Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Seasons Greetings

It has been awhile since I have posted and I would love to say I have been working hard on the layout and have gotten heaps of modelling done. I could say that, but unfortunately I would then be lying. Life has gotten in the way over the last 6 months and between my eye & work & renovating our house almost nothing has happened. The Christmas break has seen me back out in the shed starting to get some modelling happening.

One of my projects that I aim to finish this summer is the broad gauge portion of Coolamine yard. Observant reader will notice that I have shifted the location again. Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of a visit from Damien & Lucas from Melbourne. While Lucas was busy running trains Damien & I discussed the options I had for where the broad gauge should be to look realistic. We agreed that having it on a diagonal angle to the narrow gauge didn't look right. I pondered my situation for a few months, until I worked out that I had plenty of room along the wall if I made Coolamine the end of a branch like Upper Ferntree Gully on the Gembrook line. I had been trying to make the broad gauge a mainline station like Wangaratta, Moe or Colac.
I now have the track and turnouts so all I need to do is find the time to lay them. I have enough room to have a goods shed opposite the station. Hopefully one day I might see a Veteran models K class shunting the yard, but at my current pace that could be some time away!

The other project that is keeping me occupied is working on improving the running qualities of the narrow gauge track. When Lucas was here, he gave the layout a real workout running trains from one end to the other and unfortunately it didn't preform as well as I would have liked. About a third of the layout uses wooden flex track which I sourced from the USA. While it looks great I have found it difficult to keep in gauge. The temperature variations in the shed while not huge where enough to create issues. I have persevered for nearly four years trying to get it running well without success so it was time for me to bite the bullet and change to something else.
It is frustrating to be removing track and replacing it as there is a cost in both time and dollars. I am installing Micro Engineering code 83 that matches the rest of the layout and the number of derailments  has dropped dramatically. At the end of the day for me if the layout doesn't run well the frustrations mount and my enjoyment and motivation drops away. 
I hope everyone had a good Christmas and that 2016 is a great year

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September update

Progress has been slow on the layout recently. I had an accident with an impact injury to my eye about 18 months ago which has given me some ongoing issues. It was finally decided that the best option was surgery which I underwent in August. It has all gone very well but during the  recovery time I am having issues with blurriness. This is really driving me nuts as I am unable to do detailed modelling.
What I have been doing is some tasks that don't need me to see fine detail such as planting grass,

The paddocks on the farm have now got a nice green tinge to them, which I am sure the cows will like...
For my grass I like to use a minimum of 3 colours and 2 lengths of static grass fibres. I mix them in a blender with the portions slightly varied each mix to get some natural variation. For the pasture in the paddock I used 1 part 4mm MiniNatur Early autumn, 1 part 2mm late autumn, and 2 parts 2mm summer. That is shorter than mix that I usually use to represent the grazing of the paddocks. I will use mostly 4mm & 6mm for the grass on the outside of the fences.

I have also been painting the facia black which has helped frame the layout. On the topic of lighting I was very interested in Dan Pickard's post on his blog Somewhere on the workbench Dan is using standard LED globes and I liked the fact that they are a light that is easily available and should be in the foreseeable future. I bought a couple daylight globes from Bunning's to try and as very impressed. I ended up lighting the whole of the interchange town with them. They are lightweight, don't generate heat and use considerably less energy than the fluorescents. Thanks Dan for trying them out first! I am planning to convert the whole of the layout to LED's as time and funds allow.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Increasing productivity

I know this blog post's title sounds like the name of a conference where some  management guru is extolling a method of making us all work harder. I also know that my model railway is a hobby but I  know that I need a degree of discipline if I plan to get the layout somewhere near finished.

It was a conversation with my friend Gavin that got me thinking about how I could get more modelling done. Life seems to be getting busier and I have been finding it harder to juggle working on my trains while not taking away from family time. At this time of year it isn't that attractive to wander out to the shed either and so it feels like not much gets done.

Enter the roll top desk....

I was able to pick up this beautiful antique roll top desk off eBay. They are a bit out of fashion at the moment because you can't fit a large computer screen on one, which means I didn't have to spend a large sum of money. We have put it in our tv room which means I can model and still be with the family. I am finding that because it is there, I often sit down and spend 10 minutes modelling. No more bringing a project onto the kitchen table and then having to pack up when dinner is ready. I have built more models in the last 6 weeks it seems than the 6 months beforehand.
The best bit is when I finish modelling, it looks like this,


Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The newly restored New South Wales Government Railways Garratt 6029 came to Wagga Wagga on the long weekend. The 60 class Garratt's are the largest Garratt's built and they were built by Beyer Peacock in the UK and the first one arrived in 1952. They lasted until the end of steam in 1973. I am to young to have been able to see them working so when 6029 came to our part of the world  the family and I took the opportunity to both ride & chase it.

It was a fun day and we all enjoyed the impressive display of power.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Mucking around with lighting

April and May are very busy months on the farm with us planting our crops. It means long days sitting on tractors which isn't very conducive to getting any modelling done. It does mean that I have plenty of time to ponder about issues on the layout that are still annoying me.

Lighting is one issue that I have thought about for some time. I currently use fluorescent lights with daylight tubes which has both advantages and disadvantages. The light is bright and uniform with no shadows. They are also not that cheap to buy, they are heavy and when they are all on they do heat the room up. I still have about half the layout that still needs lights so I have been exploring options. I have tried the LED strip lighting but found the colours wrong and not enough light.

I recently found some LED downlights with a daylight colour (4000K) and I thought I would try a couple and see how they look. As you can see in the following photos the colour and level of light is good. What is different from the fluorescents is the shadows. Part of me thinks it looks more natural but because of having multiple light sources with more than one LED I am getting multiple shadows. They are reasonably subtle so I am not sure what to think. If any of you in reader land out there have thoughts or experience on using downlights,  I would like to hear from you.

Cheers Murray

Friday, April 10, 2015

Colac loco

I always try to build a model to take to narrow gauge conventions. I have a couple of reasons for this. One is that with a deadline I have a goal to getting a model finished. The other is that I think competing in competitions is a good way to help lift your modelling skills and standards. If you know a model is going to be judged by your peers, I find that I am willing to put more effort in. I am also less likely to put up with good enough.

This year I decided to build a model of the Victorian narrow gauge engine shed and sandhouse at Colac. It is an unusual building with its curved roof which added to its appeal to model. I started with a set of the original plans and gathered all the photos I could find, which wasn't as many as I would have liked.
These two photos from the collection of Weston Langford where taken two years after the narrow gauge had been abandoned. The sandhouse has been removed and the engine house and crew quarters are looking a bit worse for wear. I have built my model to look more like it appeared in the 1940's. My model is fully scratchbuilt using board on board construction with scale lumber from Mt Albert scale lumber available from The Railcar. The corrugated iron is from Model O kits

I am quite pleased how the finished model looks. I had hoped to add a full interior but time beat me and That is something that I will get to later. I was honoured to receive second place in the prototype scene section at the convention.
Cheers Murray


Thursday, April 9, 2015

2015 Australian narrow gauge convention

 Last weekend I travelled to Bowral to attend the 2015 Australian narrow gauge convention. I really enjoy attending the narrow gauge conventions and this was the ninth one that I have attended. It is always great to catch up with friends, meet new friends, develop some new skills at the clinics and blow the budget at the retailers.

One of the highlights of the conventions is the contest room. This year was no exception, and the modelling was at a very high standard.

Peter Giblett's model of Walhalla fire station that won
 first place in the structures

Laurie Green's winning diorama
John Hunters diorama which came second in the diorama section
 and won the Geoff Nott memorial award

Laurie Greens winning entry in the new prototype scene competition
Peter MacDonald's won first place in the steam locomotives with this stunning
On30 model of G41

Grant McAdams cast building
I did take a model to the contest room which I will cover in my next post. The next convention will be held in 2017 at Geelong Victoria.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March update

Even though I haven't been posting to the blog lately there is still plenty happening on the railway.

I have installed a Soundtrax tsunami decoder in the Garratt. I know it's not the correct sound for the model but I wanted to get it running and I wanted sound. I used a D&RGW K class decoder because I like the K class whistles. If I am going to have the wrong whistle it may as well be one I like.

I have also done some more work to the mill at Mt Bogong. I have covered the walls with galvanised iron that I bought from Model O Kits It is a great product made from styrene and comes in an A4 sheet. I have found it a great product to use and good value.

I also built myself a storage rack for my strip wood. I have a lot of different sized strip wood that I used to store in a big box. Whenever I was working on a project I seemed to spend as much time looking for a particular size as I did building anything. I decided to fix that by building a rack from plywood and PVC pipe.
It has revolutionised my modelling time. I now can see quite quickly where a particular size of wood is and how much I have left. I added a couple of handles I can take it to wherever I am working.
Which leads me to my current project. I always try to build a model to take to the Australian Narrow Gauge convention. The convention is this Easter at Bowral in the southern highlands of NSW, just south of Sydney. In my usual form I chose to build something ambitious and started later than I should have. I still have lots to do and only 8 days to do it. I had better get off this computer and back to the workbench.
Cheers Murray

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Geehi update

The Christmas break gave me an opportunity to make a decision on how I am going to proceed with the yard at Geehi. I thought long and hard about how I could improve the trackplan to give me better access and be able to reach all of the yard.
Overall view of the new narrow gauge yard at Geehi

In the end, the best outcome I decided was to start again. I don't enjoy ripping up what I have built, especially when I have so much to do on the rest of the layout. In the end the need to easily access all the track without destroying the models in the way, won out over the extra work.

The destruction took a few days and the new track has gone down very quickly. The new yard is slightly smaller than the old one but works much better. I can easily reach every track and except for one siding the broadgauge track is now behind the yard.

The narrow gauge station is now across the tracks from the much larger broad gauge station

Despite the extra work I am happy with the outcome. I now have a yard that is much easier to work and importantly one I can access.