Thursday, 29 September 2016

A bit of remodelling...

A bit of enthusiasm has struck again to get out in the studio and get some modelling work done.  I think some of that enthusiasm came from a recent garage clean out and reorganisation, which meant having to move a couple of pieces of stored models.  My studio space was suddenly looking fairly cluttered, with some of that clutter being pieces of Gavin Hince's former layout that I had salvaged back a few years ago now.  For some time, they have sat on a vacant section of bench work in the studio space, and I probably have put off doing something with them due to trying to figure out the order that incorporating them into my home layout design.  It's one of those things, where as a scratch builder, one of the factors that adds extra time to any work done, is the lack of instructions telling you what to do end up spending a lot of thinking time, getting the progress in the right order.  Building a layout is perhaps much the same, but I have found it even more so when working with something that someone else has already started.  There has been a lot of thinking about how to work with Gavin's module techniques amongst my methods.


For example, my bench work on the layout was using open grid design, where the road beds are elevated and easy to get in and around while doing wiring.  Gavin on the other hand, has worked directly onto thick layers of polystyrene sheets, with a thin timber road bed glued along it.  I had some slight track deviations to make when it came to working across his terrain (his terrain was the part I was trying to keep included in my salvage challenge), so there was some compromise with my construction methods to try and retain some of the former feel of the recycled scenery.  As can be seen above, wiring through the old sections needed some creative thinking.  I am using a 12mm ply as my road bed, which has been glued or screwed across part of Gavin's former lines, and to make running the dropper wires a bit easier, drinking straws were sunk through the thick foam as wiring channels.  When I move back onto wiring on my sections of framing, I only need to drop wires through the ply road bed, so wire management is a bit easier in that aspect.


In the photos above, what is being constructed is the logging tramway along the back of the modules.  The tramway is separate from the mainline, and sits about 5 inches higher in elevation.  It sits roughly 3-4 inches forward of the back scene, which is enough distance for me to still model scenery that has enough depth and density (as per my "Mantelpiece Challenge" diorama, "Spirit of the Dandenongs", there is a photo of it further down in this post).  Parting of the wiring that had to be arranged in this part of the construction, was for the inclusion of the automatic DCC shuttle (aka The Professor Silencer, from Tam Valley Depot).  When I have enough operators, the logging tramway will have its own operator, but for the times I will be out in the studio for a solo run, I can turn on the shuttle unit and still have the logging train run on auto.  The end of this tramway will be known as "2 Mile Landing", and feature a log loading scene, using some of the former models that appeared on the Red Stag layout.  In the scene, empty log cars are stored along the rear track (closest to back scene), and the loading will occur on the front track.  The fall of the wandering creek and waterfalls was one of the key elements I wanted to retain from Gavin's layout, and they can been seen starting to make more sense after some careful butchering...when it came to modifying the old layout sections, the demolition saw was the "delicate" tool of choice!

I was also able to add in some of the end of layout framing, which will create the space where my "Splitters Gorge" diorama will be eventually disassembled and rebuilt in the valley between "Brooks" and the logging tramway.  The valley will be about 12-14 inches deep, and allow for some of my bigger Mountain Ash trees to fit in below the roof line.  My library sits below this valley.  The photo seen at below left is taken from the doorway to the studio, so some of the first parts of the final layout that will be seen are the log loading site and giant trees.

One of the other small bits of modelling I spent a few nights on, was assembling a standard gauge wagon (VR I/IA wagon by QuVic models).  I plan to include a short section of standard gauge track at the end of the line (in Upper Gully) as the link to the outside world from this little narrow gauge branch line.  I wanted to use the standard gauge wagon to help demonstrate the quaint size of the narrow gauge rolling stock.  The I/IA wagon can be seen below alongside one of my unfinished NG NQR wagons.  Now I just need to find the time to paint and detail the new wagon.

And just to maybe justify the name of this blog, "Somewhere on the workbench", I though you might appreciate this photo of what the yard of "Brooks" looks like at the minute.  Despite me including three dedicated modelling bench spaces below my layout, they are all currently full of bits of projects, and I once again find myself using any available flat surfaces for work space.  I think I need to get on with adding some more scenery to this section just to prevent me doing such practices!

I said at the start of this post that a garage clean up meant that some of my stored dioramas have now been moved into the studio space.  This included my "Spirit of the Dandenongs" diorama, and with it now out here in the studio,it might actually serve as some further inspiration to get into some scenery modelling on the sections of layout I have up and running thus far.  It was nice to stand back and let this diorama give an impression of what half of this layout will look like once finished.

I can't let this post go without another plug for the Launceston Model Railway Exhibition, coming up on October 22-23, at Albert Hall (in Launceston, Tasmania).  As mentioned previously, I'm heading down there to host my tree modelling display, and give clinics throughout the weekend.  One of the other layouts there that will be of interest for some, is Toternhoe Mineral Railway (by Eamonn Sedon).  For those that haven't seen the layout before, you should, as this is likely its final outing.  It was built back in the 90's, and still looks as fresh and creative as what it did at its first show.  Its due to either be sold or demolished after this show, so would be a goods excuse to plan a trip down to Tasmania for the weekend just to see this layout one last time (and drop past and say hello to me!)


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Plug life...

Hi all,

There will be a new update coming soon with some modelling bits, but wanted to add in here a couple of quick plugs for a few shows I will be at in the near future.  At each show, I will be hosting a repeating gum tree building clinic, which takes about 20 minutes to run through in the abbreviated version.  Clinics will essentially be run roughly every hour throughout the days I'm at these shows, so if you wanted to drop past and listen to a chat about the process I use to create these models, please say you read about it here!

First show coming up is the AMRA Victorian exhibition, being held at Caulfield Racecourse on August 20th-21st.  Its probably the biggest model railway exhibition in Victoria, with plenty of traders attending, and usually a good selection of quality layouts up and running across the weekend.

The other exhibition I will be attending is a new one, the Launceston Model Railway Show, which is being held in Launceston, Tasmania, October 22nd-23rd.  I'm very happy to be heading "overseas" to support this new exhibition, as the organisers have what I believe is a fairly good principle with their show plans...quality over quantity.  They have made some decent effort to make sure that what is being displayed is great value and entertainment for the visiting public, and hopefully also be a great representation and promotion of this hobby.  There is a Facebook page for this exhibition...
It's being held in Albert Hall, which is a pretty cool venue in itself, so will be looking forward to being a part of this one.  Check out their Facebook page, as they have regular teaser shots of what is coming to the show.  There will be a number of displays travelling over from the mainland, as well as a few brand new layouts being build for this show, so well worth a short holiday down to Tassie for this one.  While I have a bit of time to fill in when waiting to get the return ferry home, I want to drop into the Don River Railway in Devonport and have a good browse around (missed the opportunity to do this last time I was down that way).

So if anyone is keen to get some more tips on building these big bold trees that dominate our landscape, come for a visit to either of these shows and I'll happily share all the techniques.

Of course, while I'm dropping plugs, I can't go without giving the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention a little nudge!  Registrations are now available for this event, with plenty of early bird bookings coming in already.  There have been plenty of enquiries about local accommodation options (there are some links to suggested places to stay on the website), with a good number of the attendees already booking in to the closest places.  There has also been some good interest in the Partners Day Program and the Heritage Railway Tour (being held at The Bellarine Railway), which is great to see plenty of partners travelling to enjoy this weekend as well.  Places will be limited o the Partners Day, with spots nearly half filled, so I highly recommend if you are planning to attend this convention with your partner in tow, consider booking this part early.  Some of the attending layouts, presenters and traders are starting to be confirmed now, so please remember to check back to the website frequently for updates on what will be happening across that weekend.


Saturday, 12 March 2016

Bugger & oops!!!

Hi all,
Hmm, bit of an apology update...
For anyone that had attempted to order one of the gum tree CD's via the "Buy Now" button located on this blog, please note that the order has not been processed.
Unfortunately when I set up the details that the PayPal transaction would go through to, I made a small but critical error in listing the email address that payment would be made too.  I made the mistake of leaving the "t" out of the "hotmail"!
Anyone who has ordered the CD will find on their PayPal summary that the payment has not been accepted by the homail address...essentially it doesn't exist. 
You should be able to cancel that transfer within your account.
Sorry, sorry, sorry!
The error has now been corrected, so ordering and PayPal transactions should now go through to my correct and valid email address.  Big apology to anyone who had made a purchase and been patiently waiting on a delivery.  Any new orders will be promptly posted.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Whistles in the hills...

Hi all,
Thought I'd share some of the results from a recent make over I did on one of my Haskell On30 Puffing Billy NA locos.  This loco is one of a pair that have been sitting on the shelf for a while, so I had some time a few weeks back to make a few changes to the model and add a new paint job.
A few small modifications had to made, mainly the front buffer...its about 6" short on the loco straight out of the box.  Ian Lindsay Models has cast a replacement buffer to the correct length, but installation can be a bit tricky.  The original buffer needs to be carefully cut off, an extra bit of mounting styrene added to the underside of the footplate, and then the new buffer mounted in place.  A new slot needs to also be milled out for the coupler to be fitted into again.  A note for anyone else doing this same modification, the styrene supplied with the new buffer casting will foul on the lead truck when cornering, so the styrene really needs to be either milled back, exchanged for some angle styrene, or even changed for a bit of brass angle.  Other dress up items included a set of jacks (brass castings), a new tool box and new smaller lights (also all Ian Lindsay Models items). 



New micro LED's were fitted into the headlight castings, and soldered to the existing lighting boards as supplied with the Haskell NA (boards moved to inside the smoke box and rear bunker, instead of inside the back of the lights as supplied).  The whole loco was given a spray with flat black, and then slowly built up to layers of grime and dirt using a variety of the AK Interactive enamel washes.  Lots of thin washes results in better layered effects that give a subtle finish of a loco that is well used, rather than over abused.  A Loksound decoder with the NA sound project from DCCSound was installed a while back, and provides reliable running with the Keep Alive capacitor that is mounted in the firebox. 
One down, but not sure when I'll get around to doing a similar make over with the other NA still on the shelf.  This newest weathered one (now 12A) has had a limited run on my layout on the 6' of track I have installed, where it is great to hear and see some movement across the layout.  One day, these whistles will blow across the tree lined valleys of Upper Gully.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Nothing but the plug...

Hi all,
Just a fairly brief update to the old blog today.  Haven't had a lot of modelling time lately as I'd been busy preparing the new website for the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, Geelong, 2017.  Been a few teething issues to iron out with it, but am proud to say it is now up and live to view.


The new web site has a few new features added to it.  There is a small gallery of images from our past Australian Narrow Gauge Conventions, plenty of links, and also a page dedicated to other narrow gauge related items of interest.  We want this site to be a useful information hub for our narrow gauge community, with the aim to promote all things narrow gauge that happening around this country.  This will include things such as special operating days at some of the preservation railway groups, or modelling exhibitions that will be including some narrow gauge content, so bookmark the address and check back regularly for updates on what else might be happening near you.
There will of course be ongoing updates to the Convention plans as they are confirmed, so once again, check in every so often to see what else will be coming up in 2017.  There is already all the information available on the site for the modelling and photography contests, confirmation of some of our supporting traders, and a range of selections for local accommodation and tourism options in and around the Geelong region.  Easter around Geelong can be busy for accommodation, so it is advised if planning on coming to this event to get in early with bookings to secure a good place to stay.  Geelong is a great central hub for exploring the Bellarine Peninsula and The Great Ocean Road, so I recommend if you are going to be travelling considerable distance to attend the Convention, if able, include some spare time either side of Easter 2017 to enjoy some of the other attractions in the area.
Don't forget, there is also a Facebook page for the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention which I encourage all the Facebook users to like and share with your other narrow gauge modelling friends.  Spread the word, get on board...looking forward to seeing plenty of you there!


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Geez, Christmas is coming...

Yeah, that kind of went quick!  6 months since an update and that last half of the years seems to have flown by.  Progress in general on a number of different projects at first glance doesn't seem to have advanced very much, but I have been engaged in some smaller focused tasks that are keeping me quite busy in my evenings.
I have been trying to keep my attention on the Cwm Machno slate O14 layout we are working on, especially since there is a tentative deadline to when I'd hope to have it at a presentable standard.  I managed to get some time to do some more work on the large slate rock faces of this two level layout, with an initial thin coat of plaster being applied over the carved extruded foam rock walls.  The foam still has a porous look, so I wanted the thin plaster to represent the sheets of slate that normally layer up these rock faces.  I made a mix of premix plaster, Bondcrete glue and a splash of black ink, which was then applied with a small palette knife.  The first coat seems to begun to build up this layered effect ok, so will perhaps need another 1-2 coats to start getting the finish I want.
The other small part of this layout that has been keeping me occupied was assembling the small KB Scale Deutz OMZ kit.  Its a brass and white metal kit, that has some fiddly elements, but has come up ok in looks, but the mechanism side of it has been a bit of a headache.  The assembly of the drive unit required you to press one wheel onto an axle, feed through the chassis side, then press this through the final gear of the gearbox, and then press the other side wheel on and quarter it at the same time...not the easiest process and the results where less than wonderful.  It did turn the wheels and run along some test track, but it had some binds, made a horrible lot of noise, and the motor was pretty gutless (a tiny Mashima 1015).  So, the original drive train has been stripped out of it and a custom BullAnt belt drive mechanism has been ordered from Geoff at Hollywood Foundry.  With some careful movement of the drive shaft, a bigger Mashima 1020 motor will now fit under the bonnet, and the belt drive should quieten the unit down considerably.

As far as the finish goes, I was more than happy with the paint and weathering result.  It was the first time I've essentially done a paint finish using the one brand of paint and weathering products (all AK Interactive products in this case), where I think sticking with the one painting system has been quite rewarding.  Their acrylic paints airbrush very nicely with good colour consistency.  The various weathering products do the job they are meant to do.  I think what makes the finish so good is actually following the instructions for what each effect is meant to achieve, and sealing between layers.  The steps for this paint finish was a Nato Black layer, followed by a layer of "Worn Effects" (basically the "hairspray technique" but the chipping fluid gives a predictable result rather than variations from different brands of hairspray that may otherwise be used).  Shortly after the Worn Effects fluid had dried, the green and red panels were airbrushed on.  They were allowed to dry for about 20 minutes, before gently scrubbing over his coloured layer with a soft wet brush.  If anything, I think I put the green and red on thicker than I should have, so some of the chips were larger than expected.  The model was given some drying encouragement with a heat gun, and then sealed with a matt varnish.  One the sealer had dried, it was time for some age to be layered on, with various wash layers of grime and rust spots in the chipped sections.  These layers are enamel based with thinners used to move the washes around on the panels.  A further sealer layer was applied (and dried) before doing round two of more thin washes of grime and rust details.  A final matt varnish sealer was applied to finish it off.


I am just now awaiting delivery of a TCS KAM4 decoder to be installed under the hood of this loco (should fit above the BullAnt mech unit once it also arrives).  Not really room for sound and keep alive capacitors in this loco, but the preference was for reliable constant running, rather than something than makes some sound but stalls often.
Of course, the other thing that has been keeping me busy is the planning for the 13th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, to be held in 2017 here in my home town of Geelong.  Plenty of ideas and discussions happening with the organising team here, and already getting some great interest from a good number of overseas enthusiasts who are keen to travel down under for some narrow gauge activities.  The new website is finally nearing completion, and would hope to go live now early in the new year.  In the mean time though, a Facebook page has been started for the event, where you can already find some information about the special category in the modelling contest, "The 90mm Challenge" (see below), as well as some details on other things to do around Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula for those that are travelling and wish to enjoy some tourist opportunities while in the region.
And, since it is finally Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and stay safe over the holiday period.  Hope everyone gets time to spend time with their friends and families, and hopefully also some time at your modelling benches!
Oh, and shameless plug time, you may notice a new page tab at the top of this blog, which has details of the gum tree modelling CD that I put together some time ago.  I finally made them available to purchase direct from this blog (rather than occasionally via eBay, or from my display at the few exhibitions I get to attend).  You will also see the "Buy Now" button in the right hand menu column which goes to a PayPal purchase page.  I thank everyone for their support with these CD's with over 150 copies going out to interested modellers, where it has been rewarding to see others results after following my techniques.  It's been great to see some of those who now own the CD out and about with their efforts at local model railway exhibitions.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Lights and sound...

Hi all,
Time for some updates on activities in the studio.  After returning from the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention a few months back, I normally suffer from two thoughts...burn out from all the lead up to that event and the intense nature of the focused weekend, and then inspiration from who I've spent time talking too and bouncing ideas with.  So after a bit of a rest, and time to gather some thoughts, I ventured out to the studio to get work happening again.  I guess having a NMRA meeting on the calendar was also incentive to move along with a few sections of the build to have something semi presentable for my guests.

Construction projects in the last month or so have mainly involved getting some of the false roof and back drop mounted.  The false roof follows the some principle of the "boxed diorama" style of display I have used for all of my previous layouts.  Using an overhead lighting valance and lower fascia to create a viewing window into the scenes around the layout, therefore restricting the view to just the modelling.  Dedicated lighting for the layout mounted into the false roof provides a solid source of light for optimal viewing conditions.  The false roof was framed with light weight pine frames (mostly recycled from my old Triple Creek layout that was demolished from inside the house) and 3mm MDF panels.  The back scene panels are also 3mm MDF curved and glued to the plasterboard walls.  The blue chosen is the darkest shade of blue I wanted to use in the sky, and will be given a gradual fade down to the horizon using my airbrush. 

As far as the lighting for the actual layout, I have chosen to go with LED globes.  Previously I've used fluoro tubes, which I have been happy with as far as light output, but the hum of the tubes eventually gets annoying to my ears.  The battens for the fluoro lights can also be a bit heavy.  I have looked to light this layout with future supplies in mind.  I was going to use compact fluoro globes, which have good light output as well, but I'm as the use of LED becomes more wide spread, that these type of globes may become harder to match as replacements in the future.  I had experimented with LED strips, but am yet to be convinced with the amount of light they provide.  I have previously built a test strip with up to 4 rows of the LED strips, and they still didn't match to output I expect, to LED globes are the choice I have made based on LED lifespan and the good light these globes provide.  I have had to custom make the recessed fittings for these lights to work.  Firstly, limited space between the false roof and the real life mean these lights can't sit too high above the layout.  The second reason being that I didn't want the recessed down lights to create a spot light effect.  The custom fittings are fabricated with 75mm PVC water pipe, with the ends cut at 22 degrees angle so the globes throw good light at the foreground and background.  The depth of the recessed fitting is also so the globe head sits just below the false roof line to allow this good light spread.  The first overhead valance section was also installed, with the height set at about my eyebrow level.  At this height, it shields most of the light sources from my eye line when standing and operating.  I made a couple of simple jigs for cutting the light openings in the roof with a Dremel router, and one to set consistent valance levels.

I have also brought a couple of the scenery sections recycled from Gavin's old North Coast layout into the studio as well (with the large curved trestle bridge section needing some assistance from the demolition saw across the back side of it so it would fit through the door!).  The trestle bridge has been carefully disassembled as it needs to be levelled and run a different curve across the valley.  The other waterfall section is sitting in its rough location, awaiting construction of a new trestle bridge at the entry to the "Brooks" yard.

The end of the line, "Brooks" is the only section with track currently laid, and now powered after wiring in the DCC panel just prior to the NMRA meeting.  A bus wire has been temporarily run around from the central DCC heart to this end section, and the NCE wireless antenna (mounted from the roof above this Brooks yard, which is fairly central to the room) is wired in and tested.  The DCC heart of the layout is powered by a NCE SB3, with 3 DCC Specialties PowerShield X circuit protectors.  In the image below right, the view is of the wireless antenna mounted and hidden from view above the Brooks roof.  The NCE throttle is just plugged into the SB3 for testing purposes.  The night before the NMRA meeting was the first time I'd had the DCC system powered up in the studio for testing, and the first results were fine. The wireless system responded well from all corners of the room, and the one of my Haskell Puffing Billy Na's which has a decoder installed was able to take its first run in the Brooks yard.  Sound was good and performance reliable with the added Stay Alive capacitor on the loco.  It was rewarding to actually see some sound and movement along the rails again.  Always good for the enthusiasm to get this action happening.

The room had a bit of a tidy up prior to the NMRA meeting as well.  The bookshelf has been installed to hold my small reference library of railway books.  There is also a "projects storage unit" been built.  This is a storage rack with removable project work boards that pull out and get brought over to the work surface.  The hope is that this will keep projects contained to these boards, and in turn help keep my work benches a bit tidier in the long run.  I can also pick up all the project parts and carry inside to work in front of the TV if I want to.  The storage cupboards are also better organised than previous, such as now all scenery supplies are better arranged.  Other cupboards hold locos and rolling stock, or electrical supplies.

For the time being, the southern wall (where "Upper Gully" will eventually be built) will not have bench work built along it (the storage cupboards are along this wall).  Currently that wall will be used as a work zone for building my joint project "Cwm Machno Quarry" with Geoff.  That layout is about to resume work as it is a goal have the slate layout ready for the 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention here in Geelong.  Cwm Machno has been dusted off and power run around to the work area, so I'll be back into carving and shaping slate rock faces again shortly.

While I had the blue paint out doing the base colour for Upper Gully & Brooks, Cwn Machno also got a quick base colour applied, although it is likely to have a fairly pale and hazy Welsh sky line painted over it.  I have also temporarily brought my Splitters Gorge diorama into the studio for storage.  It will eventually be disassembled and rebuilt as a deep valley (that sits above the book library), so as you enter the room, the right side of the isle will be dominated by the towering Mountain Ash trees, which will also help to view block the towns of Brooks and Upper Gully from each other.  I already have some rough ideas for what to do in the display box that Splitters Gorge is in after it gets rebuilt into the layout...maybe a personal little O-14 project?
I have an exhibition coming up in July up in Stawell, and will be up there with a display of my gum trees and a few dioramas.  Splitters Gorge will be up there it what will likely be one of its last shows before pulling it apart.  If any of you want to head up to the Grampians in a couple of weeks for the exhibition, please stop by and say hello.  Despite being a bit cold, its normally a pretty god exhibition, with a good range of traders and plenty of layouts on display.