Thursday, December 27, 2012

Scenery at last

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that the New Year will be a great one.

There hasn't been a lot happening on the Bogong & Geehi for the last 6 weeks as we have been busy harvesting on the farm. It was a successful harvest and we finished on the Friday before Christmas. It is always good to be finished before the festive season and after a few days catching up on some sleep I decided to venture out into the shed and do some modelling.

I have been busting to do some scenic work to try and remove the snowstorm look that most of the layout has. The first thing I do is cover the foam with several layers of chux wipes soaked in white glue diluted with water.
Once that has dried I have been using "mud" which is something that American modeller Mike Confalone uses on his layout showcased in model-railroad-hobbyist magazine. He has a multi part article about building his layout starting in the April 2012 issue which can be downloaded from the website.
Mike makes his mud mixing Celluclay ( a dried paper mache product) mixed with acrylic house paint and a little water. Mud is a very appropriate name as that is what it looks like. It is very good for filling holes and generally looking like soil. It is surprising how far a small mix will cover and it dries to a very hard and strong surface. While it's still wet I sift on a light coat of dry grout to make the surface look even more like soil.

After all that had dried I just had to get out my Noch grass master and apply some static grass. I use fibres from both Heki and Silhouette. I only did a small area as I wanted to check that my technique still worked. I used white glue which has left a shiny sheen when it dried, so I will be trying matte medium next time. On my first patch I put down the static grass first and then tried adding silhouette flowers to represent Paterson's curse and grass tufts. With the static grass already down the tufts had trouble touching the ground so I tried putting the tufts and flowers on first and then adding the static grass which I think is more successful. Looking at the photos I think I need to add something like a little ground foam to represent broadleaved plants

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Building Hills

I have been building some scenery and trialing different methods to build the land form on the Bogong & Geehi. I had planned to use wire netting as it is cheap, and easy to shape. It has the advantage that you can quickly see the finished contours with out making much of a mess. I then cover the mesh with no brand dish clothes soaked in white glue. The disadvantage is when one wants to cover the hills with trees to simulate a forest. The mesh hill doesn't really provide much support  so I have tried wiring sheets of Styrofoam to the underside to give me something to poke the trees in with mixed success.
I have seen layouts that have used white Styrofoam for their landforms and I have used it in the past but finding it our here in the country at a reasonable price  has been a challenge. A recent visit to Bunnings found that I could buy sheets of Styrofoam sold in packs for insulation. I brought a pack home and have been experimenting. It is certainly messier and slower to build, does make a more stable and more versatile land form. The train shed has its own vacuum cleaner which makes dealing with the mess as I shape the foam a lot easier. I have also covered the foam with the dish cloths soaked in glue.
I think the foam option will be the way I will go. Even though the cost is higher, for me the positives outweigh the negatives.
It is nice to finally see trains running through some scenery even if the hills are bare and lacking vegetation. I need to put a layer of soil to cover the blue. I tried just painting with a brown paint and sifting my usual brown grout but I can still see the edges of the cloth so I will need to add something to hide them.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Since my last post the main activity on the layout has been painting. I have given the fascia a coat of black, which really help to define the edge of the layout and frames the scenery nicely. I have also decided it was time to make a decision about which way to go with backdrops. I gave serious consideration to a photo backdrop. I think a very well done photo looks great, but if it hasn't been done well it can draw attention away from the modelling and not look so good. I discovered getting a good photo isn't as quick and simple as taking a few quick snaps with the digital camera. You also need good software to merge them all together, and what I had would only let me make a panorama 3 metres long.
So I decided to get some brushes and paint and have a go at painting my backdrops. My reasoning was that if it didn't work out I could still cover them up with a photo.


You can see my efforts in the photo above. My aim is to have a simple scene that doesn't have a lot of detail, but still leaves no doubt that you are in the hills of southern NSW. I have used artists acrylics in previous attempts at a backdrop with mixed results. I found it hard to mix colours accurately especially if I wanted to come back and touch up previous work.

The Modelling the Railways of NSW convention this year had a presentation by Ray Pilgrim about how he paints his backdrops on his layout Bylong. I was unable to attend but I was able to buy a copy of the notes. Ray recommends using Jo Sonja background colours. They are designed to cover large areas and I can recommend them as well. I have found them easy to work with and they give excellent results. They can be a bit hard to find (especially here in the country) so I mail ordered mine from Art Materials who also sell useful stuff like Celluclay, sculptamold and Copic markers. I used some of the artist acrylics I had to add highlights and shadows and I am pleased with the results. I won't win any art prizes but I am happy with how much depth they add to the scene.

This vista shows that scenery should soon be happening and I am currently trialing different techniques for the hardshell. I look forward to reporting the results in a future blog post.
Cheers, Murray

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pass the Dettol

No there hasn't been any medical procedures happening on the Bogong and Geehi. Nor has there been any need to kill any germs. I have been stripping paint and using Dettol antiseptic disinfectant to do it.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to buy an Alco Models On30 brass Victorian Railways Na locomotive. It is a beautiful model, but it came painted in an orange paint scheme that Puffing Billy used in the 1990's. It wasn't really suitable for a late 1940's era layout.

I decided that it was time to paint it a nice basic black. The issue was, how do I remove the paint. After seeking advice from modellers more knowledgeable than I, we decided that soaking in enamel paint thinners was the way to go. I don't know what the orange paint was but after three days of soaking no amount of scrubbing would remove any paint.

So it was on to plan "B". A google search of " removing enamel paint from models " came up with this link to wikihow which suggests using Dettol. I had read on a forum sometime ago that modelers had used Dettol with success so looking for a non toxic approach I thought I would try it.

I followed the instructions on wikihow which recommends mixing one part Dettol with one part water. I don't know if it was because the loco had been in enamel thinners or it happens normally but when I put it in the liquid it started to bubble. It continued to bubble for hours. The kids thought it was great. Wikihow suggests soaking for 24 hours but the bubbling was making me nervous so I pulled it out after 12 hours. I still had an unharmed loco but the paint was literally falling off. Some of the details had thicker paint that wouldn't budge so I put it back in for another 12 hours.
Virtually all paint was gone. It did take a bit of scrubbing with a toothbrush and tooth pick to get the last of it off . A wash under running water has now gotten me a model ready for the paint shop



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Welcome to Buckland

Last weekend I had a visit by a couple of friends and so I had a bit of pressure on to get a few tasks completed and make the layout look more presentable. The first task on the list was to get the track laid in the village of Buckland.

Buckland is the highest point on the mainline and will be a small place with maybe a shop or two, a pub and a church. Industries served by the railway will be a goods shed, the wool merchants and maybe a mine. As it is the high point helpers will probably be used from Geehi to here on the ore trains if operations ever happen.

I decided to use Micro Engineering code 83 flex track and points. While I am happy with the appearance of the Custom trax that I have been using, once I started running trains I am less so. I have had a lot of issues with the flex track being out of gauge and it isn't easy to adjust. I have also have had issues with the Custom trax turnouts being out of gauge and having intermittent electrical shorts. While the Micro Engineering track doesn't look as good the quality is much higher and that makes for more happier train running.
The next task I wanted to get completed is the fascia. A busy Saturday saw the bottom fascia installed the entire length of the layout that has track laid. In my eyes it has dramatically improved the appearance of the layout and given it a more finished look. Once the fascia was in, I couldn't help myself and I have started installing the landform.
My preference is to use wire netting that is used for fencing. As I live on a farm I have an almost unlimited supply and it is easy to work with. I attach it to the fascia by sandwiching the wire between scraps of wood and the fascia. Once I am happy with the shape I install risers under the hills to keep it in place. I then cover it with multiple layers of chux wipes soaked in white glue thinned with water. In the photo above the section of roadbed in front of the loco will be cut out and a bridge installed but it could be some time before I get to it.
The next task that I am about to tackle is painting the backdrop. I did consider using a photo backdrop but putting good photos together proved to be more difficult than I thought it would. Joining the different panoramas together was also an issue. The cost of the many metres of photos I would need was enough to get me motivated to start painting.  
Cheers Murray

Saturday, July 28, 2012


The bright green paint of my modified loco has gotten the better of me. It was looking to pristine and dare I say it, a little too toy like. It badly needed to be weathered. It has been a while since I have weathered an engine, so I was a bit apprehensive at taking to a perfectly good paint job.

 I am a fan of the Wild Swan book The art of weathering by Martyn Welch and have used the techniques as described with some success. Having said that modelling techniques are always evolving and I have been watching with interest at what the military modellers have been developing.

In the past 12 months I have bought a DVD & a book from the European firm AK interactive. They can at times feel a little like adds for their products but there is no denying that the results are spectacular. I recently bought some AK interactive products from BNAmodelworld who are great to deal with. They also sell the book & DVD as well as paints like Vallejo at prices very competitive with overseas retailers( no connection - just a happy customer).

The first thing I did to my engine was give it a coat of satin clear acrylic which protects the paint and lets me remove the weathering if something goes wrong! Once that was dry I gave it a thin coat of MIG deep green wash. This really made the details like the rivets stand out.

Once that was dry I gave the whole loco a dusting of Floquil weathered black. I made sure that I only air brushed from the top to simulate the grime and cinders that would settle over a working engine. I then gave the running gear and underframe a dusting of Floquil grimy black. After the paint had dried for a few days I added some streaks of AK interactive streaking grime. With this technique you paint on in vertical lines, the streaking grime with a thin brush and let it dry for 5-10 minutes. You then come back with a flat brush that has been dipped in white spirits and work the lines down the side of the tender thinning them as you go.

It is harder to explain than do, which is what makes the DVD and the many photos in the book so useful. As you can see from the photo of the tender, it makes the model look like that while it is well looked after, it is still a hard working loco hauling trains over the Buckland Gap on the Bogong & Geehi. I am planning to add a little of the track brown and some earth pigments to the tender trucks and counter weights on the engine.

I could have weathered the engine even more with rust streaks and more grime but I wanted something that looked well cared for. If you have another look at the first photo of this post I hope you will agree with me that I have achieved my aim.

Cheers, Murray

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bashed Bachmann completed!

A couple of post's ago I wrote about my efforts to turn a Bachmann On30 2-8-0 into something more Australian. Well a few weeks back I put a cold weekend to good use and spent my time completing my project and here are the results. With the very cold winter we are having it has been a bit of a challenge to get it painted. I extended the tender sides with some brass strip and added rivet details to the cab and tender with Archer transfers resin rivet transfers.

I am very pleased with how it looks. The green is a NSW government railway colour from Railey paints. It is a bit bright at the moment but some weathering should tone it down nicely. It has also had a Tsunami sound decoder fitted.

As you can see I am enjoying watching and listening to her trundling back and forth on the track that has been laid so far. You can also see in the photo that I have started work on some scenery. I have started work on the river and some basic land forms. I hope to do a post soon with more details soon but with the weather the way it has been I am not spending much time in the shed so progress has been slow.

Cheers Murray

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I've been fortunate enough to visit a couple of exhibitions in the last month. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to railfan at exhibitions in the last few years, so it has been great seeing where the hobby is at & catching up with friends.

Albury held its annual exhibition at the end of May and it was very enjoyable. I am amazed at the quality of the rtr Australian models now available and it is pleasing to see that  Australian prototype layouts are now the norm. Unfortunately I forgot my camera but I remembered it for the Epping clubs exhibition at Thornleigh over the long weekend.

Again it was great to see so many Australian prototype  layouts and the quality of the layouts was exceptional. I have heard a lot of good things about the 7mm scale standard gauge layout Arakoola and it didn't disappoint. I liked the photo backdrop and the size of the models.

 If I ever decide to model something other than narrow gauge I will give 7mm standard gauge a lot of consideration. I have spent the last few days pondering if I have enough space for an interchange between the Bogong & Geehi and the NSWGR, but I don't think I have enough room unless I redesign the layout.

There were lots of excellent HO layouts but unfortunately most of my photos aren't good enough to show. This photo of Wyee shows the quality of modelling on display. Ray Pilgrims blog Bylong has some good photos of the show.

The only narrow gauge layout was exhibited by Geoff Nott. It is always inspiring seeing Geoff's work and makes me want to get into modelling some scenery on my own layout

Geoff and friends ran clinics all weekend showing the modellers of the future how much fun building scenery can be.

It has been worthwhile for me visiting these two exhibitions even if I didn't see many On30 layouts. I find exhibitions thought provoking and they help me to work out what aspects of the hobby that motivate me. Not only have I caught up with lots of people I haven't seen for awhile but I have been inspired to get working on the layout and to try and lift my standard of modelling to somewhere closer to what I saw.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

More modifying loco's

It has been some time since I have made a post and unfortunately the need to make a living has meant that progress on the railway has been slow.

Out in the shed I have been laying track and wiring. For me these are probably the two least favourite aspects of the hobby. In the past I have rushed these jobs to get to more favourite tasks like scenery. As you would expect this has meant that I have been rewarded with layouts that look nice but don't preform the way they should. As someone said on a podcast I was recently listening to, "if the trains don't run theirs not much fun". So this layout I am determined to get good reliable running before the scenery work starts.

You probably don't want to look at photos of my wiring ( because I don't!!!) so here is a photo of another project I have been working on.

I recently picked up another Bachmann On30 2-8-0 of ebay. For the price they are a great but they do look very American. I decided that I would have another go at making one look like it belongs here in the Aussie bush. Regular followers of this blog will remember that my February post talked about replacing the whole superstructure with a new brass one. I am yet to complete that conversion as I wasn't completely happy with the appearance. Also a couple of the next steps had me stumped on how to proceed. A visit today with master metal worker Bernard Snoodyk has helped and I plan on getting back to finishing it soon.

Meanwhile back to the loco I just bought, I decided to save some work and keep the boiler that comes with the engine. I removed the steam dome with a jewellers saw and replaced the chimney as well with castings from O-Aust kits  A new cab based on the Commonwealth Railways NM class has been soldered up out of brass sheet. The photo shows the model in a very rough stage and I still have a lot to do like finish the cab and add styrene sides to the metal frame to extend the tender. Even so I hope you would agree that it has a certain charm and will look more at home than the engine straight out of the box.

The background is an experiment in using photo backdrops. I like the realism that a photo provides, something that I think my painted backdrop struggles with. Having said that I have seen layouts where photos haven't worked that well either. There is also the cost which is not something to be sneezed at, but then the work in painting a good backdrop is a considerable investment as well.

I am going to do some more research and if anyone has some experience please feel free to share

Cheers, Murray

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Concrete bridge abutments

March has been a quiet month on the Bogong & Geehi. Work has been very busy and a couple of trips away for the month has meant that not as much has been happening as I would like. I have also been in a bit of a flat spot with the railway as several projects haven't worked out the way I had hoped.

One of the best ways to get motivated is to spend some time with some train mates . I had a very enjoyable weekend in Melbourne attending the Southern Forests narrow gauge meet a few weeks back.
 The evening before Gavin Hince held an operating session on this On3 North Coast Railroad. It is always great to visit Garvin's layout and see what changes he has made. Thanks Gavin for the invitation.
The organisers of Southern forests arranged for Puffing Billy to a run a special train for attendees. It was also a great opportunity to photograph some of the Victorian Railways narrow gauge equipment.

All the presentations were excellent but the two stand outs for me were Michael Johnson's history of his freelanced railway and Dan Pickards tree building clinic. Michael has developed a history that includes freight traffic and how it changed over time. The different industries affected motive power and rolling stock requirements and has helped him develop a realistic roster.

Dan is a very talented modeller and his skills at creating realistic Australian scenery are plain to see. Seeing his Splitters creek module in the flesh was great and I am keen to try his techniques for eucalyptus. Dan has covered building his module on his blog Somewhere on the workbench He also has a great post on the Southern Forests weekend.

I finally found some free time this weekend to do some work on the railway. I am keen to get started on some scenery around my pin truss bridge. I needed to build some abutments for the bridge to sit on before I could start creating the landforms.I decided that if the bridge had been an upgrade from a wooden bridge in the 1920's that the abutments would be made of concrete. I began by making them out of wood. It took a couple of attempts to get all the angles right but this is what I ended up with

Nothing glamorous but the right shape. To get the concrete effect I like to use plaster. I had some cornice cement left over from a recent project.It is ideal as it comes already mixed, sticks well, drys quickly and can be spread thinly. I just trowelled it on with a spatula.

I leave the plaster for about 15 minutes, and then use my finger dipped in water to smooth out the finish

After the plaster had dried, I stained it with a wash of Polyscale aged concrete acrylic paint that I diluted with water. Here is the end result with the bridge re-installed.

I have also installed a piece of MDF at the height of the river. I also spent a bit of time moving trees around, to get an idea of how the completed scene might look.

I am happy with how it looks but I will need more trees. I think it will need at least another two willows to help hide were the river meets the backdrop as well as quite a few smaller gum trees. All in all a very productive weekend.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The first year in the expanded shed

It is hard to believe that it is just over 12 months since the extensions to my train shed were completed. In the last year I think I have achieved quite a bit, but sometimes it has seemed like two steps forward and one step back.
The layout February 2011

The same spot in February 2012

the view looking back along Geehi

In the last year I have built about 60 feet or 20 meters of benchwork and in another week I should have all the track laid on the benchwork that has been built. My goal had been to have all the benchwork built and track laid in the first year, but reality has kicked in and it will take at least another year to reach that target. It hasn't helped that I spent some of the past year dithering about the track gauge and I have laid track twice on some of the layout.

Since the last post I have been busy laying track, wiring and installing lighting and valances. I have also made some changes to the trackplan returning to my original plan shown here. I went away from this plan because the staging yard was at the same height as the yard at Mt Bogong but under the buildings of the town. It didn't take me long to realise that this just wasn't going to work, so I moved Mt Bogong to under where Sterling is on the plan. While this worked well, I didn't like how the layout was going to operate so I spent quite some time rethinking my plans.

The saying "couldn't see the forest for the trees" applied to me here. I went back to the original plan and realised it would achieve all that I wanted if I lowered the staging under Mt Bogong by about 150mm or 6 inches. This makes Sterling the highest point on the layout but that gives me a good hill to climb out of Geehi that will require short trains or helpers.

The disadvantages are that the duckunder is now 150mm lower. That is going to mean that I have to build a liftout section instead of a permanent duck under. I am not mad on the idea but it is something I am willing to live with. The other weakness of the plan is the hidden staging. It would have been nice to have staging that was open or had better access but I don't want to give up space that I could use for scenery. The staging yard will be only for storage and not a "fiddle yard" so should be ok. Another point a friend raised with me is that most of the time an operating session will only have 1-3 operators so there won't be a huge number of trains needing to hide.

Last weekend I decided to make the changes. I removed the staging yard from the centre aisle and lifted the spline trackbed in a steady grade from the MerriMeric River bridge to the town named as Sterling on the plan above. It should be very satisfying standing at the end of the penisula watching a train climb the hill.

Finally I would like to thank all of you that have shown an interest in what I am doing. I am amazed that there would be 34 people who want to follow the blog and that there have been over 4500 visitors to the site. There have been visitors from over 20 countries from places as diverse as the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, India, Egypt, South Korea and of course Australia & NZ.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Messing with brass

One of the issues as I see it of freelancing a narrow gauge railway set in Australia is the issue of motive power. While Australia imported loco's from all over the world most of these were Australianised so they look a little different to the same makers loco's back home.

 On my model railway it is tempting to use the Bachmann On30 engines straight out of the box as they run well and are good value for money. In my eyes though, they don't look right for Australia. I had a go converting a Bachmann 2-8-0 using styrene that was written up in Narrow Gauge Downunder

I was pleased with the look I got with this conversion but I made it too big. It looks massive beside my rolling stock. The cab also stands a bit tall and the styrene body being lighter than the original Bachmann body didn't do a lot for how well it pulled.
So I decided to have another go this time using brass. I have built a couple of brass kits before but I have never tried scratch building with metal before. I have found it surprisingly easier than I thought it would be.

Inspiration has come from South African railways NG15, Commonwealth Railways NM and various Indian 30 inch gauge locos. I still have to add running boards, air pump & plumbing, hand rails and cab details. The white metal details are not yet attached ( I know the smoke box door is crooked) but I am pleased with how it is all progressing

Monday, January 9, 2012

Summer happenings

December is usually the busiest time of the year with harvest in full swing. That means that there is very little time for modelling but I managed to get the weeping willow that I talked about in last post completed. I am very pleased with how it looks now that is finished.

I have started composing the Merri Meric river scenery and moving trees around trying to get a pleasing scene.
I think it will need more trees and that the water level needs to rise about 100 millimeters (4 inches).
Once harvest and Christmas where behind me I have been able to spend quite a bit of time on the layout. I have been going to post when I got the layout tidied up but it could be a while before that happens so please excuse the mess in the photos.
This is now what you see when you enter the shed. The hole in the backdrop leads to the staging yard that will have Mt Bogong above it. The track is about 300 mm above the benchwork to allow for a trestle bridge ( to be built sometime in the future) as a feature.
The backdrop has been installed all the way to Geehi and has received several coats of white undercoat ready and waiting for a coat of blue.
The roadbed is now complete from the staging yard to Geehi as well and I am just waiting for an order of track to arrive so that track laying can commence.

The track in the staging yard has been laid. I used Micro Engineering Code 100 that I had left over from my original On30 layout. The foam road bed is from Trackrite and I have glued it to the bench work with no more gaps caulk. I also used the no more gaps to glue the track to it. It has the advantage that if I need to make changes I can peel the caulk off with no damage to either the track or foam. The white no more gaps looks a bit ugly but as  it is hidden staging it doesn't matter. If it had been visible track, I would have used a grey or brown colour and ballasted as I went. I still need to do the wiring which isn't one of my favourite jobs, but it needs to be done before work can start on Mt Bogong.
I have also been relaying the track on my original modules back to On30. I had lifted the original tracks and had laid On3 San Juan flex track and points. This time I am laying the Custom Trax flex track that I talked about in an earlier post. Nothing beats the look of real wood ties.

It has been a productive couple of weeks.