Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Weathering PCC cement hoppers

Living between two places for work means that all the modelling gear isn't always where you need it when you want it. Today was one such occasion when I found that after getting settled to start a day of putting together one of the new Road and Rail Resin milktainers, I had left my toolbox back in Sydney.

So to make use of the day, I decided to finish weathering a PCC cement hopper I had started a while ago.

The methods are the same as for the WHX's I mentioned a little while ago, with the only difference being the preparation stage. I didn't mind the colour of the wagons as-new from Casula Hobbies as a base, so I sprayed this one all over with dullcote to give the powders something to bite. I then masked the wagon code, "roller bearings" markings and other markings.

Next I applied a light grey powder all over. Normally I'd start darker, but these wagons were an early 1970s build and I want to depict something between the shiny-new look and their later 1970s look.

Using photos on the internet as a guide, I then draw weld lines using a scrap piece of paper to stay as straight as possible. I'm glad I did this pretty much straight after the morning coffee - it's patience-testing to say the least, but worth it for the overall look later.

Next the masking tape was removed and the whole model given a coat of medium grey powder.

From the period photos I found, the end of the round tanks all had signs of either rust or weathered brown steel, so the next step was to mix up an appropriate colour from the red and lighter browns I had and apply a light smattering on the ends.

I then added some more light grey on top of the model to represent spilled cement, as well as some medium grey over the brown to tone those areas down a bit.

I've included a shot of the original below for ease of comparison.

The last step I want to do is replicate some caked cement on the top of the model in small groups around the hatches, but I need to get some more supplies first. After that and treating the wheels, it'll be ready to go back on the layout.

Overall, pretty happy with how it turned out.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

New underlay progress

After I had taken the layout back to bare boards I grabbed the Trackrite underlay foam I had picked up at Liverpool and did a bit of a test to compare sound. I used a few Trainorama FWH's as a 'control' wagon for this test to produce a consistent result - nothing better than mass-produced wheat wagons for conformity! The first one was track on baseboard, the second was laid on Trackrite, the third was track on Trackrite with another layer of Trackrite under that to try to replicate a similar effect to Gary Spencer-Salt's efforts on Spicer's Creek. (Though recognising that it isn't the same because his isolates the underlay from the scenery foam and then has trackrite on top). To me, the second one (baseboard + Trackrite + track) sounds the best.

For now I've decided to use the larger roll of Trackrite foam to wrap the timber baseboard to achieve the same 'isolation' as Gary has, but I'm not sure yet whether I'll then lay individual pieces of Trackrite on top of that layer or just put the track down onto it. Whichever way I go would require this first step, so today saw the first break from procrastination for a long time.

I positioned the foam roll on top of the baseboard with around a 30mm overhang on the far side to ensure I'd have enough to attach to the sides once folded over. I then cut the closest side to the same dimensions.

After I'd spread Selleys No More Gaps coloured caulk, I lay the foam as per Gary's instructions here. I didn't have enough tacks, so I improvised slightly. Well, almost entirely improvised.

Got the muse back, so I hope to have this phase completed shortly.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Removing the rubber underlay

Today I took up the underlay. I re-read Gary Spencer Salt's blog entry on laying track and underlay, as well as the AMRM article mentioned in the last blog post and made my mind up. Here's the last look at the layout before it went back to timber:

To remove the track I had already laid, I brushed water over it and left it for a few minutes until it had soaked into the glue. I'm not sure how much this loosened the PVA glue, but it had the advantage of higlighting where the glue was so that I didn't dig' too much in the wrong area with the paint scraper.

Sliding the paint scraper under the track lifted it fairly easily. This is the first time I have both laid track with PVA glue and pulled it up and I have to say I am a convert. No risk of driving the track pins in too far and breaking the sleepers, and no risk of damaging the track trying to get them out again. Once removed, I dried the water off each piece with a cotton rag and set them aside. If you're worried about the effects of PVA on the plastic sleepers, you needn't be. Here's how they look once pulled up:

I mopped up any remaining water and set to work tearing up the rubber from the underlay. It took less than five minutes to get the whole lot off the layout.


Then I brushed this stuff on the now bare baseboards:

If you decide to do this, work in a well-ventilated area. I also recommend a mask - it's fairly strong. Once applied, leave it for about ten minutes and then remove with a paint scraper. It comes off in a goo.

I found that the glue came off with the glue-rid a lot easier on the surfaces I had painted. On the other surfaces I applied a second coat and had another go, before finally wiping it with mineral turps and then sanding it.

All up, the whole process took around two hours, with the slowest part being the scraping.

Going to pack up my gear now and head back south to start work in the morning. Aside from a few wagons I'm weathering I've also picked up an Austrains S wagon underframe to fit to a Camco CW (they're both 10ft underframes, so hopefully it'll be a straightforward mod), and I'm finally going to finish the NRY I started years ago.

The next work on the layout won't be until next weekend now, but I'm please that progress is being made.

'Til next time, happy modelling!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Underlay revisited

Until recently I've been dabbling in weathering as a means of getting at least some of the rollingstock up to the standard I want when the layout is up to running trains. With uni just about done for the year and work backing off, I am so looking forward to getting back into actually building the layout. Being at the AMRA exhibition at Liverpool on Saturday was good both in terms of getting some supplies but also for motivation.

A few posts ago I talked about building a set of Fast Tracks points, and while I still think Fast Tracks is an exceptional brand I need to rebuild that turnout from scratch. The point rail and the stock rail just don't join well enough for reliable running. I've ordered a StockAid tool from Gwydir Valley Models (damned if I'm paying $30 for freight from North America with the current dollar) so that should improve the overall quality of the next build.

The cattle-yard siding was intended to come off the goods siding (left of pictured track) and rejoin the main, as per NSWGR prototype. My original plan was to stick to prototype as much as possible to give the feel of a NSWGR theme. While I was placing that curved turnout on the layout and mocking up where the second one would go for the cattle siding/main connection, I found the the overall plan just didn't seem to work at that end.

If I kept the second curved turnout for the cattle siding, the angle of the curve coming off the layout was going to be too tight for the off-stage trackwork. Although the plan in AnyRail was showing it as physically possible, for whatever reason it just wasn't happening in 1:1 scale. I tried instead using a Micro Engineering #6 turnout (below).  

All of the track seems to join , but I'm still not 100% sold on it. The dire shortage of ME Code 70 #6 turnouts in the country at the moment is conducive to further contemplation.

At the other end of the layout I've cut all of the track to the lengths ready to fix in position, but the first section I've glued down on the return loop module hasn't turned out how I would've liked. I've used PVA to fix the track to the rubber underlay and Selley's Kwik Grip to glue the underlay to the baseboard. Although the sound of trains running through the loop is amplified by the loop being in a wardrobe, it is still way too loud. The sound of the wheels alone is going to distort the sound of the DCC-sound equipped locos.

David Baillee's article in the August 2015 edition of the AMRM answered the problem for me. Without ruining the article, in my circumstances the timber baseboard plus dense rubber, plus track glued onto dense rubber equals sound transferred straight from the track to the baseboard, because the rubber isn't soft enough to absorb the sound. To fix this I need to add soft, spongy foam between the track and the baseboard.

I've toyed with the idea of putting the foam straight onto the rubber, but I'm not convinced I will be able to find a glue that will both bond to the rubber and not eat away at the foam. The other concern I have is how high the track will sit off the scenery. Keeping in mind that this is a yard and most of the landscape will be flat, I also don't want the track sitting proud of what would have been flattened land.

The track closest to the camera is the goods siding. About where the CLX is I'm planning on putting a gantry crane on the goods siding, so getting the landform looking like this (Bowen Creek):

Or this (Burrowa):

...is pretty important to me.

My current thinking is to take the track up, tear up the rubber, sand the rubber/wood glue back, lay the foam in it's place and the track on top. All-in-all, about a day's worth of work to change course and get it back to where it is now. Normally I would see this as a waste of about $110 and a few weekends, but I'm ok with it - if we didn't experiment in the hobby we probably wouldn't have things like the amazing realism of static grasses. Every so often something is going to fail. You learn from it, and that's ok.

More photos once there's more progress.

Happy Modelling!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Weathering an On Track Models GLX

When I started this blog last year the first photo I posted was a Bob Winch picture from 1979 of a short goods on the Oberon branch line. Even though it's the late 1970's, the van has been looked after well and the only signs of major weathering are on the bogies. This is a slightly different photo from the first one I posted, but it's the same train in the same location.

I wanted to achieve a similar, subtle weathering on an OTM GLX I have. It's also the only one I have, and the lowered lamp irons versions representative of my era are sold out. Pressure not to stuff it up!

As the weathering was going to be subtle, I didn't need to undercoat it in the Krylon brown like the other wagons, so I removed the bogies and couplers and sprayed the body with Dullcote, letting that dry before applying the ground-up pastel powders. The methods were the same from this point as with the WHX's: apply pastels, spray with 100% isopropyl, wait a few minutes for it to dry, apply powders. Here is the van with the just the rust pastels applied to give you a comparison.

And with the rest of the pastels:

Finished product:

I toned down the dirt and rust on the body by going over it lightly with a dark grey to retain the cleaner look of a NSWGR wagon. Pretty happy with how it turned out, but the test will be getting it home and running it under the layout lighting.

Looking forward to getting to the cement wagons soon.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Weathering WHX wheat hoppers

I mentioned in June that one of the biggest take-aways I got from the Thornleigh Exhibition was Aaron Denning's weathering demonstration. I'd seen him demonstrating it on wagons in 2014 and this year's focus was on locos.

The process is described here in the kind of detail a beginner can take in, so I won't go into it too much. In a way, one advantage is that everything you need for this you won't get at a hobby shop. As I'm living away from home and my usual hobby shops this has been quite handy. The art supply chain, Eckerlseys has stores all over the east cost which makes getting main ingredient, the Conte pastel crayons, pretty easy.

The main points are that you need an ultra-flat spray paint. Aaron uses Krylon camo brown (background of the below photo) and I'm a stickler for instructions. Your average can from Bunnings isn't going to cut it. I got mine from Albion Park, but The Art Scene in West Ryde and Paddington stocked it at the time of writing too.

I've sprayed over the wiggly R on the two I've done so far. I'll keep it and fade it with thinners on the next two for some variety. When I learned that the process involved taking a completely fine model and spraying over it, I was a little sceptical. Once you start to get the powders on it really comes together. After spraying:

For comparison, here's the first one I did (left), and the second one (on the jig), and a brand newbie for comparison. The first one I followed the colours to the letter, but to me it seemed a bit too light grey for the late 70's. The Australian Railway History did some articles in recent years about moving grain in NSW through each of the decades of the latter 20th century, and the photos suggested that although the dark grey was the most common, light grey weathering could also been seen in large numbers, particularly in a longer train.


This process was also the first time I'd used a spray gun, so the first WHX has fingerprints from where I didn't leave the isopropanol to dry long enough, and where I indavertently brushed the powders off. I'm sure everyone does this, but not many write about it. If you try this yourself and make a similar mistake, it's perfectly normal. Frustrating. But normal.

The second WHX, all finished. The wheels took a little bit longer as the weathering process introduced more friction to the bearings, reducing the free-rolling qualities of the wagon. It's a little better now, but still not as good as if straight out of the box.

While I was at Thornleigh, I noticed another modeller's efforts on some WHX's using the same process on a train running around Binalong on the Saturday. It really changes the look of the train. A lonely FRH seems to have snuck in a trip to the big city on the wheatie too. 

I'd love to know why axle boxes were painted different colours like the one below, and why the bolsters and ends of the bogies were painted yellow on some bogies. If anyone has the answer, grateful if you could leave a comment.

Overall it's a pretty simple process. If you only want to apply a light weathering without changing the base coat you can also do it using dullcote instead of an ultra flat paint. Although the attitude of the railways towards cleanliness was changing in the second half of the 1970s, the weathering on a 1970s GLX for example looked very different to an NLGX (same wagon, new code) of the early 90's. I've got an On Track Models GLX which I'm keen to try some light weathering on, so it will be the next cab off the rank, followed by some cement hoppers. May be a while, but I'll post the results.

Cheers for now,

On track

With the underlay finished I couldn't put off building the turnout any longer. I had bought a 32"/28" radius turnout kit last year and was worried about the skills required to put it together.

I think I've mentioned before in these pages that I've viewed other modeller's efforts in the flesh and on the blogs and not felt confident that I could do it myself without a comprehensive set of step-by-step instructions. In that regard, Fastracks delivers. The kit came with a DVD with chapters on each stage of the process. I'm a procrastinator, and I built this one in three days.

Some paint, et voila!

Once finished and glued to the sleeper fret I painted the tracks with some brown Krylon spray paint, wiping the tops of the rails with a scrap piece of plywood while it was still fairly wet. I was able to clean up the bits I missed after it had dried with ease using this method too.

Since building this turnout I've discovered through the Stonequarry Creek blog that you can get rail chairs for the point blades to add extra detail. I'm thankful my turnout is in the beginning of a cutting and the layout is at eye level, else I'd be tempted to start it over. Next turnout perhaps.

I've started studying again so my modelling time is limited for the next few months, but the plan is still to pursue tracklaying and wiring as the next steps.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Underlay finshed!

It's the end of the June Long Weekend and, you guessed it, the track isn't down. But it isn't far off!

Apart from attending the Epping Model Railway Club's exhibition at the Brickpit in Thornleigh, I spent the weekend cutting and fitting underlay to the return loops, gate and the layout itself. Before I get to the layout progress, the exhibition. It was good for different reasons to other shows. The Thornleigh exhibition feels like more of a modeller's exhibition; fewer general public, good quality layouts, and an encouraging vibe. Despite the fewer layouts this year and a noticeable gap that looked like it should have been filled with a layout, I got to meet a lot of the people who belong to the same diesel-era interest group on Facebook, and watch a weathering demonstration that uses such simple techniques and methods that achieve amazing results. I've started this method on an Austrains WHX so I'll post some photos when I finish it. This and the friendly chats I got into with some of the layout operators made it enjoyable and reinvigorated me to do more modelling while I'm away during the week.

Right, underlay.

I bought some Universal Rubber Mat from Bunnings to use as underlay and for about $70 for a 4m x 1.2m roll, it's winning on value over Trackrite. It's 3mm thick and really easy to cut with household scissors too. I've only included photos of the underlay on the layout modules - the others are the same colour, so it doesn't look like much has changed.

Before I could start, I had to cut the holes through the backdrop that I have been dreading. The backdrop has started to lift from the round corners so I was hoping the holes would relieve some of that. They didn't, but they didn't make it any worse either. Small mercies.

Then I added the underlay, trimming with a boning knife from the kitchen that I doubt we've ever used. A sharp stanley knife would work too for this bit.

To attach the two, I used Selley's Kwik Grip (Horizontal Surfaces type) as per the instructions, which was time-consuming but worthwhile to get right. I weighted the edges while they set to prevent curling. It seems to have worked.

I ran out of time for more work on the layout this weekend after that, but I couldn't resist. I had to get the track out.

Next stop, tracklaying!

As the last one for tonight, I got some of the newer wagons out and set them up in the storage road to see what train lengths I can get in there. Bearing in mind that I'm planning on using a few more four-wheelers (mainly S wagons), I'm pretty happy with the versatility for operations that this branch will provide, and with the length I can get in there; the short, colourful trains were what drew me to the era in the first place.

Til next time!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Swing gate and final module complete

This week saw the completion of the final return loop module and the swing gate. I added the staging branch to the module:

Test fit everything:

Tested the gate:

Originally I had only screwed the cross-piece and the vertical piece of the gate arm to the gate module with a single screw in each. This wasn't sturdy enough, so I added a horizontal timber to the top, which is screwed between the gate module's support piece and the triangular pine piece that holds the gate together.

I also added a latch between the gate and the traverser module:

Checked out how it's all going:

 And added some walls to the module and gate to save my sanity if there's ever a derailment:

Before I had to leave for work today I managed to get the module and gate painted:

Next weekend I'm cutting and installing the track underlay. Will leave it for a week or so after that before I start track-laying though; I'm on a bit of a roll at the moment and I'm cautious of trying to do too much too soon. I've been waiting nearly 15 months to run trains and I can see myself throwing it all in if I rush the next stage and stuff something up.

The goal is to have a train running by the Thornleigh exhibition in June so I can start to take advantage of the ever-increasing mountains of rollingstock I'm amassing (for such a small layout). I've brought a Fasttracks turnout kit away with me to solder up this week, and another mid-week project I can get into later on will be converting my Traino 47 to DCC with sound. 

Looking forward to sharing some actual modelling with you all soon too.