Sunday, 27 April 2014

Backdrop progress

I made use of the long weekend by undercoating the backdrop in the modules with an all-in-one sealer, primer and undercoat. I painted this to the extremities of the backdrop to provide a level of protection in the longer term.

I gave it a day and a bit to dry. Today I painted the first coat of the sky blue that will sit behind the photo backdrop.

I'm definitely going to add another coat to get a better all-over consistency, but I'm undecided yet on a third. It will depend on the next part.

I had been doing some research over the internet about how to apply a 'graded' blue sky look on a backdrop. A number of the examples mentioned painting a darker shade of blue at the top, a white layer at the bottom, and blending the two together. I'm not feeling confident on my ability to gently blend the two layers, so I kept looking and came across this website from the US.

The forum post showing the results I was trying to achieve is this one:

I have two pieces of MDF I sprayed blue for backdrops to my old layout before I moved. I dragged one out and had a bit of a practice. 

The original board:

After about ten sprays back and forth of a flat white it looked like this:

Not too bad, but at normal viewing distance, it looks like this:

I'm not happy with how the specs turned out on the test piece and I think it would detract from the photo backdrop when overlaid on top. 

This needs more thinking over. I'm going to do a little more research this week as well as add the next coat to the modules' backdrop.

I was getting the itch to run trains and tempted this week to pull out the 47, convert it to DCC and set up a test track, but I'm convinced that needs to wait until the construction part is done. It's such an easy hobby to get distracted by! That said, seeing the blue on the backdrop is a visible and pleasing sign of progress. 

That's all for now.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Baseboard finished and another method of connecting modules

As the title suggests, this weekend I finished doing all the little nips and tucks required to fit the baseboard to the risers. I found it necessary to do this now as opposed to after undercoating and painting the backboard, so that I have a fixed element to start measuring the remaining components of the loops still to be built. Relying on measurements from parts that were 'floating' wasn't going to provide much accuracy.

Above shows the main (foreground) and cement siding baseboard. The baseboard timber had started to warp slightly at the extremities so I fixed it to 19mm x 30mm lengths for strength, then screwed that to the risers. I liquid nailed the parts sitting above the backscene and outer frame today and have weighted them, letting it set until tomorrow night. I pessimistically went over the whole thing with the spirit level just now, and was relieved to find the layout is level! I had to check a few times, but the effort in attention to detail thus has appeared to have paid off. As someone who usually rushes things and needs to do a hack job to get it to fit, this is quite rewarding.

As I've said before, I want to paint the modules before they move to their home in the train room. Despite the good weather and I didn't particularly feel like painting today after finishing the baseboards, so I sat down and sketched an idea for attaching the return loops to the modules. Because of limited space between where the backscene and end wall are in this area of the modules, I can't get a bolt in to secure and align the pieces. I had thought of pattern maker's dowels for alignment, but I'm more looking for an all-in-one secure and align solution.

The big, not-so-square rectangular thing is the end of the left-hand module. Underneath the protruding baseboard from the module, and also under the return loop baseboard would be two blocks of timber. Attached to these on both the visible side and the same place on the other side, would be a loose-pin hinge, at A and B, such as this one below.
I had this idea while looking at how Chris Nevard joined his Catcott Burtle layout to the fiddle yard. In the below photo you can see a similar, albeit smaller hinge arrangement on the left of the bottom of the module.

Mine wouldn't be load-bearing, so in theory I think it would work. I don't plan on moving it very much once it is set up, so I wouldn't have to worry about wear too much (and therefore mis-alignment) from removing and reinserting the pin either. Has anyone else tried this? I'm keen to hear thoughts on this or other ideas.

Finally I wanted to show off a bit of modelling. More accurately, this piece of scenery is about to meet the garbage man (it's sitting where the new track off the left-hand return loop needs to go) and I wanted to record it for reference when come to creating the cutting on the new layout.

My old layout was a single-line branchline terminus. The track entered here from the fiddle yard through a small cutting. The scenery is Woodland Scenics' plaster sheet over styrene foam shaped into the desired contour with a knife. I lathered some sculpting plaster over the cutting after that and scraped away at it to get the effect of erosion along the cutting wall. The ground cover is a blend of Chuck's Dust sand and red dirt, to replicate the kind of soil in the Central West of NSW, finished with a blend of three different static grasses and miniNatur grass tufts. I'm happy with how it came out.

I'll detail the exact mixtures and measurements when I get up to that stage on the new layout, but otherwise, anything you see so far you want to know more about, feel free to ask.

Happy modelling!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The last 32 class to Newcastle

Or will it be? For years I've put off going to Steamfest (in the Newcastle/Hunter area), but with the impending truncation of the line into Newcastle I figured it was about time to stop putting it off and get up there.

I only had a limited amount of time so the main aim of the visit was to ride the heritage service into Newcastle Station proper from Maitland, and return. Above is the first trip of the Saturday shortly after arriving in Newcastle.

Interesting cantenary arrangement at the end of the line in the above shot. Never noticed it until now.

But onto the diesels:

442 idling at Newcastle

4303 returns to Maitland from a midday Branxton shuttle. Haven't thought much about getting an Auscision 43 (if the rumours come to fruition), but I enjoyed hearing it tick over between trips at Maitland. Still, there's only so much space on the layout.

I probably spent about four hours just watching trains at Maitland; with the coal roads, Pelton EL's, north Coast NR's, passenger trains and all the heritage stuff, you really are spoiled for choice up there.

So by now you can probably guess that not much has happened on the layout since the last post. My Dad had loaned me his jigsaw, but needs it back for some renovations on the upcoming long weekend. So, work is currently halted until payday.

I'll post something in a couple of weeks when there's progress to show. Should have it upstairs again by then.

Happy Modelling!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Return loop progress

This weekend I made a start on the left-hand return loop. I picked up some additional 24" radius Atlas curved track to complete this return loop too. The advantage is less time mucking around with a track gauge and the ease of sighting the smaller and larger raidii for jig-sawing the inner and outer curves of the loop respectively. Plus, there's the added benefit of cost for the cheaper code 100 in the "off-stage" half of the layout.

I did make a small stuff-up. Above is the loop after being cut out. In the foreground I've placed a piece of 19mm x 90mm timber I used as bracing underneath to keep everything flat and join the two pieces of timber together to make up the loop. I mistakenly screwed the bracing to the top of the timber, not underneath as I should have. Luckily, this one was a case of flipping the job over and re-aligning the ends so as to mate with the module and fiddle yard. The other end will be less forgiving as the track is already on a 32" curve leaving the module before transitioning to the 24" radius return loop track and an eased curve into the fiddle yard.

Here is where I got up to today. The drill bit which fits the smaller screw size wore away this arvo (it's only cheap - another lesson learned!), and along with more screws I now also need another drill bit before I can finish this one.

Before breaking the drill bit, I lined up the fiddle yard I'm recycling from my old layout with the return loop on the garage floor. You can just make out the 90-degree 24" radius section of track laid out at the opposite end. I plan on installing a lift-up section between the end of that track and the fiddle yard. That February 2014 AMRM article is going to come in handy!

I need to scrape the old scenery and track off the fiddle yard and remove the two shelf drawer runners currently providing mobility for the traverser. That idea never really worked properly and I've since been warming to the idea of two sanded, flat pieces of timber sliding along the top of each other. Need to plan that one out a little more before committing to it though. Not quite sure what to install to prevent the two pieces from separating and unintentionally discovering which wagon in the fleet bounces the highest, but plenty of time to plan. For now I'll be working towards finishing the return loops, painting the backdrop and installing lighting before moving the layout upstairs, back to it's home.

Until next time, Happy Modelling!