the rock wall!
Greenery is slowly added to take away the solid rock wall look
Rock wall now stretches over to the road area
The above photo shows that the rock wall is now right across the valley and ends over near where the road will go under the trestle ala Monbulk trestle on Puffing Billy. I have also added a few other colours to the rocks for variation. These are drybrushed on and give it a 3D effect. Compare this photo with photo number six to see how well the foam has been blended in with the existing foam. Hard to pick where the joins are.
Having tried the soft rock and compared it with the plaster method I am now favouring this method. It is certainly a lot cleaner method and lighter especially when doing mountains. This section of scenery (like most) is viewed from a distance and it all blends in to the eye. You can get in close and be critical but when the trains are up and running the eye generally follows the train through the scene, the background becomes secondary.
Getting there slowly
In the above photo can be seen the road scene on the right of the baseboard. Once I am happy with the scenery/greenery on the rock wall, then I will get the trestle ready for positioning.
Till the next update, happy modelling.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A little bit to the right....

The last couple of days has seen me stuck down the gully working my way towards the road on the right hand side of the module.
As stated on the previous blog entry I have to finish off all the scenery work that will be behind the trestle. The roadbed has been roughly cut out of ply so I can gauge where it will stand across the gully.
During the week I have ordered some timber from the Railcar for the trestle. Once I have completed the scenery at the back of trestle then I will complete the trestle it and secure into place. Then after this I can move onto Broadwater station.
Unfortunately scenery is always a slow process and I am getting frustrated at its slow progress.
The bed for the creek has been roughed in using plaster as shown above. It would not be possible to use the foam for this purpose. At this stage it only needs to be roughed in as it will be filled in with rocks and then other vegetation laid over the side of the creek. Somehow it all comes together slowly but surely.
The above photo shows that 'Harold' the muddy coloured paint has been at work. All the plaster has been painted and the rock surfaces dry brushed to hopefully accentuate the water when it is poured over the top. Also can be seen more progress to the right hand side.
This shot shows the trackbed of the trestle where it will fit into place. You can see that the trestle bents will straddle the creek below. The right hand rock face will be close to the trestle which should make for a few interesting placements. The track on the trestle as shown is Micro Engineering but I will probably just end up using the standard Peco track as used elsewhere. The ME track looks a bit anorexic with its narrow sleepers. Besides I only purchased one length and would need more to complete. A road will go under the trestle where the can is shown.
 A few closeup shots of the waterfall. I need to add the resin to this section when the creek rocks have dried off. There is a lot of fine detail work to be done around the rocks. Just study photos off the internet and go look at waterfalls in real life.
The final photo of where the gully is now up to. It is hard to believe that my posterior was once sitting on the right hand side scenery. I think it has been put to better use. Only trouble now is that I have run out the foam and have to go and search for more.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Going soft in my old age

Well what a turn around. I mentioned in the last blog that when I was to build the gully that I would be using plaster for the walls. This has turned out only partly true as I decided to try out some soft rock modelling.
There is a guy, Mark Fry who wrote an article sometime ago in the Australian Model Railroader Magazine on making soft rocks. Alas I had given away the particular issue with the article in it. No worries, I'll have a go my way. So I reached for the soldering iron, cranked it up and then tried a few swipes across the foam to see how it would go. Plenty of smoke issued and after it had cleared I could see that the end result would be promising.
By nature the foam has a lot of holes in it, so I tried some aerosol putty over the foam. The improvement was only marginal and not used again. I also tied a weak plaster mix over the foam and this was also okay but the thicker it was applied I started wondering why I was using the foam underneath.
So the end result was a mixture of three scenery methods. I had the chicken wire, foam soft rocks and some plaster.
Being my first time doing the soft rock method I was pondering how to hold the foam against the chicken wire in the upper reach of the gully. I thought of using some glue but then settled for some wire bent into a hairpin shape, poked through the foam and then twisted over when it went through the chicken wire. This worked well.
I had tried some test section of the foam and used some Tamiya Khaki drab paint over the foam to darken it up. Using up a jar quickly was going to prove expensive to do the whole module. At at recent visit to Bunnings I remembered that you can get sample pots. The beauty of this is you don't have to tell the guy mixing the paint what the product will be used for. He probably though that I didn't have a very good choice of colours when I asked for a sample pot of a paint called 'Harold'. While the name tells you nothing regarding its colour, it was probably named after the guy who came up with the colour. It was the closest colour that I could get to the khaki drab.
On the creek floor I put some rocks that I had gathered at some time and glued them into place like I normally do for track ballast. After a day of drying this worked well. While at Bunnings I looked for a thick liquid sealer that I previously used in the original gully. So stupid me had thrown away the empty tin and I couldn't find a similar product. I had to settle for a resin that it used for fiberglassing, the one that needs a hardener added. I mixed a small amount, this being the first time I had used this product. It seemed to settle down amongst the rocks okay and was hard on the second day. I also put some white fibre into the resin but it still needs a second lot over it. Viewed from a few feet away it doesn't look too bad.
The left hand side of the gully wall won't be visible from the front of the layout when it gets into its final position so it will be only a cosmetic makeover.
In the photo on the right I have also started to apply some greenery to the walls, It then starts coming to life. The results of the foam soft rock can also be seen. I am happy with the end results and are now on the lookout for more foam. Damm I remember going past a council cleanup pile once and saw a complete mattress chucked out, didn't want it then but do now. It seems a waste to buy the foam new and then convert it into soft rocks. I'm still not sure if the gully looks O scale or not, once I get a few O scale objects into the scene then I'll know.
Some progress has been made with the foam soft rocks now wrapping around both sides of the gully walls. The left photo clearly shows the foam wired into the chicken wire awaiting the soldering iron to rough it up a little.
In isolsation when you get up close to some foam it doesn't look all that good but when the greenery, weathering and all other things you do to it, then it comes into its own. Compared with plaster modelling the soft rock system is a lot cleaner and less messy and less clean up afterwards.
You can see on the gully walls where the paint 'Harold' has done his stuff. It is a good basecoat colour and can then be highlighted with other lighter colours.
I also had a large amount of white foam on hand and broke up several large chunks, then glued them into the corner with an acrylic glue. Don't use the normal liquid nails glue as it will melt the foam. 
The original test piece of foam is in the front of the picture at the left.
For the first falls I reverted to using plaster as I found it would mould into shapes that I couldn't do with the foam. Sometimes when you get part way through doing some scenery you get disheartened with the results. When you look at the above photo it certainly doesn't look anything great. But bit by bit it all comes together in the end. The white plaster soon gets a dose of 'Harold' and straight away looks like rock. I am also feeling my way with this one. When putting it all together there are gaps that will appear between different scenery material, just stick some greenery there and the gaps will go away.
 I have put some more rocks into the waterfall scene, the above photo shows some ballast glue dribbling down the waterfall fixing the rocks into place. Also at the front can be seen some plaster rocks that I made by breaking up some foam rocks then dipping them into a watery plaster mixture. These rocks have bulk without weight. Harold has also got to these rocks as a base colour, they will be speckled later with other colours for variation.
As I said in the previous post I need to complete all this scene before I get the bridge into place. I am frustrated by the slowness of this work, it has many layers of work before the final result.

I'll finish off this blog with the progress to date, much more work will need to be done before I am satisfied. Remember everytime you do any scenery work it is all part of a learning curve, each time you do something it should get better than the last.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The making of a gully

Some more work this week has seen formwork installed to allow the deep walls of the gully that will be in the background behind the curved trestle bridge. I am still getting my mind around the fact that this is being built in O scale and everything will be essentially bigger than when the last gully was constructed in HO. Does this mean I will build it quicker?
Back in 2000 the first HO gully began

The completed HO gully. Two Main lines and a branch crossed the gully here.

After studying this corner module, I have worked out that I will need to complete most of the scenery before I move onto the next module. I will need to fix a backboard on two sides while it is out from the wall. Also because this module will contain the curved trestle it will certainly be easier to complete the scenery first. So this will slow down the work on the Broadwater module. Although the Eden baseboards have had a little scenery work done on them, I have not tackled any rockwork as yet.
Layers of foam added to the base to form the walls

Thinking ahead to when one day the layout will need to be removed from the shed, I thought of using some foam to form the  walls of the gully to lighten the load. I had a few thick sheets of the white foam on hand but not enough. I remember that a lot of modellers use a high density foam which is the yellow foam in the above photo. I found out that the Bunnings store at Dural had a supply, so my wife and I went for a drive out to this rural area to pick up two sheets.
The caption says its good to go
The manufacturer even lists "train bases" on the label so I knew I had got the right one. There was no intention to use it as a base at this stage but to cut it up to make the walls of the gully. Easy to cut with a pruning saw I soon had the bits I required stacked up on the board.

Looks a mess at the moment.
This foam is not as easy to work with as the white foam and was taking much more cutting to get it shaped how I wanted it. Well old habits die hard as they say and I then reverted back to my old method of using chicken/bird wire to form the contours that I wanted. It was a lot easier than trying to shape the foam. The grey block in the photo is a piece of florist foam that I will use later in construction.
This photo shows the extent of the trestle module.
The trestle will sit on a 30" radius curve, had I made it larger then it would have made this module larger and reduced the size of  the Broadwater module. I think it will work out okay.
The module starting to take shape.
The above photo shows the module taking shape. It is almost looking like a skeleton, you see the bones first then wonder what the completed person will look like when the skin is attached. One thing I wanted to include is a series of waterfalls cutting through the centre of the boards. It will have about three drops. To disguise the creek coming from the wall I will put the beginning around behind a hill.
I have been collecting many waterfall images from the internet recently to help put together the final scene. I will also put a walking track around the final scene.
Route of the creek
You can see that any scrap timber I have has been used. One of the last bits of the HO baseboard will live on supporting a waterfall. I have made a decision to use plaster for the walls of the gully as opposed to using the 'soft rock' technique. I know it would save weight in the long run, but it would be another learning curve and I have already used plaster on the previous layout.
I put some newspaper against the chicken wire so I can visualise what it may look like. This module will have to remain out from the wall initially so I can do the start of the creek as I won't be able to reach backwards to do it if it was placed against the wall. The good thing is that I can practice there as most of it won't be seen.
8A tries out the 'bridge'
The last photo shows NA 8A on the roadbed for the eventual trestle. I am looking forward to starting on the scenery on this module but know it will take some time to do it properly. As I see this as my last layout at this stage I want to get it right.

Ian Lindsay Website Update.
Another new item added to the On30 Puffing Billy range for Ian Lindsay is the VR rivetted cast iron water tanks (650 gallons). To quote the web site:
"These were often used in group of 4 or more as overhead loco water tanks on timber stands, as at Walhalla and Hillside. Also, the Weed Spray Train had two mounted on an NQR."
A photo of three of these tanks used for poison is shown on page 13 of the book "Focus on the Beech Forest Line Part two"

New cast iron water tank
Further details can be found here: Ian Lindsay Models

Friday, April 14, 2017

Forced into a corner

Well I was notified during the week by one of the narrow gauge drivers that they needed more baseboards and track to be made and laid. Fair call  I said to them, so I started on the next corner baseboard.
I wasn't looking forward to doing this section as it had some tricky (for me that is) carpentry. We already know carpentry is not my strong point, so I spent quite a few hours just sitting on a stool and staring into the corner. Glad the  wife didn't stick her head through the door, she would have seen me and thought I had been sent to the naughty corner. No dear just, just some heavy thinking.
The corner baseboard has to be done to enable trains to finally achieve getting into the next station, so that I will be able to run around the train and come back to Eden again. It will also form a crossing loop in the overall scheme. I have also decided to rename this place from Greigs Flat to Broadwater. Originally I just looked at the Google maps, worked out my start station and the finish station and picked out the number of planned stations, then just matched them up with local names. To me the name Greigs Flat didn't do it for me. Similar to "my tyres flat" was likened to "Greigs Flat". This name also suggests that the landscape around here is "flat". This location will be flanked by a trestle bridge on one side and my version of the Thomson River bridge on the exiting side of Broadwater. The track has shifted slightly east towards Pambula Lake. Isn't it great to be able to run your own railway? Just a few clicks of the mouse and the new route is done. No Acts of Parliament, no petitions, no dirty deals done by politicians, it just happens. As Mel Brooks once said "Its good to be the King!"
New railway route via Broadwater.
Also to be noted on the above diagram, the line to Candelo will branch off from Bega rather than from Wolumla. This is due to another track plan change that will be explained when the track gets to the other end of the shed.
The little guys stirred me into action during the week and I have started on the framework for the corner baseboard. I managed to build most of the board near its intended destination, on the floor. It got a little cramped but I suffered with the cramped conditions, rather than take some time off and move a few things. I am like that.
Sydney turned on a beautiful Autumn day today, so I took the corner out into the fading sun for a few shots. I am still trying to get my head around the scale changes from HO to O scale. Everything is bigger I must convince myself.

This corner baseboard has the Monbulk trestle on the Puffing Billy railway for inspiration. I am using a 30" radius curve, mainly because its the only track gauge I can find at the moment. It looks OK.
After sitting back onto my stool for a bit longer and staring into the "box" I still haven't come up with a final scenery makeover for this corner. I know that O scale trees are way bigger than HO ones so I don't know how many will fit into this corner. I will come up with something between now and the next blog entry.
Location of road under trestle similar to that of Monbulk trestle.
This trestle will also be similar to that at Monbulk in that a road will pass under one end. I am not sure at this stage if it will be just a dirt road or paved. In the above photo I have used some ply to form the track base and part of the trestle. There will be seven intermediate piers between the ends. I would love to flood this valley with tree ferns but I haven't seen any model tree ferns that come any where near the real thing. They are a complicated item to make but they would look nice done properly.
Rear view of corner baseboard. 

The above photo shows the trestle from the rear that will be eventually up against the wall, so photos won't be obtainable when the rear section is in place and scenery done. Having taken these few outside photos, it was then time to return this section to the layout inside.
The engine crew are now happy, they can see progress.

The boards are temporarily together for now.
Taking the board back inside the shed I moved a few things around and clamped up the new board to the existing baseboard. (i.e. the one the crew were doing their whinging on in the first photo)
The bridge roadbed was placed up on a temporary stick to finally give an idea on how this corner section will pan out. This corner section will be supported by the baseboards on either side of it, plus a set of legs in the far corner.
The inspiration for this trestle is in the photo above.
It was ironic and not planned that there was a photo of G42 on the Monbulk trestle on the wall above. If the finished product looks half as good as this I will be happy.
The left hand corner will lead onto Broadwater station.
So things have been moving along this week on the layout. The weather is thankfully becoming a little cooler and the humidity is a lot less so work down there is becoming a pleasure.
As I write this the Narrow Gauge Convention is underway down at Geelong, Victoria. I almost got there but missed out. I don't know where the next one will be but I hope I might make that one. I'm looking forward to the reports and photos and a possible write up in the "Narrow Gauge Down Under" magazine.
Keep tracking in the mean time!!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ian Lindsay website

Well, good news the Ian Lindsay website has been updated recently in April. This site is particularly of interest to me as without his offerings of the O scale Victorian narrow gauge wagons available I may never have taken up the challenge. Coupled with the release of the Haskell NA the combination of the two suppliers should allow anyone to model this style of model railway.
The site is improved with the addition of many images now to allow a visual of the product. Of particular interest is the new section of enhancement parts to upgrade the Haskell NA and also the recently released NQR wagons. There is also two photos of the stunning end result of Alan Rockett's NA that he has superdetailed. Some of the Ian Lindsay parts were used in the rebuild.
Finally I will be able to get bags of potatoes to put in the back of the ute, delivering them for loading into a NQR. There are also other new products such as narrow gauge buffer stops that have never been previously advertised.
I believe that Ian Storrie will be attending the Narrow Gauge Convention over Easter at Geelong. Its good to see him back making hard to find items especially for O scale in 1:48. I believe this is the scale that the USA modellers also use so there are many items that may be of interest to them as well.
The link is here: Ian Lindsay Models

An Inspiring website

There are many facets to model railways. Most people have a main interest usually the one that they are most comfortable doing. This can include carpentry, electrical work, kit building, tracklaying, operation and of course scenery work. If I was to pick my favourite of the above listings then it would have to be the scenery side of things. This item to me has a visual end result that brings a railway to life. 
Recent work at our house had the plumber tell me that they were the least appreciated group of tradies because all of the work was usually hidden. He said the painters and tilers were the most appreciated as their end product was visual.
This is my feeling towards doing scenery. Carpentry and electrical work although important is generally all hidden. This is why I didn't have to be a high achiever in woodwork at school. I must have known one day all my crook work would be hidden.
To anyone that has seen the work of the Red Stag On30 team, Geoff Knott and friends will know the high standards that can be reached. This layout impressed me so much that I was glad I was able to actually say to Geoff at an exhibition that his scenery work was the most impressive I had seen in my over 40 years of modelling. He modestly accepted my praise.
The advent of the internet has allowed the world to share the hobby on line with just a few clicks of the mouse. Most blogs have followers i.e. people who are interested in what you are doing and are happy to declare their interest as a follower. One day looking at the background of some of the followers, I came across this particular site called: Trainscape 
For some reason Jose Manuel Gomez was following my site. I am glad he did. Now I am following his site as he has done some magnificent scenery work. Now amongst some of the blogs that he follows I came across another site: Drawn From Life
Image by Marcel Ackle from his blog " Drawn From Life"

 Where the key element in Red Stag was the scenery, the Drawn From Life author Marcel Ackle has made model buildings that look like real life photos. It is some of the most brilliant modelling work I have seen. The timber work even has the moss growing on it. Words cannot describe the workmanship, you have to look for your self. And he has kindly provided some tutorials listed down the left hand side of the blog. He sets a standard that most people can never attain but it is always a goal that we can aim for never the less. Although the site is in German (I think that's what it is) there is a translation option available. 
Have a look through his blog it is truly amazing modelling!!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Going Around the bend

Yes slow progress but in the last week I have well and truly gone around the bend!  I have finally laid the track around the Snug Cove area and up to the end of the next two baseboards.
Track is finally laid up the hill.

The cork underlay has been used mainly to form a shoulder for the ballast rather than for sound deadening properties. In the yards and on the siding in the picture the track is laid directly to the baseboard as this is how yards are, usually no ballast and no shoulder.
The droppers have been soldered on ready for hooking up to the dcc bus once it turns up. You know buses have a reputation for running late, well at least here in Sydney. I am using the wire in tube method for operating points. I figure if you are going to walk with your train, then the point will be right in front of you. Very cost effective.
The un-named siding finally gets some track.
I also need to install the micro switches to control the frog polarity, these have worked well so far at Eden.
The coal unloading siding will run off to the right
In the above photo the NQR is at the end of the private siding, the elevation the track climbs is shown as well. The point sits at the end of the baseboard right on the join. The tracks have also been slightly superelevated on the curved tracks. They haven't been tested under power as yet, so hopefully it will all work okay.
Looking the opposite direction from the previous photo
The bit of white foam sticking up is covering the end of the point throw rod, I'm sure without it I would have been stabbed with it. Must have the OH & S in place.
A passenger tries out the new track
The above photos shows some greenery appearing. Trust me I didn't put it there, we have so much rain the last month here in Sydney and now the tail end of Cyclone Debbie giving us a lashing that I reckon the greenery has just grown from all the moisture in the air. Doesn't it look better already?
The blackboy (or if you want to be pc = a grasstree) was a Modellers Warehouse product I got from Dave at the Forestville Model exhibition early this month.
Trust me, making baseboards, laying track, wiring etc is the most boring bit in modelling but has to be done in that order before the best part, the scenery can be done. That's what brings a layout to life. So you will have to put up with that for a little while longer.
End shot of layout
I still have to complete the curved point and fit the throwbar and also make it electrically okay. Once that is done then the microswitches have to be fitted and then a hook up to the bus and we will be ready for testing the first train under power.

South Coast Rail - HO

It has been quite a while since the old HO layout has been around and it was a really enjoyable time and many an operating session was held.
Part of the sadness is diminished when you are able to look back on the many of photos taken while in construction and operation.
A collection of some of the better shots still exist here on this Flickr site: South Coast Rail HO
Older posts herein will cover more photos and the trials and tribulations of the building the HO layout. (The possum is now gone)
Please enjoy what was, we now move on to a new world and to see if I can improve on the former.
Until then, happy modelling!