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.