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'


Friday, 4 November 2022

Thomson River - 11

 You can't call it the Thomson River bridge if there is no Thomson River flowing under it? There has been much contemplating in my mind on how to tackle the river under the bridge. The slow build over the last three years has left me with research time particularly  how to do the river which I considered the most difficult part. As previously stated the idea is to have the river end up where it should be and not on the floor under the layout. Having checked the one main join between the two aluminium baking trays I was confident that the river pour would go OK.

When the trays were in position and having a look at the work done so far, it seemed like it would never come out well. It was a no turnback stage, the tray was well and truly glued into position and no second chances. You look at the raw aluminium and you think 'How am I going to make this all look pretty?' 

Would crushed concrete work?

Looking for roadbed material, I had some crushed concrete that I placed over the river bed even before I had painted the tray base.I realised that this didn't look right so I took it all up looking for something else. Now every modeller always has a stash of 'things' just awaiting their turn to be called up for layout duty. I have a lot of scenery material scattered around the shed collected over a long period. Luckily it was a trip down the other end I found a jar of small rocks that looked right. Initially I thought the colour appeared too light in colour but it later turned out OK. I thought that when the resin was poured over the rocks it could be coloured and cancel out the light rock colour.

The river work area
I reckon one of the brightest things I did was not to fasten down the bridge too early, thereby giving a clear workspace. The bridge having been built around a U aluminium channel piece was rigid enough to be able to lift the whole 194cm bridge away. This allowed the bridge to also be able to be put back into place to align the piers and get an idea how it would all look eventually.

The river stones are laid out
Luckily I just had enough of the rocks for the river bottom. I was also able to spread some of the smaller rocks Mick Bennie had brought for me amongst them. Just to complicate things a bit more one of the piers was located in the middle of the river. This pier that Roger Johnson 3d printed for me had the large concrete base attached. All the levels of the track versus the river baseboard level had been set around three years ago so I had to work along with what I had. I was able to set the bridge in position and then bring the pier up to its base to work out a final level. As you can see in the above photo there is some timber under the pier to raise it to the correct level. In real life the base is not now visible as the over hundred years of river flow, the bases are buried. Only in very early photos are the bases visible.

The river bottom is glued down
The next step was to glue all the rocks down in the river bottom. This step probably wasn't necessary but to make sure there was no movement it was done. I also thought having seen all the river making videos that it was recommended that part of the base was painted a darker colour to represent depth. It would have been hard to do that if the rocks were still loose, anyway it was not a long process.

Now is the time to add river debris
I mentioned earlier that every step of construction has to be thought out ahead of actually doing things. On most river making videos I have seen the author seems to enjoy putting stuff into the river before the pour. Make sense, but you just have to remember to do it. In this pristine part of the world, one would not expect to find shopping trollies or car tyres littering the Thomson River bottom. Luckily I live three minutes away from the National Park and I was able to sneak in there and come out with a selection of suitable river debris. One thing I did find in the backyard was a great plant root which was also waiting in my 'root selection' container. As you can see in the above photo the root is in place to reduce the visual effect where the river joins the river backdrop. It is certainly not a perfect match but I had to work with what I had. You can also see some of the other twigs and tree material that would litter the river bottom. 

A low level photo of the river
Looking at the photo so far you can see how the scene is progressing along from the raw aluminium stage. I was happy with how it was panning out. When it is all finished it is the bridge that catches the eye and the train on it and not so much what is around it. But that is not to say that the level of work shouldn't be any less. Some parts always turn out better than others. You can also see that other scenery work is taking place down the sides towards the river.

The right hand 'deep side' of the river

As previously mentioned, the dark painting of the river base represents deeper water even though the river level is all the same. It would be possible to actually have varying levels for the river but in the end this works well and saves extra work.

Very uncomfortable to get this shot, I was laying on the rocks!

 Well that is another stage for the river to be completed with just the pour to come. Again I am happy with how it it is going. I will be out looking for a suitable resin to finally make the river reality.


Sunday, 9 October 2022

Thomson River - 10

 Time for another update on how the Thomson River bridge build is going. Hard to believe it has been ongoing for over three years now and just another measure of how quick time passes by. Serves myself right for picking a signature piece that would take longer to build than I thought. To me there are at least three narrow gauge standouts on the VR system. One is the Monbulk trestle on the current Belgrave to Gembrook railway. Yes I have built my version of it. The second items I like is the station layout of Beech Forest on the closed Colac to Crowes line. I decided not to build it and have left that line to Mick Bennie who has done an excellent build on that line so far. That left the Thomson River bridge which I didn't think would take long to build. Wrong on that account. Plans were available but very dodgy in that measurements can't be read but clear enough to make out for the build. A couple of friends have contributed greatly towards the build and it would not have turned out like it has without their help.

So where am I up to? One of the 'scary' items I have to tackle is the 'river'. I am glad I am building the river now as without all the help that has come from the internet it would be pot luck.

Amongst all the videos I looked at on pouring the river most have said to make sure the river base was properly sealed or the river will end up on the floor!. My river base like the real thing is angled under the bridge. I also have made the bridge purposely not parallel to the baseboard edge as this to my eye looks better. What to use for the river base? Each time I went shopping I would eye off the large baking trays made from aluminium and thought this would be the way to go

The first aluminium tray is put into place

In the above photo on the first attempt the back of the tray didn't come up far enough so a larger tray was sourced. Another issue was that the trays are rectangular but they needed to be panel beaten into a parallelogram shape, not as easy as it seems. And one wasn't wide enough to go right across meaning two trays would needed to be shaped and somehow joined together. Also had to watch the tray wasn't pierced or that pesky resin would wonder off somewhere. So after much panel beating the two trays were joined together with 'no more gaps' glue. I liked that re-assuring name - no leakages?

Back section is glued into place
The first section had to be glued up against the backdrop with no bumps as the backscene photo had to come down over it towards the river. At least the glue gives you a short working time to get it all flattened out. During the build there were around one thousand (or so) measurements and calculations to be made. Such as 'how deep from the rails is the bottom of the river?' The backscene photo when put into position didn't come down far enough towards the river meaning I have to make another photo river 'addition'. These are hiccups you have along the way and can often annoy the builder but to the casual visitor all looks good.

The second tray is glued in place.
You can see from the photos how much goes on in the build before the finished product is unveiled. Sometimes you look at all the crap lying around and think will it ever be finished?. The choice of the aluminium trays seemed to work out okay. I wasn't prepared to 'dry' test the base by pouring water into the tray, but with only the one joint between the two trays I hoped for the best. The above photo shows how much had to be cut away to make it all fit. The risen section in the middle of the tray was to take the right hand pier under the truss and was a close fit to allow minor packing for the final fitout.

Right hand bank
It was eventually realised that I wasn't going to make an exact replica of the landform around each side of the river. Studying photos of the bridges 100 years plus existence showed many changes to the river banks and bushes, shrubs and trees. And also the fact that it is all being squeezed onto a narrow baseboard made me think to just do what turns out for the best. The bridge, the main feature is probably around 95% accurate. 

Trial run of river base
At this stage none of the piers have been secured into their final position and are fully removable to allow a clear workspace. The fact that the bridge has built around an aluminium ''U' channel allows it to be self supporting across the 1.9m length. It is often removed to allow easy access. The above photo shows a trial river base of crushed concrete. I didn't end up using it and found something better. I decided to tackle the river build before completing the scenery under the left hand side of the bridge. This gave me a defined river bank to work up to.

Creating the flood zone
Following the real photos I made the left hand side the overflow/flood zone (don't know the technical term) where in theory the water flows during larger river flows. In the above photo there will be two concrete piers in position. The rigidity of the aluminium channel shows in the above photo. The clearing of the piers allows clear  access to complete the scenery. Also can be seen the length of 'U' channel upside down on the top to stop sagging across the truss section. This section was milled to allow the truss section to sit higher in the build.

Painted aluminium tray
In the above photo the aluminium tray was painted with a brown earth colour both to take away the shine and to prevent an silver shine that may appear from a scratch. It will all be eventually covered up with scenery.

Trial run for overflow base rocks
I had admired a river base on the layout of fellow modeller Mick Bennie. How lucky when he paid a recent visit to SCR he brought a large box of the same river stones for me. They look the part. Some discussion on Facebook this week on a glue to secure them without the pva shine has steered me towards Matt Modge Podge. I obtained some this week and will soon try it out.

Maybe I am making excuses but you can see that the bridge and scenery are are a big project to start and finish but I am in the home straight now. 

I must be getting close to pouring the river, better go and look at a few more videos!



Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Tanks A Lot

 One thing I can say about modelling narrow gauge in O scale is that there is not a lot of structures available that represent a prototype I am modelling that being Victorian narrow gauge. There was a fairly good ranges of buildings and other infrastructure that was done in the past by Ian Lindsay Models. I was lucky that I decided to do the change to this scale and caught the tail end of models from Ian Lindsay. They were mainly VR narrow gauge such as a goods shed, a station building and purely VR narrow gauge buffer stop. Many of these await their time to be assembled and placed on the layout. They are currently asleep in a bottom draw.

New to me was a water tank produced in 3D printing and is basically a two piece kit. The kit was produced through Brunel Hobbies in Melbourne. I believe this hobby shop has changed hands so I am not surewhere they can be purchased now. Will try and get some details. There is an upper tank and then the tank stand. Also supplied is a ladder and decals for the water height in the tank. Although it might be considered pricey for what you get ($89) all the hard work has been done. All it needs is a cleaning up of flash and painting. There is no need to chase up a corrugated tank or source timber for the stand. There is also the fill pipe and the outlet pipe has the water taps cast in. All in all a good kit.

The kit comes with excellent instructions, well set out and easy to follow. Colour photos are provided through out.

The tank as received
The first thing required is to remove any excess flashing which is minimal. I then gave the tank and stand a spray of Tamiya primer. After that the tank was sprayed with Tamiya Dull red in a spray can as recommended in the instructions. After the red had dried I painted some rust paint diluted with isopryl alcohol. Also the outside of the tank had weathering done by using Tamiya khaki drab painted on also using isopryl alcohol which basically works as a thinner.

The completed tank minus ladder

 The base was painted a grey colour, can't remember which one but there were many in the draw. By using a lighter base then you can apply a darker paint over it to show variations in timber colour. The bolts have even been modelled as can be seen in the above photo. Just hit them with a brown marker pen to highlight. I also used some chalks brushed on for variation.

After the tank stand was finished it was onto the filler hoses and a great tip from the instructions was to use the elastic strips from the currently in use surgical masks. I didn't have to go far to find some in the house. They work well and look like flattened canvas. Some weathering finishes them off. I don't think these would work for any other scale than O scale.

So when I was happy with the tank and stand I then thought of what I would use to fill the tank to represent water. I had on hand some Woodland Scenics Realistic Water. I wasn't completely happy with it as you can only pour a small amount, let it dry and then top up. It also dried white cloudy, not what I wanted. As luck had it I was doing a pour on a nearby river and poured some into the top of the tank. The resin had a slight green tinge to it so it looked the part. I would reckon for every 2000 photos of water tanks there would only be one that shows what the inside of tanks look like. I didn't take it right to the top, maybe suggesting that an engine had just refilled with water.

Chain from float to indicator
I was wondering what was on the tank/water end of the chain but after looking at a few plans it seems the float was simply a lump of timber. Most timber floats. I got a small piece of timber and drilled a hole through the middle and inserted some thread I have had on hand for ages. It really looks like chain. I have a big bundle of it ready for more chain work. I had to insert the timber and chain into the resin before it had set and then hook the 'chain' over the top wheel. There is not much of a groove for the chain but it sits there quite well. Before this was done I got some rust coloured paint and painted the whole length. It certainly looks like a rusted chain.
The 'chain' over the top wheel

After the resin had dried I was able to stretch the chain down to a position where it reaches the indicator and cut to length. Being slightly flexible it was not critical to get the length exact as it could be stretched into position. With a small amount of superglue on the end of a piece of wire the end of the chain was placed just above the indicator. I felt that doing this finished the model off and even a small feature it looks the part.

The last thing remaining to do to the tank was to apply the water level indicator to the side of the tank. When you first look at it it seems wrong but then because of the reverse wheel at the top, when the float is at the top, the chain extends down to show the maximum level. A white decal is provided with 0, 1 and 2 printed on it. My thoughts are that the numbers have been printed off centre to the right and should be more centred. I will also weather it up. But it looks the part. A 3d printed ladder also comes with the kit, which I will attach to the tank when the final tank position is selected.

The water level indicator
Hopefully with the advent of 3D printing some more cottage industries will fill the void of mass produced models not being made by the big companies due to limited sales.

This is an excellent kit and as they say 'get them while you can' Thanks to Brunel Hobbies for producing this kit.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Just a few

 Things are slowly moving forward and luckily I had my camera with me when a double headed NA livestock train went past, so here are a few of the photos: