About Trevor Hodges

I'm an Australian railway modeller working in 1:43.5 (7mm) O-scale. I switched to O-scale over from HO modelling in 2000 and I've never regretted the decision. I have two layouts which both follow New South Wales prototype. Queens Wharf is a small, portable layout that is essentially compete and Morpeth is a larger layout currently under construction.

Queens Wharf Upgrade Pt 2

I completed the Queens Wharf station scene as far as possible in the workroom so there wasn’t much left to do but carry it up to the layout and plug it into the slot allocated to it. This new station is a much larger structure and longer scene than the original Queens Wharf. I was able to extend the yard at this location when I built the layout and installed the QW modules into this larger layout so this scene takes advantage of the extra length.

I shot a few photos of the progress. There’s no ballast as yet and the scenic modules are just temporarily placed into position so the scene is not complete. That will have to wait till I alter the track leading to the dairy in front of the buildings I removed a few days back. When I reinstall the buildings at that spot, which start just beyond the signal box, I’ll gradually ballast the track in this yard.

This is an overall shot of the station in place on the layout
The original QW station was this wooden platform modeled after the prototype. It simply butts up to the new, timber faced platform
This is the signal box in its final location just at the end of the new platform. The entry to the dairy siding is just behind the locomotive

Big Changes At Queens Wharf

This is my first post for a while and part of the reason for this is that I’ve been posting the Ozone videos over the past few of months and these cover most of the developments on Morpeth, so writing about things that are going on has been less urgent. However my video editing software has developed a fault that I haven’t yet found a way to overcome so in the interim I thought I’d write a post and update those of you who follow this blog.

This is a shot of the new station building and platform that will eventually be installed on the site of the old station. You can see the original wooden platform in the distance. The new station has a standard NSWGR skillion roof A4 building and an extended platform. The building is a kit from ModelOKits as are the platform facings.

After establishing operations on Morpeth late last year, Covid-19 not withstanding, I’ve been making a lot of changes to the layout that are pretty mundane track, coupler and and wheel upgrades which don’t make terribly exciting reading or viewing. However, after the last round of such tasks were completed a few weeks ago I decided it was time to install some new scenery on the layout. I’d had the station at Queens Wharf in my sights for quite a while because the passenger platform was crying out for an extension and upgrade. The original wooden sleeper platform at QW was a pretty fair representation of what really existed at the location. However, I’d developed a operational scenario where QW had acquired a 3 track yard and had become a junction station with its own small signal box. A short wooden platform with a small wooden waiting shed on the ground next to it was woefully inadequate so I decided that I’d extend the platform and install a more appropriate building. Rather than discard the original passenger platform I decided the NSWGR would simply extend it with a wooden faced platform and build the new passenger facilities on this new work, leaving the old platform and waiting shed in place. This allowed me to retain a visual link to the old Queens Wharf station. I’m very happy with this so far and I’m about 70% through the new work. The whole station platform and surrounding scenery will be completed and  slotted into position once almost all the work is complete including ground cover, tress and shrubs.

Of course the only problem with doing new work is that what already exists along the back of the line starts to provide a visual comparison and I have to admit that what was left of the original QW at this location was looking rather run down and neglected. The two buildings that form the Morpeth Dairy were of growing concern to me as they’d taken a fair hammering over the years as both part of an exhibition layout and then being stored and shifted around several times as I moved house. One of these buildings was built for me by my friend Stephen Reynolds and the other was added by myself after Stephen handed over the main dairy building for installation sometime in 2003/04. I won’t go into great detail here of what needed to happen to these buildings to freshen them up but I decided last week that it would be crazy to install the new station building adjacent to these existing structures and leave them as they were. Also, recently one of the original turnouts at QW, the one leading into the Dairy, had developed a fault that made itself apparent during the last operating session and I was facing the prospect of trying to repair this as I leaned over something like 600mm of layout and track that sat in front of it.

I decided today that I’d head up to the layout room to evaluate the possibility of removing the dairy buildings so they could be repaired and freshened up while I sat comfortable at my workbench rather than reaching over to them in situ on the layout to carry out the work. I can reinstall them later as part of the upgrade to the scenery to this strip of layout. I also wanted to look at whether it was feasible to lift the track at this same location, remove a redundant crossover and repair or replace the turnout that had developed the fault. At the same time I can replace the 12mm MDF that forms the sub roadbed here with 12mm marine play which should provide a much more stable sub roadbed. The turnout that had developed the fault was one of the last ones on the layout that was built using copper clad sleepers on a sub-roadbed of MDF. While I can’t be absolutely sure this was the reason one of the closure rails suddenly came adrift, I’m in the same dilemma with this as I am with the buildings. I’m doing a major upgrade of the scenery on this section of the layout: I feel it would be madness to carry out this work and not fix these problems permanently while I’m at it. 

After about 10 minutes of swearing and bashing the underside of the layout with a hammer and old chisel the buildings came out in reasonable shape. They did get damaged but as the object of the exercise is to repair and freshen them up, inflicting a little more damage isn’t going to make a great deal of difference in the long term. I can’t address the problems with the scenery and track at this location without getting them removed and safely out of the way so I bashed first and asked questions later. These questions will probably be something like “why the f—– did I do this?” 🙂

So I now have two more buildings to work on and while I’m at it I also made some measurements to the line that passes beyond the dairy buildings you can see in the photo above. I was discussing the industries on Morpeth with a friend who is a member of the operating crew and he did question why I was considering another dairy on the new Hunter River Siding. After measuring the site it seems like the card building kit I have from ModelOKits of the Taree dairy will fit at this location so it’s possible I may install the whole complex along this site and move the oil siding down to the HRS. There’s more room for tanks and a model of parts of the depot there so it makes more sense operationally. This will also allow the construction of a dairy complex of a size that will justify multiple wagons moving into and out of QW on a daily basis.

Instead of being within a few days of having the new station installed adjacent to the Morpeth Dairy, I now have a long strip of empty, toxic waste free development land running along the far side of the main line. I wonder if I can get the NSW govt to buy it off me for 4 or 5 times its value? 🙂


Dapol Semaphore Signals

Recently I wrote here about building some signal kits and also about hearing of the release of Dapol’s 7mm (1:43.5) ready-to-plant signals. The signal I’ll be talking about here is the GWR wooden post semaphore (item #7L-001-00) which was provided to me by ModelOKits for evaluation. I’ll write a full review of this and the LMS tubular post signal in an upcoming issue of 7th Heaven, the Aus7 Modellers Group newsletter. However the signals are in stock at ModelOKits and while the square post GWR signals aren’t exact replicas of NSWR semaphores, they certainly have a McKenzie and Holland “family” look.

Like a lot of modellers I’m a member of a couple of online groups and forums and recently on one of these, a question was posed asking how a Dapol signal could have it’s indication mimicked on a control panel with LEDs. There’s not a lot I normally contribute to this particular group, however I had a Dapol signal in my cupboard that I was planning to evaluate and I had a plan for how I was going to achieve the mimicking on a control panel so I thought I’d take the plunge and put my two cents worth in.

I plan to have my signals switched from a central control panel by a signaler and as such I need this board to be able to display what aspect the signals are showing in locations not in the direct line of sight of the person sitting at the panel. I had a plan for how I was going to achieve this through swapping out the single pole switch provided with Dapol signals for a double pole variety and then switching between red and green LEDs (or possibly a single bi polar LED) on the panel using the extra set of contacts provided by this type of switch. Simple, cheap, effective and, I thought, worth sharing. However I was told in a couple of replies that my suggestion wouldn’t work.

Outside of the possibility that the signals from Dapol in the OO and N are made to actuate in a manner that is different from the way the O-scale ones are, I couldn’t see why what I had proposed wouldn’t work and, in fact, I knew bloody well that it would! 🙂 So today I set out to prove to myself that this could be done, mostly because I plan to eventually populate my layout with about 14 or 15 of these signals and they will all need to have this mimic feature. Before I got too much further down the track I thought I’d better test what I was proposing to do on Morpeth.

Just to show I’m using a Dapol signal for this test, and not some generic Chinese product from a company with a name like “We Honest”, I thought I’d include this shot of the Dapol packaging. To be totally accurate this is an LMS tubular semaphore and not the GWR square post variety I used but it’s exactly the same type of signal in terms of its mechanics. The single pole switch plugs into the actuating box which is the big black object in the lower left hand corner. This simply plugs into the bottom of the signal.

I built myself a small box from 12mm plywood to mount the signal to run my test. My roadbed is 12mm ply so this was a suitable material to use. The signal is provided with a plastic nut that tightens a threaded mount on the underside of the signal (the part on the signal that has the yellow line running up it in the photo) which is 15mm in diameter. I drilled a 15mm hole in the ply top of my little box and mounted the signal through this, making sure not to over tighten the nut as it looks like it would easily crack if tightened too far. I plugged in the motor box and the plug leading from the switch provided and tested that the signal worked as advertised. Everything worked beautifully: the red and green aspects were nice and bright and would be very clear under normal layout room lighting. The semaphore worked crisply and even had a slight bounce as per the prototype.

So now I’d tested that the signal worked as produced by Dapol, I made my modifications to test that I could mimic the signal aspect via some “remote” LEDs.

I snipped the wires coming from the plug to the switch provided (the lower one in this photo) and re-soldered these to a double pole switch, making sure that the yellow wire was in the middle as per the original.

After I’d attached the wires to the new switch I mounted two 5mm LEDs (one red and one green) into the front panel of my little box. I’d used 3mm MDF on the front of the box to allow for the mounting of the switch and the LEDs. I hooked up the power supply that I’d used to power the signal to the LEDs by running the positive to a common connection between the LEDs and the negative to the middle pole of the switch. I ran the two leads from the other poles of the LEDs to each side of the switch inserting a 1k resistor in these lines. I then tested this set up and it worked as I’d hoped it would.

It’s a little difficult to see the red LED under my extremely bright photographic lights but take my word for it is alight.

On my first try I got my positives and negatives mixed up running to the LEDs but after swapping the wires I’d soldered to the poles of the switch over the red and green aspects on my 5mm LEDs lit to mimic what was showing on the signal.

And just to demonstrate that the green aspect also works …..

After the test proved positive I let out a sigh of relief. I’d had a bit of a vision of how I was going to achieve the mimic feature of the signals on my layout and I also felt that the way I was going to do this would be cheap and simple. I didn’t want to introduce new, extra components to the mix if I didn’t need to. Someone on the forum I referred to earlier had suggested using a flip/flop to achieve the same result. If I knew what I flip flow was this may be possible but as my method works I’ll leave working out what these are for another day 🙂