Saturday, October 6, 2018


When I get an area on the layout basically finished I like to get a 'photo' record and take as many photos as I can. This is mainly because for every 100 I take I seem to get about ten good ones! This is all about the amount that turn out OK.
I have ordered some MDF 3mm sheets to enable the partial enclosing of the layout sides. I will use a cloth to cover the remaining sections, after all I still need to access the 'junk under' some how.
Here is a selection of  'other shots' in the area I have been working in.

Friday, September 14, 2018

El Plastico

A big part of my layout is trying to get the scenery looking right. Sometimes it works and sometimes doesn't, but more good than bad.
I have joined a Facebook site On30 Railroading which is mainly USA narrow gauge based. I am aware of the East Broad Top railway with its green environment in the north east corner but the remainder seem to be in the wild west where the scenery is totally different to what I am trying to achieve.
Take the Rio Grange a well know narrow gauge line based in rocky territory. Most of the scenery is 'rock based' as opposed to 'greenery' based which I prefer. Just a personal preference.
My choice of modelling Victorian narrow gauge really didn't leave me with the rocky scenery option as all their lines were basically forest based. I could have run my fictional line and base it around the Ayers Rock (Uluru) area. I may have had it finished by now!
You only have to take a ride on the Puffing Billy to fall in love with the magnificent scenery complete with their tall trees and abundant tree ferns. Replicating this type of scenery is a challenge, so what we do is to use the materials available to represent it.
The modeller of today has way many more scenic material available today to make it all happen compared with when I started modelling many years ago. I think the best we could do for green scenery was to buy a bag of green lichen and place it around the layout. We accepted it at the time because that was all that was available. Todays modeller is spoilt with the choices now and you often wonder why it wasn't available sooner as what we have now is not rocket science.
Take a look at the products that Woodland Scenics, Mininatur, Scenic Express, Busch and Heki now provided and there is no reason that a great outcome cannot be achieved. I have been using a combination of those brand products and they all work well together and I will never buy another bag of lichen.
The leading photo shows an area where I have been working around a level crossing that divides one baseboard. The last post has shown a photo on how this area has progressed. You look at your bare baseboard and wonder how it will all come together. It does but slowly and as each item of scenery is placed it all comes together. You can then go back into an area and superdetail it. When your layout is finished and the scenery is completed, the scenery takes second place to a train running through a scene, the eye will follow the train and not stop at a tree that doesn't look right.
Now moving on from that last sentence there are some items of scenery that just aren't available commercially but placed in the right spot they blend quite well. Having upscaled from HO to On30 now makes it easier in some way to have more use for various plastic artificial plants that I have spied at various 'two dollar' shops and other outlets.
The picture on the left shows two of the plastic artificial 'plants' that I have removed from the 'donor' plant. One thing is for sure is that looking at them they don't readily identify with anything I have seen growing in nature.
Again it doesn't matter as they are there to represent a slice of scenery you are making.
I suppose the plant on the right may look like a birds nest fern, maybe more if I try and spread the leaves flatter.
The driver would measure out just under 6 foot tall so the plants are on the larger size.
I haven't paid any more than $15 for these plants and also look out for bargains when their price is reduced.
A few months ago our local Aldi store had some artificial plants for sale. I spotted them as a possible candidate for South Coast Rail. While they seem to be getting better with plastic representations of real plants many of them linger on the shelves as they just don't look right.
In the photo above I was lucky to score the plant in the white bowl after I was watching the price drop after being in the store for over a week. It was already down to half price and I noticed there was a chip in the bowl. When I took it to the cashier and showed him the chip and asked if he could lower the price more he then knocked it down to around $7 which I considered a bargain. You can see when it is bunched together it can form a type of bush to be placed into the scenery. The top right ball in the above photo contains all the 'birds nest ferns' and as can be seen there are quite a few encircling the foam ball. They just pull out readily from the foam with a spigot that holds them in place. The plant on the bottom was just another one I spied at another place. You must remember that I am modelling in O scale and I don't think any of these items would work in HO. Sorry guys you will have to join the 'black sheep' modellers as we have been tagged by the US fraternity.

My latest acquisition today was another Aldi special. It was a supposed model of a bonsai tree. The end foliage on closer examination looked once again suitable for inserting into the scenery. Initially when they came out they were priced at $25 which I though a bit rich for what I wanted them for. While I was happy to play the waiting game and see if they would reduce the price a week later and it was a chance that they would all be sold and I would miss out or that they would just return the unsold plants back to the warehouse. As there were about 25 of these plants available I took my chance as on the following week they had been reduced from $25 to $15. I was still not budging on purchase and took a gamble they would still be there a bit longer. Our local Aldi had recently enlarged the store and now had a larger area for unsold overflow. I went in there today and there were still quite a few there left but on closer examination I saw they had come down further to $12.50. My wife who knew what I wanted it for was quite happy for me to purchase it. The cashier was not the slightest bit interested when I told him I didn't want the pot, the pebbles or the trunk and only wanted the green bits for my model railway. There would be nearly 100 separate plants I was able to get of this one plant. Maybe I might consider getting another one if they go down in price again. Still a bargain for what you get.
The following photos are to show how some of these plastic plants readily blend into the scene.

You can see  from the above photos that these 'plastic plants' blend in quite well and suit the type of scenery I am trying to replicate. Some of them might appear a bit crude in the photos above but viewed at normal level they work in well.
I would also like to put in a plug for the Modellers Warehouse run by Dave McPhee. He is a great guy to deal with a just deals with scenery products. He will be at the Liverpool Model Railway Exhibition, Sydney in around two weeks time. Check him out while there or his web site.
So next time you are in a 'two dollar' shop or Aldi check out their range of plastic plants, you might come out of the store a winner!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Back to the Hill

Well I hope you enjoyed the post on the Victorian trip as much as we all did going there. Done and dusted for another year and we now set our sights on a 2019 trip to Echuca with lunch on a Murray River paddle steamer being a highlight.
I have done more work on the baseboard that connects Pambula with the Yowaka River (similar to the Thomson River) and moved on with the scenery.
Scenery is what transforms bare boards into something you can look at and enjoy. I have finished off the road that runs through this section incorporating a level crossing mid way. The area still needs some fine tuning but the main area has been finished.
I will let the following photos tell the story.

As you can see progress is being made!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Victorious Victoria

There is a saying when you are on a good thing 'stick to it'. Well we must have been doing that well because our group decided to tour south again to Victoria to do what we can't do in New South Wales.
Victoria offers Steam Rail tours that actually still run double headed R class steam tours. Back in 2016 we all went to Victoria to ride Puffing Billy and do the double R steam on the Snow Train. Last year we went to Maldon/Castlemaine again with the double R's.
This year we had planned for variation to do the R class tour to Echuca ideal in the fact that we could have lunch on a paddle steamer on the Murray River.
When the date was selected and passed around for acceptance we found out that our tour guide Phil was going to be travelling across the USA by train, not with us but with his wife.
Well that threw a spanner in the works, so going back to the drawing board we found that the best we could do was a repeat of the 2016 jaunt retracing our steps to Gembrook and Walhalla on the Snow train. All accepted, and thanks to Phil our rail tickets were organised, Ross organised the plane home and we thought we might try digs closer to the station at Southern Cross. At around $100 extra a night closer it soon had up reserving at our usual hotel on Queen Street at a much lower rate. The reason it is cheaper (and explained on its website) is that there is a 'disco' in the basement that rocks the place on Friday and Saturday nights.
Friday 3rd August
Up again early as our train departs Central at 7.42am. Knowing that there could be hiccups I was on an earlier train with one spare to catch if the first one  was a 'no show' It wasn't and I arrived at Central around 7.00am. We all met up and headed for our carriage for the next eleven hours. Back in 2016 we encountered a train strike and had to go to Melbourne by coach.
The trip was uneventful and the scenery was noticeably dry as the state of NSW in a severe drought at the moment. Past trips through the Southern Highlands was through green pastures but this time a bad shade of brown.
Later in the morning we passed through Goulburn with its rows of excess locomotives outside the roundhouse. Would love to see those CLP's back on the track. Anything with a GM engine would actually do.
The trip is comfortable and we passed the time by chatting amongst us and a bit of catchup in sleeping was partaken. I had purchased some sangers prior to departure for lunch and washed down by some XPT coffee.
The country around Yass seemed a little greener (or not as brown?). Junee was passed and some of the bigger stations had people coming and going. Some of the seats would have been still warm when some got off and the same seats were again used.
Albury is our border town on the Murray River. It was starting to get darker from here and as we moved down closer to Melbourne it actually started to rain. We arrived into Melbourne on time and the usual queue of people formed down the carriage ready to detrain. The same queues form on aircraft.
When we got off the train the sixth member of our group who had flown down that day greeted us. Nice to have a welcoming committee there. In earlier times (way back) he was a brother who taught us at school and was instrumental in starting up a train club at school, at thing unknown these days.
As we gave the frozen fast food dinner option on the XPT we decided to head up to Lygon Street for a proper feed. Heading for Victoria I was quite prepared for all types of weather. It was actually raining there in Melbourne when we got off and it seemed I was the only one with an umbrella, so I was OK as we walked up to the hotel in Queen Street.
We topped up our Myki cards at Southern Cross station so were able to jump a tram and head to Lygon Street. Ironically we visited the same restaurant as last year. It was a good meal and after we headed back to the tram and then back to the hotel for an early night ready for the Saturday trip to Puffing Billy. I think it was around 11.0pm the 'doof doof' of the disco started off, but I was tired enough to sleep through it, but not all our members did.
Saturday 4th August
We were up early again and as this hotel didn't supply meals and we had to allow the 15" extra to walk down to Southern Cross and have breakfast. We then caught the 8.09am train out to Belgrave an all stations trip that takes just over the hour to get there. We were all prepared for the cooler Victorian weather and this was proven when we arrived at Belgrave it was cool.
A row of carriages waiting to be filled
 Walking down from the station you get to see the long row of carriages as in the above photo. In the distance is the smoke from the locos being prepared for their trips. We went to the booking office to arrange our tickets. I had already joined the Puffing Billy Society and one of the benefits is unlimited free travel (too bad I don't live in Melbourne) and you can take two guests with you. A year membership for seniors is $49 but the return to Gembrook is $59, so you do the maths. It was very noticeable that (as in previous years) that a lot of the train was reserved for Chinese tourists so I am sure that Puffing Billy is glad of this endless revenue stream.
G42 steams up ready to attach to the train

Immaculate 7A
 On the Saturday the 10.30am train is usually double headed with G42 and an NA to Menzies Creek. Who would have thought you could travel behind double headed narrow gauge steam in 2018? The train is divided at Menzies Creek with G42 returning back to Belgrave and the single NA taking the rest of the train onto Lakeside.
Today unfortunately was my wifes birthday and here I was many hundreds of kilometres away. I gave here a ring from the train at Lakeside and did my best and hoped she would enjoy her day and sorry I wasn't there. The others did a joint 'Happy birthday' effort towards the phone.
Last year at Lakeside there were many birds that gathered on the station building roof, I think for a free handout of food from the tourists but maybe it was too cold for them to come out this year.
Lakeside all of a sudden became a busy place. From around the corner came loco 861.
Built 1886 and operated at the Melbourne Gasworks until 1941
 This loco was being used for a driver operation experience. The cost I believe also includes a carriage so you can take your family or mates along. And just to finish the log jam came along NVW1. Certainly not for carrying passengers, must be a track patrol vehicle and fully non air conditioned for Victorian weather.
A room for two please.
A smart move if going to Gembrook is to get the 10.30am train to Lakeside, have 40" there, maybe warm up in winter with a hot chocolate and then get the train to Gembrook when it arrives. Most of the tourists seem to end their ride here and head off into the hills on a road coach tour. There is also a large lake here that would be popular in summer.

12A arrives with the Gembrook train and takes on water
 12A arrived at Lakeside to take us onto Gembrook. We were lucky enough to find a closed in carriage at the front of the train and once the back door was closed it was quite okay inside. With beautiful scenery on both sides along the way we made the long climb up to Gembrook. Arriving there a little behind schedule we made a dash for the pub to partake of lunch. Our tour guide Phil had thoughtfully rang ahead and reserved a table for six. I was seated with an wood fire warming my back as we ate. Remembering my tall glass of cider from last year I ordered one from the bar and with an optimistic $10 note in my hand (was $9 last year) I was asked for an additional $2 for my drink. You could never get drunk at these prices. The meal was good and I left the table early so I could try and get some back copies of the 'Narrow Gauge' magazine for my collection. I overheard at the station that as the train had arrived late they put the departure back 15" to compensate. How good was that? Country life.
As it was heading towards freezing many of the regular passengers had returned to the train early and grabbed seats in the only two enclosed carriages on the train. The rest were the open types and all that was available. Some of the party managed to squeeze into the front carriage and I was over talking to the guard near the engine at the ash pit. He offered me a ride back with him in the guards van, how could I reject that?
12A being serviced at Gembrook
12A ready to rejoin the train

Another NA heads towards the rear of the train
Ready for a shove
We headed off from Gembrook towards Belgrave, it was still cool and cloudy. We stopped at Cockatoo where safeworking was performed, and then arrived at Lakeside. Many hopeful passengers tried to join our train back to Belgrave only to find it full. They had to wait for the train following us. I was waiting on the back platform of the train and noticed an engine moving up close to our train. The couplers were readjusted so that the jaws weren't locked and once we were ready to go this engine gave up a shove up the rising grade and shut off just outside the station. It then returned back onto the following train.
We passed through Menzies Creek and onwards toward Belgrave. I managed a poor shot over the Monbulk trestle bridge. I am almost sure the train must tip to one side when travelling over this bridge.
Arriving late back at Belgrave we headed up towards the next electric train back to Melbourne. It was dark when we got back and so the hunt was on for dinner.  We found a place near the Yarra River at Flinders Street and after a quick meal it was to walk back to the hotel ready for an early Sunday morning start.
Sunday August 5
An early rise for an early departure from Southern Cross. Our train hauled by double headed R class steam was due out at 7.39am. We did the walk again ready for breakfast and then over to platform 13. It was an impressive sight when the train steamed in. A walk through the train and we found our compartment and settled in for the run down to Moe.
The Snow train Sunday 5th August 2018. Alf Batchelder photo.
How good was it to be able to travel behind double headed steam again. I am sure we won't get to see two 38 class locos together again in NSW.
When we got to Moe station it became organised chaos. There were people heading for the snow at Mt. Baw Baw. Then there was us heading for Walhalla in 3 buses. Some passengers were doing the full train trip and going down to Taralgon and then in the mix were short haul passengers doing the Moe to Taralgon section. Well situated outside the station the local Rotary had set up a sausage sizzle and tea and coffee stalls. Only one of our party joined the queue, the rest of us thinking of our lunch waiting for us at Walhalla.
Travelling through beautifull country we eventually headed down the hill and ended up near the narrow gauge station. The driver offered us a trip through the town and then dropped us off at the hotel for lunch.
Waiting for scraps?
 As we had visited this place back in 2016 the lunch had more interest. We were late for lunch but eventually got served. The highlight for me was to go down to the station for a three o'clock ride out to the Thomson River bridge. I can't believe we were there two years ago. My intention is to make a model of this bridge for my On30 and there were a few measurements I needed.
Thomson River bridge
 I hope this visit is the catalyst to make a start on the bridge construction. Before trying to get my photos and measurements I told the guard my intention and to his credit he called out before we left if the photographer who wanted to get the pictures was on board. I called out I was and away we went. Nice gesture.
All the excitement wqas over when we got back to the Walhalla station and we then rejoined the bus for the trip back to Moe. It was fading light by this stage and a few were nodding off due to the early start. Arriving back at the station it was good to see that the Rotary stall was still going and also offering pumpkin soup. They did a roaring trade.
Double R's waiting to depart for Melbourne
 It was an uneventful trip back to Melbourne but we were warm in the compartment (with the door closed) As it was dark outside (nothing to see there) we turned to reminiscing back to the good old days, school days and anything else that came along. We arrived at Southern Cross too soon and our eventful day was over. We found a bar at Southern Cross that sold pizzas so we had a quick dinner and back to the hotel again. A nice shower to remove the dirt of the day and as the disco didn't operate on the Sunday night we set the alarm to wake later on the Monday morning.
Monday 6th August
A later sleep in on the Monday was possible and as there was nothing planned we walked down to Flinders Street station and caught a train out to Sandringham and had a late breakfast. Two of us returned early back to North Brighton and spent some time at Trainworld. We met up with the others on the next train and headed again towards Flinders Street. We then needed  to walk up to the hotel to pick up our bags and then down to Southern Cross to join the airport bus for Tullamarine. We were due for a 3.0pm flight back to Sydney but our plane was delayed for over an hour.
After due process onto and of the plane we arrived back in Sydney after a fantastic four days away with some great mates. It must be good as this is our third trip. Next year Echuca you had better look out as we are coming!


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Recipe for a Hill

I haven't been asleep at the wheel.  Cleaning up the floor is still on the bottom of the 'to do' list but it is definitely there. Shall be done (one day)
Pambula is the last station I have been working on. I could go either direction with the scenery but I felt it would be better to head towards Broadwater. The reasoning being that there are basically two baseboards between Pambula and Broadwater. One containing the bridge over the Yowaka River, the other taking the track off the bridge up an S bend to Pambula. I needed to do the hill portion into Pambula before I can set the form of the hills between the two baseboards. And also to do this I need to get started on the bridge before this can be done. Everything is set to go with the bridge, I have the laser cut beams and trusses (thanks Nathan), the timber  and nut and bolt washers(thanks The Railcar) and the photos.
Hopefully in another weeks time I will get another shot of inspiration when the 'mates' head of to another trip to Victoria. This one is identical to the one we did in August 2016. I will do a report when I get back. Part of the trip on the Sunday is behind double R class steam to Moe then a bus trip up to Walhalla where we will get to ride the Goldfields narrow gauge railway and get to admire the Thomson River bridge again. So no excuses when I get back to start on my version of the bridge.
Back to the hill, the track has been laid and I started to do the scenery work on this portion. I will let the following photos tell the story, feel free to follow and make your own hill.

STEP 1 - Lay some temporary track, add a vehicle where the road will go, and a level crossing sign.

STEP 2 - Add a bit of foam around the edges. This give the greenery something to hang onto.
STEP 3 - Looks like this one is two layered with plenty of icing!
STEP 4 - Looks OK from both directions
STEP 5 - Looks like we have gone for chocolate icing!
STEP 6 - Definitely a chocolate cake. Some sprinkles have been laid between the track and looks like milk has been added to make it set.
STEP 7 - I got a tea spoon and table spoon of milk mixed up here but it dried out okay.
STEP 8 - Put some trimming on the cake.
STEP 9 - Add the warmth of the winter sun to set the cake quicker.
STEP 10 - Looks like it is nearly baked.
STEP 11 - Add the trimmings and its all ready to go! Enjoy.