Muswellbrook V3.2

It seems as if the elements are against me and everyone else this year. We’ve suffered another round of heavy rainfall over the past couple of days and it’s a long weekend! πŸ™‚ However I stand on the battlements and laugh in the rain’s general direction because my shed has a new roof and as such (fingers crossed) my equipment is safe and dry inside, including lots of train gear.

As I can’t really do much actual modelling or construction until the room is completed, I’ve been noodling about with a layout plan using the interim measurements I’ve taken after the work so far and I’m reasonably happy with the way things look. It’s nowhere near as complicated or ambitious as the previous version however I’ve managed to shoehorn in a mainline yard, some off-scene storage, a full mixed branch line and a colliery siding. I just need to find some room for the Muswellbrook Oak dairy siding and possibly move the Wheat siding to the other end of the yard in Merriwa and I’ll be done.

I’ve put some more work into this plan and abandoned the idea of making the branch a coal only line. Making the Merriwa line a fully functioning, mixed branch is much more in keeping with my interests. I like the idea of mixing coal and wheat on the same layout and there aren’t too many places other than Muswellbrook in NSW where this happens. However I need the Merriwa line to achieve this.

A couple of friends agreed to come by and visit yesterday and I showed them both the previous plan and the work on the room so far. We sat and drank tea and coffee, looked at some models and poked around the upstairs area of my layout room, taking measurements and talking plans. As you do πŸ™‚ There are many “lone wolf” modellers in the world I imagine but I can’t say I number myself among them: I tend to build my layouts on my own but I need to run ideas past other modellers and hear what they have to say about my schemes. For the cost of a few cups of tea and coffee and some biscuits I got to run my ideas past two people whose opinions I respect. They didn’t so much come up with new ideas, more confirmed what I’d already been thinking. I need a circle of track to run some of the big locos I have plans to build and I need a mixed branch. Everything else should hang off these two “must-haves”.

In a sense the branch is really where my interests lie; the mainline yard, 75′ turntable and colliery siding are really just there to take my modelling over the past 17 years a step beyond Morpeth where I’ve really just been modelling the branch but never had this connect with the outside world. I suppose you can call a fiddle yard the outside world but in this next layout I want to model a 3D part of it. Hence the need for Muswellbrook. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the long run, I spend most of my time running a mixed goods up the branch, shuffling a few wagons about the yard and then running the train back down the line to Muswellbrook. Now that’s my idea of a fun! πŸ™‚ I’ll probably only run trains on the main when friends drop by and if I decide to start running operating sessions. Something I haven’t had the opportunity to do for many years.

We’ll have to wait and see how that goes…


Progress Shot

The framing for the knee walls is in place but the job is far from complete. Electrician is coming tomorrow so the lights will be removed. I doubt I’ll be able to get any clear shots of the work after that as it’s gloomy enough already and 30 second exposures are straining the limits of my camera.

This photo gives a better sense of the planes that will be formed by the plaster board once it’s installed. I’ve asked the builder to install a small door on both sides of the room to allow access after the work is complete to the long space behind these walls. More for access reasons than for any practical need for more storage or to access trains.

I was originally looking at doing this work myself and while I feel I could match the builders quality of work I think the comparison has convinced me that getting even this far would have meant the job stretching on into the never-never. I roughly estimate that if I spent every free weekend on this job it would have taken me at least 6 months to progress this far. The danger would have been hat the work would have ground to a halt and I know from experience that getting a builder to pick up a half-finished job is very difficult.

Movement At Last!

It’s been something close to ten months since I first attended an open house to view my new home on a beautiful Spring day last August. I loved the house from the moment I saw it but what really caught my eye was a huge 9mX9m colourbond steel shed in the corner of the yard: double storey no less! Dirty saws and lathes downstairs, trains upstairs. The calculus made perfect sense, well at least to a train modeller πŸ™‚ After the longest negotiation I’ve ever been through to finally settle on the house (I must admit to withdrawing the offer at one point so it wasn’t just the previous owners and my bank stuffing things about) I moved in about three months ago and immediately started what has seemed like a never-ending round of work on and around the house. OMG I’m sick of tradies! However today the builders arrived to start work lining the upstairs train room with plaster board and to repair and replace the roof on one side where it had a leak. In the morning I could have hugged them, although the air was very blue this afternoon when I discovered one of them had driven his car on my brand new turf! 😦

It being day one of probably four or five days work, the progress inside the room is not that far along but as is usually the way with builders and trades people, they managed to make a mess. The roof however is done so gone is the leak! πŸ™‚ The curtains you can see behind the new work were masking four large skylights that used to sit in the ceiling on this side of the room. The seal around one of these is the area I have assumed was the cause of the leak so they all four were removed and I’ve had the whole roof sheeting replaced. I’m not exactly sure why the owner would go to the expense of installing what looked to be quite expensive skylights and then have them covered by curtains, blocking out almost all the light they brought into the room but that’s not an issue for me. I want the room sealed, water tight and I intend the lighting to be provided by the layout’s lights. I’d have probably had them removed even if one of them wasn’t leaking.

I got home a little early this afternoon and the builders were still in the shed making a heck of a racket. The major issues I want to address in getting this work done is that the unlined room needs to be insulated and I really wanted the walls smooth and able to be painted. The structure is held aloft by three large, and very ugly, lattice beams that run the entire length of the room: one at either end and one right down the middle of the room. Any layout I was ever going to build in this space was going to have this whacking great lattice beam intruding into the scenery. So the builder and I spent a good deal of time discussing how he might bring the ceiling down into the room sufficiently so that these would effectively disappear behind the plaster board. You can see what he’s done to get this to happen in the above photo. The blue channel that the plaster boards will be attached to has been secured to some wooden beams he’s added at intermediate points along the length of the room.

As you can see from the photo the roof of this building is a barn style and as such it intrudes into the space in a most model-train-unfriendly fashion. If you look at the above photo the length of timber on the floor just beyond the short ladder marks the line where the plasterboard will intersect with the floor. So before I’ve even started I’ve lost 900mm of my lovely floor area because I don’t plan on building my layout 600mm from the floor.

I’ve labelled this photo to give you some idea of what I’ll be dealing with in building a layout in this room. Imagine the thick read line that is not an arrow as the line where the plasterboard will run.

In spite of the knee walls already intruding into the space by 900mm I still can’t build a layout hard up against the wall that s formed because it’s only 1.1m from floor to ceiling at this point. I estimate that 1.5m is what I would ideally need for a layout with the track height about 1.1m from the floor and with a (vertical) backdrop behind this of about 300mm. The ceiling doesn’t reach a height of 1.4m untill you move a good 400mm or so further out from the wall. Does this matter in such a large room? Well this blog is isn’t called Morpeth in O-scale for nothing. With minimum radius curves needing to be about 1.8m my available 8.5mX7.5m space is quickly shrinking to the point where I can’t get the sort of layout I was planning into it. Does this matter? No because whatever space I have available I’ll design a layout to suit, however it would have been nice to have a bit more room. And yes I already have a plan drawn up for this new, more modest space but it’s all very much a draft and I’m not yet ready to publish it here. One of the decisions I need to make is whether I want a coal branch or a mixed goods branch. This second option would be a normal branch that ran to a town like the one on the Merriwa branch. What’s exercising my mind at the moment is that I don’t have the space for such a branch if I want the yard for the town straight. I don’t know of many stations in NSW which had a curved station platform. Even those I can think of (East Maitland on the Morpeth line and Condobolin on the main western) curved gently. The curve I would need to introduce to fit this in would be anything but gentle. I’ll come back to that in a later post when I’ve made some decisions.

Meanwhile back at Morpeth pier…

I built the pier at Morpeth without a set of plans so just about all the work carried out so far has been from a set of measurements I took of the pier at Coffs Harbour combined with guesstimates. One measurement I overlooked the need for was of the height of the pylons that sit in a row down the side of the structure. I have a prototype photo showing these at about waist height… this is what checking this dimension looks like πŸ™‚


Neither Drought Nor Flooding Rains…

On an evening when I can hear rain pouring down outside, my landscaper has finally put my yard back together after it almost washed away a few weeks ago and when I’ve been on the phone to a builder about coming to fix the leak in the roof of my train room I thought it appropriate to post that I’ve finally managed to do a little modelling over the past week. My modelling’s been affected a lot more by flooding rains than droughts over the past couple of months but I wouldn’t put anything past the weather at the moment ! πŸ™‚

You’ll have to take my word for it that this little Ixion loco ran out to the end of the pier under its own power. And it can get back too!

The amusing part about picking up my modelling threads after a break for a house move and a few big weeks at work is that I started at exactly the same point I’d left off. I got the pier’s deck glued down a couple of weeks ago and I’ve gradually been laying rails out to the end of the pier. To be honest this photo is a little misleading in that I’ve only spiked down the rails on the far length of track. the two rails at the front are just sitting there waiting to be fastened permanently. I’ll get to that when I get sick of watching the Hudswell Clarke runningΒ  the 6′ out to the end of the pier and back πŸ™‚

Back To It

After a fairly drawn out process of moving house I’ve managed to spend a couple of hours modelling for the first time in about six weeks. I’ve moved into a larger place and have options that weren’t available in my previous home however for the time being I’ve decided to use one of the spare bedrooms as a modelling space. A leaking roof into an unlined space in my new shed has put paid to any thought I may have had of setting up a modelling space there (see my last post).

This spare bedroom provides me with a modelling space that is very similar to the one in my previous home. The difference being hardwood floors rather than carpet and slightly more floor space.

The one great advantage of a modelling room inside the house is that it provides a comfortable, clean, dry and climate controlled space that keeps one in touch with the rest of the household and doesn’t require a trip across the garden to reach. The downside for me is that every time I need to access a tool that’s too messy to have inside the house I need to make a trip across the garden. Unlike my previous home the new place doesn’t have an attached garage.

After a lot of time spent over the past few weeks settling things in place, putting up new shelves, coping with being flooded in for three days with no power and starting to sort out my new workshop (my new shed has a large workshop space for my tools and woodworking/metalworking machines) I decided it was time to start doing a little modelling. So it will come as no surprise that I picked up exactly where left off a couple of months ago and commenced doing the final assembly of the main pier structure. Because the piers legs are already glued in place on the surface of the “water” and the top is a separate component, I needed to settle on a way of securing these two elements together while allowing me to run wire invisibly from the rails that will sit on the pier’s surface down below the water. I had to run the wires prior to the top surface being secured in place because there isn’t enough room under the structure to get my hand in to poke wires around. After thinking through all sorts of schemes for attaching the top to the legs I decided to glue it in place with PVA and run the wires down behind an upright timber leg. With the wires in place, the rails attached to these loosely sitting on top and the glue dabbed in strategic spots I positioned the top and piled on some weights to keep it all in place while the glue cures.

I find it fascinating that you can never find enough weight for the tasks you need at the critical moment. I’ve pressed into service my wood plane, a box of toy cars, my first scratch built locomotive in its wooden carry case and a range of other heavy objects to ensure that the top of the pier is held to the legs while the glue sets up.

The glue will be given overnight to set and tomorrow night I’ll start laying the rail direct to the pier’s wooden surface. Later I’ll come along and install wooden piers along the sides of the main structure. Through these I’ll drill small horizontal holes into which I’ll insert short lengths of brass wire to physically hold the pier’s surface in place. The glue will probably be sufficient to hold everything in place but I like a physical method of securing things in addition to glue.

After I had the weights in place the house’s new resident came in and made her presence felt by deciding my wiring would make a good game.

Madeline is already making decisions about what parts of my hobby are interesting. Until today the top of the layout module seemed to be a fairly attractive place to explore but tonight the wires underneath attracted her attention.


Debbie Does Morpeth

Well I’ve had an interesting 48 hours. After tropical Cyclone Debbie got through with the mid north coast of Queensland she decided to make a show of leaving by dumping almost 400mm (about 16″) of rain on the north coast of NSW and SE Qld in 24 hours. I’ve lived in parts of NSW where the farmers would be extremely happy if 400mm of rain was their annual rainfall total! πŸ™‚ Murwillumbah got all of this rain and then some. I’ve been flooded in at home for the past 12 hours with no power and my work has been shut since yesterday morning. I wasn’t able to reach my school yesterday morning before we closed it and seven of my staff who did make it got trapped in town overnight.

In a rather surreal incident my electrician turned up in the middle of the downpour yesterday to put some work into installing lights in my new train room. He came back to the house to say that some boxes were sitting in water on the bottom level and that the upper floor had a leak. I already knew about the leaking roof and was consulting a builder just the other day to talk about getting it fixed and lining my train room. Ironically he said that it would be good to see the leak during rain to see where it’s coming from. I rang and asked him yesterday whether 400mm was enough rain to carry out this task! πŸ™‚

Of course the “boxes” sitting in water were train items. Nothing very valuable but even track and scenery needs to be dry. After a lot of rushing about and swearing I got everything off the floor and then took a look upstairs to see what water was getting in.

Sorry about the rotten quality of this photo but with no artificial light and only my phone to take the photo with and I was struggling to get a clear shot. This shows the puddle of water upstairs in the new “train” room. No trains yet, just a realistic water feature.

There was about 2 buckets of water sitting in a couple of big puddles on the wooden flooring so I got stuck in this morning and mopped it up. i know it was about 2 buckets because that’s how many buckets of water I threw onto the already soaked garden after I’d finished.

There’s a large sliding glass door on this level of the shed and it has a beautiful view across the sugar cane fields that surround Murwillumbah.

This photo shows the view from my train room over the cane fields. That island you can see is just a hill rising from normally dry fields.

I’ve just been told by the power company that there’s a good chance that they’ll have to turn the power off again as there are some residents who have their power meters close to the flood waters so the adventure isn’t over yet!

Hull Test

This past week I was away from home four of last six nights so modelling time was restricted so the progress I’ve made has been startling considering this restriction. When I got some time at the workbench I started on the jig to make the piers of Morpeth’s jetty. The pier is actually in two parts:

  • The first part is a short curved length of single track which leads out from dry land onto the section jutting into the Hunter River. I modelled this section after a real pier that existed at Queens Wharf approximately a hundred years ago. This was used to load coal onto river barges but doesn’t seem to have survived much beyond the 1920s.
  • The second section of the pier is a wider, flat platform that loosely mimics the ocean jetty at Coffs Harbour and, to a lesser extent, the one at Byron Bay a bit further up the coast. Ironically I spent two of my nights away at Coffs Harbour at a conference. I could see the real jetty through the window of my motel room. This section of the jetty is 200mm wide and is made up of a 4mm thick piece of ply wood (nothing special here, I bought this at Bunnings a big local hardware chain) wrapped in a layer of Mt Albert strip wood. This platform is held about 2 1/2″ from the surface of the “water” through the use of nine strip-wood piers that I made using a styrene jig. This jig was larger than the one I posted a few weeks ago that I used to make the legs of the curved section of the jetty.
After something like 5 years I finally got to see the hull of the ship I plan to build for this part of the layout sitting adjacent to the pier I've been working on for the last few weeks. I'm chuffed :-)

After something like 5 years I finally got to see the hull of the ship I plan to build for this part of the layout sitting adjacent to the pier I’ve been working on for the last few weeks. I’m chuffed πŸ™‚

The jig went together remarkably quickly and I got stuck into making the piers yesterday. I only made one jig so each pier had to be assembled and glued one at a time. I had to wait around an hour before the glue had set up sufficiently to allow me to prise the pier from the jig: 9 piers X 9 hours = a lot of waiting around. Most of the waiting was for the glue to dry but with a bit of persistence I got all nine piers assembled over a period of about 18 hours (a big chunk of that was sleeping last night) πŸ™‚

While doing all this waiting I managed to listen to the entire second series of the podcast Serial, an offshoot of This American Life, a radio program I highly recommend. Go listen, they both make great modelling companions. I subscribe to both programs via iTunes.

I got the last of the nine piers glued up this morning and then started inserting “pins” into the two outer legs of each pier. Each pier has five legs (approimately 65mm long pieces of 12″x12″ scale timber) but I only pin two to allow the whole assembly to be securly held in place. The pins are 1/2″ 10BA brass blots I screw into the base of the legs the heads of which I snip off to allow the application of a small brass nut from the underside of the water once each pier is in position. I drew a few pencil lines on the surface of my water to position everything in their correct locations and then marked the position of the bolts in relation to the legs on each pier. I drilled two holes through the water, applied some glue to the end of the legs and pushed each pier into position. I then secured each pier by screwing on the two nuts. I also checked each pier was square to the surface of the “water” with a machinists sqare as the glue set up.

At the time of writing I have all nine piers glued and bolted into position and I’ve laid the wooden ply surface of the pier on top of these to check height and position. The next step will be to run some wiring up to the wooden surface of the pier to allow for power to the rails and possibly some lighting fixtures to make the pier look like it’s “populated”. After that I’ll secure the deck to the piers with some glue and brass bolts (these will be quite a bit larger than the 10BA ones I used to hold the piers in place) and then lay some rail.

None of the items above the level of the wooden piers is secured in this photo but having Pioneer on the wooden deck of the jetty gives you a sense of the scale of the ship model.

None of the items above the level of the wooden piers is secured in this photo but having Pioneer on the deck of the jetty gives you a sense of the scale of the ship model.