Wednesday 19 April 2023

Thinking out loud

Four months. I lasted four months before I started planning the next railway. 

I know that when I get back to Australia we will likely have space for a model railway, but not necessarily the space for a model railway room, so I've been sketching ideas for a layout that can satisfy my desire to run trains and also be incorporated into a larger layout in future. 

The lessons from previous layouts that I've incorporated into this design are:

  • reliability of track is paramount for slow-speed running and enjoyment of shunting
  • no magnet uncouplers on curves
  • train consists can serve more than three industries
  • includes a run-around
  • limited passenger train operations
  • Sydney metropolitan theme
  • the layout needs to be able to be incorporated into a bigger layout in future

Here then is the plan:

The grey circles on the track plan are Rapido Railcrew Uncouplers. Top left industry is an abattoir with cattle wagons disappearing to the receiving yards out of sight behind some trees/shrubbery, and refrigerator wagons in front. On the top right is a feed mill which receives a few wheat wagons at a time. On the lower right-hand side are a steel delivery shed and sidings, inspired by those at Leightonfield. 

The idea behind the double-slip in the middle is that empty refrigerated wagons would be deposited on the headshunt at the lower left-hand side of the plan (where the 48 is currently sitting) by one of the trip trains, with the wagons brought over to be loaded once a rake of cattle wagons has been delivered. I wanted some space between the two main industries at either end of the layout so that while you're focussing on shunting one side of the layout you forget the other side; the space between helps the layout 'breathe' and all of the action isn't crammed in on top of itself.

The theme/influence for this layout is the area around the homebush saleyards in my chosen era - the very late 1970s. Although the abattoir, saleyards, and the feed mill were quite far apart according to the track diagram of the prototype, it's not unbelievable to have them all centrally located with the right amount of scenic spacing. 

I've chosen these industries to use the maximum variety of rollingstock I own - namely refrigerator vans and RACE containers, cattle wagons, wheat wagons, open wagons, louvre vans and some steel wagons I've developed an interest in. I would have liked to have incorporated cement somewhere in the layout but that will have to be on the next module. I do enjoy running rakes of coal trains and larger mixed consists (and the Indian Pacific and Southern Aurora) as well, but that will need also to be a future consideration.

Long term, I want a shelf layout that goes around the walls of a modestly-sized spare room, with a peninsula terminus in the middle. This layout will serve as a terminus on a peninsula jutting into the centre of the room in future. To future-proof the design above I've reviewed the space I've had available for my layout in all of the houses we've lived in over the last ten years. The average spare room  has consistently been around 3m x 3m, so this design will fit in the middle and still leave 50cm of aisle space (albeit with a narrow shelf where the future layout passes perpendicular to the end of this layout) and the ability to join the main line of the future layout with a minimum 24" radius curve. 

Back to the plan itself, this part of Sydney was quite rural in character despite being fairly centrally located within the Sydney metropolitan area. Accordingly, the surrounding scenery is going to be grassy and thoroughly populated with weeds. That should help space things out a little too.

My trusty gang of fettlers are going to make an appearance on the bottom-left of the plan as well, necessitating fortnightly visits of the pay bus. There's also a small platform for worker's trains and enthusiast specials to visit. 

Anyway, that's my current thoughts. I won't be starting on this until next year most likely, but I wanted to get my thoughts onto the blog to think out loud and confirm for my own piece of mind the track plan, industries, and overall operating concept. I'm still going to tweak it between now and then, but I think it's 95% done.

Hopefully this thought process is useful to someone out there too.

Until next time!



Thursday 8 December 2022

The final running session

With the decision to sell the layout I wanted to have a final running session. I had devised an operating schedule for the layout two years ago, but have only ever run that program from beginning to end a handful of times due to loco availability or time constraints.

My brother joined me for a final hurrah and we spent a good few hours running the timetable with all of the consists and sidings, with uncoupling clearance markers and siding limits as they had been designed for. It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours, particularly because the layout is in the most detailed stage that it's ever going to be whilst in my ownership. I can emphasise enough how nice it was to run one's railway as it had been designed. 

There's a lesson here for all who follow - it took me four years to get to this point. That's not four years before a train could run, we've been doing that for a while, but four years before it was complete to a level where you could say it was "finished" and could be fully operated. While there were a lot of interruptions in that time, the conclusion here is that what I had built is not compatible with a lifestyle of full-time employment and the demands of young children. But, I've learned from it and there are lessons I'll take away to the next layout that will hopefully make that build a bit quicker. A smaller layout is the first step, but more on that in due course.

Here was the program, which the photos follow chronologically.

1. Local goods arrives, shunts. Waits for local passenger.

2. U set arrives from Bell (local passenger). Departs.

3. Local goods follows U set back to Lithgow via Bell.

4. Mid-morning pass arrives (MUB set with electric loco)

5. Pay bus arrives from Mount Tomah mine to cross passenger. Pay bus departs for Bell.

6. Light electric loco arrives from Lithgow to collect coal wagons from Mount Wilson coal loader.

7. Empty coal wagons arrive for Mount Wilson coal loader.

The last train to leave the layout was 4631, with a horn fanfare as it departed Mount Wilson.

A few days later my brother came over to help me move and set up the layout in it's new home with a new owner in Lithgow. Here's the layout and all of it's associated parts in our respective vehicles before starting the convoy.

Thus, the end of an era. I'm looking forward to planning the next one but obviously won't be able to start until we get back from overseas. Until then, expect blog posts here to be very seldom if at all for the next 12 months, but, I will be back, and with a swag of the trains being delivered in 2023.

Until then, thanks for stopping by, and Merry Christmas for 2022.


Thursday 13 October 2022

Layout update

Long time between drinks again, but there's some actual progress to report on!

Overhead catenary!

Not long after the last blog I spent a few days installing the first sections of overhead catenary. The catenary itself is by Peco and I've painted it with Humbrol Matt 120 to give it a weathered copper colour.

I've installed the overheads so that an Auscision 85 can run underneath with the pantographs within 5mm of the catenary wire but not actually touching. Although the catenary itself is sturdy, I have recurring nightmares of a wayward strand of wire ripping a pantograph off, or a derailment of an electric loco ripping the catenary down. I'll need to have a play around with the U set's pantograph springs before I'm comfortable running that underneath with pantographs fully raised.

I'd always intended to have an overhead terminating structure as a scenic feature at the far enough of station, however I can't seem to find the right materials to build it out of. I started making a 3D-print mock up, but again ran out of time to work on it in between life and work and the endless rain on the east coast of Australia seemingly localised entirely in my driveway one Sunday morning. It flooded one side of the train room with 2cm of water but the layout itself was mercifully high and dry. That was two days of potential train running instead spent digging out stormwater drains and mopping up inside the house. I digress.

I tried to start off building the overhead structure with Evergreen styrene pieces but they are just too overscale for my liking and I think I need to come back to the 3D-printing option in future.

Layout details
One detail item I've coveted for the layout for some time are the 'Electric Trains Stop' warning signs. I reached out to Meagan from The Train Girl with the official diagram for these signs, scale measurements for HO and some reference photos and within a day or two she had produced these:

There's two installed on the layout now: one on the platform road leading into the goods siding, and the other on the coal loader to prevent electric locos from passing under the loader (and thus justifying my complex shunting moves for coal trains).

I am very happy with how they've come out. You can also see in the photo above that I've added white clearance markers all over the yard. I've fashioned these from scrap styrene to denote where the uncouplers are in the yard. It has certainly made life easier!

New arrivals
In acquisition news, aside from finding what feels like the last pack of Austrains MLEs on earth, the SDS models' 81 class finally arrived! Apart from the beautiful detail and livery, I've been enjoying running this loco around in a continuous loop with a rake of NHFF hoppers (that I may have been strategically holding onto for the odd foray into the early 1980s) and testing out the Drive Hold function. The sound of notching up and notching down without any discernable change to the train's speed really adds a lot of enjoyment to running trains. It would be a fun feature for layouts with a long run in particular.

Looking ahead

So we're nearing the end of the year now and I've landed a job overseas through work for 12 months. I'm really looking forward to it however, you guessed it, the trains can't come with us. This leaves me with a bit of a conundrum; we don't yet know where we're going to be when we come back to Australia, so what to do with the layout. The trains themselves will live with my brother (have I mentioned you're a top bloke by the way?) but I'd be understandably outstaying my welcome there if the layout moved in with them. 


For the second time in as many years...

The other options are a storage container, leaving it at another modeller's house set up and in running order, or selling it. I'm done with storage containers, and whilst I like the idea of the layout getting used by someone whom I respect and trust with it, I may not be coming back to Sydney when we return, hence I would need to arrange a few days to collect it, move it and set it up again. Not to mention potentially rebuilding it to fit a new space. The older my son gets, the more my spare time is consumed with family activities, and the more guilty I feel spending long periods of time in the train room. 

Which leaves me with selling it.

I'm still undecided. 

Am I overthinking this? Possibly. I've always seen moving house as an opportunity to build a new layout, and that may be what happens, but the prospect of moving or potentially selling it means that I've stopped any further detailing work or expansion of the overhead catenary, and am just enjoying running a train in a continuous loop every now and then. 

So that's been a lot more wordy than normal, but it provides a fairly detailed summary of what's happening on the layout and where we're headed. I'll post a 'last hurrah' of train running before we pack up and go, but for now I think I've taken Mount Wilson as far as it can go in it's current form. It's a bit sad, but layouts don't last forever. There's an opportunity in there whichever choice I settle on.

Anyway, happy modelling!


Tuesday 31 May 2022

Rozelle Street finds a new home, and a layout update

I am currently sitting at home with the flu. 

The actual flu. 

It's truly horrible, but it does give me time to update the blog for the first time in a while.

Some big news in March was that I sold Rozelle Street. It's since been collected by it's new owner and now lives in southern NSW. I believe he's going to extend it a little and add some more details, but it's nice to see it go to a good home. My wife was telling me that I'll regret selling it but to be honest, I hadn't been running it at all since Mount Wilson has been up and running, and I'd rather the layout went to a new home while everything is in good working order and the quality of the scenery is still contemporary. No regrets so far!

The CH hoppers I'd sent off to Rob Arsenault in Canada to weather also returned in March. This is a weathering job I wasn't going to get to myself anytime soon and I wanted to enjoy using these hoppers on the layout this year before we have to pack up the house again for the next move. 

I had originally sent the 8 hoppers to an Australian modeller who weathers mainly modern era stuff, and while he produces great effects on modern Hunter coalfields gear and locos, I just wasn't happy with the overall result. No real fault of his, and I probably could have been a lot more specific too. Lesson learned. 

So I sold all 8 of the hoppers, bought 8 more to replace them and got in touch with Rob, whose work I've been following ever since he weathered some NSW stuff for another modeller. If you haven't seen his website it's worth checking out. The service was some of the best I've experienced in 20+ years in the hobby and while the postage cost from here to Canada is eye-watering, the end result was worth it. 

I also took the opportunity to get out the 73 after a long hiatus and do some trip train running from the new mine off stage to the right-hand side to the 'old loader' at Mount Wilson.

At the Rosehill exhibition I picked up a VW T2 Kombi van that I've been looking for for a while to act as the fettler's van. I've seen photos of a VW T2 Kombi in PTC service at Dubbo in my era, which was all of the justification I needed. The fettlers are AndIan models figures, painted by Jurgen Engels. 

Anyway, aside from that, I've just been enjoying running trains of late.

I'm taking some leave soon to finally finish installing the overhead wiring. Along with the fuel depot and some more detail in the co-op siding, I think that'll be in on Mount Wilson for a while. Who knows, when it comes to move again, I may up selling it too. More to ponder on that one.


Wednesday 2 March 2022

Where does the time go?

So this year has taken off like a rocket. I haven't had any time to do modelling beyond removing new stuff from it's packaging - like a pack of NCX and BDX wagons for a potential future project, and some WTY's from Auscision's latest run - and running trains. I made some reliability improvements to two turnouts that were giving me grief at low speed, but otherwise it's been mostly plonking and running trains while I work up the courage and time to properly install my overhead catenary and build the terminating structure that will go at the far end of the platform. It's nice to just properly relax by watching a train run around.

In the meantime, here's some general shots of running over the last few months:

I'm heading to the Forestville exhibition this weekend, which I'm really looking forward to. According to my calendar the last exhibition I saw was Homebush in October 2019!

If you're on the east coast, stay safe and out of the floods!


Friday 24 December 2021

End of year wrap-up

What. A. Year. 

I don't know about you dear reader, but I'm thoroughly tired. Unprecedented times aside, it's normal to get to this time of the year and reflect on what we've achieved in our hobby. Particularly when we're building a layout. 

So I thought it would be interesting to try and compile a slide show of photos taken from the same angle to highlight how far I've come from December 2020 to now. Unfortunately, I've only taken photos until late September, but this will set things up well for some progress photos in January after a couple of days I'm looking forward to spending in the train room.

December 2020:

Late January 2021:

April 2021:

Late September, 2021:

To go from bare boards to almost completing the scenery in around 10 months, with a full-time job and minimal spare time is pretty good I reckon.

Apart from layout building, this year I achieved a life goal of getting a layout published in the AMRM, didn't get Covid, and received a bunch of new trains, mostly from Auscision. It hasn't all been slow! 

From some last-minute announcements from the major manufacturers this month, next year is shaping up to be a good one in terms of rollingstock and loco deliveries as well. I've said it before, but that SDS  models 81 class will have landing lights and a marshaller greeting the postie as he glides down the driveway with it when it arrives. I've also bit the bullet and sent my 46's off to get DCC sound installed, which, although expensive, is going to very nicely complete my loco roster for Mount Wilson. 

Wherever you're reading this from, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a much better 2022. Thanks for the comments and suggestions here throughout the year, it's always nice to hear from other modellers out there. Here's hoping we all actually get to a model railway exhibition next year!


Sunday 14 November 2021

Layout update and the arrival of overhead catenary

A few things have arrived since the last update, namely the Aucision CDY wagons and the CTS coal hoppers, as well as a Casula Hobbies ABV, and CW (there were still some on the books in 1979!) and a BCH to throw into the CH rake to mix things up.

I'm not going to do an update on every wagon as it arrives, but the CTS coal hoppers were one of the key factors in designing the Mount Wilson layout. The length of the coal loader siding for example was determined by whether I could fit four CTS hoppers and a guards' van without fouling the main. Happily, the calculations have worked!

The the detail on the hoppers is quite impressive and they have run well so far. I'm looking forward to running a longer operations session with these later in the year prior to Christmas. They will weather up nicely with some panel liner and a couple of coats of black pastels to get a more prototypical look.

They also fit on the traverser with the guards' van, however not with a loco. Each road on the traverser is 1 metre long. I should really get around to laying some loco tracks on the traverser wings as I intended to about 6 years ago...

The big news is that my Peco catenary has finally arrived from Hattons in the UK and I've almost finished building the overhead stanchions required for the layout. 

They still need painting, but they're coming along nicely.

The top bar of the stanchions currently sit 95mm off the head of the rails. I'm going to lower that another 5mm, but I don't plan on the pantographs touching the wire, just to limit the damage it might do if snagged. The Peco catenary is the thinnest I've been able to find and to my eyes does a much better job of representing catenary wire than some of the other stuff available, especially for the 95% of time where no trains are running beneath it.

I've had some interest in how to make the stanchions, and I've been significantly helped in building them by Matt Joiner, who has provided me with measurements and working out the best materials to use. As it's quite popular, we're putting together an article for the AMRM to thoroughly detail how to build these. It will likely come out in one of the editions next year, so keep an eye out!

Lastly, I've been slowly working on some wagons loads. Below is a BDY with some telephone poles for delivery to the local council via the co-op siding. I really want to have a day of building and painting some tarps for the other BDY and one of the CDYs before the end of the year, but as always, time is a precious commodity at the moment.

That's all for now - cheers!