Monday 30 December 2019

2019 - Gone

Well I don't know where 2019 has gone but tomorrow will be the last day and then onto 2020. I am sure as you get older time goes faster (ask any old person).
South Coast Rail has been coming along slowly, that is the nature of narrow gauge, we are slow.
The major 2019 event was my attendance at the Australian Narrow Gauge convention on the Central Coast of NSW held over the Easter period. I was asked if my layout could be on display and I tentatively agreed to this request back in 2018. This was also a catalyst  to get me to pull my finger out and try and make what I had built presentable. My layout is on the larger size so having the lot finished was not an option but I hope what was presented was okay. The convention was also a chance to finally meet fellow modellers that I had conversed with over the internet. The level of modelling was exceptional and also there was a dinner get together on the Saturday night.
So after the convention it was back to the general modelling field which is where you can be in the shed for a few hours, come out and then wondered what you had achieved?
I also decided to make a start on the signature piece of the layout that being the model of the Thomson River bridge. I am lucky to have had help from a few friends in its construction which will make for a better model in the end. This especially applies to the piers made by Roger Johnson and the trusses laser cut by Nathan Wakim and the talented painting hand of Ian Fainges.
2020 as always will see forward progress with the bridge taking priority. The baseboard it sits on will require new skills to be learnt such as how do I make the river etc? Looks like some more Youtubing ahead.
I will round off the year with some random shots of the layout and wish you all the best for the New Year, happy modelling.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Thomson River Bridge - 3

With the four piers at hand, all I had to do was to assemble them and get them ready for the finished effect. As mentioned I thought the best way to go was to apply Selleys Spackfilla Rapid over the piers, then colour them up to represent the real thing. I am not sure if the natural finish of the 3D print would have resulted in a better representation of the concrete finish, but after completing then, I am happy with the look.
When I assembled the pieces of the piers I had used five minute araldite along with a section of styrene over the joints to strengthen the pier. I am not sure if this extra section was required but gave re-assurance that it would all hold together.
Two of the pieces I received already had the bases included as part of the print. As these prints were basically experimental, I suggested to Roger that they could be omitted to save time and filament in printing. The only time I have seen the actual bases was when the bridge was new, in all photos viewed since the bridges opening the bases have been covered with river gravel.
The caps were left in their original state and didn't require any plaster. Roger had also moulded the plates that the bridge rests on at the top of the pier.

The four piers awaiting finishing
I eventually got the four piers covered with the plaster and then it came time to work out how to finish them off to look like the real thing. I had taken as many photos as I could on my two visits to the real bridge as a guide for later construction. The lighting in the area was different on the two visits which was reflected in the photos but luckily we dodged rain on both occasions. Having been in position for over one hundred years the piers have had plenty of natural weathering. The top of the piers has a lot of 'gunk' that has dribbled down the sides. As it goes further down it fades out. So it is a complicated job to get the overall look of the real thing.
My attempts at weathering
I grabbed a piece of florist foam to practice on before I applied a finish it to the piers. The final finish had to be the same over the four piers. As stated on the previous blog entry the final colour was hard to define, and varied over time. After this test piece, I thought I was ready to do the four piers, and after having a go I was a bit disillusioned with the result.
Pier one, fail one
I wasn't satisfied with my results and knowing that the piers on the bridge are the focal point that people will focus on, I wanted to get these right. I became aware of a painter Ian Fainges who does custom painting work for Andian Models.
Two of Ian Fainges painted figures on the layout
I had Ian paint up two figures for me and was very pleased with the final finish. Ian is also a great painter with war gamer figures. So I thought why not ask him if he could do the piers for me using his skills. After contacting him he said he would have a go and the four piers were packed up and sent to him. After a short while he sent photos which looked OK.
I received the piers back but after unpacking I thought they weren't what I wanted but he was happy to have another go. So when I received them back the second time I reckon he has got them spot on. The weathering from the top down is really excellent.
Painted piers Mark 1
Painted piers Mark 2
Looking good
I still need to do a little more on the piers basically trying to simulate the concrete layer pour lines but more than happy with the end results thanks to the help of Roger and Ian. The bridge is a complicated build but if taken slowly will all come together in the end.

Fox Valley Railway

Readers of this forum would know about our group of regular modellers who gather together for trips out or meetings at each others place for a layout run, barbeque, drink and maybe a rail related video, then cake etc to finish off the day.
The last event was held locally at Kevin's place where we were treated to his great Fox Valley On30 railway. I follow VR narrow gauge but he has chosen US based models with a lot of freelancing thrown in. He has made many of his models from locos to rolling stock and buildings. His skill has probably come through from his trade as an aircraft maintenance engineer.
No 16 latest scratch built sound loco

A few of the steam locos around the turntable

Opposite side of layout to first photo

At the loader

Busy day at the local station
 So everything was going well on the day and after a while at the layout we went upstairs for a barbeque lunch. While the sausages were on the barbie, the skies started to darken and within ten minutes the day had gone from a very smoky day from the bushfires to cyclonic weather. The rain was coming down horizontally, wind blowing and we were wondering what would happen next. We rescued the cooked sausages from the barbie and went inside for lunch. Of course next to happen was that the power went out. The wine drinkers amongst us were happy but we all missed out on our cake and coffee later on.
With no power to see a video we adjourned for the day and I was given a lift home, dodging downed trees on the way home.
The tops of a tall tree were brought down in the back yard that being the only damage. But later that night around 7.0pm we lost power and didn't receive power back until another 3 days, also around 7.0pm. Needless to say not much modelling or computing got done on those three days. We sometimes don't realise how reliant we are on electrical power.

Monday 2 December 2019

Thomson River Bridge - 2

After doing the maths on the plans I worked out that the bridge would be around 1.90m in length. The baseboard was slightly longer to allow for the river banks on each side and a run on/run off section.
Much brain scratching was had before I decided to utilise a section of aluminium 'C' channel to support all the individual sections that needed to be supported somewhere. The 'C' channel was sourced locally and kindly cut to a two metre length at the store (a) because that was around the length needed, and (b) a three metre plus length wouldn't fit within the confines of a Toyota Corolla. I also got the offcut which would be put to good use later. The 'C' channel was 32mm wide and 16mm high. I basically had to guess this and hoped it would all work.

CorelDraw drawings to help with construction
One great assistance in making the bridge has been the use of CorelDraw to make various diagrams of the bridge to help with its construction. They can be drawn to exact scale and in the cross section diagram above I was able to see how all the sections would fit in together. I have been using this programme for over twenty years and typical of many programmes I only learn enough to get done what is needed. There would be many more uses that I haven't discovered as yet. The drawings were not meant to be in the engineering class but sufficient to enable early decisions to be made.
Pier numbering and pier heights
Some plans exist that have been helpful in the bridges construction, the above diagram shows the height of the various piers.
One of the standout features of the Thomson River bridge are the four concrete piers. These are the signature pieces. The actual bridge is really pure mongrel build. The truss in the middle and the plate girders either side were recycled from other replaced broad gauge railway bridges. One of the books I have in my collection "Steam on the Lens, Volume II" details black and white construction photos.   I have included two pictures from the book that clearly shows the extreme conditions that early engineers had to contend with. 

Early construction photo from the book 'Steam on the Lens'
Early construction photo from the book 'Steam on the Lens'
I was wondering whether I had bitten off more than I could chew when I decided to build the bridge. You can't foresee all the challenges ahead but it is hard to pull out when you have gone maybe half way.
After spending hours studying plans and photos, I decided to accept the challenge. But the biggest problem piece in the whole build was how was  I going to construct the piers? The piers are a complex structure that are tapered on all sides. And to make the build more complicated the front of the piers facing upstream had a curved front so that any flood debris coming down stream would be diverted to either side. The back of the pier was different having three faces. So all in all a complicated build. I have already stated (many times) that I am crap at wood work so wood forms piers were not on the agenda. My preferred option was to use florist foam which is very soft, easily carved and suitably strong enough to support the bridge decking above. This was to be the design material. But during the course of research when I was on a forum, I came across a fellow VR narrow gauge modeller, Roger Johnson. We have been exchanging emails back and forwards on the bridge and both indicating a strong desire to have a model made. Having made two brief visits to the actual bridge, I passed on all the photos I had of the bridge to Roger hoping this would help with his build. It was some time after we had been communicating that he told me he had obtained an Aldi 3D printer. As Roger has 'draughtsman' as one of his skills, conquering the trials and tribulations of a 3D printer should be made easy for him. We were both working of the same set of unreadable plans, but on some of the plans measurements were actually legible. He emailed me that he had done the pier capping and would I be interested in seeing it. Yes of course. I think at this time I was working on  'other' sections of the layout at the time and the bridge was put on the backburner.
Then one day a courier came to the door with a large box addressed to me. I knew I hadn't ordered anything at the time, but when I got to open the box inside were many bridge section piers. When I realised what they were for, I thought I had gone to heaven. After playing with the pieces for a while I finally got them stacked in the right order and there before my eyes was the reason to continue with the build.

The four piers as received waiting to be glued, coated and painted

Early trial of colours
The hardest part of the build was there just waiting to be assembled. Roger has done a brilliant job on these piers and then I needed to start gluing the sections together. There was some flashing at the bottom of each section that was easily removed by sanding. The 'slices' fitted perfectly together and being hollow a section of styrene was glued to the inside to strengthen the pier. On two of the piers Roger has made the base but as I said to him the only time I have ever seen the base in a photo was during the construction of the bridge. Years of river flow past the pylons has seen the bases disappear under piles of river gravel. To delete the base would result in quicker print time and saving of material. The two middle piers are lower than the two outside piers.
The piers were made using timber formwork. I expected that the formwork timber grain  would be more noticable on the finished piers but I couldn't detect much in photos. You can see on the piers a visible line that indicates where the levels of each pour finished, so like rings on a tree it can be seen how many pours it took to finish each pier. Towards the bottom of the piers can be seen some of the concrete chipped away, possibly the result of over a hundred years of logs banging into them during flood times. This would be called super detailing and could be included in the model. I chose not to do this for my model. With loads of other work to be done in the room I have to manage time and leave this level of detailing out. If this was my only build then I could sink the time into it.
I needed to provide a smooth surface on the piers and after some thought I dropped the option of sanding the sides and going with using some Selleys Spackfilla Rapid on the sides. Although the horizontal grain of the 3D printing may have represented the concrete finish Ok I was looking for something that would readily absorb colour.
Once I got the four piers coated I then started studying the pier colour to try and replicate the same finish. I must have looked at the real photos for ages trying to work out what the actual colour was and put a name to it. The primary colours and their variations are easy to identify, but this is an un-named colour. Was it grey, creamy or some other colour? Then to complicate the finish, there was years and years of weathering that would need to be applied.
The base for the river is installed. Photos on the wall for easy reference.
 I have to admit that I have never really had a workbench to make my models, preferring to build the model 'on site' The photo above shows an old timber finish desk I was using for a workbench. It did the job but has to be removed to allow for the river base to be installed.

To be continued....................