Friday, 28 March 2014


All week I have been looking forward to having the day off to work on the layout. In my mind, the end of today would have seen the first undercoat of the backboard finished and drying right now.

One day, I'll learn.

I noticed before painting that I still hadn't cut and fit the remaining holes for the baseboard to pass through at either end of the modules. You guessed it, that's where today went.

The room the layout is going to live in for the time being requires the left-hand reverse loop to run into a wardrobe and out again, before entering the fiddle yard. This wardrobe also currently prevents the cement siding from protruding out of the module for the time being. At the time of taking the photo below, I was still testing clearances for the siding off the main. Later today I cut the hole for the cement siding to continue out of the module at a later date. I figured it would be much harder to do once the track was down.

The next photo comes to the point of this post. The holes for the track and baseboard required a clearance of about 8cm x 5cm. Once I had the baseboard through the right-hand side of the backboard, I found I had forgotten to account for clearances on the vehicles traversing the section. Pictured is a silver LLV, and previously I had a KLV running through. I'm yet to get to testing my longest vehicle - a Tulloch Railcar - but I'm confident the gap is now at the right size.

The most time-consuming part was getting the holes level to accept the baseboard, and in this respect the Auscision KLV was brilliant; the wagon's free-rolling gave me a more relevant indication of progress than using the spirit level alone. Although the gap is quite long, this area will be covered by a hill and road overbridge.

Now to put down the tools and entertain for a weekend.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Pole, pole...

If you're ever in East Africa, a common phrase you'll hear is "Pole, Pole" (poh-lay, poh-lay). It means "slowly, slowly," and it's used in everything from traffic signs to mountain-climbing. It also pretty adequately sums up how things are progressing on the layout at the moment.

This weekend I've finished installing all of the risers and cut out the templates for the track baseboard. I had a crack at punching through the end of the right-hand module, but I've underestimated the clearance for track, underlay and trains to get through. For now, the jigsaw gets a rest, but at least I know to be aware of it for the other end.

Reading Gary Spencer-Salt's blog about his installation of a photo-backdrop this week, I had a lightbulb moment. I had been thinking the way to reduce an impending gap between the bottom of the backdrop and the top of the scenery would have needed to be raising the risers another 20mm, however for Spicer's Creek, Gary has cut the sky from the 'Barinore' backdrop and applied it to a foamcore backing against a painted sky, and it looks quite convincing. Yoink! 

I've got some time off later this week, so I hope to be able to undercoat and paint the backboard a sky blue. I've tried to find a matt spray can of sky blue paint at Bunnings, however they're all gloss finishes. Out with the roller it is. This part of the job sucks, but at least after this I will be able to start on foam for the scenery and get the lighting installed so that the layout can vacate the garage. Then it will be onto construction of the return loops for the fiddle yard.

Still, I'm hopeful to have a train running by Anzac Day. It's frustrating close, but you can do it quickly or you can do it right.

Pole, pole.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


This week I managed to get the last of the backboard panels installed. I'm pleased with how it looks so far.

Today I picked up 2/3 of the points I need and some track from Model Railroad Craftsman in Blacktown. I always like the range of scratchbuilding and scenery items in there, so it was good to wander around briefly. Once home, I put some gap filler over the screws and the joins on the panels in the backboard. After cutting out the supporting timber for the track and setting some of it up to check distances, I figured, why the hell not, and pulled out part of the backscene.

This is "Barinore" by Haskell and I'm noticing it's becoming more and more common in layouts with photographic backdrops at the moment, namely Spicer's Creek and Morpeth, as well another HO scale one from the Epping Exhibition last year who's name escapes me. By the same chap who made Smaldon Curve layout. I digress. I've noticed on all of the layouts that that backdrop in particular unobtrusively blends into the background due in no small part to the effort each of the modellers have put into their scenery, both in quality and in not 'crowding' the scenes.

I chose the medium sized one (450mm x 2600mm), and although it currently looks a bit big for HO, I'm hoping that having some similarly-sized trees on the layout and some terrain will reduce that. Keen to hear anyone's thoughts or previous experience on that too.

Lastly, I thought I'd include a picture on how I'm installing the risers. I've got a length of 100mm x 19mm pine which I'm cutting to the width of the track baseboard where it crosses the SHS supports. These are secured with two different types of screws to a 20mm x 20mm bracket I got from Bunnings. I measure it's position from the front of the plan and matched that to the layout frame to get it into position and line it all up. The track baseboard will be screwed on top once level.

Until next time, cheers.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Backboard progress

This weekend I managed to get a little further on the backboard construction. The first one, pictured last week, was essentially a test-bed for getting the construction process down and experimenting with the tools and equipment to figure out how everything works. Learning a bit along the way I was able to get this far:

Here you can see the two modules together, with just the final piece to go into the left-hand module. I needed to put the tools down and walk away from it when I took the photo - I am prone to press-on-itis, which usually results in either frustration at not achieving something in an impossible timeframe or trying to rush something, stuffing it up, and ending up at the frustration stage anyway.

With some time after work this week I hope to be able to finish the backboard and start forming up and cutting the timber for the yard and track. Then I'll fit the foam scenery, shape that and cut an appropriately-shaped fascia to fit. The pelmet will come after lighting. Lighting itself is still a little way off, but I'm looking at LED strips having seen other modellers' success with them. It's frustrating being at least two weeks away from the soonest track-laying, but that's just the way it has to be.

To close things off, here's another motivator:

7302 hauls an up goods (probably a trip working) through Newtown. (Source: Weston Langford's website - a great place to spend a few hours, regardless of which system you model)


Saturday, 1 March 2014

A can of harden up

This weekend's labours have been focussed on installing a curved backboard on the left module.

The above photos shows the first test fit. Not satisfied with the radius of the curve, I decided to chop a little more out of each of the notches to squeeze a better curve in. The timber I'm using is 4mm ply used in concrete formwork. It is easy to bend but likes embedding itself in my hands, one splinter at a time. Work gloves. Lesson learned.

I hadn't planned a specific radius for the backboard, so I hadn't factored in how much cement siding it would take up. I thought I was prepared to sacrifice about 5cm from the end. Until I saw it.

I had planned to just keep cutting away the notch sizes until I got the radius I wanted. This worked, but there comes a point when the curve will be obvious even under the photographic backdrop, rather than a nice, subtle background to the model. Above is a picture of where I decided to stop. I then grabbed the layout design and overlaid the module to it.

A 3-wagon siding would allow me to put the cement discharge structure in the middle and 'gravitate' 2 wagons through it prototypically. The above shows how what I had hoped would be a 3-wagon siding, is not going to happen in the current configuration. If I was only running PRX or FRH hoppers, I might be able to get away with it using some selective compression, but the PCX hoppers I want to run are going to prevent that.

As a work-around, I grabbed a spare piece of track and slewed the siding to be parallel with the main line. It's a little better, and a I reckon I could now get away with a PRX-PCX combination in the siding. A 2xPCX combination looks unworkable. I'd be keen to hear thoughts from anyone else who can see a better solution - I could just be too close to it for now to see it better. I've put the tools down til next weekend, so who knows, maybe I'll get an epiphany during the week.


I've referred to the prototype buildings for the cement siding in previous posts as the one from Tamworth. I've never been to Tamworth, so I was referring to pictures I'd seen of one from google searches. Turns out the cement works I was referring to is actually the siding at Nemingah, about 7k's further up the line from Tamworth. Here's some photos:

Cement unloading facility at Nemingah in 2006. Taken from Rolfeworld. (

From the other side, taken from this thread on Railpage. A PRX hopper is just visible inside.

You can also see a video of a similar one Marcus Amman built for his Main North layout, representing the one formerly standing at Ourimbah, here. I'm thinking this would be an excellent project to model and write up for the AMRM. That's a good couple of months away for now though.

Happy Modelling!