Tuesday, 21 March 2023

About time

I was down the shed the other day and had a need to proceed around to what I call the 'dark side' of the room. I call it that because that is the end of the shed that I don't normally work on. To explain the shed used to hold the former HO 'South Coast Rail' which terminated around the end of 2015. The shed is on the large size being around 14 metres long. It happily contained the HO layout but when the narrow gauge came along, in theory it would be easier to fill as I was modelling in O scale. This was eventually accomplished and now the track fills the shed. But I am concentrating on one end that contains the bridge and the terminus of Eden.

So with a large shed I found that there id plenty of room underneath to hide what I shall call junk, most of us have some. I say most but not all, there are real tidy modellers who I reckon verge on the edge of OCD and there is not a thing out of place. This where I would like to be but have never reached that stage yet. Examples of neat freaks would be the new AusModelco hobby shop at Thornleigh, a pleasure to be in. Then there is a modeller Al Judy who runs the Facebook site On30 Railroading. His layout and workbench are classic examples of neatness. He also posted a picture outside his home where all the boxes he was taking to a model exhibition were neatly stacked and even when they were in the back of the wagon every box was perfectly in line. My friend Jim Harris who has a blog 'Camden Railway' also fits into this category. I don't know what he thinks of my mess when he visits.

One of the most important items you can have is the thing called time and it runs out faster when you get older. So what happens when I go into the shed I see all the things that I should be cleaning and sorting out. SO why spend good time looking for a file when if it was sorted once then it would be easier to find them doh. But the urge to actually get in and do some scenery or construction is stronger than the need to get in and do the cleaning and sorting (every time).

One thing I have had on hand for some time now, must be around three years is a pile of second hand carpet tiles designed to make it all look better in there on the floor. Construction of the layout has been slower than expected and what happens is now if I have some scrap form a worksite it goes straight onto the floor. And maybe worse I don't always sweep it up that day, preferring to finally get sick of it and do something. I also figured it is easier to sweep than to crank up the vacuum cleaner. And I was also lucky that last year with all the rain, at one time water came into the shed and laid on the floor. Not doing much damage but then I thought I was lucky I didn't have the floor tiles down. An unintentional bacon saver.

Well finally getting back to the first paragraph around the far corner of the room, right under the town of Wolumla I had a maybe fourth hand bookshelf, brown timber grain bookshelf that was maybe in a house forty or more years ago. Well I am not sure what had happened but the top shelf had collapsed, down onto the next shelf, taking that one and ended up spewing all the junk over the floor.

Junk city
As can be seen in the photo there is a bit of everything. I have calculated it would have been there around twenty years, not a bad effort for lasting that long anyway. I wasn't sad as I never liked that colour which was in vogue some time ago. When I looked amongst the pile on the floor I had some good luck as I found things that I hadn't been able to find (read I am unorganised). There was a tin of Humbrol green gloss paint. I haven't had the time to open the lid to see if it is still OK or needs a trip to the bin, so I have put it with the other thirty or so similar tins that with one day receive a shake of the hand and listen to see if there is any liquid rattling around in there. I have made an executive decision, no liquid rattle, out it goes. I also found a small square I had been looking for recently. It sat on the floor looking miserable covered in rust and twenty minutes later after a good rub up with the sandpaper it got transferred to a safer and know position in the shed closer to where it can be found. Stuffed if I know how it got there in the first place. The top shelf also became an orphanage for stanley knives, box cutters or what eve you want to call them. So I must have found around ten of them, complete with their blades. I have so many blades now I can loose that 'I have to press harder' with the knife feeling. So the daggy ones have been binned and the good ones have progressed around the corner to some new ex kitchen draws where they will see out the rest of their life. There were about ten screwdrivers of all persuasions binned, I figured out I can only use one at a time why do I need that many for?. Why do we collect so many nut and bolts, nails, screws etc. Most of them have gone into the 'Nail and Screw' draw for another day for sorting. (I bet it doesn't happen)

I went so successful that my bin was overflowing. It will all go out this week in the garbo collection, just hoping there is plenty of grunt in the lifting mechanism. The timber shelf were a right off and now preside at the front of the shed awaiting June when the local council cleanup will move them on for me. Now with the shelves gone I found that the floor was not painted under them, but you wouldn't have known that. The bottom shelf was starting to corrode as maybe the water had got in that far last year.

All in all a good few hours worth of cleaning up, most gone to garbage and the items worth keeping gone to some other place in the room. It all begs of the saying 'Out of sight, out of mind' Now I must start on the rest of the shed, and get rid of that old VHS player, TV, radio that doesn't work, wow I am on a roll.

There have been other sections on the layout I have been working on so I will put up a selection of other shots around the layout, most of them are in favourite spots that may be familiar to the reader. Until next time..............

Sunday, 12 February 2023

Thomson River - 13

 I expressed surprise that it was the end of 2022 and how quick the year had gone on my last blog, and here it is nearly half way through February 2023. I swear that time is speeding up (anyone in the older boat will vouch for that).

This is the first post for 2023 and I will finally announce that I consider my build of the Thomson River bridge done!

Early planning 2016

 When the layout was initially planned, I wanted to put in a few signature structures, what could be more impressive than a few bridges. The one that most people would be familiar with is the curved timber trestle over the Monbulk Creek and just outside of Belgrave on Puffing Billy. So that was the first one that was tackled. It wasn't all that complicated to build and it's construction was probably covered in some of my earlier blog entries if you are interested.

The second structure I chose to model was going to be the Thomson River bridge located on the Moe to Walhalla line and thankfully still in service on the Walhalla Goldfields Railway. Both of these iconic bridges are luckily still accessible  for viewing. The original baseboard constructed in the photo above was mainly guesswork on how long and deep to model would take up. This section was always going to be 'a coming back to finish' baseboard, so a temporary track was located towards the back to enable initial construction to commence (one day)

Parts of the bridge are laid out in their approx. position

 Luckily a set of unreadable plans of the bridge were available and they were a great help in the bridges construction. During the early days I was lucky to get help from two friends, Roger Johnson who 3D printed the piers and Nathan Wakim who laser cut the lattice and side girders. Without the help of these two gentlemen the bridge would not have turned out as well as it could.

The lattice girders slowly take shape

 It was a slow build as there were many unknowns to overcome along the way. The centre lattice girders were probably the most complex to construct. They required the drilling of many holes to insert a styrene rod that separated the two sides, then X shaped spacers were made and inserted with the tweezers. Luckily I only put the rivet decals on the visible side. It was success when the outside girder was made, then the realisation the second one had to be done as well. What is even sadder is that when the bridge is in place most of the wall side girder is not visible.

Centre lattice takes shape.

I won't go fully into the individual sections of the bridge and how they were constructed but give a general idea on how all the bits came together. Thankfully over it's build I took a few hundred photos for the record. All together I reckon that the build has taken around three plus years to complete and I admit there were also other sections of the layout that were worked on when I needed a break from bridge building.

Core strength of the bridge
The photo above shows what the bridge was constructed around. This piece of U shaped aluminium was cut to the bridge length - around 1.9 metres long and was eventually sandwiched with all the pieces of timber and styrene required. In fact it was that solid, it could be suspended from both ends and have no significant sagging. The above photo outlines maybe why it build took so long. The short pieces of timber had to be cut to around 5mm long and then glued right across both sides of the near two metres of bridge, there are probably a few hundred in position.

Underneath the centre span
There are some saving graces when structures are constructed. One is the fact that will all surfaces be visible when it is finished? The first time saver in my bridge was the fact that I didn't need to replicate all the rivets on the wall side. These decals were a pain in the butt to get into the right place. I had close up photos I had taken and tried to duplicate the positioning of the decals to match the real rivets. Time consuming but satisfying in the end.

I decided right from the start that I would model the underneath of the bridge even though most will never be seen. So even if I got it wrong in the build most will never know. It is mainly in the section across the river that upshots can be taken. So when the underside was finished I decided to give it a rusted effect, this I was particularly happy with, alas never to be seen.

An ant's view of the bridge all weathered
With the completion of the underneath of the bridge and the top, it was time to start developing the scenery on both sides of the bridge down to the river. Some of this work was covered in the previous blogs.

Landform down towards the river

 Also mentioned earlier was the piers produced by Roger were forwarded to the maestro painter Ian Fainges for him to paint up and weather. He did a fantastic job as can be seen in the photos. As another distraction I made up the five timber trestles that hold up the outer edges of the bridge, no two were the same. These were based on the original plan drawings and not what are currently there.

So all these elements eventually came together, the two river sides were sceniced, the river was poured and all that remained was to place the piers and trestles into position and place the bridge on top. Most of the scenic work and river pour took place when the bridge was not in position, which made it a lot easier to work on.

Bridge section aligned with existing baseboard

As the above photo shows both sides were secured to the existing baseboard, with some shimming required to get the level perfect. Also can be seen the temporary track that was in position for a while during construction. One by one each pier was shimmed up to allow the base rest up against the base of the bridge. A small spot of glue was put towards the back to hold in position and also the base was glued. The bases were to be surrounded by scenery so any evident glue would be hidden. Then it was just a matter of securing the timber trestles into position. Just to complicate the build, the piers and trestles were at an angle and not perpendicular to the bridge structure. I had made an angle template at an early stage that came in handy towards the end.

Overall picture of bridge
The photo above shows the bridge in position and also the offcut piece of aluminium that was screwed upside down over the centre section for support. It was necessary to reduce the supporting web of aluminium to accomodate the higher lattice section. There was only a thin section left and that eventually had the supporting timbers glued to it. This work of milling out the centre section was performed by Russel Freeman on his milling machine, a task that I could never have completed. It was only when the whole bridge was resting on the piers that this section of aluminium was removed, otherwise it would have buckled.

The supporting aluminium ready for removal

 With all piers in position it was then time to remove the supporting aluminium and think about the track laying. I thought back about all the work I had done on the bridge and wondered if some hand laid track would look okay. I didn't think for too long and went back to the standard Peco narrow gauge track I had been using. I had used it on the Monbulk bridge and when ballasted it came up looking alright. There are two things I don't really like about the Peco track, one is the ends are modelled too decrepit for my liking and also what the heck are those rail fastenings modelled on? They must be big spikes. So what I did was to cut off some of the decayed ends of the sleepers with a blade and then reducing the size of the rail fasteners which was also a pain job to do. It basically required going across the two metres of bridge four times to reduce the size of the rail fasteners. See the photo for what I mean.

Reduced size rail fasteners on left hand side, original on right

 The sleepers if matched up against the real Puffing Billy ones are too short but other than hand laying we are stuck with this track. Another thing I did was to cut the rail at 25 foot intervals and insert fishplates around the cut. Probably something that won't be noticed with visitors, but I know they are there. The track and rail sides were also painted.

Fish plates and painted track


Ballast slowly creeps outwards

Basically the last job to be done was to lay the ballast across the bridge. I laid some out from the baseboard edge to see how it would go rather than do the lot and find  something wrong. It was just one of those jobs where you do it bit by bit and finish off.

Ballast is all in place
It was just after I had all the ballast in position and I thought 'that's it, I'm done' but looking at the actual bridge there were two safety refuges hanging off each side of the bridge I forgot to install. I had actually made both timber bases some time ago, but needed to make the steel railing around the edges. The current one has an intermediate railing but the plan shows the original with just the top rail support. I used that plan as my justification to copy that model. The model had their railings installed and suitably rusted up and then glued to the sides of the bridge. A supporting steel pipe held it in position.

Safety refuge

So after the safety refuges were in position I declared the bridge finished. It was one of those projects that seemed to go on for ever but it was something to enjoy at the end of the build, now I can annoy people with countless photos of trains on the bridge!.

Drone shot
The bridge being put to the weight test

As with most new sections of track in the real world, freight trains are often used to settle the track down before passenger trains are operated over the same track, so although you can see that freight is now using the bridge, the official opening is still due to happen, I hope this will happen soon.

Monday, 26 December 2022

The Last Post

 The Last Post? Well for this year anyway. Santa has been and gone and left nothing which I am not surprised, seeing I model this obscure scale and prototype. But all is well as I feel I now have my fleet (unless someone bring out a G Class garratt) the rolling stock is way ample.

 And I can't believe another year has gone by so quick, you hear about events on the radio or TV saying so and so's eighth anniversary of their passing and you realise times flies by too quick. I started doing this new layout now around six years ago and when I look at the layout I see there is so much to do and so much has been done. The size of the layout will probably dictate that I will never finish it in my lifetime but I am having fun doing it. What I have decided to do is to concentrate on the 'portable/removable' section of the layout. When this layout was commenced, unlike the HO layout I decided to make it sectional so that one day, (hopefully) all the time effort and money sunk into this part, it can be broken apart and maybe re-used and enjoyed by someone else. If I make the effort to work on the 'fixed' section of the layout then all that effort will be for nothing when one day it will be all pulled apart. As we all climb the stairway to heaven, this is something we think of. But some don't worry about that aspect, saying when your not here your not worrying about your empire. Funny when you think of how you will leave the planet i.e. quick or slow both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you know you have a time , say 6 months, then the disposal can be handled by yourself. But if you go in an instant then some other poor bugger has to do all the work. Either way a sad time for all.

 Onto an equally frustrating topic, the other day I thought I would run a train for a while but as soon as I plugged in the power, on came the warning short circuit light. Stuff, I thought I had been carefull when doing work, not to leave any metal objects near the track. A quick visual didn't reveal the obvious, so off I went looking for the obvious which it wasn't. Unfortunately the layout is only one long section so a short at one end shuts the lot down. But what I had done was to put terminal blocks at each end of the individual baseboards underneath for that day when they will come apart. I now realise I should have wired them into a switch so all I needed to do was work my way around the layout switching off sections until I had a steady red light on the circuit breaker. This task wasn't as easy as it sounded, as I had to get right down and under the baseboards to find the terminal block. The two wires were removed and the light was still flickering. Ha it wasn't until about 45 minutes into the task when I realised even though I had removed the wires underneath, some of the tracks between the sections haven't had their rails cut yet. That was a job when removal beckons. Doh. So on and on I went around over and under looking for the obvious, to no avail. I was wondering was this thing call DC all it was cracked up to be??. I remember the old HO had sectionalised blocks that I could cut the power to from the control panel and quickly find the problem. In a light bulb moment I remembered that I once had a dodgy microswitch way down at Bega. But what one was it? I flicked them back and forwards a few times thinking that might fix it, but no. Then I came across a point and its microswitch that led into the loco shed. A few flicks and a check on the light revealed it was the problem. But before this I had to resume power to the bus by getting underneath trying to hold the wire in the hole and screwing it all up again. Then eyes let me down, no focus, go get a light and shine it up. And after each terminal block rewire, a trip back to circuit breaker to see if I still has power. Too late to cut a long story short, but after and hour and a half wasted, the short was found. I shall look there first next time it happens.

What made me write about the short topic is that I realised tonight after reading the February issue of Model Railroader, Tony Koester has experienced a similar event and we are sure we are not the only ones. He explained a few of the instances:

  • The first case was when a cardboard box sitting on the layout had four copper staples underneath the box that were shorting out the rails. He has now taped the staples.
  • On another layout, two spikes in a frog were somehow touching each other underneath the layout
  • Then there was the guy who had a spiral bound notebook that was laying across track and this produced a short as well. ( A few days for this one)
  • Another had two bare wires hanging down under the layout and were okay until a box was pushed underneath which caused the wires to touch and short out.
  • And Tony's case was when he had a level crossing and he had used carbon black for the road surface which was apparently conductive and created the short.

So these are some of the frustrating cases of non obvious short circuits that can cause great frustration in the hobby. So maybe the more shorts you get the better you become at tracing them down?

So what for next year on South Coast Rail?  One thing is for sure in that after three years the Thomson River bridge will be finished. After final adjustments and completion of the scenery on the Broadwater side, the official train comprising all the passenger rolling stock and brakevans will marshall up and run across. Maybe the Haskell NBH coaches will be ready and I will get a set of these for SCR. As earlier stated I will concentrate on the 'portable' sections and complete the scenery and there are at least a dozen structures to be made and installed. All this will be duly reported on during 2023.

So I hope you all get what you have planned for 2023 finished no matter what scale or prototype. It is a great hobby. I will just finish off with a few photos taken over this year of various parts of the layout and have a good 2023.

And the tail end shot

See you 2023

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Thomson River = 12

 This blog is where I came to the nervous part - pouring the river. I knew it was inevitable and much planning has gone into getting it right the first time.

Just to make you extra nervous, I read river pour blogs where they said my river ended up on the floor. As I said on the previous blog I made the base from two aluminium baking trays the biggest I could find. I took some panel beating to get them to the shape I wanted and plenty of 'no more gaps' (because that's what I didn't want!) The base of stones were glued down on the river floor.

There were probably many suitable resins I could have chosen for the river but I got a box of Feast Watson resin to try. Again this was untried and at $75 per box I hoped this experiment would go well. Reading the box label and finding out it weighed 1.32kg and would run out to 1 square metre did nothing to let me know how much you need to form a river base! A visit to the $2 shop I purchased two measuring jugs to enable the mixing of the resin. I was a safer path to get my own jugs rather than chance 'borrowing' some from the kitchen. The best bit was the mixture was only two part which sounded fairly simple to do. One other thing I was concerned about was when I poured the river the resin might creep up the backdrop, but luckily this didn't happen.

One important thing you must do before pouring the resin is to make sure you have placed all the stray logs, branches, shopping trolleys and other items that can't be an afterthought. Luckily I live three minutes away from the National Park and with a suitable box, four minutes later I was right amongst it all. It was not just a matter of scooping up a pile of sticks, they had to be scaled right and look the part. So after a selection was made, four minutes later I was down the shed working out where all the 'sticks' would go. I glued them into place as I didn't know how the big pour might move them to where I didn't want them. The big root was placed up against the backdrop to ease the transition between river and the back scene. This item definitely had to be glued into place and it was hoped the resin would flow around it and hold it down.

Everything I could think of was done for the river pour and then the two bottles of resin and hardener were mixed together. I was expecting steam or some other type of vapour to be drifting over the sides but nothing happened. With the big jug of resin I approached the back area of the river and poured away. I was surprised how well it flowed and levelled out as it was poured. I don't know about other resins but the beauty of this brand was that there was no bad stinky odours. So recommended. One thing I did before the pour was to remove the bridge structure away from the piers to allow full access. There have been so many steps in this bridge build a little think time to get the sequences in the right order certainly pays off.

The first batch of resin poured.
One thing I wanted to do after watching many videos of river making was to add some paint to the mix to form a small tinge when looking down on the water. And it  was only supposed to be just a dab, maybe be better to under do than over due with the colouring. Most river streams sighted and especially the Thomson River at the bridge location were fairly clear. The main idea was to be able to see the river bottom with the stones visible. As can be seen in the  above photo the product lives up to its name 'Glass finish'. I was able to take a few photos with the reflection of the piers showing in the river, but this wasn't going to be the end look.

In the above photo you can see that one pour wasn't going to provide enough resing to come up the centre river pier. So I had to fork out another $75 and go and buy another carton of resin. I had the choice of getting a smaller quantity but it was better to have more than not enough on the pour.

So I knew by now how to mix and pour and eventually was poured onto the first pour, again with some slight colouring. It was touch dry by the next day, I certainly didn't want to take the risk and stick my finger on it and find out it was still sticky.

 So after the resin has set, the next step according to all the videos I watched was to apply gloss Modge Podge onto the river surface to form the ripples. After admiring the nice gloss finish it seemed a shame to make this next step but no river sits still. The above photo shows where the mod podge has been painted onto the gloss surface. Again I had to re-read the label to make sure this stuff was going to dry clear. It did eventually dry clear and put a slight haze on the surface. I actually applied a second coat as the first didn't have enough 'wave' for my liking. So all up I was happy with the end result.

The river bank is blended into the river.  

Overall view of the river/bridge scene
The other thing I did was to stipple some white paint around debris sticking out of the water and along the river bank area, it just adds some more realism. I wasn't 100% happy with the transition of the river into the background picture but it was a matter of working with what I had on hand. The river photo was actually taken off the road bridge looking upstream. It was flipped to better suit the river flow and the photo widened to fit in. It is over two metres long.

So that is a brief description of how the river was made. I was pleased with how it went and that is experience gained. The river lacked some life around it and I had just discovered the English company 'Modelu' that had produced tow different types of fishermen complete with their rods. The figures are available in scales from N to G scale, you just nominate on the order form. It  was a quick production and within two weeks I had the boys here ready to do a spot of fishing. But I needed to send them to the Master painter Ian Fainges to weave his magic on them. So they were quickly returned and I set them to work to try and catch me some fish for dinner. I'll finish off with a few shots of the boys 'down by the river'