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.

Myford Musings

About 8 years ago I made the decision to buy myself some metalwork machines to assist me in building some railway models and for the simple reason that I was interested in metal work and wanted to learn some new skills. So these purchases were never just about railway modelling but that was the primary focus.

I did a lot of reading and some watching of YouTube videos and concluded that a Seig X2 mill and long bed Sherline lathe would suit my needs. Both machines have seen some use but I would say that both would have been used a lot more if I’d actually chosen to embark on more locomotive building projects in the years since I purchased them than i actually have. Tools of any sort don’t tend to get used if you’re not making anything where they are needed!

However, I must admit that this lack of progress is two sided: while the Sherline lathe does have its limitations due to its diminutive size, it’s an excellent machine made all the more so because I had the foresight to order mine with digital readouts. If you ever find yourself in a position where you’re considering buying machines of this type, take my advice and buy them with DROs if this is an option. Nothing else you do or buy as an add on later will make a bigger difference to easing the learning curve.

Purchasing the Seig X2 was a mistake. Even after doing some upgrades and adjustments which has improved things somewhat it is still a pain to use and in an unmodified state I would question whether it’s fit to be marketed. I’ve learnt some lessons on my X2 but almost none of these has been the kind where you gradually build skills and knowledge. The lesson I learned was that I wasted my money.

Just over 3 years ago I was having a discussion with my partner about purchasing a table saw with a cast iron table. She’s a bit of a Gumtree addict and so I’d asked her to keep a lookout for listings that might suit my needs. I eventually purchased a great 2nd hand saw but about 2 months later she was still looking and she sent me a link to a listing for a Myford ML7 lathe. I’m not sure how an inquiry about a table saw morphs into a metal working lathe but I almost had another heart attack when I saw the photos of the ML7 and the asking price. The owner wasn’t giving the lathe away but neither was he asking a price that a collector of rare vintage machines might have asked. I made contact and bought the thing from him quick smart. As I was loading it onto the tray of my ute he mentioned that someone who lived over 2000kms away was willing to drive up to Brisbane if I didn’t want it. I saved him the trip!

Why did I buy this lathe, especially when I already owned a lathe that I’d decided was more than suitable to meet my needs and which had seen limited use? The answer to this question is complicated but a big part of the explanation is that I’ve been aware for a long time just how sought after these machines are mostly by UK based hobbyists. There has to be a reason the Poms get so fruity about the things surely? Another part of the explanation comes down to my own experience of using the Sherline lathe and the X2 mill. Even with my limited experience my expectations had bumped up hard against the limitations of what was possible with these machines. A Myford wasn’t going to solve all my problems but with the sheer number of people out there still using them, if and when I came upon a problem chances are someone, somewhere would already have come up with a solution I could copy and adapt to my needs.

Was it a good purchase? As my primary hobby is railway modelling and not machining metal I can’t claim that the frequency of my metalworking has gone up significantly since purchasing the Myford. However I can tell just by turning the hand-wheels that this is a quality machine and is in a separate universe when compared to the X2 mill. The purchase price of this 69 year old lathe was about 40% more than the purchase price of the brand mill but as I consider the mill a waste of money the Myford comes up as value for money.

About 3 months ago I was working on the tender of my NSWR D50 and had the thought that I’d really like to be able to machine some of the brass castings that came with the kit. Nothing terribly challenging in a machining sense but getting a good grip on the tiny parts had proven difficult in the past. About the same time I was watching a UK hobby machinist by the name of Steve Jordan fitting an ER40 collet chuck to his Myford lathe:

It occurred to me that it would be very handy to have this type of collet chuck available as an option on my lathe, especially with the indexing feature available on the lathe which was the subject of the video. However it also seemed that I might be able to hold the small round castings in this type of collet far more successfully than had proved the case when I’d tried to grip these parts in a 3 jaw chuck. Of course these collets are not designed to hold brass 7mm scale castings but as I wanted the chuck anyway it was worth a try.

So I set about acquiring the parts I would need to fit an ER40 collet chuck to my Mford ML7. Buying the chuck from the Chinese supplier proved to be fairly easy but getting the associated wrench to tighten it was not so easy as the manufacturer I purchased my chuck from didn’t sell the wrench to go with it for some inscrutable reason. I eventually tracked one down at the Myford Web site. To fit the chuck to the lathe I would also need a suitable back-plate to bolt it to. While you can literally turn back-plates from just about any suitable piece of cast iron, including old bar bell weights, here’s the clever Mr Jordan demonstrating that this is possible.

However, to do so would require skills, experience and familiarity with Myford lathes I do not yet possess. So I bought one from a company called Chronos who I purchased my quick change tool post from and about which I’m very happy. My main reason for buying the back plate from them rather than from Myford was that they have cheaper postage options available compared to Myford. Myford have as their cheapest postal option an international courier firm which, while stuff arrives in under a week, adds 50 pounds to anything you order.

The Chronos back-plate arrived in under two weeks and wouldn’t fit my lathe’s spindle. It was then I came to the realization that I didn’t have the measuring equipment to measure the bore on this new rather expensive cast iron paper-weight to find out how much it needed machining to allow it to fit. Turns out that these Chronos parts are “part machined” which means you have to finish the machining yourself. This was not going to happen for a number of reasons, including my inability to accurately measure the bore on the thing so I gave up on the cheaper postage option and ordered a back plate from Myford with their gold plated postal options.

Needless to say the genuine Myford part fitted perfectly and I was able to start the lathe and actually make some chips (as all the good machinists I watch on YouTube who actually know what they’re doing say). I wanted to make a very simple facing cut across the face of the plate to ensure it’s square to the lathe’s motor shaft. You’ll notice I ordered the plate that has the ring of holes around its circumference which allows indexing if I ever decide I need this at some point in the future. I’m not sure I ever will need this but you never know do you? ๐Ÿ™‚

At this point I need to fess up and admit that this is the very first time I’ve ever cut metal (or any other material for that matter) on this lathe. There are more than likely a range of valid reasons I could list for why it’s taken me almost 3 years to use the lathe but the two that are genuine are that I’ve been a bit intimidated by it and secondly, I haven’t actually had any need to use it. I now have a need to use it and I got over being intimidated by it when I saw the Australian dollar cost of a cast iron back plate! If I’m going to have to pay that much for a bloody part I’m going to use the thing!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I put one of my brand new (never been used) 10mm insert tools into my brand new (never been used) quick change tool post and made a beautifully clean facing cut across the face of the plate on my brand new (69 nine year old) lathe.

How good is hobby machining? If I didn’t love it I’d sell the lot to that boof-head who was willing to drive from Melbourne to Brisbane to buy the lathe from the bloke I bought it from!

NSWR D50 Progress

Recent progress on my current modelling project has been held up due to a fairly busy patch in my life with lots of things happening all within the space of a few months. I’ve also been carrying out some long overdue DIY home improvements that have eaten up most of my free time. Over the past few days I’ve been working on some machining tasks on my milling machine and lathe and working to get these done in preparation for carrying out a few tasks on the my current locomotive project (the Century Models NSWR D50 kit available from ModelOKits when in stock) and an upcoming modelling project that’s in the pipeline. This project will involve scratch building two locomotives and as such I’ve been working on getting some machining fixtures installed on my metal work machines and getting the Myford lathe up and running so it can be used to get a few jobs done that I know I’ll need to carry out as I work through the project.

However, this morning I decided I didn’t feel like struggling with my crummy Seig X2 mill as it wobbled about having a heart attack as I try to get it to come at milling some mild steel and instead went into the modelling room and applied a couple of details to the D50s tender. The accompanying photos show how far along I’ve got with this.

The tender is coming along but taking a close look at the photos I took this morning do show up what I would describe as the flaws in the parts that I will need to address. The holes left by air bubbles in the resin casting and holes in the oil boxes I caused as I drilled them out for the brass bearings will all have to be filled and filed prior to painting. In spite of this the model is starting to look more like a tender.
It may just be my imagination but the tender does seem to be riding high and this photo seems to emphasize this. I’m going to do some checking before I go much further to see if this is the case or whether it’s just an optical illusion.
The handrails at the front edges of the tender aren’t yet attached permanently because I’ve arranged things to allow the body and the chassis to be separated to provide access to the inside where some electronics will be housed. I haven’t yet decided whether glue will be applied to the bracket at the top or to the bottoms of the rails but they will need to be straightened up a bit before I come to a final decision.

One of the jobs I want to carry out on the Myford lathe is to do some turning of the buffer castings that come with the kit. I’ve put a lot of these castings together and getting them to operate smoothly is very reliant on whether you’ve been able to drill out the cast holes central to the casting and how parallel and true the buffer shanks are. They certainly can be made to work with hand tools like files and taper broaches but I feel this job would be made so much easier if I could just come up with a way to hold the parts in the lathe securely. I’ve come up with a plan to do this, work holding is always the major issue in lathe and mill work, but implementing it has turned out to be quite costly and time consuming. Anyway I’ll provide some details of the outcome of these efforts if, and when, I manage to actually get the parts I need to implement it.

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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 andย  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.ย 

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?” ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ™‚