Friday, December 5, 2008

Hand Laid Points

One ofthe things I always admired when I was in my teens back in the mid 80's, was people who hand laid their track and points. The finished product always looked so much nicer than Peco Code 100 track that I had at the time.

So when I got back into my model trains earlier this year after about twenty years of them being packed away in in a box and my four metre x two metre layout long gone, I decided that for my next layout I would like to not only use finer scale track, but to also give building my own points a go.

Initially I was going to use the Fast Track template from the US as it looked like a very easy way to build points, but then after some discussion it was pointed out that the sleeper layout did not match the NSWGR points we use.

Luckily someone was kind enough to supply me with a scale drawing of a set of NSWGR points with the sleeper layout clearly shown, and I used this in conjunction with the Fast Track No.6 point diagram to morph the two drawings together in Photoshop, so I had the HO scale rail layout and the proper sleeper pattern. Several sets were printed out in both right and left hand versions.

I bought a few lengths of Peco Code 75 Flex Track as this would be what I was going to use for the layout, and stripped a length of its rail as I couldn't find anywhere locally who sold the rail seperately.

I bought a length of balsa wood that was the same thickness as the Peco sleepers, or should I say located the rail bottom at the same height as the Peco flex track, and made a simple jig that allowed me to cut the sleepers to width quickly and accurately, after a strip of balsa was cut to match the varios sleeper lengths. I think I've cut out about one thousand balsa sleepers out so far! I used a multi compartment fishing tackle box to store all the seperate length sleepers in, with each little compartment marked with the sleeper length that matches the point drawing. This makes it very easy to grab the correct amount of sleepers in the right length to make a set of points.

Once again in my haste to begin, I couldn't find any good track gauges locally, so after looking through the nut and bolt drawers, I found a set of slotted bolts that were a nice tight sliding fit over the Peco rail head. So I cut out a piece of MDF, drilled some holes, put the bolts through so they sat snugly on the flex track and tightened the nuts top and bottom. It looks and sounds crude, but it worked fine. I've since bought a couple of sets of brass roller gauges which look much nicer, and to my relief slid over my MDF and Bolt gauged track perfectly. So once again don't be afraid to use what you have and a bit of initiative to get the job done if you can't get the glamour tools at the time.

So armed with a Dick Smith soldering station, some Clover House PCB Sleepers from the Model Railroad Craftsman (, MDF track gauge, balsa sleepers and point drawing I began.

I used a tiny dab of PVA glue to glue to PCB sleepers to the drawing in their correct position. Once dry I began soldering the track to it, straight stock rail first. With a set of files I shaped the rail to make the frog and soldered it in place, and gradually filed and laid the rest of the track.

Once it was all soldered in place I checked over it with the gauge, and then ran a set of AR Kits bogies with RP25 profile wheels back and forth through it. They rolled very freely in all directions, suffered no wheel drop through the frog area, and for my first attempt and not only building points but soldering as well, I was very happy.

I individually stained the balsa sleepers using my cheap $2 shop water paints in various shades of grey. I used some clear sticky tape attached the to drawing sticky side up, and then placed the balso sleepers in their positions. A smear of super glue wa splaced on the bottom of the rail and the points were lowered into position on the balsa sleepers. I placed a heavy dead fat weight on top while the glue set. After an hour or so the points were pulled fron the sticky tape and I sat back and admired my creation!

There were a couple of small things I wasn't totally happy with, purely from an asthetic point of view, and rather than go to the trouble of modifying this first set, I thought I'd paint the rails and use it as part of a small diorama which which I could photograph models on.

Having built the first set, I've learnt a lot, and figured out some better methods for some of the steps, and I think the next set I build will not only be easier but of an even higher quality. It certainly proves that you never know what you are capable of until you give it a go.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brake Vans - You Can't Have Too Many!

The long term goal for the layout is to be able to replicate the prototype NSWGR train movements through Gunnedah. This will mean multiple goods trains consisting of bulk wheat and coal, as well as livestock and mixed goods consists.

As the era I am modelling required each train to have a brake (or guards) van, one will be needed for each consist of wagons and hoppers. I figure a bare minimum of around eight to ten will be needed to fulfil this task.

Trainorama have produced some beautiful NSWGR brake vans, but I was able to get a set of four Hanovale Model Castings produced NSWGR GHG brake van kits for a very reasonable price, and have begun building one of them.

These are quite a nicely detailed kit, and with some added detail hopefully will not be too far below the good looking RTR Trainorama units, one of which I have and plan on buying a few more.

Like always, as I was about half way through building the first GHG, I noticed that the roof casting does not have the strapping across the roof of the prototype or the Trainorama GHG models. I pondered whether this would be all that noticeable, but then decided that if I didn't try to replicate it I would regret it later.

The strapping is only about 1mm wide and about 0.1mm high in model form, so I would need some very fine material to make the straps from. As luck would have it, only a few weeks prior I had bought from the local News Agency a roll of very thin completely clear acrylic/plastic sheet as I thought it may come in handy for making window glass from. Running the vernier calipers across it, it measured about 0.1mm thick, perfect for my intended use.

It was easy enought to cut a 1mm strip of it, cutting in the same direction as it is rolled so it will naturally want to follow the curved roof profile. I made a template showing the location of the straps which I taped to the side of the Brake Van to give me the locations.

Wit a few tiny dabs of super glue, it was pulled tightly across the roof, and once the glue set the ends where trimmed fluch with the gutter. Once all strips were done, another light coat of primer was sprayed over the top, and the result was in my opionion very worthwhile.

Tarped Coal Hoppers for Wheat Traffic

On of the common sights on the NSWGR back in the 60's was the use of coal hoppers for wheat traffic during bumper crops.

This adds some visual variety to the look of a bulk wheat train, having a few tarped wagons amongst the normally covered roof wheat hoppers.

This is a feature that I definitely want to reflect so I have had a go at making some tarps to go over a couple of Trainorama HCH Hoppers.

I've heard of some people using aluminium foil to make their tarps, and some using tissue or paper to make them, so I thought I'd try to combine the two and see how it worked.

My reasoning for using both is that the aluminum foil gives the tarp some strength and the ability to be molded and hold its shape, while the single layer of tissue paper would give it the texture it needs, as well as readily accepting paint.

I took a sheet of normal cheap aluminium foil, and using a wide artists brush thinly spread on it a diluted mixture of PVA glue, and then layed a single layer of tissue over it and allowed this to dry overnight.

Using some cheap water colours bought at the $2 shop I mixed up a watery mix of grey/brown and using a little bit at a time gradually built up the colour of the tarp using slightly different shades to break up the uniform monocolour look.

Once dry the tarps were cut to the correct dimensions, bent into shape to represent how it would look with a ridge pole beneath it and placed in on top of the hopper to see how it looked. Normally two tarps would be used with each one wrapping around the ends of the hopper, so the picture is an illustration of the texture and colour of the tarp only, not the completed look of the model.

It's possibly a little too dark overall, however I have seen some pictures of very weathered and darkened tarps, especially on wagons pulled behind steam engines. Overall though I'm quite happy with the texture and general look of the tarps, and now have to figure out how to add the tie down rings to the hopper and add ropes holding the tarp down. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Workbench - Where It All Begins

I should elaborate a little on my first post in regard to Gunnedah "The Layout". At this point in time, there is no layout! Not a single piece of bench work has been made, nor a length of track laid, a DCC system not bought, or any scenery of sorts. However, there is plenty going on to keep me busy, and more than just a little broke!

For the past eleven months I've been collecting engines and rolling stock, track, scenery items, and more importantly as much information as I can on Gunnedah and the surrounding areas like track plans, photo's, the types of trains that ran through there etc etc.

As you can see from the photo, there is more than one project going at once on my slightly crowded work desk. My daughter doesn't understand why I don't just do one thing at a time, but as I said to her, what fun would that be.

Amongst the current projects are a small diorama with the first set of points I built, a GHG Guards Van kit (one of four), some tarpaulins for the coal hoppers as used for wheat haulage, slow motion point motor mechanisms and some other random things I've begun as the idea has come into my head.

As much as not having the space at the moment to really begin the layout is a little frustrating, it is giving me time to do a lot of planning rather than rushing in and making mistakes in haste, and in all honestly there are more things on the go than I have time to work on at the moment anyway.

I'll get some pics and information up on some of the current projects soon so be sure to pop back.

Gunnedah and Beyond - An Introduction

This Blog will track the building of a HO Scale model railway layout and other related modelling projects.

The layout will centre around the railway station and surrounding yard of Gunnedah, which is located on the Mungindi Line, 475.8km North of Sydney. The era represented will be the mid 1960's through to the early 1970's, which is commonly referred to as the "Transition Period" of the N.S.W.G.R. where Steam was finally phased out and replaced by Diesel power.

The Mungindi line branches from the Main North Line at Werris Creek 410.7km from Sydney, runs N.N.W. through Gunnedah, and continues to the North finishing at Moree, 665.6km N.N.W. of Sydney.

The main types of rail traffic through Gunnedah in that era were Wheat, Coal and Livestock. Gunnedah has a large wheat silo located within the yard with its own siding. There are also various mills, livestock and oil sidings on the outskirts of Gunnedah which will make for an interesting track plan and eventually opperation.

The layout will opperate on DCC, use Peco Code 75 Rail, and all points (turnouts) are being hand laid. Whist it will be a home layout, I will use a style of modular construction to allow for easy transportation if need be.

The long term goal with the layout is to not only model Gunnedah itself, but also some of the more interesting locations along the Mungingi line, hence the title Gunnedah "and Beyond".

I'll do my best to get some photos up over the next few weeks of progress so far, so check back from time to time.