Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Modelling gum trees revisited

Two years ago I wrote about modelling gum trees (The challenges of modelling gum trees). One of the unresolved issues in that post was the challenge of getting the density of foliage right. I have always found that the materials used for the foliage do not give a good representation of the gum tree 'parachute' canopy.

The twisted wire method simulated the major branch supporting each parachute canopy but the lighter twig structure supporting the canopy was always missing. I tried  using Polyfibre and Foliage Clusters, both Woodland Scenics products, but these created a rounder shape producing canopies that seemed too dense.

A little later, I stumbled across a Luke Towan's YouTube clip 'Make Realistic Gum Trees using Seafoam - Fast & Easy'. The key to this method was the use of Gaugemaster Seafoam, a product that I had not encountered previously but one that has apparently been around for a while. I had located a few other more general references on the web but Luke's clip appears to be the only one using it for gum trees.

The Seafoam has a shape which provides a good representation of the branch and lighter twig structure of the gum tree but as Luke notes, the Seafoam 'tree' requires significant pruning to get to the general gum tree shape.  I constructed a few trees using Luke's technique and they were a considerable improvement on my earlier efforts. The photo above is shows one of these now planted behind the engine shed at Kingston Plains.

The only problem with the Seafoam is that the length of each is around 100-150mm which scales to around 9-13m in HO. While this length is suitable for younger trees, Wikipedia tells me that a medium sized gum tree ranges in size from 10 to 30 m so I needed something extra to model a few larger trees. For these, I used the same technique as I wrote about previously, namely using a small stick or twig as the main trunk, drilling holes into the timber and gluing the Seaform stems as the major branches to the tree. Where necessary, 'No More Gaps' was used to ensure a smooth transition between the two. A photo above shows the skeletal form of the tree. I then applied foliage to each of the branches using a method similar to that outlined in Luke's video.

One lesson learnt, Seafoam stems are fragile and liable to bend or break as they are inserted into the main trunk. It also remains to be seen if gravity causes the branches to sag over time.

The following two photos show the difference between my earlier attempts and the Seafoam tree. I'm continuing to experiment and my next attempt will probably involve sedum plants. I don't see them as the base for major trees but rather something used to create background vegetation that will thicken up the overall appearance of bush.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Introducing 3088

There are several gaps in my collection of locomotives. I focus on those that operated in the Upper Hunter in late 1960s/early 1970s. However, with the opening of the Kingston Plains line, inspired by the Merriwa  branch, perhaps the most glaring gap was the C30T. This was a class of diminutive locomotives which gave sterling service on remote branch lines throughout NSW until the end of the steam era. Earlier in the year, I had placed an order for one of the recently announced Austrains models (3090) but these are not expected until early next year.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was given a 'heads up' about a second hand brass 30T that was up for sale. (Thanks Bob!). A quick negotiation, a funds transfer and the new addition arrived. Incidentally, until it arrived, I had not actually seen the model. I had been told that the locomotive included a six wheel tender although the locomotives that I wanted to model were fitted with the larger ex 50 class eight-wheeled tender. That was not a problem as I had a surplus tender from the time when I fitted a 5000 gallon turret tender to my DJH 50 class back in early 2014.( http://philipscreek.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/the-andian-turret-tender-now-in-service.html ) From the description of the model, I anticipated that it had a drumhead superheated boiler, so it came as a pleasant surprise when the model turned out to have a saturated boiler. It was a no-brainer, the locomotive would be rebirthed as 3088, a saturated boiler engine, located at the Muswellbrook depot in the late 1960s before being replaced by 3090.

After fitting some additional insulation and wiring to support the use of a decoder, the top of the new tender was removed to allow storage for a decoder and stay alive. A new removable coal load was then fashioned to permit ongoing access to this space.

A headlight also needed to be fitted and this was fabricated from a old brass casting that I had kept from the time when I built my Lloyd's 30 Class model many years ago. It just goes to show the wisdom of never throwing anything out!

The tender was repainted but there is a slight difference in the shade of black between it and the engine. I suppose I should have repainted the locomotive as well but the existing painting had been done so well that I couldn't bring myself to redo it. Hopefully, weathering, once applied, will minimise the impact of this slight differential.

As the locomotive was being tested, an intermittent short made its presence known. It appeared on a few large radii curves, so the pony wheels were immediately suspect. After a few hours of fiddling and the application of several coats of superglue on various parts of the chassis to act as an insulator, the problem appears to have receded (at this time I'm not going to say 'fixed').

Unfortunately, my stock of steam locomotive decals has been reduced to the point where a replacement sheet has had to be ordered. So this activity and weathering have yet to be completed.

I have to say that the TCS KA4 stay alive makes a significant difference to the performance of the locomotive. I appreciate that I'm well behind the times here, but this is the first time that I have used this product and it provides for much smoother running while allowing one to ignore those pesky hesitations on my old Atlas points. That said, there is still  one point (in this instance Peco not Atlas) which still continues to frustrate me. Clearly a different approach is necessary for this location.

By the way, based on feed back after my previous post, I had thinned out the grass in the Kingston Plains turntable well but to look at the photos, it seems more work is needed. Perhaps HO scale Roundup is needed!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The End of the Line

In my most recent post, I wrote about the consequences of my decision to install a turntable as part of the Kingston Plains terminus. It focused on the access issues associated with that decision but this missive provides a bit more information on the actual turntable installation.

I mentioned that I had purchased an Anton's Trains 60ft Steller turntable. This type of turntable or the 50ft alternative were found at many branch line stations in NSW. The model is mounted on a 300mm square polyurethane base. It needed to be trimmed slightly to fit on my baseboard. Styrofoam was added to raise it up to the matching levels and then my usual landscaping techniques were used to match the extension to the main Kingston Plain module. The static grass was added across the whole area to ensure a consistent appearance although I am still not happy with my efforts to conceal the gap between the extension and the rest of the module.

Weathering of the actual turntable was a relatively simple matter particularly as I could remove it for easier access. It was sprayed with several coats of Humbrol rust wash. I added additional weathering on the walkways to reflect a well worn timber decking.

I was less certain about how to scenic the internal bowl. Initially, I anticipated a fairly barren space with a number of  grimy patches as locomotives, dropping grease and oil, were rotated over the ground.  However, after looking at several photos, it was clear that grass did grow in this type of turntable well. Consequently, I added a cover of static grass (predominately late summer and autumn colours)  over the previously grimed surface.

The turntable is rotated using a simple manual geared mechanism operated via the knob shown on the photo below left. After a bit of basic research, I purchased a Tam Valley Dual Frog Juicer and Auto-Reverser. It was easy to install on the underside of the extension and, to date, it has performed well.


The installation of the turntable is the final major feature to be added to the station area of Kingston Plains and also denotes the end of any significant new construction on Philip's Creek as a whole in its present location. As discussed in the preceding post, the layout's current location has no further opportunity for expansion and so, short of moving house, that's it for any further extension to the layout. In some respects this represents a sad point but I do have contingency plans just in case circumstances change but it will be a miracle of loaves and fishes magnitude if extra space becomes available in the foreseeable future.

Rather, it's now time to focus on the multitude of unfinished jobs around the layout. As can be seen from the photo below, there is a lot more detail to be added to the Kingston Plains module. Then there are backdrops around most of the layout to be installed or painted as well as plenty more trees to be planted, plus a refresh on some of the  original scenery that is now around 20 years old. And that doesn't even contemplate operational and running issues. So no rest for the wicked!!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Breathe In! Getting into and around the layout

Access has always been a challenge for Philip's Creek. As the layout has moved through various locations and configurations, it has grown steadily until, as regular readers would have noted, Philip's Creek now resides in one of three adjoining garages. The other two garages have different uses and the domestic manager steadfastly refuses to countenance any extension of Philip's Creek into these. Unsurprisingly, and probably like many other layouts, space on Philip's Creek is tight with narrow access passageways measuring somewhere between 500-600mm. For someone who, for much of his recent working life, has railed about the need for access within buildings for maintenance, there's probably a fair degree of hypocrisy in this, but it is what it is.  Crab walking is the normal way of getting around the layout. This isn't too much of a problem for just one operator but when others visit the layout, things can get a little cosy.

Being very aware of the access challenges as work on the Kingston Plains progressed, I was forced to compromise and accept a glaring omission from a typical branchline terminus - a turntable. The reason for this compromise was fairly straight forward, a need to ensure a reasonable width (about 600mm) access leading into the layout area from the main garage .

However, it was during a recent chat with a neighbour that I found myself describing how I could add a turntable to the end of the terminus. The consequence of this small extension would be a 50 percent reduction in the width of the access passageway from 600mm to around 300mm, albeit with the fallback of access via the garage door if absolutely necessary. But as our chat continued, it became obvious that I was talking myself into this alteration.

As the idea materialised, I decided that any turntable extension had to be removable to ensure that the original access was available if required. I fabricated the 300mm cantilever frame shown in the adjoining photo. The bricks in the photo are acting as weights while the PVA glue between the styrofoam sheets cures but also give an indication of the load that the cantilever section can carry.

The extension is removed by lifting it vertically. To assist the fixing, I installed magnets on the extension and the mating layout module. The method is demonstrated in the February 2018 You Tube segment of 'What's Neat', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srtA43bUlcI&t=929s

The use of magnets was an experiment to test the concept but I got a bit nervous and included other connections which added a level of redundancy, so it's difficult to tell if the magnets add anything to the support of the extension.

I have now purchased an Anton's Trains model of a 60ft Steller's turntable, a type frequently used at a branchline terminus. Ian Dunn provided an overview of this type in the December 2011 issue of AMRM. There is also an earlier article on the same topic by Alan Templeman in the June 1984 issue but the value of Ian's article is the collection of colour photos that assist with painting and weathering. 
The turntable is is currently being installed although I have yet to purchase an auto-reverser to enable the turntable to operate with DCC.

So, for better or worse, the access into the layout area is now further restricted and it's certainly a case of 'breathing in' but at least a steam engine can be turned before commencing its return journey.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Eureka 40 Class - Introduction into service

As I suspected, Santa very kindly left a Eureka 40 Class diesel under the Christmas tree.

This was a locomotive that I believe should have a place on Philip's Creek as it was a true transition period locomotive. Indeed, the retirement of this particular class preceded the withdrawal of some of its steam powered cousins. Fortunately, there are quite a few photos of various 40 class locomotives in service in my primary reference, John Sargent's book, 'NSWGR Diesel Electrics - The Tuscan Generation'. As John notes in his introduction, the photographer, Ross Tollow, "certainly loved those 'dowdy' old 40 class that nobody bothered about - they would always be there!"

Out of the box, to my uneducated eye, the model seemed fairly consistent with the photos in my reference although the air tanks on the model appeared to be mounted a little lower than the prototype. As usual, detail parts seemed to be press fitted into place but fortunately, none were lying in the bottom of the box when the locomotive was first unpacked.  There were no instructions in the model I purchased. I know Eureka are not the only manufacturer to exclude this item but it's something that I miss as it gives mugs like me the confidence to tackle some basic jobs like removing the body. The consequences of the lack of instructions were soon to be become evident.

The model ran smoothly on a DC test track and even managed to negotiate a 500mm radius curve. Then it was time to fit the DCC decoder. Yes, I know I'm a Luddite who hasn't made the transition to sound but I still needed to remove the body. Based on previous experience and in the absence of manufacturer's guidance, I proceeded to remove the front and back couplers.  With the benefit of hindsight this was actually the correct move, and had I then attempted to insert a thin blade to ease the body off the chassis, all would have been fine. But I didn't!

With the couplers removed, the platform around the locomotive was looser but the body remained firmly in place. I had noted a number of lugs securing the platform to the body and thought these may need to be released to remove the body. As I subsequently found out they didn't! However, the body did gradually come loose until only one final lug remained but sadly, with all of the pushing and pulling, it broke. Also with all of the manipulation, a number of the detail parts came adrift -  fortunately, nothing that could not be repaired.

The photo opposite shows how the body shouldn't be removed and the two following show the broken lug and the loose detail parts.

Actually, after the body had been removed once, it was relatively simple to remove the body subsequently. The consequence of the damaged lug was that care was needed when tightening the long hood coupler. If over-tightened, the platform was pulled away from the body.

Still, as they say 'all's well that end's well'. The decoder was installed, body replaced and detail parts refitted. Again, superglue was my friend. It was then test run again, this time on the layout with a typical bulk wheat load. No problems there and 4006 was then sent to the paint shop for weathering.

I have yet to see a photo of 40 class actually working in anything other than a grimy grotty condition, and by my modelling time period, the late 1960s, this was certainly the case. This model had to be heavily weathered. It was now that Ross' photos came into their own as he had managed to get images of the locomotive from many different angles. Coats of rust, dust, soot and oily grime were applied in that order. Most were sprayed but rust and oil spills were supplemented with washes in specific places. A finish of Dullcote was used to seal the weathering.

So now 4006, one of those 'dowdy old 40 class' will be seen occasionally passing through Philips' Creek on its way to or from more distant locations on the Main North. I'll just have to make sure that it never appears at the same time as 44222.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Not Quite a White Christmas

Work on scenery for the Kingston Plains module continues and as the shape of the basic topography is now settled, the module has taken a distinctly blue hue as the absorbent towelling has been glued in place. As an aside, the inspirational photo taped to the back drop was taken from Ian Dunn's article, 'Moving the Golden Grain', in the April 2006 issue of AMRM. It shows a great view of the Merriwa branch line terminus in 1970.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Terraforming - aka making a mess , the next step will be to apply a slurry of the coloured tile grout mixed with of 50/50 PVA/water. Most modellers have their own favourite technique for this stage and I'm no different. My experience has been that the slurry, once cured, provides a robust pre-coloured base upon which to add other scenery elements. Over time, I have settled on a Davco tile grout product that I can source from my local Bunnings mixing a light brown (ten parts of item number 27 or 28) with a Red brown (one part of item number 38).[Update Jan 18 - a recent visit to Bunnings indicates that Davco have changed their coding and colour range. Some experimentation will be required but the mix of a light brown and red brown should work]

 The two flanking photos show the view from either end of the module. The wheat silo will be located where the glue bottle is standing and should be the dominant scenic feature for Kingston Plains.

It's a bit hard to believe that Christmas 2017 is rapidly approaching, but it is and consequently, this will be my final post for 2017. If I've been extra good enough this year, an elderly ALCO may find its way onto the Philip's Creek locomotive roster in 2018. Then again, even a lump of coal might be useful as it could be crushed and used to fill the coaling stage at Kingston Plains.

More importantly however at this time of the year, I would like to acknowledge  those individuals who have assisted me with comments, advice and information, all of which have enhanced my modelling activities in 2017.

And finally, to all readers, best wishes to you and your family for a very Merry Christmas and a very happy 2018.   

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Station at Kingston Plains

After getting distracted over the last few months, I had to have a strong talk with myself about focus and priorities. As a consequence of this motivational monologue, I have finally started the landscaping on what is probably the final module for Philip's Creek; that is a branch line terminus now referred to as the fictitious location of Kingston Plains. Work has progressed steadily on what will be a relatively flat landscape.

As an aside, there has been a slight change in the work flow from my past endeavours. Previously, I have shaped the landforms, applied basic ground covers  and then progressively added buildings as they they were constructed or purchased. The area around the new building was then resceniced if necessary.  However, as I had already been acquiring buildings for this module over several years, my approach now has changed. This time, I have 'planted' several of the major buildings into their final location once the basic 'terraforming' has been completed but before any ground cover has been added. There are risks to this approach as small items of detail could be damaged as the various ground covers are applied, so extra care will be required, but it allows me to adjust the ground cover as necessary to align with the adjacent structures,

The first building in the long running acquisition program was an A5 station building constructed from a LJ Models card kit. (Two articles in Branchline Modeller Number 2 provides additional information on the prototype and extra construction tips) The kit was originally assembled around 2006 with the intention of using it on the Mount Windeatt branch but it did not seem to fit in that location and was put aside for use elsewhere. As Kingston Plains is 'the end of the line', so to speak, it was now or never.The model was recovered from its temporary storage, dusted off and some additional detail such as water tanks and chimneys added.

It was then time to construct the platform. As always, external space constraints come into play and and with a scale platform length of only 40m, it is considerably  shorter that equivalent prototypes such as Merriwa. However, as the only passenger service for this line is a single CPH, hopefully, it probably won't look too out of place

The platform was cut from a suitable piece of styrofoam and shaped to suit the track alignment. I had contemplated purchasing commercial timber platform edging but decided instead to fabricate it using materials already to hand.

The wood planking was from a Wills Material Pack (OO instead of HO scale but difficult to pick the difference). The capping timber came from some scrap balsa wood.

Weathering was the usual mix of of white, grey and black acrylics supplemented with a few  pastels.

The gravel or decomposed granite platform surface is simulated using a paste, DecoArt Stonelike Textural Acrylics. It took two coats to get sufficient coverage.

The last two photos show the station now fixed in place. Other details such as lights, seating and signage will be added later.  Ballasting and other landscaping, when completed, will also hide a multitude of sins but I'm will have to be bloody careful of those finials!