Work Spaces

It’s been a while since my last post but there’s been only minimal progress on the layout because another project has been eating up my time. As I may have mentioned before, I spent 1978 as a 17 year old working through my first year of a four year carpenter’s apprenticeship. The path I took from 1978 to becoming a school principal is far too complicated (and lacks any connection to model railways) however I have been officially retired from the teaching service for 8 days at the time of writing and as such I’ve been doing some evaluation of what I want to do to fill up my free time.

1. Trains

2. Drink Coffee

3. Get Fit

4. Make stuff from wood

That about covers my bucket list! I was on the phone to a friend the other day and he asked me if I’d made a part I’d told him weeks before that I would make. I told him I’d been too busy. He asked “does you being too busy mean going to the gym and drinking coffee?” to which I replied “and your point is?” 🙂 I have been going to the gym, a lot, but that’s not the only reason I didn’t get around to making the part. I’ve been consumed by the job of fitting out my workshop.

I’ve been living in my current home for a little over 2 years. It has a very large, separate, steel, double-storey shed at the end of the driveway and while I love the house and it’s location overlooking the sugar cane fields around Murwillumbah in Northern NSW, I can’t pretend that the shed didn’t play a big part in my decision to buy the place. Trains upstairs, tools downstairs, bed and TV in the house! Simple. I’ve discussed in fairly minute detail the process of preparing the train room and building the benchwork upstairs for the layout but, as might be expected, I’ve written very little about the workspace downstairs. Why would I? This is a blog about Morpeth in O-scale, not a woodworking blog. However, as so much in our lives, having a clear demarcation line between trains upstairs and wood down works ok in theory but doesn’t work so well in practice because there’s no such demarcation between the tools I use to work on my trains and those used for my other projects. This has become more apparent recently as I’ve set about seriously reorganizing and improving my workshop space.

Never fear, I’ll get back to the trains eventually, however if you’re not really into workshops, tools, wood and storage solutions for workshops this may not be a blog post that is going to interest you overly.

About 4 weeks ago I made the decision to commence construction on a small, portable mixed NG/SG project layout in 7mm that will sit along one wall of my modelling room. This is a spare bedroom in the house. This will eventually form the basis of some articles on the construction process. I was happily pottering about planning this layout and running here and there buying materials and getting the basic frames built when I hit a wall of frustration with my workshop. I wanted to do one small cutting job on some of the timber I was using for the bench-work when I found myself thinking “this would be so much easier on a proper table saw”. For those of you into this type of stuff I’ve had a Triton workbench saw table for about 30 years. It’s been used to build just about every layout I’ve ever had anything to do with plus, being portable, I can stick it in the back of the ute and take it to other places and work on other people’s layouts too. I’ve built a lot of layouts with this saw. However I’m not moving again and I have a huge workshop space downstairs so I can have something better if I want it because, while the Triton has been great, some operations are a pain in the butt to carry out on it.

I made the fatal error of looking on Gumtree (equivalent to Craig’s List for my Nth American readers). These photos show what the result of that was:

The great advantage of a table saw with a cast iron top is that it’s heavy. The great disadvantage of a table saw with a cast iron top is that it’s HEAVY! Using it is ok but moving it is a pain. Luckily the guy I bought it from happened to have a fork lift in the yard. As you do 🙂 He was selling it because he’d got himself a bigger saw! Those logs you can see in the background are all furnture grade hardwoods. OMG! I was in heaven and I’m going back next week to get some timber.

Louise was kind enough to let me use her trailer to go pick the saw up. It was easy to load it, tie it in and get it home but getting it out of the trailer was beyond me on my own. I called in some friends! Note the workbench and tools hanging on the wall over on the far side of the shed.

I saw an ad on Gumtree for a second hand table saw about 25 minutes drive away and next thing I know I’m heading home with it strapped into the trailer. Then things really started to get complicated. I now had the saw I’d always wanted and the room to set it up properly however there are a couple of other tools and pieces of equipment I’ve wanted for a long while and, now that I was retired and my super scheme was throwing money at me, I decided it was time to finally do something about acquiring them. However the shed was a disorganized mess and before I could get to where I wanted to be I needed to do some work to improve matters. We arrive at today.

I call this the Armidale workbench. I made it around 2003 to go into a small space I had against a wall in the garage in my home in Armidale, squeezed in between my beer fridge and the first iteration of Morpeth in O. As you can see it’s not exactly a pristine workspace with acres of spare room. Also note that I decided I wanted to line the walls of the shed. I won’t be lining every wall but where I want to set up my workshop benches, lathes and hand tools I wanted it lined and lit well. Why plywood? Because while it’s more expensive that plaster board, having ply on the walls means I can hang anything anywhere I want. I don’t need to find studs, put up cleats or battens. Need a shelf 3′ from the corner of the room at eye height? Snap!

Rather than build new or work with the old 1.3m long Armidale bench I decided to extend it. I’ve got a couple of new legs installed on the right (70mmX70mm pine) with new, longer 4×1 beams along the top and bottom rear. The pace on the left will house an open fronted box with a shelf to hold my hand power tools.

The only real issue in getting stuck into this project was that it’s tending to divert me from modelling. But by Heaven I’m enjoying myself! I’ve been working in a make do environment for so long I’d forgotten many of the things I’d really wanted to get from a permanent workshop. This can be illustrated by my small metal sheer and rollers that was such an important tool in the building of my 20 class loco a couple of years ago. I was working on the new bench and I made the decision that I wanted to put in two new drawers for all the drill bits, router bits and other bits and pieces that I’d been cramming into some tiny drawers that sat on top of the old bench. I’d made a new bench a few years ago to use my mill and Sheline lathe on and this had a single drawer under the bench-top that I was planning to replicate. However this time I was going to have at least two drawers. They would have ply bottoms and use full extension drawer runners. Magic! As I was examining the drawer in other bench I noticed the metal sheer sitting under the drawer.

These plastic drawers have been sitting under my workbenches for years. They’re where I’ve been storing all my smaller hand tools for something like 20 years. The metal sheer is the red object on the right.

The metal sheer is a great little tool but it’s cast iron and heavy. As I tend to only use it when I’m working on a loco it tends to spend most of it’s time stuck in a dark corner and while this is ok for storage, when you want to use it having to crawl around on a concrete floor trying to see and cut your metal with it is not conducive to accurate metal cutting. This tool, even though it’s small, is way too heavy to lift up onto a bench and then back under it every time I need to use it. So in addition to new storage drawers for my hand tools on the longer workbench, the metal sheer is going to get it’s own, heavy duty stand that will be at a good height to both see the metal and hold the heavy tool in place when I have push down on it to cut metal.

I spent day 8 of my retirement assembling the drawers I’d made on the new table saw which I had managed to get off the trailer and set up last weekend. As you can see they are on full extension drawer slides that are rated to carry a weight that is well beyond what I’ll be placing in them. They have 7mm ply bottoms and will happily carry the weight of the tools that I’ll stack in them.

The next step is to secure the bench to the wall and put the ply top on, build a charging station for my battery re-chargers which will include a spot for a sound system and then I’ll move onto setting up the new band saw and dust extraction system I acquired yesterday.


Back On Track

Probably the most overused first sentence on blogs of all types is: “It’s been a while since my last post…” and then the author goes on to explain why it’s been a while since their last post. Well it has been a while since my last post but I’m going to spare you the self serving explanation of why, trying to pretend my life it so busy and full of rich experiences that I haven’t had time. The truth is that I’ve been a bit lazy, I’ve been doing other things and I’ve been enjoying summer to do a great deal of modelling and write blog posts about it. However I’ve been getting back into the modelling recently and I’ve finally reached a stage where I have something worthwhile to post.

As mentioned in my last post I’ve been getting together with a couple of friends on Wednesdays over the past few weeks to build some turnouts and we’re probably about half way through the building process of my two friend’s turnouts. In spite of my last post they didn’t get to eat any ginger nuts because I’d eaten them all before they arrived, however I made some lovely walnut and date slice with a lime icing that was a real knock out and which helped overcome their bitter disappointment at the lack of ginger nuts.

This photo shows Peter and Phil pretending to be doing some work on a turnout in between drinking coffee and scarfing down freshly baked walnut and date slice 🙂

Just after I’d completed the full circle of track round the layout room I decided the loop in QW’s yard wasn’t long enough. I only have a fairly paltry collection of rolling stock and the loop at QW couldn’t accommodate the moderately long train I’d made up to test my newly laid track. So I needed a fix and came up with a plan requiring some new turnouts. One R and one L, code 125, #6 turnouts to be precise. The last thing I wanted to be doing was building more turnouts but I’d agreed to build some for a friend who wanted to make a start on laying track on his layout so it was a good time to be making a couple of extras for myself. I happily made three new turnouts and commenced work on three more, one of which was to be a code 100 #6 when I decided it would probably be a good idea to go up and see how the ones I was building for myself would fit in their new home.

This photo shows the arrangement at one end of the yard at QW. The original cross over at the end of the loop is about 1 m to the left of this photo. I decided to leave this in place because removing it would have been far too disruptive and probably would have led to damage to the dairy you can see in the photo. The plan to lengthen the yard required the turnout in the photo to be pulled up, turned 180 degrees and have a second turnout butted up to its diverging end to allow QW yard to have a main, a loop and a goods loop.

It was at this stage that I became aware (because I’d bothered to walk out to the train room to take a look) that both of the turnouts I’d been constructing were essentially useless for their intended purpose. One was no good because it was being built on a base that would have made it impossible for it to be mated up with the pre-existing track of QW’s mainline. I built the track on QW many years ago on 3mm MDF bases and I was now make track on 5mm ply bases. Even the fairly forgiving, large-ish wheels on O-scale trains wouldn’t handle a 2mm height difference in the rails. The second turnout was useless because I’d managed to overlook the fact that the track in QW’s yard was actually code 100, not code 125. Luckily I’d been also been making a code 100 #6 turnout for the coal branch (which is also laid using code 100) and, even more luckily, it was of the correct orientation. So this turnout could be pressed into service on the loop lengthening project. However there was nothing for it but to start from scratch on a new code 125 turnout, built on a thinner base that matched the track on QW. Perhaps the most fortuitous factor was that, as I was also making the turnouts for my friend, I could foist my excess #6 turnout stock onto him and pretend I was doing him a favour by making him more turnouts and at a rate far faster than I’d originally said I could 🙂

This photo shows the original code 125 turnout turned 180 degrees and the new, partially completed turnout built on a thinner ply base in approximately their new positions. There’s still a bit of adjusting to do but I’m hoping these turnouts will be installed and trains will be running over them in the next week.

So the lesson from all this is that you can entice friends to your home with the promise of ginger nuts only to spring walnut and date slice on them and you can offer to build them turnouts and then foist your dumb mistakes on them and they’re grateful to you. Friends, what would we do without them? 🙂

That’s Not A Ginger Nut!

My friend Peter Krause asked if I’d mind bringing my fancy laser level to his place so we could level up the benchwork units for his new layout Saddlersfield in the lovely new shed he’s recently had built. I had no hesitation in jumping in the car and heading north to spend a pleasant morning helping get the benchwork leveled. It took us very little time using the laser and I have a feeling that we both surprised ourselves at how quickly the job went compared to what time it would have taken using traditional bubble levels.

So after not much more than an hour we were sitting under the awing at the back of his house drinking tea when he offered me a Ginger Nut biscuit. Now I haven’t eaten a Ginger Nut in years so I agreed with alacrity but what he offered was suspiciously thin and decidedly un-nut like. A Ginger Nut is an Arnott’s biscuit and in my memory they are fat, sweet and hard. I mean really HARD! They aren’t a Ginger Nut unless you’re in danger of chipping a tooth on them. I offered the opinion that what Peter was offering me to accompany my cuppa was a dreaded generic or something sold by that German retail mob masquerading as an Aussie classic but no, he assured me that these were, in fact Arnott’s Ginger Nuts! E-Gads!!?? What has the world come to when a Ginger Nut snaps rather than cracks? Of course Arnott’s was sold to the Americans quite a few years ago so I blame them. Any nation that would inflict Justin Beiber on the world and soften up a Ginger Nut has a lot to answer for! Have you seen an Iced Vovo recently? Pathetic 🙂 No wonder the current generation is taking the world to hell in a hand-basket via their mobile apps, they don’t have proper Ginger nuts to help toughen them up! 🙂

Anyway I chose to address this egregious culinary crime by hauling out my well thumbed Woman’s Weekly cookbook and cooked a batch of Ginger Nuts. And by Ginger Nuts I mean a biscuit, not a cookie, one that needs a mouth guard to eat!

While they didn’t come out quite as hard as I’d have liked these are my version of a real Aussie Ginger Nuts! Let’s face it, anything that has cinnamon and sugar in it is bound to taste ok. Oh and a bit of ginger too 🙂

Peter and another friend of mine are getting together on the 16th of January 2019 to to commence work on making some O-scale turnouts and possibly eat Ginger Nuts. If you happen to be in the area of the Qld Gold Coast or far northern NSW please make contact on and you might get to eat one too.

This is the recipe I used to make my Ginger Nuts. Yum! 🙂

We’ll get back to the trains next time 🙂

The Next Steps

About six weeks ago I arrived home from the New England Convention where Morpeth appeared as a layout display. I wasn’t exhausted by the experience but I’d done little else in my free time in the lead up to the convention but work on the layout so I’d been putting off a list of jobs that I needed to get onto once I got home, and frankly, I just wanted some time off modelling. Two things happened today that sort of drew a natural line under this hiatus.

The first of these was that I’d been building and installing some vegetable beds in the garden and I managed to fill them with soil today and plant some seedlings. The walls of my new vegie boxes are built from genuine railway sleepers (what else?) and as the beds now have plants in them I should have a little more time to spend at the modelling bench. Secondly, after a six month wait, my electrician rang yesterday and asked if he could come out and install the emergency cut off switch on my “new” (67 year old) Myford lathe. I set the lathe up on its stand months ago and had a light installed over it in preparation for this day, but I’m yet to actually cut any metal on it. I could have done a few small metalwork jobs on the lathe if I’d chosen but I’d made a personal resolution that I wouldn’t use the machine until it was safe to do so. Knowing me, setting the tail-stock in place and making parts would have meant the switch never got installed, so while it took a heck of a lot longer than I’d anticipated, the lathe is now ready for to be fully assembled and used.

The stand that the lathe sits on has a steel plate welded to the front in anticipation of the installation of a safety switch, one that obviously never got installed, because it had no holes in it where the switch could have been mounted. The only issue around using this plate to mount the switch on would have been that doing so would have meant the switch projected out from the front of the lathe about 100mm, right a crotch height. I attached a timber step-back plate to the steel mount to allow the switch to sit nicely tucked in at an appropriate location: easily accessible but with little opportunity for it to enable me commence a new career as a castrati.

while not doing any work on the layout I have actually been working on a modelling project for a friend; the refurbishment of a hand built, South Australian S class 4-4-0 steam loco built to 1:48 several decades ago.This locomotive was sitting on a section of my friends layout that consisted of plywood when I visited a few months ago and somehow or another I ended up bringing it home with me to see if I couldn’t get in running nicely. I flatter myself that there isn’t a locomotive in existence I can’t get running well but I prefer an achievable challenge over a difficult one and this little 4-4-0 has proven to be a pleasure to work on. I’ve spent a lot of the past six weeks waiting for parts to arrive from various parts of the globe and at the time of writing I still hold out hope that a package with some small BA bolts and a plug tap will arrive before Christmas day. We’ll have to see about that. Other than this the loco is essentially ready to reassemble and give a test run. I’m considering making a new bogie for the front of the loco but I will make a decision about whether this is necessary tomorrow when I do some more work on it now that I don’t have to go outside and shovel barrow loads of stone or garden soil 🙂

When the owner of the S class spoke to me about it he said it didn’t run very well. I feel one of the reasons for this poor running was that it used the “American” pickup system of half the wheels on the tender collecting current from one rail and the loco drivers on one side collecting from the other rail. In my book this simply means that you’re essentially only using half the available pick up points for current collection. After replacing all the wheels on the loco for modern, insulated versions (the wheels on the tender were chunky solid brass models) I installed pickups on all available wheels. This photo shows the tender with my standard current collection system; pickup wipers on the backs of all wheels, insulation provided by copper clad sleeper material (in this case left over sleeper material from some Marcway points I made 15 years ago) and more copper clad used to transfer the current to the front of the tender.

I’ve been gradually working on the S class over the past couple of weeks and enjoying myself immensely working on a model that is not intended to go to sea 🙂 I installed new wheels on both tender and loco, improved the current collection by installing pickups on all wheels and worked on installing DCC sound into the loco rather than the tender where the decoder was when I was handed it.

Normally I would use a Jaycar high bass speaker for an O-scale loco such as this however there simply isn’t room to fit one unless I place it in the tender. In a choice between putting a smaller speaker into the loco body or a larger one into the tender the smaller speaker won out. I’m reinstalling the speaker that came with the loco into the boiler. Luckily the smoke box door popped off easily so I’m planning to glue the speaker (which already has its own enclosure) to the back of this. That way it will remain accessible in case the owner chooses to upgrade to a larger speaker in the tender later. I’ve made up a small Vero board circuit to mount the L series ESU decoder to which is held in place with some double sided tape. The masking tape is simply to hold the wires from the decoder I haven’t utilized out of the way.

With luck the loco should be running by the new year. I’ll write a post and possibly make a short video of this when it happens.

The Ticking Clock

About nine months ago I agreed to take Morpeth to the New England Convention in November. That’s nine months away, then six months away and now it’s less than two weeks away. A friend is booked to help me load the layout into the trailer in under two weeks and when that happens the layout has to be ready to roll because work must cease. Shiver me timbers!

As the clock has ticked and the weekend of the 17th and 18th of November draws closer I tried to make sure that all the really big jobs that needed to happen prior to departure were well and truly done. I mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago that I’d got the layout downstairs into the workshop and it was set up. Well in the intervening weeks I’ve steadily worked my way through a to do list of smallish jobs. I didn’t want to hook the DCC system up to the layout until most of the dirty wood cutting and shaping jobs were done. Well the DCC system was connected last weekend and I got the layout’s curtains hung and I have to admit that she does look good.

This shot shows the layout set up and ready for action. The DCC system is hooked up, the lighting rig installed, the new control panel is set up and trains are running.

I will admit to working at a fairly relaxed pace over the past few weeks: I had a list of jobs to finish but long experience told me I had more than enough time to get these completed and still put a bit of time into the ship which is most definitely going to accompany the layout no matter whether it’s finished or not. Then an Auscision 48 class turned up in the mail last week and I had to make a decision: if I could get a decoder installed in good time and have the loco running I might be able to take it with me to Armidale. If I couldn’t then I wouldn’t touch it and it would remain in it’s box. I had very limited time left to get done what I needed to do and the worst outcome would be to devote several hours to installing and programming a DCC decoder only to find I couldn’t get the bugs ironed out in time. I bit the bullet and decided to have a shot at installing a decoder which I had on hand and while the sound file is not exactly the correct motor noise it’s pretty close. A week after starting this job I was ready to take the loco out to Morpeth and give it a run. It seemed to be running ok inside on my test track but the bloody thing wouldn’t cooperate on Morpeth and kept stopping and shorting the DCC system on every turnout and even occasionally on straight, plain track. My instincts told me that there was something shorting across the wheels and sure enough it turned out that the brake blocks were touching the wheels faces at spots on the layout where that variations in the rails pushed the axles slightly one way or the other. A bit of judicious leverage with a small screw driver appears to have solved the problem.

4821 sitting at Morpeth station platform. This Auscision model is a beautiful piece of work. The plug in DCC board has simplified the installation of a DCC decoder although getting two speakers into the body was still a challenge. It runs beautifully and looks the part on the layout. Auscision are to be congratulated.

Today I had another friend visit to help me lift sections of the layout in and out of the trailer in preparation for the final loading next week. I’ve come up with a way to transport all 5 sections of the layout in the four slots available in the trailer however getting them all in the trailer and secured had my friend Peter and I scratching our heads today. I think I’ve come up with an answer to the dilemma but we’ll find out over the next couple of days as I finalize preparations and start to tear the layout down.

This is a slightly different view of Morpeth from the stairs up to the first floor. I’m very happy with the way the layout looks in this mode but exhibition preparation is a lot of work!

Oh and if you’re wondering, I have made some progress on the ship but nowhere near enough for me to be happy with it. I’ll keep plugging away and post a photo of the ship in place when the layout appears at the convention in a couple of weeks.

I should thank Peter, Phil, Chris and John for their help and advice in getting the layout and the 48 ready for the convention. Any glitches, hiccups and problems have all been my doing and without their valuable assistance the layout would never have come down from its second storey home and it certainly wouldn’t have had a brand new brass 48 running on it over the upcoming weekend.


Binnacles, Bulwarks and Cabins

Work proceeds apace on the Louise, the name I’ve christened the ship model on Morpeth. Well “apace” might be a slight misnomer, progress actually proceeds at a stately pace as befits a refined lady of calm, coastal waters. Louise, my partner, doesn’t know she’s having a ship named after her yet but I’m currently looking for the worlds smallest bottle of champagne which she can crack over the bow before launch. Once the decals are applied to the prow it’ll be too late for her to object 🙂

As you may be able to tell from the title of this post I’m still struggling with the the terminology of ships and their various bits and pieces, but I’ve really started to enjoy building the model now that I have the decks installed. As such it’s a little like the stage in building a locomotive when you’ve got the wheels turning: from this point on it’s all just about building on the foundations. I’m sure to run aground on my own growing self confidence now that I’ve said that. The model was supplied with a wide variety of wooden sheet and strip, along with different types of metal wire and tube and about 10 or 11 bags of mostly white metal parts. While there are a lot of parts, and the vast majority are unfamiliar to me as to their purpose and names, I feel I’ve managed to choose the correct ones for the tasks I’ve been undertaking over the past week or so.

The Louise has two bridges; a large, open one at the top of the central structure and a smaller enclosed one which you can see in this photo. The cabin has windows fore and aft and a small side cab which I assume is the head (that’s the toilet to land lubbers). The ceiling of the enclosed cabin is the floor of the bridge above. the wires you can see sticking out of the top of the cab will allow it to be lit along with a red and green LEDs either side of the bridge as per the prototype.

The problem I’ve found with the kit, aside from the names of everything being unfamiliar and the labeling being basic at best, is that the descriptions in the instructions tend to be fairly light on detail. For instance, I’m well aware that a bridge on a ship would need to be supplied with a steering wheel/tiller arrangement of some type, a compass and a speed communication thingy (a telegraph), the type you see in all the best WWII movies about the navy. You know, when the captain says “all ahead full”! a seaman will push the handle on this round thing that has a full, slow, stop, reverse slow, reverse full written on the side. There’s a corresponding display in the boiler room so the bloke shoveling the coal into the boiler can…well I’m not sure what he does but I assume he shovels faster and pull some type of lever 🙂 However the instructions say (and I quote) “furnish the inside with binnacle, wheel and telegraph as shown on the flying bridge plan”. That’s the sum total of the textual assistance provided by the instructions! What the #$^&@!% a binnacle? 🙂

I’ve spent the best part of a week gradually assembling the small enclosed lower bridge cabin and assembling the associated bridge furniture for this and the upper bridge. You see, if you have two bridges then each has to have it’s own set of bits to make it look authentic; a wheel, a speed thingy and a compass (that’s binnacle for us in the know). I’ve also assembled and started to install some bulwarks which is what us old sea dogs call the hand rails and associated rail walls. Each of these has to be cut from a sheet of 1mm ply, glued up and then installed in its location. It was as I got the glazing installed in the cabin and glued the first bulwark in place (while I waited for the paint to dry on my binnacle and steering wheel) that I came to the realization that you’d never be able to see the bloody things in there as it would be so dark. So of course I decided to light the cab and as an added touch I also decided to install red and green sea lights to either side of the flying bridge (the upper structure that I can’t install until I have the cab furnished with it’s own instruments). What’s a binnacle I hear you ask? Well read on…

This shot shows the bits and pieces that will eventually populate the lower enclosed bridge (used when the captain doesn’t want to get wet from rain and cold weather I assume) and the open, upper bridge. The binnacle is the part with the green and red testicles hanging on either side of it. These are iron balls (I kid you not) that evidently “balance” the compass in some way. Google it if you don’t believe me 🙂 In addition to these strange contraptions the wheel goes at the back of the cabin! Why the heck sea going loonies want their steering wheel at the back of the cabin I do not know but I’m going to glue it at the back just like the real thing!

So I’ve been cutting, gluing and assembling parts for a week and before I’d really done much I decide to complicate things enormously by adding lights. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end. I’m currently working on a small circuit board to simplify the installation of the lights as they all need resistors to ensure they don’t burn out. I decide to use LEDs rather than incandescent bulbs mainly for their longevity. Once the cabin light is installed it will be permanently entombed in there with no access for maintenance.

So until next time, avast ye hearties! Whatever the hell that means 🙂



“If I say yes slap me will you…”

It’s been a while since my last post, not because nothing has been happening on Morpeth but because I’ve been a bit busy doing train events. It’s very gratifying putting something back into a hobby that has given me so much but I’ve got to admit that the urge to say yes to people asking whether I’d be willing to give a talk or display Morpeth has led to me placing quite a bit of pressure on myself. But a deadline is always a good thing isn’t it? 🙂

I’m delivering a talk at this Saturday’s Modelling the Railways of Queensland convention (in spite of the fact that I don’t model Qld railways) and then I’ll be flying to Sydney the following weekend to deliver another talk at the six monthly Aus7 Modellers Group O-scale Forum. However these are minor blips on my do-as-little-as-possible radar when compared to the upcoming New England Model Railway Convention in mid-November. I’ve agreed to take the layout to this event so that means I have to actually do some work and the weekend approaches at an accelerating rate. As I’ve documented here over the past month or so I’ve put some work into making a control panel for Morpeth and this is now completed and ready to be taken to Armidale and I also crawled about under the layout to make sure the portable section was disentangled from the main, permanent layout so that when the time came to move Morpeth and set it up in exhibition mode (in preparation for packing and loading it into its trailer) there’d be a minimum of work to do to get it downstairs to my workshop.

Well that time arrived yesterday.

This shot shows the layout upstairs minus Morpeth which a couple of friends and I managed to man-handle down the stairs so it could be set up for me to work on in exhibition mode. The removal and set up went well although this wasn’t because of long term planning as much as due to me rushing around over the past month or so working at fixing the self inflicted problems I’d caused by being sloppy in building the new parts of the layout. The “new” parts are essentially everything you can see in the photo.

The last time I took Morpeth anywhere to display was to Sydney in 2014. The trailer that has been sitting in my garage (in a number of different homes over the years) since about 2004 has seen very little use to haul a layout, the main reason it was purchased. The layout that was supposed to fill it and be taken to shows is Morpeth. I did take Queens Wharf to a couple of events in the trailer but the long term plan was to make a layout to fill the trailer and to show it and Morpeth is that layout. After 2014 I set myself two conditions that needed to be met before I’d show the layout again; one was that I would have a 20 class loco to run on it and the second was that the layout would have to be scenicly complete. Well both of those conditions have now been met so I had no real excuse when Warren Herbert asked me if I’d be prepared to bring the layout to Armidale. I ummed and ahhed for a while but said yes: after-all the layout was finished wasn’t it? Cursed be all exhibition and convention managers! Will someone slap me the next time they hear me utter the word “yes” to their hell spawned requests please? 🙂 As anyone who has an exhibition layout knows, the word “complete” is a flexible and too easily applied term. Morpeth is finished scenicly but I haven’t spent the past 4 years getting it ready for its next show. If anything, by chopping and changing it about over those years, it’s probably less ready to show than it was in 2014. The scenery is complete but it has no fiddle yard and the pier module doesn’t even have legs!

This shot shows Morpeth this afternoon set up downstairs in the shed. I’d spent the morning making a tour of local hardware stores trying to get all the items I need to make a new fiddle yard and legs for the pier and so no work has actually happened as yet. That all starts tomorrow. It may not be apparent in this photo but Morpeth sits a good 10″ higher in exhibition mode than she does when she resides upstairs in the layout room. The heavy wooden benchwork she sits on upstairs is not suitable for an innovative and nimble modern layout like Morpeth 🙂

There are a dozen little jobs that need to be completed before the layout can be packed and transported to Armidale in about 5 weeks time. The most important of these are legs for the pier module and a fiddle yard of some sort. Both of these are well in hand and will accompany the layout to Armidale. I have to reconfigure the DCC system, get my sewing skills honed to rearrange the curtains I made for the layout in 2014 and half a dozen other holes need plugging. However I know what some of you are thinking: what about the ship model that’s supposed to be tied up against the pier?

Well believe it or not that’s gradually emerging from the briny depths too…

It may not look like there’s been a great deal of progress on the ship but I can assure you that a major milestone has been passed with the installation of both decks. Work is now commencing on the cabins and some details have been installed. While the kit is still a SOB to work on it now feels like I might eventually finish it at some distant point because I’m just building up layers of detail from a very difficult base. I’m still making it up as I go along half the time and have come to realize that I’d do a lot of things differently if I ever built another ship but I’m satisfied that progress is being made, even if it probably won’t be finished by the time of the show in Armidale.