Sunday, 21 February 2021

Grinding away

It seems like I am settling down to a blog each month or at least it shows 4 weeks since the last post. I don't suppose that's too bad a looking at some others bloggers. Many blogs start off well but the number of posts soon dry up and then no more. We all have our reasons for this and my layout workload certainly fluctuates over the year.

Truly understanding why people make micro layouts it gives them the satisfaction of saying that they may have built three layouts this year, meanwhile I am slogging away at my monster and wondering if I will ever finish it. But then layouts are never finished are they? Call me greedy or stupid I really love the size of my layout and all of those unfinished section have been stared at and I know how they will be finished off (one day).

Looking at some file photos of my Thomson River bridge , I find it hard to believe I have been at it for over two years now, so I am determined that after our running day this coming week it will become a priority.

Another priority that was completed was the liftout section was completed. Initially it was to be a lift out section, then I thought how easy it would be to just hinge it upwards out of the way. Many, many times I have mentioned on posts that I was not blessed with carpentry skills, so the chances of this working were very slim. Couple this with the great amount of rain that Sydney has been having lately (no bushfires thank goodness) and the thriving humidity I am hoping that it will all line up and no swelling. The HO layout had a swing in gate and after varying weather the tracks wouldn't line up perfectly. I painted the underneath of the swing section to minimise any swelling, so time will tell.

I had some hinges to try and after putting them directly on both sections i.e. the layout and liftup section, when I tried to lift it up it failed. I was later told the the hinges need to be slightly elevated on some three ply to allow the rails to clear each other. I tried this later today and it worked. So from now on there will be no need to limbo under the board. We are all getting to   old to do that anyway.

A while ago I ordered some of the excellent backdrops from Brunel Hobbies in Melbourne. Luckily my backdrop was around 22cm high which matched the height of the printed backdrops. These were installed at Pambula and as this station was on a corner the backdrop needed to curl around on one corner. The first two sheets went on with no hassles, the vinyl they are printed on is great to work with, just peel the backing off and stick. The third sheet had to be trimmed as the backscene tapers downwards around the corner.

Backscene in place at Pambula

 As can be seen in the above photo the backscene didn't completely meet the baseboard. I was able to fill in the gap with a section of the dense yellow foam (Knauf board) and with some hacking and a bit of paint it works out well as a good transition section between the vertical and horizontal. I will put a larger piece at the corner to take the eye away from the sharp angle ( for another day).

I was also in receipt this weekend of a batch of wagons That a good friend James Black had assembled for me. I don't have the skills to do this work so it was outsourced. The fleet has nearly doubled and finally the livestock will be able to have a ride somewhere in the NM's. When assembled into a long train in Eden yard the NQR's look impressive. He fitted three NQR's with impressive tarps for some variety. It is hoped in the future I will make some timber loads for them.

Two freights cross at Pambula

8A gets ready to depart Eden

Two dogs checking out the wagons

10 NQR's waiting for a loco, on their way to pick up a load of spuds

Arrival of an NM now means livestock can be transported
More next month


Sunday, 17 January 2021

History or His story

 First, I hope 2021 has been good for you so far. I find it hard to believe that it is more than half way through January, time seems to be going faster.

So I have been slogging away at building South Coast Rail from December 2015 and in reality I think I have achieved quite a lot. From the dismantling of the old layout, planning and the building the new one. So far no regrets.

Yes history was made today when the 'missing link' across the doorway was finally completed, track laid and a trial run was made. Before this section was completed the layout was purely a point to point, the run being long enough so not to be boring. I am blessed with a large shed a hangover from the old HO days when a single car garage even didn't seem big enough. You often see US basement layouts and suddenly wish you had the same amount of room. There would be a lot of dirt to dig out from under the concrete slab to have the same result. An extension on the house for a family room back in 1999 led to extending the pipe delivering the concrete being taken way down to the back shed for an extra slab. I suppose I had the option of making a smaller layout but what would I do with the room left over?

Deadlines can often do wonders to getting a spurt on in construction. Approached by the Narrow Gauge Convention group to have the layout on display in Easter 2019 I set about having certain goals completed. It ended up sufficient to be displayed and there after I was able to slack off somewhat.

The diagram for the layout was published on a previous post so you can refer back to see the completed section across the doorway and joining Bega to Eden.

Printed circuit board join across the liftout section

South Coast Rail is certainly no flat pancake style of layout, it is either going uphill or downhill, the only flat bits being stations and across the Thomson River bridge and a few other spots. I didn't want to have to imagine in my mind grades that were non existent but actually build them into the layout. This also added to the interest in running and puts restrictions on train lengths through their actual weight and the actual steepness of the grade. This can then introduce other aspects such as assisting a train with a second loco to a location where the train engine can then take to train onwards without and further help.

I completed the baseboards between Bega and the doorway and then started on the liftout section. This was covered in the last post and before considering to lay any track I painted the baseboards mainly to prevent any swelling of the liftout section that may prevent that section from lining up. This happened on the old layout where the doorway would swing inwards and after a lot of rain it wouldn't line up.

With the lift out section lining up OK I then started to lay in some track using the last of the Peco narrow gauge track that is on all of the layout. I used a 24" radius template for a curve just out of Eden. Although I could have used a tighter radius I wanted the better look of a larger radius which should lead to smoother operation.

Junction outside Eden
I also needed to complete this section of track to enable the level crossing in the above photo to be completed. Also the fascia boards etc need to be completed. The track was laid across the printed circuit board and then soldered not forgetting to cut into the circuit board to prevent a short. After the track was soldered in place I used the dremel to cut the rails as this is part of the liftout section. After a few days both ends of the track were completed. During the week I had completed the continuous run also that runs across the lift out section. But when I laid in the junction track from Eden it was too close to the continuous run so it needs readjusting a bit.

This section forms a 'triangle' meaning a train can depart Eden go right around the layout and then return back into Eden. This needed a frog juicer to be wired under the baseboard for this section. I must say that for $60 it works well. Two leds are visible, one red and one green and they swap colours when the loco passes over the wrong polarity section all instantly.

So late this afternoon I thought I was all ready to do a trial as the track looked all ready, I rechecked the wiring, plugged it in expecting an all clear but ended up with a short. Bugger, so the first train was delayed. As it was fast approaching dinner time I went inside, had food, watched the usual covid update on the news and then returned to find where the short was coming from. I knew it was in the work I had just completed as I had a running day with Kevin 'Fox Valley' during the week

Visiting Fox Valley Locos
Fresh from a break I checked the first section that was where the track was soldered to some printed circuit board. I had cut between the rails but not the section the next set of track was soldered to. A lightbulb moment, so after the dremel had done its work, a quick replug in and all was clear Phew, (I hate looking for shorts)

So it looked like all was clear for the first train to circumnavigate the room and come back into the port of Eden. There was a train in the yard fresh from the running day consisting of NA6, NH, NQR, NU, NT, NQR, NQR, NC. This load recorded for posterity and the history book.

So tonight the train departed Eden yard at 7.23pm with a slow run up to the level crossing, a whistle then around the 180 degree corner and headed for Broadwater. The train was run at a speed of a setting of '10' on the NCE controller a slow chug along well suited to narrow gauge operation. A drift over the trestle outside Broadwater, another whistle for the crossing and straight through the station at 7.26pm. This was a non stop run, no passengers, no safeworking on this run. Around the corner from Broadwater and then across the temporary bridge beside the one day to happen Thomson River bridge. Once over the bride we go around the S bend up into Pambula. It is now 7.29pm, again no stopping and after a slight rise we finally hit the summit and head down the spiral. Introduced to lengthen the run and use up more baseboard the spiral is located on the old curved end section of the HO layout. Soon we pass Wolumla at 7.33pm, no stops and head around another 180 degree curve on a fairly steep descending grade, over a one day trestle and into a tunnel. The train completely disappears in there but you can still hear the train chugging away. Coming out of the tunnel we then head up hill around the corner past the gully and its waterfall. Although the track is completed here the scenery is all that remains of the HO layout. Remenicent of the Stringers gorge in Walhalla we head up into Bega. It is now 7.36pm actual time. Bega is the junction station for the Candelo branch and will one day have some loco facilities and a shed. It is also where the line divides at the other end of Bega, straight ahead leads back to Eden and through the turnout is good for another lap through Broadwater etc. We have just gone through Bega and the road is set for Eden. Around the liftout section and the frog juicer has done its job, no stopping.


6A and its train heading back into Eden

6A crosses the lift out section.
Finally back onto the section of track we left Eden on some 15" actual time ago. We slowed down coming into the yard and the road was set for the goods siding. So under normal circumstances the train would shunt, stop for passengers and safeworking and cross trains coming in the opposite direction. So on a bad day it might take 30" to do an out and back. Not bad for a narrow gauge railway.

I will get onto finishing the fascia and making sure all is right with the new section and then we will be able to have another running day next month.

See, I told you deadlines work!

Back home in Eden safely snuggled against the buffers



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