Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seasons Greetings

Another year has come and almost gone, one in which life gave me a couple of nudges. This is my first Christmas on retirement and I must say that I can only recommend it. Yes, I know some have a while to go but I can remember watching a guy at work retire and thinking, wow I have 40 years to go. That time eventually came 47 years after I started work. Anyway, enough of that.

Chris and I would like to wish all those who follow my blog a happy Christmas/holiday period and a great New Year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pondering line pole wiring on Bylong

I received several comments on my last post which I will reproduce here:

From Jim

"Maybe do them in the winter."

From Ian Millard (liverpoolrange)

"When Andrew and I installed the EZ-Line elastic product for the fence on Bowen Creek, we found that superglue reacted with the line and crinkled it up. We ended up using PVA glue. Yes it took longer to dry, but the effect was better. Your recent tests with the local product have been very interesting, and I'll keep it all in mind when come to do my line poles. I reckon your sag test doesn't look that bad. I think if you get even a small amount of sag, it will look better than being taut. I can understand though the difficulty of getting the sag uniform across all wires."

From Pete Coombes

"Once again apologies for opening this can of worms for you, but I agree with Ian that your test looks much better than the taut, even if there is a little difference in the sag between wires. May I refer you to the September MR article by Pelle Soeborg, who I think you would agree is one of the great finescale modellers currently publishing. The photos show that even his wires have a slightly uneven sag but look fantastic. He uses CA and EZ line however. Not sure if this is helpful or just complicating the discussion."

Here are a few details about line poles on Bylong.

I have 110 spans of wires to do if I proceed, this doesn't include the 9 spans already done which following on from Jim's comment could be in a cool valley so the wires would be tighter but Bylong is set in late 1965 (late Spring - early Summer).

I have 51 of the 110 spans in between the layout edge and the main line. On the real lines the crossarms face Sydney however the line poles may be on either side of the line.

I like this as it looks more realistic, I like having the trains going through the scenery and buildings not having them in front of the scene. I have done this since the first Bylong exhibition layout in 1979. When taking model photos I like the effect of the line poles being in front of the train, it places the train in the scene.

The existing line poles are not glued in place as I have found that if they are knocked they tend to just move instead of having the crossarms break off.

If I go ahead with sagging wires the poles will need to be glued as a movement as little as 1 - 2mm in the test poles causes various wires to either tighten or sag more. This may be less of a problem if I can get a bit more sag into the wires. This effect also means that it is not possible to wire the poles in a long timber jig and then put them on the layout, all poles will need to be wired in place.

I occasionally have operating sessions at Bylong with as many as 10 operators (4 Station Masters/Signalmen and 4 - 5 driving at a time) so the potential for damage is probably medium to high.

The Knitting In Elastic does stretch a long way and is not likely to cause damage in itself when caught on a hand, sleeve, etc. However, if a pole is damaged and the crossarms break and/or come off the pole the repair is likely to be difficult given that the elastic will want to pull the crossarm away from the pole while the glue sets. I think that it may be possible to hold the crossarm(s) in place with something like the small tweezers that Kadee sells for assembling their coupler boxes (N gauge ones I think, I have two).

Before I can wire a lot of the line poles I still have to upgrade about half of the backscenes including new installation and scene painting.

OK, enough of the background detail.

I may try doing some sagging wires in place on the layout using Ian's suggestion of PVA glue, I think that it might be possible to lay the elastic across the insulators of a number of poles, adjust the sag across all the poles then glue using PVA. This might give a little adjustment while the glue is wet in case the application of the glue moves the elastic, remember that I found that as little as 1-2mm can cause an appreciable effect to the sag. Of course the PVA being water based may also pull on the elastic as it shrinks. The PVA may be of real benefit in case of crossarm breakage as it might be possible to wet the glue sufficiently (wet tissue placed around the glue/crossarm(s)) to allow the wires to be removed to replace the crossarm with a new one. Knowing how big Ian's layout is and how many wires follow the main line through Ardglen I feel for him.

Regarding Pete's comment that Pelle Soeborg has achieved a realistic sag, true enough. Pelle does amazing work however his layout is quite small so we go back to the problem of the number of spans to be done on Bylong and the time to do it. It took me one hour to do one span when trying to get a sag on the test board; 110 hours, hmmm?

So the decision is in the hands of the Gods at the moment, I can't see a quick resolution and certainly the line poles won't be done quickly if they do get done.

Everyone will have to make up their own mind as to what they might do on their layout.

As I said in an earlier post, Bylong is an experiment in techniques, some work, some don't. 

I hope this information has been of some help to others.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

NSWGR Line Pole wiring sag test

I made up a test board with two line poles to see if I could consistently achieve a prototypical sag of about six scale inches with the stretchy thread (Knitting In Elastic). I got carried away and added some soil and static grass for effect.

I applied Super Glue to the thread on one insulator, waited for it to set then allowed the thread to lay loosely across the insulator at the other pole. I then placed one handle of a pair of combination pliers into the hole through the bobbin of the thread to act as a brake, placed the bobbin and pliers on the table, slowly moved the pliers which pulled the loose thread upwards until I achieved the required sag and then applied some glue to the insulator. I hooked the thread around the next insulator applied some glue and repeated the process. It took about an hour to do the 12 wires which was about four or five times as long per pair of poles as the way a did the run of poles in my first line pole post with the taut wires.

As can be seen from the photo, the outcome wasn't that good. A small amount of sag can be seen but two wires ended up higher (tighter) then intended. Also the sag ended up less than I wanted so the glue may pull slightly on the thread when it sets. If the thread is given too much sag it tends to start to wrinkle or bunch up a little.

I picked up some grey invisible thread at Lincraft as I had heard that it has some stretch, however the stretch is minimal compared with the Knitting In Elastic, perhaps 40mm over the distance between the poles. Also when allowed to sag it wrinkled up more than the Knitting In Elastic so may need to be stretched taut. This would mean that by the time the twelve or more wires were done the strain on the poles would likely be too much. The grey invisible thread could be used to represent power lines as the power poles don't carry as many wires.

Over all, I don't think that the effort of achieving a sag is worth the outcome given how many poles I would have to do on my layout if I carry on.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How I make NSWGR Line Poles

I thought that since I was talking about wiring line poles with stretchy thread that I should explain how I make the line poles for my layout.

The reason for this is particularly related to the insulators and crossarms as the design of these makes the use of the stretchy thread easy.

I use Rix Products crossarms for two reasons, they have the V supports at approximately the correct place and the insulators are moulded proud of the crossarm supported by the mounting bolt. This gives a way to capture the stretchy thread under the insulator. The crossarms come with ten insulators per crossarm and 12 crossarms per sprue. Each crossarm on the sprue is connected to the base of the V above and in such a way that they can be cut from the sprue as 2, 3, 4, 6 or 12 crossarms. Different numbers of crossarms could be cut from the sprue but then they wouldn't be one piece, still possible though . I trim the ends of the crossarms to give me three insulators on each side and I cut two connected crossarms from the sprue at the bottom of the V support where it meets the next crossarm down. The reason for this is that from observation of photos, I determined that some sections of cross-country lines have two crossarms with six insulators, others of course have many more of each. I always subscribe to doing as little as is necessary to give the right impression so two crossarms of six insulators seemed good to me. The product number of the Rix Products crossarms is 628-31 and I bought mine from the Model Railroad Craftsman at Blacktown NSW.

I use code 70 weathered Micro Engineering rail for the posts. I use the code 70 as it is more robust than code 55 which would be more correct, however the code 70 still looks OK due to the dark weathering. As the prototype also used timber poles, I have used the Rix Products 30' and 40' timber poles (product number 628-30) on the Ardglen station of Ron Cunningham's Werris Creek layout (see this previous post for a photo).

Rix Products also has 40' poles available, product number 628-40. You can download the catalogue from this link. I also obtained the weathered code 70 Micro Engineering rail from the Model Railroad Craftsman (this is not meant to be an advertisement for MRRC, it is just one of several hobby shops that I frequent).

I paint the crossarms with Floquil concrete as it gives a good impression of the weathered wood. Of course given that Testor has decided to no longer make Floquil paint I will have to find something else.

I then paint the insulators white (I know that there are also clear and clear green glass insulators) using the method in the following video.

As can be seen in the video the trick is using the applicator nozzle from a tube of ACC Super Glue with a taper cut across the nozzle. I dip a brass rod in the acrylic white paint and allow a drop of paint to fall into the screw part of the nozzle. Now this paint won't want to run all the way to the hole in the nozzle so I then dip the brass rod with paint on it into some methylated spirits (de-natured alcohol) and then place the rod into the paint in the screw top of the nozzle. This thins the paint sufficiently to allow it to run to the nozzle but not enough so that it flows out. Now this sounds a bit complicated but it isn't really. The paint is then applied as per the method in the video.

I assemble the line poles in a jig that holds the crossarms in the correct position. The paint application nozzle can be seen in the photo as well.

Careful observation of the above photo will show that I glue the crossarms to the base of the rail and not the side as per the plan in a previous post.

If you wish to do it more prototypically, you could cut small pieces of say 2" x 3" Evergreen plastic strip and glue the small block in the correct place against the web on the side of the rail so that the rail post and crossarm have the correct orientation.

If I was doing a small layout I might have considered this but I had too many to make so needed and easy way to produce the line poles.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black stretchy thread not much use

I picked up some black knitting in thread yesterday at Spotlight for $4.19 (different brand to the white and same length).

However it is black because it has a very fine black normal looking thread wrapped around a white stretchy thread, this makes it look thicker, rough and a little furry.

I checked what it would look like on poles for black PVC coated power lines and as old rusty barbed wire (rough effect) on a fence but in my mind it failed on all counts.

Also, it can't be made to sag as the black fine thread wrinkles up.

So it is a no go, back to the white.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

All you ever wanted to know about NSWGR line poles

I received some line pole information from Ian Millard and Colin Hussey in the comments from my last post and then received an email from Bob Stack of South Coast Rail with some very interesting documents.

Bob's documents were two NSWGR documents and a plan which I have uploaded to Google Docs for you to download.

Document 1 - SRA NSW Line Route Maintenance and Construction Q&A

Document 2 - NSWGR Erection and Maintenance of Line Work 19/10/1950

Document 3 - SRA NSW Line Pole Construction Detail Plan 13/04/1984

These cover anything you might want to know but you will have to look for it particularly in document 2.

For instance there are Sag Tables and I have found that the sag in between two poles spaced 40 yards (120') apart at a temperature of 70 degrees F is 6.3" for galvanised wire and 5.7" for copper wire. As my poles are approximately a scale 100' apart then the droop would be about 1.5mm actual. There are tables for spans of 40, 55 and 60 yard but because of our tight curves we need to space the poles a bit closer, I didn't know how far apart they were in reality so I spaced them to look right.

Anyway, a big thank you Bob and everyone, have fun reading if you download them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

In real life wires sag - a philosophical discussion

Last night at our train meeting I was taken to task by one of the Ramblers on the fact that my wires don't sag and I have also received a similar comment on my 'Have I started something I might regret' post.

True enough, a study of photos will show that they do indeed sag but in other photos they will be almost straight with little sag no doubt due to the prevailing temperature. It can also be seen that in most photos the wires can't be seen on telegraph and power poles and that is how I normally handled them on the layout.

Now here though is a photo clearly showing the sag in the wires in February 1969.

Photo by R Merchant

And here is another photo of the same wires (on the left above and over the 48 class below) with very little sag in March 1981.

Photo from Train Hobby Country Stations of NSW Part 1

As an aside, last night we were looking at the above (and below) telegraph poles at Ardglen station on Ron Cunningham's Werris Creek layout and after counting the insulators (48) we couldn't decide if we (meaning myself) would do them with the stretchy thread or not. There would be quite a strain on the two end poles even with the smallest amount of stretch on each of the 48 wires and as such the end poles may need to be remade with brass rod (perhaps the second last pole at each end also).

Ardglen station on Werris Creek layout showing telegraph poles, pre-production Eureka 40 Class on HUB set

I had been wanting to try the look of the telegraph wires but due to the cost of the stretchy thread available in hobby shops I had only used some purchased rust coloured Berkshire Hobbies E Z Line thread for a small section of fencing, I wasn't that impressed with the rust colour as when stretched it took on a new copper wire look.

I also had a comment posted that discussed the colour of the wires, copper wires for instance being a whitish pale green and power lines being black due to the PVC coating. I feel that the black ink makes the wires go grey which in my mind is close enough to pale green not to matter. Regarding the black PVC coated power wires, I really can't remember if they were coated in 1965 or not but see below for further comment.

When I sourced the knitting in thread I decided to give it a go. Then came the decision regarding the sag and I felt that it would be very difficult to get 12 wires all with the exact same sag so I went for the taut look.

As can be read in my last post there does appear to be black knitting in thread available and certainly for power lines I might have a go at the sag as power poles don't carry many wires and if the wire is not stretched it will look thicker as power wires do. The advantage of this thread is that it will stretch a long way if you catch it when reaching into a scene so that alone is worth the effort. Incidentally, the E Z Line comes in white, black, green and rust so the green and rust colours may be available as well as white and black.

I think I will do some fences wires with the black to see if they look more like rusted wire than the rust coloured E Z Line. Of course white thread coloured with the black ink could look like new wire.

My layout is nothing more than an experiment in techniques and this is just another.

Because in the hobby we have to work with in the physical limits of the materials we have available to attempt to replicate the real world we have to rely heavily on impression and perception to fool the eye (and now the ear but that is another story).

There is a rule called the 80/20 rule and it goes like this, it will take the same amount of time/effort to achieve the last 20% of some target as it did to get to 80%. I like to think of myself as trying to achieve somewhere between 80-90% and this is both related to having a largish layout and not being so focussed that I am driven.

To me, my hobby is about pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Does this particular effect work, I don't know at the moment but I think I will probably carry on with it.

Is this a justification for doing something 'wrong', perhaps, but it is all good fun.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Update on stretchy thread availability

Brett Robertson has just left a comment on my previous post about stretchy thread for telegraph poles, power poles and fence wires.

Here is the comment:

"Hi Ray, have been following your blog recently as I plan my own layout. The knitting in thread is available here in Qld from Spotlight stores in black as well. My Mum who is a keen knitter showed me some of the black she used on a jumper a short time ago.

Brett "

Good news, so off to Spotlight as soon as possible, I will also check Lincraft.

Now, if I try it and like the black, what do I do about the existing wires?

I suspect that I might use the black for different wires, e.g. power pole wires, and old rusty fence wires.

Thanks Brett

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Have I started something I might regret?

Somewhere on the net a few weeks ago I came across the actual name of the stretchy thread that can be used for fences and telegraph wires on the layout. When out with Chris recently we were near Lincraft (a haberdashery - materials and sewing plus craft store) and I asked Chris if she had heard of Knitting In Thread, she said yes so we went in.

Now the similar stretchy thread that you can buy in a hobby store is about $20/spool of 100 feet, this is 20 cents/foot. My main line telegraph poles have two crossarms with six insulators each so twelve insulators and 100 feet would only give me about 8-9 feet of wires (my poles are approx. 100 scale feet apart.

The spool/bobbin of Knitting In Thread was $6.95 for 220 yards (660 feet) of white thread which is 1 cent/foot so we bought a bobbin. I decided that at that price I would see how it went and deal with the white issue.

Well, it certainly works and the thread can be blackened or at least darkened by the application of some black ink once in-situ.

I found that the best way to use it was to tie it off at one end pole insulator then move along the run of telegraph poles to the other end pole gluing the thread to each of the insulators about three or four poles at a time, putting a slight stretch into the thread as you go. When you get to the other end pole wrap/turn the thread around to the next insulator on the crossarm and proceed back down the line to the pole at the other end gluing as you go. If found that the best way to hold the thread tight while applying the glue (ACC/Super Glue) was to put a large pair of tweezers through the spool/bobbin and keep the line tight (see the photo below). Keep doing this until all wires are done with the one length of thread. I worked from the bottom crossarm rear insulator to the front insulator then moved to the top crossarm rear insulator and repeated the process. I trimmed the tied off thread end pieces once the glue was set.

In between applying the thread to each crossarm I applied some black ink to the bottom wires with a cotton pipe cleaner which enabled me to do three wires at a time. The ink doesn't want to stain the thread near the insulators where the glue has absorbed into the thread but it isn't that noticeable. The effect leaves a little shine but overall it reduces the visibility to perhaps about one third of when it is white (see photos below).

Keeping the thread tight while gluing the last few insulators

Lower wires blackened prior to stringing the top white wires

All wires blackened

3520 on Up goods drifting down Cox's Gap bank

As can be seen in the above, once blackened the wires can be seen at times but at other places they virtually disappear into the scenery. I might get another roll and try soaking it in black dye for a few days so that the dye can penetrate all the way into the centre of the bobbin, the actual bobbin is plastic so it won't be a problem like a cardboard bobbin. Don't wait for the outcome of that though as I think I like the current blackened wires, try it yourself. The white is easier to see when stringing the wires anyway.

As a rule I don't glue scenic items in place but the two end poles need to be very firmly placed. In difficult to reach places I have decided that the best way to do the poles will be to get a long length of wood, drill holes in it to match the pole spacing, remove the existing 'no wire' poles from the layout (remember they aren't glued in place), wire the poles, then carefully put them back in place on the layout, gluing the end poles into the scenery and bracing them as required until they are set. It would be almost impossible to have the wires run uninterrupted all the way along the main line so the poles will be done in sections with some sort of scenic break where possible at the ends of runs. I already run the lines of telegraph poles off the edge of the layout or up into trees in places so this shouldn't be too much of a problem. There will inevitably be missing bits of wiring, e.g. at the drawbridge entry into the layout but this can't be helped.

So given how long the main line is and the potential for also wiring fences, the question is have I started something on the layout that I might regret? I don't know but I do like it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

More LED lighting

After psyching myself up I removed the 240 volt lighting from the rest of the layout. There is an exception to this though, the lower Up staging yard remains fitted with some T5 fluorescent fittings that plug into each other end to end. One of the main reasons for removing the high voltage lighting is that when I installed it I used some figure 8 240 volt wire forgetting that I already had some figure 8 wire of the same colour with low voltage for point motors. I labelled the high voltage wiring with red labels printed with 240 volts about every 300mm but I had always felt uncomfortable.

Now with the old lighting removed I had to replace it with LEDs, easy enough you say but, I now had to run the 12 volt DC wiring for the LEDs right around most of the layout to get to the lower level with the grade that climbs from Bylong No 2 tunnel to Cox's Gap loop past the long cliff face. The real problem wasn't the length of the run it was the junk in storage under my layout, the whole layout is full underneath so access was the problem. Like I said though I had psyched myself up earlier this week and gritted my teeth and got to it. Like a lot of these jobs it went OK and wasn't as fearsome as thought.

Since I had problems with the LED strips above Kerrabee sticking to the painted surface on the inside of the fascia in the first installation I decided on a different method. This time I painted the inside fascia area (bare pine timber) with Selleys Kwik Grip, a water based contact cement. I left it to go clear and touch dry then removed the adhesive protective strip from the back of the LED strips and pressed them in place. So far I have had to press on the strips in one or two places and they seem to be holding well.

When I built the upper Down staging yard I made it in two pieces for easy removal in case we ever moved. So prior to gluing the LED strips in place I had cut them at the staging yard baseboard join and attached the 12 volt DC power to the two strips at the other end of the staging yard, more wiring!

When I turned on the power I was very happy with the result. The previous fluorescent lighting did not match the room lighting at all and was much brighter so that there was a distinct change in lighting conditions when coming out from under the upper staging yard at Cox's Gap. The difference now was still there but only just and I will continue the use of the same light green foliage past the Cox's Gap signal box which will I hope tend to mask the change. If you look at the following photo you will see what I mean.

 Here is a view along the cliff, you can see the lighting change at the signal box but it isn't as obvious to the naked eye, digital cameras seems to have the ability to capture more lighting information than our eyes.
Here are some photos taken to check the colour rendition of the new lighting. I didn't make any colour balance or brightness and contrast adjustments, they look good to me.

Finally, I have made some headway on getting the upper level of the tear drop ready for scenery. I cut some templates from corrugated cardboard which I then used as a template for 6mm MDF versions. Here is a view of the MDF in place ready for scenery.

I have been pondering if I should paint the underside of the MDF with the same blue as the top part of the back scene sky but if I do that then I will have to paint the top of the MDF and the sides to prevent warping. Still thinking about that but veering towards not painting as my paint is getting low, I have more back scenes to do and the paint brand is no longer available. I could get the paint matched so not sure at this stage. Another aspect is that the back scene sky has a slight purplish tinge with the LED lighting compared to the room lighting and I am not sure if more blue on the underside of the MDF will add to the purplish effect, reduce it or make no difference.

Just one more area to do, the grade up to Bylong under Wollar. Unfortunately the Wollar baseboards are also in two pieces and then there is the drawbridge lift up section at the door. So a bit more complicated than one long run of the LED strips.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NSWGR Station Building Stone Colours

I have just been asked what colours I used for the station buildings of Bylong and Wollar in my last post and if the colours are available 'off the shelf'.
The colours I used are the ones listed by James McInerney in his article ' Stone Colour Schemes for NSWGR buildings' in Issue 1 1994 of Branchline Modeller (later to become the Australian Journal of Railway Modelling).
The colours James used are as follows:

Dark Stone - Tamiya XF10 Flat Brown
Medium Stone - Humbrol No.62 Leather (matt)
Light Stone - Humbrol No.71 Cream (satin) with No.62 leather added to tint.
White - Any brand/type to suit

To tint means of course that you keep adding the No.62 Leather colour to the No.71 Cream until you feel that you have matched the Light Stone wall colour. The trick is to have a good photo of the Light Stone wall colour and of course like all colours it varies.
I tinted the No.71 Cream with 42 drops of No.62 Leather. The drops were from a piece of 1/8" (3mm) brazing rod that I use as a paint mixing stick, stick it in the No.62 and let a drop fall into the full tin of No.71 Cream, using another mixing stick to keep checking the resulting colour. So the answer is to stop when you have what you feel is correct.
Light Stone wasn't the only wall colour and Medium Stone was used for smaller/lesser buildings, or so it seems from photos. Here is the Medium Stone Chargeman's Office at Wollar locomotive depot.

An alternative set of colours can be found here at Brian Aylings web site, just scroll down the page:
When checking Brian's web site for the above link I also found the NSWGR station name font, just scroll down the web page above. I am sure that I got the font JPG from the Aus_Model_Rail Yahoo newsgroup and think that Brian posted it there at one time.
All I can say is thank you Brian for such a useful resource.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A bit of retro-modelling

I was prompted recently to finish some of my models as a result of seeing a very nice underframe for a SHG guards van on the SDS Models stand at the AMRA October Liverpool exhibition. I built a SHG decades ago from scribed timber and timber shapes but had never completed the detailing so out came the details storage box and away I went.
At the same time I decided that I would detail two Protype BHG guards vans as well. The BHGs were left to me as part of Chris' uncle Tom Parkes' estate so they will be a remembrance of him on the layout.
The inevitable happened and I ran out of details which meant a trip to Casula Hobbies last week. Unfortunately not all the items were in stock. I particularly wanted the AM Models end steps for guards vans so the second BHG will have to wait.
Here are photos of the SHG and one of the BHGs. The SHG has been fitted with the AM Models end steps. Yes, I have seen the warp in the SHGs top timber side step and have taken steps to correct it. It is amazing what you see in a photo, it didn't look to bad on the model.

If you study the station infrastructure on Bylong you will see that the platform seat has BYLONG in white on it. I decided a week or so ago to print up some station names for the platform seats on my layout using an ALPS printer that I have access to. I made up the artwork from a 600dpi JPG of the NSWGR alphabet font that someone had produced a couple of years ago and placed in the public domain on a newsgroup.
After printing the water slide transfer (decal) I proceeded to check the print and realised that I hadn't done Cassilis! Oh well, the platform seat on Cassilis station is facing the back scene and can't be seen. I will probably do one at some stage as it would be nice to see it in a photo such as this one of the branch platform side at Wollar. Incidentally there are three platform seats with WOLLAR on them facing the back scene on the main line side of the Wollar island platform.

While I was applying the transfers I replaced the UL with RU on some lime wagons that I had obtained. I also had to replace the code on some SDS Models BCWs that I had bought a while ago without noticing that they were the four letter coded ones.
Here are the BCWs all weathered.

Well, that's it for now.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eureka Models VR R Class preview video

Last night I had the opportunity to see, photograph, listen to, run and video the new Eureka Models VR R Class steam locomotive.  Ron Cunningham received two VR R Classes during the day and he came over to show me and for me to photograph them for his blog/web site/Eureka Times. I really don't know where the photos will appear but I am sure that you will see them soon. The Eureka Models VR R Class production run is to be loaded on a ship on 27 October, details can be found at the Eureka web site or blog.

Ron has allowed me to present a quick video of the R Class.

I of course don't model VR but comparing the sounds to YouTube videos I would have to say that it certainly does sound like an R Class.

Also, since the sound version has a QSI Titan chip then this would be the first QSI Titan steam locomotive sound set.

Here is the Eureka Models VR R Class video:

And here is a real VR R Class YouTube video:

A final note, the actual model R Class has a bit more bass than the sound in the video of the model.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

LED lighting and a better view

When I first built the lower level of the teardrop with the loop at Kerrabee along with the other lower parts of the layout, it was as an afterthought that enabled me to extend the main line run. However since it wasn't part of the original design there were two downsides to this, the first was that the gap between the upper and lower levels was a bare 6 inches increasing to 8 inches (150 - 200mm, sorry but although working all my life in a laboratory with the metric system I still often think about the layout in feet and inches?) and the second was that the lighting for the lower level had to be made to fit where it could. The level under Wollar was basically OK as I was able to lower the front and have the scenery drop forwards from the track which visually opened up the scene to 9 - 10 inches.

Lighting for this area was done using compact fluorescent lights fitted into the frame of the upper level. Kerrabee however was a different matter. Because of the way that the outside of the teardrop had been constructed back in the 1980's I wasn't able to do the same and was forced to put the compact fluorescents above and behind the top of the low back scene which gave poor uneven light at best. A further issue was that I was not comfortable with 240 volts wiring under the layout as I had previously used 240 volt figure of eight wire for point motor power. I had used red Dymo tape to mark the 240 volt wiring about every twelve inches or so but it was still a danger.

Some time ago Bob Lynch had installed some 5 metre strings of LEDs on a lower level of his layout and also Ron Cunningham's Werris Creek, this gave me food for thought. A few weeks ago while pondering over the issue I had an idea on what to do. It was found that the combination of a strip of cool white and a strip of warm white gave plenty of light for photography along with good colour rendition, not perfect but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be 'natural' LEDs available.
The following photos show the various stages of the reconstruction of the outer part of the upper level to accommodate a higher back scene and LED lighting. The secret was the ability to put outrigger supports screwed to the rising grade supports of the upper level

The existing teardrop before reconstruction, note that the upper level only partly covers the lower level and also the depth of the upper valance.

Upper level valance and scenery removed exposing the upper level rising grading support structure.

Lower back scene extended vertically and upper supports in place which gradually increased the gap between the lower and upper levels. I considered removing the short lower back scene but I had nailed and glued it to the upper rising grade supports, hence the addition of a strip on the top of the existing back scene. This was achieved by first attaching small tabs of 3mm MDF every 4 inches or so with PVA glue held in place with cloths pegs. The additional back scene was then cut, glue applied on tabs and the top edge of the lower back scene, nailed at one end and carefully wrapped and tacked in place. The join was then filled with Spakfilla, mostly successfully but the join can be seen here and there. I made and screwed in place a small removable section of back scene for access to a point motor and servo motors for the bracket signal at the colliery junction.

Lower back scene sky painted and upper valance in place and painted black. I managed to cut down and reuse the old upper level valance which was still in a nice curve.

Fitting and testing LED lighting was then carried out. The LED strips come with self adhesive on the back so I painted the inside lower 20mm of the upper valance with semi-gloss paint to enhance the bond. The strips were attached around the bottom edge of the valance one above and hard up against the other. Although not shown in the photo the underside of the outer end of the outrigger frame extension was tapered upwards to make room for the LED strips to pass under and to minimise the height of the valance to optimise the viewing height of the lower level. Unfortunately the next morning I found that one strip had fallen off so I used some Selleys water based Kwik Grip to glue the strip back. I have since noted that the strips tend to pop off the valance in short 25 - 50mm sections here and there and I will watch this before the top level scenery is done. If it gets worse I will begin a process of using the Kwik Grip to bond these small sections until it stops. My advice is to apply the strips to a gloss painted surface and to use contact adhesive as well, you have to let the contact adhesive dry then apply the strips.

LED lighting in place.

Back scene landscape painted and basic scenery back in place.
As I like to photograph the layout I was hoping that this reconstruction would enable to me to photograph a part of the layout that was extremely difficult to do so. I have to say that I am very happy with the result and here are some trial photos I took. The photos are as taken apart from one which has had part of the lower valance removed by 'rubber stamping' grass over it in a photo editing program, it is the one which is a different shape having been clipped out of the original.

5085 on the Up Pickup crosses Kerrabee Creek

5085 on Up Pickup leaving Kerrabee

5085 on Up Pickup leaving Kerrabee

PHG guards van on the Up Pickup

Finally here is a video of the first train through the completed Kerrabee scene. Well, no layout is completed and I will be upgrading the scenery between the track and back scene in the future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

From out of the past

Many years ago my brother Noel and I scratch built a Z25 class, I can't remember the exact year however it was featured on the cover of the Nov-Dec 1970 Australian Model Railway Magazine (issue 047). I took the photo and wince at the total lack of quality, it seemed OK then and certainly shows the advances made in cameras, particularly digital since then.
I saved the cover photo below from the AMRM site rather than try to find my copy, apologies to Bob G, James McI and Ian D. It's amazing how you can put the issues in chronological order and then come back some time later and find them all mixed up.

On the cover it can be seen that the Z25 was numbered 2531 which was the case for several years until I found a better picture of the real 2531 and saw the it had a crocodile crosshead so after a little research it quickly became 2540.
I recently decided to resurrect 2540 after installing a LokSound Micro v4.0 sound decoder in my Craftsman Models Z13.
I had done some work on 2540 many years ago when I fitted some ball races to the driving axles but it was in dire need of detailing.
I removed the sand boxes that were made of solid brass and replaced them with some spare whitemetal ones from the Craftsman Models Z26 class body kit I produced many years ago, the sand boxes were cut and filed to shape to represent the ones on a Z25.
I added a new cast brass headlight, marker lights including wiring, a ladder for the tender, beading around the top edge of the tender 'hungry boards' and finally I replaced the Triang turned brass buffers with some spare bronze Protype castings left over from the Craftsman Models Z13 model kit production. I had a lot of castings left over as Trax produced their brass Z13 at the same time so my kit sales died, thanks John E. Never mind the kit paid for the large milling machine that I bought to produce the chassis for the Z13. That mill is still sitting under the layout waiting for me to do something with it. I have a lot of Mansfield Hobbies steam locomotive castings and a couple of gearboxes and driving wheel sets and now that I am retired I might just scratch build another locomotive.
Anyway, back to 2540, I now faced the challenge of fitting the decoder, a TCS KA1 Keep Alive and a speaker into the tender that already contained the motor. I won't go through all the work I did to make this work but the following photo of 2540 shows a very full coal load in the tender as it is hiding the 16mm QSI speaker and enclosure. The coal load is a bit squarish from the back but it was that or no sound. Also I just need to give the cylinders a bit of airbrushing as they are showing a lot of scratches and the weathering on them needs to be toned down.

I am reasonably happy with the result except that there is a gear grind evident once you get going faster than shunting speeds, oh well perhaps I might look at an enclosed gearbox but how to fit it is the question. In explanation I should mention that my brother turned the boiler from solid brass and the belpaire firebox is also solid with a slot running through underneath for the drive shaft from the tender so not easy to make more room for a gearbox. I was also going to replace the steam dome and funnel that my brother also turned up in brass however they were pegged into the boiler and I couldn't shift them.
So there it is a 'new' locomotive for the Cassilis branch.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Anton's 75' turntable motor and gearbox replacement

I have not been happy with the noise and operation of the motor/gearbox combination supplied in the Anton's 75' turntable. For some time I have been contemplating replacing the motor/gearbox with a combined 12v DC motor and gearbox available from Jaycar Electronics. In the intervening period I was given a similar motor/gearbox from a friend so I recently pulled the original motor/gearbox out and did a simple replacement. I retained the pulley system and the increased torque available from the new motor overcame the turning hesitation that was sometimes evident with the original motor/gearbox.

The current Jaycar motor/gearbox ($19.95) should be quite OK to use although the hole in the small pulley will need to be enlarged with a 4mm or No.18 or 19 drill as the Jaycar gearbox has a 4.2mm dia. shaft. This motor is 12v DC and runs at 36RPM so when wired in using the original motor wiring including the capacitor across the motor terminals, the trim pot on the existing circuit board can be used to adjust the table turning speed. The existing pulley ration of course means that it should run nice and slow.

As can be seen from the photo below, I simply used a wire twist tie to hold the new motor in place, the wire passing through the original motor mounts. I will replace this of course with something a bit more professional. The original set up has a nylon adjusting screw that pushed the bottom of the motor/gearbox away from the mounting frame thereby tightening drive belt on the small top pulley. I managed to lose the small nylon screw but had a suitable metal replacement (2mm metric bolt I think). The new motor wanted to slip sideways off the tensioning screw so I made a 'saddle' from a piece of brass tube to which I soldered a larger nut, the end of the tensioning screw sitting inside the nut. While the nut can't be seen in the photo a little study will show why it is required. This saddle could be made from a piece brass sheet.

The outcome was a very quiet drive with enough torque to eliminate the turning hesitation (slipping/almost stopping at times when turning) of the original drive.

Here is a video of the drive in action, the video camera is sitting on the baseboard and the drive is under the turntable, you have to listen very carefully to hear anything in the video. The drive does make a little noise in operation but nothing like the high pitched noise of the original.