Aisle Clearance

After a few months mostly working on models for other people and setting up my workshop I had a free morning this morning to put some time into a model. The first order of business was to drill holes in some white metal castings using a jig specifically designed to hold the parts at right angles to the 1/8″ drill bit required. The only problem was that I couldn’t find the jig! It wasn’t in the drawer labelled “jigs” and after hunting through all the nooks and crannies in my modelling workroom (twice) I went into the layout room and took a look there. I knew the jig wouldn’t be in there but I thought it was worth a try. No luck. However upon walking into the room I saw Morpeth’s recently made control panel sitting on a chair waiting to be hooked up to the layout. The thought struck me that I really needed to do something about reinstalling the panel as I had my first operating session booked for the first Wednesday in June and time was quickly running out to get the layout ready. So, as you do, I started out to work on a wagon and ended up spending a couple of hours crawling about under the layout. The best laid plans hey? 🙂

Now I hear you saying to your collective selves “operating session? He’s never mentioned operating sessions before” and you’d be right. However I was set a challenge by a friend a month or so ago and he’s a HO modeller and I’m not letting one of that species get one over on me 🙂 The turnout making sessions I’ve written about here have organically morphed into a get together between the three of us on the first Wednesday of the month. We’ve met at both my home and the home of the other O-scaler in our group and last month it was Phil’s turn. Phil does dabble in O but his primary scale is HO and his layout is built to HO scale to a NSWGR outline. Upon arriving he announced that he wanted to try running a basic operating session. Then he apologized, about 10 times, as if this was a burden for Peter and myself! A burden??? This was something I’d been working toward myself and here I was being asked to operate a train! I was actually excited but I hid this well and pretended to be put out and grumpy. Actually I’m not sure Phil could tell the difference from my normal demeanor, maybe that’s why he kept apologizing 🙂

Anyway things went swimmingly and as is usual in these cases he’s spent the last couple of weeks working on his layout altering things that cropped up as we ran our trains. Well done Phil! After getting home I started thinking it’ll be months before I can do something similar on my layout. Then I had a “bugger it” moment and sent Phil a text message that if he can do it so can I! I was running an operating session the next time we get together at my place. Our next get together was booked for May the 1st… at my place. May the 1st???!!! That was less than 4 weeks away! Luckily Phil made contact and said he couldn’t make it on that date so could we change the date? I said I’d reluctantly change the date and so we’re going to meet at my home on the first Wednesday in June. Thank Heavens for that, it gave me an extra month and Phil’s none the wiser. He apologized again 🙂

There are a lot of things that will need to happen before I can run a fully fledged, multi train operating session but Phil kept two of us busy for two hours with just two trains. I have plenty of locos but a dearth of rolling stock, hence the aim of working on that wagon this morning. However the layout has languished a bit over the last 6 months and hasn’t seen a train run right round the circuit because I haven’t yet finished the track laying for the loop extension at Queens Wharf. So this is very high on the must do list. Getting the layout up and running and reinstalling the control panel at Morpeth is one small job I thought I could do this morning instead of continuing my fruitless search for the drilling jig. I’ll get back to that!

The control panel for Morpeth was made as a separate item so it could be easily removed from the layout and stowed for transport. It hangs from a cleat at the front of the layout and is connected electrically by two cables that plug into receptacles under the layout and on the underside of the panel itself. The position I’d chosen for this panel was based on the need to get the operator away from the middle front of the layout when it was being exhibited, however this position down one end of the modules is less than ideal when the layout becomes part of the larger permanent layout.

This photo shows the area where I was working this morning as I moved the position of the control panel at Morpeth. Where I’ve labelled the photo A is the passageway at the end of the branch at Morpeth. This is a major traffic area and as you walk round the end of Morpeth, travelling from the Raworth side of the layout to the Queens Wharf side, the first thing you encounter is the control panel on your left. I decided that the panel needed to be moved up the aisle (toward the camera) to the position marked B and as far down the aisle from C as possible, as this spot is the narrowest part of the aisle where the yard at QW juts into the available aisle space.

I would’ve liked to have moved the panel to the middle of Morpeth (to the right of the camera position) so that it was completely out of the way of the aisle at its narrowest point. This is more than possible as the panel is hung by a cleat from the front of the layout and as such moving it is a very simple process of undoing some small bolts and shifting the cleat along the front of the fascia. The limiting factor is the cables that hook the panel up to the layout. These are about 800mm long and the receptacle for them under the layout is pretty much set. I could move these by doing a rewire job but I only have limited time before the first Wednesday in June so I moved things as far down the aisle as I could without doing any re-wiring. I’ll go with this for the operating session. If I feel the position of the panel is still a problem I’ll come back to it later and move the receptacle.

The main consideration in setting the position of the control panel for operations on the permanent layout is the amount of clearance between the panel and the fascia on the other side of the aisle. I’ve managed to get 700mm clearance (about 52″) at this point and this should be enough to allow someone to pass behind an operator standing at this panel, just.

While I was at it I moved the receptacle for the NCE throttles I use from the right hand side of the panel to the left to allow the panel to be placed just a little further up the aisle. I’m not totally happy with the position of this but again, it was a case of trying to achieve an acceptable result in a minimum of time. I can shift this back to the other side of the panel later if it’s something the operators complain about.


I Like Tank Wagons

While I’ve been rearranging my workshop I have managed to get a little work done on a modelling project. Many years ago I put a couple of Lloyd’s Model Railways kits for the NSWR SCA 3000 gal tanker wagon together. These were eventually sold off when I changed scales around 2000 but I have always had a soft spot for these wagons and tank wagons more generally.

You’ll have to excuse the quality of this photo. The wagon is still a little too shiny to allow for a really clear photo. It needs a bit of a squirt with some dull coat and perhaps a little weathering to bring out the detail..

Over the past couple of months I’ve been assembling an O-Aust kits, SCA 3000 Gal tank wagon (now available from ModelOKits) which I’ve had in the cupboard for quite a while. I found the wagon a middle level challenge to build, not so much due to the design of the kit but for the same reason I found the HO wagon challenging to build all those years ago: the chassis and the tank really have to be painted separately and then assembled and this needs some thought and planning prior to assembly.

As I worked my way through the assembly process I found that the materials and the wagon were very familiar and this kit bears a lot of resemblances to the HO wagon but with some significant improvements over those kits. I found the assembly of the walkways and ladders in etched brass allowed for a much more robust construction method because they allowed for a better anchor into the tank. These protrude quite significantly and are prone to damage and I feel that the O-scale version are likely to stand up to the rigors of operation far more readily. The cast detail items are all crisp and needed only minor clean up and I found the decals were a good representation of the prototype.

The final paint job was achieved with Dura Max spray cans. I decided to try a metallic silver for the tank. While this may not be terribly true to the prototype it does give the wagon some bling! 🙂 I will tone this down with Dullcote and weathering later. Overall i really enjoyed this build project and have started straight into another project, this time and S wagon.

Work Spaces

It’s been a while since my last post but there’s been only minimal progress on the layout because another project has been eating up my time. As I may have mentioned before, I spent 1978 as a 17 year old working through my first year of a four year carpenter’s apprenticeship. The path I took from 1978 to becoming a school principal is far too complicated (and lacks any connection to model railways) however I have been officially retired from the teaching service for 8 days at the time of writing and as such I’ve been doing some evaluation of what I want to do to fill up my free time.

1. Trains

2. Drink Coffee

3. Get Fit

4. Make stuff from wood

That about covers my bucket list! I was on the phone to a friend the other day and he asked me if I’d made a part I’d told him weeks before that I would make. I told him I’d been too busy. He asked “does you being too busy mean going to the gym and drinking coffee?” to which I replied “and your point is?” 🙂 I have been going to the gym, a lot, but that’s not the only reason I didn’t get around to making the part. I’ve been consumed by the job of fitting out my workshop.

I’ve been living in my current home for a little over 2 years. It has a very large, separate, steel, double-storey shed at the end of the driveway and while I love the house and it’s location overlooking the sugar cane fields around Murwillumbah in Northern NSW, I can’t pretend that the shed didn’t play a big part in my decision to buy the place. Trains upstairs, tools downstairs, bed and TV in the house! Simple. I’ve discussed in fairly minute detail the process of preparing the train room and building the benchwork upstairs for the layout but, as might be expected, I’ve written very little about the workspace downstairs. Why would I? This is a blog about Morpeth in O-scale, not a woodworking blog. However, as so much in our lives, having a clear demarcation line between trains upstairs and wood down works ok in theory but doesn’t work so well in practice because there’s no such demarcation between the tools I use to work on my trains and those used for my other projects. This has become more apparent recently as I’ve set about seriously reorganizing and improving my workshop space.

Never fear, I’ll get back to the trains eventually, however if you’re not really into workshops, tools, wood and storage solutions for workshops this may not be a blog post that is going to interest you overly.

About 4 weeks ago I made the decision to commence construction on a small, portable mixed NG/SG project layout in 7mm that will sit along one wall of my modelling room. This is a spare bedroom in the house. This will eventually form the basis of some articles on the construction process. I was happily pottering about planning this layout and running here and there buying materials and getting the basic frames built when I hit a wall of frustration with my workshop. I wanted to do one small cutting job on some of the timber I was using for the bench-work when I found myself thinking “this would be so much easier on a proper table saw”. For those of you into this type of stuff I’ve had a Triton workbench saw table for about 30 years. It’s been used to build just about every layout I’ve ever had anything to do with plus, being portable, I can stick it in the back of the ute and take it to other places and work on other people’s layouts too. I’ve built a lot of layouts with this saw. However I’m not moving again and I have a huge workshop space downstairs so I can have something better if I want it because, while the Triton has been great, some operations are a pain in the butt to carry out on it.

I made the fatal error of looking on Gumtree (equivalent to Craig’s List for my Nth American readers). These photos show what the result of that was:

The great advantage of a table saw with a cast iron top is that it’s heavy. The great disadvantage of a table saw with a cast iron top is that it’s HEAVY! Using it is ok but moving it is a pain. Luckily the guy I bought it from happened to have a fork lift in the yard. As you do 🙂 He was selling it because he’d got himself a bigger saw! Those logs you can see in the background are all furnture grade hardwoods. OMG! I was in heaven and I’m going back next week to get some timber.

Louise was kind enough to let me use her trailer to go pick the saw up. It was easy to load it, tie it in and get it home but getting it out of the trailer was beyond me on my own. I called in some friends! Note the workbench and tools hanging on the wall over on the far side of the shed.

I saw an ad on Gumtree for a second hand table saw about 25 minutes drive away and next thing I know I’m heading home with it strapped into the trailer. Then things really started to get complicated. I now had the saw I’d always wanted and the room to set it up properly however there are a couple of other tools and pieces of equipment I’ve wanted for a long while and, now that I was retired and my super scheme was throwing money at me, I decided it was time to finally do something about acquiring them. However the shed was a disorganized mess and before I could get to where I wanted to be I needed to do some work to improve matters. We arrive at today.

I call this the Armidale workbench. I made it around 2003 to go into a small space I had against a wall in the garage in my home in Armidale, squeezed in between my beer fridge and the first iteration of Morpeth in O. As you can see it’s not exactly a pristine workspace with acres of spare room. Also note that I decided I wanted to line the walls of the shed. I won’t be lining every wall but where I want to set up my workshop benches, lathes and hand tools I wanted it lined and lit well. Why plywood? Because while it’s more expensive that plaster board, having ply on the walls means I can hang anything anywhere I want. I don’t need to find studs, put up cleats or battens. Need a shelf 3′ from the corner of the room at eye height? Snap!

Rather than build new or work with the old 1.3m long Armidale bench I decided to extend it. I’ve got a couple of new legs installed on the right (70mmX70mm pine) with new, longer 4×1 beams along the top and bottom rear. The pace on the left will house an open fronted box with a shelf to hold my hand power tools.

The only real issue in getting stuck into this project was that it’s tending to divert me from modelling. But by Heaven I’m enjoying myself! I’ve been working in a make do environment for so long I’d forgotten many of the things I’d really wanted to get from a permanent workshop. This can be illustrated by my small metal sheer and rollers that was such an important tool in the building of my 20 class loco a couple of years ago. I was working on the new bench and I made the decision that I wanted to put in two new drawers for all the drill bits, router bits and other bits and pieces that I’d been cramming into some tiny drawers that sat on top of the old bench. I’d made a new bench a few years ago to use my mill and Sheline lathe on and this had a single drawer under the bench-top that I was planning to replicate. However this time I was going to have at least two drawers. They would have ply bottoms and use full extension drawer runners. Magic! As I was examining the drawer in other bench I noticed the metal sheer sitting under the drawer.

These plastic drawers have been sitting under my workbenches for years. They’re where I’ve been storing all my smaller hand tools for something like 20 years. The metal sheer is the red object on the right.

The metal sheer is a great little tool but it’s cast iron and heavy. As I tend to only use it when I’m working on a loco it tends to spend most of it’s time stuck in a dark corner and while this is ok for storage, when you want to use it having to crawl around on a concrete floor trying to see and cut your metal with it is not conducive to accurate metal cutting. This tool, even though it’s small, is way too heavy to lift up onto a bench and then back under it every time I need to use it. So in addition to new storage drawers for my hand tools on the longer workbench, the metal sheer is going to get it’s own, heavy duty stand that will be at a good height to both see the metal and hold the heavy tool in place when I have push down on it to cut metal.

I spent day 8 of my retirement assembling the drawers I’d made on the new table saw which I had managed to get off the trailer and set up last weekend. As you can see they are on full extension drawer slides that are rated to carry a weight that is well beyond what I’ll be placing in them. They have 7mm ply bottoms and will happily carry the weight of the tools that I’ll stack in them.

The next step is to secure the bench to the wall and put the ply top on, build a charging station for my battery re-chargers which will include a spot for a sound system and then I’ll move onto setting up the new band saw and dust extraction system I acquired yesterday.

Back On Track

Probably the most overused first sentence on blogs of all types is: “It’s been a while since my last post…” and then the author goes on to explain why it’s been a while since their last post. Well it has been a while since my last post but I’m going to spare you the self serving explanation of why, trying to pretend my life it so busy and full of rich experiences that I haven’t had time. The truth is that I’ve been a bit lazy, I’ve been doing other things and I’ve been enjoying summer to do a great deal of modelling and write blog posts about it. However I’ve been getting back into the modelling recently and I’ve finally reached a stage where I have something worthwhile to post.

As mentioned in my last post I’ve been getting together with a couple of friends on Wednesdays over the past few weeks to build some turnouts and we’re probably about half way through the building process of my two friend’s turnouts. In spite of my last post they didn’t get to eat any ginger nuts because I’d eaten them all before they arrived, however I made some lovely walnut and date slice with a lime icing that was a real knock out and which helped overcome their bitter disappointment at the lack of ginger nuts.

This photo shows Peter and Phil pretending to be doing some work on a turnout in between drinking coffee and scarfing down freshly baked walnut and date slice 🙂

Just after I’d completed the full circle of track round the layout room I decided the loop in QW’s yard wasn’t long enough. I only have a fairly paltry collection of rolling stock and the loop at QW couldn’t accommodate the moderately long train I’d made up to test my newly laid track. So I needed a fix and came up with a plan requiring some new turnouts. One R and one L, code 125, #6 turnouts to be precise. The last thing I wanted to be doing was building more turnouts but I’d agreed to build some for a friend who wanted to make a start on laying track on his layout so it was a good time to be making a couple of extras for myself. I happily made three new turnouts and commenced work on three more, one of which was to be a code 100 #6 when I decided it would probably be a good idea to go up and see how the ones I was building for myself would fit in their new home.

This photo shows the arrangement at one end of the yard at QW. The original cross over at the end of the loop is about 1 m to the left of this photo. I decided to leave this in place because removing it would have been far too disruptive and probably would have led to damage to the dairy you can see in the photo. The plan to lengthen the yard required the turnout in the photo to be pulled up, turned 180 degrees and have a second turnout butted up to its diverging end to allow QW yard to have a main, a loop and a goods loop.

It was at this stage that I became aware (because I’d bothered to walk out to the train room to take a look) that both of the turnouts I’d been constructing were essentially useless for their intended purpose. One was no good because it was being built on a base that would have made it impossible for it to be mated up with the pre-existing track of QW’s mainline. I built the track on QW many years ago on 3mm MDF bases and I was now make track on 5mm ply bases. Even the fairly forgiving, large-ish wheels on O-scale trains wouldn’t handle a 2mm height difference in the rails. The second turnout was useless because I’d managed to overlook the fact that the track in QW’s yard was actually code 100, not code 125. Luckily I’d been also been making a code 100 #6 turnout for the coal branch (which is also laid using code 100) and, even more luckily, it was of the correct orientation. So this turnout could be pressed into service on the loop lengthening project. However there was nothing for it but to start from scratch on a new code 125 turnout, built on a thinner base that matched the track on QW. Perhaps the most fortuitous factor was that, as I was also making the turnouts for my friend, I could foist my excess #6 turnout stock onto him and pretend I was doing him a favour by making him more turnouts and at a rate far faster than I’d originally said I could 🙂

This photo shows the original code 125 turnout turned 180 degrees and the new, partially completed turnout built on a thinner ply base in approximately their new positions. There’s still a bit of adjusting to do but I’m hoping these turnouts will be installed and trains will be running over them in the next week.

So the lesson from all this is that you can entice friends to your home with the promise of ginger nuts only to spring walnut and date slice on them and you can offer to build them turnouts and then foist your dumb mistakes on them and they’re grateful to you. Friends, what would we do without them? 🙂

That’s Not A Ginger Nut!

My friend Peter Krause asked if I’d mind bringing my fancy laser level to his place so we could level up the benchwork units for his new layout Saddlersfield in the lovely new shed he’s recently had built. I had no hesitation in jumping in the car and heading north to spend a pleasant morning helping get the benchwork leveled. It took us very little time using the laser and I have a feeling that we both surprised ourselves at how quickly the job went compared to what time it would have taken using traditional bubble levels.

So after not much more than an hour we were sitting under the awing at the back of his house drinking tea when he offered me a Ginger Nut biscuit. Now I haven’t eaten a Ginger Nut in years so I agreed with alacrity but what he offered was suspiciously thin and decidedly un-nut like. A Ginger Nut is an Arnott’s biscuit and in my memory they are fat, sweet and hard. I mean really HARD! They aren’t a Ginger Nut unless you’re in danger of chipping a tooth on them. I offered the opinion that what Peter was offering me to accompany my cuppa was a dreaded generic or something sold by that German retail mob masquerading as an Aussie classic but no, he assured me that these were, in fact Arnott’s Ginger Nuts! E-Gads!!?? What has the world come to when a Ginger Nut snaps rather than cracks? Of course Arnott’s was sold to the Americans quite a few years ago so I blame them. Any nation that would inflict Justin Beiber on the world and soften up a Ginger Nut has a lot to answer for! Have you seen an Iced Vovo recently? Pathetic 🙂 No wonder the current generation is taking the world to hell in a hand-basket via their mobile apps, they don’t have proper Ginger nuts to help toughen them up! 🙂

Anyway I chose to address this egregious culinary crime by hauling out my well thumbed Woman’s Weekly cookbook and cooked a batch of Ginger Nuts. And by Ginger Nuts I mean a biscuit, not a cookie, one that needs a mouth guard to eat!

While they didn’t come out quite as hard as I’d have liked these are my version of a real Aussie Ginger Nuts! Let’s face it, anything that has cinnamon and sugar in it is bound to taste ok. Oh and a bit of ginger too 🙂

Peter and another friend of mine are getting together on the 16th of January 2019 to to commence work on making some O-scale turnouts and possibly eat Ginger Nuts. If you happen to be in the area of the Qld Gold Coast or far northern NSW please make contact on and you might get to eat one too.

This is the recipe I used to make my Ginger Nuts. Yum! 🙂

We’ll get back to the trains next time 🙂

The Next Steps

About six weeks ago I arrived home from the New England Convention where Morpeth appeared as a layout display. I wasn’t exhausted by the experience but I’d done little else in my free time in the lead up to the convention but work on the layout so I’d been putting off a list of jobs that I needed to get onto once I got home, and frankly, I just wanted some time off modelling. Two things happened today that sort of drew a natural line under this hiatus.

The first of these was that I’d been building and installing some vegetable beds in the garden and I managed to fill them with soil today and plant some seedlings. The walls of my new vegie boxes are built from genuine railway sleepers (what else?) and as the beds now have plants in them I should have a little more time to spend at the modelling bench. Secondly, after a six month wait, my electrician rang yesterday and asked if he could come out and install the emergency cut off switch on my “new” (67 year old) Myford lathe. I set the lathe up on its stand months ago and had a light installed over it in preparation for this day, but I’m yet to actually cut any metal on it. I could have done a few small metalwork jobs on the lathe if I’d chosen but I’d made a personal resolution that I wouldn’t use the machine until it was safe to do so. Knowing me, setting the tail-stock in place and making parts would have meant the switch never got installed, so while it took a heck of a lot longer than I’d anticipated, the lathe is now ready for to be fully assembled and used.

The stand that the lathe sits on has a steel plate welded to the front in anticipation of the installation of a safety switch, one that obviously never got installed, because it had no holes in it where the switch could have been mounted. The only issue around using this plate to mount the switch on would have been that doing so would have meant the switch projected out from the front of the lathe about 100mm, right a crotch height. I attached a timber step-back plate to the steel mount to allow the switch to sit nicely tucked in at an appropriate location: easily accessible but with little opportunity for it to enable me commence a new career as a castrati.

while not doing any work on the layout I have actually been working on a modelling project for a friend; the refurbishment of a hand built, South Australian S class 4-4-0 steam loco built to 1:48 several decades ago.This locomotive was sitting on a section of my friends layout that consisted of plywood when I visited a few months ago and somehow or another I ended up bringing it home with me to see if I couldn’t get in running nicely. I flatter myself that there isn’t a locomotive in existence I can’t get running well but I prefer an achievable challenge over a difficult one and this little 4-4-0 has proven to be a pleasure to work on. I’ve spent a lot of the past six weeks waiting for parts to arrive from various parts of the globe and at the time of writing I still hold out hope that a package with some small BA bolts and a plug tap will arrive before Christmas day. We’ll have to see about that. Other than this the loco is essentially ready to reassemble and give a test run. I’m considering making a new bogie for the front of the loco but I will make a decision about whether this is necessary tomorrow when I do some more work on it now that I don’t have to go outside and shovel barrow loads of stone or garden soil 🙂

When the owner of the S class spoke to me about it he said it didn’t run very well. I feel one of the reasons for this poor running was that it used the “American” pickup system of half the wheels on the tender collecting current from one rail and the loco drivers on one side collecting from the other rail. In my book this simply means that you’re essentially only using half the available pick up points for current collection. After replacing all the wheels on the loco for modern, insulated versions (the wheels on the tender were chunky solid brass models) I installed pickups on all available wheels. This photo shows the tender with my standard current collection system; pickup wipers on the backs of all wheels, insulation provided by copper clad sleeper material (in this case left over sleeper material from some Marcway points I made 15 years ago) and more copper clad used to transfer the current to the front of the tender.

I’ve been gradually working on the S class over the past couple of weeks and enjoying myself immensely working on a model that is not intended to go to sea 🙂 I installed new wheels on both tender and loco, improved the current collection by installing pickups on all wheels and worked on installing DCC sound into the loco rather than the tender where the decoder was when I was handed it.

Normally I would use a Jaycar high bass speaker for an O-scale loco such as this however there simply isn’t room to fit one unless I place it in the tender. In a choice between putting a smaller speaker into the loco body or a larger one into the tender the smaller speaker won out. I’m reinstalling the speaker that came with the loco into the boiler. Luckily the smoke box door popped off easily so I’m planning to glue the speaker (which already has its own enclosure) to the back of this. That way it will remain accessible in case the owner chooses to upgrade to a larger speaker in the tender later. I’ve made up a small Vero board circuit to mount the L series ESU decoder to which is held in place with some double sided tape. The masking tape is simply to hold the wires from the decoder I haven’t utilized out of the way.

With luck the loco should be running by the new year. I’ll write a post and possibly make a short video of this when it happens.

The Ticking Clock

About nine months ago I agreed to take Morpeth to the New England Convention in November. That’s nine months away, then six months away and now it’s less than two weeks away. A friend is booked to help me load the layout into the trailer in under two weeks and when that happens the layout has to be ready to roll because work must cease. Shiver me timbers!

As the clock has ticked and the weekend of the 17th and 18th of November draws closer I tried to make sure that all the really big jobs that needed to happen prior to departure were well and truly done. I mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago that I’d got the layout downstairs into the workshop and it was set up. Well in the intervening weeks I’ve steadily worked my way through a to do list of smallish jobs. I didn’t want to hook the DCC system up to the layout until most of the dirty wood cutting and shaping jobs were done. Well the DCC system was connected last weekend and I got the layout’s curtains hung and I have to admit that she does look good.

This shot shows the layout set up and ready for action. The DCC system is hooked up, the lighting rig installed, the new control panel is set up and trains are running.

I will admit to working at a fairly relaxed pace over the past few weeks: I had a list of jobs to finish but long experience told me I had more than enough time to get these completed and still put a bit of time into the ship which is most definitely going to accompany the layout no matter whether it’s finished or not. Then an Auscision 48 class turned up in the mail last week and I had to make a decision: if I could get a decoder installed in good time and have the loco running I might be able to take it with me to Armidale. If I couldn’t then I wouldn’t touch it and it would remain in it’s box. I had very limited time left to get done what I needed to do and the worst outcome would be to devote several hours to installing and programming a DCC decoder only to find I couldn’t get the bugs ironed out in time. I bit the bullet and decided to have a shot at installing a decoder which I had on hand and while the sound file is not exactly the correct motor noise it’s pretty close. A week after starting this job I was ready to take the loco out to Morpeth and give it a run. It seemed to be running ok inside on my test track but the bloody thing wouldn’t cooperate on Morpeth and kept stopping and shorting the DCC system on every turnout and even occasionally on straight, plain track. My instincts told me that there was something shorting across the wheels and sure enough it turned out that the brake blocks were touching the wheels faces at spots on the layout where that variations in the rails pushed the axles slightly one way or the other. A bit of judicious leverage with a small screw driver appears to have solved the problem.

4821 sitting at Morpeth station platform. This Auscision model is a beautiful piece of work. The plug in DCC board has simplified the installation of a DCC decoder although getting two speakers into the body was still a challenge. It runs beautifully and looks the part on the layout. Auscision are to be congratulated.

Today I had another friend visit to help me lift sections of the layout in and out of the trailer in preparation for the final loading next week. I’ve come up with a way to transport all 5 sections of the layout in the four slots available in the trailer however getting them all in the trailer and secured had my friend Peter and I scratching our heads today. I think I’ve come up with an answer to the dilemma but we’ll find out over the next couple of days as I finalize preparations and start to tear the layout down.

This is a slightly different view of Morpeth from the stairs up to the first floor. I’m very happy with the way the layout looks in this mode but exhibition preparation is a lot of work!

Oh and if you’re wondering, I have made some progress on the ship but nowhere near enough for me to be happy with it. I’ll keep plugging away and post a photo of the ship in place when the layout appears at the convention in a couple of weeks.

I should thank Peter, Phil, Chris and John for their help and advice in getting the layout and the 48 ready for the convention. Any glitches, hiccups and problems have all been my doing and without their valuable assistance the layout would never have come down from its second storey home and it certainly wouldn’t have had a brand new brass 48 running on it over the upcoming weekend.