Not Watching Paint Dry

I’ve been on a break from work for the past two weeks. At a social gathering with my staff on the final Friday work afternoon we were talking about what we were going to be doing over the break to which I replied “painting my train room”. They all laugh at my eccentric hobby but they were also well aware that I was dead serious. I planned on painting my newly lined train room. I had thoughts that I’d knock the job over by Friday of the first week and then I could spend some time doing some other jobs around the house and possibly even make a small start on building the layout.

HA! That plan crumbled to ashes when I came to realise just how many hectares of wall board it took to line the room, of which each and every square cm needed to be painted. So it will come as no surprise if I reveal that while the painting of the room is now complete I made the last brush stroke at 6.30pm this evening (that’s the Sunday evening before I go back to work).

This just a quick shot of the completed paint job taken on my phone. I didn’t have the strength to walk into the house and get my camera! 🙂

The electrician came on Thursday and installed the lights and power outlets and some vinyl flooring is going down next Wednesday.

So as the job of painting the room was complete and will be layout ready within the next two weeks after final fit out, I decided that it was time to get the plan out and take a hard look at what I wanted to actually build.

This is getting close to the final plan. I have some tests to carry out on the curve radii to ensure that the locos I want to operate will navigate the curves but this plan incorporates almost all the changes I feel that I needed to make.

This version of the plan (V3.7) incorporates most of the changes I’ve been thinking about during the seemingly endless hours of painting. I’ve widened the aisle between the Shell depot and the Oak Dairy benchwork, I’ve moved the 75′ TT away from the door to provide a bit more clearance on entry and better reflect the arrangement at the real Muswellbrook but most importantly I’ve lengthened the yard at Muswellbrook. The main line loop has gone from just over 2.6m to just under 4m. This had been on the cards for a while but a friend paid me a visit on Friday and when he told me that a 2.5m long loop would only allow for a train that had 10 S wagons (with loco and van) I decided to bite the bullet and make the change. In drawing these changes I was forced to rethink the arrangement of the turntable and the approach line to this. I’ve lost the double approach to the table but shifting this further back toward the yard in this switch back arrangement mimics the arrangement of the engine facility at Muswellbrook. I’ve also penciled in a Garratt turntable arrangement here which mimics the Garratt triangle located on this line. This won’t have scenery but it will serve the dual purposes of acting as a shunting neck for locos accessing the table and will also allow for the turning of a Garratt. This is all a bit speculative but it would be nice to be able to represent the way an empty train would have arrived at Muswellbrook yard headed by an AD60 and while coal was being loaded the Garratt would have been turned and coaled on the triangle ready to haul the loaded train back down the Hunter Valley.

You might also note in the info box at the bottom left hand corner that the grade is now included (at 2%, providing me with 50mm more clearance over the storage roads from the last plan) and that the min radius has gone down to 1727mm. This is to accommodate the inner radius of curved Peco points. There’s not much point in saying the minimum radius of the layout curves are 1.8m when the radius on 5 of the points is 1.727m. So my use of Peco points is having a knock on effect to the rest of the plan. Hence the need for some tests I plan to carry out in the next couple of weeks to make sure the locos I want to run on this layout will negotiate these tighter than expected curves.

Muswellbrook V3.6

A slight revision of the previous plan was called for after I spent some time in the train room today taking measurements and thinking about possibilities.

While I didn’t do any modelling today I did spend some time thinking about my layout plan and decided to take a trip upstairs, check some measurements and test out an idea I’d had. All the changes in this plan are at the top of the page which is a spot in the room adjacent to a large, sliding glass door that sits high above the driveway I’ve recently had laid. This door will eventually have a vertical blind installed in front of it to allow me to control some of the light coming into the room, however it sits within a two-step recess within the wall. My original plan didn’t include the first of these steps s useable floor space because I wasn’t sure what would eventually happen at this spot. After the wall board went up it turns out there’s a convenient, shallow recess available for the layout to utilize.

The plan I posted yesterday had one major absence as far as I was concerned and that was the dual rail bridges that span the New England Hwy at the northern end of Muswellbrook rail yard. Both the Merriwa branch and the main line cross the highway at this point on twin adjacent bridges. While being able to reproduce the exact track plan for Muswellbrook would be nice, for me the most important aspect of getting the feel of a place into a layout is to reproduce the signature scenic elements of the location you’re modelling. In Muswellbrook these are the distinctive Art Deco Oak Dairy, the turntable/ roundhouse and the rail bridges that cross the road. The station building is a standard NSWR design that has had a rather large, ugly brick addition added at some point in its life and so for me getting this exactly right is less important. V3.5 of the plan had the Oak dairy in a spot that should have been reserved for the bridges but if it’s a choice between a purely scenic feature like a bridge and one that produces rail traffic I’ll chose to model the rail-side industry. It takes very little to prompt me to include a bridge on a layout but for me rail traffic trumps scenery every time. Another problem was that I had the dairy sitting on the branch rather than the main which is different to the prototype. However from a traffic perspective this was a minor matter. The fact that I’ve had to make the turnout to the dairy a facing point rather than a trailing one is going to make the siding a pain to shunt but I don’t want to let my operators off too lightly 🙂

What I’ve done with this plan is to add the shallow alcove next to the sliding glass door which is a space approximately 200mm deep and 2 1/2 meters long. Bulging the branch into this space has opened up a gap between the branch and main lines allowing me to cram in the dairy building and thus freeing up the curve out of Muswellbrook yard for the bridges. In carrying out these changes and checking measurements I discovered a mistake in the dimensions of the room in the previous plans that I’ve now fixed. I’d had the room as slightly longer and narrower than it actually is. This was less than 200mm but from past experience I’ve discovered that a dimensional inaccuracy as small as 50mm can cause major headaches if you’re trying to take advantage of every square centimeter.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this photo before but it gives you a good sense of what I want to build at the northern end of the yard. The main crosses the New England Hwy on the further of these two bridges with the old Merriwa line closer to the camera. Both are still in operation but the Merriwa line is truncated and used to access a coal mine near Muswellbrook. How could I resist modelling something as gloriously brutal as these bridges?



Trev’s Trains

At the end of 2016 I was relocated at work which allowed me to move back home and commence some planning and preparation for my home layout: the one I’d always wanted to build but never been able to as I was required to move every five years or so. In the lead up to the end of my time at that school I must have mentioned to one of the teachers that I was going to get a sign made up for the door of my new train room and it was going to read “Trev’s Trains”. I’d climb the stairs, shut the door and only come down again when I’d had too much of running my trains. At the dinner held to farewell me one of my wonderful staff gave me a gift that now hangs on the door of the train room. It seems as if the teachers at the schools where I’ve worked sometimes do listen to what I say 🙂

I decided to install the sign quite a while prior to the room being ready for trains.

Work on lining the train room has happened in fits and starts over the past two weeks but the process is drawing to a conclusion. When complete I should have an unpainted room that finally has the leak in the roof fixed (we’re pretty sure we’ve solved the problem this time), lit by six flourescent light fixtures. I have to get some blinds measured and fitted and I’m considering whether to have vinyl flooring installed, but generally speaking the main job for me will be painting the interior. After this all I really have left to get done is to have the lights and power outlets installed by an electrician. I’d guess about four weeks should see all that complete. When the weather starts warming up I’ll see whether I need an airconditioner installed. My guess would be that it will need one but I’m prepared to wait.

The plasterboard is probably one day’s work away from completion. Once that’s done the builder will come back and install skirting and two access hatches in the low, vertical walls.

While it was sunny outside, and as the plasterer hadn’t turned up, I decided to head upstairs and take a few photos of progress on the room. It was certainly apparent to me that the volume of space available for trains was less than I’d started with, but even without paint and no lights fitted it was amazing how much brighter the room was. It was also still cool up there in spite of the fact that I could feel the heat of the sun coming off the sheet metal as I climbed the stairs.

This is a fairly crummy early photo I took of the room on my phone but it gives you an idea of the dramatic change brought about by the plasterboard.

As I was going up there to take photos anyway I also took a set of layout legs that were leaning against the wall downstairs. I’d used these legs on my aborted attempt to set Morpeth and Queens Wharf up as a home layout about three years ago in a previous home.

These legs are 1.2 (4′) tall. If the top cross beam was to be used as a datum line for the height of the benchwork you can clearly see my problem. We haven’t even started to add the thickness of the benchwork modules and track yet and I’ve already touched the sloping sky.

The photo above clearly demonstrates my problem with layout height along this part of the room and it gets worse on the other side of the room because the line for the branch has to climb above the rail height on this side as it struggles to clear the storage sidings. And this is before I start to contemplate the fact that the rear leg doesn’t even touch the wall at this point. I suppose at least I don’t have a dirty great lattice beam slicing through the scene as would have been the case if I’d allowed the builder to push the ceiling further back toward the roof. The conclusion that I’m going to have to lower the layout by about 200mm (8″) (if not more) from this height is quickly becoming a foregone one.

This is the most recent version of the Muswellbrook layout plan. I’ve had to put a lot of new work into this plan and it’s all Ray Pilgrim’s fault! 🙂

With some salutary lessons being taught as the room’s lining has progressed I’ve put some more work into the layout plan. You’ll notice that it now sports some pretty colours and the branch’s minimum radius is now 1.35m rather than the previous 1.5m. This change has occurred to allow me to squeeze in a flour mill and petroleum siding to give the branch a more diversified traffic pattern. It may not be terribly apparent but my primary interest is branch line running and this layout is really just a short length of mainline that has a branch line running off it. The plan has essentially been an exercise in attempting to get away with as little mainline as possible and shoehorn in as much branch as possible. There was no flour mill at Merriwa and certainly not one with a petroleum siding conveniently located a small distance down the line, but there is just this arrangement in the midwest town of Grenfell.

This is a snip of the track arrangement of Grenfell. I snapped a few photos of the flour mill at Grenfell many years ago as I was driving through town in the late 90s. What hadn’t been apparent to me at the time was that the siding extended beyond the mill buildings and also served a petroleum outlet. What more could I ask for?

There were a couple of oil sidings at Merriwa but I was having a bit of a struggle fitting them in. I also had on my mind that there was a lot of unused floor space in the middle of the room where I could fit a nice big industry as long as I could find one that suited the location. Merriwa is four and a half hours drive from Grenfell but both are wheat towns and including this industry allows me to achieve all the aims I had for the end of the branch in a prototypical arrangement.

This photo shows the appeal of the mill at the end of Grenfell’s rail yard and it is typical of many that were dotted around the state in NSW towns like Gunnedah and Gilgandra. The fact that all these towns start with G is purely coincidental (I think) 🙂

After much thinking and cogitating I decided I really needed to check whether Ray Pilgrim’s fear (posted in a comment on the blog) that I didn’t have enough space for the branch to clear the storage sidings was well founded or not. I was well aware that it was going to be a close run thing but I am ever the optimist. I tend to favour grades of not much more than 1 in 100 (1%) which means a 1cm rise for every meter of travel. I like this grade because it’s simple, being based on tens so even my mathematically challenged brain can handle it. I’d worked out that there needed to be a minimum of 150mm (6″) clearance at the spot where the wheat silo is located. This allows 150mm of clearance between the rail head of the storage sidings and the top of the benchwork above. This would allow 110mm for the track and trains to clear the underside of the benchwork and 40mm for the roadbed and associated benchwork. Turns out Ray was right to be skeptical: there was very little chance of the line gaining sufficient height using a 1% grade. So I tested a 1.5% grade and the line does just clear the storage roads. I could probably push things a little harder with something like a 1.7% grade on the branch and I could even give the storage sidings a slight grade to help things along but I believe there is sufficient room (just).

Right on cue a couple of PECO curved turnouts I’d ordered from the UK turned up in the mail today. I unpacked them to take a look and I have to admit to being impressed in spite of my reservations about whether they will be a blot on my NSW railway landscape. They’re well made and nowhere near as ugly as the O-gauge points of old I’ve seen. They’re not a very close match to anything being used in NSW either but think of the hundreds of layouts built in Australia using the OO/HO equivalent and I don’t remember hearing too many adverse comments from people who have actually built layouts. As opposed to those of a more pure, theoretical bent who are quick to criticise the efforts of others without ever sullying the railway scene with a layout of their own. I can make and lay my own track, I’ve done so on my last two layouts. However both of these layouts only required about 5 or 6 turnouts: Muswellbrook needs about 25 on the scenic portion of the layout. I estimate about 4-5 hours work will be required for each point if I hand build them and that’s just for the plain #6 type. When it comes to the fancy curved variety that are needed for this layout the time to build one will probably double. That means about 150 hours to make the points required, add to this the track and you start to see why I’m contemplating using PECO turnouts.

Muswellbrook V3.4

While the rain we’ve had over the past couple of days doesn’t equal the downpour of late March in intensity or quantity, it did bucket down and it turns out the leak hasn’t been fixed after all. So I exchanged a few terse text messages with my builder and he’s going to get up on the roof with a hose and find out where the water’s getting in before any more work happens inside. I’m laughing on the other side of my face at the moment.

But with true Aussie stoicism I stayed warm and indoors today and noodled around some more with my track plan. If you can’t build at least you can dream…

This is V3.4 because there was a version in between that didn’t redraw almost the entire main line. It doesn’t look too different from V3.2 but there’s a lot of work in this version that isn’t apparent at first glance. I’ve shifted the wheat silo closer to the main line and cram in the Oak Dairy. I’ve also managed to use only one double slip on this plan which is a change from the earlier versions of the plan when I thought I had more space. I seem to remember there were three double slips on that plan.

The reason behind this most recent draft of the plan is that I wanted to see if I could avoid spending the next three years hand building switches by utilizing Peco curved switches. There are 4 curved switches in this plan (3R & 1L) and my intention had been to download Templot, draw out some templates for these (the outside radius of these was to be 2400mm with the inside radius to be set at my minimum radius of 1800mm). The dimensions of the Peco switches is 3098mm and 1727mm respectively so I couldn’t just drop these points into my previous plan to see if they would fit. I had to remove the track on all the approaches to the yard and redraw all the curves. While I was at it I redrew the main yard and just to add spice I added two extra lines to the storage roads.

The downsides (there are more than one) of using Peco switches, both standard and curved, is that they look very unlike anything on the prototype I model, the gap in the crossing is overly long and that FS wheels drop into as they cross, the sleepers require some work to make them look like wood and they’re expensive. However they’re well made, reliable and will allow me to have trains running in 2017, as opposed to 2027 and I have quite a few stored in a cupboard in my shed. There are approximately 24 switches on the scenic portion of the layout, making a total of 34 if you include the ones on the storage roads (although I have never had any intention of hand-making the switches for the storage roads hence the supply Peco points on hand to to lay these out). I’ve hand-built plenty of switches over the years and as such I have a pretty fair idea how long it will take and the number of hours of back aching work it will require to make that many, before you add in hand laying all the plain track. In spite of the expense I’m finding it very hard to resist the temptation to use Peco points on the layout. I’ve ordered two curved points so I can take a look at them, make an assessment and make some informed decisions. Hopefully this will be more accurate than my assessment that the leak was fixed! 🙂

If I go with Peco switches it may be that I limit these to use on the main line with the plain track being made up of ME code 125 flex track. I may end up hand making the 11 switches for the branch and I’m toying with idea of using code 100 for this. ME produce code 100 flex track to match so I can avoid having to hand lay all the plain track even if I do make the switches. I’ve deliberately avoided using curved switches on the branch.

Ship Ahoy!

In spite of having a perfectly good modelling project to be getting on with I have a habit of trying to stay a step ahead of the game in terms of where my larger layout project is heading. So I took some time away from the modelling bench tonight to do some rearranging of the modules in the spare bedroom I use as a modelling space. I wanted to set up the third scenic module and the “river” module so I can work on them together. The difficulty is that the room is quite small and these two modules sit at right angles to each other so toghether they have an interesting footprint.

I’d been pondering how I was going to fit both modules together inside the house for a couple of weeks as I was working on the J Parker & Sons scene and it came to me the other night that they could be squeezed in if I shifted the scenic module around by 90 degrees and ran the flat “river” module along the wall where the module I’m working on at any one time normally sits.

After a bit of huffing and puffing and propping up at one end I managed to get both modules into my modelling room and bolted together.

After a bit of huffing and puffing and propping up at one end I managed to get both modules into my modelling room and bolted together.

I had to shift various large boxes, no less than two O-scale turntables and some photographic lighting out of the room to get both modules in but I managed it in the end. I couldn’t resist getting the ship model out of storage and plonking it down on the “river” module. It doesn’t look quite as large as I was expecting but I have a feeling this impression will recede once I commence work on the pier and start to lay in the ship’s deck and cabins. I’ve been waiting for about 5 years to build this model with a steadily rising sense of anticipation. I have a lot of prep work to do on the “water’s” surface before I can make a start on the ship and pier. I still haven’t settled on what I’m going to use to make the water but it’s unlikely to be a poured liquid. I’ll fill and sand the surface and then do some test pieces of river before I paint the surface and dollop on one of the many water products available. I’ve long hankered to make the ship model gently rock with the action of the water but I’m still considering whether this is feasible. I can certainly make the ship move up and down gently using a cam and motor system, the hard bit is going to be disguising the edge of the hole the ship will need to rock up and down in. That’s another pondering project.

This shot gives you a better idea of the way the pier, water and land approach interact. I need to cut the curved ply roadbed at the module break and build the scenery up around it so that it looks natural.

This shot gives you a better idea of the way the pier, water and land approach interact. I need to cut the curved ply roadbed at the module break and build the scenery up around it so that it looks natural. I need to cut three pieces of support timber very accurately to hold this roadbed at a constant height and the mitre saw I need to do this with is an hour and a half away at my partner’s home. I’m working on the logistics of getting it over to my place…

As you can see in the background, the mill is nowhere near being finished but it’s a relatively simple project compared to some of my previous buildings. As a plain sided, rendered building all it needs is some details and the application of a layer of plain white DAS. After that it needs colouring, a roof and some scenery around it. Also it only needs to be detailed on two sides as I won’t bother with covering the sides that are facing away from the viewer with DAS. It will still probably take me a month to complete but it’s simple treatment is the reason I decided to make a move on shifting the river module into my modelling room tonight. Before I know it I’ll be laying in a deck and painting the hull with anti-fouling paint.

Avast ye landlubbers and other nautical terms I leant watching old B&W Hollywood movies 🙂

A Critical Decision

Over the past 5 years, as I’ve worked on my current layout Morpeth, I’ve had one scenic element in mind as the item I most wanted to include. This was the wooden pier that jutted into the Hunter River at Queens Wharf, about a kilometre back up the line from Morpeth. What attracted me to Morpeth as a modelling theme is a complicated topic and I’ve covered some of those reasons here, in the pages of 7th Heaven (the quarterly magazine of the Aus7 Modellers Group) and in my column In the Loop in the Australian Model Railway Magazine. While the reasons for choosing this line to model may be complicated, one very large part of it came down to the pier and the opportunity to model a ship and the land/sea interchange that once existed at Morpeth.

The wooden coal staith at Morpeth was well and truly gone by the 1940-50s period I model, but I don’t really mind this: I have a fully paid up modellers license and I can model what I like.

This is the only picture I'm aware exists of the coal staith that used to stand at Queens Wharf. You can just see the level crossing bisecting the rail line in the lower left corner. The white gate is a railway gate. It is this structure that I aim to imagineer on my layout of Morpeth.

This is the only picture I’m aware exists of the coal staith that used to stand at Queens Wharf. You can just see the level crossing bisecting the rail line in the lower left corner. The white gate is a railway gate. It is this structure that I aim to imagineer on my layout of Morpeth.

Now I’ve never been shy about shifting things about on my two layouts of the Morpeth line but I must admit to taking a great many liberties in relocating the pier I’m going to model from Queens Wharf about a kilometre up the line to within the confines of Morpeth itself.

This map scanned from the pages of Byways of Steam and having appeared in an early issue of The ARHS Bulletin magazine shows where the original coal staith existed on the prototype and where I've shifted in (approximately) on my layout. the rd box approximates the part of Morpeth I'm modelling and the curve of the pier I'll be modelling in red.

This map, scanned from the pages of Byways of Steam 14 and having appeared in an early issue of The ARHS Bulletin magazine, shows where the original coal staith existed on the prototype and where I’ve shifted it (approximately) to on my layout. The red box approximates the part of Morpeth I’m modelling and the curve of the pier I’ll be modelling in red.

Now up to this point everything has been speculation and vague plans: I’ve got the kit of the ship I want to model, some plans and photos of piers and I even have the base module I’m going to build the pier on. However what I don’t have is an exact plan of the pier and I most definitely haven’t settled on how I’m going to get the track to cross the join between the two modules without creating a large bump in the rails. What I’ve decided to do is alter the pier’s use somewhat from an a coal staith used exclusively to load coal onto river barges to a more general purpose pier, similar to those which jutted into the sea at Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay further up the coast. While sadly the pier at Byron is gone, the one at Coffs Harbour stands to this day and can be readily photographed and measured. So that’s what I did a couple of years ago on one of my infrequent trips to Sydney to attend the Oct Liverpool model railway exhibition.

I took this photo, along with a couple of dozen more, a few years ago to give myself a record of timber dimensions and general arrangements. My pier will be much shorter than this but it gives you the generla idea.

I took this photo, along with a couple of dozen more, a few years ago to give myself a record of timber dimensions and general arrangements. My pier will be much shorter than this but it gives you the general idea.

You have to imagine the pier of Coffs harbour not looking all clean and quiet and empty of activity with one lone fisherman standing on it. The way 'm going to model it is far my like this.

You have to imagine the pier at Morpeth not looking all clean and quiet and empty of activity with one lone fisherman standing on it. The way I’m going to model it is far more like this…

As I’m just about to finish J Parker and Sons I was beginning to look at the adjacent block of land that adjoins the entry to the pier and I made a critical decision about the way the tracks will cross the join between the two modules.

This is an updated plan of the layout which includes precise locations and sizes of critical elements. The previous versions have all been fairly speculative concerning this end of the layout because I hadn't yet built the models or the module. I've now done this so I thought it timely to update the plan and see if everything actually fitted.

This is an updated plan of the layout which includes precise locations and sizes of critical elements. The previous versions have all been fairly speculative concerning this end of the layout because I hadn’t yet built the models or the pier module. I’ve now built these so I thought it timely to update the plan and see if everything actually fitted.

So now we’re getting down to brass tacks. I want a pier/jetty and I want a ship but I also want trains on that pier: if I can’t have a small loco and wagon or two shuffling back and forth on the pier then I don’t want to continue with the plan. When you’re standing looking at the layout as a member of the public you’re essentially standing in the Hunter River and the pier juts into this space with the adjacent ship models on either side. The critical spot I’m going to be referring to is marked on this plan with a big red A. Why is this spot a “problem” that needs a blog post to explain what I’m doing to address it?

  1. The track at this point crosses a board join
  2. The track crosses the board join at an acute angle
  3. The track at this point crosses a board join at an acute angle that is on a curve
  4. The track at this point crosses a board join with all of the above on a spindly wooden pier.

Taken together all of these conditions add up to a “problem” and this problem has been the subject of much thinking and planning over the past few months as the work on the other projects on module 3 progressed. I essentially have two options: I can either start the pier near the word “radius” on the plan or I can cross the board join on a solid piece of ply wood and the commence the pier on the other side of the join so that the entire jetty structure is located on the one board. I’d been wondering and planning out what might be best when I was invited to take the controls of John Parker’s Valley Heights layout at the recent Liverpool exhibition. He faced the precise problem I face here, a model trestle crossing a board joint. John didn’t have much of a curve to contend with but he had the added complication of a difference in grade. Over the October long weekend I took a good look at the way he had implemented his solution to this issue and what I saw didn’t fill me with confidence. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with John’s modelling but the rails did seem to have shifted from when John laid them and he did say to me at one point “I must take a look at that” or words to that effect. Originally I’d thought to cross the board join at this critical point using modelled piers but looking at John’s timber trestle convinced me to play it safe and commence the model just the other side of the join with a nice solid track base allowing the rails to get to the pier.

Because I'd always planned to add the abutment for the pier on module 3 I needed to change tack slightly to allow me to install a sub road bed of 9mm ply to the existing track. This shot shows the ply lip installed that will allow me to butt the curved road bed up to this track.

Because I’d always planned to add the abutment for the pier on module 3, I needed to change tack slightly to allow me to install a sub road bed of 9mm ply to the existing track. This shot shows the ply lip installed that will allow me to butt the curved road bed up to this track.

Now because the join between modules was no longer going to be model trestle legs that would sit in the water, but rather a solid rock jetty or earth bank like structure that hides the ply subroad bed, I face the challenge of what to do about the stream bed that crosses this part of the layout at a right angle to the track. I’ve marked the new course of the stream bed in blue on the above layout plan. It will have to bend slightly on its journey to the river.

This photo shows the length of 9mm ply I cut to shape today. It will eventually be cut into two section with the cut following the edge of the layout fascia.

This photo shows the length of 9mm ply I cut to shape today. It will eventually be cut into two sections with the cut following the edge of the layout fascia.

This shot gives a better idea of the stram bed dilema that cropped up when i altered my plabs for the way the track will cross the board joint at this location.

This shot gives a better idea of the stream bed dilemma that cropped up when I altered my plans for the way the track will cross the board joint at this location. It will need to bend to the right as it will no longer be able to flow under the trestle. The trestle won’t be modelled until it’s well and truly over the join between the modules.  It will commence about where the end of the ply closest to the camera sits in this photo.

So faced with what was always going to be a bit of a challenge scenically I retreated and decided to go with a safer option. I have a feeling that I could have made the trestle cross the join successfully and that it would have worked ok. What I couldn’t convince myself of was that I could do this and adjust it later if things started to shift and move. This almost always happens with models but is far less likely with the solid ply roadbed I’ve decided to go for. No matter how successful I was in getting the track to line up a model trestle crossing the joint here would have always been vulnerable to damage. Remember, this is an exhibition layout that will be bumping about in a trailer on the way to and from shows. I have to travel about 900km to get to Sydney by road. The layout needs to be robust to survive that sort of travel. And I plan to take it to Melbourne some day, add another 1000km, one way. A trestle made from basswood sitting up against a module edge would be asking for trouble.

Thinking Through A Rail Siding

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been steadily working on the refurbishment of Morpeth’s scenery. About two years ago I had made the decision to install both of my modular layouts Queens Wharf and Morpeth into my train room. As neither of them had been designed as permanent layouts and did not fit into the available space I had at the time I made some modifications to both of them to fit them in. While I was making these changes I took the opportunity to reverse some decisions I’d made early in their development. One of these was to move a scratch built engine shed on Morpeth from its position in front of the station to a far more logical place down the line in the engine servicing facility. The result of this change was to leave a hole in the scenery about 45cm long by 150mm wide across the lines from the station platforms. See my previous post for a photo of this hole.

Personal circumstances resulted in the plan to move the layouts into the train room being abandoned however I decided to move on with Morpeth’s development as an exhibition layout.

While I had made the decision to move the engine shed to a more “logical” location, the move also resulted from my dissatisfaction with how much the engine shed had screened the view of the station. I’m all in favour of strategic view blocks on layouts to make the viewer see the layout in the way the builder intended, however the engine shed was a step beyond controlling the view to almost overwhelming it. So in being presented with an opportunity to fill the new opened space for an industry siding I didn’t want to repeat this same mistake by allowing the newly installed scene distract from the overall station scene.

This plan is the most recent development of Morpeth's plan. It takes into account the changes I made to the original plan in trying to get it into the train room of my old home. The engine shed's new location is on the far left and its replacement Shell Depot is located across the rail lines in front of the station.

This plan is the most recent development of Morpeth’s plan. It takes into account the changes I made to the original plan in trying to get it into the train room of my old home. The engine shed’s new location is on the far left and its replacement Shell Depot is located across the rail lines in front of the station.

I’ve spent about 6 months thinking about what sort of industry I should install on this siding. It had to be small, low and out in the open air with minimal or no buildings if I could get away with it. I’ve considered most options but an oil siding was always likely to win out because, while there was never an oil deport at Morpeth, I have some nice yet-to-be-built kits for oil tank cars and I also knew that I could model the siding for such an industry in a minimal space with a bit of chain link fencing, a patch of sand and sign.

This photo shows the way I've filled the empty space left by moving the engine shed from this location. The fence is brass rod and  plastic fly screen wire. I Photo-shopped the sign from a Google search and printed it onto paper on a colour laser printer.

This photo shows the way I’ve filled the empty space left by moving the engine shed from this location. The fence is brass rod and plastic fly screen wire. I Photo-shopped the sign from a Google search and printed it onto paper on a colour laser printer. The oil unloading piping is some code 100 rail and 2.5mm brass rod painted sliver. The only really challenging aspect of the whole scene was turning up some small brass “valves” on my lathe. These have some ModelOKits 19 class release hand wheels soldered into their tops.  

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to gradually fill this scene in. The fencing I was planning to use had been sitting unused after it was removed from Morpeth MkI over 12 years ago. Of course when I actually came to try installing this fence in this new location only about half of it was any use so this required the manufacture of some more that was appropriate for this location. The sign and the outlet piping are made up following the lead of the articles that have appeared in AJRM over the years and from Google searches. It was far more common for small, regional oil dept sidings like this one to have the piping on the outside of the fencing but I like the enclosed look of having the pipe inside the fence. The only other addition was the installation of a sleeper over the end of the siding to prevent wayward wagons from rolling off the end.

I would have liked to pose the above photo with an oil tank wagon I built many years ago but after searching high and low I couldn’t seem to lay my hands on it. I did find lots of other missing stuff that I hadn’t seen for a while though 🙂 I visited a friend’s place yesterday and asked him if I happened to give him the wagon. He said yes. A senior’s moment? Probably but at least I had some vague memory that I’d given it to him so I’m not completely without hope! 🙂


Tinkering With The Plan Pt II

Ok, so I was going to leave things “as is” for a while to chew over my options wasn’t I? Well it’s the Easter long weekend and the better half and offspring are about 1500km away visiting her father so I have plenty of option chewing time available. I made contact with the Svengali of silos Keiran Ryan and he provided me with some footprint data for grain silos in 7mm/O-scale (1:43.5). I also had contact from Ian Phemister  who is building an HO version of Muswellbrook and Merriwa. I paid a visit to their blogs again. I even managed to do a Google search of wheat silos and found some photos of Merriwa’s silos. The photos below were sent to me by Keiran.

This photo from Keiran shows the Merriwa wheat silo from the rail side.

This photo from Keiran shows the Merriwa wheat silo from the rail side.

Another shot of the wheat silos at Merriwa from the other side this time.

Another shot of the wheat silos at Merriwa from the other side this time.

I spent some time today transferring the footprint dimensions of the grain silo at Merriwa to the layout plan to see if I could get a prototype sized silo to fit in the yard. Keiran quipped that he wasn’t sure I’d have the space considering the restirctions my partner had imposed on me re the room size. At the same time he mentioned that he was in the process of developing a 7mm scale kit for a standard S008 NSW silo. He suggested that this might be a better option. See photo below:

This is a photo of an S008 silo I got from a Google search. It came from the Bolivia blog.

This is a photo of an S008 silo I got from a Google search. It came from the Bolivia blog.

I’m not against the idea of swapping the silos at Merriwa from a model that closely follows the prototype to the smaller S008 variety, however I was considering an S008 for the loop at Myanbat. As there was no silo at the prototype Myambat it doesn’t really matter what type of silo appears there, but I don’t really want two of the same design on the layout, especially when there really was one at Merriwa.

This is a section of the plan but with the focus just on the area I've made alterations to.

This is a section of the plan but with the focus just on the area I’ve made alterations to.

I’m glad to say that the silos will quite happily fit onto the layout. Keiran makes his silos with PVC pipe and the type needed for a reasonably prototypical 7mm scale version of the silo at Merriwah will have to have an outside diameter of 220mm approximately. The three circles inside the large rectangle are exactly 225mm dia. As you can see if you’ve looked at the plan I posted yesterday, I’ve placed the silo at the back of the yard which is not where the prototype silos where but then I’ve flipped the whole yard anyway so placing the silo in the wrong place is no great sin. The 1.5mX440mm dimension of the rectangle is the size needed for all the drains and other items around the silos plus some space for the driveway up to the wheat truck unloading point which would be between the silos and the backdrop. To be honest I can’t see any real point in modelling this side of the silos because anything there won’t be seen as it will be behind the silos. I’d rather represent just the front face of the silos on the rail side.

Many years ago I modelled one of Kerian’s HO S008 silo kits and the model came out very nicely. If and when he produces the kit I’ll have another bash at the O-scale version but I face the same dilemma with the silo at Myanbat as that at Merriwah: the logical place to site an S008 silo at Myanbat would be on the loop, not the main, and this is on the wall side of the line. If I were to model the whole silo with the truck unloading driveway I’d have to site it on the aisle side of the track. So I’ve drawn in two footprint boxes: one on the aisle side at full size (626mmX335mm) and one on the wall side at half this depth (626mmX167,5mm). Again, if I can avoid modelling the rear side of the silo then I’m all for this. I’m primarily interetsed in the rail served side. In this scale just about all my buildings are built as flats. I can’t see why a grain silo should be any different.

Tinkering With The Plan

The house plans for our new place are about to go off to be drafted into proper scale plans. I think I must have been feeling the pressure of this significant step in the home building process as I saw my chance to try to squeeze a bit more floor space into the plan in the train room slipping away, but the better half remained rock like in her opposition to making the room any longer, at least until the plans are drawn and the footprint placed on a scale drawing of the land. I went home two weeks ago and looked long and hard at the un-scaled draft of the house plan and then took a look at the layout plan for Musclebrook the layout, which is very much to scale and based on the agreed dimensions of the room, and came to conclusion that I really didn’t like some elements I had been forced to include because of the length of the room. The most prominent of these in my mind was the two long curved points at either end of the Musclebrook yard. I’ve only used a couple of curved points on layouts over the years and these were on HO layouts. My feelings about curved points is coloured by the very poor performance I got out of one on my last HO layout where every second locomotive derailed on the point. When the room was dark a couple of my steam locos would put on a fireworks display of sparks that played merry hell with my DCC system.

I came out fighting, putting up a manly struggle with the better half, saying I simply had to have an extra metre added to the length of the room! I was immediately put back in my box and had confirmed, if this were ever in doubt, that I needed to get with the program :-). The room remains 9m long on the plan that will be drafted over the next few weeks. I went back to my dog kennel where I live during the week to lick my wounds and consider my options. Now while I haven’t yet got my way on the length of the room I did espy on the latest iteration of the home drawn plan that I’d been magically allocated 6.5m of width when I’d only asked for 6.2m. A whole extra 300mm (12″) of space! Never look a gift horse, or a partner who is holding the drafting pencil, in the mouth I always say! So I set to, seeing if this small extra slice of floor space would provide me with any opportunities to remove those two long curved points from the layout plan.

This is the re-drafted version of Musclebrook with the extra 300mm added to the floor plan:

This is the redrawn version of Musclebrook with an extra 300mm added to the width of the room. I'd asked for 1000mm added to the length but beggars can't be choosers! :-)

This is the redrawn version of Musclebrook with an extra 300mm added to the width of the room. I’d asked for 1000mm added to the length but beggars can’t be choosers! 🙂

Before I go into the detail of what this plan contains I think it might be worth providing anyone reading this with an easily comprehensible guide to the scale of this plan. If you look at the label “Road Overbridge” on the upper right hand part of the plan, this road is represented by two angled lines. It probaby pays to be aware that these lines are each 750mm long, that’s 2’6″ in old money. I know this because the track drawing software I use allows me to draw lines to exact scale lengths. This length is significant because it is about at the extreme outer limit of what I’d like any benchwork to be in terms of depth. So if you try to imagine the benchwork that will be required to hold up the 75′ turntable , from the right hand wall to the end of one of the tail tracks in the roundhouse, this is going to have to be about 1.5m wide, or 5′. The turntable and roundhouse will sit out on a short peninsula that extends from the main benchwork into the operating space.

Siting the turntable in the position it now occupies,  as opposed to further down the line as in the old plan, creates other issues with the width of the benchwork. For example, the bottom right hand corner starts to get very wide because of the lead tracks to the turntable having to be the radius they are. The distance between the word “Coal” to the lower left of the turntable and the corner where the “Colliery” building sits is getting on for 2m wide.This is far too wide to allow this scene to be housed on one, solid mass of benchwork with continuous scenery. There will have to be an access hole in this corner to allow for maintenance and track cleaning. This will be interesting 🙂 You might ask why I don’t push the lead tracks to the turntbale closer into the corner. The restriction here is that the inner mainline track at this point is already at the sharpest I’ll allow it to go (1.6m radius). These curves are designed to allow fairly large locos to traverse them, 36 and 38 class, and there is no point in keeping the mainline above a minimum radius and then pushing the turntable lead tracks down to a radius where the same locos which were travelling around the main can’t get to the turntable.

So now we have a sense of scale I’ll talk about details. My prime aim in this plan is to remove the two long, curved points from the mainline leading into each end of the scenicked main yard at Musclebrook. I’ve managed this through the use of three sets of double slip points, one adjacent to the 75′ turntable and two at the Merriwah end of the yard. My preference would be to use standard points at these locations, I like double slip points on main lines only slightly more than long curved ones, however they are shorter and more easily built that the curved variety. It needs to be borne in mind that all the points on the “visible”, scenicked portion of the layout have to be hand-built from either code 125 (mainline) or code 100 (branch line) rail. The crossing angle of the curved points on the old version of the plan were 1:21. I have two #6 Fasttracks filing jigs for code 125 and code 100 rail but I don’t own one that would allow me to file a #21 point frog. In fact the biggest one Fasttracks makes is #12. As I pondered how I was going to hand make a point with such a crossing angle I became convinced that I needed to alter the plan. This was the reason for my request for an extra metre to be added to the room. The extra 300mm may not be a perfect solution but it allowed me to squeeze in a point down near the 75′ turntable and this allowed me to remove the long curved point at this end of the yard. Two double slips at the Merriwah end of the yard allow me to achieve the same at the other end.

The effect of installing the double slips at the Merriwah end of the yard is to foreshorten the third yard track to a point where it is little more than a runaround track. However by adding a curving inner stock siding on the Sydney end of the yard I’ve overcome this shortening and also followed the prototype: there was a similar stock loop at the real Muswellbrook. A second prototype feature I’ve decided to try out is to make the lead into the 75′ turntable a switch back as per the prototype. While I would always prefer to follow the prototype this does cause real issues with the depth of the benchwork at this location. I’m going to leave the turntable on the plan at this location for a while and chew it over. I have the floor space to arrange things like they are shown on the plan, I just have real concerns about my ability to crawl under the benchwork and reach a stalled loco at this location when I’m 70! Should I worry about what’s going to be happening in 16 years time? You bet! I plan to be playing trains at 110! 🙂

Adding some extra length to the layout room has not been ruled out entirely, it’s just on hold till we see whether the house will actually fit on the block of land. If I had an extra 1000mm there are all sorts of things I could do with it but the most pressing is to lengthen the straight yard tracks in Musclebrook yard and see if I can’t squeeze in an extra loop. Each standard #6 point is about 500mm long in O-scale so it’s quite feasible I could get two more points inserted each end of the yard to create a fourth loop track. The real Musclebrook had five yard tracks so I’d be getting closer to the real arrangement if this could be achieved.

Another item high on the wish list would be a second petroleum siding. Muswellbrook had four or five of these and I’ve only managed to include one so far. This is partly because of the way I’ve shortened and squeezed in the station building and goods siding. One of the oil sidings was on the other side of the station so there’s no way that’s going to fit. Another of the oil sidings was a few hundred metres down the branch line right behind where the dairy is currently sited. On balance I’d rather keep the dairy to provide for a more mixed traffic pattern. If I could lengthen the line in front of the main goods shed I could probably fit in a point just about where the goods shed is located on this plan and curve a dead-end siding partially into the corner. But like the change in location of the 75′ turntable, I might leave things as is for a while and chew over the implications of this. I bought two of the new 10,000 gal tank car kits from O-Aust while I was in Sydney last weekend attending the Aus7 Forum. If I can cram in a second oil siding into this layout I have a feeling that it will appear with Ampol signs to match the decals that came with these new kits 🙂

One final change on the cards might be that Myanbat acquires some basic lineside industries including a grain silo. One long neglected source of traffic on my O-scale layouts has been grain so adding a grain silo to the loop at Myanbat wouldn’t be too hard to justify, along with a stock race and possibly a short loading bank. This layout is going to be operated with the locos and rolling stock earning their living. Having a couple of grain loading points on the branch will help broaden the mix of traffic. There aren’t too many other locations in the state of NSW where stock, coal, grain and dairy can all be credibly modelled in reasonably close proximity. I would like to make the most of the possibilities: and it might give me the motivation to get the four unbuilt Waratah RU hopper kits out of the cupboard to build them. These can now be acquired from ModelOKits.

Version 2.5

I’ve been extremely busy since my last post but I decided to call it quits a little early this afternoon and took a little time to make some tweaks to the Musclebroook plan I posted last time. A read the comments and started to realise that almost all of the suggestions were things I’d thought of already. The one exception was putting the large Garratt turntable underneath the benchwork of Merriwah. This hadn’t occurred to me and it does make sense to place this partially under the benchwork. The benchwork of Merriwah is already set above that of the turntable scene and dropping the turntable scene a couple of extra centimeters to make the clearance available a little more generous was an easy fix. There’s room to lower the benchwork a little so a spinning Garratt won’t bang its steam dome on the underside of the benchwork. So I’ve re-drafted the plan:

This is a redrafted version of the plan I posted a couple of weeks ago.

This is a redrafted version of the plan I posted a couple of weeks ago.

I appreciated Chris’s suggestion that I look into the ammunition siding at Myambat. I’ve managed to find a track plan of this Commonwelth siding and I’ve added this to the plan and changed the location from Gungal to Mayambat at the same time. This is a perfect, “out-of-the-way” type of industry that only received the occasional wagon load for this location on the layout and it allows the inclusion of a couple of different types of wagons that otherwise wouldn’t probably make an appearance. At the same time I’ve taken the opportunity to add some gentle curves into the branch line trackage at Dan’s suggestion. I would have included these anyway but drawing straight lines is less work when you’re busy so these didn’t make them onto the last version of the plan. See I do listen Dan 🙂 I’ve also taken the opportunity to add a small extension to the stock siding at Merriwah and label this as a Shell siding. I like tank wagons!

I got Peter K from O-Aust to send me an LCH coal hopper kit to make an assessment of whether it would be suitable to create the coal train/s I have planned for this layout. Generally speaking I’ve found the castings of high quality and the problem I’ve heard about these wagons having a fragile brake assembly has been overcome by supplying this part of the kit as a brass casting rather than a urethane one. They’re expensive at $140 per kit but I reckon I might be able to squeeze a discount out of Peter if I buy multiples. We’ll have to see about that 🙂