Sunday, 16 January 2022

What 2022 already!

 Hard to believe that we are into another year. We still have the dreaded covid and its ugly cousin omicron hanging around. It hasn't changed my lifestyle a lot but the loss of model rail exhibitions and the ability to travel around has always put a damper on things. We just have to hope 2022 will be a better year for all.

Progress has been a snails pace on the layout since the last report but not entirely still. The train shed is located in the backyard which is also adjacent to a large garden that I have been working on. The garden always has to take second place to the layout, so when I go down the back to visit the garden I seem to go inside the shed on the way back. These visits can last from a few minutes or an hour or so, depending if lunch or afternoon tea gets in the way.

One thing you can guarantee is that there is always something to be done in the shed. One of the things we are all nearly guilty of is the collecting of items and objects for the layout 'in the future'. They are sometimes purchased because the thought is ' if I don't get them now, they might not be available in the future' This is often a true statement but there has to be a sweet spot where the bottom draw is getting emptied at the same rate as it is filling up again. I have a bottom draw that has a lot of Ian Lindsay model bits and pieces. Ian has now stopped producing his great range of products especially the O scale model parts I have obtained for future detailing. These included , drums, tanks, buffer stops, animals etc etc. These are now gold as they are no longer available from ILM models.

Sometime when I go into the shed, I might get the urge to run a train somewhere. Most of the time the trains tend to hang out at Eden. At the moment with the main line cut just beyond Broadwater where the Thomson River bridge is going and the opposite direction requiring the lift down section being lowered, any trains running at the moment just head to Broadwater and return. On the last trip some NM livestock wagons were shunted into the goods siding. Which got me thinking that I had some ILM cattle. So I got them out of the bottom draw, studied a few pictures of cows on the internet and go them painted a brown colour which was better than the resin colour they came in. Some were also painted black and white. So there are six cattle to be spread around the layout. They will either be staged in a field or be standing in a stockyard waiting for their ride to somewhere.

Naked cows

How now brown cow

Another project I have done is to do the preparation of the photos on the backdrop for the Thomson River bridge project. The initial photo was not wide enough so I needed to make another one suitable to match the left and right hand sides. With a bit of photo shopping I managed to so far get the left hand one done and fitted. There was also the need to extend the river section lower so it can blend in eventually with the river. I will cover all of this more in the next 'river bridge' update.

One of the great aspects of carrying a mobile phone around these days is that you always have a camera to hand. So even though at the moment I only have a few scenic spots on the layout I have included a selection of photos from around the layout. Until the next report. 


Friday, 3 December 2021

Thomson River - 8

 Time flies, last post was way back in October and here it is December. But I am not sure if I will get my dream to have trains traversing the bridge by the years end. If I don't get that goal done there is always next year. I always knew this project of the bridge would be a big time absorber.

I am happy that the bridge structure is basically done. The only other embellishment I could make would be extra supports underneath that would possibly be never seen. Maybe this is why we don't build model houses, furnish them with furniture and then wack a roof on. 

The second biggest feature of the bridge module was always going to be the background image. In the early days of dreaming of the bridge this was just a future problem to be tackled at the time, so that was put on the backburner. As shown on the previous post I made the framework for the backscene out of timber I had on hand. I know now I should have gone to the timber yard and get some full length of the module timber. In hindsight it has probably worked out OK as at each end of the baseboard the scenery will taper downwards to meet the adjoining baseboards.

I rattled through my library of Thomson River bridge photos looking for ones that would show the river heading off to the horizon and ideally enough of the trees coming down each side to the river. I got ones that were close but would require a lot of massaging in Corel Photopaint. Luckily I sourced a high resolution photo taken by a friend Bob Taaffe looking up the river. This gave me something to work with.

The starting point for the backdrop photo.

 The photo was 16mb in size so enlarging wasn't going to be a problem (I hoped) Although I have been using CorelDraw for ages, using its photo imaging package Corel Photopaint I must admit I was a bit rusty. I think I have worn out the undo button on the programme, this must be the best feature they ever designed. From the photo above I needed to stretch it to around two metres wide

After a bit of stretching

 The above photo shows the result after stretching, cloning, undoing and luckily not too much swearing. The trouble with the original photo was that there wasn't enough sky so I had to copy sky from the middle and duplicate to either side. It was also hard to get some crisp trees to duplicate to the left of the river. The tree ferns went well as I could enlarge the clone tool and copy a whole tree fern into its new spot in one go. So the bottom of the picture was easy to clone as it was just bush as opposed to cloning a tree. If you look closely some of the duplication gets a little blurry but I wasn't worried about that aspect as there will be a forest in front and this will be well into the background. The white patch on the left hand side is where the landform will cover, so there was no need to do that area.

After the last printer gave up I decided to replace it with an A3 printer. This was lucky as I was able to just print off the section showing the river and place it where it would flow under the bridge.

How's it going to look?
I was happy with the trial photo, it was going to be a lot cheaper to do an early test than get a full length photo and find out it was not right. One thing that I needed to change was the actual direction of flow of the river. The upper shot shows the river flowing across to the left, but the flow direction had to match the piers direction on the board. So again it was trial and error to work out how to cut and paste and reblend with the leftover photo. Maybe all I needed to do was to flip the original photo? All good practice though.

Backdrop backboard
As I was getting closer to getting the backdrop photo produced, it was time to do some research on how I was going to get this monster produced. I didn't fancy sticking heaps of A3 printed images together over the board. My mind immediately thought knowing the large size required that it would require a large amount of money to produce. It hard to determine an exact price online at various printers and as I had previously used Officeworks I checked there website which was fairly clear to work out. I went to my local Officeworks one day with a size larger than the actual product. I was quoted a price on bond paper but I asked if there was a vinyl option. I was familiar with vinyl backed prints as I have three scenes on this medium from Brunel Hobbies. They are already pre glued so you just have to peel off the backing paper and stick down. It is tough enough to be realigned if you hiccup first time.

On asking then for a price on pre glued vinyl I was surprised when the young lady said it would be $37. All that for a 2 metre x 50cm picture. There is a 48hr service for this, as I suppose they have to fit it in with other printing. I collect it two days later. I thought it would be a bit much to start rolling out a two metre long picture in the shop, so I hoped for the best and waited till I got home. I was very impressed with the end result.

For the time being I made the backdrop frame removable so I could lay the picture down on a flat surface. I took it up near the house and engaged the services of my wife to help roll it all out. Between us we did manage to get it rolled out and stuck down. There was a bit of 'overrun' when we got two metres away from the start point, but that can be tucked over or cut off. It was always going to be hard to match the wall colour to the sky colour on the photo but looking at the finished product, you look down on the bridge and don't notice the top too much.

A distorted panorama view from across the room

As logic would say I needed to complete the backscene and work forward. I still need to make up more photos to join onto the existing photo on the left and right hand sides. This will involve getting more suitable photos for cloning and modifying. This I am working on at the moment.

An overall view of how the bridge fits in

I think it will work! NA6 sitting there for scale
The bridge base and trestle supports in the above photos are just sitting there and haven't been secured at this stage. I am not sure how much access I will need when the river construction commences. When I look back over the years to the original temporary track on this baseboard to how far it has now come I am happy with the progress.

Bare trees now that will become a forest
So not sure if I will reach my goal by getting the track down over the bridge before years end but it is not far away. But if not we will make it in 2022.

Going to be a great spot for photos
See you all next time!


Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Thomson River - 7

 The mood of the place has changed, Sydney is now out of a 100 + days lockdown from covid and we can actually travel more than 5km from home. Whoopee. But on the first day of 'freedom' we all travelled down to a local village of Brooklyn situated on the Hawkesbury River. I have been hanging out for a feed of fresh fish and chips, a lunch we often partake in. If you are lucky we can get a spot overlooking the river and more importantly the main northern railway line where trains have descended the steep Cowan bank, head across the causeway, into the tunnel then cross the second Hawkesbury River bridge. Trains heading towards Sydney are spotted by their headlight coming out of the tunnel, then they power up to head up the long Cowan Bank.

Anyway the first favourite shop was 'closed' with a note on the window saying that they would be open the next day. Bummer. And the next two shops that could satisfy my craving were also closed. DOuble bummer. So not to be outdone we headed home and stopped off at a place called 'Pie in the Sky' who do great home made pies of many flavours and also do a great fruit pie and the obligatory coffee to take home. We shall try another day!

With over 100 days locked down you might be thinking that the layout would be finished but not yet. I have found the bridge project a big time absorber. Sometimes I just pull up a stool and seemingly stare at the layout trying to work out what goes where. It is important to get the sequence of 'builds' done in the right order.

Frame for the backdrop
So logically I needed to start at the wall and work forward. I made a mistake (I think) by using my longest bit of timber on hand which didn't go the full length of the bridge baseboard. So I centered it which left two ends to be made and fill in the gaps. To make this story sound worse I only live five minutes away from a timber yard. Anyway I am comfortable that the end product will work. I will leave the backdrop story to another blog entry. While waiting to get the backdrop photo finished I worked out that I could start working the scenery down from the Pambula end towards the river.

The Thomson River baseboard will eventually be removed one day in the future and as it is already attached to the adjacent boards I have no idea how heavy it is or will end up. Just hope some strong guys turn up that day. To help towards that I have been using foam as a scenery base, one is that it is easy to work with (but makes a bloody mess) and two that it is virtually weightless.


You can see from the above photo why I am reluctant to lay the carpet tiles that have been ready waiting for a long time to be laid.
I made sure I purchased a water based glue so the foam didn't disappear my eyes. It is also good in that you can remove any glue you get on your good clothes (accidentally of course) before the boss of the wash spots it.

Trying to mimic the landform of the actual area there is a slope from the existing scenery running down to the river which I am trying to copy. Until I get the backboard in place then I have been concentrating on the foreground scenery.

After the foam is in place then the bridge supports were put in where they were needed. The bases will be completely covered so at this stage it doesn't matter if they are too large. They will disappear. At this stage is just sitting in position, one reason is that I need to go to Bunnings to get some long thin screws to secure it. I really need to do this as one day when it is going to its new home, it might get tipped upside down and the bridge would fall of. Ouch.

Yellow foam used for rockwork

First coat of paint

Blending the existing with the new

Blending closer
I needed to blend the existing baseboard that runs from the bridge up to Pambula, so more yellow foam has been used for rockwork. I quite like the use of this foam for rockwork now over the previous plaster I used. It is less messy and depending on how good the carving and final paint job is it comes out fine and less weight. As with all scenery work you can't expect it to look good until the end, but it gets better along the way.

Retaining walls added
In the above photo I have used Paddle Pop sticks cut in half as a cheap timber for the retaining walls. Once coloured up and weathered they come out good. Also I have painted the foam so that it looks like dirt underneath if I miss any scenery on top.
Starting to look OK
The above photo shows progress so far. I used a scenic mat that I had around since the HO days. It didn't seem to work on the old layout but rediscovered now it seems to work well. I have blended it with other bits of scenery. Just remember if you want the scenery to look realistic then you have to be ready to fork out for good material. There is so much great material now available, a far cry from the old days when we though a bag of green lichen was fantastic. No compared with todays material it was crap. So do yourself a favour and spend and get the proper material. I can thoroughly recommend the Modellers Warehouse in Brisbane for the best material available. The do a quick mail order and have a big range. And hopefully when this covid is all over they will return to do the Sydney exhibition circuit.

Hopefully next blog I will be able to show the backdrop scene.


Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Thomson River Bridge - 6

 Time hasn't stood still on South Coast Rail. I can't even blame the covid pandemic for slowing things down but that isn't the case. Even the recent days of summery heat and the following day a drop of 10 degrees hasn't stopped work.

The bridge has advanced along far enough to make the decision to cut the track from the temporary track that has been in place for a long time. It was always a temporary section on this baseboard to enable work on the bridge to take place in front. It was time to alter the woodwork to accommodate the new alignment from either side. Coming out of Broadwater the track swings around 90 degrees and then through a gentle curve line up with the bridge. This side represents the Moe side on the real bridge. And after crossing the bridge a right hand curve allows the ascent up into Pambula. There is a level crossing where many a photo has been taken as this board has been sceniced well before the bridge was to be finished.

The temporary track has been lifted

The lifting of the track behind the bridge now means that the continuous circuit will not be available until the new track is laid across the bridge. This is not really an issue  as once a train leaves the terminus at Eden there is a choice of going up to Broadwater, reversing there and either coming back to Eden or proceeding up to Bega. The other direction from Eden goes straight up to Bega and then a choice of going to the branch terminus of Candelo or onwards through Wolumla and then terminating at Pambula. So you can see that while the bridge work is going on there is still operation possible. Having said that I tend to put the energy into finishing the bridge rather than working a train, that will come later.

Down the hill and straight across

As can be seen in the above photo the track from Pambula will come down the hill with an S bend and then head straight across the bridge towards Broadwater in the distance. Initially the scenery on this board was done without knowing how it would blend in with the scenery on the bridge board. The bridge has been done to scale measuring around 1.9 metres long but the restrictive part is the width that I have to work with. When the scenery gets more advanced there may be some compensations to be made to 'squeeze ' it all in.

One thing I have purposely done on this layout is to try and not have the tracks parallel to the baseboard edging. This is evident with the bridge in the following photos. I just think it tricks the eye into following the track along. Anyway that's my style.

The Broadwater side of the bridge

Reverse view of the previous photo
Currently in the centre of the bridge is a piece of aluminium channel that is holding the bridge rigid. Part of the channel was removed to allow the truss section to be fitted. The sections either side of this are able to be glued to the full length of the channel. Once the bridge is settled down onto the piers then the top channel can be removed.

Looking up from below

Final position of the bridge, back temporary track now gone

Partial fascia to allow ground work to be formed

After this advanced with the bridge I thought I had better start trying to work out how the groundwork will fit in either side. I had some white foam (it actually was from Mr White). While the bridge might be a fairly accurate model of the real thing the landform will need to be modified to fit into the available space. I have photos I took on site some time ago and are trying to follow the real site but as the build gets further on I have the feeling mods will need to be made. The limited space will dictate this.

The two end trestle supports rest in their eventual position

The build certainly has been a slow one but it is a big project and I don't want to take too many shortcuts. As said before the plans for the bridge give a rough idea what the general outline is but the measurements are unreadable. But I am happy with what has been done so far.

Trying out for size
The last shot I couldn't resist putting a loco on a piece of track on the bridge to see how it looks. I reckon once the scenery gets done in this area it will look great. Again that will be for another day and another blog.


Saturday, 21 August 2021

B & W's

 While work continues on the layout as covid decrees, I have been taking photos all the time recording the growth of South Coast Rail in its narrow gauge format.

Some pics out of focus are deleted straight away (the beauty of digital!), some just make it into the various folders and some just turn out right. Another great feature of the digital age is the ability to instantly turn a colour photo into a black and white one. Then the photo takes on a different feel, maybe taking me back to the days when black and white was all you could afford.

I have managed to run through a selection of colour photos and converted them to black and white. No labels attached, if you have been following the blog you may know where they were taken.