Morpeth Shakes Off Some Dust

I had a couple of train friends over yesterday to give me a hand on running some curve tests to see what locos would run around the curves on the new layout I’m thinking about building. The larger locos with outside cylinders are suspected to have issues with curves with a curve radius much smaller than 1.8m (6′) but there are so few actual layouts around in 1:43.5 where I could see the locos I plan to run traversing curves less than this I determined that the only way I could be certain what would or wouldn’t run was to systematically test some locos on some curves.

Phil and Peter working together as a well oiled machine to lay the tightest of the curves (1.2m or 4′) for the tests.

After we ran the tests I managed to convince them to help me haul Morpeth up the stairs to the freshly painted train room. Phil and Peter helped me get the three completed sections of Morpeth up onto its stands and then I spent some time today cleaning the track, vacuuming the dust up and determining that the poops we found yesterday near my O-scale cows weren’t from rats but from a bearded dragon which had been in residence in the workshop a few months ago. There was a bit of very minor damage to a couple of trees which will mean a little re-forestation at some point but other than the layout seems to be in remarkably good condition.

This is the first time the layout has been set up in a complete state since March 2014. Aside from siding peeling off Parker’s Junk Yard and the lizard poo there was only some minor damage to a couple of tress which just need to be reinstalled.

I hooked up the main DCC system this afternoon and cranked it up to run a train. It was a real pleasure to just run my 20 class and a scratch built CCA back and forth a few times and take a few photos. We underestimate the mental health benefits of simply running a train at our own peril.

This photo represents a normal day on the Morpeth line and it’s only taken me 15 years to be able to get all the elements together to be able to pose such a train in this way 🙂

The only problem created by running a train on an almost completed layout in my brand new train room is that it’s very tempting to think “why not just set Morpeth up permanently?” It would be very easy to draw up a plan, make a few adjustments and use Morpeth as the core of my new layout. Why change locales after all these years? And with a bit of judicious shoe horning I could probably find time for the bridge scene I’ve been hankering to build for a few years. There’s no room for a rail bridge on my version of Muswellbrook.

I don’t like exhibiting very much anyway… 🙂



Not Watching Paint Dry

I’ve been on a break from work for the past two weeks. At a social gathering with my staff on the final Friday work afternoon we were talking about what we were going to be doing over the break to which I replied “painting my train room”. They all laugh at my eccentric hobby but they were also well aware that I was dead serious. I planned on painting my newly lined train room. I had thoughts that I’d knock the job over by Friday of the first week and then I could spend some time doing some other jobs around the house and possibly even make a small start on building the layout.

HA! That plan crumbled to ashes when I came to realise just how many hectares of wall board it took to line the room, of which each and every square cm needed to be painted. So it will come as no surprise if I reveal that while the painting of the room is now complete I made the last brush stroke at 6.30pm this evening (that’s the Sunday evening before I go back to work).

This just a quick shot of the completed paint job taken on my phone. I didn’t have the strength to walk into the house and get my camera! 🙂

The electrician came on Thursday and installed the lights and power outlets and some vinyl flooring is going down next Wednesday.

So as the job of painting the room was complete and will be layout ready within the next two weeks after final fit out, I decided that it was time to get the plan out and take a hard look at what I wanted to actually build.

This is getting close to the final plan. I have some tests to carry out on the curve radii to ensure that the locos I want to operate will navigate the curves but this plan incorporates almost all the changes I feel that I needed to make.

This version of the plan (V3.7) incorporates most of the changes I’ve been thinking about during the seemingly endless hours of painting. I’ve widened the aisle between the Shell depot and the Oak Dairy benchwork, I’ve moved the 75′ TT away from the door to provide a bit more clearance on entry and better reflect the arrangement at the real Muswellbrook but most importantly I’ve lengthened the yard at Muswellbrook. The main line loop has gone from just over 2.6m to just under 4m. This had been on the cards for a while but a friend paid me a visit on Friday and when he told me that a 2.5m long loop would only allow for a train that had 10 S wagons (with loco and van) I decided to bite the bullet and make the change. In drawing these changes I was forced to rethink the arrangement of the turntable and the approach line to this. I’ve lost the double approach to the table but shifting this further back toward the yard in this switch back arrangement mimics the arrangement of the engine facility at Muswellbrook. I’ve also penciled in a Garratt turntable arrangement here which mimics the Garratt triangle located on this line. This won’t have scenery but it will serve the dual purposes of acting as a shunting neck for locos accessing the table and will also allow for the turning of a Garratt. This is all a bit speculative but it would be nice to be able to represent the way an empty train would have arrived at Muswellbrook yard headed by an AD60 and while coal was being loaded the Garratt would have been turned and coaled on the triangle ready to haul the loaded train back down the Hunter Valley.

You might also note in the info box at the bottom left hand corner that the grade is now included (at 2%, providing me with 50mm more clearance over the storage roads from the last plan) and that the min radius has gone down to 1727mm. This is to accommodate the inner radius of curved Peco points. There’s not much point in saying the minimum radius of the layout curves are 1.8m when the radius on 5 of the points is 1.727m. So my use of Peco points is having a knock on effect to the rest of the plan. Hence the need for some tests I plan to carry out in the next couple of weeks to make sure the locos I want to run on this layout will negotiate these tighter than expected curves.

Wonder Woman With A Shopping Bag

I hate painting! Specifically the house painting variety, or in this case train room painting. I had set out over a week ago to have the room finished and ready for layout building by yesterday but the endless acres of plaster board were defeating me. Then Wonder Woman turned up with a plastic shopping bag on her head and she solved half my problems.

I think my partner Louise knew I was struggling to finish the painting of my train room when I gave myself a break and mowed the lawn. On a list of my 10 least favourite jobs, mowing the lawn would come in pretty high on the list, just above painting. So when she suggested she’d come over Sunday morning and give me a hand I was surprised and a little skeptical. Afterall she’s building herself a new home and her every waking moment, including 7am on a Sunday, is filled with the thousand and one things she needs to think about. And I do mean she’s building it herself: she’s an owner builder which means the guys at the local fastener shop all know her by name, as in “what are you after today Louise”, she’s nailed over 340 joist hangers into place in between building herself wooden steps, arguing with the concreter and running back and forth to Bunnings.

She said “I’ll be there at 7am, make sure the kettle’s on” to which I replied “ok”. Then she asked, “have you got a shower cap,” to which I replied a confused “no”. 7am on a Sunday morning, what sort of a time to be getting out of bed is that?!?! And I have no intention showering in a cap! 🙂 Anyway she rolls up, sets up a mysterious piece of equipment and proceeds to paint the ceiling. After we’d finished and got cleaned up we had enough time to hook up the trailer and head to the biggest Bunnings in SE Qld and still make it back in time for a 12 noon meeting with some young bloke she’s hired to work on her house build on weekends.

And if you’re wondering, yes that’s a plastic shopping bag on Louise’s head. Something about needing to protect her hair. At least this explains why she wanted to know if I owned a shower cap.

Now I can’t say exactly how long it would have taken me to roller the entire ceiling but I would guess at least 6-8 hours. Louise and her fancy little Wagner spray machine had the whole job knocked over in 2 hours. Of course she’d purcashed this in preparation for painting the new house she’s building. Me, I’d rather spend money on my trains 🙂

The only problem is I can’t tell her I’m writing this because she doesn’t know I took the photo and if she finds out I posted it my life won’t be worth living 🙂

A New Toy

I spent this morning shopping for paint. The colour scheme for the new train room didn’t take long to choose: white ceiling and blue walls. I want to install some cheapish vertical blinds on the windows so I paid a visit to a local paint and blind shop. They showed me the colour range in their “basic” vertical blind range and this was then paired with a Dulux paint colour that perfectly matches the colour of the blinds. I don’t expect the blinds to disappear but they need to be as unobtrusive as possible. The low backdrops I eventually install on the layout will take care of drawing operators into the scene in close up views but this colour matching will mean that the sky of the backdrops, the walls and blinds are all reasonably close in tone. Well that’s the plan 🙂

The plasterer spent the morning sanding down the final coat of joint compound. He cleaned up and drove off and that means the work is finished! Except for paint, as my partner Louise so helpfully pointed out. Thanks for always curbing my enthusiasm gorgeous 🙂

This shot shows the “before” effect of the work. The hatches to the vacant spaces behind the walls are now installed and there’s skirting boards right round the room. The blue paint will go up to the second horizontal joint with the field beyond will be white. This should help brighten the room by reflecting light down from the flourescent fixtures.

The blind and paint shop I visited happens to be next door to a really good trade outlet for tools (heaven) so I popped in their, just to have a look around you understand 🙂 I’ve been longing to buy myself a laser level for a number of years but I could never justify the price of purchase, especially as I wasn’t building anything that required one. They used to run to $600 or $700 for the cheapest type a few years ago but, as is the way of the world, I figured it wouldn’t be too long before the Chinese flooded the market with perfectly good generic laser levels and so it turned out. I picked up a new toy for under $AU150 and what a sweet little gadget it is. It’s self levelling and can be attached to a normal camera tripod if necessary. The most recent spirit level I bought a few years ago was half the price of this thing and while I wouldn’t be without it I have a feeling it will be getting far less use in this project than it used to. I don’t even need my glasses to see the levels! 🙂

While I would have loved to get my hands on one of the laser levels that throws a line right round the room this stationary type will more than serve my needs in building a layout.

Why a laser level? I’ve been involved in building something like 15 layouts over the past 25 years or so and I can’t think of anything that will be more useful in laying out and establishing the datum points for my new layout than this gadget. I can envisage at least half a dozen ways I can use it to ensure the layout is level all round and that the grades to a new level are smooth. OMG! I wish I’d had one of these 25 years ago. Most of the layouts I built in my first few years of modelling might have lasted beyond the prototype stage if I’d had one! 🙂