Light Boxes: The Penultimate Chapter

As is so often the case with “small” layout jobs, the installation of the layout lighting in my new train room has taken far more time and effort than I’d anticipated. I had planned to work on some new benchwork this weekend, I even made an early Saturday morning visit to Bunnings to buy timber and some fittings to allow this to happen but the final installation and painting of the lighting boxes has taken up all my available free time. My plan was to make up two ladder frames for the storage sidings that lead out of the turntable, mount these on legs and top them with some ply but aside from buying the timber I’ve not managed to cut a stick.

Before I could install the face plates for the lighting boxes they needed a hole cut for the installation of the lighting fixtures. In this case it needed to be 90mm dia. holes. Luckily the electrician loaned me one of his hole cutting saws to cut the required openings.

The electrician not only dropped off a light fitting for me to test last week. He also loaned me a 90mm round hole cutting saw that I could use to cut the required opening in the MDF face plates I had ready to be installed in the boxes. I told him I wasn’t having him cutting holes in MDF upstairs in the train room in the process getting dust everywhere and all over the layout. I was going to do this job myself downstairs in the workshop where the dust wouldn’t matter. I mounted the hole saw in my drill press but a 90mm dia hole was a real challenge for the drill’s arbor. The drill kept stalling and the chuck kept dropping out onto the work piece as I tried to cut the ten holes. With a bit of perseverance I managed to get the job done and installed the plates into the boxes. With the pre-cut holes in the plaster board completed all that was required was to fill the screw heads, sand these back and then paint two coats of blue onto the boxes.

I started the painting of the boxes by running some blue masking tape on the white ceiling where the two colours meet to preserve the neat cut line. I then filled the holes left by the counter sinking for the screws and when the filler hardened I sanded this smooth. I’d previously filled and sanded the holes that I was able to prior to the installation of the boxes so this simplified the job but it was still hot work in the humid conditions of the train room with my head close to the ceiling. Today I came back and painted two coats of blue onto all ten boxes and now they are ready for the installation of the light fittings.

I could have come back and filled all the joints between the planes of the various sections of MDF I made these boxes from but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered: this is a room for model trains not a reception room in a royal palace. So while the boxes do show a few gaps and joints here and there from my less than perfect joinery I’m happy enough with the result.

As I sat and looked at the result of this small marathon of a job I did put some though into whether I wouldn’t have been better off with a continuous pelmet running almost the entire length of the room. It would still be relatively easy to install a single, long plank of 6mm MDF to the front of the boxes to provide a neater, continuous sheet across the lighting boxes but I don’t think I’ll go to this extent. The idea of the lighting is to throw light onto the layout and draw the viewer’s eye to the trains. I’m not sure that a long, continuous pelmet would achieve this any more successfully than the row of isolated boxes. With the amount of work and time this “small” job has taken up I’m not sure its something I want to devote any more time to.


Wonder Woman With A Shopping Bag

I hate painting! Specifically the house painting variety, or in this case train room painting. I had set out over a week ago to have the room finished and ready for layout building by yesterday but the endless acres of plaster board were defeating me. Then Wonder Woman turned up with a plastic shopping bag on her head and she solved half my problems.

I think my partner Louise knew I was struggling to finish the painting of my train room when I gave myself a break and mowed the lawn. On a list of my 10 least favourite jobs, mowing the lawn would come in pretty high on the list, just above painting. So when she suggested she’d come over Sunday morning and give me a hand I was surprised and a little skeptical. Afterall she’s building herself a new home and her every waking moment, including 7am on a Sunday, is filled with the thousand and one things she needs to think about. And I do mean she’s building it herself: she’s an owner builder which means the guys at the local fastener shop all know her by name, as in “what are you after today Louise”, she’s nailed over 340 joist hangers into place in between building herself wooden steps, arguing with the concreter and running back and forth to Bunnings.

She said “I’ll be there at 7am, make sure the kettle’s on” to which I replied “ok”. Then she asked, “have you got a shower cap,” to which I replied a confused “no”. 7am on a Sunday morning, what sort of a time to be getting out of bed is that?!?! And I have no intention showering in a cap! 🙂 Anyway she rolls up, sets up a mysterious piece of equipment and proceeds to paint the ceiling. After we’d finished and got cleaned up we had enough time to hook up the trailer and head to the biggest Bunnings in SE Qld and still make it back in time for a 12 noon meeting with some young bloke she’s hired to work on her house build on weekends.

And if you’re wondering, yes that’s a plastic shopping bag on Louise’s head. Something about needing to protect her hair. At least this explains why she wanted to know if I owned a shower cap.

Now I can’t say exactly how long it would have taken me to roller the entire ceiling but I would guess at least 6-8 hours. Louise and her fancy little Wagner spray machine had the whole job knocked over in 2 hours. Of course she’d purcashed this in preparation for painting the new house she’s building. Me, I’d rather spend money on my trains 🙂

The only problem is I can’t tell her I’m writing this because she doesn’t know I took the photo and if she finds out I posted it my life won’t be worth living 🙂

On The Road Again

Many years ago a work related move (one of a series) found me living in a small, rented, two bedroom home unit in the New England city of Armidale, NSW. Prior to this move I had access to two garages in which I was building two separate HO layouts, with one doubling as a workshop and layout room. Over the last few weeks it’s dawned on me that I’ve gradually taken a similar step back to being confined to pretty much a spare bedroom for my hobby activities.

This photo shows one of my two modelling desks. I've been using this one for the last 18 months, allowing me to model on weeknights while I live close to work.

This photo shows one of my two modelling desks. I’ve been using this one for the last 18 months, allowing me to model on weeknights while I live close to work.

The roll top desk is one I picked up for $40 second-hand a few years ago and refurbished. It has some good points as a modelling desk and some limitations, but I’ve always wanted to own one and I wasn’t prepared to pay hundreds for new one that I would hesitate to bash about. It sits on small trundle wheels and is a lot more usable as a work desk since I installed a light under the pigeon holes. The white cupboard is a recent purchase from Bunnings and was acquired to go under the layout benchwork of Morepth Mk III. It provides good storage for kits and will serve well as a place to position models so I can photograph them.

So far my partner and I have only taken the most preliminary of steps on our journey to building our new home: drawing up some plans, wrestling with solicitors and banging our heads against the wall of indifference of local government regulations. Between the two of us we own no less than four separate houses. It would be more accurate to say various banks own them, but I’m sure you get the idea. In our initial planning it seemed a logical first step to consolidate our “real estate portfolio” and it was decided that a good first step would be for me to sell one of the houses I own. For the last 18 months I’ve only been living in this one on weekends and school holidays, so the choice was logical on one level however this is the house where my train room is located.

Prior to approaching an estate agent I decided to begin the process of de-cluttering the house and this has involved taking some items to my partner’s place to be stored – the property she’s not going to sell and where we will eventually build our new place – taking a couple of trips to the local tip and each weekend carrying a trailer load of gear back to my place in Casino, NSW. The Casino house is within commuting distance of my work and I live in it during the week. While I’ve moved a bit of my train gear to my home in Casino over the last few weeks, this weekend it really started getting serious. I’ve had a desk for modelling set up in the house ever since I bought the place but I’ve now started to transfer my collection of unbuilt kits and part of the layout. A section of QW made the trip today and I’ve set this up in the spare bedroom that now constitutes my modelling workroom.

The town end of QW made the trip over to my Casino home today. It's looking a bit the worse for wear at the moment. I'd just finished bashing it about and re-wiring it about the same time I decided to sell the house so it hasn't got the promised make-over. Yet!

The town end of QW made the trip over to my Casino home today. It’s looking a bit the worse for wear at the moment. I’d just finished bashing it about and re-wiring it about the same time I decided to sell the house so it hasn’t got the promised make-over. Yet!

We estimate that the new house probably won’t be ready to move into for approximately 3 years. We have at least two houses to sell first and a hormonal teenager to get through her HSC prior to building the new home. In the mean time I’ve got to set myself up in such a way that I can continue to make some progress on Morpeth Mk IV. I may not do a great deal of work on QW between now and then, I’m worried that any work I put into the layout may have to be ripped out again prior to installing it in my new train room. However having part of the layout set up will allow me to test locos and rolling stock and it keeps me in touch with one of my favourite elements of the hobby, layout building.

All in all things are coming together nicely.

Hole In The Wall

What sort of post can I make about an absence? When I got home today I found a hole: it was a neatly trimmed hole but a hole none the less. If you go back and look at the plan I posted a few weeks ago in Destruct Construct you’ll see that the plan shows a piece of track bisecting a circle in a space labelled “garage”. This is a representative drawing for a train turntable I built last year. This turntable allows operators to turn complete trains that are 1.5m long (5′) without any lifting or touching of the stock. 1.5m hardly allows for long trains however this limitation is one compromise that needs to be made if the stock is to be free from possible damage from operator’s fingers. This limitation on length was imposed by the length of my trailer: Morpeth was designed as a portable layout intended for exhibition. As the length of the turntable is limited to 1.5m this means the trains will also be limited to this length.

If you’ve read the Destruct Construct post you’ll already know that the plan posted along with the text was my solution to getting a fiddle yard into the plan. Earlier versions of the plan had seriously toyed with the idea of not including off scene storage. However I knew in my heart that this wouldn’t work for my long term plan to run this layout as an operating model railway, so the solution reversed the operating scenario: originally trains were to enter the scenic portion of the layout via Queens Wharf and end their journey in Morpeth yard. Essentially what I’ve settled on makes QW the terminus of the line with Morpeth a station stop along the line. This is not an ideal situation but it has the great advantage that it utilises the layouts I’ve been working on for the past 8 years and it also allows for off scene storage. The fact that this storage is in an adjoining room is an added benefit because it separates the non-scenicked fiddleyard from the rest of the layout, thus helping to add authenticity to the operating experience by not having the storage visually intrude into the operators view of the layout as they run a train up the line.

The one problem with this plan was that it required a hole be cut in the brick wall, the wall that I had so recently spent good money dressing up with plaster board and paint.

This photo shows the hole as it appears prior to filling, sanding and painting. It will eventually disappear behind the layout's backdrop but I still want to dress it up and paint it.

This photo shows the hole as it appears prior to filling, sanding and painting. It will eventually disappear behind the layout’s backdrop but I still want to dress it up and paint it.

When I got home from work today I found myself the proud owner of a hole. As you can see from the photo it’s not just any hole: it’s neatly trimmed in pine to help it look sleek and professional and it will be painted in the next week or so. The significance of this hole in the wall of my train room is that it will allow trains to be made up on the train turntable and then enter the scenic portion of the layout via the opening. I hope you’ll agree that this is a far preferable scenario to having the storage in the train room or worse still, not having any storage at all.

Of course that pre-supposes that I will leave the fiddle yard arrangements limited by the restrictions of the short train turntable. With a new space available for the storage and turning of trains that is not restricted by the dimensions of my 5’X7′ trailer, who’s to say that I won’t come up with some other, more imaginative way to store and turn trains. We’ll have to wait see about that possibility hey? 🙂


The Other End


This photo shows the other end of the room. I've already decided I don't really like this arrangment so things are going to shift about a bit. Every bench and workspace you can see in this photo excpet the big one in the centre is mounted on wheels so shifting things about isn't that much of a problem.

This photo shows the other end of the room. I’ve already decided I don’t really like this arrangment so things are going to shift about a bit. Every bench and workspace you can see in this photo excpet the big one in the centre is mounted on wheels so shifting things about isn’t that much of a problem.