Sunday, December 7, 2014

Four years and counting

It is hard to believe that I have been writing this blog for over four years. The first post was in November 2010 and I have managed to write over 50 posts since. As I look back over the past four years I realise that some of my goals are going to take me longer than I planned. Having said that, I feel I have achieved quite a bit in that time.

When I started the blog I had less than 5 metres of mainline and the shed the layout lives in was less than half its current size. I had some detours along the way , but the release of the Haskell Na was a major turning point. I could now find & afford a realistic locomotive fleet to model the Victorian narrow gauge. Today I am well down the road of modelling a prototype railway and have completed the main line. I am getting close to having some large areas of scenery complete which I am finding very enjoyable.

In the coming year I hope to get that scenery finished in some more areas, build some bridges and keep adding rolling stock to the layout.

Thanks for everyone that follows the blog for your interest. I was a little surprised to see today that the blog has had nearly 41,000 visitors. I hope you enjoy what I am doing. Following the lead of several of the great blogs I follow I have added some pages with details of the layout and our farm. You can access them from the menu below the title photo. I hope to add some more as time allows.

Now on to what is currently happening on the layout....... which unfortunately is not much. Harvest started three weeks early which has meant since the last post work on the layout has been nonexistent.

What I have had time to do though, is contemplate what is working on the layout, and what's not. For me if I have stopped working on a project, it usually means there is an issue. The most glaring project that hasn't received much attention in the last six months has been the interchange town. I was really happy with it until I started operating and a couple of issues arose.

The first was I made the passing loop to long. It takes forever to run around the train which gets old pretty quick. I could easily shorten the loop but there is a second issue much harder to fix.
From the photo above you will notice I have put the broad gauge sidings against the aisle and the narrow gauge yard at the back. This looks good but even with my long arms I am having trouble reaching the track closest to the back scene. That is not making shunting very enjoyable and I am worried I will damage some of my broad gauge models reaching over them. In hindsight my mistake was very obvious but unfortunately that doesn't help me now.
I have spent a bit of time studying the four interchange yards of Colac, Wangaratta, Moe & Upper Ferntree Gully. None of them easily fit into the space I have and the  more compact yards have large broad gauge yards at the rear. I really didn't want to put a broad gauge yard behind the narrow gauge yard as I don't really have the space. There are also issues with blending the yard with the backdrop. If I was starting the whole layout from scratch I would consider putting  the broad gauge yard in and giving the larger trains somewhere to run in a hidden loop a bit like what Roger Hill has done but it is too late for that now.
Hours spent operating machinery have given me plenty of time to contemplate the issue, and the solution I have come up with is to put the broad gauge at an angle and have a siding serve the narrow gauge yard. I have based my narrow gauge yard on Moe but put the station where the engine house is.

I wasn't sure how this would look or if it would even fit. So today I got some cardboard and laid it over the existing yard to see if it would fit and work.

I am happy with how the changed yard looks and should work. Except for the location of the engine house it is very similar to the eastern half of Moe's narrow gauge yard. If I change the yard to this trackplan I can reduce the width of the bench work in several places to make access much easier. The broad gauge siding is now at the rear, and considering that it is non operating that is a better place for it to be.

I will leave the cardboard in place for a few weeks to consider, but at this stage I am expecting to change the yard over Christmas and New Year

Sunday, October 19, 2014


G42 simmering away in the yard at Geehi
G42 has arrived on the Bogong & Geehi, and the management is delighted. Bernard Snoodyk from The Model Works Australia who built the loco for me, has done a brilliant job of painting and weathering it.

I need to add couplers and I am hoping that Mike Waters from DCC Sound will have a sound decoder with sounds recorded from the real G42 available soon.
The addition of this loco to my roster is an important milestone for both the layout and myself. When I decided that I wanted to model the Victorian Railways narrow gauge lines I really wanted a model of their Garratt. They only owned two, G41 & G42. They were purchased new from Beyer Peacock in 1926. G41 spent its entire life working on the Colac - Beech Forrest - Crowes line, while G42 worked the Moe - Walhalla line until that line closed in 1954. It was then transferred to Colac were it eventually hauled the last VR narrow gauge train on June 30 1962. Thankfully G42 was saved and restored to run on Puffing Billy in 2004.
G42 at Belgrave station in 2006
The two Garratt's made a big difference to the VR's operations. They had 27,630 pounds of tractive effort compared to the Na's 12,515 pounds. This made the railway more efficient (even though the narrow gauge lines still lost lots of money) and the two locos dominated traffic on their respective lines.
As I model the VR sometime between 1940 & 1954 (yet to nail down a specific date) and because I really like Garratt's, I have wanted a model of G42 for many years. As my layout draws inspiration from all four of the VR lines a G class Garratt was a crucial to achieve what I want to model.  I also have 3 Na's thanks to Haskell's which means in theory my locomotive roster is now complete. I am looking forward to my model of G42 hauling many trains between Geehi & Bogong for many years to come.

Climbing the hill to Coolamine

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Testing a new toy

There is a new locomotive coming to the Bogong & Geehi...

This is a model of G42 almost completely scratchbuilt by my friend Bernard Snoodyk. He brought it over for a test run last week and after a couple of tweaks it ran beautifully. He is now painting & weathering it to look as it did in the late 1940's for me. I can't wait!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mount Blue models

I recently became aware that Mount Blue model company have released their first Victorian Railways O scale kit, which is the ubiquitous lamp room. I ordered one to try from their website and a couple of weeks later a very well designed kit arrived.

The kit features a full interior with the framing all laser cut. The tin walls are paper and are also laser cut. This kit looks far more complex than it really is. I was able to put it together over a couple of evenings and it makes a very high quality building. There is an opportunity to detail the interior and I added some small drums on the oil shelf to provide some colour inside.

Mount Blue model company make a variety of VR kits in HO and I am hoping they increase their range in 1/48th. I will be adding at least a couple more of their lamp room kits to my layout.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Puffing Billy

Na's 7 & 14 getting ready for the day ahead at Belgrave
I was in Melbourne last week for my work and so I decided to head down a couple of days earlier so I could visit Puffing Billy . For those who don't know, Puffing Billy is a tourist railway that operates one of the four Victorian Railways 2'6" narrow gauge lines. The railway operates from Belgrave to Gembrook in the Dandenong ranges east of Melbourne.
I have been wanting to visit for awhile to get some photos and general inspiration. I have lots of books & plans about the VR, but nothing beats visiting and the aroma of coal smoke to get motivated to do some modelling.

Emerald station
I rode the train from Belgrave to Emerald and back. I mentioned to my friend Bob Prewett who models the VR narrow gauge in On30 and is a conductor on Puffing Billy that I was visiting. He wasn't working the day I visited but he mentioned to his friends that I was visiting. I would especially like to thank Bob, Alan and Mel for making a great day even better.

7a crossing the Monbulk creek trestle bridge on the way back to Belgrave

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The hills are alive

Just a quick update to show what a difference adding some vegetation can make. I spent a few enjoyable hours on Sunday adding trees to the layout. I am really happy with how this scene is coming together.

The trees are sedum flowers that have been soaked in a white glue/water mix and then given a dusting of ground foam. I then give them a light spray of green paint to add some variety to the colour. I am planning to continue the "forest" to cover the hill on the right of the photo.

I still have lots of other things to do to finish the scene, such as adding some understory beneath the trees and grassing the foreground. I am keenly waiting for a shipment of static grass to arrive. All that then will remain to do is build the stockyards and add some details.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Video tour

In June last year I made a video tour of the layout that you can watch here. It is sometimes easy to feel like that I am not getting much done on the layout. When I watch last years video I realise that in the past twelve months I have gotten quite a bit of work done on the layout.

To give you an idea of what I have achieved this last year I have made another video tour.


Please forgive the shaky video as I shot it with my iPad. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for watching

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July update

While I haven't been updating the blog I have been working on the layout. After my last post about simplifying the railway I have been making a few small changes.

I have moved the dairy coop building to the interchange town as I think it looks better there and was probably too substantial a building for the small town it was serving. I haven't bedded it in yet so the move may not be permanent. You may notice I am not using town names. The coop has a Geehi sign mounted on it that I don't want to remove so the town names are now also undecided.

In the spirit of making things simpler the town formally known as Geehi has been made smaller.
the shortened yard. The yard used to end in front of the loco.
It originally had a very long yard, longer than the run to the next station down the line. I was also not that happy with track between it and the next town as it came out of the yard and almost instantly went into a curve that only ended at the next town. I shortened the yard by about 6 feet and moved the whole town by the same amount to the left. It doesn't sound much but it gives me an extra train length between the two towns which looks a lot better. It also gave me the opportunity to add some winding curves that add to the look of a small narrow gauge railway.
It was a simple change as the yard was laid on a single board. All I had to do was remove the track at one end cut a couple of wires and shorten the board. I had to remove a couple of point throw machines and all in all it only took a day to do. I spent last weekend relaying the track & repairing the wiring and everything was going great until I went to reinstall the point throws. I have managed to put a point over a non moveable piece of the frame! Doh! It is only in the wrong spot by 10 mm but its still the wrong spot. I have been scratching my head since pondering what I will do. I am still undecided but it does reinforce the adage check at least twice before you lock yourself in.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Less is more?

IT has been awhile since I last posted a report on the Bogong & Geehi. I would love to say that I have been madly working on the layout and I have lots of new things to show you.... but I would be lying if I did. Unfortunately life has been ridiculously busy over the last few months. Autumn is a very busy time on the farm with us sowing our crops. My wife has been travelling a lot for work and I have had a couple business trips as well. Add to this weekend sport for the kids and something has to give and that means the hobby has to take a back seat. It is right that family and business come before my hobby but the recent lack of time has meant that progress has been very slow.

This lack of action isn't all bad though. It has given me an opportunity to think about what I am trying to achieve and to review where I am at with the layout. When I started building this layout in February 2011 I had some very grand plans and some expectations that I now realise were unrealistic. I thought I would have all the track laid in 12 months and not the three years it actually took. I know I took some detours along the way but the reality of the workload of building a large layout by myself is really hitting home.

The recent inactivity has me thinking that some times less is more. It is a message that has been promoted by several blogs I read. Modellers like Trevor Marshall, Lance Mindheim & Mike Cougill have realised that time is often a limiting factor in our ability to build a layout and that a simple layout can be very satisfying.

This little station (yet to be named) was always going to be a simple passing track with a simple station, water tank and yet to be built set of stockyards. It is on a peninsula that is about 25 feet long and the only other structures is a farmyard and yet to be built farmhouse.
The scene above has come together reasonably quickly and I expect to finish it this winter. It won't take long to put a layer of static grass down and cover the hills with trees. The most time consuming task will be building the farmhouse. I have always planned for this scene to be reasonably empty and I am happy with how it looks. I wanted a spectator be able to stand at the end of the peninsula and feel like they are standing on the hill looking down a country valley. I had some guests this past weekend and it was a popular spot to watch the trains go by. It reinforced what I have been thinking lately that "less can be more".
Let me explain further what I mean. When I designed my layout there was lots of scenes and structures I wanted to include. With a reasonably large space it was easy to find room for lots of buildings and stuff that fills up the room. The irony is that most narrow gauge lines ran through country that was sparsely settled. Part of the attraction of modelling narrow gauge is little trains running through countryside that was reasonably empty - just like the scene above. When planning I had designed my towns to have lots of interesting buildings, in fact I need to scratch build another 60 to 70 structures to complete the layout. At the rate I am currently building there is a fair chance I will never finish the layout and that is a bit disheartening. 
So what does this mean for the rest of the layout? I could make the layout smaller or reduce the number of towns but most of the heavy work of bench work and track laying is done. Rebuilding the layout would only add to my workload.
Well what if I made my towns a lot simpler? They don't need to have lots of buildings to be attractive scenes. Would it matter if the stations were surrounded by grassy paddocks? Compared to building structures scenery is a quicker and lower cost alternative. Looking through my library it more common to see emptiness than lots of buildings. 
I have looked at each town on the layout to see what I need to have a satisfying layout and I have reduced the number of structures I NEED to build, to just 20. That is a number that I can achieve in a realistic time period. I can easily surround my towns with paddocks of static grass so that the layout will have a completed look a lot sooner. There is no reason that if in the future I want to add some more buildings I can't scrape away some grass and find a place for them.
So if you are still with me after this long ramble, by making the layout simpler I hope to have a satisfying layout that looks completed sooner. I want to take some self imposed pressure away so that I can enjoy myself which after all is what hobbies are supposed to be about.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roger Hill's Moe

I recently visited Melbourne and I took the opportunity to visit Roger Hill and his O scale Victorian railway. Roger is a very skilled modeller of both the broad & narrow gauges of the VR.  Roger has based his layout on the town of Moe which had a dual gauge yard. It was the town from which the 30" gauge branch to Walhalla departed.

The track is all hand laid on ties milled by Roger from cedar lining boards. He is also an excellent scratch builder of locomotives and rolling stock and won a best in show at a narrow gauge convention with his G class garratt.

It was fun to watch an O scale passenger train pulled by a R class literally rumble down the rails. It is easy to forget how large O scale can be but how impressive it is.
 Roger also showed me some Australian timber bogies  that he scratch built.

I came away from my visit very inspired and keen to go home to do some work on my layout. It is always great to catch up with friends and to see what they are up to. Thanks Roger for your excellent hospitality and I am looking forward to seeing your layout progress.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Narrow Gauge Downunder

The latest issue of Narrow Gauge Downunder is out and as usual it is a great read. The Editor Gavin Hince does a great job of putting together the magazine that showcases narrow gauge modelling. Not only does it cover modelling but has a good mix of prototype information too.

The April 2014 issue has a article on the farm yard that I built to take to the narrow gauge convention in Melbourne. I posted about it here back in April last year. While the diorama was in Melbourne Gavin took some lovely photos that he has kindly published. I have added captions explaining how I built the models as well as some photos of the buildings that I used as inspiration.

Here are a couple of my photos that aren't up to the quality of Gavin's, but hopefully wet your appetite to see the article

Thanks Gavin for the opportunity to showcase my modelling and I hope your readers enjoy it

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Haskell Na

The wait is finally over and the On30 Haskell Na has arrived. The postman brought me one this week and it didn't take long for it to hit the layout. I don't have a decoder for it yet so I had to switch part of the layout back to DC to give it a run.
So what are my intial thoughts? Well it certainly looks like a Na. The level of detail is reasonable and it runs well on DC. It happily pulled a train of 8 wagons up a 1 in 40 grade without any problems.
Probably the one thing I found disappointing is the colour of the smoke box. It is a blueish grey that to my eye doesn't quite look right. It got the better of me so I fired up my airbrush this morning and gave it a coat of Testor's  Model Master "burnt metal" buffing metaliser.
This gave the smoke box a very nice pale silver colour similar to how the black Na's on Puffing Billy are painted. It wasn't a difficult job as you only have to remove three screws and the smoke box comes off the model. The wiring for the light stops you taking the smoke box off completely but it made it much easier to mask than if I had left it in place.
There are some extra detail parts that are included but you need to install on the loco yourself. I have already added the numberplates and pilots but I will wait until I have installed a decoder before I add the rest. I may also add some extra details like the pipes and levers on the sand domes before I give the loco some weathering.
All in all I am quite pleased with this latest addition to the roster.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Completing the mainline

After the inactivity on the railway of the last few months I have been fortunate to have some time to relax and work on the layout. I have been wanting to complete laying the track on the layout for some time. Late last year I got organised and ordered the Micro Engineering code 83 flex track & points I needed from The Railcar. I got enough Trackrite underlay and more then enough Masonite strips from Bunnings to build the spline roadbed. It was all sitting there waiting for me to find the time.

It only took me about a week to get the roadbed built around New Year and I have been laying track since. I had a big push this past weekend and yesterday I completed the mainline and the yard at Mt Bogong. This means that track laying is complete except for a couple spurs and maybe some revision of the yard at Geehi. It also means that I can run a train the entire length of the layout, and that is just what we did!
My youngest daughter Georgia had the honour of driving the first train into Mt Bogong. Without a stop it takes around 6 minutes to travel from one end to the other. With stops for water, shunting, etc, a round trip should easily fill an hour or more. I am keen to get some more rolling stock built so that I can give an operating session a try