Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Handy tips - storage boxes

Love them or hate them, the Auscision storage boxes have changed the way the vast majority of modellers store and transport their trains nowadays. I've bought three of the gold boxes myself which hold about 30-40 wagons all up, depending on size. In an apartment where I'm already short on space, this has allowed me to get them out of a cumbersome removal carton and into a cupboard.

I'm a fan of them, but my only gripe is this:

Small pieces of detail such as brake wheels which can get caught on the side walls of the foam during storage and removal, and which sit in the bottom of the box gazing tauntingly up at you after you've just coaxed a wagon out of an already snug fit, ruining the next five minutes of the half an hour you have to yourself to run trains.


I recently learned of another modeller who had lined all of his Auscision storage boxes with Glad Go-Between to remove this problem, so I thought I'd give it a go too. The film is similar to the plastic wrap most RTR models come in these days, if maybe a little smoother.

It's relatively easy to install and each box took about 15-20 minutes to remove the wagons, fit the go-between and replace.

So far, so good. I've found this has improved storage and removal particularly for my more complicated detail-intensive wheat and cement wagons.

Hope it helps someone!

Til next time,

Monday, 5 February 2018

Getting back to it

Finally, uni's done and I have free time again. I've found myself at home today with a violent case of man flu, and little energy. A perfect day to put on the 17-hour version of SBS's slow TV 'The Ghan' and have a go at some 1:1 track planning.

Just briefly on 'The Ghan,' it's had mixed reviews and there seems to be few people who are middle-of-the-road about it. I actually find it quite relaxing. The idea of slow TV isn't to be something you sit rivetted to waiting for the next bolt of excitement, but instead something to have on in the background as a pleasant filler. Even though I'm doing other things with it trundling along, I'm not even halfway through and I find it difficult to turn off! Would be interesting to see if they could do the Indian Pacific, particularly for the driver's eye view of the section over the Blue Mountains. I digress...

In my last post I talked about building another layout this year, and that I was keen for something where I could run some some electric stock, but particularly the V set interurban. What happened in just about every waking minute since December 2017 and today can be best explained thus: 

With a lack of space where I currently live, you can surmise where the answer consistently fell. ...Which is how I got onto designing another shelf layout.

This one is roughly based on Sandown, NSW and would measure 1.5m by 0.4m, using Micro Engineering code 70 track. The bottom left would be a short, brick-faced platform for worker's trains, the top left would be a milk siding, then continuing clockwise around the photo, a loading shed, headshunt, and cement siding with a level crossing. The cement siding would extend into a small, fold-up pocket off the layout. The existing staging I have for Rozelle Street would attach to the left-hand side. All up it would give me an excuse to run passenger stock, a fresh canvas to try my hand at overhead wiring in a small space, somewhere to shunt, and more operations than my current layout.

One advantage Rozelle Street has over this design is in it's 'instant on' - where I can turn up and move a train around without having to drag out the staging and get wagons and locos out of their storage boxes. Clearly, this design doesn't meet that requirement. I may shrink the size even further to get a proper micro layout plan with self-contained staging, in a similar fashion to that of Chris Nevard's smaller designs.

I did discover though that my Micro Engineering #6 turnouts' frog flangeway is too shallow for all of my locos (X200, 73, 48). Doing some research around the forums, I found that this is apparently normal for these turnouts but can be resolved by gently filing the frogs a bit deeper. I suppose I've been spoilt by Peco for so long, but it was a tad disappointing for what is heralded as the duck's guts of pre-manufactured turnouts. 

On the actual modelling side, I've finally started to assemble MFA 2706. This is the one car I have most bits and pieces for and makes sense as the first cab off the rank. I've never been a fan of the Hawksmoor 72'6 car underframes due to one end always warping, so I may cannibalise a LIMA carriage for it's sturdier underframe. Eureka Models is releasing complete underframes with bogies from it's new 72'6 car run, however they will have four rows of truss rigging underneath, whereas this car has two. I suppose it's a case of how much effort I want to go to for the end result. More photos as the build continues.

Anyways, that's it for now.


Thursday, 14 December 2017

I’m never studying again

I'm sure many of us have uttered this phrase. This is the third time I've said it, but this time - this time - once uni is out of the way in March, 2018 will be free for modelling. At least that's the plan!

I've said earlier in these pages that I think Rozelle Street has run it's course for me for now, and so aside from actually finishing the wagons I said I'd weather this year, I'd like to have a go at another small layout, hopefully one with a continuous run or at least the ability to take on a continuous run in future. For now, it still provides me with a layout that fits with a lifestyle where I can comfortably fit 30 minutes or so to run trains when I have spare time. It's also a great photo backdrop for the few models that do make it off the workbench!

Thanks for your comments on this blog throughout the year. I've appreciated the feedback, particularly at the Malkara exhibition. I hope the methods and ideas have helped and inspired!

Aside from another layout, the electric loco fleet is set to grow in 2018 when the Auscision 85 class arrives, and the sound-equipped Auscision 48 and SDS 81 class are both due before the middle of the year too. Clearly, I need a bigger layout. I'm also putting it in black and smudge right now that next year is the year I finish the supplementary interurban MUB set I've been steadily accumulating parts for for the last three years. 

For now, notch back and coast past the home signal for Christmas.


Friday, 6 October 2017

Liverpool Exhibition and more weathering

I've been going to the Liverpool Exhibition with my brother and granddad for around 25 years this year, so it was nice to be able to do that again as a family this year. You never know how long you've got together, so it's nice to do something we enjoy.

Almost as soon as you walked in the door this year was this great little layout by IDR Models proprietor Ian Ratcliffe. I'm not sure of the curve radius off to the staging, but the whole main portion of layout can't be much bigger in length than Rozelle Street's 1.4 metres. It's good to see another small, Australian-prototype layout showing that you don't need a stack of space to have an interesting and entertaining layout.

Although obligatory, a look in the Auscision cabinet didn't disappoint. I've opted for sound in my 48 class when it arrives, and I'm really looking forward to shunting with it. Delivery will be in late December or early January they reckon.

Geoff Small's "Mullet Creek" was back out again this year running around a lot more of the recently-released and modern rollingstock than in previous outings. Not being able to run my own V set in a continuous loop, you will completely understand when I say that I came back to this layout a few times on the day.

After the show I headed to my brother's place to help him with wiring up his layout. It's set in the mid-to-late 1960s and is based on a "what if" line over the Blue Mountains to the Central West and represents a mid-mountains junction station on that line, with a branch to Bilpin. Electrification ends to the west of the junction, so there's also a few engine change moves which allow for running steam, diesel and electric locos. Off to each side are 'city' and 'country staging yards, with the loop allowing for simply running a train around on those days when you just need to watch some wheels turn. After some fairly simple but time-consuming preparatory work, we had trains running by about 10.30pm. I'm looking forward to seeing this one evolve too, but that's another story.

Back at home on the public holiday I played around with some weathering effects using a simple brown acrylic paint weathering wash. Below is the before and after on some RACE containers. By the late 70s these containers were both faded and dirty, which is a skill I need a little more practice on before I'm completely happy with it. Still, it's better than the out-of-the-box plastic look!

I also had a go at an SDS models LRC RACE container. By my era there was a definite orange hue to the weathering of these wagons, so I still need to play around with that one a little more. I'm fairly happy with the rain-soaked effect for now though.

A bigger job on the cards is weathering up five FWHs to run with a few of the WHXs as a mill wheat train. I thought I'd experiment with this one first and add just a few coats of brown wash. In this instance I used an 80/20-ish mix of brown acrylic paint and isocol rubbing alcohol (rather than 100% isopropyl) without a dullcote layer sprayed on beforehand. I found that the paint mixture would start to mottle the model's original coat and create a streaking effect that I wasn't completely happy with. The phone camera photo below doesn't show it up particularly well, but I've left it for now to see what it looks like with fresh eyes this weekend.

For now though, all of these little steps help build the overall scene to make a convincing model.

Til next time.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Weathering PRX cement hoppers

Today I've used the extra day offered by a public holiday to tackle a job I've been putting off for ages - PRX weathering. 

I had bought a pack of Southern Rail Models' PRXs a few years ago not long before SDS models released theirs. The SDS version are to my eyes at least a better model. So for me the SRM ones are guinea pigs for experimenting with weathering techniques and will eventually end up sold on eBay or swapped with other modellers for more wagons I can't live without. I was really happy with the crushed pastel crayon technique I used on the PCC hoppers a few years ago, but I wanted to see if thinned acrylic paint will give the same subtle look I'm after for wagons that will have only been in service for about a year.

After first applying dullcote to all of the PRXs, I painted Tamiya Grit Effect Light Sand in small blobs around the domes, and coated it in a dark grey and then a smaller area in medium grey to give the texture and effect of dried cement that tends to cake on the top of these wagons. I did this about a year ago, but you could do this part of the process on a Friday night and be ready to do the rest by Sunday.

Next, I mixed together a few drops of Tamiya acrylic thinner, some XF-20 medium grey and about 20-30ml of water to make a thin grey consistency. I applied this with a soft-bristled brush, first liberally coating it and then dragging it down with the brush in streaks. The pictures speak for themselves - this worked better in some places than others... In future I would probably thin this even further and apply in much lighter layers.

I also gave a quick brush of the mixture over the bogies and visible parts of the underframe.

Not being afraid of wrecking these wagons, I went a little stronger with the tone and amount of paint than I really want for my era, but they still fit the bill for very late 70's/early 1980s first-contract run of these hoppers. I was actually surprised how much better they look on the layout under lights and running around!

In the time that it's taken me to write this post I've agreed to offload these two to a mate in exchange for two new, clean SRM NPRYs. Guess I won't have to worry about a market for these wagons when I eventually finish weathering all four!

I look forward to having another go and playing around with the technique, but I'm fairly happy with this as a first go.

'Til next time, cheers.


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Making your own photo backdrop

As promised, this post is all about how I achieved the photo backdrop on Rozelle Street.

On my previous layout I'd used Haskell Backscenes' adhesive backdrops to depict a country NSW theme, however that wasn't going to cut it for an urban-themed, inner-city layout. A look through available commercial options from overseas backdrop manufacturers provided options that were too representative of their European or US origins. Sometimes you can cut corners and hide out-of-place details. Unfortunately there isn't much room for that on such a small layout.

While stumbling over a railway-related video from the National Film and Sound and Archive on Youtube (search for NFSA), I noticed a lot of their films featured large, panning shots of urban scenery. I figured that I could take a screenshot of this, edit it in very basically in paint, and print it out at Officeworks in colour.

After a week of sifting through the NFSA's Youtube archives, I found a film titled 'Rooftopics' which had just the right scene. Being from 1971 it was as close to my era as I was going to get.

So I grabbed this scene above, and after a few minutes using the rectangular 'select' tool in Microsoft Paint, had this:


One shot wasn't going to be long enough, so I needed to duplicate the scene without making it too obvious, like this:

I played around a little more with the select tool and came up with this:

Ultimately this one was better because it spread out the distance between the trees. Some of these and other features which stick out on the skyline, like the church bell tower or chimneys, were ultimately cut out as I went along to further break up the skyline. I made another scene which has the noticeable white apartment block in the last picture below. This is a key detail bringing the scene into a more modern era.

Once I had the scenes printed, I cut a few out and tried them for size and fit. The first one came out with too much of a blue hue, so after loading the picture into a Word document and playing around with the picture colour and contrast in Microsoft Word, I had the below, final outcome:

On the day of the exhibition, I marked the scenery heights on the back board lightly in pencil, and coated the back of the backscene printouts with a gluestick. After lining them up with the scenery markings, I applied them and gently smoothed out any wrinkles or air bubbles by hand.

I still need a fence either side of the factory to help with the transition from front to rear, but it's mostly done now.

So there you go, really easy and something anyone with basic computer skills, a glue stick and the internet can achieve!


Saturday, 2 September 2017

Small details - trackside

I did promise some additional information on the new photo backdrop for this post, and that is still forthcoming, but for the time being I thought I'd focus on two of the smaller jobs I wanted to complete before the Malkara exhibition; Uneek whitemetal lineside details.

I undercoated each of these with a Tamiya self-etch primer, then spray-painted them with Krylon ultra-flat brown to get a good undercoat colour. Then I brushed on various crushed Conte pastel crayons (the same as used for wagon weathering), highlighting areas such as the raised parts of the sole plates with Faber Castell pastel pencils. To finish off, all were coated in 100% isopropyl to seal the weathering. In some cases, I would iso' then add another layer of powdered Conte crayon, then iso' again to seal.

The first of these are some sleepers. These had a few layers of light and medium greys after the Krylon layer, finished with a layer of black powders to tie everything together. I've laid them here to denote where the inlaid un-couplers are on the main.

Next up were the sole plates, finished off with a layer of mixed maroon red and light brown, and dusted with orange in places. A few years ago I helped out at the Zig Zag Railway with the clean up following the 2013 State Mine bush fire. One job was to move fire-damaged sole plates into a skip for sale as scrap metal. Each plate weighed between 12-17kg. After an afternoon of heaving a few barrels' worth of these plates into a skip atop a truck, I can attest that a long-discarded pile of sole plates looks every bit as brown and rusty as this. If anything, I've gone too easy on the orange colour of the rust to adjust for my era, but I'm happy with the result. They're pictured here next to the LCL container-come-ganger's shed.

Finally, an unrelated detail. I've mentioned before the different wagon sizes I keep on the layout at any given time to mix up the challenge of shunting the inglenook. After nearly a year in operation it was time to up the difficulty setting on the layout to "75-foot goods wagon." Voila - the Australian National Railways' VFX by Auscision. The ANR signage on the wagon sets it neatly in the latter part of the 1970s (Australian National Railways was formed in 1978) but before the Railways of Australia four-letter code was introduced in the early 1980s. The era narrows! Combined with the yard signal installed a little closer in from the edge to limit the available shunting neck, this has added a little more planning into each puzzle.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm tossing around ideas for the next layout. So far I want a main west Sydney location in the same era, but under the wires so that I can run a number of the electric trains I've started to accumulate. The VFX will be a neat addition to general freight consists heading over the mountains, and these wagons stick out in the photos I've seen of trains from this era.

The next step now is how to build such a layout in the confines of a small apartment, and how to make it a continuous run without taking over much more space than it already has. I'll be honest - progress on that front isn't going to happen anytime soon, but that's where the designs are heading.

Next time, the Backdrop. Really this time.