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liked the HO layout and it was hard to do the first hammer blow and start demolishing, but after a while the pain had been replaced by enthusiasm I was getting on the new build.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.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

I Failed

I stated on the last post that I would try and get another update published before the end of May. The operative word was 'may' but I didn't get around to it.
Must admit the railway hasn't had much attention paid to it in the last few months but the intention is always there when I go in the shed for a spanner or something else and I look around and start getting interested in the next project or how I will tackle a certain scene.
I intend to get the bridge done soon as possible. It is bad timing that I have some renovations taking place on the home at the moment and with interior and exterior painting and organising things, time down the shed is not available.
So the best I can do at the moment is to publish some random shots around the sceniced sections of the layout. Hope this will do for the moment.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

It MAY be gone

Yes dunno what happened to April, must have been isolating too well. I should practice calendar watching a bit more closer.
I haven't got a lot to report of late, there has been work going on here that is not rail related and sucking up precious modelling time, things will change soon.
I was also lucky to receive some VR speed limit decals and level crossing signs from a good friend Roger so I decided to put them to some good use. Hope you enjoy the following:
Just one other thought of the corona virus and those of you that have micro layouts. How do you invite three mates over for a running session if your layout is so small and each person is in a corner and you try and implement the 1.5 metre rule? I guess this is when the lucky guys with large layouts can spread out and never the twain shall meet?
Hope to have another update before May ends, I have just found the calendar.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Still 'ere

I recently noticed I haven't posted for a while, mainly because I haven't had the time to get some new work done. Other things have got in the way at the moment.
Thanks to Chinas recent gift to the world' we all seem to be laying low. I just hope we all come out of this OK. Maybe a chance to get some modelling done for a while?
I was able to try out a reading lamp fitted with a large bright LED bulb for some layout photos and was happy with the results. The phone camera behaved its self and gave a nice result. The light doesn't cover a large area but is good for closeup work. I have put it aside for future projects.
Some of the results are below, hope you enjoy.


Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Phil'in in the day

2020 and our first 'train day' was due today. As per usual it always seems to rain on these days and today was no exception. We gathered over on the northern beaches of Sydney an area reknown for its famous rugby league team although kickoff is around another month away.
Phil has the ultimate train room situated under the house in a former garage that now exists in its final format. Beautifully presented with bright lighting, blue painted walls and finished off with some great photos of the northern line and well made finished off baseboards and complete with black curtain valance. What a man cave.
Various trains circled the layout representing trains of the bygone steam era. Coal trains are the four wheeled variety and BCH coal hoppers hauled by a sound 60 class garratt. No modern container trains found on this layout.
Since our last visit it seems only minor cosmetic changes and detailing has taken place. The amount of detail Phil has put into this layout is fantastic, each area has lots to take in. I particularly like his version of the Wickham Branch which in its day was full of various industrial sidings, a shunters delight. The branch on his layout also doubles up having storage/staging sidings built under.
So after spending some time absorbing the layout we ventured upstairs  for our barbeque lunch, some liquid refreshments, cake and coffee later and then off home in the afternoon traffic.
I'll let the pictures do the talking, another great day with some mates.






The End - Enjoy

Monday, 3 February 2020

Thomson River Bridge - 4

Don't know what happened to January but it is now February and time for my first post for 2020. 
As promised I have been continuing with work on the bridge, it is one of those projects that takes a fair bit of time and a lot of repetitious work with the various parts on the bridge structure. You have have to go head down and plough on. Part way through the project I was wondering two things - why did I pick this bridge to model and why did VR make it so long and big? But looking at my progress so far I am pleased that I have tackled this project. The finished bridge will be around 2 metres long this being done in O scale.
Before I decided to go ahead with the build there was a fair bit or research required. An almost essential requirement is a set of plans. An impossible task to go over the real bridge with a measuring tape to draw up plans and why build it if it was only going to be a 'close enough' build.
Through a forum I was able to get a set of plans for the bridge, even though they were unreadable they were a good guide and once a measurement was determined the rest could be scaled from that. The bridge is over 100 years old and I hope my build won't take that long to finish.
The previous bridge blog entry detailed one of the standout features of the bridge that being the concrete piers. These were beautifully made by 3D printing by Roger Johnson and I am in extreme debt to him for making such an accurate model.
What sits on these piers in the middle is a truss section. (pardon me if I don't describe all these parts properly) I had made a drawing up in CorelDraw that was traced over the original and printed off. 

Laser cut beams with styrene rod spacers
Approximate position on pier
This I thought was a good starting point and then came the pondering on how I was going to build this section. To my rescue came Nathan Wakim who saw the drawings and then offered to have the trusses laser cut out. How could I refuse such a great offer? Later on I received a pack of these trusses, may be enough to make three bridges but was actually designed to allow for my stuffups in getting one good section.
Nothing fancy this is where the bridge is made - my current workbench
 I don't think I would ever be able to make the bridge unless I had made two visits to the actual Thomson River bridge and take as many photos as I could jam in the twenty minute stop the train from Walhalla makes. These were invaluable and I often sit in front of the computer and stare at them trying to decide how I would tackle the build. At least this bridge is still standing and accessible.
Close up of detail to be modelled
 Looking at the bridge photo above, the most logical way for me to tackle the build was to use two laser cut sections and then insert spacer rods to separate the two sections. This is shown more clearly in the first two photos. As can be seen by my pathetic workbench above, I have an equally pathetic set of tools to make all these models. One would have thought after all my years of modelling I would have had a great set of everything around. But no, I only seem to get tools when absolutely necessary. I counted up how many holes I needed on each side to insert the spacer rods and it was around 40 holes I needed to drill.
The fun began when on the only drill I had, the chuck would not tighten around the fine drills required. I tried a pin vice but this didn't seem to work, it was slow and the tip tended to wander ending up with a second rate job with holes that didn't line up.
So after some research and deciding life is too short to scrimp and save, I headed off to Bunnings Hardware and purchased a Dremel drill and a drill stand. Initial outlay seemed a fair bit but when I got to use it, it made the job so easy. Even if it never drills another set of holes in  its lifetime, it has done well with the bridge. Most of the 40 holes were done by eye and even allowing for the fact that I wear glasses, I was happy with the end result.
What I did was to glue two side pieces together and then drill through the two pieces. Then one piece was matched up another piece that sat behind the front piece. This then allowed a piece of styrene rod to go through the front section and sit on the back section of the truss. I wasn't worried that the rod didn't go through the back section as it would not be visible and I thought this was the best way to do it.
The middle bits
So after the 40 odd rods were inserted the next job was to make the X shaped bits as seen in the prototype photo above. I used styrene strips and then inserted a nut and bolt casting through the middle. This then allowed me a bend point to form the X shape. I made a small jig for this to make it go quicker. These were very fiddly to make and I reckon for every five I made I got three good ones. They usually split where the hole was. Eventually I made fifty six of these and inserted them by a set of tweezers into every spot. I was certainly a slow section of the build. I had nearly got the first side done, got relieved and then remembered I had to do it all over again for the second side!.
With the inside bits done, then comes the outside bits 
Now the outside bits
Armed with the above photo, I was able to replicate the extra bracing bits and then add rivet decals following the pattern. I obtained two decal sheets of rivets some time ago when I was cruising through an Ebay site. Although they are were bought in the HO days they still work OK but still on the small size. Each sheet had about 20,000 rivets on them lined out in various patterns. Again it was a slow job settling them into position. They were only put on the two sections that would be visible from the aisle. No point wasting time doing the rear side of the bridge where it would not be visible. I actually followed up with some Archer O scale rivet decals ordered on line and it cost around $45 for two sheets that were a lot smaller than the HO ones. When I examined some photos in close up of the rivets, some appeared not to be round but I was  not sure if I had maybe squashed them, anyway once they are painted over they won't be noticed.
One side down, one side to go.
Sitting on top of the finished piers

Upside down view showing C channel bridge structure is mounted on

Top and bottom plates were also added, this made the truss look complete and solid. Once the second truss was completed then the undercoat primer can be applied.
I bought a can of Tamiya primer and two cans of Tamiya grey for the final coat. One of the greys had a blueish tinge, so I tried at least another two various shades of grey before I was happy with the colour. This results in a 'near new' finish that will need to be weathered down and a hint of rust colour applied. You can see on the above photo that I  needed to have a portion of the aluminium channel removed to allow for the truss to fit up closer to the bridge deck. This was done on Russell Freemans milling machine and a perfect job was produced.
The whole bridge build is a constant juggling of trying to make available material fit and do the job. You hope the end result will end up looking like the real thing. I don't have the tools or skills to do an 'exact' model.
The next job was to make eight "I" channel pieces that fit across the top of the truss. They had to be custom made as there was no applicable Evergreen stryrene shapes. Again they are not perfect but most of them will be hidden by the deck. They were glued to the top of the two side trusses. Another aspect of this bridge is that it is not a straight on bridge, rather the trusses are offset/skewed at an angle along with the piers, but so far so good.
The eight I channels in place.
In the photo above you can see that the truss slides into the adjoining bridge section. This is why there was so much pre planning done to make sure it all worked as the build went on. Once the eight channel pieces were glued to the two trusses the structure became more solid. There are further cross bracing pieces required, but I will have to go back to the plan and try decipher what is required. All my photos of the real bridge were taken from the Thomson station side and not possible to get shots showing the cross supports. These won't be visible from the normal viewing level and only when looking up from underneath, so I am not fussed if they are not 100% correct, as long as it holds together.
An upside shot of how the pieces all fit together
another upside down shot of middle truss
Another part of the bridge done
Well that's where the bridge build is up to at the moment, I think the centre truss was the hardest part of the build so far and consumed quite a few hours to finish. It will all come together one day, so at the moment I am polishing up on how to create rivers on Youtube.