Thursday 9 June 2016

It's the Pit(s)

Well what a wet weekend we had here in Sydney and everywhere along the east coast of Australia. Sunday here was really so wet that I couldn't even get down to the shed. Couldn't take the risk of drowning. There was also a lake that I had never seen before in the back yard that strangely had disappeared on the Monday morning. Luckily the layout room didn't suffer any damage when I got to inspect. Just a little water on the floor. With all that moisture around I found out that some flowers had sprouted near the level crossing overnight.
An also addition is the 'W' sign which is a whistle for the level crossing sign. These are made by "Steam and Things" a cottage industry based in South Australia. It is etched brass. It was easy to blacken it up with some "Hobby Black" a chemical blackener but doing the raised 'W' and edges was a bit harder. Steam and Things also produce some excellent oval "Trespassers Prosecuted" signs. This was the initial item that I was more interested in but while the etch was blackened the same as the 'W' sign, painting the raised letters has proven more difficult. Passing Officeworks during the week I purchased a fine white ink pen. Although it was an 0.7mm nib it was hard to control the flow of the ink and I am up to my 4th sign with no satisfactory end result. There must be an easy way to do it. So that sign is on the backburner for a while.
As I have been working around the "bottom right hand side" of the layout I thought it was time to have a go at my first structure.
Part of taking on a new railway to model is the enjoyment of research. The four main items dealing with looking after the locos are an engine shed, water tank, coal stage and ash pit. One thing for sure I have learned in dealing with the Victorian narrow gauge is that there is no standard. Trolling through all the narrow gauge books one notices that all the water tanks seem to be different. Now the same applied to the ash pits. Some looked like they had used the closest tree, chopped it down, dug a hole a made the uprights for the ash pit. Others had dressed timbers with outrigger supports. This is the type I had chosen to model.
 A section of track was marked out for the ash pit, the variations in the sleeper spacing of the former standard track of South Coast Rail can be seen.

The cut out piece became the floor of the new ash pit. It looks rough as, but it will all be hidden soon.
I decided to line the pit with some HO plastic stone wall grabbed from part of the existing SCR railway. Having been upscaled now to O scale the stone just became smaller. It was painted black and worked out OK.
The track was temporarily placed over the pit and 8A ran over to test it all out. It is planned to have a coal stage built to the top left of the NA in the future again after much gazing at pictures in my narrow gauge books. Are there any plans out there? Whilst it is possible to get plans of NSWGR infrastructures the same can't be said of the VR structures. I have to guess what size the timbers are. Any structure that may look a bit wrong immediately comes under "modellers licence" to get me out of trouble.
I decided to use styrene for the supports in the ash pit. As I didn't have any plans I had to use a photo of an NA over a pit and base the distance of the uprights against the wheelbase location. It worked out close enough for me. They were glued onto a piece of styrene base that was raised up so the top of the support touched the bottom of the sleepers. Now one thing that has puzzled me with this structure is that the upright supports and built with timber. Ash is usually hot and sometimes still burning. These two items don't seem to go together in a structure you need to be in place for a long time. Well I reckon that is what the hose nearby would be used for. I had better remember to model this feature.
All the sleepers over the pit were stripped away barring four that were placed over the uprights. These sleepers held the track in gauge. The outriggers have been made and glued in place and 8A did the load test once again.  The reason she is doing all the work is that her two sisters are in Junee, having had their voiceboxes fitted and will rejoin her this coming weekend. Good to have the "Three Sisters" working together.
The initial spray of black paint has the pit looking more like it was designed for. Again 8A can't help herself running onto the track for another selfie. I told her to choof off and come back when its finished.
The base was covered with dirt. Just ordinary dirt and nothing special, it was probably from the street out front, one of the benefits of having a slack council in not providing gutters. The mound was just the dirt over a piece of foam rather than a pile of solid dirt. All helps in keeping the weight down. It doesn't matter what colour or texture the dirt is as it will be darkened later. It was wet down with diluted detergent and then diluted PVA glue. Sets like a rock later.
Another angle of the pit filled with the dirt. The uprights have been slightly weathered to take away the flat black look.
The mound is supposed to represent a pile of ash from the NA's. I initially used black paint over the pile and then stippled some light grey and white paint onto the pile to represent ash. From the other side of the shed it looks good.
The brown of the dirt has been darkened and we all know it doesn't take long for the weeds to start growing. With only about three coloured prototype photos to go from for ash pits, you have to use your imagination of how one would appear in real life. I hope this captures that feeling.

It was finally time to get 8A back for her photos. It is basically complete with just blending in with the track on either side of the pit. The coal stage will eventually go in the bottom right hand side of the last photo. Once the edging is placed along the outside of the baseboard the left hand side will be blended in.
Future work will involve detailing the NA's with the parts in the box and some Ian Lindsay parts as well. The two NA's in Junee are also getting equipped with firebox flicker. Should look good once I can get around to doing some night movies.
You will also be pleased to know that the Russky's have dropped off the viewing listings now that they are aware they are being monitored.
Well thats all for this blog.