Thursday, 16 March 2017

Contract out your fencing

Fences are a fact of life in both urban and rural environments and in my quest to 'model the ordinary', they are certainly a feature that should be included as part of the scenery. Several of my earlier posts have discussed some aspects AND the frustrations of modelling fences.

As I mentioned previously, the tedious nature of the task, particularly when building a standard barb wire fence quickly dents the enthusiasm. Consequently, the task frequently gets put in the 'too hard' or 'lower priority' basket. To overcome this, I decided to call in some extra help and engaged a fencing contractor, Paddy's Fences to finish the task.

While I had been contemplating this solution for a while, it all fell into place when I found some castings of barbed wire coils manufactured by Model Train Buildings  ( ) at the recent Forestville Exhibition. The figures came from  second hand stalls at other exhibitions and the Holden ute was purchased a few years ago.

The contractor's name acknowledges a recent visit to the layout by an eight year old great nephew. While he seemed to enjoy running the trains, he definitely enjoyed playing with the red ute. Paddy's favourite ute became the workhorse for Paddy's Fences.

I haven't recorded the time spent building this little cameo but it is definitely a lot less than would have been expended running and tensioning all of the 'wire' myself!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Operating Philip's Creek

Despite Philip’s Creek being in existence for around 20 years, it is only in the last few years that I have given much thought as to how the layout may be operated in a way that is a vague approximation of operations on the Main North during the steam/diesel transition era. However, before I could put anything in place, I had to get my mind around a few things.  

Firstly, I needed to recognise that the layout is built around a single station somewhere on the Main North albeit with two small branch lines that join the mainline in the vicinity of Philip’s Creek. It can never be a long main line run with several major stations with industries providing destinations and a demand for freight and passengers. For Philips Creek, other destinations are represented by the staging yards at either end of the point to point layout. The only industries on the layout are the coal mine at Philip’s Creek, the timber mill on the Mount Windeatt branch line and wheat silo on the as yet unnamed branch line. So rather than some form of timetable for the whole line, I am pushed towards operating a defined or set sequence of trains passing through the station including any necessary actions associated with goods collections and delivery.

The second issue I needed to resolve was an approximate location for the fictitious Philip’s Creek on the Main North. I have always wanted to incorporate coal, wheat and timber facilities into the layout and this desire does influence Philip’s Creek’s approximate location. While one more coal mine near the Main North does not indicate a specific area in the late 1960s Hunter Valley, it probably does set a northern limit around Muswellbrook. However, the desire to incorporate wheat and timber does narrow the possible locations. I am not aware of any wheat silos being linked to the Main North by rail south of Singleton. Similarly, the southernmost timber milling that potentially could be connected to the Main North is the former state forests approximately east of Muswellbrook in what is now the Mount Royal National Park.  

Consequently, for operational purposes, I have located Philip’s Creek somewhere between Muswellbrook in the north and the Hunter River bridge at Singleton in the south. An additional coal mine in that vicinity is not unrealistic and a second branch line just south of the current Merriwa branch line is possible. While I am not aware of any rail links to the state forests around Mount Royal, it is a feasible scenario.

Locating Philip’s Creek in the area between Muswellbrook and Singleton has lead to a few constraints and assumptions. 

It defines the tonnage that each locomotive can haul based on the Working Timetables for the Northern District. Fortunately, a very kind person has uploaded a selection of these working timetables to the internet and they can be found at

I also understand that in the late 1960s, the capacity of the Hunter River bridge at Singleton limited the Class 60 Garretts to a single locomotive, thus restricting the amount of coal moved south from Muswellbrook in one train to 1150 tons (Working Timetable for Goods and Passenger Trains also Loads for Trains p363. 1200 tons permitted in some circumstances). Trains pulled by a Class 60 heading north were restricted to 650 tons (ibid p361 up to 775 tons in some circumstances).

To ensure my FO carriages get an outing periodically, I have also assumed that local passenger services run from Newcastle to Muswellbrook, rather than Singleton as I understand they did in the 1960s. In addition, the lack of turning facilities at Philips Creek means that wheat from the branch line must proceed to Muswellbrook before being sent south to Newcastle and beyond. Finally, as a major crossing point, the length of the Philip’s Creek crossing loops will dictate the length of some trains particularly wheat trains moving along the Main North.

The following spreadsheet extract shows a sample of the sequence developed to date. Currently there are 33 separate activities.

For most activities, the Up and Down trains cross at Philip’s Creek. However, the red and yellow cell colourings flag movements where extra attention is required. They are a consequence of limited space in the staging areas at either end of the layout. Because of the staging area space restrictions it is necessary for the longest trains to cross at Philip’s Creek so that each can occupy the space vacated by the other (red cells). Not ideal, but it is a necessary compromise. Even with this adjustment, overcrowding does occur and so several optional pick-up goods have been scheduled to permit a rebalancing of rolling stock (yellow cells).

There are no specific timings associated with the sequence and each item is run and ticked off when time permits. When complete, the sequence is restarted.
The choice of locomotives for each activity is dependent on availability of suitable locomotive at the respective staging area. The estimated load for each train will normally determine the locomotive’s suitability however, there are a few usual combinations reflecting usual operations as captured in photos taken at the time:

·         6018 usually hauls the coal train between Muswellbrook and Port Waratah;
·         A double headed diesel combination of 44, 45 or 442 usually hauls the block wheat trains to and from Werris Creek;
·         The local passenger service is usually hauled by 3390 or a 48 class;
·         The mail train is usually diesel hauled;
·         5248 usually hauls the wheat train on the branch line;
·         5069 usually hauls the coal train (usually a mix of CCH and LCH) to and from the Philip’s Creek coal mine;
·         The 30 class is permanently allocated to the Mount Windeatt branch line

 So, at this point in time, I have process that provides a form of operation that works reasonably well for block loads (wheat and coal) and passenger services. However, the composition of pick-up goods trains is still a ‘hit or miss’ affair depending on what happens to be in each staging area at the time. It doesn’t take account of any demand for specific loads or the need to relocate empties for future loads. I know some modellers use a card system to address this but this is something that will be tackled at a future time if and when I get motivated.

In the meantime, at least now I have some structure and reason why specific trains move through Philip’s Creek rather than ad hoc running based on whatever takes my fancy on the day. Hopefully this also means that most of the rolling stock, locomotives, carriages and wagons at least get some use periodically.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Job for Grandpa, Part 2 - Face time

I mentioned in my most recent post ( A Job for Grandpa ) that I anticipated the biggest challenge of the 'rebirthing' job would be the creation of the Thomas face.This has proved to be correct. While it was easy to find a 2D image on the internet and scale it up to the necessary diameter, creating a 3D shape has required a fair bit of extra effort.

Previously, I anticipated using styrofoam to gain the necessary depth but I have noticed some modellers using clay as a construction material. When my wife, quite independently,  also suggested this material, I thought I would give it a try.

I found a suitably sized image to use as a pattern and glued it to the piece of timber that serves as the front of the boiler. I then moulded the clay to give the appropriate relief and a very sunburnt Thomas.

Not surprisingly, as the clay dried out, it cracked in several places leaving Thomas' face looking more like the face of someone of my age. I used 'Weldbond' glue to fill the mini chasms and this only enhanced the image of a geriatric Thomas.

The next step was to cover the whole face with an automotive body filler. Now Thomas' face started to look like someone recovering from a bad case of chicken pox, regardless of several attempts at sanding and refilling.

Several coats of grey primer were then applied before the mouth and eye details were added. The final step will be the application of a couple of  gloss vanish to seal everything.

There are a few mistakes, omissions and a fair bit of modeller's licence in this version of Thomas which I'm sure most readers can identify. However, if any of the grandchildren under the age of 10 comment on these, then I know I have someone who should be seriously encouraged in the model railway hobby.

However, it does seem that I will complete it in time for Christmas and, ultimately, that's what it is all about; refurbishing and overhauling a toy that has survived for almost 60 years, to provide enjoyment for the next generation of grandchildren.

As the Christmas tree is now up and decorated, it is a clear sign that, again, the festive season and the end of another year are rapidly approach.

As always at this time of the year, I would like to acknowledge all those individuals who have assisted me with comments, advice, information or materials as well as the opportunity to participate in operating sessions, all of which have enhanced my modelling activities in 2016.

And finally, to all readers, best wishes to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas and a very happy 2017.   

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A Job for Grandpa

This post is somewhat off topic as it doesn't deal directly with modelling on Philip's Creek. However, as other issues demand a greater share of my time, it does represent the primary focus of my railway activities as other issues demand And, there is a tenuous link to Philip's Creek.

By way of background, in the late 1950s my grandfather built me a toy locomotive. The photo on the right shows my younger brother and I in the backyard of our family home in what was then fairly rural Normanhurst. The photo also shows very clearly that at one time in my life, I did have hair on the top of my head. The toy was used in its intended role for a few years but as one got older, and interests changed, it was reroled as a stagecoach or wagon or some kind of fortification. Eventually, it was put aside and remained derelict under my parents for about the next 15 years.

In 1982, now with my own family starting, my father decided to resurrect the toy and refurbish it for my two-year old son. With his extensive metal working skills, he rebuilt the chassis, added the spark arrestor smoke stack, a fresh coat of paint and a new face. Again, it was a popular toy for the next 10 years as our children and their friends moved through that 2-8 year age range.

But again, time took its toll and the locomotive was stored, also again, under my parent's house because of my frequent moves.

With the arrival of grandchildren, its time for  locomotive to undergo its next refurbishment and, this time, as the grandfather, it is now my turn to undertake the task.

One of the first questions to be resolved was the locomotive's identity. When my grandfather built the toy, as you can see from the first photo, he aligned it to the premier locomotive on the NSW railways at the time. As far as I know, 3801 was never painted red and the reason why he selected that colour has been lost in time. I never thought to ask him while he was alive but I suspect that it may be a link back to what he saw as a young boy in Birmingham in the early 1900s.

My father, or more probably my mother decided to use the name 'Tootles' harking back to a popular golden book story in my early childhood. Again, there was some 'modeller's licence' regarding the colour.

Now that it is my turn, I have decided to rebirth the locomotive as the ever popular Thomas. This was an easy decision to make. Thomas the Tank Engine has been a popular figure in literature and TV for two generations. It was a favourite of our children and now our grandchildren as evidenced from the photo taken at the recent Thomas the Tank Engine Day at Thirlmere.

So now 'Tootles' (nee '3801') will be reborn as 'Thomas'. This means a greater change in its appearance to create something that looks like a tank engine, a repaint in the appropriate shade of blue and the creation of a new face.

Work has commenced with the replacement of the wheels that were probably close to 60 years old together with some additional facade works to create a coal bunker. At the time of writing, work has also started on the side tanks.

The one area that is worrying me is how to create the Thomas face that is around 300mm in diameter. Internet searches have not identified a suitable product and I may have to resort to a sculptured solution probably using styrofoam on timber and then sealed with some form of resin. If anyone know where a commercial product is available, I would appreciate any information.

Finally, to that tenuous link to Philip's Creek - well actually there are two. The first is fairly obvious in that this activity is deflecting me from other modelling activities. The second is a little more obscure. If this toy can enhance an interest in railways and perhaps modelling amongst one or more of the grandchildren, it may be that Philip's Creek, in some form or another, might continue beyond my remaining time on this earth.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Eureka 50 Class - a few more tweaks

About 12 months ago when I wrote my first post on the Eureka 50 class
I noted that the front pony wheels derailed on a few occasions. At the time, I thought the derailment was due to a track problem but the derailments have continued at various locations and I note that James McInerney reported a similar problem in his review in the June issue of AMRM.

James removed the spring which applies a downward pressure on the wheels, relying instead on the weight of the wheel assembly to prevent derailment. I also removed the spring but also opted to add a little extra weight to the wheels. I superglued two pieces of lead flashing onto the pony truck. The piece folded on the top was beaten thin to allow room for lateral movement.

With the loss of my front coupling adaptor, I also gave up and fitted an automatic coupler to the front of 5069. I chose not to use coupler supplied but rather opted for a KD. Not prototypical, I know but it makes the movement of the four wheel hoppers to the Philip's Creek coal mine so much easier and allows locomotive to be used for other shunting tasks as required. I used a coupler that I had on hand and fitted it as outlined in Peter Jarvis' article in the August 2016 AMRM. This was a very simple job and the biggest challenge was drilling the appropriate hole in the coupler.

The final challenge is one that I haven't not been able to resolve, specifically, the clicking noise in the drive mechanism. For my locomotive, the sound only occurs when travelling in reverse. A comment from Jim on my earlier post identified that the sound came from the second pair of driving wheels when counted from the front. From my investigations, Jim's observations are correct.  I noticed that, unlike the other three driving wheel sets, the second pair allows some vertical movement as if the holes through the chassis was too large or a pair of bushes was missing. I have also noticed that the noise only occurs when travelling in reverse. The noise may be a consequence of the loose wheel set being realigned and slipping on the driving gear as connecting rods move through their arc.

However, all of this speculation does help resolve it and frankly, I can't see a solution beyond a significant dismantling of the drive assembly, something that is well beyond my skill set particularly without any drawings or schematics. Maybe instead, I should invest in a sound decoder that will mask the non prototypical noise with traditional steam locomotive sounds.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

A Few More Buildings

Staying on the theme of buildings for one more post, I though I would put up a few photos of two buildings that I have completed over the past few months. These will be located on the as yet unnamed township that lies at the end of the newly constructed branchline. Both are commercial kits with a few extras added.

The service station is a Structorama kit purchased a few years ago. It is an all styrene kit and it was simple to construct. With the exception of the sign at the front of the service station, the other extra details are a mix of Kerroby Models (fuel bowsers and 44 gallon drums) and other items from the spares box. The sign was scratch built based on photos found on the internet. I didn't realise how much photographic information there is available on 1960s service stations until I started searching.

Each bowser is still missing a golden fleece statuette on top but I'm not sure what I can use for that role, possibly N scale sheep.

Some interior detail has been included but it has been lost unless I add some internal lighting at a later time.

The second model is a Hawksmoor fibro branchline signal box. Branchline Modeller Number 3 has two good photos of the prototype on pages 41 and 43.

The model was cast in polyurethane, a material I find a bit more difficult to use than styrene. The major elements fitted together without difficulty but I put the smaller components such as the hand railing aside and replaced them with styrene.

When I get around to naming the branchline terminus, I will add the appropriate name plate.

For these two models, I have attempted to denote individual sheets of CGI by drawing thin pencil lines at the appropriate spacing on the roof and metal walls. I have never been 100 percent satisfied applying individual sheets of commercial GCI  and it was quite a tedious process. It seems to work reasonably well although, perhaps, the lines could be a bit less pronounced with some additional weathering washes.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

LJ Models

A short paragraph in the News section of the current edition of  AMRM noted that LJ Models, the company that manufactures a range of NSW and Victorian card building kits is ceasing production. The article noted that LJ Models had been in operation for around 25 years, and quietly producing an extensive range of HO and N scale products.

I suspect that there are not many NSW and Victorian prototypical layouts that don't include at least one or two of these kits. Philip's Creek is no exception. Indeed, around 50 percent of the structures on the layout are LJ products, and I have included a few photos of some of their models in place on the layout.

Over time there have been some evolution as to the way I have assembled these kits. Most have been constructed with some level of internal detail and I must confess that most of the kits were built with some form of internal reinforcing. Sometimes, the corrugated cladding or roofs have been replaced with commercial products. I also had difficulty folding or bending the smaller parts included in the kits, relying instead on styrene or brass for such detailing.

Now that the company is ceasing production, the final two photos show the last two LJ kits that I will probably construct. Both are sitting in their proposed locations on the branch line now under construction.

AMRM identifies John Thomas as the proprietor of LJ Models. While we have never met, I would like to thank John for his products, his commitment to the hobby and although he doesn't know it, a significant contribution to the development of Philip's Creek.Your efforts have been appreciated!!