Sunday, 13 December 2020

Around the bend

 Around the bend, that's where I am doing some work at the moment. I can't believe that the layout has been under construction for nearly five years, way back in December 2015 was when I was starting to rip the old HO layout apart. Dropping into this scale has meant a lot of work in regards to sourcing O scale everything. Luckily the locos have been available through Haskell who have done the NA's from the Victorian narrow gauge system and also Bachmann who have supplied the Shay, Climax and Heisler to add narrow gauge interest. Although Bachmann have done other narrow gauge steam locos such as the 4 - 6 - 0's and 2 - 8 - 0's etc I have resisted getting any as they would tower up against the NA's. I have four NA's all sound equipped and this should be sufficient for operation.

As has been mentioned before the departure of Ian Lindsay Models in supplying his great range of VR narrow gauge models has now made it very hard to new modellers to this scale. Although Ian has been producing these models for close on forty  years, I was lucky enough to obtain enough models just before he retired. Now the only source will be through the second hand market. One can only hope that in the future 3D resin printing will be advanced enough that these models will be available again. It is a very lonely modelling scale and prototype, the number of modellers I know of can be counted on one hand and still have the thumb spare. Just call us unique and that's what I like about it.

 I have added another Owen Thirty Neighbourhood as per the above. It was taken in an area yet to be fully sceniced, more of an experimental area.

Snug Cove station

 I have done some scenery work between the level crossing and the Snug Cove Mallee shed, at least the pathway is clear to follow for the passengers. The mockup paper shed will certainly be replaced one day with a proper one it is just there to provide some scale to the scene. The base was done with the universal local oval dirt and the pathway was formed by using sandpaper on the dirt to get it smoother and then some coloured chalk was rubbed over it to provide some variation. A few more larger bushes will go into this area later on.

Some benchwork has been undertaken to tie in the full circle of the layout. I decided not to go with the previous inward swinging gate on the HO layout as there was sometimes trouble in getting the tracks to line up when it was closed, that was a combination of my poor carpentry and the weather which when wet would swell the timbers and then the tracks wouldn't line up. I remember one operating day when no amount of hitting with the hammer would get the tracks to line up which resulted in a different operating scenario on the day. I am not sure if the next setup will be any better but I will give it a go. I guess I will find out when it all gets finished.

 I had constructed the lift out section initially with straight sides all round and only after doing this realised it would have been better to have cut one end at a 45 degree angle to assist the dropping in of the liftout section. As I don't possess the right tools to cut the angle correctly I spoke to a mate Mike who was able to assist me in utilising his equipment in his garage and we got the job done as can be seen in the above photo. All the above boards will be painted before track is laid to try and prevent moisture absorption and possible swelling of the timber. The shape of the board was due to the angle of the track coming out of Eden and the need to turn 90 degrees and head up to Bega.

 The boards will be edged similar to the rest of the layout and this will cover up all the crook carpentry etc. I was quite surprised with the weight of the liftout section but it needs to be a compromise between strength and weight. At the moment I am able to limbo under it and may leave it out in future and put into place only for operating days.

The missing link
The above photo shows the missing section between Bega (bottom painted section) and the rest of the present layout. There was always going to be an uphill grade between the sections and I was a bit hopeful that it wouldn't be too steep to limit train sizes so by laying out the track as above I was about to find out.

Load trial
I joined a few lengths of track together and commenced some load trials with an NA. I started of with a train of six mixed vehicles and it ran up the grade no trouble. I then extended the train to nine vehicles and again it handled it no trouble. I was happy with this size train and it may be able to handle more vehicles but at the time I couldn't fit any more track in. The track in the foreground will need a frog juicer wired in to reverse the current as the train heads from Bega to Eden and vice versa.

 The last shot above shows the extent of the current work. Snug Cove in the foreground, Eden to the right and the track to Bega in the distance and the bottom left the track to Broadwater. So with a little more work it is hoped that the first train to circumnavigate the shed will happen early in 2021.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

In the corner

Up at the ash pit
Yes I know I should be working on the bridge but the next bit to be completed will not visible at normal viewing angles. It will involve the detailing of the underneath section.

Last post I replaced the dodgy home made point which seemed to derail a train each time one passed over it. It was replaced with a commercial Peco point and now everything seems to work through there okay. Having the track in place I then decided to start on the level crossing that runs from the edge across three tracks and into the coal loading point. When this corner gets completed then the scenery will then be nearly finished from leaving Eden right up to Broadwater. And once the 'bridge' is completed then one half of the layout will be scenicked. I can't believe how long it has taken just to get to this stage but it has been an enjoyable trip this venture into narrow gauge.

Level crossing begins
At this section of the layout I have laid it on cork to enable a ballast shoulder. This complicated the laying of the cork used for the level crossing as it also had to be packed up level with the rails. Prior with the hand laid curved point I tried to super elevate the track on this curve but it complicated the crossing build as there was not a level section across the three tracks, so the super was eliminated in the rebuild.

The track in the foreground will eventually curve around towards the town of Bega and allow more operation of the layout. Trains will be able to depart Eden, traverse the layout through to Bega and then return via a triangle leg back into Bega. None of my locomotives are tender locos but this triangle can be used to turn visiting tender locos as there is no turntable on the layout.

Ballast is added

I have an endless supply of 'ballast' courtesy of the local council carpark at the oval so I laid some up to the level crossing to make the area look more complete. Bonded into place with pva glue it soon hardens and is then ready to receive its supply of weeds. I have many containers of various weeds and grasses ready to be recycled into the new layout. The 'good' stuff is expensive so it is all kept until required.

Normally I get rid of weeds, today I am planting them.

Traffic is banking up already

SNUG COVE early days

In the above photo a paper mockup shows the position of the mallee shed being provided for any passengers. It will be a dual line station as the branch from Bega also runs behind the shed. More local dirt has been spread as the first layer. When I get to make the mallee shed I will make a few as there will be a couple on the layout.

Another quick project was to complete the scenery around the raised track that leads into the coal unloading area. I had recently received a package that had white foam blocks inside. Normally it would have been chucked in the bin but when I looked more closely it seemed that it could make sandstone blocks. They were white glued into place and then painted with some brown paint. When you see the first picture it seems like the end product won't turn out any good but I kept going and it slowly came good.

The finished rockwork

So I was happy with the end result, hard to believe it was just foam. They were naturally finished dark as they will be close to the coal loading plant. A few yellow flowers has brightened up the scene.

This is the latest work I have been doing, it doesn't have to be a lot but always moving forward.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Go figure

 I suppose if you were modelling a ghost town then there would be no need to populate it. Not many of us do, so there is a need to find people i.e. model figures. When I made the decision to switch scales there are so many things to consider in making your final choice, the availability of O scale figures isn't a roadblock for the change over.

When I was in HO scale (the most common scale) there were plenty of figures available. The level of finish varied greatly from Prieser figures to mass produced figures from China best viewed from a long way away. They were also available 'naked' allowing you to dress them up in any way you wanted. How many modellers had started with the 'pink colour' saying I'll do all the hand and faces and then that's as far as it got. As you were painting the trousers an accidental slip of the paint brush had his nice blue shirt now a shade of brown. This is the stage when you thought I am not going to do any more and your economy drive to save money by painting your own figures came to a crashing end. 

Upscaling to O scale meant the figures were going to be larger, less room for painting mistakes? O scale figures are going to be harder to source and Woodland Scenics have produced some in O scale which I presume being American based would be 1/4" to the foot scale (1:48). I have selected some WS figures when we were able to get into Victoria and they are still in the draw waiting for the day when they can come up to the layout for a breath of fresh air.

An Andian figure painted by Ian Fainges
When making my layout I try to take the level of modelling up a level of my previous attempts. These days with technology and other advances such as 3D printing has allowed higher levels to be obtained. One advance has been in the use of 3D printing to make some of the most realistic figures ever seen. The use of computer technology has allowed us to overcome the 'scale' issue by just hitting a few keys on the keyboard and any scale can be achieved. One such cottage industry Andian Models has this technology and now have a great range of figures available. I have taken many photos of my NA's on the layout and when people keep asking is there any crew in the cab I can't keep saying "they are on the other side of the loco"😀. When we were able to have model railway exhibitions, I purchased a few figures at the Rosehill exhibition. The detail is outstanding, that good in larger figures you can look at the model and tell who it was modelled from.

Another loco figure complete with gladstone bag on his way home.
In modelling the Victorian narrow gauge in O scale I joined a Facebook group "Modelling the Victorian Narrow Gauge" It was my first venture into FB as I had resisted up until then. Unfortunately it is true the more groups you join the less modelling time you have. I suppose if FB are data trawling on me they will quickly come to the conclusion that I like trains, not much more to siphon off from me. So in this FB group I came across the name Ian Fainges who specialises in figure painting and I was even more surprised when he was linked to Andian Models for figure painting. I was able to contact him and he has been able to paint all of my figures so far. I haven't the skill to do to the same level, so I leave it to the experts. He has a quick return and although based in Queensland, borders are no issue for these small people crossing over between states.
A normal position for NA firemen, hanging out of the cab
In the photo above I have put an Andian figure hanging out of the cab, which replicates real life. It certainly brings more life to a trains appearance. This guy happens to be able to be wedged in the door without any glue. My only problem is while this can be staged for photos, when the train reverses they guy is looking backwards, maybe I can put a note on the work sheet to turn him around at the terminus so he is facing the direction of travel?

Station Masters are also available

Having a chat with the driver at Eden

Track workers pre safety vest etc days

 And the last word on figures is summed up in this Owen Thirtys pictoon where I discovered that having four NA locos, I would need at least 4 crew for the locos.

So add some figures to your layout, certainly brings life to the place.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Little bits

 Well as the title suggests, I have only been doing little bits down the shed. There are a few distractions around at the moment but moving closer to resuming an expanded work hours at the coal face.

I am constantly ducking in and out of the shed to obtain work tools that are either scattered around the shed or found in the logical place - the cardboard box tool box. They are easily obtained, I have many on hand. But each visit gets me itching to get back into working on the layout.

On one such visit I was looking at Pambula, the highest station on the layout and nearly completed. All that is missing is a building for the siding, a mallee shed for the passengers and a backdrop to enhance the scene. On a forum I was on Rod Hutchinson mentioned backdrop scenes available from Brunel Hobbies in Melbourne. I had a look on their website and saw three that seemed suitable for this area. They were around one metre long and 23 centimetres high which just happened to be the height of my backdrop. I rang the shop, ordered three on a Saturday morning and I had them the following Wednesday, not bad considering the corona virus screwing everything up.

Prior to backscene

Added backscene
The backdrops images are very clear (which hasn't shown up on the photos) and I have been told they can be reapplied many times, not that I will be moving them. I would have preferred a more greener scene with the grass, it looks very dry but as this location is viewed looking straight on it is isolated from other greener views of the layout. Yet another job to stick it all on but it is on the list. A great improvement.

A great improvement with the backdrop

A long time ago when I was doing the design for the layout I made sure there were some industry sidings along the way. These add operational interest, somewhere to shunt a long the way. As you leave Eden around the 180 degree bend there is a siding that required a hand made curved turnout as there were no commercial narrow gauge curved turnouts that would suit. Way back in the past I had made many hand made points firstly on a model tramway layout I had and then hand laid points done in code 55 in N scale. Piece of cake I thought, so armed with some correct size printed circuit sleepers I eventually made a curved turnout. But I think it had been so long since I had made any points that I had lost the nack. Everytime a train would run over it there would be a derailment or stall even despite a speed restriction imposed over this point. Initially when designing the track I decided a curved point would look better than using two standard points but on one my 'visits' into the shed and armed with a standard right hand point and some track templates I decided to bite the bullet and rip it out.

Original configuration

The above photo shows a very bare area just after leaving Eden. The bare baseboard shows the ghost tracks of the former HO SCR still in place. The paper mockup of the mallee shed will be in a location known as Snug Cove which is an outer suburb of the real Eden. Although I didn't make this name up I reckon it sounds great and will be included. On the lower section of the photo is a track that will one day join the track on the top right across a lift out section and go onto the town of Bega. I haven't progressed this section as yet. Also can be seen the dead end siding of the coal unloader. A truck loading bin will be built to the right of the siding. Trucks will come over a level crossing near the bottom point and exit at the top level crossing. And lastly a proper building will eventually replace the cardboard replica.

The problem point

A dry fitout run

The end result

After some mucking around and an hour or two passing I was satisfied with the end result. If a commercial narrow gauge curved point was available I think it would have looked better but after running a test train through the new trackwork, there were no derailments or stalls so I was happy. This was a small job to do but it had been frustrating me that every time I ran through here there was trouble, not any more.

This was a quick fix ,so you never know next time I go in the shed for some tools it might result in more work being done on the layout. 

Bega bound


Monday, 31 August 2020

There has to be a plan...

So while work has quitened down on the layout for a while, I thought I would outline some of the background thoughts on the design of my VR narrow gauge layout.

The HO NSW layout managed to last from 2000 until 2015 and at that time I got itchy feet on a new challenge. This is not an unknown disease for railway modellers and has no known cure. The HO layout was completed with all track work done and the majority of the scenery was in place although it was always the intention to go back and improve the scenery when time permitted. The layout was done when DCC was in the early stages and never being one for understanding electronics I stuck to the tried and true DC format. When I was told that I could operate a sound loco on DC I went and got the Eureka Garratt which I was very happy with. But it didn't go beyond there.

I was told if I went DCC then you only need two wires to the track and the rest is done through the throttle and that you could even run two trains towards each other on the same track as per the Adams Family.

The HO layout sported a control panel that had a gang of five push buttons for each section of track, the theory was there could be up to five operators working trains at once. But looking back that never happened, maybe four was the maximum ever achieved.

Backside of panel

After a trip to Victoria riding Puffing Billy I thought maybe this might be another choice for me to make. At the time after some investigation there were still the Ian Lindsay selection of VR narrow gauge rolling stock available and to nucleus was the NA locomotive that was made by Haskell Models. Had this not been available who knows what I would have ended up modelling?

So the choice was made and I started selling off all my models, books and anything else that could be converted to cash. I must admit a lot of the fun is the research and planning that goes into making a new start on a layout. I really liked the HO layout and it was hard to do the first hammer blow and start demolishing, but after a while the pain had been replaced by enthusiasm I was getting on the new build. Having been through other scales and modelling options throughout my life this was a new adventure.

The HO layout plan

I was lucky that I had a large shed for the new layout. It was extended back in 1999 from basically a single car garage size to having an extra 4 metre by 4 metre extension added.

To design a narrow gauge layout I needed a total rethink in track design. Most track designs for the narrow gauge are basically boring with just loops so what I had to rethink was how to make the whole operation more interesting. I thought I could do this with the emphasis on operation. VR narrow gauge operation relied a lot on potato and timber traffic and throw in some covered vans and a few livestock wagons then that was basically the package. To add further operation I obtained a six wagon timber train and a six wagon coal train. True these full timber and coal trains never operated on the VR but my fictional layout was based on the south coast of New South Wales so anything goes. The timber and coal trains were also an excuse to obtain both a shay and climax locos. They will bring the loads down from Candelo to Bega where a loco swap will take place for the trip around eventually to Bega for unloading. And then the return trip will have the reverse working.

This plan had the basics, but the branch was not final

The HO layout was completely demolished on  the left hand side as per the above plan and the new layout was designed in a modular style to both aid a future sell off or relocating to a retirement home or some other reason. The layout on the right hand side of the plan will be sacrificial and hopefully will be able to be rescued (i.e. pulled apart) in future times. This is basically built on the old HO baseboards which were built permanently in place, never meant to be pulled apart. The middle 'blob' on the right was a part I wanted to incorporate in the new layout mainly because it was there and was built very strong. At this stage I wasn't sure of the final configuration on this part.

There are signature pieces that make this build interesting rather than just a flat style layout. I have tried to build my version of the Monbulk trestle just outside of Belgrave on the Puffing Billy line.

The other big build is the Thomson River bridge which is coming along well and will hopefully be finished soon. Being nearly two metres long in O scale it is taking a while.

Another design trying to get the branch sorted.

I had the left hand of the plan finalised but it was the fitting in of the branch that was causing angst. It was still hard to take the brain out of HO thinking as the track was the same width and you would lay it all out and it would work but when the buildings were in place then the real estate area soon gobbled up room. In the above plan it incorporated a reversing station where you would run out from the main, run around and then head up to the branch terminus. Then there was a siding for the logging train. Sort of a forced operation.

The final plan

I ended up with the above plan which I am happy with. It is large but how could you have a big shed and only half fill it up with a layout? It provides plenty of operation and is big enough for operators not to get in the way of each other. As the plan stands above all the track has been laid except the section between Bega and Snug Cove across the door. As soon as this section is done then there will be a continuous run available or an out and back run from Eden. Couple this with log and coal trains running then things can get interesting.

So far I have only released photos from Eden up to Pambula as the rest of the run is bare track through unsceniced sections. Control is via NCE wireless controllers as it would not have worked with wired controllers.

So that's the full layout as it stands and as more is done there will be more updates. Once I had done the plan above I was able to produce the following schematic diagram which also shows the elevation of the tracks and length of run.

Also a plan of Broadwater was drawn up, it also shows a simulated train in the loop. Each station will be done in turn.

As you can see from the plans, I am a big fan of not having the tracks run parallel to the baseboard edges. I think gentle curves look way better.

I have uploaded more 'Other Side' explanations for the record. More to be added in future.

Thursday, 13 August 2020


 I can't believe it has been two months since I have posted, 11th June. So no posting for July. I still can't claim any new work being done on the layout as I am still using the excuses I had in June for not progressing.

The last baseboard has been constructed on my sons layout and we just have the lift out section to go. Still a lot of work to go and although the boards are nearly done there is track to be laid and the wiring up of the control panel and the proving that it all works. At least he has made the right move and has started with DCC and sound equipped locos.

I think I abandoned the HO scale just a little to quick and start my new adventure in On30 narrow gauge. Had DCC and sound locos been available to the same extent as they are today back twenty years ago I may have remained with that scale, but may have also rebuilt the layout by then.

The move over to narrow gauge is one I haven't regretted, I am enjoying the research and the new adventure. You also get to meet a new band of friends. I adopted the Victorian narrow gauge because I had always admired the Puffing Billy locos and the uniqueness of their size. I have always been surrounded with the New South Wales railways and was even employed with them for over forty years. That was the catalyst for modelling NSW trains, you were familiar with the real product, and you had a big pool of contacts built up over the years to enable problems to be resolved. So the NSW trains have been and gone and I am fully immersed with the narrow gauge.

With my modelling of the VR narrow gauge, I was very lucky to make the transition in a period where I was still able to obtain the excellent products of Ian Storrie aka Ian Lindsay models. Unfortunately Ian now is not making any further models but when I got into On30 he was still in production and I

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obtained most of his models on offer. I think Ian has singly done the most for this particular scale and prototype. So now his absence will leave a big hole in VR modelling. We will become a rare breed indeed. Our only hope for the future is that maybe 3d printing will fill the hole that Ian has left.

Once I am able to resume work in the shed I will get back into the construction of my version of the Thomson River bridge. The basics are done. The bridge piers have been made and painted (thanks Roger and Ian), the supporting timber piers are done and most of the bridge superstructure has been made - watch this space.

When I made the decision to change scales there was a ton of work ahead to make the changeover. The first thing was to get rid of all the HO material including reference books etc. I thought what was the use of keeping all the books on the shelf, never to be looked at again when they could be onsold to provide funds for the new build. Having helped in the past with moving on an estate, which was a lot of work, I decided to clean it all out. My equivalent narrow gauge library is now small enough to reside inside the house and at arms reach from my computer in the study. I think I have obtained nearly every book on the VR narrow gauge that has been printed and a collection of dvd's on the subject. Also sad face where the current corona virus situation has resulted in the yearly visit to Victoria being cancelled this year. May have to go twice next year to make up for it!.

Part of the conversion to the new scale was the creation of a trackplan for the new layout. Designing a narrow gauge layout is a different mindset than designing a narrow gauge layout. Before I committed I was studying the various books I had collected to absorb some of the character of the narrow gauge. When you look at all of the Victorian narrow gauge track layouts they are very simple designs. Most are just loops with points at each end to enable shunting to easily take place in either direction. The only 'oddball' in all of the four line was Beech Forest on the Colac to Crowes line. Beech Forest was blessed with a balloon loop at one end, complete with tennis court in the middle and a scissors crossover at the beginning of the yard. I don't know why they built the scissors as there seemed to be plenty of room to build two single crossovers. But it makes for an interesting narrow gauge layout and I know of one modeller who has taken up this challenge.

The shed has been in use for a model railway for over 30 years now. Initially a fibro, corrugated iron roof and uninsulated it was lined, insulated and contained an HO model until 1999 when a 4 x 4 metre square extension was added. (They can never be too big) The old HO was demolished and a new HO South Coast Rail established until around the end of 2015 when I decided to make the change. (There is a link on this blog to a few hundred photos of the old HO layout)

The old layouts last resting place

Once I had stripped up all the old track then came the total refurbishment of the shed. The walls needed a repaint, holes where the old baseboards were demolished needed filling. The floor needed repainting so really it was a good chance to refresh the whole shed. So it was a major task to completely rebuild the layout. A new design was needed and the planning had commenced even before the old layout was down.

Demolition well under way

More demolition, the extension was towards the back

Planning underway even before complete demolition

Looking at the above photos and the state of demolition I had to be sure I was making the right choice to change. So far so good.

As I don't think I will be making any further progress on the layout on the next post I will put up some track layout design concepts I considered and the final plan that was adopted. See you next posting.