Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Magnet uncoupler testing

I mentioned in the previous post about contemplating ordering some of Rapido's Railcrew uncouplers to use on Mt Wilson so that I can have non-permanent uncouplers and trouble-free running. 

Before investing a fair chunk of modelling money into postage from Canada, I thought I'd have a go at testing whether I could replicate the same design concept the Railcrew uncoupler uses with a view to building something similar myself. I bought a 6-pack of 12mm x 3mm rare earth magnets from Bunnings and built a quick test bed from some offcuts of timber and tape.

From left to right are two magnets aligned parallel to the track, then a coaster of roughly the same height to create a level area for the track to run over, then two magnets separated from each other by 1mm of tape, and finally two separated by 5mm. I wanted to see if there was much difference in having the magnets further or closer apart.

The first test with the magnets 1mm apart worked well, uncoupling the TRC and MRC from each other.

Same with the next pair, 5mm apart from each other.

And as predicted, the magnets arranged in line with the track didn't uncouple the wagons. They did push the coupler release bar horizontal though!

I'm planning on using cork on Mt Wilson, so I though I would try out putting the cork coaster between the track and magnets. The couplers appeared to be too far away for it to work.

Time then to test out the on/off function of my plan by taping two of the magnets to the coaster and running a few wagons over it. The photos explain the results.

So that works. I've learned that the magnets need to be right under the track to be strong enough to uncouple the wagons, much the same as Rapido suggests for fitting their uncoupler. Now to work out how to make my own. I'm not particularly confident with electrical wiring despite having muddled through it for Rozelle Street, so I don't really want to operate these via servos if I can avoid it. I'd be ok with a push rod or something similar, provided that I can design it so that "off" is with the knob flush against the fascia so that it doesn't get bumped in transit and as a reminder that the uncoupler is active. More thinking required.

In the meantime, I spent a few hours painting today.

Next job will be tracklaying and wiring, and I'll add the roof and lighting after that.


Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Construction Progress - uprights

Phil Collins asked after the last blog post I put up if I could post some additional photos of the rear of the model to get an understanding of how that structure is supported and kept straight.

Happy to oblige!

We spent a lot of time lining each of the vertical pieces up with the level before to ensure a 90-degree join before attaching it with screws fed from inside the framework for the middle two, and attaching the outer end uprights to the end of the layout frame.

We then cut a notch in the top of the backboard, and filed and sanded the opening for each vertical brace piece to feed through and attach at the rear, as shown in the photos.

I'm concerned that there's not enough strength in the horizontal pieces supporting the roof of the module to maintain to 90-degree angle over time, so to provide additional bracing and to visually separate the scene from the fiddle yard I'll add a 9mm pine panel at the left-hand end of the module once the track is down, the turnout servos are installed and all of the wiring is finished. You can see in the last photo that all of the parts at the end of the module finish flush to enable this panel to attach easily. On the right-hand end (pictured) I'll add a 9mm pine panel cut into a 'C' shape to brace this end.

My Engineer brother assures me that I've successfully over-engineered this to beyond what it actually needs to be strong (something about clients being pedantic and not trusting physics), so it should provide many years of fun.

Until next time!


Sunday, 5 May 2019

Mount Wilson construction progress

As promised, here's the next installment discussing the construction of the my Mount Wilson Layout.

By the end of the Easter long weekend, the layout frame, baseboard, legs, supports, and backboards were connected and we had cut all of the remaining timber. All up, around 20 hours of effort produced this:

Thanks again to my brother for getting this far. Reaching this stage has been quicker than the same phase of construction of Rozelle Street and it's impossible to do by one's self.

I've replicated the baseboard, folding leg and leg bracing design I developed for Rozelle Street, mainly because they work and in three years and two exhibitions I've never had a problem with them. 

The biggest change to the design on this layout has been having a fixed backboard and fixed uprights made out of timber instead of aluminium. This is mainly because I want to transport the layout as a in a state that requires as little assembly and disassembly as possible. I couldn't figure out a way to get the uprights holding up the backboard to be permanently fixed to the timber without getting some heavy-duty fastenings around the back, so I've stuck with timber. I'm very aware that paralysis by analysis has preventing me from making a start to some jobs in the past, so the KISS principle is being followed as much as possible.

Once I got the layout home I mocked up the basic track plan to get an idea of how everything looks before I start making irreversible changes to the boards. While I'm painting the boards and until I receive all of the components for the LED light strips, I've decided to leave the roof of the module off, as well as the front pelmet and left-hand side backboard that will also eventually be attached. 

Mocking up the layout with the turnouts and rollingstock I'm going to use has given me really useful indications of things that don't come up in the track planning software, like whether the radius of the curve on the platform road needs to be smoothed out so that the MUB set cars won't look toy-like as they arrive into the station. Ultimately the platform will hide the curve from view, but it's worthwhile marking out where everything is.

The other thing I wanted to check was whether the run around is long enough to fit 4x CH or CTS coal hoppers plus a guards van without fouling the adjacant tracks.


So far it looks as though this will worth, and there's still a comfortable 220mm at either end for running a loco around. The 46 class measures just over 180mm long (I've rounded this down and measured over the loco's headstocks), and the soon-to-arrive 85 class measures just over 200mm long (also rounded down and over headstocks). The biggest loco in my fleet will be an 81 class, and while it will clear the nose of the turnout on the headshunt at the far end of the layout on the rare occasions I can find an excuse to bring it out, it's going to be very tight at 230mm long. The 48, 73 and 49 class are all smaller than a 46 and will have no trouble.

Other projects

I'm also currently looking into developing an on/off uncoupler using magnets. Not an electromagnet, but a system of shifting the uncoupling magnet out of the way when not in use. The neodymium magnets I have on Rozelle Street work well, but they are constantly 'on' and can uncouple wagons in the middle of a train as you're trying to drag the completed shunting puzzle out to the fiddle yard. Very embarrassing at exhibitions or when you have friends over to run the layout. At the same time, that spot on the main line is exactly where I want an uncoupler too, particularly for Mount Wilson when operating coal trains.

Rapido Trains developed their RailCrew uncoupler system a few years ago which works on the principle of shifting the magnet off-alignment from the track when you don't want to use the uncoupler. I haven't seen them for sale here in Australia, but here's their promo video in case you haven't heard of this product before either:

The only thing I don't like about the Rapido RailCrew uncoupler design is the LED in the middle of the track, however you could probably paint it black to blend it in with the ballast. I'm sure I can come up with a device that rotates two neodymium magnets to align perpendicular to the sleepers and parallel to the track, controlled by a cog or rod linked to the fascia to achieve the same thing.

I may just end up throwing money at Rapido if it gets too hard, but we'll see.

Haven't figured out how to replicate overhead wires strung from telegraph poles yet either, but that's on the cards too after I've got the track wired and basic scenery down.

Whistle out

Next job is to paint the structure so far and then paint the backboard sky blue. I'll get to that job after the Modelling the Railways of NSW convention at Loftus later this month, and will spend the rest of that weekend working on the layout. At the very least, I want to have the painting and lighting installation complete before the June long weekend so that I can make the most of the extra day off tracking and wiring. Blogging will be slow until then but I'll add photos as the layout progresses.

Until then!



Monday, 22 April 2019

Introducing: Mount Wilson

So after deciding not to build a layout just yet, this weekend I started building my next layout. The confluence of 4 days off, pay day, the completion of a plan I was happy with, the offer of the use of my brother's arsenal of power tools, and as my brother put it, my "incessant whinging about building a layout" (paraphrased) combined to make quite a productive weekend.

The Plan

Before I get to the description, let's get down to what it looks like.


In real life, an alternate crossing of the mountains by rail was surveyed in the 19th century, however the grades and earthworks required to build a line from Richmond through to roughly Bell/Clarence were considered prohibitively expensive, and thus the current main western line won out. The real Mount Wilson area is a sleepy hollow dotted with European-looking trees which hide much of the natural Australian bush, much like the rest of the upper Blue Mountains in the more built-up areas. 

In my layout scenario, both the Kurrajong line and the Mt Wilson branch were built simultaneously in the 1920s. Accordingly, the layout will have a pre-cast concrete Pc2 station as was common of lines constructed at that time. Initially, the railway hauled fruit and various produce from the busy Co-op siding to Bell, where it was attached to eastbound goods trains heading to Sydney. The coming of the railway turned the village into a tourist destination, increasing passenger traffic on the line as the road traffic of the day struggled with the grades of Bells Line of Road.
Post-war, the discovery of coal nearby and a surplus of ex-military vehicles made a mine served by road haulage from the valley floor to the railhead at Mount Wilson viable, and a siding was laid for the purpose of loading coal trains in the yard. The grades on the fictitious branch line are still quite steep, which reduced the length of trains which could be hauled up the line by steam. The NSWGR took the opportunity to extend the overheads for the Great Western Line down to Mount Wilson during the 1950s to cope with coal traffic. The whole yard was intended to be expanded to facilitate longer trains, however, well, local hoteliers, a wealthy land-holding family, and state politics. Apart from an upgrade to the frequency of the passenger service, nothing changed.

Fast forward to the era represented: the late 1970s.

The passenger service lives on with mining families sending their kids to school further down the mountains, plus the comings and goings of tourists and bushwalkers. The coal trains are now hauled by electric locos and use modern, pneumatic-unloading wagons of the CH and CTS type. Demands of road and mine traffic in the area is sufficient to require a dedicated fuel siding, and it's still more convenient for the local growers to cart their produce by rail, for now, which they do courtesy of the Co-op siding. As well as fruit, machinery, mine supplies, farming equipment, tar for the local roads, and general goods is deposited and dispatched at the siding. 

I plan on having four main types of train on the layout, with each move taking around 10-40 minutes, depending on what I have time for. These are:
General goods - diesel-hauled, with assorted wagons for the Co-op and fuel siding
Coal - electric loco-hauled, 4-car trains of either CH or CTS hoppers plus guard's van. 
Passenger - loco-hauled, 2-car supplementary interurban cars or a railmotor at a later date.
Pay bus - because why not?

This roster maintains the 'instant-on' concept I've enjoyed through Rozelle Street, and it's compatible with an unpredictable work and family schedule.

Here's a teaser of what will hopefully turn out as quite a pleasant scene when complete:

Next time I'll add some construction photos of where we got to this weekend and the overall impressions as I map the track plan to the baseboard.

In the meantime, release the navvies!


Saturday, 6 April 2019

2019 so far

I was at the Kaleen exhibition last weekend and someone asked me what's happening with Rozelle Street and a few modelling projects I'd started. Which reminded me, I really need to update the blog...

Weren't you building another layout?
Well, that was the plan. To cut a long, long story short, we found a house and entered into an agreement with the owners, who cancelled the sale about two weeks later when they discovered for themselves just how difficult it is to get an Australian bank to lend you money at the moment if you're not a multi-property-owning Tzar with a seven-figure income.

I'm not bitter about this at all...

So for now, it's back to the trudge of Saturday open house inspections. I had come up with a few layout plans for the was-to-be house, but I've stopped sketching out ideas for the time being. We all want to squeeze every last centimetre out of the space we've got for a layout, and until I know what those dimensions will be I'm collecting ideas but holding off on drawing up anything concrete.

The trials and tribulations of actual modelling
After receiving OTM's MUB cars late last year I decided it was high time I finished MFA 2706. Progress was good over the New Year break until I needed a brake wheel. Using a LIMA 72'6 underframe, I've chopped some details out and prepared others. It's not going to be a complete model of the underfloor detail, but about 90% of it will be there.

I've now plugged the holes where the old details used to be, with 1mm styrene sheet. AM models used to make 10" and 18" brake wheels in brass, but try as I might, I can't find any of them, in any of the Sydney hobby shops. I'm trying a few of the cottage manufacturers directly at the moment, so we'll see how that goes. In the mean time, the MFA project is on hold again.

It seems like every time a new, much-anticipated RTR item is released, people lament the disappearance of actual modellers from the hobby. Whilst it's not entirely accurate, it's not hard to see why most modellers are sticking with RTR or just buying standard RTR and weathering it than spending their precious spare time chasing that one item across all of the hobby shops in the country. I can't be the only one in this boat either.

I did manage to get the sides and roof complete though. I used 10mm Tamiya tape to represent the malthoid roofing, butted against each other with a very slim gap in between to give an idea of the join between the two.

The Auscision 2BS bogies I'm using are great and free-rolling, but are fouling the sides of the underframe. Might be as simple as adding some Kadee washers, but I also don't want the appearance of the car sitting high up on the bogies with lots of daylight underneath.

A welcome surprise
I was fortunate to receive an Auscision Pay Bus as a gift this week, and after originally holding out I am really impressed with it.

The finish on the model appears to have a much more dull lustre than the paintwork on other Auscision models straight out of the box, and I'm reluctant to do much more to it than lightly weather the axle boxes and a tiny portion of the lower part of the body.

I'll send it off to get a DCC chip, sound and a keep alive added, but all in good time. It's quite a versatile item of rollingstock and with an operating history of up to 1986 is equally at home on Rozelle Street as any other layout I build in my era.

Other arrivals

I've been keeping an eye out for Trainmaster WSCs for a few years and recently 3 came up for sale through one of the Facebook groups. They've been weathered - possibly too heavily for my era - but I was particularly spurred on after seeing a crisp decal set from Casula Hobbies which is a great improvement over the hand-drawn one that comes on the model as standard. Naturally, when I traipsed down to Casula Hobbies to buy the decals they were sold out. I asked when or if there would be another run and was met with "Yeah, maybe."

Sigh. Guess that goes back into the 'one day' box.

SDS' ICX container wagons also arrived, which means I finally have an appropriate wagon to put my LRC containers on and operate in and out of the meat siding on Rozelle Street.

Now that I've got these I should really finish the milktainers too. At least I have everything I need for those.

Until next time!


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Era interlude - RAAF Recruiting Train

A carriage set I've always been fascinated by but which has been so far out of my era that I couldn't justify a purchase was the RAAF Recruiting Train. There were two, three-car sets in total, and Set 25B ran all over the state between 1940 and 1942, pretty much doing what the advertisement suggested - "Walk in one end a farmer and out the other a signed up member of the Air Force."

I had started collecting Camco FO kits to one day build this train myself, but the part where I'd need to get custom decals had me stumped. I just didn't know who I could go to to get some made up. Fast forward a few years and SDS models have upgraded the Austrains NSW 'cowboy' cars, releasing a set in the RAAF Recruiting Train livery under their Austrains Neo brand.

I picked up this set a few days ago from Casula Hobbies and after a bit of reading on the history of the cars wanted to correct some minor things to get them more accurate and closer to the prototype. Straight out of the box, this is what you get:

According to a History of RAAF Recruiting Trains by R.I. Merchant (published on SDS' Austrains Neo website), the cars were sky blue with silver roofs. I could also see in a few of the pictures the exhaust for a generator which was housed in the guards' compartment to power refrigerators and other equipment on the train.

I fashioned an exhaust outlet from a spare kit sprue, reducing the size of the end to give it some shape with a file. After drilling a hole in the roof by eye going from photos, this was duly fitted.

Next the car was masked for spraying. Having learned the lesson of using too much tape on the 421, I stuck the tape onto paper where it would come into contact with the car, save for about 5mm at the top where it would need to stick onto the car.

A spray with Tamiya TS-30 silver leaf and voila!

 The detail of printing on these cars is very fine.

I finished masking and spraying the other two cars this afternoon and now the whole set is complete as per the title photo.
To make it even more accurate, I would need to replace the buffers on the outer ends of the set with the longer type, and fit the cars with hook and link couplers. I've seen the latter done, but I'm not quite ready to jump into that yet.

I'm tossing up whether to make a short diorama for the cars to sit in a siding somewhere, but that would need to come after I've solved the main problem of the next layout.

Until next time, best wishes for the rest of 2018.


Monday, 24 December 2018

Arrival of the Supplementary interurban cars, and the end of another year

On Track Models' Supplementary Interurban Cars

They arrived!

I bought four cars all up and even without taking them out of the box they look amazing. I mentioned in a previous post how MFH2705 (pictured above) is missing a double letterboard to make it prototypical, but if I'm honest, the absence isn't killing me that much that I want to take it apart right now and add a strip of styrene to correct it. As I've said before, this has saved me hours of building my own cars.

I took the cars and one of my 46 class for a spin on a friend's layout a few weeks ago before I left Canberra. The cars roll quite freely and the only difficulty comes when trying to separate them as the sprung corridor diaphragms (which actually work!) prevent the knuckle couplers from lifting up and  out. As we found, a magnet uncoupler is your best bet here.

A friend had upgraded his MUB set(s) with an ESU power pack and passenger car lighting strip (item #50709) as well as the end marker lights using a small length of fibre optic strand off a red LED, and offered to do it for a reasonable fee. With all of my own tools and modelling equipment about to enter boxes and half of the train stuff already in Sydney, I threw money in his direction and received my carriages back within a week, all lit up and running with tail-end red marker lights. All carriages have all been consisted on DCC to run as Set 10, which means I can turn the whole four-car train length of interior lights on together, and the marker lights can be set up as directional. Although by late 1978 these cars were being split up and run in ad-hoc sets on cobbled-together supplementary interurban trains, I like the thought that went into setting this up for me. You can learn new things by yourself up to a point in this hobby, but I've found that the few minutes I've spent learning a new skill or feature off another modeller have been fruitful.

Above: 7305 takes set 10C around the metro goods and return to Central, thus providing return guard's accommodation for the return leg of a morning interurban service.

One less car to build
Another friend recently built MFS2146 as per the AMRM article from a few years ago and offered to build me one as he enjoyed the process so much. I dropped off a donor FS car to start the project as the last job on my way out of Canberra up the Federal highway. I'm in no rush, it will be done when it's done and I'll get it back some time in 2019, but this now leaves me with just MFA2706 to do myself before my 6-car supplementary interurban set is complete. That's just made a huge job much more achievable.

The coming of a New Year, and a new layout

I've said it before, but running the trains up and back gets old after a while. Which brings me to the plans for the new year. We've currently moved into a rental while we finalise buying a house in Sydney, or as Scott from the Barcoola blog has suggested - and I wholly endorse - buying a train room with living quarters attached.

I've pitched a few ideas for a new layout in this blog, and I have yet another up my sleeve that may make the cut, but I'll keep that under wraps for now. Although I've got the room dimensions of the place we're looking to buy and tacit approval to claim a room for the sole purpose of model railway #4, I'm hesitant to do anything concrete like buy track and timber until the sale has gone through and the brake lights of the removal truck are disappearing down our driveway.

There's good things ahead in 2019, and not just from RTR suppliers. Some things I'll actually build myself.

And I'll finish those damned meat wagons...

Until then, thanks for following this year.

Merry Christmas,