Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deck the Walls!

Sorry about the corny title for this post, but hey Christmas is nearly here and I couldn't help myself.

Sydney had another stinker today, it was about 37 degrees here on the Central Coast, so motivation was a little lacking for doing too much physical work. However, I have installed the first four wall brackets, and sat two 2400mm lengths of timber on each level to get an idea of how it's going to look.

I really agonised over the deck heights before screwing the brackets to the walls. At the moment the height of the two decks are sitting at 1390mm and 1580mm from the floor. This is slightly higher than I initially decided on, and I can lower them around 20-25mm without any moving of the brackets if this proves to be just a little too high.

The top deck is possibly marginally higher than I would have liked, although I'm still looking down across the rails so it's definitely not too high, but this allows me to have the bottom deck not too low, and the deck on the opposite side of the room should come in at around 1475mm which is pretty much ideal.

I quickly printed off a cloudy background image to show the look I will be going for. I'm not really into the typical blue skies look often used, and want to try to capture a slightly more dramatic looking scene. Getting the perspective of the background correct in relation to the deck height and viewing angles will be the challenge but if it all comes together hopefully I can add some depth and atmosphere to what is a fairly shallow scene.

Hopefully tomorrows temperature will be a little lower and I can get some more wall brackets mounted and maybe make a start on the actual modules.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Setting The Deck Heights

I knocked up a very rough mockup yesterday afternoon which will allow me to check some clearances, decide if the deck to deck heights will look and work ok, and make a final decision on what height to mount the decks at. It's one thing to mark a pencil line on the wall, but having a three dimensional mockup that I can place actual models on definitely gives a slightly different perspective.

I had initially decided on the top deck surface being about 155cm from the floor, as I wanted the majority of the layout to be not too far below eye level as this tends to gives a more realistic view of the actual trains. There will be around a 10.5cm drop from the top layer, around the room to the opposite side of the room, and then around an 8.5cm drop as it comes back around to the lower deck again. This will mean a top to bottom rail level height of around 19.0cm from the top to bottom deck, and should put the opposite side of the room deck at around 144.5cm from the floor.

However after placing the mockup against the wall, I am wondering if the 155cm heigh of the top deck may be just a little bit too high? It certainly puts the trains at eye level, and will mean the lower and opposite decks will be at a good height, however I am wondering if the dead side on view will cause any problems with clearly seeing trains on the track closest to the wall when shunting, or even being able to clearly see that the points are set correctly.

I've taken a couple of pics that show the crude mockup, taken from an angle that would allow slightly better viewing of the top level, with the trains sitting on what would be the bottom level. This would place the top deck at around 148-150cm from the floor, slightly lower than my theoretical optimum height.

My tendency at the moment is to proceed with the slightly higher level for now, and if it proves to be a little impractical, I can either make some small steps to stand on if vision is temporarily blocked, or, I can adjust the height after it's all mounted by remounting the wall brackets. The second option is not really the way I'd prefer to go though as drilling more holes in my freshly painted walls in not too appealing!

Alternatively I could try to design a way to allow me to mount the wall brackets set to the lower height, and if I find it's too low I could add spacers to lift the decks. Once again possible, but not the way I'd like to go.

In any case, hopefully this weekend will see at least some of the modules made and mounted to the wall to make sure the levels all work out like they have on paper and that I can actually fit what I have theorised will fit.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Days

After almost a year of looking forward to getting stuck into the garage and starting "Gunnedah", and then gradually realising that I'm not much closer to actually starting it than the day we moved into the house, it has been a really good shot in the arm to be not only thinking about building a small and simple shelf layout in the spare room, but actually starting work on it.

I'm not one who makes decisions quickly, usually pondering over things for ages before deciding on something, but early last week after work, my wife brought out some colour sample swatches we'd collected, and said "if you're going to start putting things on the wall for your trains, we need to paint the room first so it all looks nice, here's some sample colours, choose one".

There were over a hundred sample colours, but by the time you take out the cream, bone, white, off-white, ivory or beige (with appologies to the Twelfth Man) you're left with quite a few less colours. So I narrowed it down to a couple eventually, and then settled on a nice bright but not over the top Yellow Ochre colour, which turned out to be called "Happy Days". What an appropriate colour for a layout containing a model railway layout I thought.

So paint was bought on the Wednesday, and last Saturday saw me up and about before 7am, and emptying the room of still unpacked boxes, the queen sized bed and general items that have accumulated there (back down into the garage, so still going backwards there!) and it was time to get painting.

I'm not the worlds best painter, nor is it a job I particularly enjoy doing, but with such a purpose intended for the room, it was a rather pleasurable way to spend a Saturday, coupled with a couple of hours of motor racing on the t.v. thrown in while the first coat dried.

To say that it has made a huge improvement over the rather drab thirty odd year old off white colour it was is an understatement. Light is now reflected around the room instead of absorbed, and it's a much cheerier space to be in.

I've also knocked up a bit of a trial module out of roughly 40x20mm pine, with some thinnish 2-3mm board I had laying about for the surface. By the looks of it the pine in that size is more than strong enout to support the samll amount of weight that will be placed on it, and being only about 170mm wide, does not need much strength for the surface as there is only around 130mm of space between the framework anyway. Once the trackwork and point activation mechanisms are in place more bracing can be added if need be.

This width means that the layout will take up no more room than a normal shelf, but still allow for three tracks side by side with room on either edge, using 40mm track centres. Using the narrower than normal 50mm track centres also means a set of points joined together takes up a bit less room which is handy for small areas.

The cutouts in each end are so that the frame sits down over the wall brackets a bit, just to hide them as much as possible. I've even toyed with the idea of mounting the brackets upside down so that the vertical part ends up behind the layout back scene, and not projecting down below. Also the cutouts can be moved inwards and do not need to be at the ends. Having them somewhat inboard will ("should") actuall promote less sagging in the middle due to there being som additional forces in the opposite direction either side of the bracket. At least that is how I think it works, not being an engineer!

The longest span will be across the window, which is 176cm wide, so there may be some lateral thinking required here if a span of this length proves to be a little bit too long and some sagging occurs. I'm planning on having a back board going from the bottom to the top of both levels on this part anyway, and with this screwed into the frames, it should stop any sagging I would think (once again using my vast engineering knowledge!).

I've gone through the N.S.W. track diagrams which seem to show almost every location in the state going back to the early 1900's, and have selected a group which represent the type of track layouts I am looking at recreating. Small twin and triple line locations with your typical cattle ramp, goods siding with platform or small shed, wheat silo road, loading ramp, coal stage, ash pit etc. These features will hopefully allow for some really interesting opperation with lots of shunting around of brake vans, placing wagons in sidings, reassembling trains for different destinations etc.

Point activation is being thought about, and will no doubt be a manual system with either push/pull rods under the surface activating the points, or possibly even using the Pufsuk system which uses air pressure to activate the points.

In any case, it's nice to be making progress on actually having somewhere to run some trains, and possibly even invite some people over to have a run as well. Happy Days ...........

Sunday, November 15, 2009

From Test Track to Spare Room Layout!

I'm sure that I am not the only person who is afflicted with the characteristic of starting off with a simple idea and quickly complicating it! After taking delivery of my Eureka 38, I soon tired of running it backwards and forwards along a length and a bit of flex track on my desk. And whilst I have a 7.2 x 7.2 metre garage down the yard, unpacking all of the unnecessary items since moving in around 6 months ago has been slow, and in the mean time I seem to have created an even bigger mess in there.

As well as having to clean up and make space, I have come to the realisation that no matter how much I hoped I wouldn't need to, the garage will need to be lined and eves installed to stop the atmosphere from entering the shed. Considering the roller doors are open maybe half a day a week, the amount of dirt and general air born objects that find there way inside is quite remarkable, and depressing. I can't imagine trying to keep a layout free of this muck, so realistically between unpacking the remaining boxes, fitting eves and lining the shed to some degree, it will unfortunately still be a while before Gunnedah begins.

However, the spare room has gradually returned to normal after being a half way room for stuff that needed to be in the house to be unpacked, but was yet to have somewhere to put it. Basically a queen sized bed, a sewing cabinet, my guitars and amplifiers (another hobby of mine) and some odds and sods is all that is now left in there. I have almost emptied the built in wardrobe which will will house my model making work bench
which I am about to begin making, which will finally give me a permanent space with which to work on all the projects I have been gathering.

The built in wardrobe is about 55cm deep and around 140cm wide inside, and I had planned a simple test track on a level, with a couple of sets of points to simply test rolling stock on and make sure that all was well running wise. However it then occurred to me, that with the wall running adjacent to the wardrobe being an additional 3.3 metres long, I may be better running a length of track along that wall on a shelf. After all 3.3 metres is better than 1.4 metres at best, and while I'm at it I could ballast it, add some ground cover, a backdrop and a roof with some simple lighting to create a diorama effect.

So already I'd gone from a simple 140cm piece of track to a 330cm diorama in the space of a few hours. It the occured that if I was to cut a small hole in the door I could continue along the wall and curve into the wardrobe with the extra bit of length. That would give around 5 metres of running room which is not too bad for a test track.

But then I had a thought, why use just one wall? Overall the room is about 4.0 x 3.3 metres, and if I used the remaining 3.3 metres of the wall with the wardrobe at one end, then the 3.3 metres across the back wall and then the 4 metres back along the other wall, I'd have a bit over 10 metres of running track excluding what's in the wardrobe. Certainly not the biggest run, but with a few sets of points at each end to make a couple of roads, I could actually operate it in a point to point fashion with some shunting around at each end.

So now I'm looking at an around the wall shelf style point to point diorama, with the layout being only about 15cm deep along the longer walls and maybe 20cm deep across the back wall which would be above the head of the bed. I can easily use around 750mm radius curves as they do not protrude that much into the room space, and being at the end of each side of the bed, it's an area not really used anyway.

So I began drawing some planes of how the track would look, with a single line joining two small country style locations with things like a loading bank, goods shed, cattle ramp etc. With a few sets of points and two or maybe even three tracks squeezed in it would actually allow for some quite complicated shunting manoeuvres taking place to get each wagon in its siding and then getting the train reassembled with the brake van at the end and heading back.

So there we go, from a simple test track to an around the room layout in the space of an hour or so. But wait, there's more!

With the available run between terminals, if I ran up a grade from the wardrobe side to the opposite side, and then had another branch running back towards the other side, but also running up a grade, I could have the short side of the room double decked, giving two separate scenes one above the other, and in effect now giving me three terminals. So the train would be assembled at terminal A, continue around to terminal B where some wagons would be spotted into sidings, the brake van swapped to the other end of the remaining wagons, and then the train would continue on to terminal C sitting directly above terminal A. Using this style I could replicate some of those small country style locations where a branch line runs off in another direction. So although the actual layout depth is narrow, the potential operational interest would be huge.

I've added a simple track plan to show the type of thing I'm looking into, with the left hand side showing the upper and lower level next to each other (top on the far left) and the top left representing the wardrobe branch. I'm actually going through some of the NSW country locations where simple two track plans were in existence with things like a livestock ramp, goods shed, loading bank, small platform etc, so that I can model something that actually existed.

I've already gone to buy some wall brackets and have begun setting the levels around the room, and hopefully over the next few weeks I'll be able to get going on it.

So once again, I've managed to turn a simple idea into another rather large project.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We Never Knew What Friends We Had

To paraphrase a Billy Joel song (Leningrad), "we never knew what friends we had" is a very appropriate phrase for me at the moment.

Apart from some technology failure of late (my computer had a hard drive failure) it's usually my failure to keep up with things. I have a g-mail e-mail account which I think I needed to start this blog, but of course did I bother to check it occasionally? Well why would I, I didn't give it to anyone, so you could imagine my surprise when in checking it the other day there were quite a few e-mails in the inbox.

Obviously a few people read my blog, because in my inbox was an e-mail with a plan for the aforementioned E Wagon needed to build the bogie milk tanker BMT 1, and an offer to lend me some 35mm negatives from pictures taken at Hawkesbury River Station and surrounds in 1966.

Now the E Wagon plan was brilliant, and greatly appreciated, but the offer of a complete stranger to send me their forty three year old negatives for me to look at and get prints made up of if I wanted was quite humbling. These are things that cannot be replaced, and whilst not having great monetary value, are priceless in my eyes.

After getting sixty odd photos developed I was completely gobsmacked at the information I now had that would not likely have been available anywhere else. The station, refuge roads, water tank, level crossing, various sheds, sidings, and the coal stage that no longer exist to name but a few, in detail from many angles, some of which would have you prosecuted these days, all in beautiful black and white with crisp details, and showing things that no simple diagrams or plans could reveal. The picture of the warning sign on the coal stage is a classic example, and something I hope to duplicate when I build a model of it.

The thing is, that these things I asked for have come from people I've not yet met, and may not ever meet, who don't know me from a bar of soap, and yet through this wonderful hobby we share have felt compelled to share the information they have for no other reason than to help me try to realise my dream of recreating these things in miniature.

So while I have highlighted only two recent cases above, to anyone who has sent me anything, shared information, imparted wisdom or simply shared their opinions, thank you, friends.

Something Finally Arrives!!!

In this age of often pre-ordering the trains we want to buy rather than simply buying them once they appear in the shops, we sometimes find ourselves enduring quite a wait for these models. This is not to say that the people organising for these models to be built are to blame, as there seem to be some rather difficult challenges at the factories to deal with, where production slots are hard to get, any corrections add months to the production schedule and component supplies are not always available.

Of course there is usually a financial plus in pre-ordering, with a decent discount usually offered, you're certain to get the model you want before it sells out, and in some cases it helps to budget by having most of your money tied up in items you really want as opposed to randomly buying things as they appear only to find something else come out immediately after that you'd rather have bought but now can't afford!

It also has the effect of one sometimes thinking "gee I haven't bought a train for a while", when in fact the reality is more like "I haven't had a train delivered for a while". As of last Sunday, the "
I haven't had a train delivered for a while" list included 1 x 38 class, 1 x 48 Class, 1 x 422 Class, 1 x 81 Class and 2 x 40 Class locomotives.

However that "
I haven't had a train delivered for a while" feeling has been temporarily pushed aside with the delivery of a black Eureka Streamlined 38 class numbered 3803. My dear wife bought this for me as a surprise birthday present, two birthdays ago! Of course the 38 has had a few more delays than what is probably normal, but none the less it is finally here.

So armed with a metre and a half of track and a Powercab it was removed from the box and placed on the track. After the obligatory photo session (where I take about a hundred photos and find about ten are pretty good!) it was time for some shunting back and forth.

The default sound volume is like being strapped to the side of the real thing, so probably a bit too loud for my taste where I prefer to just hear them when they are in front of me. That's my personal preference of course, but I was glad when I figured out how to turn it down, with some help from my Aus_Model_Rail mates, thanks guys.

Running qualities are very good, with it smoothly starting at a crawl and accelerating gently away, and then slowing again to a crawl before stopping. I didn't test its haulage capacity because, well, how much rolling stock can you fit on a metre of track!

In any case, it was nice to have a new toy, and it has definitely ramped up my enthusiasm to get something done so I have a bit more room to run trains, or at the very least a decent module with some scenery to photograph some models on.