Monday, 30 December 2019

2019 - Gone

Well I don't know where 2019 has gone but tomorrow will be the last day and then onto 2020. I am sure as you get older time goes faster (ask any old person).
South Coast Rail has been coming along slowly, that is the nature of narrow gauge, we are slow.
The major 2019 event was my attendance at the Australian Narrow Gauge convention on the Central Coast of NSW held over the Easter period. I was asked if my layout could be on display and I tentatively agreed to this request back in 2018. This was also a catalyst  to get me to pull my finger out and try and make what I had built presentable. My layout is on the larger size so having the lot finished was not an option but I hope what was presented was okay. The convention was also a chance to finally meet fellow modellers that I had conversed with over the internet. The level of modelling was exceptional and also there was a dinner get together on the Saturday night.
So after the convention it was back to the general modelling field which is where you can be in the shed for a few hours, come out and then wondered what you had achieved?
I also decided to make a start on the signature piece of the layout that being the model of the Thomson River bridge. I am lucky to have had help from a few friends in its construction which will make for a better model in the end. This especially applies to the piers made by Roger Johnson and the trusses laser cut by Nathan Wakim and the talented painting hand of Ian Fainges.
2020 as always will see forward progress with the bridge taking priority. The baseboard it sits on will require new skills to be learnt such as how do I make the river etc? Looks like some more Youtubing ahead.
I will round off the year with some random shots of the layout and wish you all the best for the New Year, happy modelling.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Thomson River Bridge - 3

With the four piers at hand, all I had to do was to assemble them and get them ready for the finished effect. As mentioned I thought the best way to go was to apply Selleys Spackfilla Rapid over the piers, then colour them up to represent the real thing. I am not sure if the natural finish of the 3D print would have resulted in a better representation of the concrete finish, but after completing then, I am happy with the look.
When I assembled the pieces of the piers I had used five minute araldite along with a section of styrene over the joints to strengthen the pier. I am not sure if this extra section was required but gave re-assurance that it would all hold together.
Two of the pieces I received already had the bases included as part of the print. As these prints were basically experimental, I suggested to Roger that they could be omitted to save time and filament in printing. The only time I have seen the actual bases was when the bridge was new, in all photos viewed since the bridges opening the bases have been covered with river gravel.
The caps were left in their original state and didn't require any plaster. Roger had also moulded the plates that the bridge rests on at the top of the pier.

The four piers awaiting finishing
I eventually got the four piers covered with the plaster and then it came time to work out how to finish them off to look like the real thing. I had taken as many photos as I could on my two visits to the real bridge as a guide for later construction. The lighting in the area was different on the two visits which was reflected in the photos but luckily we dodged rain on both occasions. Having been in position for over one hundred years the piers have had plenty of natural weathering. The top of the piers has a lot of 'gunk' that has dribbled down the sides. As it goes further down it fades out. So it is a complicated job to get the overall look of the real thing.
My attempts at weathering
I grabbed a piece of florist foam to practice on before I applied a finish it to the piers. The final finish had to be the same over the four piers. As stated on the previous blog entry the final colour was hard to define, and varied over time. After this test piece, I thought I was ready to do the four piers, and after having a go I was a bit disillusioned with the result.
Pier one, fail one
I wasn't satisfied with my results and knowing that the piers on the bridge are the focal point that people will focus on, I wanted to get these right. I became aware of a painter Ian Fainges who does custom painting work for Andian Models.
Two of Ian Fainges painted figures on the layout
I had Ian paint up two figures for me and was very pleased with the final finish. Ian is also a great painter with war gamer figures. So I thought why not ask him if he could do the piers for me using his skills. After contacting him he said he would have a go and the four piers were packed up and sent to him. After a short while he sent photos which looked OK.
I received the piers back but after unpacking I thought they weren't what I wanted but he was happy to have another go. So when I received them back the second time I reckon he has got them spot on. The weathering from the top down is really excellent.
Painted piers Mark 1
Painted piers Mark 2
Looking good
I still need to do a little more on the piers basically trying to simulate the concrete layer pour lines but more than happy with the end results thanks to the help of Roger and Ian. The bridge is a complicated build but if taken slowly will all come together in the end.

Fox Valley Railway

Readers of this forum would know about our group of regular modellers who gather together for trips out or meetings at each others place for a layout run, barbeque, drink and maybe a rail related video, then cake etc to finish off the day.
The last event was held locally at Kevin's place where we were treated to his great Fox Valley On30 railway. I follow VR narrow gauge but he has chosen US based models with a lot of freelancing thrown in. He has made many of his models from locos to rolling stock and buildings. His skill has probably come through from his trade as an aircraft maintenance engineer.
No 16 latest scratch built sound loco

A few of the steam locos around the turntable

Opposite side of layout to first photo

At the loader

Busy day at the local station
 So everything was going well on the day and after a while at the layout we went upstairs for a barbeque lunch. While the sausages were on the barbie, the skies started to darken and within ten minutes the day had gone from a very smoky day from the bushfires to cyclonic weather. The rain was coming down horizontally, wind blowing and we were wondering what would happen next. We rescued the cooked sausages from the barbie and went inside for lunch. Of course next to happen was that the power went out. The wine drinkers amongst us were happy but we all missed out on our cake and coffee later on.
With no power to see a video we adjourned for the day and I was given a lift home, dodging downed trees on the way home.
The tops of a tall tree were brought down in the back yard that being the only damage. But later that night around 7.0pm we lost power and didn't receive power back until another 3 days, also around 7.0pm. Needless to say not much modelling or computing got done on those three days. We sometimes don't realise how reliant we are on electrical power.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Thomson River Bridge - 2

After doing the maths on the plans I worked out that the bridge would be around 1.90m in length. The baseboard was slightly longer to allow for the river banks on each side and a run on/run off section.
Much brain scratching was had before I decided to utilise a section of aluminium 'C' channel to support all the individual sections that needed to be supported somewhere. The 'C' channel was sourced locally and kindly cut to a two metre length at the store (a) because that was around the length needed, and (b) a three metre plus length wouldn't fit within the confines of a Toyota Corolla. I also got the offcut which would be put to good use later. The 'C' channel was 32mm wide and 16mm high. I basically had to guess this and hoped it would all work.

CorelDraw drawings to help with construction
One great assistance in making the bridge has been the use of CorelDraw to make various diagrams of the bridge to help with its construction. They can be drawn to exact scale and in the cross section diagram above I was able to see how all the sections would fit in together. I have been using this programme for over twenty years and typical of many programmes I only learn enough to get done what is needed. There would be many more uses that I haven't discovered as yet. The drawings were not meant to be in the engineering class but sufficient to enable early decisions to be made.
Pier numbering and pier heights
Some plans exist that have been helpful in the bridges construction, the above diagram shows the height of the various piers.
One of the standout features of the Thomson River bridge are the four concrete piers. These are the signature pieces. The actual bridge is really pure mongrel build. The truss in the middle and the plate girders either side were recycled from other replaced broad gauge railway bridges. One of the books I have in my collection "Steam on the Lens, Volume II" details black and white construction photos.   I have included two pictures from the book that clearly shows the extreme conditions that early engineers had to contend with. 

Early construction photo from the book 'Steam on the Lens'
Early construction photo from the book 'Steam on the Lens'
I was wondering whether I had bitten off more than I could chew when I decided to build the bridge. You can't foresee all the challenges ahead but it is hard to pull out when you have gone maybe half way.
After spending hours studying plans and photos, I decided to accept the challenge. But the biggest problem piece in the whole build was how was  I going to construct the piers? The piers are a complex structure that are tapered on all sides. And to make the build more complicated the front of the piers facing upstream had a curved front so that any flood debris coming down stream would be diverted to either side. The back of the pier was different having three faces. So all in all a complicated build. I have already stated (many times) that I am crap at wood work so wood forms piers were not on the agenda. My preferred option was to use florist foam which is very soft, easily carved and suitably strong enough to support the bridge decking above. This was to be the design material. But during the course of research when I was on a forum, I came across a fellow VR narrow gauge modeller, Roger Johnson. We have been exchanging emails back and forwards on the bridge and both indicating a strong desire to have a model made. Having made two brief visits to the actual bridge, I passed on all the photos I had of the bridge to Roger hoping this would help with his build. It was some time after we had been communicating that he told me he had obtained an Aldi 3D printer. As Roger has 'draughtsman' as one of his skills, conquering the trials and tribulations of a 3D printer should be made easy for him. We were both working of the same set of unreadable plans, but on some of the plans measurements were actually legible. He emailed me that he had done the pier capping and would I be interested in seeing it. Yes of course. I think at this time I was working on  'other' sections of the layout at the time and the bridge was put on the backburner.
Then one day a courier came to the door with a large box addressed to me. I knew I hadn't ordered anything at the time, but when I got to open the box inside were many bridge section piers. When I realised what they were for, I thought I had gone to heaven. After playing with the pieces for a while I finally got them stacked in the right order and there before my eyes was the reason to continue with the build.

The four piers as received waiting to be glued, coated and painted

Early trial of colours
The hardest part of the build was there just waiting to be assembled. Roger has done a brilliant job on these piers and then I needed to start gluing the sections together. There was some flashing at the bottom of each section that was easily removed by sanding. The 'slices' fitted perfectly together and being hollow a section of styrene was glued to the inside to strengthen the pier. On two of the piers Roger has made the base but as I said to him the only time I have ever seen the base in a photo was during the construction of the bridge. Years of river flow past the pylons has seen the bases disappear under piles of river gravel. To delete the base would result in quicker print time and saving of material. The two middle piers are lower than the two outside piers.
The piers were made using timber formwork. I expected that the formwork timber grain  would be more noticable on the finished piers but I couldn't detect much in photos. You can see on the piers a visible line that indicates where the levels of each pour finished, so like rings on a tree it can be seen how many pours it took to finish each pier. Towards the bottom of the piers can be seen some of the concrete chipped away, possibly the result of over a hundred years of logs banging into them during flood times. This would be called super detailing and could be included in the model. I chose not to do this for my model. With loads of other work to be done in the room I have to manage time and leave this level of detailing out. If this was my only build then I could sink the time into it.
I needed to provide a smooth surface on the piers and after some thought I dropped the option of sanding the sides and going with using some Selleys Spackfilla Rapid on the sides. Although the horizontal grain of the 3D printing may have represented the concrete finish Ok I was looking for something that would readily absorb colour.
Once I got the four piers coated I then started studying the pier colour to try and replicate the same finish. I must have looked at the real photos for ages trying to work out what the actual colour was and put a name to it. The primary colours and their variations are easy to identify, but this is an un-named colour. Was it grey, creamy or some other colour? Then to complicate the finish, there was years and years of weathering that would need to be applied.
The base for the river is installed. Photos on the wall for easy reference.
 I have to admit that I have never really had a workbench to make my models, preferring to build the model 'on site' The photo above shows an old timber finish desk I was using for a workbench. It did the job but has to be removed to allow for the river base to be installed.

To be continued....................

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Thomson River Bridge - 1

A smile for the camera moment. An excursion train on its way to Walhalla
Even though the plans were in effect unreadable I was able to determine the final bridge would be around 2 metres long in O scale. As I was slowly building my way out from Eden with baseboards as I went, I was able to allocate a length along the long wall of the shed for the Thomson River bridge build. I knew there was no hurry at this stage to devote modelling time as to how and when it would be built, that would come when I was ready.

So the easiest solution was to build a module for the bridge and then carry on past that section and build more of the layout.
Plan showing relationship of the bridge and Broadwater and Pambula modules.
Broadwater was the module prior to the track turning 90 degrees and then running across the bridge. When stepping up scales from HO to O scale it is surprising how quickly the 'real estate' disappears. When the trains get bigger the available space for them to run is quickly reduced. But if I was to go down to N scale (been there, done that) the available space would appear huge. So after adjusting to the space available the bridge module was connected to the Broadwater module.
As shown in the diagram I made a temporary track oround the alignment the final track was to go. This meant I would be able to carry out operation on the rest of the layout before I got back to the bridge build.
Obviously I had to make the bottom of this baseboard considerably lower to allow for the high concrete piers of the bridge. Having based my bridge on the real bridge I will also have to allow the sloping sides on either side of the river. There are many further things to research yet such as how do I do running water? I guess I will be busy watching the various Youtube videos on this topic. That will also include some practice goes as I wouldn't want the bridge to be looking good and then have crappy water underneath. I have done some water modelling in the past but not on this scale. Another obvious choice will be to model the river during a dry spell where there will be minimum water underneath to model. I have photos showing the water lapping all four concrete piers during heavy rain periods. But my choice will be to have lots of gravel patches under it, easier to model.
Ideal modelling scenario, more gravel, less water.
Obviously a rainy time the Thomson River is flowing

So the two photos clearly outline how different modelling this scene can be and I think my choice of less water will be easier to do. It is also interesting to see how different the foilage, river banks etc have changed over the years. It is going to be hard to model the tall timbers on the left bank but that is quite a while on.
Long timber shows bridge alignment
View from other direction
Temporary track to allow layout operation
This bridge build has been in the planning stage for a few years now. There are many facets that need to come together for the finished product. How do I make the piers? They look so complicated with their multiple faces. How do I make the trusses and the adjoining girders? What size timbers do I need and can I get stripwood to a similar size?
What I have to declare early on with this build is that I don't consider myself a great modeller. Where I might be able to get away with scenery okay, making an item that has specific measurements is another ball game. I must have said a few times over the life of the blog that I cannot cut a straight line, even with a mitre box! So in the end this bridge build will be a compromise and will hopefully be recognisable as a model of the Thomson River bridge.
As the Beatles song was "I get by with a little help from my friends" the next blog I will show how this bridge has become a team project.

Monday, 21 October 2019

A bridge too far

When I was modelling the New South Wales railway in HO scale there were hundreds of track designs that could be modelled. It varies from a boring loop with two set of points way up to the likes of complicated locations such at Central Station and varying degrees of complexity in between.

Then the modeller may just like the northern, western southern or other specific districts and want to faithfully model stations purely from that area.

The other option is to just model  freelance and do your own thing such as name and track design. I did this on the HO layout, calling it South Coast Rail. I then had stations such as Bega, Batemans Bay and Narooma, locations that never had and never will have a railway although many were proposed in the past.

I continued this theme when I converted to Victorian narrow gauge, the layout name South Coast Rail was retained and some of the station names were reused.  The former Bega on the HO layout was a major station with three platforms and two docks, a large freight yard, carriage sidings, loco depot area and a few private sidings. But having converted to narrow gauge I now had to rethink small.  Bega has a main line, loop, a goods siding and a two track loco depot area. A shadow of its former namesake.

Apart from Eden and Bega on the layout all other stations are what is referred to as 'mallee sheds'

There will be a few of them around the layout. They don't even need a platform to be used , just surround them with some dirt and they are good to go.

Apart from the usual goods shed, livestock yards and other buildings on the layout there is not a lot to be constructed. I also don't need signal boxes and associated signals so another time saver over my previous HO layout.

When designing the narrow gauge layout I was looking for standout items. One of the iconic features of the narrow gauge line from Belgrave to Gembrook is the trestle over Monbulk Creek and is just a few bends out from Belgrave. Many photographers gather at this spot and many a fine shot has been taken there. I saw this as a challenge and was on the early list for inclusion on the layout. The trestles construction has been well covered in earlier blog entries so if you are interested you can go back and see how this corner was developed.

Shay 12 crosses the trestle bridge
Adjoining the trestle is the town of Broadwater. It has a crossing loop, a goods loop and a dead end siding which will eventually have a livestock loading facility . There is also a private industry siding to add some operation interest. I haven't even given a thought as to what will be at this spot yet. The line coming off the trestle turns 90 degrees into Broadwater and then turns another 90 degrees having traversed across the roller door. This turn then points the track along the long wall of the shed.

It would have been around the time after I had returned from Victoria on our first 'rail gunzel weekend' with some mates. One of the trips we did that weekend was to ride the 'Snow train' from Melbourne out to Moe and then transfer by coach to the town of Walhalla. My research of the Victorian narrow gauge lines was well advanced at that stage and I was purchasing every book and publication and  bits of info I could obtain. I had seen photos of the Thomson River bridge in books and it was a motley collection of bits and pieces that went into getting the railway line across the Thomson River.
Thomson River bridge Victoria - Bob Taaffe photo
 It soon became apparent that I should try and make a model of this bridge, so the research began. The line into Walhalla opened on the 3rd May 1910. Doing the maths this makes the bridge well over 100 years old. The chances of any plans still existing was unlikely. Making this challenge easier these days is the invention of the internet and the existence of like minded forums can generate great results. Questions can be put on line and sometimes within a few minutes an answer to the question can be obtained. The jewel in the crown was the fact that plans were available of the Thomson River bridge and I was kindly sent a copy by a member of the forum. (Sorry forgot your name) Again almost instant gratification can be had when the plans turned up. There were around nine pages of plans. Some information was excellent and easy to read but unfortunately critical measurements were impossible to read. I can only presume the original scanner did not have access to a decent scanner at the time or the original plan scanned was not legible. Anyway some is better than none.
The un-readable plan measurements
 Amongst the plans was a plan that laid out the lengths of each of the spans that were either supported by timber or the concrete piers. As I was modeling in O scale 1:48 scale a quick total of dimensions came out with a model around two metres long from end to end. All of this combined with the fact that in August 2016 I had actually travelled over this bridge by narrow gauge train and was standing beside the bridge taking as many photos and measurements as I could in the allotted  twenty minutes that the train was standing at Thomson station.

It was at this stage that I decided I would attempt to make a model of this bridge for the layout, so in the next blog entry I will detail how my attempts have been working out.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Hibernation - No

Bears and other animals hibernate in winter but why should we? Winter for me is probably the time when more should be done than the extremes of summer. Having said that progress down the shed has been remarkably  slow. With over two thousand projects in the shed to do before finishing, sometime you can come out and wonder what you have achieved on the day.
I had a great distraction in July when I was invited down to the Southern Highlands with two friends Marcus and Laurie. The trip was to have a look at the magnificent HO layout of Gary Glazebrook who has modelled around the Newcastle/Port Waratah area and other collieries and branches south of Broadmeadow. I was very impressed in the past when I was attending the Modelling the Railways of NSW conventions down at Loftus. Gary gave an excellent lecture on his proposed layout. I don't think he had settled on the final plan at the time and showed a few options and one was eventually chosen for his final layout plan. Most of the fine completed layouts I have seen all seem to be based on the northern line. Must be some attraction about the north?
The layout was situated on the upper floor and for first timers seeing it, you were blown away by its size and excellent construction. The day was a gathering of DCC users and naturally this layout was run utilising NCE wireless throttles. There was no way corded throttles would work on this large layout. There were trains everywhere on the layout, many in place on hidden staging return loops under the layout. Then there was the terminus of Newcastle and behind that was the impressive steel works and tracks of Port Waratah. A fantastic layout that I hope one day will grace the pages of the Australian Model Railway magazine. I didn't take enough photos but a few of the impressive steel works and adjacent track will give an idea of the layout. Thanks for the invite Gary.

And back in the real world of narrow gauge although I have made many visits to the shed, there is not a lot to show for them at the moment. I have actually made a start on the Thomson River bridge but it is painfully slow. I'll keep details of the build for future posts as  there is not much to show yet.
One thing I often do though is when I see a photo opportunity I whip the phone out and take some snaps, so I have made a selection of recent shots and present them here. Once a year during winter the afternoon sun is low in the northern sky and shines right into the shed. The summer sun goes right overhead and doesn't give the same photo opportunities. Enjoy.