Saturday, 24 October 2020

October Update

New additions

I failed to mention during the previous post that my wife and I welcomed our son into the world in late June. You'd think that this would take up more of my time than it has, but instead, having every waking second dominated by a person who is completely dependent on you for survival forces you to be efficient with the 'spare' time you have. As a result, I'm a little more motivated to spend the time I would otherwise spend scrolling through the internet to get down to the layout room and make some progress.

Before we get to the layout update, some other additions...

The Auscision Indian Pacific sets arrived recently. The detail in these cars is beautiful, and for something that has been likely thrown, dropped and rolled on it's way from China to me, only two brake cylinders had dislodged from a bogie when I took it out. They were easily re-added with a drop of glue. 

My two 85's have substituted for two 46's to give the IP it's inaugral run around the layout. 

A friend of mine gave me some great advice when it comes to running your trains with a newborn: keep your most reliable locos and rollingstock on the layout, so that when you get ten minutes to run trains you're not wasting it trying to fault-find something. Great advice. The 85's fill this role for me at the moment and are hauling just about everything. My U-boat arrived back from it's sound and lighting upgrade a few months ago as well, and while it runs fairly well and sounds great, it's less forgiving than 12-wheel pick up of the 85's.

The only downside with running the IP is that I've found my passenger stock seems to have a lot less tolerance for sub-optimal trackwork than my freight rollingstock. It's useful in that I can see what needs to be improved, but a few of the IP cars' walkway diaphragms and buffing plates seem to lock with each other if there was a vertical difference in height which pushed one carriage above the other by the height of a coupler width or so. (You can exhale that breath, not all of the track is that bad). This only happens in one spot coming off the traverser and onto the loop, but still, it's an annoying niggle to correct.

Otherwise, it's an outstanding set to watch going around.

My only gripe is that the cars don't come with a marshalling order included in or on the box. In case you're also trying to work out the marshalling order for a set running in NSW, this is the common marshalling I use. From the Sydney end:


This is based on NSWGR Country train marshalling recorded in 1978. The NSWR sitting cars were normally added between the BRJ and ER, and sometimes between the HGM and locos. If you're looking at photos and trying to work out if you're looking at an up or down IP in NSW, the HGM was always behind the locos.

Auscision also released a limited amount of FAMs in a four-pack, which I grabbed as well. Just can't keep away from blue L7's...

And yes, this has started an inevitable need to collect an Auscision RUB set now so that I can run the Gold Coast Motorail. Somewhere. Eventually... Luckily a re-run of the RUB's is a number of years away!

Rarely, there was an FAM on the Southern Aurora, but this is didn't happen that often in my era. 

Layout progress, and regression...

Since July, I found that two of my turnout servos had failed and need to be replaced. They were non-responsive and the fascia controller was super-hot to touch. Something bad happening there, so we'll start with the servo's themselves and see what happens.

I managed to get the accessory bus working again though, and I'm happy to report that all of the Rapido uncouplers are working perfectly. 

I added the last remaining connection to the fiddle yard and laid track on it. I had to dog-leg a little to get it in, but so far none of the rollingstock has an issue with it. 

I've then been adding sanity boards/guard rails to all of the non-scenicked modules on the loop. Some old Triang bridge sides have come in handy and break up the monotony of the timber. 

The inner guard rail is set lower so that I can still see the trains and helps with re-railing if need be.

I've also glued the scenery foam in place ready for covering with spakfilla/plaster.

The next steps are to replace the turnout servos and then have an operating session to give the whole thing a bit of a shakedown before I go spending money and precious time on the scenery side of things.

Hopefully another update before December. Until then, happy modelling!


Saturday, 25 July 2020

Mid-year update

It's been a while between posts, but I'm glad to say the reno's are done, the train room is now waterproofed and looks less like it's been banished to the basement.

 To recap from the previous post, here it is before:

And after:

The builder altered the pipework from a bathroom above the layout room during the reno's (the box on the top-right of the above photo), which has necessitated alteration of the final arrangement of the layout in this space. In the new configuration, I've swapped the Mt Wilson and fiddle modules, removed the creek module, and a future scenic module for now. This has also shortened the overall loop by about 2m, but it makes a more achievable railway in the medium term. That's the plan anyway.

I took advantage of one of the many recent sales at Australian Modeller over the last few months to purchase some SDS models' JCW 80-foot container wagons. As you know, I mainly model the main west in the late 1970s, and until recently I hadn't found any photographic evidence of these wagons venturing anywhere but the main south during that era. A fellow South Australian modeller put me onto a history of the TNT-Alltrans Adelaide-Sydney services produced for a Modelling the Railways of South Australia convention a few years ago. This, and seeing a few other photos of these wagons in the consists of some general freight trains on the main west in one of the pictorial groups I follow on Facebook provided all of the convincing I needed to add these wagons to my roster. I probably won't run them on Mt Wilson all that often, but they could make a guest appearance on Rozelle Street, and if I take a main west consist to run at a club or exhibition layout in future. One of those "I like them, I'll make that work" purchases.  

Also - I've finally completed wiring the fiddle yard for DCC. It's been a long time coming, but this just leaves the much simpler task of wiring up the remaining loop modules.

I also tested out the JCWs on my loops into the fiddle yard. The Indian Pacific cars are due to arrive from Auscision in the next few months and are around the same length, so this is a good indication that they'll go around my layout for the odd occasion when I want to give that consist a run - completely out of context for the branch line scenario!

A few more weeks and I'll have a train running in a loop. Still planning to complete the basic scenery by Christmas.

Cheerio for now,


Friday, 24 April 2020

Tracklaying complete

While my time off wasn't as productive as I'd hoped, I did manage to achieve the tracklaying milestone.

Mainly so that I can remember how I did this in future, I'll briefly outline how the entryway bridge was constructed. I've used 19mm x 89mm pine, which rests on a horizontal 19 x 42mm pine support on either end of the curved modules that it joins.

To keep the bridge piece from moving I've used off cuts of pine and aluminium angle and fixed these to the right-hand curved module, and the other end of the bridge so that the bridge can only be put in place in one direction. While this controls for and reduces any lateral and vertical movement, I now need to come up with a way of preventing the bridge from sliding out if the curved modules get knocked at all. I think I'll use dowel, but again, this is reliant on either outside being legal again or waiting on a Bunnings delivery.

To lay the track I've used Trackrite foam to reduce some of the noise of running directly on plywood with no insulation underneath. Most of this was laid on a curve, so I cut the trackrite in half to make it easier to lay around the curve without lifting or warping. Once cut, I placed it aside and applied Selley's caulk in a coffee colour (it's better than white if used in scenic areas), which is smoothed out to a light spread with an off cut of pine. The Trackrite is then laid on top, another layer of caulk is applied and smoothed, and then the track is laid with the aid of Tracksetta gauges to ensure the 30" minimum radius is maintained throughout. Weights are then applied on top and left for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

When joining the track on the curve I've offset the rail joiners to prevent the 'kink' you sometimes see when the track is joined flush on a curve (see below). I've used code 100 in all of the non-scenicked areas for ease of use and because it's quite durable and forgiving.

While that was drying and setting, I received one of the Auscision stimulus packages I bought to keep the hobby (read: Australian Modeller) alive during the Covid-19 lockdown. These VR FQX flat/container wagons mainly ran in NSW on the main south, but I've seen at least one on the north coast, and it's reasonable to assume they ventured on the main west over the Blue Mountains at some stage. I'll do a little more work on making appropriate tie-downs for the caravans, but these add some variety to train loads.

In an effort to complete wiring I started on the fiddle yard.

And have added the bus wire to the first of the curved modules...

Only to discover that these terminal strip connectors aren't as a great as I thought they would be for connecting the bus wire between the modules. I've bought some RCA connectors instead and am now waiting for them to arrive from Jaycar.

Unfortunately that's it for Mt Wilson for a while. We've just moved out while a number of renovations to the inside of our house happen, including waterproofing the railway room.

When we come back the room will have gyprocked walls, a new ceiling and some downlights. Should make it a much more comfortable place to be. In the meantime, the railway has visited my brother's house for a while. Again.

Man that guy is a patient saint.

While I'm temporarily banned from the worksite that has become our house, I've brought the coal loading bin, the station and signal box and some modelling tools to finish them off. Should be able to plonk them straight in by the time we get back inside.

Until then, happy modelling!


Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Layout progress in the time of Coronavirus

I'm sure there are many people at home all over the world at the moment with extra modelling time on their hands thanks to the efforts to contain the spread of Coronavirus. I was supposed to be leaving Sydney on the Indian Pacific today, however with the SA and WA borders closed the IP, the Ghan and the Overland have all been cancelled until 31 May. I'm a tad disappointed, but it's for the best. Plus, I've received either a credit or refund for all aspects of the holiday so I'll still be able to go at some point in future.

So what to do with two weeks of holidays...

Firstly I jumped online and ordered all of the supplies I need for a marathon layout session from hobby shops, Jaycar and Bunnings. While I wait for all of that to arrive I've been doing as much as I can in the train room to get some little jobs out of the way and make the modelling time I have as efficient as possible.

I've managed to finish installing all of the lighting on the scenic modules now. Mt Wilson in particular looks like a much larger space with the extension now fitting in. I'm looking forward to shunting here.

I'll get around to making this a bit neater in between other jobs:

I've also had a huge hand from my brother, meaning that we've been able to connect all of the curved modules, scenic modules and fiddle yard together.

Now I just need to build the bridge piece over the entryway when the loot from Bunnings arrives and then I can start laying the remaining track.

I've cut all of the guard rails for the curved modules from 3mm ply -- 50mm wide for the inside and 80mm wide for the outside as demonstrated below with this KLV. I tried using 80mm for both sides and found that it hid the trains too much. If there was ever a derailment I'd want to be able to see where it was happening pretty quickly, hence the lower inside wall. That, and it's just nice to see a train going around.

I've also started cutting the remaining track for the extension module to the yard. I'll have to take up and re-align some of the existing track, but that should be a fairly quick job.

I'm back at work after Easter, and with the chance of being dragged to a social event being pretty low I'm hoping to make fair progress. The aim of the next few weeks is to have a train running around the loop by the time I go back to work. Hopefully that should increase the motivation thereafter to get scenery onto the Mt Wilson module at least. Will see how it goes.

Til next time!


Saturday, 15 February 2020


Last weekend saw 3 months' worth of rain fall across the east coast in the space of just over 3 days. I thought our house was doing ok until my Sunday afternoon modelling time came around and I walked into the train room...

Perhaps it's psychological conditioning from the last place we lived in, which leaked at the slightest hint of rain, or perhaps it's time to stop watching Das Boot, but seeing the train room flooded induced neck-chilling fear.

After some investigation I found the gouged channel in the concrete at the corner of the room had been doing it's job collecting seepage through the walls from the earth on the other side, however the pipe leading outside to the garden was blocked. I managed to unblock it with all manner of fancy tools and the water drained away fairly quickly after that.

All-in-all I was lucky that I found it when I had - I'd left the floor covered in newspaper from when I was painting, and there had been a light layer of sawdust on top of that. Combined, they had soaked or slowed the progression of the water into the house.

When I walked into the room the water was on it's way to my Auscision rollingstock storage boxes, so thankfully they and their contents were spared. Hearing everyone else's experiences on Monday at work made me feel better that it wasn't just solely raining in my basement, but I did spend the rest of the week cleaning up the mess and moving the modules, wagons and locos back into place.

It's been a bit of a setback, and the damp weather has meant that I can't yet finish painting the pelmets and fascias and I had hoped to. Ah well, a minor diversion, but planning continues.

Still on track to have all of the modules joined up by the end of the month, and should have track down everywhere in time for picking up another servo motor and bracket at the Forestville exhibition in March. 


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

January Progress

Between getting called into work over the holidays and being conscripted for minor renovations in parts of the house unrelated to the model railway, I'm not quite at a stage where I can run trains yet, but damn we're close!

Here's a quick run-through of where things are up to. I've laid the track in the fiddle yard and have started to store a few of the test trains there. The U Set fits on the traverser table with about 1.5cm at either end, which is pretty good considering I first built the traverser about five years ago, well before any thought of running interurbans occurred! The U set itself is away being converted to DCC sound, but should be back by late March or so.

With the help of my brother over the long weekend, some significant progress was made on construction. I've now added the backboard for the as-yet unnamed halt immediately after the fiddle yard. I'm going to lay the track here and leave scenery until after the Mt Wilson yard scenery is completed. Only the roof and ends to go before I can install the lighting and finish painting on this module.

I had to build this module offset from Mount Wilson due to a large pipe protruding from the ceiling above, immediately between this one and the Mount Wilson module. Construction-wise it's complete, I'm glad to say. I've left the left-hand side open for now to allow for another scenic module to join it in future.

The expanded Mount Wilson yard is also nearly complete. This gives me another 600mm of yard space, which allows for arriving coal trains to run straight under the loading bin, and for the loco to run-around. I will be able to re-locate one of the Rapido uncouplers as a result of this expanded design.

I did make a minor error cutting the mouse-hole though. While not ideal, enlargening the size of the hole will be an easy fix.

And here's the overall progress shot. I've also built most of the two return loops at either end in the last month. The big jobs coming up will be connecting it all up and getting all of the legs level. Still, I'm confident of being able to have the major construction complete and all track laid by the end of February.

I'm keenly aware of the paralysis-by-analysis trap I fell into with the layout that kicked this blog off, and that is giving me a bit of a kick to keep pushing on. 

I look forward to posting the next update towards the end of next month. I'll try to get some scale modelling into those updates too - I'm looking forward to the end of the construction phase as much as you are I'm sure.
Cheerio for now,


Monday, 23 December 2019

The end of 2019 and the start of a continuous run

After moving into our new place, painting, cleaning, and several trips to the tip and Vinnies, I have finally managed to get the most important part of the move complete: relocating the trains to their new home.

The extra space under the house has allowed me to extend Mt Wilson yard on the right-hand side for the enlarged fruit siding I mentioned in the previous post, as well as turning the coal road into a through-siding. Not sure if this means that I'll remove one of the uncouplers on the Mt Wilson yard yet. Will see how I go.

I've also built another mini-scene that I wanted with a bridge and an apple orchard to give the impression of distance between Mt Wilson and Bell.

Opposite Mt Wilson I've built a new module which will eventually be another small station (see first photo). This leads into the fiddle yard traverser. I'm planning on leaving that one as bare timber with just a straight track over it for the time being so that I can play around with the track plan between now and whenever it gets built. Overall this new arrangement gives me a longer run, and a continuous run for the days when I just want to watch a train run through the scenery. 

After the silly season I'm planning on building the two half-loop modules built so that I can have a continuous run. The goal is to have a train running in a loop before I go back to work in mid-January. There will be much heraldry and fanfare here if that does happen. Plus, the long-awaited SDS 81 class is due in the first quarter of next year and I'm keen to get that out and stretching it's legs.

Until next time, Merry Christmas! Thanks for following along this year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2020, As always, hopefully with more modelling.