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.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A day at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention

I had an enjoyable day at the convention yesterday as always. Having been involved in running the convention for the first 22 years I can appreciate the work that goes into the day to make it successful so I congratulate the small group responsible. The fact that they are all friends adds to the feeling of camaraderie. I had been looking forward to the day, met many other modellers and had enjoyable conversations.

The talks were of a good standard with a lot of useful information, I particularly enjoyed Dale Richards presentation on Shunting Signals, as well as Garry Glazebrook's talk about his new Newcastle to Fassifern layout. His layout is a huge undertaking with Newcastle Station, Port Waratah, the BHP steelworks, Broadmeadow, Kotara, Fassifern and Newdell Mine all in a 9 metre by 7.3 metre shed at his new home in the Southern Highlands (yes, it apparently is well insulated). Unfortunately I managed to miss the talk on the old Liverpool Station as I was too busy socialising but then catching up with people is one of the real enjoyments of the day.

The commercials were well represented with Casula Hobbies, Pallas Hobbies, Shrike Models, Bergs Hobbies, AMRM, Hobbyland from Hornsby ( IDR Castings), Eureka Models and SDS Models. I came away with a SDS Models Bitumen Tank Wagon pack and will definitely be ordering a Shrike Models C30T (un-numbered drumhead smokebox with six wheel tender) after seeing the two engineering samples on display. Keiran and Tim Ryan had a clinic showing the construction of their range of wheat silos. I apologise if I missed out anyone.

The display layout was Waterfall by the Illawarra Model Railway Club, a lovely piece of work. I managed to take a few time exposure photos in between the parade of typical Illawarra trains of the 1950s to 1960s period.

Here are the photos and those who know the layout will notice that the colour has been de-saturated. I believe that the layout colours are too strong, particularly the yellow of the station and railway buildings on the hill. I used to chase trains down the Illawarra in the late 1960's with my brother so I remember the building colour (I hope). Anyway a bit of 'artistic' licence I suppose and I like them this way. I have also used the existing foreground and backscene sky to remove the front edge of the layout in places and to extend the sky.

Now just imagine that it is 1959, you have just got off the railmotor from Sutherland, have climbed the stairs and are walking northwards along the old Princes Highway just outside of the railway fence to photograph that D57 before it leaves, enjoy.

After the convention Phil Badger visited my Bylong layout for a quick look as he hadn't seen it 'in the flesh' so to speak. I enjoyed Phil's visit and we had good conversation on modelling aspects such as 3D printing, layout design, scenery, etc.

Overall, a great day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Bit of Modelling Distraction

I have started to do some modelling again and I have been working on the Werris Creek Station building discussed in previous posts. The trial 3D prints of some doors and windows from Shapeways in the Frosted Ultra Detail material were very nice but the cost for all of the doors and windows exceeded $500 so a decision was made to do them in the lower cost White Strong and Flexible material at just over $200. The downside was that the detail level and finish is not as good but when the building will be viewed from the layout edge it will be fine. Also most of the fancy doors and windows are under the awnings.

I think that if I can keep focussed I will be able to finish it in a couple of weeks. I have had some more 3D printing done for the very large 'mouldings' that run along the length of the building at the top of the ground level and another 'moulding' above the second level just below the brick 'parapet' (see following photo of station). Other items printed are as shown below.

Here are some images of the mouldings and other pieces from Sketchup the 3d modelling program I am using.

Lower Large Moulding with slot for Corbel Panels - See photo above
Corbel Panel for Lower Large Moulding
Upper Large Moulding
Water Collector Boxes for downpipes visible in above photo - 2 types
Six small chimneys for roof
Two large chimneys for roof
Rear Awning Support Truss - Between Station Building and Refreshment Room building
Rear Awning Support Truss is visible in this photo.
Awning Truss and Post - Etches of Cast Iron Brackets to be added
Awning Rafter Section - Fits into Awning Truss and Posts

Upper level Window Awning Brackets - On North West Platform side in period modelled (1972)
So, for the moment, I hope you can put together all the above pieces and imagine what the model building will look like.

But to give you a little help here are a few photos of the building with some of the bits in place but not glued or fully painted as yet.

Starting to look good

Note the ugly toilet block, it will look better once the trimmings are added

Note the Awning Rafter Sections, Trusses and Posts fitted and glued together

Detail in the breezeway is almost complete
 If you look at the upper level you will notice that it was built in common bricks, an interesting challenge to reproduce, more in the next post.