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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pambula Rocks

 Progress has been good since the last post and I have concentrated on getting Pambula more sceniced. That mainly requires a big pile of dirt to supply the ground cover and applying some weeds and grass to make it all look better.
On checking my bag of dirt I found that I needed a top up, so with plastic bag containing a garden scoop I headed off towards the local oval not far from here. We are fortunate? that the local council has still only provided a dirt car park. This has enabled me to cream off a top layer of dirt and whip it into the bag. I generally choose a time when it is quite and devoid of car parkers and visitors to the oval. If I choose an early morning walk or late on dusk I am generally able to get my booty with no one asking me what am I doing? How credible would the story be if I said it was for a model railway? A more likely answer would be is that I am soil sampling. Next time I should take my sieve as half the bag is too large with big stones to use, I suppose I could return it back there on the next trip. I also have to be careful in not making suspicious pot holes with my digging. I guess if I stumbled across the 'mother lode' there I wouldn't care but my takings are small.
I got caught out when doing the ground work at Pambula and ran out of dirt. Only trouble was that it had rained recently and I didn't want to be bringing mud home, preferring dirt. So after a few days of sunshine my patch was dry again and the bag refilled. Dirt does well as it represents 'dirt' which forms the basis of Pambula yard.
I also stumbled across a large sheet of plastic (I think it is called 'flute board' it is like cells covered each side with plastic.) This sheet was out the front of a house on a cleanup pile our local council has twice a year. Well this bit didn't go to landfill but around to the layout. In the photos you can see I have cut and placed the flute board between the tracks. I was originally going to use cork sheet which I would have had to purchase. Its purpose was to reduce the amount of dirt required between the track, the flute board bring the ground up to sleeper level. See I am environmentally minded, saving the local carpark from destruction!
The loading platform has been completed and is also covered with the dirt that is used in the yard and around the tracks. Weeds have sprung up against the woodwork. I am pleased with the end results considering it was made from scrap and a few paddle pop sticks.
In the following photos it can be seen that when the diluted pva glue is spread over the dirt, the final colour darkens. To get some variance in the dirt colour I have used some lighter coloured chalks rubbed over the dirt and a stiff brush to massage and blend in the lighter highlights. Just keep going till it looks right. 
I have also added a level crossing that provides access to the goods yard and the industry at one end of the yard. This was made using cork, similar to the one at Broadwater. It was then coloured with a bag of coloured plaster I think I have had since I was a boy. But still usable. Maybe I have spoiled them here giving them a paved crossing. The next towns crossing may have to be dirt as I think I have run out of cork.
A short length of fencing and then some weeds and grass around it brings the scene to life.
I have included now photos that are generally self explanatory and show how Pambula has been brought up from the basic track and baseboard to something a bit more scenic.
Flute board is laid between the tracks

The sifted dry dirt is brushed into place

Differing shades between dry and wet dirt

Sidings have been covered

Loading stage prepares to be covered
Don't worry, it dries clear!

Slow but sure work
Front edge of the loading stage

Level crossing under construction

Level crossing basically complete
Add a layer of tar and she's done

The yard slowly takes shape
A fence, a few weeds and a train

Looking the other way
Now it's starting to look like a yard. Compare with first photo

Bit of rain brings the place to life
Low level shot at the crossing
From the other side of the train

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Still moving forward

Crossing the local road into Broadwater
I can't believe we are now into another winter here in Sydney. Don't get me wrong I prefer the cooler weather than the stinking heat and humidity of summer. We were punished this year with an extended summer and it has finally got cooler. Also at this time of the year I am able to open the roller door of the garage and let some of that winter sun burst in. This particular afternoon I noticed that the afternoon light had a particular reddish glow to it. I reckon that the backburning of the local bush would have added to effect. So I rolled out the camera and took a few shots to see if I could capture the lighting effect.
Into the loop at Broadwater
Drifting past a loaded log wagon awaiting pickup
I was alerted recently to an add on Gumtree for some On30 locos and rolling stock. Two of the carriages were of the same type I am having constructed for the layout so no great interest there but they looked very nice. There was a red NA similar to the one in the photo above and 8A the only member of the VR narrow gauge that was fitted with a straight stack. I already had one of these locos fitted with a sound card. I was very tempted when the price was reduced and proceeded to obtain it. It was already fitted with a sound decoder so it would be  a straight drop onto the layout and away. Well as you know I am modelling a fictional line in southern NSW so that fact that there are two similar locos on the layout won't faze me. I actually prefer the straight stack loco so it fits right in. It has arrived from the southern state of Victoria and is now on the layout. The main current difference between mine and the previous owner is that he has fitted all the additional hardware like lamps, numbers, builders plate etc. Mine will eventually have all this fitted but with a different number.
New addition 8A with a small freight over the trestle
8A on its way to Eden
Pambula will have a goods siding and to service the vehicles I was tossing up whether to have a goods shed on a stage or just have a wooden faced loading stage. For some variety I chose the latter and found some scrap timber to build one. I felt comfortable to build this as it didn't need to be perfect. I used some scrap plywood left over from baseboard construction and the front facing timbers were made from surplus paddle pop sticks with their previous contents licked off. They required cutting in half to represent a scale size. I had no shortage of paddle pop sticks. Although the back of the stage will be nearly against the backscene I thought I had better finish it off properly and do both sides. A bonus of doing both sides is that I could pick the better of the two to face the viewer. It will eventually have a dirt covering and the height matches the floor level of an NQR wagon.
Early stage of the stage
The old HO layout is now long gone and all effort is now into the track laying and all wiring up ready for operation. Then gradually the scenery will come. Recently I had the need to get a new phone. I reckon when they originally came up with the idea that they could now combine phones and camera into the one device people would have found it hard to believe. So not only can I take photos but I recently discovered that it took panorama style photos. So I took a sweeping view of the front half of the layout as it was back in December 2017. These style of photos end up somewhat distorted but the photo shows how the current baseboards are set out in relation to each other. Now that I know how to take this style of shot it will be interesting to compare with future shots when more is completed.
Panorama of layout as at December 2017