Thursday 28 March 2024

Moving Upstairs - The Philip's Creek Overbridge

With the work on the Hunter River Bridge and the area north of Singleton now substantially complete, my focus is moving to the upper level of the layout and the refurbishment of the Philip's Creek township. In the reorientation after the move, much of the earlier Philip's Creek was demolished and is to be replaced. 

However, the first project arose unexpectedly. I had been musing about how I could connect the 'commercial area' (one pub and two shops) and the railway station. A good mate recently invested in a 3D printer and offered to print a rail overbridge based on a standard NSWR North Coast Railway design. He printed the bridge superstructure (beams and deck) in two parts and separate prints for each pier set and abutment. In addition, the fence frames was printed in four separate pieces, two per side.

The components were glued together with superglue and I overlaid the 'deck' with a sheet of Evergreen styrene V grove to simulate the actual timber decking.









Commercial CGI sheet was glued to the handrails to complete the barrier fencing and the superstructure was fitted to the pier sets in preparation for painting.

Once painted, the overbridge was fitted and then glued into position.

All that needs to be done now is to complete this project is to undertake some significant earthworks to create the bridge approaches but that's a story for another time.

Many thanks Ian.


As a footnote, the standard design provides for both a single and two way road widths. The single lane version has four bearers while the two lane bridge has five. The modeled overbridge is a two lane version but only has four bearers. We both realised this error after the event but it is not obvious from normal operating positions. Maybe, I should put load limit signage on the bridge approaches!




Wednesday 10 January 2024

Hunter River Bridge - Finishing the Scene - 2

Well, I have finally got to the point when it was time to add 'water' to the Hunter River.  

In preparation, I painted extra trees on the backdrop to represent the foliage on the river banks and added trees and scrub on the terrain close to the backdrop. I also installed formwork to retain the 'water' while it is curing.

'Adding the water' was a task I approached with a degree of well founded trepidation. I used a product called Feast Watson Glass Finish available at Bunnings. It is a two part product and this was where my problems started. I don't think, I mixed it thoroughly. After it was poured onto the baseboard, it cured properly in most areas but, in a couple of spots, it remained in a viscous form. In addition, the surface crazed in some places. I wasn't too worried about the crazing as this is meant to represent a flowing river rather than a very still lake, so some turbulence can be anticipated. However, the soft spots remained a challenge.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and there probably are a few things I would have done differently. Obviously, I would have been more thorough in my mixing process. I would also have poured the product in two thinner layers rather than a 5mm single pour. However, it is what it is, and once the pour had been completed and the soft spot problem had emerged, I turned to gloss Modpodge. I dabbed it onto the soft spots and a few other locations to simulate turbulence around flood debris and the piers. A few twigs were used to simulate drift wood on the river flats and these also serve to mark where the soft spots are.

There is still few more things to complete. I need to install check rails on the bridge as well as a conduit which was slung just below the sleepers.

The short video below shows 4449 hauling  stock wagons north towards Muswellbrook and beyond. The video was taken as the Modpodge was curing hence the few white spots.  But at least now, when a train crosses the bridge, I can see its reflection in the 'water' below.



Saturday 16 December 2023

Hunter River Bridge - Finishing the scene - 1

Following on from my recent post, finally, the scenic work has closed up on the Hunter River. While the work modelling the banks and the littoral areas is fairly routine, modelling the wide expanse of water flowing under the bridge will be a bit more challenging.  

As usual, the landform is foam board, carved and shaped around the bridge abutments. The following photos show the river banks before the final shaping.  These were topped with the domestic wipe disposable towels topped with coloured tile grout and, as usual, there was liberal use of 50/50 PVA glue and water.  My biggest fear while doing this work was accidental damage to the bridge. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

With the banks sorted, I have started to paint the river bed as the first step in the challenging task of adding the actual water. The Google satellite image opposite shows the actual crossing site with the current bridge. As can be seen, the site was located just east of a major bend in the river. With a bit of modeller's licence, I moved the crossing site onto the actual bend so that the transition to the backdrop was easier to achieve. The main river channel is on the outer (northern) side of the bend and there is an accumulation of sediment on the inner (southern) side of the bridge.

In preparation for the final task, I was able to visit Bob at South Coast Rail to see how he had created the water for his excellent model of the Thomson River bridge. ( )  I really appreciated the opportunity to understand his technique. Thanks Bob. 

Now, hopefully in the current heatwave, I'll be able to find a day when the temperature in the garage is reasonable enough to tackle this.



And finally, in recognition of the time of the year, Christmas has come around again and this will be my final post for 2023. As the year rapidly draws to a close,  I'd like to take the opportunity to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and a very happy 2024 for you and your family.

Having just crossed the Hunter River bridge, 4473 heads north with a load of empty wheat wagons.


Friday 10 November 2023

Leaving Singleton 2

In an earlier post, I wrote about my plans for the part of the layout immediately 'north' of the lower staging yard. Leaving Singleton  Notionally, it is that small portion of the Main North between Singleton and the Hunter River bridge.

The adjacent photo shows the concept for this section as detailed in the earlier post. The scratch-built Albion Hotel is one of key elements of that concept. A paling fence has been used to contain the hotel yard and level crossing lights have been installed adjacent to the hotel on John St.

The scenery construction followed my usual practice of Woolworths 'domestic wipe' disposable towels overlaid with coloured tile grout and then static grass. The very basic backdrops have been hand painted using artist's acrylics. The level crossing lights at John Street and associated flasher unit are HMA products.

While it has taken a while, in many respects, this work is a just an in-fill before the more challenging work associated with the Hunter River crossing. Consequently, a number of details have yet to be added but I don't anticipate this will happen until other scenery elements have been completed. The outstanding tasks include:

  • The back drop including the gaping access to the staging area needs much more work. The foreground of the back drop needs a more urban appearance and the hole need to be screened, possibly with some trees. I also need to work on a method of activation for the level crossing lights. This will be a process of trial and error for me. 

  • Again, the backdrop needs more work to reflect the transition from township to open country. A few more rural fences and isolated trees would probably also enhance the scene.





  • The tree line in the foreground of the backdrop intends to show the course of the Hunter River disappearing into the distance as it meanders its way east towards Newcastle. This needs to be integrated with the bridge site. The water pumping station and associated buildings will also be added.

That said, at least now as 5069 departs Singleton to collect a load of coal from the Philip's Creek Colliery, it's no longer passing through the stark barren white and green landscape shown in the photo at the top of this post. More to follow!




Saturday 2 September 2023

Inspired by True Events - Building the Albion Hotel at Singleton

"Inspired by true events" is a caption often seen on movie and TV screens of late. Basically, it means that the script writer has adjusted or amended a true story by altering events or adding different characters which to increase the drama and/or romance of the film. I, for one, am often cynical about these alteration, but if I'm honest, I must also recognise that such changes are also the essence of prototypical modelling. And my latest foray into scratch building underscores the concept of prototypical rather than prototype.

In my most recent post, I made reference to the Albion Hotel, a building which is located just north of Singleton railway station on John Street. I presume that this proximity was the prime reasons for its original construction. My research managed to locate a number of hotel surveys, including a few photos, which had been published by the ANU. These show that the Albion appears to have been built well before 1926 but went through a significant number of changes over time, with probably the most significant occurring some time between 1960 and 1981when a major extension was completed on the western side. These changes are apparent in the two photos below.

I opted to build the 1960 version and have assumed that the extension was not completed until some time after 1973, the upper limit of my modelling time period. The key features I wanted to capture were the shape of the side walls, the awning, the large KB sign and the tiled roof line at the front.

Unfortunately, as I realised later, the KB sign only appeared on the eastern side as there are windows on the western side. But it's the western side that faces the operator. Oh well, that's an example of when inspiration trumps fact! (No political pun intended)


The model was primarily constructed from styrene with brass wire for downpipes and external plumbing. Doors and windows are Tichy products. The windows are oversized but are what I had to hand at the time. The signage and interiors came from the internet. Unfortunately, the large KB signs are not the exact ones in the 1960s photo but are probably close enough. The chimneys came from a good mate who recently acquired a  3D printer. He has also printed a few other items beyond the scope of this article but they will probably be the subject of a subsequent post. A balcony railing has yet to be fabricated.

The sign on the awning was produced using PowerPoint and incorporates a fictitious name of the licensee. This name, William Clarke, comes from my family history, a maternal great great grandfather. He was a publican in Birmingham around 1890. Incidentally, before that he had spent about 20 years on the footplate as a locomotive driver, although, a family story indicates that he was fired from that job for drunkenness.  Still, he was the obvious choice.



The hotel can't be fixed into its final position until the backdrop and ground cover have been finalised. And not to mention the level crossing, hopefully with sensors activating flashing lights, immediately behind the hotel. But that's a challenge for another day!


Wednesday 12 July 2023

Leaving Singleton

Like a number of fellow model railway bloggers, my recent posts have become less frequent over the past few years. I can't point to any one reason but the gap between this and my most recent post has been due to a COVID postponed overseas trip which happened to include an encounter with a British steam icon.
However, this post is not about the Flying Scotsman, but rather, the next stage of Philip's Creek's refurbishment, in this instance the area between Singleton and the Hunter River. As I have mentioned previously, my two staging areas represent Singleton and Muswellbrook and the area in question is that portion of the layout immediately beyond the Singleton Staging area.

The  actual area in question is shown on this small extract from Google maps. It is a flat flood plain area with little infrastructure. In the late 1960's, I understand there was a level crossing at John St which was subsequently replaced by the Putty Road overpass. I am using John St as the scenic break to disguise the entrance to the staging area. I am also working on the assumption, correct or otherwise, that in the late 1960's, there were few buildings north west of John St. The only significant building  that I can identify close to the railway line is the Albion Hotel which may have been built in the 1920s. Waterworks Lane runs parallel to the track and Google Maps indicates that there is a former pumping station closer to the river.
The image below is my planning graphic as to how these features will incorporated in Philip's Creek.

The Albion Hotel does not fit on the eastern side of the railway as per the prototype so instead, it will be located on the west side of the tracks. I understand that the double track did not exist in the late 1960s. The line was duplicated when the Hunter River bridge was upgraded around 1974. 
A lot more work to do and hopefully a few more posts if I can find time!

Thursday 6 April 2023

Ending the 'Sounds of Silence' - Introducing 4449

To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, at Philip's Creek, "no one dared disturb the Sounds of Silence". At least that was the situation, until recently, when Auscision Models 4449 joined the locomotive roster.

When Auscision's pre-purchase offer for the 44 class was released quite a while ago, I hadn't anticipated purchasing one. However, the drive gear problems I was experiencing as I attempted to repair Trainorama 4473 ( There are gears and there are gears ) indicated that redundancy of 44 class locomotives may be prudent. And so an order for 4449 was placed in late June last year. My timing was good because it seemed that the pre-purchase offer closed off a few weeks later. I also elected to purchase a model fitted with a factory fitted ESU sound decoder.

It may come as a surprise to some but up till now, I had resisted the trend to install sound in my locomotives. There were three reasons for this; complexity, sound quality and cost. The complexity of fitting the speaker and additional wiring into small spaces has always concerned me and the sound I heard from many locomotives at various exhibitions seemed 'tinny'. Given these factors, I could never justify the extra outlay required for a sound decoder. Recently though at a NMRA event, I listened to a steam locomotive which appeared to be a substantial improvement in quality, suggesting to me that smaller speakers were improving. The complexity issue disappeared with the factory fitted option and cost difference seemed reasonable.

A few months ago, 4449 duly arrived and it is certainly a quality product but it was the range of sounds that made the biggest impact on me. I was particularly impressed by the start up and shut down sequences which I presume have been recorded from an actual 44 class. Will James did a comprehensive review of the model on his You Tube channel ( Will James' review of Auscision 44 Class ) including a demonstration of the sounds included on the decoder between 5:15 and 7:23 minutes on his video. As Will notes in his review, the pulling power of the locomotive is impressive. It easily hauls 12 coal or wheat hoppers plus brake van up my 2.5% helix.

Most of the photos of 44 class locomotives in the late 1960s seem to show a fairly exhaust blackened roof while the paint work on the front and sides was still in good condition albeit with variable amounts of grim. Hence,  this is the appearance I have sought to create in my weathering of the locomotive.

With 4449 now added to the locomotive roster, the obvious question is 'where to for sound on Philip's Creek?'. The short answer is that I'm not sure yet. Certainly any new locomotive will be purchased with a sound card and speaker fitted (if available) but as there is only one additional locomotive targeted at present, it is unlikely to make a significant impact on the noise level on the layout. 

The bigger question is whether to retrofit sound decoders to existing locomotives.  I may consider a commercial fitting service for some and for others, I may attempt myself when I can pluck up the courage while others with noisy mechanisms probably don't need extra sound.

Certainly, there is a steep leaning curve to over overcome and a lot of work before I completely "disturb the the Sound of Silence" at Philip's Creek.

Before I finish this post, just a short footnote on 4473. After several months of frustration, I replaced all six wheel sets with Trainorama replacements. This seems to be working very well and 4473 is back to its original performance. Hopefully, the problem will not reappear.