Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seasons Greetings

It has been quite awhile since I have posted to my blog. Unfortunately life has been very busy and I haven't had much time to work on the layout. Late spring and early summer are always busy on the farm with hay making and harvest but this year has been busier than most. A late frost did quite a bit of damage to our crops which added to our work load because we had to cut some of them for hay. With all that happening I just haven't been in the mood to do much work on the railway.
Soon the little church in Buckland will be ready to host Christmas services
We have now finished harvest and I have found some time to work on some projects that have been languishing on my work bench. I have had a Outback Models St Agnes church started for sometime and I decided I would like to get it finished. I have added a vestry to one side to make this very nice kit look a little different. I need to add a few more finishing touches ( like some doors!) and it will be finished and ready to install on the layout.
Hopefully this coming year will see the rest of the track laid on the layout and at least a small area fully sceniced.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a blessed Christmas and hope it is a time of joy spent with family & friends and a prosperous new year. I would like to thank all of you that have taken the time to read my blog and those of you who have made comments. I really appreciate your input and I hope you have found it interesting.
Merry Christmas & happy New Year

Friday, September 27, 2013

September Update

It has been awhile since I have made an update. In my last blog post I had just completed laying all the yard in Coolamine and I have since started adding the scenery. I have been painting the rail using a woodland scenic paint pen and have painted individual ties with a selection of brown and grey paints.  I have covered the ground using my usual mix of Celluclay mixed with paint as a base and I then sift on dry tile grout using two different colours, a beige and a burnt ash. I am yet to add any foliage and I will probably wait until I have put soil on the entire yard.
I have also added some weathering to my rolling stock just using an air brush to lightly mist on some dust & grime. I need to do more but for the time being it is a good start.
I have also installed the Tam Valley servo to control a turnout and I am very impressed. It was quick and easy to install and I think excellent value for money. I was about to order enough servo's to fit out the entire yard when I had my budget derailed. I visited the exhibition at Caulfield which was very enjoyable but the most exciting thing to happen for sometime in Australian narrow gauge modelling was sitting in a cabinet on the Brunel Hobbies stand.
Haskell Co from Taiwan are producing an On30 model of the Na loco used by the Victorian narrow gauge system and still running today on Puffing Billy. A sample was on display and I was lucky enough to have a very close look at the pilot model. It has a good level of detail and it has been designed to fit a Loksound dcc decoder for authentic sound. I have placed an order for two hence the impact on the budget. Hopefully they should be available soon.

Gordon Gravett has been at it again, writing another book about his excellent scenery techniques. Modelling Grasslands arrived in my mailbox last week and it is a must have for any modeller that wants realistic grass on their layout. He also talks about soil, mud, roads and water and I bought my copy from The Titfield Thunderbolt bookstore


Monday, August 12, 2013

Coolamine yard

Wet wintry weekends do have some advantages. It has been a miserable winter here and I have tried to take advantage of the ordinary weather by working on the layout.  Since making the video tour of the layout in early June, my focus has been on building Coolamine.

 Coolamine is were the narrow gauge meets the broad gauge and is the first thing you see of the layout when you enter the shed.  It is also the largest yard on the railway so getting it built was important for a number of reasons. I would like to get some of Coolamine looking finished asap to give a good first impression as guests come into the shed. I also wanted to get the track laid so I can start running trains. Through experience I have found if I have trains running I am more motivated to work on the layout. On Sunday I finished laying the yard. There are a couple of sidings still to lay but they need some scenery work done first

I wanted the track to have a look common to many of the yards on the VR narrow gauge with the ties sunken into the ground . I had a chat to John at J&K hobbies who make Trackrite underlay. He custom milled some underlay to match the Micro Engineering On30 track I use and the 11 foot track spacing's the VR used. Thanks John you have saved me a lot of work and when I put my soil down the ties should just peak above ground level. I have tried to follow the track plan of the narrow gauge yard at Colac as close as I can. I am hoping that by being as prototypical as possible shunting the yard should be also prototypical and trouble free. 
 A feature of the yard will be the transfer shed and crane. When time allows I hope to add some broad gauge wagons to give comparison to the different in size. I had a week away with the family during school holidays and I managed to build a couple of Ian Storrie's beautiful NM cattle wagon kits. The layout currently swallows up rolling stock and I badly need to get some more kits together.

I still have lots to do like get the soil down, paint the track and install some lighting so I can get some decent photos! I have also been contemplating how I will control all the switches. I have decided to try a singlet servo built by Tam Valley Depot and sold here in Australia by Model Railroad Craftsmen . I have yet to install it but it looks like it could be a good option.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A new direction

As the title suggests I have reached a fork in the road with my modelling and have decided to head down a new path.

I have been freelancing for about 10 years and it has been fun creating a railway that was mine. Freelancing can give you a lot of freedom to have what ever model you want. There can also be a downside because there is no guide book to say how your railway should be. As some one who's goal is to have a realistic railway I was finding I was spending lots of time agonising about the myriad of choices that freelancing involves. Instead of enjoying my modelling I was researching different options and often dissatisfied with the choices I had made. There is nothing wrong with freelancing but at this point in my modelling life it just wasn't working for me.

If I look back I have known this for some time and I have been exploring prototypes to model both consciously and sub consciously for the last twelve months. There is so many options these days for a modeller to choose. If I was going to model a prototype it had to be something that had meaning, preferably something I have seen, have a reasonable amount of rolling stock available as I don't want to scratch build everything.

It probably isn't that big a surprise that I have chosen to model the Victorian Railways 30 inch gauge branch lines as it ticks all the boxes for me. The Bogong & Geehi has always drawn inspiration from the VR and I had planned to use quite a bit of the VR rolling stock. I wanted to model the VR when I got into On30 in 2005 but the lack of motive power has been a stumbling block. Since then I have managed to acquire a couple engines but I didn't have a model of the garratt G42 which I consider a must. I was fortunate to buy a kit produced by Phil Badger of G42 late last year. I now had all I needed and so I spent about 6 months considering making the change.

There is no doubt that modelling a prototype can cut back on creativity as lots of decisions have been made for me. That said I am finding I am getting a lot more modelling done and I am seeing details in photos I have never noticed before. I considered modelling one of the branches closely specially the Walhalla branch but that would have meant having to rip out what I had built and start a new layout. In the end though I have decided that a freelanced branch was the way to go. I don't have to make many modifications to the current layout as most of the towns are based on VR prototypes.

So the new layout is the Bogong & Geehi branch of the Victorian Railways. The branch was opened in 1903 to Geehi in north east Victoria and latter extended to Mt Bogong in 1908 to service the tin mines. I will be taking elements from all of the four real VR branches and possibly from the broad gauge branches in the region.

I have been hard at work putting a train together. The carriages need weathering and I still need to add lights to the Na but it is nice to see my first VR train trundling over the layout.

So I am happy to look forward to a new phase on my model railway journey. I have enjoyed the freelanced Bogong & Geehi and I have learnt a lot but it has now become another chapter along with On3 D&RGW, HOn3 D&RGW and HO American.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vale Geoff Nott

I have just heard the sad news that one of natures true gentlemen Geoff Nott passed away today Thursday 13th of June . Geoff was not only a really nice bloke, but an extremely talented modeller. His scenery is second to none and was very inspiring.
Geoff's On3 home layout
 Geoff was part of the group of modellers that built renowned layouts like Red Stag, Muskrat Ramble and Smugglers Cove.

Muskrat Ramble

Geoff was also a brilliant modeller of the Australian bush
I think my most endearing memory of Geoff though was his willingness to share his knowledge and promote the hobby. I last saw Geoff at the Epping exhibition last year teaching kids of all ages how to make their own scenery. Geoff was a huge inspiration for me and convinced me that I should model Australian scenery. I will miss his friendship and I am grateful to have known known him.

Geoff you will be greatly missed. My deepest sympathies to Jill and the family and his many friends.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Video tour

From the lack of blog posts, it would be easy to assume that not much has been happening on the layout. In fact the opposite is true. I have been busy building bench work, forming spline road bed and laying track. Most of this has been achieved by stealing from my busy day 10 minutes here and there which gets lots done but doesn't allow for much photography.

So I have recorded a video tour of the layout to give an idea of what I have been doing and what I am trying to achieve.

Hope you enjoy it

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The farmyard at "Long Hollow Station"

the blacksmith

This year I wanted to take a diorama to the Narrow Gauge convention in Melbourne. I have wanted to include a model of a farm on my layout and so decided to build the collection of buildings that make up the farm yard.  All the  four buildings are models of actual structures that still exist (some only just). The era I model, the late 1940's was a time of transition when the horse was being replaced with tractors and cars.
When I was growing up in the 1970's most farms still had stables, blacksmith/workshops and milking sheds. Today most of them are gone, victims of progress and termites. I built this diorama as a tribute to my grandparents who farmed back then and worked very hard to give my parents and I opportunities they never had.
When the area I live was first settled it was made up of very large stations covering tens of thousands of acres. Before wire fencing was invented these properties were cut into few but very large paddocks. Long Hollow was the name of a paddock that covers much of our farm, so I thought that was a fitting name for the farm on my layout. 
It has taken most of my modelling time this year to get this built. I didn't win any prizes in Melbourne, but I think entering competitions are more about pushing yourself to try new things and to be a better modeller. If nothing else a deadline guarantees I will get something finished

the diorama with the blacksmith and stables at the front

the cat and cow are waiting at the milking shed. The gate is a Sunshine brand once seen on most farms but rare today, scratch built from brass wire

the kids have arrived home from school and are keen to see what their father is up to. It looks like he has the seed drill hooked up to do a spot of sowing

Friday, April 5, 2013

11th Australian Narrow Gauge Convention

If its Easter on an odd numbered year it means that its the Australian Narrow gauge convention. This years convention was the 11th and it was held in Melbourne and what a cracking weekend it was. I have been to nine conventions now and it was great to catch up with friends, make new friendships, be inspired and just have a good time.

I began the weekend with some rail-fanning on Puffing Billy,
and visited Bill Blacks beautiful Sn3 D&RGW layout that is featured in the current edition of Narrow Gauge Downunder magazine 
I had the opportunity to photograph the railway yard at Emerald. This was once a busy station on the Victorian narrow gauge branch from Ferntree Gully to Gembrook. Today Puffing Billy runs through.
At the convention the contest room was full of models of an exceptionally high standard

John Hunters O scale diorama

Richard Gryner's O scale diorama, winner of the diorama contest and voted best in show
Dan Pickard's mantel piece challenge entry and winner.
There was also layouts on display,
Smugglers Cove built by Geoff Nott and Michael Flack (On30)
Lomu Lomu by Steve Petitt. A beautiful layout that Steve only started in January.
There was numerous more models and layouts as well as traders to help spend the hobby budget. Like I said it was a great weekend and I have come home inspired and keen to work on the layout. The next convention will be held at Bowral Easter 2015 and I already have it in my diary.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An addition to the toolbox

I recently purchased from Australian Jewellers Supplies a new jewellers saw made by Knew Concepts. What makes this saw different to my old saw is that it has a tensioning nut that keeps the blade at the perfect tension.
It is very easy to swap blades and then get the tension right. The big advantages of having your saw blade tensioned right, are that it's easier & quicker to cut, easier to cut straight and you don't break near as many blades.
It wasn't a cheap investment but it should last me a lifetime. I have started converting another Bachmann loco ( see more modifying locos from last year) and I am currently cutting the cab from brass sheet. With the new saw I cut the entire front cab wall out in about a quarter of the time that it took last cab and never broke a blade. Less hassles cutting makes working with brass much more fun.

Cheers, Murray

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To stage or not to stage?

Things have been slow on the layout at the moment. School holidays, extremely hot weather and a post harvest slump have conspired together to keep me from the shed. I have also been working on a diorama to take to the 11th Australian narrow gauge convention . A couple of weeks ago I realised how little time there is until Easter and how much work I have to yet to do, so that will be my priority for the next month or so.

While I may not have been doing much physical work on the layout I have been thinking about making some major changes. I had always planned to have some hidden staging that would allow for continuous running, but to achieve this I needed a duckunder or lift out bridge at the door into the shed. I have never been keen on the idea, but haven't been able to work out how to live with out it.

I recently listened to a podcast interview of Doug Gurin on the The Model Railway show (episode 45) were he talked about your layout telling a story. That interview set me thinking about my layout and I realised that most Australian narrow gauge railways are simple affairs with their main yards at the interchange point and at the terminus at the other end. This is how the Victorian narrow gauge lines are as well as the North East Dundas tramway and Mapleton tramway. If I was to put an interchange on my layout, I would no longer need staging or a duck under to get to it.
The layout plan with changes marked in red

The advantages of going down this road would be no duck-under, no hidden staging and the ability to have a few standard gauge pieces of rollingstock to demonstrate the size difference. I am keen to show the difference between standard gauge and narrow gauge as many people have trouble understanding how much smaller narrow gauge trains are.
I also realise there are some negatives. With no staging there is a good possibility of the layout being crowded with too much rolling stock. I think if I make the changes I will need discipline. The Victorian lines usually only had 2 or 3 locos on a branch at any one time so the logical conclusion is that if I have more  locos than that they shouldn't all be on the layout.
  There is also no ability to have continuous run. I have had continuous run as a must have on my list of layout requirements for a very long time. I realised a few weeks ago that I haven't had a layout with continuous run for nearly 7 years now so I think if I have survived this long I can survive a bit longer without it.
A friend raised the point that without staging operations could be quite limited. I do have to agree with him, but it is a narrow gauge railway. Operations on the Victorian lines traditionally operated from the interchange station to the end of the line and then back. Depending on the line they did this daily until the end of World War II and then quickly cut back to as little as weekly on all bar the Gembrook line. If I lived in an area that had lots of modellers for an operating session I think I wouldn't be considering these changes. The reality is that most of the time it will only be me operating so that should work ok. I do have concerns that I may get bored with only one or two trains a session.
  Another concern I have is that I may be making the layout too crowded and could loose the open empty country look that has been my goal. I am a great believer in less is more and  have tried to have reasonably large areas that have little detail between small towns.
To choose a track plan for the interchange yard I have again looked at the Victorian lines. The two that appeal are Wangaratta and Colac. Wangaratta is a compact yard but isn't as interesting as the one at Colac.  The Colac yard does fit in the space I have, but if I flip it top to bottom it fits a lot better. That would mean the standard gauge yard would be in the aisle. This would mean very little of the wider gauge tracks need to be modeled and I wouldn't need any engines.
 The one feature of Wangaratta I want is the narrow gauge spur in the forecourt of the broad gauge station. If I flip the broad gauge yard but leave the narrow gauge yard as it is I can achieve that. I want to put the large station I built a few years ago as the interchange station building.I know that all sounds complicated and it took me an afternoon of laying out points and flextrack to see what would work.
I am keen to have feedback on this idea before I commit to it. So if you have an opinion either positive or negative feel free to comment.
Cheers Murray