Back To It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Debbie Does Morpeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hull Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morpeth’s Big Day Out

Last weekend came the time to bite the bullet and move Morpeth to its new home. A relatively hot real estate market has resulted in the sale of my current home (after the place being on the market for approximately 12 hours) and so I’ve got to actually move my belongings to the new house, not just think about it and dream of having a layout set up and running in my new layout space 🙂 I’d actually got the third scenic module to the stage of essentially being “finished” and built the track-work across the gap between it and the next module. So the first order of business was to unbolt them from each other and move the creek section out to my dedicated layout trailer. Now I need to point out that the trailer is dedicated almost exclusively to the storage and transport of my layouts, except when I’m moving. When a move is in the offing I have to remove the layout from the aluminium rack built to hold it and then remove the rack so the trailer can be used for the far more mundane task of moving my books, tools, kitchen paraphernalia and extensive teddy bear collection. I’m just kidding about the teddy bears: my mum collected them when she was alive and I have one or two favourites left over from the vast crowd she owned 🙂

As a small boy I seem to remember a joke that went something like why aren't Irishmen good at water skiing? Because they can never seem to find a lake or river with a steep enough slope to ski on. Well I think I've got the solution to this problem!

As a small boy I seem to remember a joke that went something like: why aren’t Irishmen good at water skiing? Because they can never seem to find a lake steep enough to ski on (tish boom). Well I think I’ve got the solution to their problems! 🙂 I needed to manoeuvre the creek module out of the spare bedroom where I work and the best way of making space was to lean the river module up against the wall out-of-the-way.

So the plan was to get the three sections of the layout that were making the trip into the trailer, drive this over to the new house and then unload them and the rack into my big new shed. Simple! Well it would have been if all three sections that needed to be transported had already been in the trailer but they weren’t: one of them was sitting on two saw horses in the spare bedroom I use to work on my models. This section needed to be loaded into the trailer, along with its attendant lighting rig before I could make the trip. And as I’m on my own at this end of the journey I had to get it out of the bedroom, through the house and loaded into the trailer on my own. The thing was far lighter and more wieldy when I carried it in there, I can tell you! 🙂

Actually this isn't a shot that's half way there: it's actually more like a quarter of the way to the trailer: across the living room floor, down the hall and out into the garage!

Actually this isn’t a shot that’s half way there: it’s actually more like a quarter of the way to the trailer. It still needs to travel across the living room floor, down the hall and out into the garage!

After some grunting and careful footwork I managed to get the layout segment out to the garage and propped up against the back of the trailer where all I needed to do was lift one end and slide it into its alloted slot. Easy! 🙂

This shot shows the layout almost ready to be trsnported. I left it sticking out to show which piece I'd loaded into the trailer.

This shot shows the layout almost ready to be transported. I left it sticking out to show which piece I’d loaded into the trailer.

So after almost giving myself another hernia I managed to get the layout segments being transported into the trailer, hooked it up to my car and hauled it the 100km to its new home. My friend Phil agreed to put off consuming a third or fourth latte at his favourite cafe and drove over on a beautiful Sunday morning to my new house where he helped me unload and store the layout. This entailed getting all three sections out of the rack, pulling the rack out of the trailer and then sliding all three sections back on the rack. Thanks Phil 🙂

The layout isn’t set up ready to run trains on, that’s months (if not years) away at this stage. It’s forlornly sitting on the floor of my workshop, probably having its foliage nibbled by rodents as I sit here writing this, a good hour’s drive away. For the next 6 or 7 weeks, as I go through the drawn out process of shifting my possessions from my old home to my new place, I have the river module and ship to work on. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a little time between work and the move to do some modelling.



I’ve made some steady progress this past week on the planked deck for the wooden pier at Morpeth. The core of the straight length of this structure is a 1.1mX220mm piece of 4mm thick plywood that I cut to size quite a while ago. I made some slight adjustments to this piece of ply last weekend and then started the task of covering it in a layer of detailed strip wood.

This shot shows the pier deck with the basic bass wood planking and surrouding strip wood in place.

This shot shows the pier deck with the basic bass wood planking and surrounding strip wood in place.

In the planning stages of this project (at least 2 years ago) I made the decision that I couldn’t cram in a set of points onto the pier to allow the passage of locomotives and wagons onto to the two lines I planned to run on it. The prototype at Coffs Harbour had points on the deck but I just didn’t have enough length to allow this. I came to the decision that I could live with a single line running from the layout out onto the pier and the other line would essentially be a short length of straight track that would be confined to the pier itself with no direct connection to the mainland. The plan is to use this line for a scratchbuilt crane “contraption” that will shuffle back and forth along the rails with the other line running out to the pier by a curved trestle and onto an adjacent line. This is the reason this planked deck is wide enough for two lines but the trestle only carries a single line. The effect I’m after is something like this…

While the health nd safety aspects of this photo make me weak at the knees, what I'm interested in is the crowded deck of the the wooden pier, the rail lines and the pier mounted steam crane. I will represent elements of this scene on my own pier.

While the health and safety aspects of this photo make me weak at the knees, what I’m really interested in is the crowded deck of the wooden pier, the rail lines and the pier mounted steam crane. I will represent elements of this scene on my own pier.

After finishing the decking on my pier surface I turned the 4mm ply over and got to work installing the underside beams that will allow the wooden trestles to hold it above the water’s surface. I ran three longitudinal beams down the length of the pier and then glued 45 corbels to these in 9 different spots I’d pre-marked on the underside of the plywood.

This is the underside of the piers deck. You can see the corbels clearly in this shot. The length of 12

This is the underside of the pier’s deck. You can see the corbels clearly in this shot. The crossways length of 12″X12″ represents the orientation of the trestle legs will take when they have been assembled. There will be nine in all.

I couldn’t resist plonking the ship’s hull next to the pier to see what it looked like. I’d cut the bottom off this structure some time ago and it had sat forlornly in my modelling room waiting to be launched. It will be built as the final major project for this layout. Who says a layout isn’t ever finished? 🙂

It doesn't look much at the moment but I'll soon get to work on the kit to provide my pier scene with a ocean going connection.

She doesn’t look much at the moment but I’ll soon get to work on the kit to provide my pier scene with an ocean going connection.

Video Of Port Rowan

I was making a visit to a blog written by a friend of mine in Canada by the name of Trevor Marshall. I don’t get a lot of time to read other people’s blogs but Trevor’s is always worth visiting. What caught my eye this time was some beautiful HD video footage of some shunting on his S scale layout Port Rowan. It’s well worth a look.