Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Layout Tour


With the paying of respects this morning completed,  I decided to have a quiet afternoon and attempt to update the layout track plan.

I have been threatening for some time to generate an up to date track plan and for better or it is.

I have been using the AnyRail program for some years and while i can see severe limitations in this program it is senseless splashing out on a new fangled software package this late in the planning process. Indeed some of the drafting and graphics packages we have in the other side of the business would run rings around Anyrail anyway... but it must also be said that I only utilise the software to create mud maps so in the washup it is satisfactory for my needs .

I have incorporated the latest mud map and for those interested in a tour read on....

For some reason the outer walls have not been included in the file transfer...but is discernable where the grid pattern ends... The total layout room dimensions are 12 metres x 3.8 metres

Is the location of Fish River Station and yard precinct...all track as per the plan is in place to a point adjacent to "G"....I will in a later post devote some space to a description of the yard layout.....

Heading in the "up" direction from the station is the location of the Fish River and associated bridges ( also bounded by the drawn box around the letter B )...the tracks adjacent to the letter "B" are... the main line on the left and the old up main prior to the old double track main line being reduced to a single line...the remnants of the up down main now act as a refuge and /or shunting neck for the yard... The track to the far right is the branch and crosses Fish River on it's own bridge....All track in this area is laid.

The area designated "C" is basically a room within a room ( 3.0m x 3.8m ) with the existing wall being a pre train room feature and has been left and incorporated into the layout room when this was built.  The outer line is of course the main line and this line will be a hidden line while traversing this room entirely.  A scenery divider will be built and the inner line...the as yet unamed branch and terminus will take centre stage in this room.  At present the main line is in situ and the branch line is laid to a point as it just enters the room from "B"....A terminus and associated sidings will need to be planned for this area.

Having left the room designated "C" the solitary main will exit a yet to be built tunnel ( around 900mm before the Liftout Section ) and be visible as it crosses the Liftout Section and reaches the points adjacent to point "D"  This set of points will again see a branch line diverge from the main line ( to serve the cement works yet to be discussed )....After these points the main line will again enter a tunnel or steep cutting and be a hidden line to a point near "E"  It may well end up that the benchwork is widened on this side of the room and the cement branch given a narrower right of way between locations "D" and "E"  so that the area left for the hidden main may well be called upon to house some hidden staging as well.

There will be separation ( grade and or scenery ) between the main as it reappears and the branch to possibly the point where the cement works branch crosses onto the yet to be built peninsula that will house the cement works and quite possibly a small terminus.  The peninsula will be approx 7000mm x 600 +/-mm so there is plenty of space for both to co-exist.  Location "E" also marks the imaginary point where trains leaving Fish River Station in the down direction destined for the next imaginary location exit the stage and Location "D" is also a focal point as this is where trains headed for Fish River in the down direction will first appear.  I guess this realisation decides that a hidden staging area between these points should exist...

The as yet unbuilt peninsula which will house the Cement Works and as already stated, possibly a terminus.  The location of a terminus no matter how small will give reason for passenger workings over the branch.  I have already built the majority of buildings required for this area.

The trackwork between locations "G" and "E" is yet to be installed and the layout as per this plan will most likely vary due to operational issues that are apparent...Also there has been no decision made as to the use of the area located adjacent to "G" outside the main line alignment.  This area may house a depot area or may well house a grain silo and loading facility and this decision will have a profound effect on the yard layout and yard to main trackwork at this end of the yard. I have a new Bruce Akrigg 90 foot turntable and also have an Auscision S008 so there will need to be a decision made although a 90 footer may well be overkill for a depot befitting a locality the size of Fish River Station....Geez not another Ebay moment....

So there you have it at present.....Just a simple track plan that gives some main line action and at least two branchlines in the future.  This will be enough for me I would suggest. 

It is interesting... and I am sure I have stated this before but... It is funny how when a layout room is complete there is an overwhelming desire to shove rails everywhere and the original plan is an empire to behold.  As time goes on you become aware of what is humanly  possible for one person to build and maintain and the realisations of reality takes hold.  My wants in the hobby have changed in the last couple of years and to this end I am presently concentrating on the Fish River Station precinct both track and scenery....I will sometime this winter complete a circuit of track to allow continuous running and then look at one section of the layout at a time with a view to completing it and then moving on...

I will devote some time in later posts to each location and any issues I may have missed in this post... of course comments and any advice is always welcome!!!




Friday, 19 April 2013

Winter is a Cummin...


It has been a strange week.  Treatment for the latest ailment, an aggressive tumour of the Parotid gland no less, has begun in earnest this week...(hmmm I am unsure how with all of the chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons that I ingested in my "working" life that anything could grow inside me )....School holidays has meant that I have a house full of screaming female hobbits, the business has been left to it's own devices apart from the Laser Rail Bits development ( gotta get the priorities right ) and I have spent some time on the layout.  Now I hear that the first snow has fallen in Thredbo soooo it would appear that winter is fast approaching. 

Seems strange that I spent the majority of my life living and working on the coast and now at the ripe old age of 52 I eagerly look forward to the Tableland winters.  Certainly for around 5 to 6 months of the year there are plenty of excuses for not indulging in outdoor activities especially on the sub zero evenings and mornings that we frequently get.
Is it any wonder that the G gauge empire in the backyard gave way to a hasty return to indoor HO... Yes I love the winters... the colder the better!!!  There I never thought I would say it and this admission certainly fuels the speculation as to how I ended up with The Retard as a long standing and universally used nickname...I should add right here before the "political correctness police" have me for breakfast is that the nickname derived from some light hearted name calling following a bout of brain tumours some years ago and how I was temporarily incapacitated for a period of time following this..... I wear the nickname with pride!!!

But I digress....

I have finalised the NGPFs as per the last posting and finally got them to Ebay... Mixed feelings were experienced but hey...if they don't fit the era then it is pointless using them as bookends.  Now that the airbrushes have been retrained and the lids on the paint jars have been unstuck...I thought it time that I carried on with another project that has been waning and that being the fuel tanker fleet.  Of all of the rollingstock available in NSW I would admit that my favourite is Oil Pots...Maybe my working background has a lot to do with it coupled with my early years living close to the Botany line... but they have always fascinated me and while I have been purchasing most examples of RTR versions as they are released, making them layout ready has fallen behind big time. 

And so this week I have attempted to address this situation and bring them alive as best as I can.  I suspect that I have far too many fuel wagon examples ( with more on the way ) and wonder whether anything else will fit on the layout when it is completed...but I am having fun and isn't that what a hobby is all about!!!

The period I have chosen to model is the sixties and seventies and this period was certainly a "greyscale" time in the rollingstock world and at times it is difficult to get the juices flowing where weathering is concerned...most items of rollingstock were just a differing shade of grey/black and one has to look deeper for the subtleties to break the monotony and of course the majority of period reference shots are black and white or were converted to this format for printing.  Yes there are the publications that contain colour shots and I find it possible to spend an hour or so on just one colour photo looking at the small variations in shades based on area of wagon employment, wagon uses and rust or corrosion patterns.  Armed with this is then a matter to attempt to transfer and reconstruct all of this to the finished model....I guess that is why we have such a diverse and great hobby as it never fails to challenge us...

I have added a selection of shots showing progress on the fleet...I could not resist the first shot showing a completed "original with walkway" NGPF...these units will be sold...

The three unliveried 4 wheelers in the last shot are to be an experiment in weathering utilising the salt method to add some variety and I will post a follow up with the findings as they are presently in first coat awaiting the process

 Have a great weekend...



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Housekeeping The Fleet


Housekeeping has many facets in the train room and this week I decided to take stock of the rollingstock roster with a view to thinning out the fleet...again... I guess like most modellers I have draws and boxes filled with "stuff" that was once a certainty to grace the layout...a time when there were no clear guidelines as to an era or location to be modelled.  It is only when we come to terms with these facts that we have a clearer picture of the silliness of some purchases.

I have always had a soft spot for grain trains and grain carrying wagons.  I suppose this may have had it's roots in the fact that as a young bloke living in Sydney it was my afternoon ritual to grab the dog and visit the sidings at  Kelloggs, Botany, only a stone's throw from home, with the sole purpose of perusing the grain wagons despatching their contents into the silos located there. ( and of course seeing the afternoon trip train offerings )  RU, BWHs and NGRXs were the mainstay of wagons and of course it was a bonus if a shunt was occurring at the time. Both railway and Kelloggs staff were only too happy to show a young bloke ( and hound ) how the whole shebang worked and many an afternoon was spent riding a 48 or other loco as it went about it's business.

In later years after purchasing a house directly behind the Cooks River staff hut the sightings were only made on passing trip trains or the occasional rake of grain wagons that for one reason or another would find themselves in Cooks River yard for transhipping.  And now of course living opposite the main south it is grain train heaven.

And so imagine the excitement when I found two packs of Auscision NGPFs that I had put away for the day when they might grace the layout.  These packs had started life as the undecorated variety and a start was made many moons ago to replicate what I was witnessing each day albeit without the graffiti.  At the height of my excitement it had dawned on me that these wagons ( especially the pack with modified loading hatches and no walkways ) would not fit into my chosen era and so excitement gave way to dismay as it was realised they would have to be liquidated.... Oh Well...

In the last couple of days i have spent some time completing the detailing, coding & weathering and have enjoyed this immensely as it has been a while since i cranked up the airbrush and got the juices flowing.  I have included some piccies of the nearly completed first pack ( without walkways ) and these will be committed to Ebay in the next day or so...

The wagons were given the teal end treatment, new codeboards, livery label ( some faded ) and then weathered to within an in of their tiny little lives...Jeezus there is some fragile detail on these things...Anyway Enjoy...


Monday, 8 April 2013

The Housekeeping Begins


Now that things are progressing with the layout it quickly becomes apparent that housekeeping has to become part of the normal "operating procedures".  It is also a time where trialling of  labour saving devices comes to the fore.

There is an obvious correlation between the amount of track, landscaping and buildings that one installs on a layout and the housekeeping and maintenance that will follow and of course remain.

I figured that I would dedicate some posts to the often overlooked housekeeping subject and hopefully raise some conversation as to my experiences versus what methods the old hands have adopted.

To kick things off...Some time ago I purchased a CMX brand of Track Cleaning Machine. I cannot remember why i made this purchase but my ever decreasing memory tells me that it was on sale at the time and was purchased to take advantage of postage charges on a bigger order I had made from the USA...In reality it was a rash purchase just to fill the box up.  Another issue which attracted me was the fact that there will be several tunnels and some not so easy places to reach when the layout is a mobile unit did have some obvious benefits.

With the amount of track being laid recently,  I decided to read the instructions and give the unit a go.  The unit is essentially a solid brass bogie tank wagon with an all up weight of 151 grams.  The barrel of the tank is designed to be filled with a "solvent of your choice" and through a fairly sophisticated needle valve arrangement the fluid is fed to a pad that has been fitted to a  solid brass sled which through it's articulated attachment to the tank slides along the track to be cleaned maintaining constant contact and the ability to cope with most undulations and irregularities in the track.

The unit comes with  a quantity of  spare pad material which appears to me to just be a type of lounge chair fabric with a corded feel and is cut to length and attached to the brass pad with clips which are not unlike the style fitted to some orbital sanders.

The instructions do not actually prescribe or recommend a particular solvent, leaving that decision up to the user.  Some websites that I visited spoke of using aggressive types of Ketone type solvents as well as Xylene based solvents.  A word of caution here after too many years of  involvement in the bulk petrochemical industry is to stay well away from at least these two family of solvents in the train room environment.  A quick search of the web will outline the potential dangers of these solvents suffice to say that Xylene / Toluene based products contain benzene...a known carcinogen. One web forum advocated the use of Methanol while not stating that misuse of this product can lead to permanent blindness.

Apart from the above...the choice of solvent used also has to be made with flammability of the product in mind as of course introducing a flammable solvent ( sometimes in a confined-space train room ) to a spark generating layout full of trains, lighting , signals etc etc has the potential to create large and small types of hazards.

One other issue that has to be factored in is what effect will the choice of solvent have on the layout detail, track and rollingstock.  Some of the harsher solvents and their inherent vapours will certainly melt or soften some plastics and indeed some solvents will have a fairly un wanted effect on weathering...particularly all of the hard work weatherng track etc could be erased in one foul swoop... While it was not my intention to turn this post into a lesson in chemical technology...A seemingly simple purchase such as this could turn into a disaster unless simple precautions are not taken.

An up to date listing of commonly utilised solvents, solders, fuxes and chemicals in our hobby ( including plain english info and potential hazards...would be timely to be included in say AMRM at regular intervals.

So... with all of the above in mind....I chose to use Isopropyl Alcohol as a trial.  Yes IPA is flammable...but it's flammability is on the low side when compared with other solvents... It is fairly inert in the vapour stakes and it is acceptable to have contact with the skin. One other factor is that it flashes off ( evaporates ) quickly leaving very little or nil residue. IPA can be purchased over the counter relatively cheaply at most supermarkets under the brand name Isocol and while this brand does have additives... the amount is minimal and certainly does not effect the usefulness of the product as a paint thinner, or general purpose solvent and cleaner in the hobby room.

I have now trialled the CMX track cleaning machine over a few days and while the engineering is first class and the theory is very natty indeed... the jury is still out.  I am not sure of it's cleaning ability as apart from a peco track rubber I have not tried any other options for track cleaning over the I have no benchmark to make an accurate comparison.  I do wonder about the damage to pointwork should the pad catch on a blade or the unit is a heavy bugger.

So....what methods do other modellers utilise for track cleaning....I look forward to some feedback and discussion. 


The track cleaning special coming off the branch towards Fish River station.

Now moving onto the new sections of trackwork.

The CMX unit... The filler cap is located on the right of the tank ( with sealing O ring )... The other knurled knob adusts flow through the needle valve to the pad sled....The pad retaining clips are also visible.

The underside of the unit showing pad material and general construction.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

More Layout Time...


Well two weekends in a row mostly dedicated to the layout has got to be a record.  The liftout section has been completed all bar the severing of the track & track formation.  The electrics were completed & it was decided to ballast, weather & basically complete the section before allowing a few days to dry.  Next weekend will reveal the success or otherwise of the project.

4917 was chosen to lead the first train through the section for testing purposes & a varied bunch of rollingstock was also assembled.

In the next couple of weeks I will attempt to include an updated plan of the layout & layout room so locations can be ascertained as work proceeds.

The test train entering the "work site"
The moment of truth...

To describe this location... To the right of shot ( on the opposite wall ) is the location of Fish River, the main station and yard on the layout.  Behind the train is a 3m x 3m room that will house the branch line terminus that originates from Fish River.  There will be a false backdrop on 3 walls in this room that will hide the main line ( the track in this shot ) as it travels through this room to reappear from a tunnel entrance which is to be built adjacent to the wall nib in this shot.  The track will be in a cutting which will then give way to the liftout section that this train is about to cross... After the lift out section there is a further 9 metres of this wall and already built bench before the track then turns to eventually end up back at Fish River.  I have not yet decided on a plan for this wall other than it will have a siding at the far end that will turn through 180 degrees at the end wall ( behind the photographer ) to service a cement plant and associated sidings which is to be built on a 6 metre x .7metre island bench that will run up the centre of the room.....All will be clearer when i post a plan... 


All good...No visible deflection!!!


The test train has now reached the temporary terminus... the benchwork carries on for a further 9 metres beyond the liftout before turning left then 3metres further on turning left again to return to Fish River the left of the photographer.