No Cows Were Injured…

There’s been a lot going on over the last week or so and I’ve only had a small amount of time for working on the layout. I had a very rough plan to get the final layer of scenery applied to the area around the creek and mill building this week but things haven’t gone quite as planned out.

This photo shows the overall scene prior to the addition of the final scenery layer.

This photo shows the overall scene prior to the addition of the final scenery layer.

The photo above shows the right hand end of the third scenic module as it stands at the moment. I’ve removed the connecting river module so I can work on the area in the corner and this means the camera is sitting about where the pier and ship are located when the two modules are together. In making some changes to the layout a couple of years ago I pulled up a short length of track that sits behind the mill so this needed to have the ballast added again and I also took the opportunity to ballast the right of way of the line that leads out to the pier. This is the short curved length of track in the centre of the photo with sleepers and ballast but no rail as yet. I’ll lay the rail as the final step when all the scenery is applied.

You might ask why not lay the track and ballast it now when I’ve already got everything in place and the answer to this is bound up with ease of access. To get the track behind the mill building ballasted I needed to get to it and as the module sits hard up against two walls I decided the best way to provide myself access was to separated the modules and ballast both short lengths of track at the same time. Both as accessible and doing two lengths together provides a small economy of scale that wouldn’t be the case if I waited to ballast each length o track separately.

I was running short of my base ground foam colour so I took a run up to Brisbane yesterday and visited a hobby shop that happens to open on Sundays. I also met up with a couple of friends and had lunch and visited one of their layouts so it was a good day. Now that I had the ground foam I needed I was able to treat the little bushes that make up the bulk of the “shubbery” that covers my layouts. This stuff is from Busch and is sold as Naturbaum #6081 but it’s also know as seagrass and sold by a number of manufacturers. After trimming, cleaning and spearating the shurbs I spray them with adhesive and sprikle them with two colours of ground foam to bulk them up a bit. I had the armatures “bulked up”, plenty of scenery materials and glue on standby and then I decided to build a crane. Huh?

If you look the photo above I’ve marked the spot where the crane is going to sit with a white A. It’s not difficult to see where the existing scenery is (installed in 2013/14) and the areas I’ve finished over the past. The dividing line is between the old s demarkated by the groups of trees and shurbs in the centre rear of the photo and the new areas which run along the front of the module. I’d been planning to start on the left hand side and simply pour a load of scenery and glue into this front area till I’d filled it up with weeds and bushes but the crane model stopped my progress dead.

I had my shrubs all ready and my cows all lined up and I had to stop and build a cane! :-)

I had my shrubs all ready and my cows all lined up and I had to stop and build a cane! 🙂

I’d had the Waratah Model Railway Co (which can now be purchased from ModelOKits) 5-ton yard crane for a few years and I’d intended to build and install it in the spot marked with the A when the scenery was installed in 2013/14 in the lead up to the Aus7 Modeller Group ExpO exhibition but I simply ran out of time. While I was really keen to get stuck into the scenery, I knew that if I did the scenery at the front of the module before I had installed the crane that it would be a real pain to come back and do it later. So I put the brakes on the scenery and got the crane kit down and took a look at it.

I've made a start on the white metal parts of the crane kit in this photo. It's a lovely little kit and a very accurate represntation of the real thing.

I’ve made a start on the white metal parts of the crane kit in this photo. It’s a lovely little kit and a very accurate representation of the real thing.

The 5-ton yard crane was ubiquitous in most small rail yards right across NSW and there are still plenty of examples sitting next to lines all over the state that a modeller can photograph for future reference.

I took this photo of a 5-ton yeard crane in 2009 in the Central West of NSW at Bogan Gate.

I took this photo of a 5-ton yeard crane in 2009 in the Central West of NSW at Bogan Gate.

My guess is it will take me another couple of days before I can make start on the scenery at the front of the layout. Those cows are just going to have to wait a bit longer but I can assure you now was injured in the writing of this blog post 🙂

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Hard Landscaping

I’ve been home a few days but have only managed a couple of quick sessions on the layout since arriving back. Some rodents decided the wiring in my car was edible so I found myself with a lot of running around to do to get it back from the mechanics. Still i managed to get a little done and the work has mainly focussed on getting some basic ground cover down and introducing some built details into the landscape prior to shrubbing up the landforms and finally completing the 3rd module.

After covering the extruded foam that forms the terrain with my preferred covering of small squares of paper towel I painted it the base yellow colour I reserve for this stage. Same routine I've explained on the blog a couple of times. The same colour is under all the landscape and is used as a fascia colour.

After covering the extruded foam that forms the terrain with my preferred covering of small squares of paper towel I painted it the base yellow colour I reserve for this stage. Same routine I’ve explained on the blog a couple of times. The same colour is under all the landscape and is used as a fascia colour. You can see the pier abutment and the foundation for the gate keeper’s hut in this photo.

I like to introduce small huts, fence lines and other man-made objects into most spare corners if there’s space. I’m not all that interested in modelling the rural landscape, I find it fairly “samey” so I make an effort to fill spare corner with objects. This also serves to reduce the number of trees I’m required to use and as I won’t make my own this saves me money because if there’s a building on a piece of layout it doesn’t need a tree! 🙂

Being the inveterate kit buyer that I am quite a few years ago I purchased a Berkshire Valley Train Crew Shed thinking “that will fit nicely in a corner of a layout somewhere”. I can’t remember how many years have passed since I bought this kit but the “corner” has finally turned up in the shape of the small triangle of unoccupied land formed by the approach to the pier. The foundation of the small hut comes as a pre-coloured foundation and I’ve plonked this down in the spot reserved for it. When I cut the foam back to make the landscape reasonably flat I didn’t have quite enough space for the building where I’d intended it to be so I had to build up the front with a small foundation wall. This is the dark red sitting proud of the landscape in the photo. I could have made this quite a bit longer but I like the idea of this hut sitting precariously on the edge of the river.

Prior to going overseas I was again swapping emails with Gordon Gravett and as a past ship modeller he offered any assistance he could provide and I mentioned my lack of a suitable bollard to tie the ship up to the pier. When I got home a small package was sitting in the letter box which contained a number of two different types of bollard. They aren’t the same type that were used at Coffs Harbour but they’re more than adequate for the task. Mr Gravett is a real gentleman.

The two types of blooard sent to me by Gordon Gravett will look great on the pier. All I now need to do is mork on my knots to leanr how to tie the ship up. I'm bound to get it wrong and some old sea dog will make an adverse comment.

The two types of bollard sent to me by Gordon Gravett will look great on the pier. All I now need to do is work on my knots to learn how to tie the ship up. I’m bound to get it wrong and some old sea dog will make an adverse comment.

I managed to make some progress today bt applying a base coat of ground cover and getting the pier abutment and hut foundation coloured and installed. I also glued a line of fencing along the edge of the track and finally glued the small landing “pier” in front of the mill building I recently described here. It can be seen in the photo above sitting the wrong way round, prior to being glued in place.

These two scenic items are the final stage of the "hard" landscaping I need to insall prior to the landform being covered in trees, weeds and scrub.

These two scenic items are the final stage of the “hard” landscaping I need to install prior to the landform being covered in trees, weeds and scrub.

I spent an hour or so this evening gluing in the abutment and foundation wall and then filled the gap behind the foundation with some spak filler and took the photo above. I’m going to be busy moving into a new home over the next few weeks starting this Wednesday so progress is likely to be very patchy in that time. I’ve quite deliberately not rushed into building the piers for the jetty because once I get into this part of the project I know from past experience that everything else will get neglected. I want all the landscape to me finished before moving onto the next stage.

The Cruel Sea

Things have progressed sufficiently on the mill structure that I’ve commenced initial work on Morpeth’s fourth and final scenic module: the river/pier module. I’ve been very lucky over the past year or so to have been swapping emails with renowned UK modeller Gordon Gravett, who tells me at one time scratch built ship models for a living. I’ve been sending him photos of my progress and he’s sent back a few of various projects he’s working on, including the following shot of a ship he built at some point in the past.

This photo sent to me by Gordon Gravett was well timed because it confirmed for me a decision I'd already made about the colour of the water i plan to include on my layout.

This photo sent to me by Gordon Gravett was well-timed because it confirmed for me a decision I’d already made about the colour of the water I plan to include on my layout.

What really caught my eye in this photo wasn’t so much the ship model, which is excellent, but the colour and texture of the water. As far as I can gather the base colour of the water is black with a layer of clear gloss “texture” applied over this to provide a ripple effect. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what colour to make my water as over the years I’ve seen lots of different colours applied to reproduce water at depth. However the one “colour” that always seems to me to be the most effective is black (and yes Lindsay, I know black isn’t a colour) 🙂 and I had already decided that I was going to use black as the base colour when this photo was sent to me by Gordon. I love having my prejudices confirmed 🙂 Why black? Well the reasons are many and varied but I have a feeling that the reason black works so well as a “water” colour (well at least for me) is that our eyes tends to delete black when we are looking at it and all we tend to see is the reflection from the lighting and the shadows cast by objects which sit upon its surface. Of course it needs to have a high gloss finish, but the shadow reflected in the surface of the water in the photo above looks very realistic to me and if it’s good enough for Gordon Gravett, one of my modelling heroes, then it’s good enough for me.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through the preparation of the surface of my water in this photo. This shows the river module masked off and after having two coats of spay primer applied. This brings up the divots and gaps in gloious, annoying detail so I've appplied a second round of polly filler (the pe mixed type) to the surface. This will be allowed to dry overnight and I'll come back and sand it all back off in the morning before applying a third coat of primer. This will continue till I'm satisfied that the surface is reasonably flat and dent free.

I’m about 1/3 of the way through the preparation of the surface of my water in this photo. This shows the river module masked off and then two coats of spay primer applied. This brings up the divots and gaps in glorious, annoying detail so I’ve applied a second round of Polly-filler (the pe-mixed type) to the surface. This will be allowed to dry overnight and I’ll come back and sand it all back off in the morning before applying a third coat of primer. This will continue till I’m satisfied that the surface is reasonably flat and dent free.

I spent today working on the wooden surface of the water on the river module. I’ve decided to use spray paint from cans to achieve the base colour of the water and I began today by dragging the river module out to the garage and filling all the holes in the fascia and the water surface, which started life as two small sheets of 6mm ply. Normally I would be pretty slap dash about this sort of thing but I decided that this particular part of the project probably called for a bit of effort and a proper sequence of work in an attempt to get the surface flat and smooth prior to the application of the base black colour, which will be from 2 1/2 cans of Dulux DuraMax Satin Black. I filled and sanded the surface of the ply “water” and then sprayed on a thin coat of Rustoleum grey primer. I lightly sanded this first primer coat after 2 hours, took a trip to Bunnings for more paint and sprayed on another coat. When this dried I applied a second round of spak filler to the holes and gaps around the edges and along the line where the two ply sheets butt up against each other. I’ll never get this surface completly flat and smooth but I can certainly improve on the cratered moon surface that currently exists. As with a train model, nothing drags a less than perfect surface into the cold light of day better than applying grey primer.

So far I’d mark this assignment Gordon G 10/10, Trevor H 2/10 🙂

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.

Just A Scenic Break?

I took a big step in the final stages of my J Parker & Sons junk yard tonight by running a base layer of scenery up to the building. I’ve had the space for the building complete, ready to accept the building and various hard landscape items for a while now. You might wonder about why I paint my scenery base in an ochre yellow tone. About 10 years ago a well-known member of the local model railway scene told me my scenery on Queens Wharf was too green. I sort of agreed with him on one level but I wasn’t willing to totally concede to what he was suggesting. My first area of disagreement with him was that Morpeth sits on a river near the coast, it’s not located in the dry central west of NSW so I felt having things a little more green wasn’t out-of-place. I hadn’t made QW really yellow like it would have been if I’d been modelling an area around Parkes but then it didn’t look like Ireland either! I was convinced that my tones were correct for what I wanted to achieve and when photo backdrops of real Australian landscapes came along and I applied one of these to the background of Morpeth I felt that my colour choices had been vindicated. The tones of the layout matched perfectly with the backdrop and I made no changes to my colour palette at all.

This photo shows the building base I will be installing the scene on. It's made from 7mm plywood and extruded foam. The yeloow is a colour matched pot from an original litre can i could no longer buy off the shelf. I seem to remember the original was called Applebox but I just went to my local paint shop and they matched this colour from a sample.

This photo shows the building base I will be installing the scene on. It’s made from 7mm plywood and extruded foam. The yellow is a colour matched pot from an original litre can I could no longer buy off the shelf. I seem to remember the original colour was called “Applebox” but I just went to my local paint shop and they matched the colour from a sample.

The scenery steps I take are a simple standard process I apply to all the scenery I do. I begin by painting the entire base of the model I’m installing with my standard ochre yellow. This colour is applied to the fascia as well and so it runs up the front of the layout and in under the scenery. The reason I paint my base yellow is because I find that the base colour you choose tends to set a background tone to all the scenery applied above it. There are always spots that peek through but if you use a “dirt” colour (read for this chocolate-brown), I find the scenery ends up looking far too dark to my eye. Australia is dry, the scenery needs to have a predominantly yellow tone, however this does not mean that every Australian layout needs to be “yellow”. A colour palette that revolves around the yellow end of the spectrum does not mean that there is no green in the landscape. I drive 70km to work and home every working day through rural northern NSW (there is not one large town between my home and work), so believe me, not every part of the Australian landscape is dry, dusty and parched straw yellow. Where there’s water there’s green and while Australian greens in the south-east of the continent might be a green that’s more on the olive end of the spectrum, it is nevertheless green.

I like my models to sit on something really substantial as they will be travelling a long way in my trailer so I glue them down securely, really securely! The main building was glued in place using construction adhesive. After the models have been secured to the wooden base I place the scenic details around that I’ve prepared to see what works best. In this case I was using a few Rusty Rails castings and a wooden and corro open sided shed that I’d knocked up from scrap leftovers.

This photo shows the building and surrounding yard in the first stages of applying the scenery. This is really just the base cover which is sand and Woodland Scenics blended turf.

This photo shows the building and surrounding yard in the first stages of applying the scenery. This is really just the base cover which is sand and Woodland Scenics blended turf. I think the colour tones from the 3D scenery match the photo backdrop perfectly so I feel vindicated in not taking too much notice of my above mentioned critic.

The next step is fences. I like fences because they are an absolutely critical indicator of human presence, especially anywhere that railways exist. So I will make and apply a fence line to define the space and draw the line along the railway boundary. In this case I used some Model-O-Kits corrugated fence but anything suitable such as wooden paling fence would have done. So with the space defined and the fences in place I decide where I want the main building. You’ll notice that the main structure is the largest scenic item within the yard, it needs to dominate the scene. Also it’s not centred in the yard but offset to one end by about one-quarter of the yard’s total length. Sitting it right in the center of this mini scene would have set it up to look like it’s a model that’s been placed. Of course it is a model that’s been placed but you want to reduce the impression that this is the case, not draw attention to it.

I’ve spent a few nights assembling and applying the loading docks and steps to the three doors that are visible on this side of the building. There was a fourth on the back of the building but I didn’t bother installing this as it can’t be seen and leads directly into the bank at the rear anyway. I began running in the scenery by brushing a fairly thick layer of neat PVA around the scenic items and the base of the building and then I sprinkled on a layer of yellow-ish river sand. I had a small supply of some beautifully fine yellow river sand that lasted me a few years but I’ve recently replaced this supply with some from the local area. It’s not as fine and it has too much brown in it but it does the job. I spray this sand with a sprizter bottle of water lightly and this water of course has the ubiquitous drop of dish washing liquid in it. If I think the sand looks as if it isn’t drawing up the glue I’ve brushed on I bathe the area with more PVA mixed with water and then sprinkle selected spots along the edges with Woodland Scenics Blended Turf. The final stage is to sprinkle very sparing amounts of the Green Turf from Woodland Scenics. After this I resist the urge to start gluing in shrubs and weeds. I like this base cover to be thoroughly dry before I touch it again and depending on the season this can take up to two days.

So is this just an expensive and time consuming scenic break? It does play the role of interrupting the view of the trains but it has enough detail to interest the veiwer in its own right so I don’t think the effort’s wasted.

A Z20 at Morpeth Station (Finally)!

I’ve been working on a Morpeth based theme for something like 16 years. The Z20 class tank locomotive was ubiquitous on this short branch line, in fact I know of only one photo that shows a different class of locomotive on the line and that was a C30, another tank locomotive of the NSWR that at a casual glance is a very similar looking locomotive. The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve been working on a series of layouts in a range of formats based on a branch line that essentially only had one class of locomotive that ran on it and for all those years I haven’t had a model of that class of loco. I do now. To put this into some sort of perspective, in that 16 years I’ve built two separate versions of the station building and platform you can see in this photo. This is number 2.

This the fist photo I've taken of my newly completed Z20 sitting at Morpeth station. The passengers have been waiting for 16 years for the train to arrive.

This the fist photo I’ve taken of my newly completed Z20 sitting at Morpeth station. The passengers have been waiting for 16 years for the train to arrive.

Now everyone brings to their modelling a different set of beliefs and principles when it comes to what they will and won’t run on their layouts: some people are happy to run just about anything that has wheels others won’t run a locomotive on a line that depicts a particular spot that never ran there on the prototype. Now I’m fairly flexible with what I’ll run on my layouts, as long as they’re the correct scale and are generally speaking of a NSWR origin (and not too ridiculously large) locomotives that never ran on the Morpeth line get a run and even those that weren’t even running till after the line was torn up might make an occasional appearance. However I do have one bug bear about prototype running that has caused me pause a few times over the years before I built 2002. Locomotives run on Morpeth that never ran to the real location however I’ve always felt less than comfortable with this without at least one example of the class that was synonymous with the line, namely the Z20 class. I consider this informed consent: I’m ok with the non-prototype locomotives running on the layout as long as I know they didn’t run there and that I also know what did and I have one example of that class running on the layout. Having 2002 is the fulfillment of a 16 year journey and having a photo of the loco in front of a station building made by myself with a station name board with the word Morpeth on it has resonance for me. This photo is my hobby.

This module has sat untouched for most of the past week as I’ve been busy with work and life but I managed to do some track laying tonight.

This photo shows the gap in the scenery where the engine shed once stood. I've installed a short length of track here to extend the siding and this is now wired up so I can move onto filling the gaps.

This photo shows the gap in the scenery where the engine shed once stood. I’ve installed a short length of track here to extend the siding and this is now wired up so I can move onto filling the gaps.

The hole in the scenery left by the relocation of the Morpeth engine shed sits on the front of the module in front of the station. I spent some time tonight wiring up the new length of track (just over 400mm long or 17″) and cleaning the track on the module and testing the loco. This is the first time in over three years that I’ve run a train on this section of the layout and the only work needed is to fill the holes in the scenery and lay down some new ground cover. After I’ve done this I’ll install a bit of fencing and some pipes and this siding will become a minimalist fuel siding. Once that work is done this module will be placed back in the trailer and out will come module 3 to take its place in my workroom. Module 3 is the scenic heart of the layout and it needs at least three new buildings, a lot more trees and shrubs added, a creek/river bed completed and a concrete culvert that leads onto a curved pier that runs onto a module that I haven’t actually built yet.

I’ve set in my mind that I’m going to offer to take this layout to an exhibition in Sydney or Brisbane in 2017 but it’s got to be finished before that happens. I’m pretty sure I can get the basic infrastructure done in time but the models take me a long while to build and the goods shed, while largely complete, needs a bit of work to get it where I want it. The new scenic module will be formed by the base freed up by recycling my train turntable module that I believe I can reproduce in a much slimmer form so it can sit in a small slot in the trailer which will allow me to build the pier as a fully completed unit with ship in situ. I plan to have the pier wired up and locomotives will run on it but at exhibitions I’ll utilize a shuttle module that will allow my Manning Wardle to shuffle back and forth on its own with a wagon or two in tow. I’ve also been thinking about how I can make the ship model rock up and down gently as it sits next to the pier and how I can light the module as it sticks out from the main layout at right angles, thus making a lighting rig that doesn’t intrude too much into the scene a real challenge. Lots to do…

This photo shows and early stage of construction on module #3. Things are much futher along than this stage but I think this gives a good overall impression of the bones of this section of the layout.

This photo shows an early stage of construction on module #3. Things are much further along than what can be seen in this photo but I think this gives a good overall impression of the bones of this section of the layout. I”ll move back to working on it when I’ve filled the hole in the scenery on module #2. Looking at this photo I’ve remembered that brick building you can see behind the loco is a Downtown Deco structure that suffered a fatal accident when I was moving house the last time. A desk lamp fell on it from the top of my work bench so I’ll need to find a replacement for it when I come back and start to work on the module in a few weeks. Make that four buildings I have to construct…