First Run Morpeth Mk 5 – 8.12.17


Holes In The Sky

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever mentioned this here but I spent a portion of my misspent youth training as a carpenter. I never realized that this would come back to bite me when my better half had me slaving in her walk-in robe this past weekend installing a set of cupboards. Any normal person, who didn’t have a partner who had been partly trained as a carpenter 40 years ago, would get someone who knows what they’re doing in to do such work. Or at least they might have bought flat packs. I was presented with a pile of melamine planks which I proceeded to cut, trim and swear at for most of Saturday and a portion of Sunday morning. On a positive note the builder of the house stopped by to argue with Louise about who was going to have to bear the cost of altering a vanity unit and he asked me if I did this professionally. I said “no, I have to sleep with the home owner to get the work” but I was very chuffed about being mistaken for a “professional”. I also got a “wow” from Louise and a “you could make a living doing this” which coming from her was high praise indeed. She does her own skirting boards so she knows her way around a mitre saw! 🙂

Because of being in wardrobe mode I wasn’t able to get to the layout over the weekend but have had some leave to indulge myself over the past few days and things have been moving a pace!

As can be seen the backdrop is in place and the holes cut for the passage of track and trains. I can now get moving on laying some track.

I won’t bore you with a description of the number of times I trooped up and down the stairs between the workshop and the train room or the complicated sequence of laying track-bed so I could check calculations for the holes that needed to be cut in the backdrop but without being able to install things permanently yet but take my word for it, the D-Day invasions were a simple exercise in logistics by comparison. I could have used Eisenhower and Marshall to lend a hand today but all I had was Phil, and a sterling job he did too 🙂

The key step that needed to be taken was the permanent installation of the photo backdrop and I was just about ready for that to happen today. Phil had agreed to come over and help me but he was on a tight schedule so we had no time to spare. I’d screwed the backdrop into place over the past couple of days but I needed to cut two holes in the backdrop before we could install this and these had to be checked for clearance before we could finally stick the backdrop to the MDF. After a bit of cleaning, sanding and line marking with the laser level we were ready to go and things went pretty well in my opinion. We had a quick chat and Phil was off to the dentist or the gerontologist or some such medical practitioner. I was left to ponder my next move and started laying track. Yipeee! 🙂

Building The Gap To Bridge

If you’ve been in this hobby for a while and built a couple of layouts you’ll be aware that making models of things like bridges and culverts takes a bit of planning but not just for the models themselves. I find planning out and preparing the location of a bridge is as important to a successful scene as the model of the bridge itself. Unlike the real railways, modellers have to plan the gap just as much as they have to plan the bridge that’s used to span it. I’ve spent today putting my plan for a gap I want to build a bridge over into action.

It would be fair to say that I’ve spent a good deal of time planning where the main bridge scene on my new layout was going to be located and also how I’m going to allow trains to run over this spot for the next couple of years until I’ve decided what type of bridge is going to be built in this location. The NSWGR had a number of standard designs they used to span waterways and gullies and my bridge will follow one of these designs, the most common of these being the wooden trestle.

This photo shows a fairly typical example of a NSWGR wooden trestle. I don’t know what the stats are on this type of bridge but I would guess they constitute well over 70% of the bridges and culverts used on the NSW railways.

I love the practical and robust design of the NSWGR standard wooden trestle bridge and the only bridge on the Morpeth line was built to this design. I’ve built several examples of this style of bridge in different scales, the most recent being to 7mm scale for the layout Stringybark Creek about nine years ago.

I built this bridge for Stringy Bark Creek about 9 years ago as a favor to a friend. I was happy with the result but I don’t have a photo of it with the scenery completed.

The problem for me is not so much that I’m concerned about whether I can build a wooden trestle for Morpeth but rather that I don’t know whether I want to limit myself by not building something a little more ambitious. I’ve built wooden trestles before, I’d like to tackle something a little more challenging.

I’ve been on leave from work this week and between building and installing a wardrobe for the better half over the weekend I’ve managed to put in some time on finally starting to lay some track bed on which the first new track will be laid. Very exciting! 🙂 Of course the first place I decided to install this track bed was at the one really suitable location for the bridge I want to build so my planning over the past couple of weeks has been around ensuring that this section of track bed can allow trains to pass over it for the next couple of years and eventually allow for easy removal and installation of a bridge model when I get around to building it. The site is on a curve and subject to a 1.2% grade which, while not terribly steep, means that the bridge that will eventually stand at this spot will need to be constructed to allow for this grade change and the 1.5m curve at this location on the layout.

This photo shows the new track bed in the process of being installed. The turnouts sitting on the plywood are Peco products and are in roughly the position they will occupy on the layout.

I started work by measuring out and installing a section of straight and level track bed. Starting with this section would allow me to position two critical turnouts that I will use as a datum for the installation of the other track. The track to the right in this photo near the Saxa Salt sign on the side of the building is about 25mm (1″) lower than the point where the curve connects to the ply section the turnouts are sitting on. The bridge is going to be installed at the curve between the uprights in the right hand side of this photo.

This shot shows the track bed for the bridge section in place. The ply curve shown is actually three short segments that are held in place by screws with connecting plates cut from more 12mm ply.

What I want to be able to do is lay track and get some trains running and when I’m ready, come back and install a bridge model I’ll build to fit this spot. The challenge is in ensuring that the track and track base can be easily removed so that the model can be installed in its place. I achieved this ability to remove the track bed by cutting two lengths of ply road bed and using the lower one to support the uprights that hold the upper track bed in position. I made a cut at each end of the track bed and then screwed this section back in place using four short screws in positions on the far corners of the curve so that they can be easily unscrewed, thus allowing the ply curve to be removed for replacement by the bridge.

I’ve unscrewed and removed the track bed in this photo to illustrate the way this allows for the later installation of the bridge model I will eventually make for this site, if I can settle on a style of bridge I like 🙂



Backdrop Tests

I managed to get the MDF backdrop installed over the last couple of days and rolled out the photo backdrop I have to test it for size. It isn’t quite long enough to go the full length of what I need but I have a plan to bridge the gap in an unobtrusive corner to the left of this photo. If I can install the backdrop I’m right to start laying a bit of new track.

After I’d installed the backdrop MDF backer I clamped the photo backdrop in place to evaluate it and test it for length. I’m happy enough and using the one I already have on hand will allow me to progress to track laying which is what I’m really looking forward to.

I also found some time to cut and lay the table tops for the storage yards. I wanted to ensure that the line of the central track was perfectly in line with the line of the turntable when it’s at “home”: exactly parallel to the edge of the table. I couldn’t rely on the table as I knew it wasn’t perfectly square so I got out my laser level and set it up to throw a ling down the center of the storage table and across the track on the turntable. By sighting along this line I could easily work out when the track would be in perfect alignment. Once this line of track is laid the other storage sidings can be laid using this as a datum.

I haven’t convinced myself that I’ve got a perfectly parallel line as yet but this photo illustrates what I’m getting at far better than me trying to explain it in words. I know the track on the turntable is exactly parallel with the edge of the table. By sighting down the laser line I can easily tell if the track will be lined up with this or not. Easy as! 🙂

I’ve been booked up by the better half to build her a wardrobe tomorrow but I hope to have some new track laid in the storage sidings before the weekend is out. I might also be able to get some track laid on the scenic portion of the layout if I can convince some friends to come over for the day to help me hang the backdrop in place. Many hands and all that… 🙂


I managed to spend some time in the train room this past few days. I went to my favourite hardware outlet the other day to pick up some more plywood only to discover a big hole where only a few weeks ago there had been large stack of my favourite 12mm marine ply. Never being daunted I decided that the plan would shift and I’d put some work into the backdrop I started prior to the arrival of my guests a couple of weeks ago.

I started by adding some stiffening joists to the benchwork and cut and screwed in some cross beams from 9mm play to the lower parts of the legs. This had an amazing effect on the stability of the whole section of benchwork. I won’t claim I can climb on it but it is certainly not going anywhere soon. This donkey work required me to pull the sections apart but once I’d reassembled the frames I moved onto installing the framework for the 3mm MDF backdrop I plan running along the rear of this part of the layout.

The framework for the MDF backdrop is very simple: basically it’s a post and rail fence running along the back of the ladder frames. The uprights are off-cuts from 1×3 and 1×4 pine, some of which has been sitting around for at least 10 years waiting to be used. you can tell it’s old wood by how dark it is compared to the new timber I made the base frames from. This older timber has been recycled from at least one other layout, the first version of Morpeth I ever built in Armidale starting around 2003.

Again my handy, dandy laser level proved its worth although the battery did give out and so I was reduced to using a small spirit level for a time. However in general I’m very pleased with the progress of this work session and the next step is the installation of the backdrop MDF which will have curved corners and should really start to define the modelling area. I can anticipate the need for a trip to the extruded foam outlet I get my landscaping foam from soon.

How about a trip to Eagle Farm Phil and Peter? 🙂


Hull Work

Knowing absolutely nothing about what colours a ship might be painted I took the easy route and chose to paint the hull of my ship in those suggested by the instructions. So the interior is grey, the upper hull is black and the bit that sits in the water is oxide red. Evidently anti-fouling paint was salmon pink until 1947 and oxide red after that. As my ship is supposed to be from the 40s-50s era I chose oxide red.

Almost every step in the construction of the ship is likely to make painting the exterior of the hull more difficult so I took the unusual step (at least for a railway modeller) of painting it prior to much construction taking place.

While having no straight lines or right-angles to work from is difficult with this model I’m finding trying to decipher the nautical terms in the instructions even more of a challenge. Take this sentence: “Fit the deck until the fore end drops down to 46mm from the stem head”. Well that helps a lot, unless you have no idea what a stem head is! 🙂 Turns out the stem head is the bit of the ship Leonardo and Kate fondled each other adjacent to as they made like figureheads in Titanic, minus the figure! The measurement of 46mm was wrong anyway so it helps to be able to improvise.

Still, it looks very nautical in its new paint but then what do I know? 🙂


Straight Lines

I’ve had an interesting week or so train wise and this started last weekend with a visit by the New England Model Railway Club. A couple of months ago I received an email from Warren Herbert, ex President and stalwart member of the club, asking if I’d agree to letting some members visit my layout. Being blaze I readily agreed and went so far as to offer to put on lunch. Come the Saturday of the visit and I’d been working for days to get ready for all of about eighteen of them! OMG, I hoped I was going to have enough food! 🙂

I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone but shouldn’t have been. There was more than enough space. Too bad I didn’t get a bit more track laid 🙂

Things went well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I shoved a hand controller into my old friend Don Waghorn’s mits and he ran some locos back and forth for about half an hour to entertain the crowd. I’d planned to get the two layouts joined up with a curve of track prior to the visit but that didn’t even get close. I actually had a chance to talk to people between catering duties and got a lot of questions about my brickwork made from DAS. They need to read my blog I told them! 🙂

So everyone ate lunch and suddenly the place was empty of people save for Peter who had generously offered to help. I noticed my mate Phil somewhere among the throng with a chicken leg grasped firmly in his hand but didn’t get a chance to speak to him. He’s lucky he didn’t come close to me because he’d probably have had a dish towel thrust into his hands to replace the chicken wing 🙂

Things settled down and I pottered about the shed for the rest of the day only to get a phone call from my old friend Dave Morris who said his plans had changed and he’d be dropping by with his wife on Sunday afternoon to pay a visit prior to them moving to Thailand. It never rains but it pours!

Dave and Dow pay a visit to the layout. Dave managed to run a train and he was almost as good as Don at the controls, but he wasn’t as good as Dow 🙂

I managed to finally strike a blow on the ship model this past few days. I’ve been a bit under the weather and while I waited around the house on Friday for a couple of hours prior to a doctor’s appointment in town the power went out. I’d remembered only then that I’d received a letter about this happening but I hadn’t planned on being home at the time so took little notice. So what do you do with two hours to kill and no power? Work on your long-delayed O-scale ship model of course!

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get back to this model but I have a feeling that it’s a combination of the new layout room’s siren call combined with the lack of straight lines on a ship. Unlike railway models nothing is straight and there’s not easy datums to measure from. I’d done some mucking about and preliminary cutting and shaping but things hadn’t progressed too far, until Friday morning!

Don’t be fooled if you’re not familiar with ship modelling, this is really not a great deal of progress but it feels good to be started never the less. The casting for the hull of this kit is fiberglass and it shatters quite easily but now that I have a base of 6mm ply installed and something level to work from progress is bound to be fast (I wish)!

As the second real job of actually building the model required me to curve the main deck and trim it to fit I seemed to find that there was always something more pressing to do, such as mow the lawn and I hate mowing the lawn. On Friday I actually started to trim the edges of the deck (the wood you can see inside the hull) and stained the front wall of the main cabin. I used a few dribbles of Teak stain from a little bottle I’d purchased weeks ago for this job, thinned with rubbing alcohol and things went really well. Over this weekend, with a house free of chicken and salad munching modellers, I’ve spent little bits of time trimming up curved wooden spars which I’ve progressively glued to the underside of the plywood deck thus producing a smooth, gentle curve. I didn’t like the method suggested in the instructions and came up with my own bracing and I also discovered that the instructions had been written for a much older set of components (to reflect parts that were to be cut by hand by the modeller rather than the CNC cut parts provided with my kit) and as such were significantly out of date, causing me some confusion. I’ve also decide that I don’t want to wait till all the upper decks are in before I start painting the hull so I gave it a quick coat of grey undercoat which did more to make it look like a ship than anything my modelling has done so far.