One down. three to go! This shot shows the jig I completed today. It is not only finished but the inner faces of the central jig, the part that actually have to be accurate to set the distance between the rails, are surprisingly the correct dimension. At 16.57mm it is close enough for me! 🙂 I included it’s big SG brother to provide a comparison.

Strike up the band, crack open a  bottle of champagne, I’m now an expert machinist who can answer all your metal turning questions and inquiries. NOT! I managed to get one of the gauges finished today, that’s the first of four I have planned. I never should have dropped Metalwork for Music as an elective subject in high school. The other three gauges have the two outer caps finished for each of them and they’re all strung together on their cap bolts. All they need is the centre gauge section completed. However I’m so slow and my metal turning skills so decrepit that it took me 1 1/2 hours to do the centre gauge for this one today. I tend to speed up as I go along and work out a method: a couple of steps really had me stumped today as I worked on this one. At one point I had to work out how to turn the face of the centre section down on the right hand end. As my cutting tool has its cutting face on the left had side this forced me to take another tool with a face cut on the opposite side and grind this to a shape that I needed. This process was well outside my comfort zone but it worked and I now have a slightly rough, but serviceable gauge. Oh and it does grip the head of the code 83 rail it’s designed to hold in place, I tested it! 🙂

I’m sure in the years to come I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I made these gauges myself, and the twinge at the back of my neck will remind of how sore it got from bending over my lathe peering at the twirling end of the brass 🙂

Bends and Turns

There’s been lots happening on the Morpeth Line recently and I’m on first name terms with the postie. I have a feeling he thinks I’m importing drugs in all the packages I’ve been receiving recently 🙂 Work has proceeded on the NG road bed and I decided to start by laying sleepers round the only bend in the line.

There’s only one curve on the branch line from Raworth to Barren Jack so I thought I’d start by laying track on this first. This photo shows the sub roadbed of 12mm ply temporarily propped in place. There’s been a little more progress since this shot was taken but things have moved from the layout room to my work room where I’ve been making a start on making the track for the NG line.

I made the decision a while ago to lay hand made turnouts and track on the main layout part of the BJ line and to use flex track and ME points on the modules that form the peninsula. There is a logical reason for this mixing of track work, which I’ll go into in a later post, however I also decided that as I’m extremely comfortable with the method I use to make and lay hand made track and turnouts on the SG line that I could see no reason to do something radically different on the NG. I make a sub-road with 12mm ply, cut up pieces of thinner ply (4mm and 5mm) to lay the sleepers (ties) on and pin the rail to these. I then use small wood screws to fix the sections of track into position, including the turnouts.

I’m using Kappler Sugar Pine sleepers on the NG line which is fine by me as I use the same brand on my SG track. The NG sleepers are a little thinner than the SG item (and of course shorter and shallower) but I’ve simply adjusted things to fit my method of track laying. I scribe the top of the sleepers with the edge of a razor saw to exaggerate the grain, pre-stain them in a bath of rubbing alcohol and black wood stain, draw a centre line on one side of every sleeper using the little styrene jig you can see in the photo (I stack them up 10 at a time and draw a line along them all at once) and then glue them to the 4mm track base I’ve already cut to shape and drawn a centre line on using PVA. The centre line on the sleepers is simply lined up with the centre line on the track base. I did try using a wedge shaped styrene spacer jig this time but I found it wasn’t working the way I hoped so I just did the gluing of the sleepers by eye and a plain strip of 9mm wide styrene.

Once all the prep work is done it’s simply a matter of setting to and laying sleepers till I reach the end of the section of track. Very high tech 🙂

Before laying the rail I wanted to acquire some spring loaded roller gauges of the same type I use on my SG track laying. While I didn’t look all that hard I couldn’t find anything of the same type in 16.5mm gauge so I decided to make my own. I drew up a plan (on paper, how low tech) in my spiral bound plan book and set to this morning making the first part for the four gauges I intend to make. Before I go any further I need to remind anyone who has been reading this blog for a while that while I have two lathes and a mill and myriad other tools you could fit what I know about metal shaping on the head of a pin so I’d like to acknowledge a couple of Youtube denizens who have been of great assistance:

Blondihacks at has a great series of beginners metal turning videos. Ok I should be up front and say she’s a WOMAN but don’t let the old stereotypes prevent you from visiting her site. She does a far better job of explaining what needs to happen on a lathe to this thick male than most of the blokes I’ve watched and she really knows what she’s about. By the sound of her accent she’s a Canadian but I’ll even overlook that… for the moment 🙂

Mr Crispin at OMG this guy is so bloody English! Watch a few of his videos and you’ll see what I mean. He’s been a bit quiet recently as he sets up his workshop but he posted a new video today and it’s about a Myford lathe. He is another great one for good, clear explanation and he’s well worth a look.

This Old Tony at This channel is a bit more high end but he’s worth watching just for the laughs. Give him a try, you will laugh! 🙂

After taking my plan outside and faffing about for a while I finally started to “make some chips” (as all the knowledgeable Youtubers say) and things went swimmingly. This photo shows the process of parting off (I love that kinda talk) my first part.

No I didn’t use the Myford this time as I’ve only just managed to get some bolts for the tool post and it’s not yet operable but soon, soon! The gauges I’m making each consist of 6 parts:

– a 4M 40mm long cap screw

– a 4M nut to retain the parts on the cap screw

– a spring of sufficient dia to slip down over the 4M thread of the screw (or bolt)

– two end caps which are really just top hat bearings put to another use (these are the parts that have to be turned)

– a centre gauge section that sets the distance between the rails, in this instance

So at this stage you’re probably expecting me to say all four gauges are done and I’ve laid the rails on the curve but think again! I took so long to make this first part and sweated over it so long I ran out of time and went inside for lunch and a good lie down. 🙂

This shot shows the cap screw and nut, the spring and my end cap which is the small brass turning in the middle. The other brass object is one of the end caps from the SG gauge placed there for comparison.

Ok Ok one small brass part isn’t that impressive but give me time, I’m learnin’! Check back in December and I might have the first full gauge made 🙂

Narrow Gauge Progress (Sort Of)

I took a trip to Brisbane last weekend to help out on a friend’s layout at the Strathpine exhibition. It’s a great little suburban exhibition that has quite a growing reputation for attracting quality layouts. It’s the first time I’ve attended so I have no previous years to compare it to however I did see some excellent QR outline layouts including my friend Peter Krause’s Samford. While I was at the exhibition I took the opportunity to drop by the Wuiske Models stand which provided me with an opportunity to take a look at a Haskell NA. I purchased the NA eventually, after I managed to get Adam Wiuske’s attention by waving my credit card under his nose and carried my purchase home in the expectation that I could drop a DCC decoder into it and have something to run over my quickly expanding NG empire.

This is my rtr NA after 5 days of ownership. After I opened it up I dropped in a sound decoder and got no response no matter what I tried. No sound, movement or lights. It turns out that one of the leads from the pickups on one side of the loco had come adrift, however to re-solder this without melting one of the side tanks I had to essentially disassemble the entire loco. Now that it’s in pieces I can’t resist doing some upgrades such as installing some LED marker lights and a crew. I’ll tackle the decoder installation over the next couple of weeks and give it a weathering job before giving it a run on my as yet un-laid NG track.

I spent the week doing what I’ve done a lot over the past 2 years as I’ve built Morpeth: spend money on wood, track, rail and electronic bits and pieces. In spite of a seemingly endless number of phone calls and online orders I’m stuck half way through three or four different jobs in commencing the NG section of the layout but have stalled on all of them while I wait for supplies to arrive. I seem to start something, make some progress and then find I need something I don’t have on hand. This never fails to surprise me because I had a whole lot of crap in store to carry on my hobby but I still always seem to be short of some vital ingredient. The NA is a good example in that I want to install some red LEDs into two of the marker lights but don’t have any of the correct sort so I’m waiting for some to arrive in the mail.

This shot shows the bench-work for Barren Jack installed and ready for road bed.

I’m actually going to install hand laid track on this part of the layout but I’m waiting for a Fast Tracks #5 point form tool and some code 83 rail to arrive so I’ve laid out some ME flex track and #5 points just to get a sense of things. I can just fit the exchange shed and dual gauge track into this space. Just!

This morning I cut some 12mm ply up to form the curve that will be the bottom of the horse shoe taking trains from the Raworth exchange yard round to Barren Jack. I’m very happy with the use this is making of this space which up till now was essentially a dead zone. I don’t know how much use and attention this small NG extension will get over the longer term but it’s achieved one of my aims and that is to give me another industry to deliver wagons to in Raworth. The exchange shed will serve as this industry and the NG line will become another job for operators to undertake during operations.

All I need is an operating loco and a few bits of rolling stock.

Cascading Dilemmas

About 9 months ago I decided I was going to make a start on building a small narrow gauge layout based very loosely on the Goondah & Burrinjuck railway that operated in the early part of the 20th century while the Burrinjuck dam (in the Southern Highlands of NSW) and its associated infrastructure was being built. It was a 2′ gauge common carrier railway that was the only means of transport for the citizens of the town of Burrenjuck, a community set up to house the workers who built the dam. My model will be in 7mm O-scale (1:43.5), the same scale my standard gauge Morpeth line is built in.

It wouldn’t be too inaccurate to suggest that this single photo was the reason I was drawn to the idea of modelling the G&B line. The availability of a kit for the diminutive Krause locos that worked the line also contributed but this crane and the associated transfer shed (which is in the background) caught my eye in a similar manner to the way a couple of the photos of the Morpeth line with it’s wharf and dilapidated line-side structures caught my eye about 20 years ago. We all know where that led 🙂

Ok great, that’s the “authorized”, long term goal statement. What have I done about it? Well not to put too fine a point on it, bugger all really! I’ve had two of the loco kits for the Krause locos for around 10 years and about 3 or 4 rolling stock kits and they’ve been sitting in the cupboard unbuilt along with a large number of unbuilt SG kits. I made a start 9 months ago by constructing a couple of ladder frames and cut up some mdf backdrops, which I slapped with a coat of white paint. I set up this base in my work room on top of some cabinets and that’s where things have stood for approximately 6-9 months. The reason things stalled for this length of time are complicated so strap yourselves in if you have the patience to read to the end.

The problems started with the Storage sidings on Morpeth.

In this scan of the track-plan of Morpeth I’ve removed the storage sidings for clarity. This plan includes the coal branch and this includes siting the 60′ turntable where it will eventually reside. It’s easy to place an item on a plan but it takes actual work to shirt it there on the layout. Anyway this gives you the idea of how the coal branch will look. It will branch off from Raworth, head up the hill to the coal tipple where a loop of track and the TT will allow the train to be loaded, the loco turned for the return journey to Raworth. Simple! I wish!

Because the coal branch crosses over the approach tracks for the storage sidings I needed to have the track layout and the wiring for the storage yard completed before the coal branch could be installed and track laid on it. It was only about 4 meters long with 3 turnouts and a TT but it was the storage yards that were the problem not the coal branch. If you cast your minds back a while I decided to hold an operating session a couple of months ago and I’ve been working on a set of tasks that this threw up. This was no surprise, the same thing happened the last time I held operations on a layout, my HO layout Trundlemore in the mid 90s. However out of this process I decided that the Peco point motors had to go, to be replaced by Tortoise machines. Nine of them in all in addition to a new control panel, re-wiring and completing the wiring for the entire storage yards and also the laying and commissioning of the Millhouse River turntable that has been sitting neglected and disconnected from the rest of the layout at the end of the yard. Well I’m proud to report that as of yesterday (Thursday the 8th of Aug) the storage yard is now operational, although it is causing me some minor problems and needs to be programmed and de-bugged. But generally speaking this phase of the layout build is done. Finally!

My 49 takes a bit of a spin on the turntable. you’ll have to take my word for it that the table is really moving 🙂 Video will eventually emerge of this when I can be bothered fighting with my new video editing software. But that’s not going to happen in the same month Apple is turning off iTunes!

It may just be me but I don’t move onto a new job till the one I’m working on is completed, so the coal branch hadn’t seen a blow struck in anger for months and this was because I wanted those bloody Tortoise motors installed, hooked up and the tracks all laid up to the turntable before I got distracted onto wandering up the branch. Now that that job is done in the space of one morning I cut the last of the ply base boards for the coal branch and cut and fitted it’s mdf back drop and screwed this into position. All I now need to do it make and install 2 turnouts and the plain track to connect these. Believe me, in comparison to laying the track and wiring up the storage yard this will be a doddle! 🙂

This shot shows both the completed storage yard but also the coal branch base boards, the first time they’ve both been in position together. The coal branch is the length of ply that looks like a small shelf in the upper right of the photo.

In this shot I’ve installed the 6mm mdf backdrop on the last and final board, the one down the other end, and placed them into position. The camera is approximately where the smaller 60′ turntable will eventually reside. You can see in the foreground right the box and electronics for the new storage yard control panel which will eventually be made when the parts arrive from Hong Kong. The ply that projects out over the storage yard is where the coal tipple will go when I eventually build it. I wanted to give myself a little more depth for the building at this location.

So making progress on the coal branch required the completion of the storage sidings and progress on the Goondah and Burrinjuck NG project required that I complete both the storage yard and reinstall the coal branch because until I had the size and position of the bench work and control panels settled I couldn’t be sure how big I could make the bench work for Barren Jack (the name of the NG modules). The main element of the coal branch that was holding up the NG modules was that I needed to settle where the 60′ turntable (the one on the coal branch, not the large one at the end of the storage yard) was going to be placed because the access to it would be restricted by the new NG modules and I wanted to convince myself there was enough room to allow operators to get to it and that maintenance was going to be possible.

Like a cascade of dilemmas, with the storage yard track finally laid and wired up everything else could be decided from this base point. And this also explains why there haven’t been many blog posts recently because there’s not much of interest in me swearing at non cooperative wire and solder and bashing my head on the underside of the layout. Although I have friends who would pay good money to watch video of me bashing my head against the layout 🙂

This is the plan of the complete which corrects a mistake in the location of double slip at Raworth and shows how the benchwork for the NG modules will fit. The frames I built six months ago are a little bigger than I’d prefer so I’m going to trim 60mm off the width and 200mm off the length to provide a little more clearance down the aisles either side. With lighting rig and control panels sticking out from the edges of these modules making them a little smaller is prudent.

After getting the last piece of ply road bed in place on the coal branch I moved the two wooden frames for Barren Jack up to the layout room from the work room (where I do my modelling) and set them up on saw horses to see how they would fit. As I suspected things were a bit tight so I’m going to trim a little off the length and width of these frames to provide a little more clearance in the aisles either side.

If anything this photo gives a slightly optimistic impression of the amount of space available in the aisles either side of Barren Jack. I predict that with the layout at its proper height (approximately 300mm higher than when sitting on these saw horses and about level with the bench work surrounding it on the main layout) and with the backdrop in place things will look a lot tighter. So trimming off a little excess bench work now will give me a little more clearance.

I’m envisaging this small NG line as having two parts: the exchange yard at Raworth and the Barren Jack town yard at the other end of the line. Both will have a passenger platform with the Raworth end having the exchange sidings with the standard gauge Morepth branch line and Barren Jack having a goods shed, loading bank, crane and a small industry. I haven’t yet settled on what this industry will be but I’d like to be able to use some small tipple wagons I have that were produced by Bachmann and so it may end up as a sand mine loading tipple. These would run to Raworth as a dedicated train and unload there at a site I haven’t yet settled on.

This plan is a little misleading because my layout planning software doesn’t have a NG option so this is drawn with 32mm gauge track. Still the clearances and buildings are all in scale so they will fit.

Early this year as I tried to cram all the elements I wanted onto the Barren Jack modules in the planning process. As I worked on this early version of Barren Jack I came to realize that there was no way I could fit the transfer shed and the crane over the dual gauge line into the same scene as a small passenger platform and a goods shed and loading bank. By incorporating this small layout into my main layout it gives me enough room to separate the must have elements into their correct orientation at each end of the line and it provides operators with a new “industry” at Raworth. I would have liked to make this industry a SG fan of sidings with two or three wagon spots at different industrial sidings but there simply wasn’t room. This NG option takes advantage of a big empty floor space in the layout room and will provide a new job for an operator during operations sessions as they can run trains up and down the NG line to Barren Jack and back. I call that a win all round.