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.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Just around the corner....

Level crossing at Pambula
Just around the corner from the station at Pambula, the track becomes single once again and will head towards Wolumla further on. There is a level crossing at the entrance of the yard which gives access to the goods yard and also a road access to the private siding. At this point there is a backdrop with minimal room for scenery. I decided to see if there was enough room to place a small residence and a plan I had of a small NSW railway house was enlarged to O scale and it seemed to fit but with minimal backyard space.
I had a large sheet of fluteboard? rescued from a council clean up and made a mockup of the house to see how it looks in its spot. I seems to fit OK but not the house and block size I would buy.
A mockup of the house to test footprint.
Aerial view of house showing how small the block is
 At Pambula I provided an extra siding so that when shunting goes on it can be used to store wagons without blocking the main, loop or goods siding. When operation gets into full swing this siding will be used for taking off wagons and awaiting the next train in the opposite direction to move onto another location.

Dirt is down and the glue added

The weeds are added and it all looks good
 I am not fussed about placing a Kadee magnetic uncoupler on the siding. It has been tested and works well. It saves putting a skewer down between the couplers to uncouple.
A fence is added to form a border to the house and rail line

The Main line receives its ballast 

Must be winter no leaves
 Although I like gardening, I try and keep it second place to the layout shed. In the photo above is the remains of a plant I thought would look nice in the garden. As you can see it didn't seem to survive and when the leaves were gone I thought the trunk can be made into a nice looking O scale tree in the future. I like the way it currently overhangs the tracks. So it it is now on the long list of 'things to do' to 're-green'.
The greenery arrives

Starting to look better

Monday, 17 June 2019

To the Letter etc....

As you would be aware, my narrow gauge layout has been based on a fictional railway on the far South Coast of New South Wales. Its location was carried on from my previous HO style layout, why change a good thing?
Station names on the new layout are Eden, Snug Cove, Broadwater, Pambula, Wolumla, Bega and the branch terminus of Candelo (a town put on the map by two contestants of the 2018 House Rules renovation show on TV)
Station lettering for New South Wales stations are 12" high but I found out that the equivalent Victorian lettering appears to be around 10" high. Despite my efforts to track down the official Victorian standards for the lettering, none was forth coming. So this involved a different approach to re-create some accurate lettering.
As far as I could ascertain the lettering for the narrow gauge stations was the same size as used for the Victorian main line stations, not smaller as one might think.
I am in a Facebook Modelling the Victorian Narrow Gauge pages and posted the request for any info on the VR lettering.
The Mallee shed seems wider to accommodate the wider sign. Internet photo
So the way forward was to acquire front on photos of the station signs and then import them into a CorelDraw programme and prepare suitable letters for etching. I was helped out with various signs and so piecemeal the letters were prepared. I obtained some station sign photos from Stephen Postma and in particular I would like to thank Jenny Baker who works for the Puffing Billy railway and the day she was on fire patrol duty (a small track vehicle that follows the steam train on the lookout for fires), she photographed the station names along the way. A great help.
Eventually all the letters were gathered, luckily the 'Z' was available from Menzies Creek and the letter 'Q' was available from Queenscliff. I had been having conversation with Stephen Ottaway from Stephen Johnson models regarding the production of these letters and he offered to have them etched.
Work on this project only started early this year and I thought it would be good if they could be produced and made available for the Narrow Gauge convention over the Easter period. Some tweeking of the letters was done by Stephen and they were sent off to Scotland (somewhere) to be etched. To my surprise they were done and finished in advance of the convention.
The finished product
The lettters are produced in nickel silver and the lettering is set out as shown above. They have been produced in O scale 1/48 scale. This then suits modellers of main line VR and narrow gauge layouts. 1/48 scale is used in O scale for US and VR modelling scales whereas most UK and NSW modellers use the 7mm to the foot scale. If you are interested in this excellent product contact stephen at
Some of the station boards on my layout when I finally get around to building them will be facing inwards but one station at Broadwater faces outwards. I had a go at this one first and as shown in the below photo. I used some Evergreen square styrene but the only one available ends up giving a 6" square post which I think is too chunky. I will source out something smaller.
Now he knows where he is!
I am happy how this project has ended up, and my thanks to the many who have helped along the way.
And while we are on the subject of signs, part of the preparation of having my layout on display for the Narrow Gauge convention was some housekeeping to have what was available to actually look presentable. I had often admired finished layouts that had a nice fascia on the front of the layout. I obtained many sheets of 2400 x 1200mm 3mm mdf to finish of the front. They were duly cut out, undercoated and then painted the finished colour of Malay grey and then attached to the front of the layout either by gluing direct or screwing on at places where I might need to get access to the wiring.
I thought of using stencils for the lettering for the stations but couldn't find anything suitable. A posting on the FB site by Dan Pickard showed the lettering that he used for his module was produced using vinyl stick on lettering. It looked good and following the link I obtained some lettering for the face of my layout and one sign for each station. This helps for visitors to the layout and me when I get forget full later on!

So incredible with todays technology. I prepared the project on line, paid for it and around a week later the envelope turned up with the lettering al ready to go.
Other Side of the Tracks
Another five 'Other Sides' have been added to the link above. They will all be there eventually including the ones they didn't print.
Link to 'The Other Side'