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.

The NSWR D(50) Class

When I started in O-scale something like 20 years ago there was very little commercially available to the NSWR outline modeller. About 2002 I learned that Century Models was about to release a kit for one of the standard goods locos on the NSWR, a D(50). I saved my pennies and managed to get enough money together to purchase one of these kits and it’s sat tucked away in a cupboard for something like 16 years. Over the intervening years I’ve managed to acquire a plethora of parts and add ons for this kit some of which are to improve perceived floors in the original parts. As these mostly etches and castings have come into my hands I’ve taken a quick glance at them and then packed them away with the kit. I’ve been threatening for years to build the kit but it’s never happened, although I did get close when I saw the progress the sadly departed Ron Sebbins was making on his 50 about 10 years ago.

Finally, late last year, I got the kit out of the cupboard and removed all the components from the box: both the ones that came with the kit and the replacements I’d accumulated over the years. I sorted these into the parts I would be using and those that I didn’t need and I feel there’s something like 50% of the original kit that now sits in the box which are unlikely to be utilized. The reasons for this is the quality of the replacements are far superior to some of those supplied in the kit. I commenced work on the tender a couple of months ago.

Constructing a tender for a steam locomotive is normally pretty straightforward: it’s a box on wheels right? Well this is true of the 50 but I’ve found that there are some challenges with this kit. The bogies in this photo are only temporarily assembled with some screws holding the side frames in position.

The first really big challenge I confronted was that the urethane floor casting for the tender wasn’t flat. It may have been when it was supplied but it wasn’t when I hauled it out of the box a couple of months ago. At first I considered tossing it back in the box and making a new one from brass and styrene but Peter Krause, who for a time owned Century Models and has built a few of these kits in his time, told me that he’d had a good deal of success clamping the floors to these tenders to a flat piece of timber and leaving this assembly out in the sun for a few hours.

This photo shows my attempt at Peter Krause’s method of flattening the tender floor for my 50. I used a piece of 6mm ply as a base and two short lengths of 6mm square strip timber as a clamping aid, all kept in place with some small clamps. I left this out in the sunshine for about 6 or 7 hours on the top of my yellow topped recycling bin. We’ve been having a fair bit of rain recently so I had to wait a fair while for a sunny day.

Peter’s method for flattening the floor worked extremely well and it seems to have stayed that way for the past 3 or 4 weeks. In that time I got busy with a couple of non-train related projects so I haven’t made much more progress till I got the time to get back into it in the past couple of days by assembling the bogies.

I’ve been tinkering with the parts of these bogies over the past few weeks; I prepared and cleaned the wheels and bogie parts, drilled and tapped some holes for the assembly and milled off a small sliver of brass from the mating face on the bogie bolsters to reduce the slop in the wheels by drawing the side frames a little closer together. Today I assembled the bogies and soldered them together permanently. I tend to avoid soldering bolsters to the frames if I can avoid doing so because soldering them up solid makes maintenance later much harder. However, the screws I was using to keep the frames in place simply weren’t holding the side frames solidly enough for my liking.

I have to add the brake shoes and some other details to the bogies before they can be attached to the floor but that should happen in short order.

Last QW Buildings Removed

Over the past few days I’ve been working on a magazine article and needed to draw out some plans of the development on Queens Wharf from its life as a drop in module into my current layout through to what exists today. Then I drew a plan for the yard as I’d like to arrange it if I wasn’t crimped by the existence of the buildings that pre-dated the needs of the current layout and were restricting what I could do.

Then I started to take the next logical steps:

After removing the dairy buildings last week this small section of scenery and buildings was the last of the old Queens Wharf which existed prior to the current layout. I couldn’t make the extensive track changes I would like to make with these buildings in place. The buildings beyond the line are part of the new station scene which can easily be lifted safely out of the way before anything happens to the track in the yard.

The inevitable conclusion of thinking about where you’d like to get to is that you start looking at ways of achieving that goal. I don’t know how many times I’ve stood in front of this part of the layout and thought to myself, “it’s a shame these buildings are in the way. If they weren’t here I could…” There are quite a number of ways this sentence has ended over the past couple of years. However I’ve never sat down and drawn out a plan of what I might do with Queens Wharf yard if there was nothing in the space getting in the way of where I’d like to lay track. In making up the diagrams for the track plans I was working on for the article I had to put them side by side on a single sheet of paper so they could easily be compared.

Now you need to remember that a week or so ago I’d made the decision to upgrade the track at the entrance to the dairy siding about 2m (approximately 7′) further up the line, so I’d already removed half the scenery that was crimping what I might be able to do with Queens Wharf’s track arrangement. Then I started working on a scale plan of what I could do if I had nothing in my way. You probably know where this is going…

One of the reasons I’d never contemplated removing the buildings from this part of the layout was that I knew the bases the buildings sat on had been installed with both screws and glue, lots of glue. Any removal would mean a fair bit of damage and after I took to this scene with my favourite old prying chisel (that’s my name for an blunt old chisel I keep at the back of a drawer for this type of work) I inflicted a lot of damage. However most of the damage was to the surrounding foam scenery rather than to the buildings themselves so everything can be repaired. The other reason I hadn’t contemplated the removal of this scene was that it’s one of my favourite parts of the layout 😦

It took about 15 minutes to remove the buildings from this part of the layout and about 1 1/2 hours to work out why trains would no longer run on a section of track just beyond the new station. All the buildings are now sitting safely on shelves in the storage cupboard that occupies the corner of the layout room. I’ve made no attempt to repair any damage. I’ve just gathered up the bits that came loose as I hit parts of the bases -bases that certainly weren’t designed to be hit with a hammer – placed these in a plastic container and put them away without looking too closely at the damage I’d caused.

I’ll save posting any photos of the damage to these structures when I’ve pulled almost all the track up, made brand new track (including 5 or 6 new turnouts), wired it all back up and made a new control panel and then set about working on the scenery of Queens Wharf. I can’t publish the track plans I drew that prompted this destructive phase because these are destined for an upcoming issue of a US track planning magazine which appears annually. If I can ever get it written to my own satisfaction and the editor considers it worthy of inclusion. It’ll probably appear about the same time I get all the work on QW’s new track arrangement completed, sometime in 2022 would be my guess.

Two days ago I removed the ship model next to Morpeth’s pier and took it inside to start completing it. I’d last worked on this in 2018 but I’d never completed it so I thought this would be a good time to get it finished and back on the layout. I was even thinking about making a blog post about it. How the heck did I go from working on a model of a ship to ripping out completed scenery and most of the track at Queens Wharf? 🙂

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? 🙂