Saturday, September 3, 2016

I'm still here

It has been awhile since my last post and I wanted to let you all know that I am still here and that  while progress has been slow on the layout there has been some modelling done.

As I have mentioned in the past I have had some ongoing issues with my sight after an accident a couple of years ago. I had surgery on my eye last year and the recovery time has been slow but thankfully after a new pair of glasses my vision is back to a pretty good level. If there is a lesson out of my experience, it is look after your eyes. Without them it can make modelling a bit difficult.

The difficulties with my sight has meant that I haven't been doing a lot of modelling. I found I got very frustrated and for awhile I just haven't wanted to work on the layout. I did keep plugging away at a project that I have wanted to achieve for some time. I have a number of the excellent AMK kits of the Victorian narrow gauge passenger cars. They have made kits for both the NBB and the NAB and I have been slowly working away at them.

I am very pleased with how they have come together

They are an extremely detailed kit that has been well thought out, and I am pleased that the long suffering passengers of Geehi & Mt Bogong now have some comfortable transport.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fitting sound to the Garratt

I haven't been happy with the Tsunami sound decoder I had fitted to the Garratt. It just never sounded right and the whistle was totally wrong. I also had trouble with the running qualities. It seemed to short or reset almost constantly. I never did quite work out if the decoder didn't like running two motors or if I had a poor connection somewhere.

I was't sure what I was going to do about it until I stumbled across a DCC shop in the UK called YouChoos that sells Zimo sound decoders. John has a range of decoders loaded with the sounds of various  British locomotives. What caught my eye was a decoder for the OO scale LMS Garratt that Helijan released a few years back.

While the sounds are not exactly right for G42 they are pretty close as they were recorded off Bulawayo Garratts in South Africa. The decoder arrived in yesterdays mail and I installed it this morning.

I am very happy with how it sounds and to my ear it sounds far more like G42 than the Tsunami did. I can happily recommend the service from John at YouChoos.

Any way take a look and see what you think...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


I have been building fences lately, both 1:1 scale and 1:48 and I thought I would share some photos of prototype fences. There is a fair bit of variation in farm fences depending on the region and era that the fence was built in. 

Timber posts with either plain wires or netting was popular in my area especially before the 1960's. While they were hard work to put up they were cheap to build. Most of the posts were cut and split from trees on the farm. My father who is in his 70's vividly remembers how much work it was to saw, split and drill the posts all by hand. The holes in the ground also were dug by hand. So much work to then have a bushfire come along and destroy the lot. There aren't many of these old wooden fences left around here. Most have been replaced with something a bit more modern

Concrete posts with steel star pickets came along in the 60's and many fences erected then are still around today. Fences have continued to evolve with netting and plain wires giving way to products like ringlock that are a preformed wire mesh. The fences we put up today have all steel posts and the ringlock comes in rolls 200 metres long so it is a very quick process to put a new fence up.
Concrete & steel post fence with ringlock probably erected in the 1970's
Wooden dropers on a plain wire fence. These are pieces of wood
 about 2' square that help keep the wires evenly spaced

traditional wooden fence post cut from timber off the farm

traditional fence with a steel picket or star post.
Note the two barb wire s on top, and the
plain wires to add strength to the netting

Wooden line strainer that seen better days
 Fences also have a strainer post at each end that takes the tension of the fence. If the post is at a corner or where the fence bends or has a gate on it, it needs a stay to keep it straight. If the post is in the middle of the fence it's called a line strainer and usually doesn't have a stay as the tension from either side keeps it straight.
Modern steel strainer post & stay
To my fence modelling, I am building a fence that has all wooden posts and plain wires. For the wires I tried a product from the sewing shop called invisible mending thread. It looked good as it was difficult to see the further you got away from the fence just like in real life.

Unfortunately I have enough temperature variation in the shed that the wires go loose so I need to change my wire. Thankfully  Dave at the Modeller's Warehouse came to my rescue with some fine charcoal EZ Line. This has some ability to stretch if you catch it. I am putting a bit of tension on it and it is staying tight despite any temperature changes.

 Unfortunately I am having some more issues with my eye again and modelling has come to a standstill which I am finding very frustrating. Hopefully it will improve enough for me to get back to my fencing ASAP.

Cheers Murray  

Thursday, January 14, 2016


For some time I have been looking for an easy option to uncouple the Kadee couplers I use. I am not a fan of the under track magnetic uncouplers as I want the operation to be a little bit laid back like the prototype narrow gauge was. I have tried using a variety of things like skewers and brass rod but have always had mixed results.

I visited my friend Gavin Hine last winter and his On3 Colorado & Southern Clear Creek layout. I took a train for a run and when it came time to uncouple Gavin handed me one of these...
I believe he got the idea from Brian Harriman and they work a treat. They are dental brushes that have a thin wire and small bristles and they separate a pair of Kadee No5's very easily. Gavin has made his with solid handles and a small led torch to make it easier to see. I am only using the little handle that comes with the brush but I am planning to do something similar. Thanks Gavin & Brian for a great idea!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Seasons Greetings

It has been awhile since I have posted and I would love to say I have been working hard on the layout and have gotten heaps of modelling done. I could say that, but unfortunately I would then be lying. Life has gotten in the way over the last 6 months and between my eye & work & renovating our house almost nothing has happened. The Christmas break has seen me back out in the shed starting to get some modelling happening.

One of my projects that I aim to finish this summer is the broad gauge portion of Coolamine yard. Observant reader will notice that I have shifted the location again. Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of a visit from Damien & Lucas from Melbourne. While Lucas was busy running trains Damien & I discussed the options I had for where the broad gauge should be to look realistic. We agreed that having it on a diagonal angle to the narrow gauge didn't look right. I pondered my situation for a few months, until I worked out that I had plenty of room along the wall if I made Coolamine the end of a branch like Upper Ferntree Gully on the Gembrook line. I had been trying to make the broad gauge a mainline station like Wangaratta, Moe or Colac.
I now have the track and turnouts so all I need to do is find the time to lay them. I have enough room to have a goods shed opposite the station. Hopefully one day I might see a Veteran models K class shunting the yard, but at my current pace that could be some time away!

The other project that is keeping me occupied is working on improving the running qualities of the narrow gauge track. When Lucas was here, he gave the layout a real workout running trains from one end to the other and unfortunately it didn't preform as well as I would have liked. About a third of the layout uses wooden flex track which I sourced from the USA. While it looks great I have found it difficult to keep in gauge. The temperature variations in the shed while not huge where enough to create issues. I have persevered for nearly four years trying to get it running well without success so it was time for me to bite the bullet and change to something else.
It is frustrating to be removing track and replacing it as there is a cost in both time and dollars. I am installing Micro Engineering code 83 that matches the rest of the layout and the number of derailments  has dropped dramatically. At the end of the day for me if the layout doesn't run well the frustrations mount and my enjoyment and motivation drops away. 
I hope everyone had a good Christmas and that 2016 is a great year

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September update

Progress has been slow on the layout recently. I had an accident with an impact injury to my eye about 18 months ago which has given me some ongoing issues. It was finally decided that the best option was surgery which I underwent in August. It has all gone very well but during the  recovery time I am having issues with blurriness. This is really driving me nuts as I am unable to do detailed modelling.
What I have been doing is some tasks that don't need me to see fine detail such as planting grass,

The paddocks on the farm have now got a nice green tinge to them, which I am sure the cows will like...
For my grass I like to use a minimum of 3 colours and 2 lengths of static grass fibres. I mix them in a blender with the portions slightly varied each mix to get some natural variation. For the pasture in the paddock I used 1 part 4mm MiniNatur Early autumn, 1 part 2mm late autumn, and 2 parts 2mm summer. That is shorter than mix that I usually use to represent the grazing of the paddocks. I will use mostly 4mm & 6mm for the grass on the outside of the fences.

I have also been painting the facia black which has helped frame the layout. On the topic of lighting I was very interested in Dan Pickard's post on his blog Somewhere on the workbench Dan is using standard LED globes and I liked the fact that they are a light that is easily available and should be in the foreseeable future. I bought a couple daylight globes from Bunning's to try and as very impressed. I ended up lighting the whole of the interchange town with them. They are lightweight, don't generate heat and use considerably less energy than the fluorescents. Thanks Dan for trying them out first! I am planning to convert the whole of the layout to LED's as time and funds allow.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Increasing productivity

I know this blog post's title sounds like the name of a conference where some  management guru is extolling a method of making us all work harder. I also know that my model railway is a hobby but I  know that I need a degree of discipline if I plan to get the layout somewhere near finished.

It was a conversation with my friend Gavin that got me thinking about how I could get more modelling done. Life seems to be getting busier and I have been finding it harder to juggle working on my trains while not taking away from family time. At this time of year it isn't that attractive to wander out to the shed either and so it feels like not much gets done.

Enter the roll top desk....

I was able to pick up this beautiful antique roll top desk off eBay. They are a bit out of fashion at the moment because you can't fit a large computer screen on one, which means I didn't have to spend a large sum of money. We have put it in our tv room which means I can model and still be with the family. I am finding that because it is there, I often sit down and spend 10 minutes modelling. No more bringing a project onto the kitchen table and then having to pack up when dinner is ready. I have built more models in the last 6 weeks it seems than the 6 months beforehand.
The best bit is when I finish modelling, it looks like this,