Saturday, 7 December 2013

Fish River Down Panel Comes To Life


As the post title alludes to...the Fish River Down Box is all but complete and ready to install.  The same methodology of construction was incorporated as used on the Up Box, so assembly was a lot more straightforward this time around.

I have copped many a light hearted hammering from some quarters for my "anal" approach to wiring neatness.  This habit may or may not be traced to an early background in the aviation industry...but if the readers of this blog could have seen my approach to wiring for earlier layouts and my vocabulary when something went wrong and a gremlin needed to be traced...they would certainly understand my want to get it right this time.  Anyway I still consider myself as a rank amateur as I have seen some much neater and more comprehensive approaches...

Some others have asked about my selection of cable and component positioning and a short entry regarding same may help others...

As stated in earlier posts I decided to use Cobalt point motors, exclusively on the layout.  Apart from the fact that each motor has it's own personality, as far as speed and noisiness is concerned... I have had no major issues thus far and see no need to change.  Because the layout is wired for DCC and I am using an NCE setup to run the layout I decided to also utilise the Cobalt decoders as part of the initial installation.  The decoders can be installed at the Cobalt point motor and if utilising the AD1 single decoder...the point motor has a slide in ability to house the decoder.  I decided to locate the decoders inside the control panels and run required wiring to each point motor.  Where possible I have also used AD4 decoders (which is basically a 4 gang version of the AD1) and this only requires one set of "power in" wires for each bank as each decoder in the bank is "electrically linked" which serves to minimise panel wiring.  Having the bulk of the "logic" located inside the panel serves as mechanical protection for all components and I feel that troubleshooting is also enhanced.

The wiring from the front panel to the decoders is via 4 core alarm cable and from the decoders to each point motor I have utilised 7 core alarm cable which is certainly overkill considering only 2 out of 7 of the cores are used...but in an effort to future proof the layout these spare 5 wires will already be there should I decide to take full advantage of the decoders and install signalling or some other accessory.

So with the wiring now explained I guess the last thing to examine is how I want the layout to operate...  I am from an age where a track diagram on each panel, push button control and LEDs signifying route status is about all that I would imagine I would ever want....but if I ever decide to explore and utilise the NCE setup to it's potential ( or someone more tech savvy than myself ever visits ) I can number each set of points and programme them to operate from the NCE handpiece individually or programme a macro to set a number of points ( route control ) with one command from the handpiece.  Again I have no idea what the future holds and I guess if I don't want to spend my later years under the layout adding bits and is better to do what I can now.

For the Fish River station and yard area...history may well prove that the decision to provide two separate panels to control just over 20 sets of points was flawed and it all could have been incorporated into one single panel.  The approach I have taken is based on the possibility of more than one operator of the layout at once and I have seen some home and club layouts with one panel and it can be a proverbial pain in the arse.  Whether the panel layout proves convenient for me as a sole operator, as will be the case for the vast majority of the time, will only be decided over time...

So with the panel all but will be installed in the next day or so and trackwork and point motor installation can then follow and my loose timetable to have a continuous loop of the train room by Christmas looks achievable.

Rear of the panel and associated wiring...all pushbuttons and LEDs have been wired.

4 of the decoders have been wired...8 will be required with the single decoder being added as a spare if required later.
It is possible to see the difference between and AD1 ( single decoder) and the two banks of AD4 decoders.
Wiring to the layout will exit the panel via the bottom.  Decoder Power In...will occur when the panel is fitted to the layout.

Completed panel ready for fitment to the layout...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Time Management and Control Panels...


Before I became self employed and worked in the "real" world...I was often told that my time management skills were pretty good.  Wind the clock forward a few years and I am not so sure about those earlier third party observations.
While not the major reason...the inability to get hobby projects through a gestation period and through to completion within a self imposed time frame, certainly was a contributing factor in my brain explosion and decision to mothball the layout earlier this year.

As with most issues in life we tend to examine only the obvious external reasons that have invoked or caused a problem and tend to avoid any evidence that our approach, attitude or methodology has played any part in the original problem. 

So with this in mind and my hobby and layout juices beginning to flow again I have spent quite a bit of time working out how to make improvements to my "headspace" and how I approach the hobby and the layout.  All of this sounds a bit over the top...but the hobby has bought me so much joy and is such an important part of my life that I figured it deserved time spent conducting an "audit and improvement" examination.

Certainly at the outset we all know that there is a finite time available to devote to a hobby and that time has to be flexible to cope with a range of external factors such as family, work, other leisure and general life.  Following on from this personal "audit" I have narrowed down the two major issues that have given rise to my hobby frustrations.  The first is unreasonable self imposed time expectations of completion of projects and secondly being personally organised and having an organised workspace for when the hard won couple of free hours arrives ( planned or unplanned ).  The first issue raised will be an ongoing rearrangement of attitude to which I have already started.  The being organised part of the equation is something that needs the bulk of the attention. What tends to happen now is that a couple of hours become spare and I then spend those couple of hours assembling the parts, tools and other "stuff" to achieve the task and of course when I am ready to go....The time available has expired.  With this constant cycle of disorganisation...when the time(s) become available to "hobby" the motivation evaporates...

The way around this for me is to setup an area within the house and an area within the layout room to allow flexibility of workspaces and over the years I have amassed enough tools to enable two individual areas and setups to be achievable.

So armed with all of this new found inspiration and organisational changes I set about commencement of building the second control panel for the main station area of the layout being "Fish River".  In an earlier post I wrote about the "UP" Box and now I can report on progress of the "Down" Box.  The new "Down" panel will be an exact replica of the existing "Up" panel in both design and construction. Once this box is complete and installed it will allow completion of general trackwork, pointwork and point control to be completed at this end of the yard.  It is then only a matter of a few lengths of track on the opposing wall and a complete loop of the trainroom will have been achieved.  I see completion of these works as very real and achievable over the Christmas period and in line with my new found "hobby logic"....I am working toward this project only and am not entertaining any other projects to cloud the issue until it is completed.

The reasoning for two panels to manage the rather humble "Fish River" environ was taken so that each panel is roughly located at the nest of points that they control.  It will also make things a lot more manageable and comfortable if a time eventuates where multiple operators are in attendance.  I have decided to stick to the exclusive use of Cobalt point motors and Cobalt decoders located within the panel so that point/route control can be undertaken via the panel or the NCE handset.  There has been a lot written ( good and bad ) about the Cobalt point motors but from my perspective I have had no issues with them and am now familiar with the find no plausible reason to change.

In the accompanying photos I have also shown the now long completed "Up" box so that together with the under construction "Down" box... an idea of the overall track plan can be seen.  There will need to be some modification to individual track legends on the original "Up" box panel to incorporate the changes to the overall track plan that have happened since it was installed.  Basically I have decided on single track main which will see the "Up Main" renamed "Loop"...The "Down Main" renamed as "Main"  and the Dock Siding renamed "Carriage Siding"

It is still my intention to remove the two double slips from the up end of the yard and this will be undertaken and the Up Box panel will be modified to suit at that time...

Anyway if some still find it confusing...I will add an "as built" track plan in one of the next postings.

Original Completed Up Box...

The Down Box panel being created on the laser...
holes for switches and LEDs will be laser cut in the same operation once the track plan has finished engraving 

The new panel being populated 

Although this is the innards of the Up Box...the Down Box has been constructed and will be outfitted in the same manner...

Saturday, 9 November 2013



Where has the time gone?...In my last blog posting I explained my reasoning behind a change in direction for me in the hobby.  I must explain at the outset that I have not indeed succumbed to some sort of life threatening illness nor have I "gone around the twist completely" as some other people ( including some family ) proffered.

While working for yourself allows some flexibility and other "perks", it does come with some other pressures that are sometimes hard to explain...even to those that are closest.  Lack of day to day interaction with human beings is one of the downsides which does mean that any issues going around in your mind are only ever shared over the nightly meal or through telephone conversations in most instances.  Another issue that came on board around 8 or 9 years ago with the advent of Laser Rail Bits was that my hobby was now becoming part of the business and vice versa.  Consequently this also started to blur the lines with home life and the hobby as well and I was finding it increasingly difficult to find enjoyment and escape in the things that mattered the most.  Again...don't get me wrong, I love all aspects of my life but I needed to take stock, make some changes and start to focus again.

As this is a model railway blog...I won't dwell on the business side of things too much other than to say that certain changes have been made that have jettisoned some unprofitable and time consuming aspects of the business that has now freed up time to concentrate more on Laser Rail Bits and has led to an overall increasing clarity on where I am and what I am doing.

On the model side of things...the decision to mothball the layout was made and a fair amount of rollingstock and structures were liquidated in haste. In hindsight, some decisions to sell some items was probably regrettable...but strangely refreshing as it now gives a blank canvas approach and recent trips to the layout room have had a feeling that the juices are starting to flow again and a return may not be too far off.  These train room visits, armed with the obligatory cup of tea have seen me run a loco or two and I have found myself playing the "what if" game inside my head about changes to trackplan, era and operations in general.   I guess my "brain explosion" of the last few months may have worked?

During these trips to the layout room I have decided that a couple of items must be omitted from the trackplan and they are the two double slips which were originally placed at the up end of  Fish River yard and the junction of the yet to be named branch.  It must be explained that these double slips were placed at a time when the layout was to be based on a double track mainline and now with the decision made ( some time ago ) to revert to a single line working...the function and space saving features of these slips is now redundant.  I personally find double slips a visual blot it will be a happy day when they are lifted and traditional points are installed.  At least I was able to master the DCC issues that arise with double slips if nothing the experience was worth it.



   The photo above shows the location of the double slips and a quick explanation should clarify the location... Tracks from left to right in the distance are...Branch, Up Main, Down Main and Flour Mill Siding. 

While behind the photographer is Fish River Station and the track leading away (bottom left) is the Fish River Yard access road.

This shot is taken from the opposite end of the yard looking in a down direction with the offending double slips visible centre left...

With the decision to revert to single line working....the Up main is now redundant and will revert to being used as a loop or master siding... The issue I need to address is that if the double slips are removed...the section of "old" up main between the two slips will be removed as well to allow for traditional points to be fitted.  This in turn will not allow the "old" up main to be used as a headshunt for the yard...and will also shorten useable length of the "old" up main as a loop.

There are many permutations to solve the issues but the "not negotiable" aspect is that the slips must go....for both smooth operability and pure aesthetics.  So with Christmas coming up and the possibility of some down time...This puzzle must be solved and a track "shutdown" planned.  Any input from you guys is of course welcome...

On the rollingstock front, I have also booked 6015 in for a strip down, repaint and weathering job and the boxes of remaining 4 wheelers will need to be aged as well...see the juices are beginning to flow!....I wonder if the airbrushes will remember me?

It has been great to actually sit down and "Blog" again and I certainly won't be leaving it this long between posts again!

6015 will soon enter "shops' to be repainted and it is coming off the branch and returning to Fish River light engine.



Saturday, 31 August 2013

A Change In Direction...


Has been a while between posts and a few more decisions regarding the layout/hobby etc. have been made.  In an earlier post I touched on some of the influencing factors regarding my involvement in the hobby and where I derive the greatest enjoyment.  These factors coupled with work and family commitments has led me to the decision to moth ball the layout and liquidate a fair amount of  locos,  rollingstock, buildings,  etc.

While I recognise that I am not alone in regards to all of the pressures that family, work and life in general puts upon us...I am just finding it difficult to achieve all of these things adequately and still feel comfortable in my own skin.
I have noticed for some time that my leaning towards "building" rather than "running" has been growing and my frustrations at not being able to adequately attend to these pursuits has been weighing heavily for far too long.  Indeed I have a few "foreign orders" that have been sitting partially completed for some time and they need to be finalised as well and I thank these people for the patience shown...well I have not received any death threats so that is a plus!!!.

The lack of progress on the Laser Rail Bits range is also a determining factor in all of the decision making as the development of these items is certainly a happily self imposed commitment... and presently is not moving at the speed that I feel comfortable with.  I am tired of the stop start approach as time permits and this also has to change.

The decision to liquidate the majority of layout stuff may seem drastic to some...but I suffer from the problem of too many distractions and if the distractions do not exist then...problem solved.  I will be keeping a fair amount of items and equipment that will be utilised in building dioramas and mini dioramas and I look forward to being able to commence work on this aspect of the hobby as soon as things settle down.  As for the layout room, well this room has been built with a fair amount of creature comforts and alternative uses in mind and if it never sees a completed layout it will never go to waste.  I will complete the modelling room as I will still need an area away from "family life" and an area that will allow airbrushing and construction of some items.

The family has asked me about the future of the Blog and I do not see many changes occurring.  The Blog was initially started to follow the trials and tribulations of a self confessed  "dribbler" and his quest to build a layout.  Along the way a smattering of  Laser Rail Bits posts crept in and this has been valuable in discussing these items prior to manufacture and gauging reactions both good and bad from fellow modellers. It will continue in the same vein as a place to post my thoughts, ramblings and the latest topic that I am dabbling in and hopefully will continue as a place for exchange of ideas etc.

I have learnt a lot since embarking on what has become known as Fish River and even though the layout is far from complete, there are a multitude of skills that I have been able to hone and certainly some long held fears that have been overcome and if the future lends itself to a new beginning in the layout phase...the lessons will not have been wasted. 

So where am I up to in the "Life Change" program....

The streamlining and transition of my main "real" business is nearly complete and we have now almost settled into a routine of an acceptable and predictable workload.  From the Laser Rail Bits perspective...we are now working towards completion of  re-stocking the entire range and making ready the "Wheel Painting Jig" and the "Trestle Range" for market.  I will commence work on the "Camden Line Wayside Stations" project in the next few weeks and this may present an opportunity to build to order as well as offer kits.  Of course a priority now exists to "decommission" the layout and make ready items that will be liquidated...a daunting prospect but necessary.  Benches, track and electricals will stay for the moment...but most structures, stations, rollingstock and locos etc will find new homes...

Thanks to everyone for the last few years...the contacts and mateships established are all greatly appreciated and hopefully this aspect will not change.... Apart from the layout...nothing much will change...    



Friday, 9 August 2013

An Unannounced Announcement


We have been working on a little project for some time that should make the drudgery of painting and weathering wheel sets a little bit easier.

A few years ago I got sick of wheelsets being blown all over the place, paint all over my fingers and then having to remove the paint from the treads of the freshly painted wheels so as to not transfer it to the I made up a rudimentary painting jig that while acceptable was not entirely reliable.  Late last year I decided to look at the concept again and during the design phase became aware of a unit being sold in the states.  The unit in question holds 4 axles and while it basically solves the problem of painting I knew I could design a better "mousetrap" as I was the poor sod that needed to be satisfied with whatever I conjured up. 

The design brief I had set myself was that the unit had to hold more than 4 axles, had to be heavy enough so it did not blow around or over while airbrushing and it had to offer the best access for the airbrush to get into all the "hard to get at" places easily...not just the wheel faces.

The design ended up being a unit that has the ability to hold 8 axles with a tread diameter of 10.5mm or 36" in 1:1 speak.  We will offer an alternative unit that has 4 x 10.5mm and 4 x 9.5mm positions should the need arise.  With the possibility of custom sizes should the unit prove popular.  Each pair of retaining fingers are offset to each other which provides plenty of comfortable access to not only the wheel faces but all other surfaces that require painting.  The fingers are manufactured from 2mm cast acrylic which while offering plenty of protection for the wheel treads does not leave the face partially obscured by the use of a thicker material.  We have also avoided the use of any acrylic welding or glue joints and have designed the unit to be easily disassembled should alternative fingers need to be fitted down the track...or in the case of a component being accidently broken a replacement component can be sourced from us and repairs made rather than the unit being tossed away.  There was also a plan to include a couple of stabiliser feet for the unit but after exhaustive testing and the use of 6mm acrylic for the base...I feel it is steady enough although we will keep some in stock should someone ask for these items.

The only minor drawback is there are some variable tolerances in wheel tread diameter and while we have settled on a nominal hole size...some brands of wheels certainly sit better than others in the unit due to these differences and tiny tapers on some examples.  We have tested most of the local wheelsets and likewise for overseas examples and have not found any examples that will not fit in the unit...but some just sit better than others.

So we now have our first run completed and the units will be available from early next week and will be available on the Laser Rail Bits ebay shop....or from hobby shops should they prove their worth and we get approached...

As for price...while this has not been entirely decided upon...we would anticipate a price around $23.00... in reality we are awaiting an answer from our supplier of acrylic who has signalled a hefty price rise on the back of the falling Aussie dollar and when we are made aware of the magnitude of this increase we can then set a price that should remain static for some time.

It is amazing that we get bombarded by suppliers when the Aussie dollar falls but never hear from them when it goes up...

BTW we have named the jig...the WheelWiz which was decided by my daughter Sophie when she was asked what she thought while watching us testing the unit earlier last week...

At the end of the day it is Aussie designed and Manufactured....and that is the important part for me.

I have included some pics and of course welcome any feedback...


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Trestles and Termites...


As I commenced writing this post I became aware that this is Post No. 100.  When I informed Vanessa of this fact her reply was "Amazing how one person can dream up and write that amount of drivel...Congratulations anyway".....Sophie was less celebratory as her reply was "Whoop De Do Basil" reference to her love of the Austin Powers movies...all tongue in cheek I hope.

Firstly I would like to address a comment made in reply to the last post regarding trestles and in particular the wing assemblies and the possibility that we may have erred in relation to the angle of the wing wall sheeting timbers.  I thank Graeme for posing the question as I must admit that the wings ( as simple as they are in design ) had me baffled for some time as each consecutive trial assembly just did not look right.  Apart from the wing wall pile diameter I thought the last attempt was almost there....but the comment did have me rushing for our research material file to check the facts. Even though we have departmental plans and some early photographic evidence that the timbers on some structures were indeed angled... after lengthy pondering I feel Graeme's comments are valid and the vast majority of trestles ( that had wing walls incorporated ) do show the timbers to be we will work toward this modification and will post the results when complete.  While on the issue of comments...I take the opportunity to thank those who contribute as this exchange of info is important to the decision making progress of both the kits and my modelling experience as a whole.


The remainder of the week has been taken up by normal work, kit stock replenishment and a little job that I have been meaning to get to for some time.  Apart from the main layout room I do not have a dedicated modelling room and remnants of my hobby participation are pretty much scattered all over the house, business and layout room.  I have for some time had a corner of the layout shed earmarked for conversion to address this issue and as the doctor said "take it easy for a couple of weeks" ...I felt now was the time. 

As an aside we removed two large gum trees that were located about 10 metres from the layout shed about 4 months ago due to the trees exhibiting some major cracks at the bases and a general appearance of not being well.  The resultant findings were that one of the trees was sponsoring a large termite nest in the lower trunk and indeed it was time for these two gums and infestation to go.  This revelation left me with a giant hole in the pit of my stomach as the proximity of these trees to the timber "mother load" that is the train room was too close for comfort.  In hindsight it was a dumb decision to partially line the existing portion of the shed with normal framing timber and this new addition of a hobby room would be lined with termite treated timber and extra vigilance would be exercised both now and in the future for the shed as a whole.

But I digress....the proposed modelling room will be a 3 metre x 3 metre area with benches on 3 walls with the main criteria(s) being a permanent location for the air brush cabinet with the exhaust plumbed to the outside and a spot for an old rotary engraving machine that is now utilised as a hobby milling machine.  There are two good size windows in this room for natural light plus good views of passing trains on the main south and I have run enough power to the room for most future needs and a reliable security system with remote cameras.  The rest of the room will be used for general kit building and hobby storage.  I will also take advantage of the room's proximity to the layout room and will run a "repair road" through the wall so that troublesome trucks can be easily despatched from the layout to the workshop for repairs etc...

I have included a shot of progress...The layout room is adjacent to the wall at right of shot...


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Back On The Horse...


Well it was back to the grind this week and while completing a rather repetitious engraving job today I had time to devote some time to the Trestle Project.  The wing assemblies required some more refining and apart from the wing pile  choice... I think we have nailed it.  There is not a lot of small diameter timber dowel available and with the variations required for HO modelling some compromises are essential.  The main thrust of today was to get the overall wing dimensions, batter and close fit of components right. With this achieved I attempted a trial fit to the main trestle assembly and utilised some commercially available basswood half rounds for the wing piles and while it was good to get a "prototype" completed... the choice of the half rounds has detracted from the overall appearance as they look too lightweight.  I will construct a couple more differing trials and a decision will need to be arrived at so kit manufacture can then take place.  I will try and complete the instructions this weekend and a small delay will then occur while we bring all other kits back into stock in particular the first bridge release, tank stands and station facing kits.

I must admit that I am looking forward to converting this finished trestle into a completed scene and again I will post the progress as this goes along.



Monday, 22 July 2013

Time For Reflection


Well it is now a week ago since surgery and I am out of the grasp of the NSW Health System.  This has been my first major foray involving a regional hospital and I must state that even though Goulburn Base lacks the sheer resources of Sydney hospitals...the staff here certainly do step up.  The care I have received has been above and beyond and I cannot but be in awe of the dedication they show.  On the other private health insurance v's a medicare stay bought me a daily paper and a television...what value!!!...Anyway today I received the news that the tumour ( and other iffy bits ) removed are B9 and there are no signs of lymphoma... and I live again to wreak pain and misery upon my ever suffering family and friends!!!.  The only downside to the whole kerfuffle  is the loss of hearing and loss of feeling over a fair portion of the right hand side of my face which will in all likelihood prove permanent...I was warned of nerve damage and I feel it is a small price to pay!...

Anyway...over the last week or so I have had plenty of time to contemplate the hobby and where I fit in it all.  Don't worry I have not had one of those "religious" type epiphanies....if that were the case I would probably be announcing a shift to Victorian Railways...No, I have just spent a bit of time going through the differing strands of the hobby and working out which of the strands I most enjoy and why.  The underlying factor in all of this is that I have found it very hard to get the juices flowing where the layout is concerned and obviously that would be apparent when I look back over the 90 or so postings since beginning this Blog which was initially created to allow me to chronicle the building of  what has become known as "Fish River"...and in recent times has emphasised  the lack of any real progress. 

While I understand we all find ourselves questioning our hobby involvement at some time or another...for me it has reached a stage where I do have to deal with the issue or risk some sort of mental implosion and while those close to me would proffer that this event would be a minor event based on the total mass involved, it is important for me to prioritise what I LIKE to do and those I feel somehow tasked to achieve. 

So what have I decided so far...

Firstly my dreams of a railway empire have been laid to rest for now.  The part of the layout known as Fish River will have all rail laying and pointwork finalised and scenery also completed.  A single track that circumnavigates the balance of the layout room will be laid and that will allow continuous running.  It will be nice to just sit and watch a train or two traversing the Fish River environs and not having to worry about said trains falling of the limited world I have in place now.

Secondly I will spend more time on the Laser Rail Bits range.  Apart from being a semi commercial venture, I absolutely live for the limited time I spend on kit development presently.  The joy I get from birthing an idea to ready for market is second to none and it requires more time to achieve the goals I have set myself.  I am frustrated with the present speed of kit development and this must change...

Thirdly ( Gee all this firstly and secondly stuff is starting to sound like K Rudd ) I plan to restructure the main business to focus more on the type of work that reflects time input v/s dollars.  While this may seem is certainly not intended to be.  The business has grown steadily and we have worked hard over the last 20 years or so and I feel that it is time that the business become more tailored around our lives and not the other way around.

Lastly, I am thoroughly enjoying the creation of mini scenes or mini dioramas. It brings together many disciplines of the hobby into one single focus and I would love to explore this facet some more and hopefully discover some added skills and hone existing ones. The resultant scenes will either be stockpiled and end up as part of the layout in the future or will be sold if so desired...either way they are very fulfilling and in most cases gives me the ability to construct and place in context some of our kit products. 

The end result of all of these changes will hopefully provide a more balanced life and isn't that what we all try and achieve from being involved in a hobby in the first place???

Have a Great Week!!!          

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Backdrops and Scenery...


A few weeks ago a certain recently retired chappie from Bylong made a comment regarding the surface that I had chosen to photograph a piece of infrastructure on, being unflattering to the subject.  As much as this comment was tongue in cheek, it certainly got me thinking about the layout and backdrops etc.  To be believable a scene, diorama or layout does require the blending of rollingstock, infrastructure, scenery, lighting and backdrop to be in concert with one another to portray what we are all trying to achieve.... realism in "little" form.  There are certainly some modellers who appear to make it look simple to achieve the masterpieces that grace the blog sites and printed media that we can easily access...but for me it has and will be a long learning curve of trial and error until I am happy with the finished result. 

I have been studying backdrop methods for some time and my decision to end the procrastination and give it a go was made in the last few days and to begin I thought I would go out and take some landscape photos and just have a play.  As a fortunate aside we have large format digital printers as part of the business arsenal and I figured that this methodology of backdrop creation may as well be attempted first.  The attached photos show the results after printing a photo onto adhesive sign vinyl with the resulting print mounted on to some sheet substrate. The diorama was then placed in front of the backdrop and initial shots taken. 

So what have I learnt from this first attempt...

Firstly the chosen season would need to be mirrored in both the photo and the 3D modelled landscape so as hues, grass colours and general landscape items marry well.  The angle of the sun when taking the backdrop shots would need to be carefully selected to reflect the desired time of day of the layout if this is an important criteria.  It may be that shots need to be taken in flat light or on slightly overcast days so the shadowing is minimised.  The biggest problem I see in adopting this method for the whole of the layout is blending one shot into another to create a seemless backdrop over a large length of my case most likely around 9 metres between scenery breaks.  Of course there are computer programs that can stitch together several photos if taken in a careful method...but I wonder whether this would produce an optically curved finished result?.

I will continue to play around and see if most of the above issues can be solved adequately or it may be that the present method is good for diorama or infrastructure shots and painted backdrops may be utilised on the layout. I certainly have no artistic talent for painted it may end up that the job is "subcontracted".  Then again if I look at the present layout progress speed...backdrops may just be a job I can leave to the grandchildren...if I ever have any.

In finishing this post...just a note to the readers of this blog... I have an appointment with a surgeon ( who has promised to put everything back where they found it ) come Monday morning and I hope the next post will be sooner rather than later.  Thanks to you guys for your messages of support...They are greatly appreciated!!!



Saturday, 6 July 2013

Back To The Future....


With progress nearing completion on the Graham's Hill station area "mini diorama", I could not help but see the ability to have a bit of fun and recreate the location just after closure.  With sleepers laid and weathered, the overall scene reminded me of some shots I have seen of the equally fascinating Taralga branch shortly after services on that line had terminated.  In that line's case it was only a couple of months before rails were lifted between the terminus and Roslyn and the remainder of the infrastructure and right of way was left to decay. Another interesting point is that when the Crookwell line ( parent line of the Taralga Branch ) closed in the early such attempt to reclaim rails was undertaken and as such they are still largely in place.  This fact probably has more to do with the timing of the Taralga Branch coinciding with a shortage of rails state wide during that era rather than the fact that the Crookwell Line never being officially closed.  

Of course the wayside station that I have chosen to model was located on the Camden Line but I would imagine the same method of decommissioning would have taken place as per the Taralga Line although in the Camden Line's case I have no idea of the wrecking ball timetable and weather the sleepers were removed shortly after the rails were lifted or concurrently.  Maybe one of the readers of this blog may be more learned than this scribe and chip in some details?.

Anyway I have captured this imagined scene for "historical" purposes as the last few detail items to complete this diorama will certainly add the activities of a working wayside station and the irony is that it will obliterate the future...

One thing is for sure and that is....we certainly have a great and varied hobby we have chosen to indulge in!!!


Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Calm Before The Storm...


Well with a definite date now set for surgery things are in wind down mode here.  The original date coincided with the Sydney Convention...but a few technical hitches and some moderate flooding here last week meant a fortnight delay which will now culminate with a chemically induced daytime nap mixed with the removal of some "iffy" bits on the 15th.  So much for having private health insurance...all that buys you is a free morning paper here at Goulburn Base Hospital!!!.    I attended a Pre-Op Clinic earlier in the week and while I am unsure of who invented this medical ritual...It was a pleasant 4 hours of poking, prodding and sometimes inane questioning all designed, I am sure, to satisfy some medical boffin's legal responsibilities...  I am no further informed as to my prognosis...with the only underlying concern being that the tumour could reveal the newly coined "Anna Bligh" disease something made patently clear by the surgeon... I have been there before and will just approach this episode same as before...So if I go MIA for a couple of weeks from the 15th and the emails go unanswered...I am not ignoring you intentionally.

Now back to some interesting stuff....We have progressed the first "trestle project" ( Codenamed "The Alan Parson's Project" for the Austin Powers fans out there ) to a point where most component refinements have been completed and we can move on to manufacture as soon as I return.  If things are a bit quiet here next week I may make a bit of headway but realistically nothing earthshattering will happen for about 3 weeks.

So what has changed you may ask....

The girder and base design have been modified to facilitate the easy addition of a proposed extension kit when available. 

A decision has been made to include pre lasered base jigs in the kits as I am certain the minimal extra cost will be offset by the ease and accuracy they will provide both while building, transporting and siting the finished structure.   These bases have been split and include either the original kit can be built or an extension added seemlessly. 

The girders have also been split and will allow a joint to be made via an overlap at the central corbel.  We have also decided to manufacture and include a jig for aligning and gluing of the girders and deck transoms.  The correct spacing of the girders is seen as crucial to the overall kit as other components rely on this fact. 

While talking transoms... a decision has been made to manufacture the transoms in pre-spaced "groups" with the joining webs spaced to be hidden underneath the running rails.  For those who want to add the transoms piece by piece...they can be easily separated. 

So that's the latest in trestle land at the moment.....Talk Soon...

Wings are almost ready...

Split Girders ( top ) and Pre-Spaced Transoms

Split Girder joint detail...

Interlocking base plates with pile holes...

Girder jig...

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Credit Where Credit Is Due...


It is very easy and sometimes warranted to throw mud at a manufacturer, supplier or hobby shop when things go wrong. From time to time you also wonder the attitudes of some of these establishments when you dare to seek advice on the status of an order.  In my case, being solely reliant on mail order,  if an order is horribly overdue when no other advice has been given I make a call just in case the postal system has dropped the ball and the longer I leave it can have an adverse effect on any meaningful search for the errant package which in turn can mean someone will be out of pocket.  On some occasions these calls are met with a pre-conceived attitude that I am merely whinging about the non delivery of an order and am just being rudely impatient.

Well...there is always the converse situation and the service goes "above and beyond" and to balance things up I will post the experience here.

I must firstly advise that I have no vested interest in this establishment, the owners or staff...

I went to the Hobbyland  ( Hornsby NSW ) website late last week and while perusing the site a particular rollingstock kit took my eye and I decided to take advantage of the online purchasing system to place the order.  On Sunday I had a call from the store to explain that the kits I had ordered were sold ( over the counter ) the morning after I had placed the order and at that moment they were out of stock.  Genuine apologies for the oversight were offered and I was given the option to either await a backorder or a refund was also offered.  I elected to put these kits on backorder and enquired regarding the expected delivery date.  This morning I had another call from Hobbyland advising that the kits were now in stock and were leaving today and a follow up call is to be expected just to ensure all is well and the order has arrived etc etc.

Yes, they made the error but had no hesitation in being proactive by advising me of this fact by ringing me on a SUNDAY!!!...They could have remained faceless by utilising an email... The promises they offered have been honoured and the order is on the way...and I have been kept in the loop throughout.

This style of retail customer service is largely and sadly a thing of the past and my experience with this retailer over the last few days has yielded many lessons and indeed some have not been lost on me as a business owner...

Well Done Hobbyland!!!


Monday, 24 June 2013

Things Keep Bubbling Along


Have made some progress on the "Timber Opening" or trestle project.  It is convenient that the railways loved utilising 12" x 12" girder components for a host of structures as it makes my life easier.  This example is of the 14' variety which equates to 14' centre to centre of the bents.  The transoms have been given bolt detail which follows prototype practice in being staggered from one transom to the next.  All other detail has been included and the only divergence from prototype being the capwales and angle bracings not checked into the piles and while this feature would be nice to is very time consuming and to my eyes the present method does not detract too much from the overall scheme.

The base utilised for construction is 3mm acrylic with the pile holes laser cut as a jig arrangement.  The difficult part about this project is the age old question...How Long and How High???.  To ever be considered as a kit it would need to be decided as each modeller has their own requirements.  In the next few weeks we will ( with help from other modellers I hope ) decide which variety to look at first and try and work out a construction method which utilises a span by span ability...easily said!!! 

Well if nothing else it has been an enjoyable time spent researching, measuring, developing and building this example.  There are wing assemblies completed for this version and I will post some completed shots.  We have now also built a jig which when loaded with timber,  machines the rebate in the outer piles where they meet the girders and irrespective of what height the bents are made this will make this operation a hell of a lot easier.  Now to find a spot on the layout!!!

The jig for rebating the piles....12 at a time is certainly better than hand filing on at a time!!!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Another Day, Another Adventure...


Decided to go "over the hill" to Gunning this morning to catch up with some friends for a spot of breakfast. For those unfamiliar with the area, the old highway is still available as a brilliant alternative to the new highway and Gunning bypass.  The old road can be accessed near Breadalbane if heading south from Goulburn and runs at arm's length (and sometimes closer) to the Main Southern Line through such exotic locations as the aforementioned Breadalbane, Mutmutbilly, Cullerin, Fish River and of course Gunning before rejoining the main highway to the south.  There are plenty of photographic locations along this stretch of road and for the history fan there are plenty of opportunities to marvel at the original railway alignment that can still be readily seen at many locations which provides a window to the past before the main southern line was duplicated through this area around 100 years ago.  I must confess that if I had a week to spare it would be a timely and enjoyable experience to photographically document these deviations and compile them for an article in one of the relevant publications.

So what has all of this got to do with this post.... Well, there are not many timber overbridges left on the main south and there is one located  a couple of kilometres north of Fish River.  This angle approach double track span example has been on my "must investigate" list for a few years now and today was the day!.  A few years ago this bridge was in a sorry state and when I one day witnessed a group of workers and the dreaded orange barrier tape near the bridge I thought I had blown my chances of recording it's existence and was somewhat surprised when later informed they were here to repair and not "nuke" the thing.  To make matters even better this repair was to be carried out utilising like for like materials and not a slab of pre-stressed concrete in sight.

The trek to the bridge was taken by foot as the access road was quite wet and boggy in places and a walk was not going to kill me.  With the winter now upon us and the temperature in single digits,  I still encountered a shingle back lizard sunning himself and a regulation size brown snake sunning himself next to the bridge....we had a short discussion and came to the agreement no further action would be taken if we both minded our own business...He dozed, while I took photos... a fair enough outcome I thought.  While on the subject of animals....why is it that cows have a modicum of intelligence and sheep are completely devoid of any mental ability???....

This particular bridge would have originally come into being when the line was duplicated and realigned to the east by about 200 metres which would have meant a resumption of the landholders pasture which in turn would have ( without the bridge ) rendered the land on the other side of the mainlines inaccessible.  The bridge while certainly able to withstand vehicular crossings, would have provided safe and easy stock transfer rather than traversing the mainlines via a level crossing.  The shots below also serve as another example of a timber bridge with square piles...but the design is certainly different to a main road type overbridge.  The renovation has been done in  a historically sympathetic way with only the mini-orb corrugated sheeting being an obvious sign of the present.

This example of a timber overbridge certainly gives me another example to design around...All in all a good day!!!

As a modelling footnote, I may just look at incorporating some "deviations" to my layout if given the right circumstances as they certainly would add some interesting scenes and points for discussion.



Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Charm Of The Camden Line...Continued


Have made some progress on the wayside station of Grahams Hill or ( Graham's Hill ).  The correct grammar of the location depends upon which piece of research material you are reading at the time.  The one photo I have appears not to show the apostrophe in the name...but several government maps and other material do show it.  My apologies if I have erred. 

I am quite happy with the way the model is shaping up and as the accompanying shots show there is not a lot left to do before the surrounding landscaping,scenery and of course the reason for being...the track, are fitted.  The roof still needs sheeting, corners of the shed will have capping pieces fitted, handrails will be painted white, final weathering can then take place and I will need to research a little more and hopefully uncover whether or not seating inside the waiting shed was afforded for intrepid passengers.

Even though this particular station did not sport a sign of the magnitude shown in the photographs...I took the opportunity to trial a method of manufacturing station signage and while the early results are promising I will keep trying to track down the correct railway font.  I am unsure whether the font was a foundry font specifically designed for the NSWGR or was a derivation of a proprietary font.  Time will tell and it may be that I will need to reconstruct the alphabet as per the original font and keep on file for future use.  For those interested...the sign is lasered giving some 3D relief...but an alternative material will be trialled to give a deeper effect and at that time screw heads will be added to the appropriate spots on the letters to add a bit more realism.

I was asked today whether this item will ever see the light of day as a kit.  It is certainly a relatively easy construct and the components certainly could be redesigned to streamline the construction plus I would feel sure that the Camden Line was not the only location that ever sported this type of platform I guess if the demand was there it could be slated in to the ever growing program.

I will post on progress sometime in the future when the scene is complete and I am certainly looking forward to attempting the other wayside stations on this extremely interesting line.

The sign has yet to find a final location....if at all.



Friday, 14 June 2013

The Charm Of The Camden Line...Another Challenge.


Around 5 or 6 years ago while researching Cream Sheds, I came across an example of the shed located at Narellan and during this time developed a fascination for the Campbelltown to Camden Railway.  In more recent times again due to research my fondness of this quaint little branchline of yesteryear has been rekindled.  Whichever way one looks at is a ripe prototype subject for modelling purposes and for me has just about every aspect that I find enjoyable about the hobby.  Firstly is the plethora of differing styles of architecture and variety in the infrastructure which first draws the eye.  The grades, curves and limited length of trains lends itself to a prospective layout builder who has limited space and the ability to selectively compress the distances between stations.  Operationally the branch has a lot to offer as well.   It would also be a winner for the modeller with limited funds as there were really only two regular classes of steam locos that traversed the line and probably another four or so classes of diesel power that graced the branchline, with the only drawback about the required locomotives being that none of them are commercially available RTR...but there is a glimmer of hope with the 20 class being mooted by Austrains that soon may be available.  Rollingstock would also be a rather comparatively cheap option given the limited variety of traffic sources on the line.  For me, this paragraph does little, as my decision has been made and the bulk of the track for my layout has been already laid...but in another life this branch would figure high on my list for a myriad of reasons.

So what has this branchline have to do with this post???.  Well as much as the main stations on this line have familiar styles of station buildings, it is the wayside stations and the sheer variety that have over the years, caught my eye and in particular the style of platform construction.  I would feel sure that there are similar examples of this style on other branchlines...but for me it was time to attempt to recreate at least one in model form. I have a plan to model four locations but have decided to commence with Graham's Hill which was first station on the down after leaving Narellan for Camden.

The construction of the platform is essentially a "pig sty" of recycled sleepers for the main structure with a recycled sleeper decking.  Both ends sport a traditional ramp to ground level.  Of interest is the platform height on all the Camden "wayside" examples, which appear to be at a lower level than normal platform height and this possibly has more to do with these location being of a lowly stature in the scheme of things rather than anything else. Graham's Hill had a small waiting room with a skillion roof which I have decided to mount on a sleeper stack base only because of the lack of any evidence (that I have) to the contrary.  Indeed I have no actual dimensions for this location at all and all dimensions modelled have been visually scaled off photographs.

So...while the Cream Shed project referred to in earlier posts has had the landscaping done and is in the process of drying ( a lengthy process in Southern Tableland Winters )...I have made a start on the Graham's Hill wayside station and hopefully I will get a chance over the weekend to complete the main structure and it will then join the queue of  cameos awaiting landscaping....As per usual I will post progress as it occurs.

There are many journals and books with reference to this line...but for those interested... in Byways Of Steam 21 there is a story of the Camden Line and within is a page devoted to photos of the wayside stations...

The Basic Platform Assembly

With Decking Now Added

Waiting Room Frame and Cladding Awaiting Fitment
Waiting Room Base Added...Waiting Room Shed and Handrails Will Complete The Scene...


Monday, 10 June 2013

Cream Shed Part 2...And Another Bout Of The Yips.


While I did manage to "fly under the domestic radar" for most of the weekend...Some self imposed changes to my little project did hold up proceedings a little.  I have this little affliction when modelling a specific project and while I have normally over researched the intended subject well beforehand and have it all planned in my head...I tend to get the yips when sitting at the work bench, itching to begin, which sees me scurry off to do some more research before the glue is opened and the paint jars are unsealed.  I guess you can never do enough research....but this last minute procrastination can be very frustrating...

While on the subject of research...there is one interesting point about Cream Sheds that does deserve a mention.  The vast majority of skillion roofed railway structures are designed and sited so that the roof slopes towards the track and the humble little Cream Shed does the exact opposite.  I have no idea as to the reason for this intriguing anomaly....but even some of the departmental "General Arrangement" drawings and the invaluable Greg Edwards drawings of the Type E sheds, show the slope towards the track just like the rest of the platform structures.  I have spent countless hours perusing all research material and photos and I cannot find one example that follows the government guidelines.  All photos I have show the roof sloping away from the track.  If any one can point me to an opposite example, I would be appreciative.    One word of caution ( hard learned advice ) is to never blindly utilise the "General Arrangement" drawings as the only source of information when researching an item....I have found too many times that the "As Built" structures can vary modestly or hugely from these drawings...The reason for these deviations are many and varied and deserves a post all of it's own...but not for now...     

In my last post I outlined the method in which the shed would be sited and while this was prototypically correct for at least two locations, it quickly became apparent ( to me anyway ) that this fitment was not in the best interests of the overall appearance of the finished scene and a decision was made to modify the plan to a more traditional approach. The attached photos will show what has been achieved as against the description of the planned project in the last post...The scene is far from complete but has been very enjoyable so far.  The completed platform facing will not be wasted and will form the basis of another scene later on.