Monday, July 27, 2015

SDS Models Bitumen Tanker - Fixing the Handrails

The SDS Models Bitumen Tanker is a lovely model however it has a small issue with the handrails on the walkway. The handrail posts directly above the ladders on each side do not touch the walkway, they are between 0.5 to 1mm off the walkway. This appears to have been caused by the handrail post mounting holes in the tank not being drilled or moulded deep enough to allow the handrail posts above the ladders to drop down to meet the walkway.

I decided that this needed to be corrected so I used a pair of long nosed pliers and a piece of strip wood as a levering block on the tank to carefully extract the vertical handrail posts from the tank one at a time. The posts do seem to be glued but it is a flexible type possibly an acrylic contact cement and the posts came away easily on my model.

Once all the posts were out I cleaned away any excess glue from the tank and posts ends. I then drilled the mounting holes in the tank deeper using a 0.7mm drill in a pin vice. The tank casting drills easily.

The tricky process of getting all the handrail posts back into the tank mounting holes came next. It isn't to hard, just take your time and dry fit the posts working from one end of the tank to the other. I followed up by applying a small amount of clear drying acrylic contact cement to each post mounting point with a pointed tooth pick.

Unfortunately I didn't take a before photo of the handrail post issue but here is a photo of the finished tanker, still to be weathered.

As can be seen from the photo bitumen tanker is the one with the flues on each end. The flues were there as these tankers had gas burners running through the tank which allowed the bitumen to be reheated if it had cooled enough so that it would not come out of the tank easily. I chose this version of the bitumen tankers as being fitted with the flues and burners it could be left in a goods siding to await the arrival of a Department of Main Roads NSW spray seal truck which could use its own gas tanks to reheat the bitumen if necessary. So this is the version tanker that can be useful on the pickup goods during operation sessions on the layout. The other version bitumen tanker does not have the flues and burners so would be for delivering the bitumen to the several BORAL depots around the state. A spray seal truck is used to spray molten bitumen onto a prepared road surface which is then followed by a specially fitted tip truck that spreads a single stone thick layer of stones onto the bitumen by reversing over the freshly spread stones. This process is then followed up by a roller that embeds the stone into the bitumen . The rolling must be done quickly as while a stone will push into bitumen that has cooled it ultimately come out of the surface by the action of the traffic.

Of course,wanting this particular tanker meant that I had to buy the two pack with the blue AMPOL heavy oil tanker which I didn't particularly want as I never saw them in blue. I am going to heavily weather the blue tanker so that it is virtually black as by 1965 they almost certainly would have been, having been painted blue in the 1950s.

Now, do I need an oil burning D55 or D59 Class and a heavy oil filling point in my Wollar locomotive depot?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

New Air Compressor and Two Dual Action Air Brushes

This morning took a risk and bought a small air compressor that came with two dual action air brushes at ALDI for $99.99.

Here is the product description from the web site:

Product Description
  • Ideal for tattoos, nail art, makeup, artwork and modellers
  • Airflow:20-23L/min
  • With variable pressure gauge
  • Compact and light weight design
Air Brush Kit:
  • 1/6hp compressor
  • Low noise: 47db
  • Speed: 1450/min.
  • Airflow: 20-23L/min.
  • Variable pressure: 3 bar/57psi
  • Standard 1/8" BSP fitting
  • 1.8m braided hose
  • Includes 2 dual action air brushes
  • Oil free pistons
  • Auto start/stop feature
  • Adjustable pressure with gauge (on/off light)
  • Filter and thermal protector

I haven't included the web page address as it will likely disappear shortly.

This air compressor and air brush package became available this morning (Saturday, 18 July 2015) at ALDI stores in NSW, and maybe all stores in Australia.

I have tested them and I am quite happy with both the air compressor and the two dual action air brushes.

The air compressor is very quiet when running and does not pulse the air as it seems to have a small reservoir inside it. It will take the air pressure up to 57 p.s.i. then cut off until the pressure drops to 43.5 p.s.i. then start up again, which is almost straight away once you start to use an air brush. I set the compressor output to 25 p.s.i. and it sprayed well.

The two air brushes are different, one has a bottle attachment and a small cup which are friction fit. I found that the small metal cup was a problem when I tried to spray the sides of some rail as the paint leaked over the top of the cup due to the angle I had to hold the air brush at. The bottle of course would not suffer from this restriction. So the cup will only be useful for spraying with the air brush held horizontal. Also the hole in the metal cup where the paint is drawn into the air brush is not smooth and rough edges can catch small pieces of tissue when cleaning which may go through and block the air brush. I will attempt to use a motor tool with a small stone to smooth this down but I really can't see any real use for this metal cup anyway.

The second air brush has a screw on metal gravity cup that can be set at any angle so that spraying rail is easily done by adjusting the metal cup so that it remains relatively level. The cup has a press fit metal lid with a small hole so even if you do angle the brush too far it won't be too much of a problem.

I have a large compressor with a 50 litre tank but it doesn't easily allow me to move around the layout to spray things such as scenery and track so this little air compressor is just the thing I needed.

If you haven't tried dual action air brushes then this a good opportunity to give them a go without spending very much money.

I have previously bought a dual action air brush from Super Cheap Auto for $48 so this compressor and two dual action air brushes is a very good deal.

Usual disclaimer, no I don't have anything to do with ALDI other than being an occasional customer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Modifying a Southern Rail Signal Box

At the recent Epping Model Railway Club 'Brickpit' Exhibition I picked up a Southern Rail Signal Box as it looked quite nice.

Now, before I got it I knew about the incorrect style of door and had some thoughts about changing that if it was possible. Of course the signal box may have been modelled after one with a different door to the standard one so perhaps it may not actually be incorrect.

I also knew that the barge boards under the gable ends of the roof were incorrect as they should be one the very end of the roof and this was definitely a mistake (see photos below).

Unfortunately, what I discovered once I had a chance to sit down and examine it closely was that the model walls were made up of  16 'concrete' panels but the original concrete signal boxes of this type had only 12 panels. Nothing can be done about this so it will be what it is.

Southern Rail photo - Lamps shown are not the production ones - Red text by RP
Here are three photos from Branchline Modeller No.3 to show what the signal box should look like.

Berrima Signal Box showing door and 12 x 10" panels in wall - R. Taaffe 1981
Mindaribba Signal Box showing door and panels
Coolamon Signal Box with 15" panels and the correct style door.
Overall though, I felt that it can still make up into a nice signal box.

I began by cutting the glue holding the small platform to the signal box to give me access to the door. I did the same to the glue holding the bottom of the platform legs, stairs and handrail posts to the base. I found that the handrail posts at the stair end were too long and were tipping the platform away from level so I trimmed the bottoms of the posts with a pair of transistor nippers.

I then proceeded to cut the barge boards away by scribing at the intersection/corner against the underside of the roof with an XACTO blade but using the back edge of the blade tip, I hope that this makes sense.

Once the barge boards were removed I was able to see that I could use the XACTO blade to carefully slice away the glue holding the roof on. The glue appears to be a water based contact cement type and will come away with a bit of work.

Once I could see inside the building I found that the door was part of the wall moulding. I used a fine circular saw blade in a motor tool running slowly to cut through each side of the door and then finished off the remaining corners scribing with the XACTO blade. It was a very nerve wracking job. It would be possible to do this just by scribing with the XACTO blade but it will be slow.

Signal Box waiting for the correct door, LEDs and paint
Now for the door which has four glass panes in the top section and a bit of panelling below. I did a search of available suitable doors such as those produced by Grandt Line and Tichy Train Group but came up empty.

Nothing for it but to design one and 3D print it so I spent an hour or so and came up with the one in the picture below.

Door with handle and bolt as per photos - The long tab on left side is to locate the door in the wall
I have yet to order the door but it will be printed at Shapeways in Frosted Ultra Detail as the frosted material will go clear if coated with some clear lacquer (window panes).

I intend to repaint the signal box in the stone colours and to add some small SMD LEDs to the lamps and inside the box. The lamps need to have the underside and each edge/corner painted black (see the lamp on the wall of the Mindaribba Signal Box in the photo above).

Well that's where it sits for now, I will report back when it is further down the track.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Special Tool Required and a Mistake

While working on the model Werris Creek station building I realised that I had to cut some gaps into the large 'moulding' that runs around the outside of the building at the ceiling level of the upper floor. The reason for the gaps was that there are some rainwater collection boxes (scuppers?) mounted into them. The building has a saw tooth roof and this means that the rainwater has to go out through the side of the top wall and 'moulding' into  the scuppers and then down the drain pipes.

Building showing 'scuppers' in the upper level moulding
Now, the mouldings are 3D printed in a sintered nylon type material and I was worried that I would have trouble cutting the gaps. After a bit of thought I came up with a plan to make a knife/chisel of the correct width for the gap(s).

I took a single sided razor blade and clamped it in my vice then used my motor tool with a thin stone tool (read circular saw effect) to cut the blade to the width I needed. I then parted off the blade near the thick reinforcing back edge of the razor blade. This new blade was then mounted in a hobby knife as in the photo below.

The nylon cut surprisingly well if the blade was used as a chisel, just vertical pressure. As can be seen from the above photo I actually made two chisel blades for the two horizontal cuts, well I modified the blade to make the thinner top cuts after the first wider cuts were done. The 'scuppers' can be seen in the photo below the moulding.

Now for the mistake. I think we all have been well into a model when we have that "Oh Oh" moment. Mine came after I had glued the 'scuppers' in place and was dry fitting the upper level awning supports on the North West platform side of the building. I immediately noticed that the 'scuppers' were too big as the tapered bottom would end up cutting into the corrugated iron of the awning.

Investigation showed that I managed to either miss count the width of the 'scuppers' in the number of bricks or had messed up the scaling during conversion after drawing them full size. It turned out that they were two bricks wide and it seems I had decided that they were three wide, only a 33% error!

So I took the building to our Ramblers meeting last Friday night for a 'show and tell' and admitted my error. Ron was good about it and said it would be OK but it bugged me (as it probably did him but I think he was just feeling sorry for me). Anyway by the Saturday morning of the Epping Exhibition I knew that they had to come off and be replaced by correct sized ones. I will have to fill the gaps a bit on each side as well but I do have the bits that were cut out. They came off relatively easily but I will have to touch up the painted bricks a little.

The scuppers have now been rescaled (easy to do on the computer) and some more have been ordered. The delay while I wait is useful as I was a bit over all the painting of the windows and needed a bit of a rest from it.

Here are a couple of photos of the building with the large scuppers in place and it can immediately be seen that they are too big when compared with the real photo above. The joints in the brick sheeting will be covered by the downpipes from the scuppers except for one on each side in the top parapet wall section.

The mistake highlights the problem with working from several plans which are only line drawings at best and also with then scaling off photos using references from those line drawing dimensions and some actual dimensions such as widths of the various doors and windows. So a number of the detail bits were designed separately from the building and each other. One example are the chimneys that can be seen poking their tops above the parapet which were dimensioned by counting, guess what, bricks. One thing I did have accurate plans for were the white awning supports on the second level.

Overall, I am very happy with the way the building is coming along and it should look good once it is on Ron's Werris Creek layout.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Few Photos from the Epping Club / Thornleigh Brickpit Exhibition

Chris and I enjoyed the day mainly catching up with friends. The commercials were well represented but there weren't too many layouts on show with large empty spaces on the floor. I think that the club's policy of not exhibiting the same layout if it was exhibited last year is a mistake. I know of at least one previous exhibitor who was upset about not being asked this year having exhibited last year. I must say that Chris and I missed seeing him as he lives a long way away, he will know who he is.

Epping Club, please have a think about your layout policy.

Anyway, here are the photos I took at the exhibition on Saturday, not all layouts are represented and that is no reflection on their quality, I just took some photos in between socialising.

Ashburn - By Geoff and Ben Small


Smuggler's Cove

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Painting Common Bricks

As mentioned in the previous post about building the Werris Creek station I made reference to the need to come up with a way to replicate the look of common bricks. Here is a photo of the common bricks in the upper floor of the building.

The method turned out to be reasonably simple.

Here is a photo of most of the stages to produce the effect.

From left to right:

1. Slaters Brick Sheet - This terracotta coloured plastic sheet comes in English Bond, Flemish Bond and Stretcher Bond.

Not included in the photo (no example piece of brick sheet) - Brick sheet lightly sprayed with Tamiya XF57 Buff acrylic paint. It is best to allow some of the terracotta to still show through the buff in random areas, don't spray evenly all over, thicker and thinner randomly.

2. Brick sheet showing mortar lines - A wash of Jo Sonja Soft White acrylic paint was used to enhance the mortar lines and to shift the brick colour of the buff painted bricks. A blotchy application is not a problem as it assists with the uneven colouration of the common bricks. Any off white paint suitably thinned to give a similar effect could be used. Jo Sonja acrylic paints are available in craft and art supply stores. I find them very useful for backscenes and model painting as they have very fine pigment and cover well unlike a lot of current model paints.

3. Brick sheet with a heavy wash of the off white - The random darker colour of the common bricks has been produced by a brown water colour pencil applied in varying dashed and short stokes both horizontal and at angles. The bricks on the upper floor of the Werris Creek station building are English Bond which has a row of end bricks then a row of the normal long side bricks then it repeats (see photo above).

4. Brick Sheet with a light wash of off white - The random dark parts of the common bricks are reproduced the same was as in 3 above.

I cut enough English Bond sheets for the upper floor and applied the off white wash then picked sheets that matched for each long side of the station. The join will be covered by a downpipe from the roof.

On the actual station the platform level and the upper level were built at different times and are in two bonds. The platform level is in reddish terracotta brick Flemish Bond and the upper level is in common brick English Bond.

The terracotta brick with white pointing (specially treated mortar lines) of the platform was achieved by using the off white wash for the mortar which turned the bricks pink. The bricks were then brought back to the terracotta colour by scrapping with the straight edge of a single sided razor blade held vertically to the brick surface, very easy.

This photo shows the final terracotta Flemish Bond platform level wall.

I hope that this has given you some ideas about how to paint common bricks as well as white pointed red brick.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Matching Signal Posts to Signal Arms and Detail Part Sets

On my Signals Branch blog I have just added a link to a PDF file that outlines which Signal Arm and Detail Part Sets to use with particular signal posts.

I have just had someone (unfortunately unknown) order a Triple Bracket Post signal with the arm and detail set for an Inverted (underslung) Bracket Post and this will leave the modeller short by one cast iron support for one side of the bracket.

Of course it may be someone who has previously ordered the double set of bracket detail parts and as such has the necessary parts.

However this did raise a question of how does someone with only a little knowledge of signalling work out what to order.

Here is the document Matching Signal Posts to Signal Arms and Detail Sets.

The document  advises that the modeller refers to the NSW Track and Signal Diagrams CDROM available from the ARHS NSW online bookshop.

Signal Assembly service

If you want to order signals from my Signals Branch Shapeways Shop and you would like someone to paint and assemble the signals then Dale Richards has indicated that he will assemble them, for a price of course.

Dale's email address is

Dale also makes his own signals using brass etches and tubing for round posts so he would be glad to speak to you regarding these as well.

Shapeways Shops Now Show the Price in Your Currency Recently Shapeways made a change to the way that the price is shown.

Previously the prices on the Signals Branch Shop were shown in US Dollars but the price is now shown in the currency of the country that you come from so Australians will see the price in Australian Dollars.

Shapeways still operates in US$ behind the scenes so the price is set in US$. A by product of this is that the exchange rate causes the price to look like an odd amount.