Sunday, 21 September 2014

Some work at Coxes Crossing

Well the past few weeks aside from other things has shown a slight degree in work on the layout.  As previously mentioned the area known as Coxes Crossing had annoyed me for some time, so it has recieved the first stages of being updated a bit.


 The above photo is a repeat of the photo previously shown & marks the main area to be worked on,  it shows the creek along the back that was what annoyed me the most.
Removing all the trees & building in the foreground I then attacked the creek & had to cut & chisel the old enamel based clear coating I had used for the creek. It was supposed to be clear but turned into a very red/brown stagnant water look, as mentioned also on hot days it softened significantly with whole shed smelling of the enamel  fumes, quite unpleasant.

 Taken basically from the same spot as the previous photo, the new cornice cement covering went straight over what was left of the old grassed area.  Prior to this work I used a sharp edged 75mm bakers dough cutter type spatula to scrap off as much of the old grass I could, amzing what I was able to retrieve, & much of it stuck together & has formed nice lots of clumps, which will be reused on this & other unfinished areas of the layout.
 Looking along the area from the Down end again just shows the raised area on the station side of the creek. I use Brickies yellow Sydney sand for the road base sifted through a very fine sifter.  The brown soil is sifted & dried ground coffee beans rescued after use in the Expresso machine. The remainder goes into the main gardens & highly reccomended as a nutrient & composting material.
 Outside of the buildings & stock yards, Coxes crossing is seperated by the creek, thus the need of a bridge of some type, a low flood or water way concrete crossing was considered but! As a young fella growing up we had a few creeks around my haunting ground, & the sound of cars going over the old loose timber bridges remains a wonderfull memory for me.  Three such bridges crossed the Toongabbie Creek at Northmead, Briens Rd, Hammers Road & Moxhams road, & there were several others in othe suburds as well.  Northmead Public school was not far from the Moxhams Rd bridge & was a busy road that throughout the day the noise from the bridge could well be heard, thus the need of such a bridge.
 Going over the still cleared out creek I obtained a standard flat bridge kit from Rod Kelly of Laser Rail bits, which was a good starting point & after some modifications to it, the photo's show the end result, hindsight tells me I should have got the curved type rather than the flat, none the less I am more than happy with the end result.  I weatther the bridge using soft pastels, & some acrylic white for the rails.  I will build up the back wall a little & add some trees to take away the sudden stop affect that probably spoils the image.
 A few items set in place for the benefit of this photo & to mark out the footpaths etc.

Some work at Moyblane has continued, including the building up of the base behind the station & to the road, same method as used at Coxes. The station is a representation of a station, not exactly accurate in a prototypical sense but it does contain the basic elements of some various types of stations found in country NSW.  The station faces are also Laser Rail items, needing 3 such kits with enough left over to cover the rear sections under the buildings.  The hardest part was glueing the facing to the curved end section at the forefront (Down) end of the platform. The station is long enough for a 6 car Rub set, with the van sitting off the platform.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I received the latest AMRM on Friday 12th September, earliest delivery I have ever seen, must be light on in the publishing industry these days & in a light period.

A couple of things that were in the magazine has me really wondering & after some experiences with models in the last couple of weeks, I feel a need to comment on them, initially I thought of sending a letter with the hope of it being published but after some thinking, whether right or wrong I have decided to comment here.

The first aspect relates to the guest commentary which is found on page 3, while in the main there's not a lot of issues, but one thing that interested me was the bit about detail on RTR models, & how the Australian modeller has generally been receptive to them except for a small group of hypercritical & commercially uninformed have shown dissatisfaction, but on the whole we are happy with the offerings to date, but rocky roads are ahead, if we listen to our importers.  Further on, its mentioned how in the UK some went back to such things as molded on detail which was not well received after such things were introduced in the UK.  This is a very abbreviated comment of what was put in the editorial. 

To me, I have to say that some aspects are worth noting, whilst others not, certainly the aspect of detailed models has been great, yet how great is it really, especially when we consider the market that models are produced for?  Problem in having any sort of commentaries on this sort of thing is that it can paint a broad brush over a subject requiring a lining pen. Thus the topic of detailed items on models is a wide area & one that is vexed owing to how each individual modeller looks at it, & not least their individual abilities skills.

For me, & don't get me wrong I like detailed models, but also at times I really wonder to what extent the move to the highly detailed model has actually been worth it, owing to quite a few things, not least the poor & flimsy way they are fitted to models, what has been added while what has been left off, both critical areas for the adding of realism to models, besides that, how much of it can be seen when operating or standing still on a layout?

I have a bit of a box of bits & pieces that have fallen off models, some of them I have no idea about what they are & where they fit, that is of course if you can fit them back on, especially if the items are made from the Delrin/ABS type plastics that are all but impossible to glue, that is if the items are not that fine & finiky which prevents them being glued back in place correctly.

One of the importers told me a while back that it does not cost extra for the detail, whether its a lot or not, as long as its in the original brief & quote from the factoy, somewhat a change to how it used to be from my understanding.  Another aspect in this is given the cost of models, one would think that if the detail is provided then it should be a sturdy enough item to withstand some work on the model. 

At this point we get the comments about these models are not toys, & need to be handled correctly, & not rough.  Good points, but! how often have we opened the box of our new drool item & found bits loose, or bits broken, & you get a good price for a NQR model? I try to be very careful when handling models, keep most boxes & internal packaging, but, I also see models that suddenly are missing a piece, spider brake handles, air hoses, a break in a plastic pipe etc, after they have been placed on the track & ran for a while.  Sometimes the little box has a replacement but not always.

A couple of models, I have had to reduce the weight of by needing to remove the body, not that hard, but the metal weight is glued in place on the main bottom which has the trusses & brake gear on a seperate plastic casting, both are superb in detail, to get the weights removed, means seperating body & chassis into 3 sections, then you are left with just the main floor with the weight glued on, so with care the weight is removed without a lot of drama's, but care needs to be taken with reassembly to prevent some of the brake detail breaking when fitting back together.

Why the need to remove the weight, some may wonder.  Well when I initially received them I thought they were heavy, using a digital scale, they came in at 107/8 grams, to me too heavy for a bogie vehicle, especially when compared to other bogie wagons I have, both from the same company & others, which weigh between, 74 & 87 grams, the later is for a BWH, & the associated BCH from the same china source was 74grams.  I had trouble trying to pull a train load of them behind a DJH 57cl on the 1:40 grade, removing the weight got them to 77grams much better, they still roll as easy without any problems at all. To me if extra weight was needed, rather that the plastic underfloor assembly which included the U channel, if it was done in metal, that certainly would add more than enough extra weight without goin overboard.

At the price of these models & hey, this is nit picking is the disgusting air hoses, they are plastic, featureless, & drop out very easy, all other companies models that I know of have very neat, strong brass items, the silly part of this is that the models come with whisker type Kadee couplers, not the cheap Chinese items, if there is no expense spared for the couplers, why the other areas of cheapness?

I am not just targetting one company in this, but when I read the review of the release of the old Austrains, K wagons, under the Columbia brand, the point in the review mentions the slightly updated brake gear, including hand brake, & a simple wire under the floor, these along with new all blackened wheels certainly improves the model, again its not all that cheap, but what is found with the models is that they are robust & the detail for mine adequate, so 2 ticks, I will shim the sides down though on mine, as per a previous blog post.

In the end, I think its great having the detail, if its correct, sturdy & can be refitted should it come off. 

The second item in the AMRM dealt with adding weight to the Eureka R class, now at this point I have not read the article, but I was stunned at how much weight was needed to be added. Certainly the person who wrote the article has done a very complete job, & provided excellent detail on what he did with the work, & on each score should be commended.  BUT!  Again this is not a pick at Eureka by itself, but when I looked at the cut out weights along with the overall work that had to be done to this model, that comes now at an after delivery price of $660.00, I have to wonder why the amount of time & effort is needed to make a model able to pull loads that are close to a prototypical load.

Over time I have added some weight to my Austrains, 35 & 36, Eureka garratt, in fairly simple & easy ways, in order to compensate for the lack of pulling abilities.  If my layout did not have grades I would not need to do it, but having 1:40 grade & other 1:75 grades its needed. But to have to go to such a dramatic effort as seen with the article, I have to ask the question especially when we consider the price of the model, is the modeller being short changed, or the other obvious question at the opposite end of the scale.

The 3rd item that I would like to commment on is the one in regard to adding detail to models, the example being an Austrains round boilered 36c to which the owner has done a very good job, & credit due to him.

This comment is more to add a bit of correctness more than anything to the article.  Primarilly in regard to the fire irons.  When TOR released the 32cl they included a set of fire irons, which being at least an attempt to add a necesary item to a model, unfortunately had some quite incorrect items in it,

Steam locomotives were equipped with set types of fire irons depending the type of engine, & primarilly due to the size of the firebox. There were in the sets specified for all engines the following, Dart, Rake, Short & Long Pricker.
Looking at these items, the best way is to describe them & their use, certainly there was not irons found on any locomotives.

DART:  was the bent type, usually it was bent at app 33degrees, with the type of it looking much like pyramid type arrow head. This was the type seen very much high up on the firemans side of a 36cl tender.  This iron was used in the initial spreading of the fire in a depot during engine preperation, engines in depots had the fire banked, under the door, to get working steam, the grate area had to be covered, thus coal was shovelled over the grate, & then the dart was used to lever down between the back of the firebox & the bankde coal, & lever it up & breaking the coals up to spread over the green coal.

PRICKER.  Short types were for small firebox engines such as a 30class & smaller.  Long Priker was found on all other classes.  The Prickers were straight, with a section of metal approx 10" long on the long Pricker & app 8" on the short pricker at a 90degree angle to the main rod. The primary role of the pricker was to break up the coal or fire on the grate that was too heavy, & no or little air was getting through the built up coal & ash.  If the fire became clinkered the pricker was used to break the clinker.

RAKE.  In a sense its a wrong name, as I see many make up a fire iron such as supplied with the TOR 32 cl, that hat 3 or more prongs on it, this is wrong. The Rake actually looked much more like a garden HOE, that was on a long metal rod, same length usually as the long Pricker.  The rake had a head very much like a garden hoe, & was used to evenly spread the fire over the grate area.

Often a short & long pricker were found on engines that were working on long haul trains, in this cast on a 36cl the short pricker along with a rake was positioned along the same side but on the footwalk area on 36cl while all other engines. A long pricker sat above the coal doors, & was the same length as the coal bunker width.  38c had racks for them all on the tender face above the coal doors. 59c along the sides of coal bunker & over the coal doors.

Stoker fed engines had a short pin iron, which had a short 90 degree piece on the end, which was used to pull the slides in the bunker. 38cl engines had or were supposed to have a short handled rake, more akin to what is seen on meteal gutter cleaners, this was for pushing any ash build up in the ashpan sides towards the centre of the ashpan when doors were open.

The extra shovel seen on the side of the 36cl in the article was another item often seen in some areas, as a back up in case the main one was lost.

The positioning of the crews bags, both gladstone bag, or the steel barracks bags, on a 36cl more often than not, the bags were set on the hand brake for the 36cl on the firemans side, often tied to the hand brake handle on other types, if not kit locker was on the tender, the only other place was to sit the bags on the coal, primarilly in the case of 3650gallen tenders & smaller.  These engines along with the Wampu tender had a rack on the drivers side for the fire irons as well.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Satisfied or satisfaction in the hobby. OR The procrastinators delight.

A modeller in our group who is in his 90's had a nice layout, U. S based & while there were some problems at times, with short circuits, & in a couple of unseen sections of the layout, it was a generally pleasing layout to visit & operate on.  Earlier in the year we all arrived to find the layout bar the main benchwork all gone, ripped up & he was ready to start building a new layout.  Start a new layout at his age??  WHY, surelly the bugs could be eradicated & the like but a full new layout, sheesh many have not even got their layouts to operating condition at a much younger age.

Seems this was not an unusual thing for him as he has done it, well so I am told around 4 times or more before.  Seems the reason is simple, he gets bored with what he has & wants something different.  He also gets a lot of satisfaction in the actual building of the layout & planning in what he does.

Looking at the old layout, detail was good, but like many other layouts, there was a lot of it & very U.S styled with buildings mainly from plastic kits & the like, most trains were as they were out of the box, including locomotives & R/S.  Its been some months now since visiting the layout, but I cannot reccolect the models being weathered of other detail done to them, thus a build & run aspect was/is primary to his interest in Model Railways.

In 2004, AMRM editor of the time Bob Gallagher did interviews over a few editions regarding the "NEW AGE" of model railways, with expansion into China of RTR locomotives as well as other items.  The first interview was with the then head of TOR Phil Gibson, & the add for the new 44cl. A later interview was with John Eassie of Austrains, & the new Eureka proprietor Ron Cunningham.

10 years since that 44cl & the other announcements, a lot has happened over that time, many models have come, TOR has changed ownership, & John Eassie is openly saying he is withdrawing, & no more new models will be produced, also the business will be sold if a buyer comes up with the money.

10 years, ago I was restarting in the hobby, enthused at all the promises that were made & looking forward to what the various sooth sayers were promising & had in the future's or crystal ball sightings. At that time with the promises I divested myself of a lot of the old models, an original Dockyard garratt was sold but that provided an earlier airfare to China to capture the last country with heavy steam working, something that drew me back 4 more times in that decade.

With our move here to the central coast & the layout going ahead, another operation just past, to mount 5 operations in 6 years, with a couple to come, I still look to how many of those promises have come to fruition. Not all the fault of the proprietors, but still dissapointing I guess.  However, on reflection, these delays & non fulfilment of the promises has provided me & I know many others who have said the same thing, & that is we have all found other areas in the hobby as much, & in many ways more fulfilling & providing satisfaction than opening a box & sharing in the new wonder term of the MR hobby, being a Plonker.

At the moment, 99.9% of my track is in place, just an abatoirs link is to be built, I have enough loco's & R/S to run trains to my satisfcation or needs.  I do need to finish off some passenger carriages & other R/S items, but they are boxed away, & will, or at least intended to get finished on day. But!. I have to say that the actual running of those models or trains no longer has the depth of interest to me, sure there are some locomotives I will still be getting, if they ever get here, & some R/S items I would like, if they ever get here, but! (again) I have to say that I too am getting a lot more satisfaction out of the construction aspects of the layout.

So much so, that I was looking at one part of the layout that I thought was finished, but it was one part that annoyed me the more I looked at it.  Its really only a small thing that annoyed but enough to rip up the section in question at what I called Coxes Crossing.
The photo shows how it was originally, & what was annoying to me was the way the creek turned out after reading & hearing of the way to use clear varnish to layer water for a layout.  I had spent time detailing the shallow area & took some time in layering the varnish ensuring completely dried prior to the next layer, along with edge painting.  When finished it looked reasonable but last summer with hot days, the smell from the varnish started to get overpowering, also the whole lot became soft on days when the temperature exceeded 30degrees.  I started to get concerned with the vapor & potential for it to cause a fire. Paranoid maybe, but still the more I looked & thought the worse it has gotten. 

Thus it got the bettter of me, when I started to work a bridge crossing in place, & out came a chisel & I took to it in a small section, the overall softness of the varnish, supposedly clear was quite amazing when it says it sets hard, only the top layer of around 1mm was anywhere close to being hard, but certainly not as hard as I expected. A good afternoon had the primary area removed, & a new bottom area prepared, a tin of Casting resin from Bunnings will now form the basis of the water feature along with other redesign of the area around the stock yards & goods shed.

In the fill in times, a station building for Moblayne takes shape as does the station itself, the deck for the goods shed also nears finishing, more areas of scenic work has really provided a good amount of satisfaction, & not a train has run since the last meeting here.

What this level of satisfaction also does is to allow me time to get the items done that provides the delight for the ultimate procrastinator, if the spellings wrong, well that also goes or fits in well with being satisfied with the hobby in a new way.  Essence, is essentially coming together, & in a way I wonder if I ever will finish it, maybe knowing that, is the ultimate in satisfaction, unless I think ripping the whole layout up & starting again is the way to go.