Sunday, 15 September 2013

Climax 1694 steams again...

Hi all,
Got a short report on the pleasure of enjoying a piece of steam history being brought back into service the other week.  In the world of geared steam locos, the Climax is one of the classics.  According to records, there are only 19 known still in existence, and now (with 1694's recommissioning), just 4 remaining preserved and able to go into steam.  Luckily for me, I have a fine preservation society in "Puffing Billy" located a short drive from home, with a great little collection of narrow gauge steam loco's lovingly restored and regularly run. 

Sunday 8th September saw the official recommissioning of Climax 1694 up at Puffing Billy, with a special run from Belgrave to Emerald, and a happy bunch of steam nuts on board (with plenty on the train chase during the day).  The weather for the day was brilliant, and the smell of steam in the air as you enter the Belgrave valley is always a welcoming smell.  I got up to the Belgrave yards early to check some of the morning activities.  It was a narrow gauge steam enthusiasts treat, to see the Climax, the G42 Garratt, and a couple of the Baldwin nA's (aka "Puffing Billy) all in steam in the one yard.  Given the rather slow top speed of around 8mph on the Climax, we headed out first, ahead of the normal daily running schedule, and would soon be passed by the first regular nA hauled train for the day up at Menzies Creek.  Plenty of fans out along the line, with the casual pace of the Climax making it easy to play the train chase and drive ahead to the next photo opportunity.


A brief stop at Menzies Creek to be passed by the first regular train was just another opportunity for everyone to jump out and check out this fine piece of restoration as she simmered away patiently while her stable mate waddled by.  All aboard again for the next leg of the journey up the grade to Emerald.  This section has a steep rise into the station yard, so I reckon we slowed to about 3-4mph for this twisting portion of the run.  Could have quite easily stepped out, walked past the train, taken another photo, and boarded again!  We previously took a brief halt just before "Landslide" so we could all off load and run ahead for a photo run through.
We eventually reached the mid point of the journey, and pulled into Emerald station.  More steam lovers feasts, with the "Ali Shan" Shay #14 sitting in the yard, as well as the Peckett.  NRT1 rail tractor took care of shunting duties while the Climax eased up to the nose of the Shay for some more photos.  It makes a very rare sight these days to see a Climax and a Shay buffer to buffer these days!  Hopefully the Shay is eventually able to received the same restoration process that the Climax has just experienced.  I feel truly luck to have to have such a fine collection of narrow gauge history preserved this close to home.  Its certainly an incredible collection of history all running from the one shed.  We took some morning tea at Emerald, before making the journey back to Menzies Creek for a tour around the newly constructed museum shed.  This venue will be superb once completed (rails due to be laid inside the shed in the next few weeks), with more valuable rail history going into a better storage setting.  We heard some thank you speeches in the museum and enjoyed some light lunch.  We waited at Menzies Creek for the passing of the afternoon trains (G42 heading back to Belgrave, while 6A was on its way up to Emerald), as the Climax sat in waiting on the museum access track.


As we ran back down the grade to Belgrave again, listening to squeaks, groans and rattles of the well aged carriages, the sun beamed through the Mountain Ash forest surrounding the little train.  A run across the much photographed Monbulk trestle bridge meant we were close to home again, and eventually we drifted into the Belgrave yards again.  Day done, with aching smiles all round.  I hate to think how many photographs were taken collectively on this day (I blazed off 400!).  A huge thank you to the Puffing Billy Preservation Society for the 12 years of hard work and fund raising that has gone into seeing 1694 steam back to life.  What a treat of a day to be a part of, and feel very rewarded seeing, feeling, and hearing a creature like this Climax blast her whistle in the lush surrounds.
I also captured a bit of video footage of the day, which can be viewed on YouTube at the link below.


Friday, 6 September 2013


And so the layout build continues, slowly.  Did have time in the last week to essentially finish the wiring of the DCC side of things into the station module of the new layout.  All the track (there wasn't much track anyway) is laid in the station yard, and now extends across the main module.  The next step there is to start on the traverser module, which will no doubt chew up a bit of time getting it right.  I am controlling my points via the NCE handset, and using a NCE Switch-8 to manage this.  The reason being, it eliminates the buttons/switches on the fascia, which is sometimes too tempting for little fingers when at all the controls are in the palm of my hand now.  A simple indicator panel on the fascia shows the route setting with LED's wired into the Tortoise switch machine lines.  The frogs are all powered up, and this set up has been now tested and working fine...eventually.

Yup, eventually.  I thought I did a nice neat job of the wiring underneath.  Followed each run and was happy with the connections.  Turned it on for the first time, with the DCC Specialties PSX-3 set up for circuit protection, so its nice to know the protection is working well...I just didn't want to know it was working before I'd even run a loco!  Spend and hour or so re tracing wiring, which all looked ok.  I could hear the short clicking somewhere on the module, and eventually found the issue - I kind of forgot to remove one of the jumpers under one of the Peco points...doh!  At least is was easy enough to pass a saw between the rails and break the jumper, and the problem was solved.  All happy again.  I took a gas mechanical for a quick run up and down the line, with all going smoothly, and have already started play around with what switching moves could be done during exhibitions.

While I was rearranging the garage to make some space for the car again, I also discovered a new way the layout could be set up for display at exhibitions.  The peninsular part of it was the part that I could see causing exhibition managers the biggest headache, with the odd part of the layout potentially taking up isle space.  I pushed the layout back to one side of the garage and turned it on a diagonal to save some room.  Bingo, spotted how it could work as a nice long curve open face of the layout for viewers to "walk into" as such (see the rough sketch).  I like the idea of walking into the viewing space so that your peripheral vision is also filled with layout.  It works a bit more like a home layout this way, where the layout can wrap around you a bit.  With this configuration, the back scene becomes a long diagonal wall, with two to three main gathering points for viewing the scenes.  The highlighted green area in the sketch sort of shows how viewers could walk in and out of the layout space.  Having it set of this way also lends itself to being displayed on the corner of and isle if needed.
So apart from some layout building, the other thing I'm looking forward to is heading up to Puffing Billy tomorrow, Sunday 8th September, for the recommissioning of the Climax 1694.  Got the ticket booked, and have seen a few test runs, so now keen to catch a ride behind a piece of narrow gauge history that has been returned to life.  Camera's charged, so there will be another blog update after that one.  Also a good chance to grab some research shots before starting on a model of the loco.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

And so it starts...a new layout

Some brief background to start off with.  I'm outgrowing the original spare bedroom I started off with as my hobby room, with plans under negotiation for a new shed/studio/man cave in the back yard.  In the mean time, a few circumstances have given me spark to want to get out with a new exhibition layout.  Some of this dates back about 8 months, when good friend Gavin Hince (editor of NGDU), decided to tear out his old On3 North Coast layout for some home renovations.  I'd previously really enjoyed some of the operating sessions on this layout, so when the opportunity arose to salvage some parts of it, I jumped in.  A couple of shots of the one of these sessions on the former layout, and a couple of the bits I salvaged.

The section I really enjoyed watching trains roll through, was the long sweeping section around one of the corners, through sloping terrain and cascading creeks.  I  wasn't quite sure what I'd do with them initially.  These sat out in the garage for some time before I got the next spark, which was unfortunately Geoff Nott passing away, so I dragged out these old modules and sat on the garage floor to study what could be done with them.  Some of that brainstorming session can be seen below...


It was the cascading creeks on Gavin's old layout that I liked, and just by chance, with some module realignment, they form a nice meandering creek, tumbling down the slope.  The last view above is probably the one that got me most excited, with a wonderful picture looking up the twisting water course.  The terrain shape was something I wanted to retain (Gavin kept all the old pine trees for his new project), because I wanted to "Ausssie" it up a bit with my gum trees, as can be seen with the mantelpiece diorama I used here in the idea session. 

The shape I was going for was something a bit different as well.  I was a bit tired of the same old style of exhibition layouts (out the tunnel, through the town, into the tunnel).  I wanted something a bit different to view.  To explain a bit better, some rough sketches of the "grand plan".  This new exhibition layout will be called "Brooks", and is about a quarter of what is eventually planned to be the home layout.  Brooks is the small end of the line terminus, and makes up the highlighted section as seen below.

I am modelling this with Victorian Railways as the flavour, loosely based on what would have been found around the former Gembrook and Beech Forest lines.  "Upper Gully" (drawn from Upper Ferntree Gully), "Gallah" (in the same line as Cockatoo, on the Gembrook), and "Brooks" (drawn from Gembrook), however Brooks will be modelled more along the setting of Crowes on the Beechy line, as a fairly desolate and simple end of the line.
So I've made a start on the modules, by carefully removing the scenery parts from Gavin's old modules.  His timber frames were adequate for home use, but not quite up to durable exhibition use.  New frames have been constructed using a mix of aluminium tube and timber, for strength and light weight handling.  I will be exhibiting this solo, so have a few considerations as far as moving big modules (ie wheels, handles).  The modules are designed to be quick to move and quick to assemble.  Exhibiting is fun, but set up and pack down aren't, so the aim is to make this process less than one hour, and as few a pieces as possible.  The large main module can easily be rolled in on its wheels, propped on the trestle legs, and then lifted with one hand into place.

I have recently laid the track in the Brooks yard, which is a simple small terminus, and will even allow for hand shunting (the "hand of God", often frowned upon in model railway operation, but in this case, actually prototypical!).  The yard is small and a bit challenging to move within, but will also means short trains for exhibiting (running into the scenic modules from a traverser).  The station module is now on its side and starting with some of the wiring underneath.  The DCC main bus has been run through.  The guts of this system will be a NCE SB5 booster, with a DCC Specialties PSX-3 taking care of circuit protection on the different power districts.  The DCC system on this is a bit bigger than required, but intended to be incorporated into the bigger layout plans eventually (so taking care of some of those tasks sooner rather than later).  I'll be controlling points/turnouts/switches (whatever you want to call them) from the Power Cab, so am wiring in a NCE Switch-8 to control the tortoise switch machines.

I'll try to maintain ongoing updates here on the blog (famous last words), but there is also a thread going on the same build on the Railroad Line Forum.