Thursday, 10 August 2017

Track Cleaner v3.0

Well, it's the end of my Woodland Scenics' 'Tidy Track' cleaner. Just under five years ago, I wrote the first of three posts about this tool. Two and half year years later, the shaft broke ( ) and I fitted a sleeve that allowed it to continue to function. However, normal usage over the next two years saw the pivot point gradually break up, get repaired and break again until it finally disintegrated last week. The concept of the tool was good but, clearly, it was not sufficiently robust for my track cleaning techniques.

Fortunately, a few months ago, I had stumbled across two YouTube segments on Ken Patterson's 'What's Neat' column for last January and February. Both discussed how build a similar tool using a standard half inch drive breaker bar. The links to these are:

Both segments are fairly self explanatory, describing how to fabricate a shoe that can be fitted to the breaker bar. I fashioned two versions, one all wood and a second using the base of the 'Tidy Track' tool. I fitted the existing cleaning pads to the tool heads rather than a separate cleaning pad that Ken used only because I had a few spare. His finishing techniques are also significantly better than mine.

The breaker bar was purchased from Auto One for around $20 and each base took around an hour to fabricate excluding curing time for glues. Noting that 'Tidy Track' retails for something between $60-$70, it probably represents a significantly cheaper option.

One thing was evident as soon as the tool was put into use. The weight of the bar made the tool considerably heavier than its commercial equivalent and negated the need for the additional force that I had felt was necessary for the effective use of  the Woodland Scenics tool.

Ken's February column also noted the impact of the height of the breaker bar's pivot point and the potential to trip up the cleaning head. My experience reinforced this observation. The higher the pivot point above the track, the longer the lever arm and the greater the potential that a minor defect in the track will cause a snag in the movement of the cleaning head.

And so, after nearly five years of adaptions, tweaks and repairs, hopefully, now I have a solution that will work reliably without disintegrating periodically.
To close on a very different subject, readers might like to rewind Ken's January video back to the 2:30 minute mark. Here we see an impressive model of a Northern Pacific Challenger steaming majestically through a nicely timbered scene. However, it is not the locomotive that catches one's attention but rather, his moggy lurking among the trees as this image from the video shows. At the risk of a very poor pun, a very different scenery challenge!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Halls Creek Bridge 4

Never let it be said that progress on Philip's Creek moves at any speed other than ultra dead slow!

It's now just under three years since the most recent article dealing with the completion of my model of the Hall's Creek bridge (The Halls Creek bridge 3 - still work in progress).  Since that time, very gradually, scenery construction has moved forward as these 'before and after' photos show.

The styrofoam was glued in place, shaped and a surface fabricated using the same techniques as those described in my earlier post (Terraforming-aka making a mess).

The creek was made using fairly common modelling techniques. A good overview of these is at . To simulate the water, I used a gloss Bondall Clear Timber Varnish taking care to ensure that no unsealed styrofoam came into contact with the varnish, lest it created an unexpectedly deep sinkhole. The general ground cover was a mix of  new grass and straw static grasses.

I also experimented with static grass clumps and strips and probably went a bit overboard with this. Initially, I wanted to create a green fringe along the edge of the creek and I needed to provide some grass coverage of the ground underneath the bridge. Some of these didn't work out as I had hoped with the clumps under the bridge creating a rougher surface than the surrounding ground.  Course foam was used in an attempt to mitigate this.

Some work is needed to add some further detail in the cuttings. I also plan to add some flood debris plus the ubiquitous willows along the creek line. I also hope to add some type of back scene before trees and other more substantial vegetation are added. A landmark signal is being fabricated and will be the only additional item of rail infrastructure added to this scene.

Ultimately, this 1.8m section of of the layout is intended to add some sense of distance to the branch line, and the basic scenic treatment supports this intent. It also provides the opportunity to replicate photographs such as this great one from the Rail Transport Museum Calendar 1992 June (photographer understood to be Graham Cotterall). But for that to happen, it needs a manufacturer to finally decide to model the 30T!!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Getting the Roof Right

At the recent Modelling the Railways of NSW Conference, I purchased a 4 wheeled lourve van kit from Casula Hobbies. This particular kit was a model of the longer 11ft 6in wheel base version of the LV coded wagons. A few years ago, I had purchased an IDR 10ft wheel base van and the difference between the two versions can be seen in this photo of a wagon from the Oberon Tarana Heritage Railway website (  photographer unknown) shows the longer wheel base van sitting on top of a 10ft chassis.

Conceptually, both kits are the same, a cast body and a separate chassis. Details such as handrails can be added to the model. The main difference between the kits was that the Casula kit has a separate CGI roof. I understand that some wagons had the CGI removed but I elected to construct the van with the separate CGI roof.  The Casula kit included two CGI roofs from the GSV that needed to be cut to size, joined and then fixed to the body. My problem with this arrangement was that the battens were in the wrong locations and whole arrangement seemed too thick.

 I decided to create the roof from a commercial CGI product but the main challenge was to determine how this would be fitted to the van body. My research uncovered a few images that led me to deduce that the roof was supported by a number of ribs supporting the CGI sheet sandwiched between thing battens. I fashioned several strips of styrene to match this and fixed the roof to these.

The photos below show a side and end images of the van. The side image appears to be to be a reasonable representation of the prototype and compares reasonably with the IDR model of the10ft version. The photo from the end also seemed to match other photos from the same angle which I had found.

So, thinking it was completed, I started the painting with the usual coat of primer. Concurrently,  I also started to put together a few thoughts for this post. As I went searching for the Oberon Heritage Railway site to get the reference correct, I located a few of Keiran Ryan's photos ( ). These clearly showed that I had misinterpreted the support arrangements for the roof with independent brackets used to support the CGI and supporting battens. While the image from the side still seemed to work, the ends should show the individual supports rather than a continuous rib that I had built.  With a few choice words that cannot be printed, the roof came off, the outside ribs were removed and replaced with individual supports under the battens. The final version before painting is shown below.

Fortunately, I was able to correct this error but it makes me wonder how many others have fallen through the cracked. Probably quite a few I suspect!

Postscript. It never rails but it pours! During a visit to the great Epping Model Railway Club exhibition at Thornleigh on the weekend, I purchased an Austrains LV pack on special, so now I have five of these wagons plus the smaller IDR version.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A water tank for a K truck

I recently purchased a Roads and Rail Resin water tank, a model of a water tank designed to be fitted onto a KF flat wagon or into a modified K truck. The manufacturer indicates that the model can be fitted to either an Austrains or IDF KF wagon or use the sides included in the kit to adapt a KF wagon into a modified K wagon.( Road and Resin water tank ). I really wanted to build a modified k truck version and didn't want to sacrifice my only KF wagon (an IDR KF wagon) for that purpose.

When I first saw an add for this kit, I purchased a Casula Hobbies K truck hoping it could be used in lieu. Unfortunately,  there is some dimensional variations that meant that the tank was too big to fit inside the Casula version. So I made up the tank to fit onto the KF wagon.

However, with further reflection, I decided that the Casula Hobbies K truck could be adapted. I glued several strips of styrene to increase the size of the base (see photo opposite), fixed the completed tank to the base and then fitted the modified K truck sides around the tank. It was also necessary to adjust the wheel mountings to ensure the correct height above the track.

Painting and weathering will follow  but this has been an exercise in dimensional variability as can be seen from the three versions in the photo opposite, an original Casula Hobbies, an original Austrains model and the modified K truck mounted water tank. I suppose as long as I make sure that they don't appear in close proximity to each other, then differences are not too obvious. 

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.