Monday, August 31, 2009


I would just like to take a moment to inform everyone reading tonight that there will be no more posts on guards vans this month.
We now return you to your normal program.

Gooning Vicariously

AmFet writes: I'm glad Laird McDruff has pointed out the value of "Street View" on Google Earth.

I have only discovered it recently, and after getting over the usual sightseeing (Heres the house I grew up in, heres the letterbox of our current house, hit that bridge in a car one night, etc), I realised what a great tool it is if (like me) you are interested in modelling an area that you may not have direct access to....not so bad for me, admittedly; at least I am in the same island....DB isnt even in the same hemisphere! But I digress...

In discussions with Drew (My Man on the Spot) the area around Mokoia came up in discussions. As well as having a rather quaint concrete block goods shed (more soon) it has an interesting collection of buildings around a road crossing west of the station....and heres the best of them:

What grime! What grunge! What possibilities.....and probably quite easy to whip up out of card for an ECMT photo-dio special....hmmmm......

(BTW, "Gooning" is what my boss calls chasing trains....odd, as he does more of it than me at the moment!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Moana 2: Backdroppin'

DB says: I wasn't going to make the same mistake I made with the Tehachapi layout backdrop's fabulous 90 degree sky joins, so decided to cove the backdrop joins (cove? sounds more like a pirate word).

I applied some quite thin styrene sheet, held in place with pins while the glue dried, before hiding the pink [pauses for Beavis and Butthead interjection] with some white paint. I'd wanted to use photo backdrops on the Sawyers Bay layout, but with that no more, and buoyed by ECMT's instamodule success, I was keen to try them here, having snapped a bunch of shots from Moana earlier in the year for such an occasion. A little careful printing produced something that looked like it might work:
Initially I felt the mountains should be taller, but after putting a loco on the track and applying an eyeball, I think it's about right. I also had to bear in mind that there will be low viewing angles involved. Skies were brutally amputated from the pics with a sharp knife blade.

In the pic below, the first layer of blue has been applied (using what may have been the prototype for the world's first paintbrush) which barely covers the white. Next time I'd just do straight blue rather than starting with neutral white as it took multiple coats to cover. As you can see, Woodland Scenics (or similar) Plastercloth hills started to form at this stage over wire netting. Best to get some of the messy stuff out of the way before the backdrop is done and the track laid.
After a couple of goes, I managed to lighten the backdrop sufficiently with thin layers of almost-drybrushed white (keeping things lighter closer to the horizon) applied with a fresh brush. I really should have a little more cyan in the sky, but after holding a vote with myself, it was agreed that I could live with this and started attaching pictures with gusto and PVA. Of course, things couldn't possibly continue to go as swimmingly as they had been :Well, its OK from a distance, but there is still quite a lot of work to be done. The problem isn't the joins or white paper edge on top of the mountains - which can be fairly easily dealt with - but in the colours, which looked fine when I was printing them out (of course), but now they look a bit red in places, a bit yellow in places. The main batch were 'developed' to a consistent formula in photoshop, but a couple weren't. I thought I got them fairly close, but they are a bit off. The 'proper' way to do it, once the printing scale was figured out, would be to stitch them all together on the computer, process the colors on that file and then get someone with a nice big printer to print the whole panorama out on one long roll of paper. Still, a worthwhile experiment I feel, and all is not lost, for tomorrow I'm going to buy a beret and a cape together with some watercolours, and then cut off my ear, as I think this can be salvaged with a little artistic daubbling. A word that I just invented.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A usefull tool discovered.

Some of you may have heard of a relatively new thingy on Google maps called streetview. Basically someone has been paid to drive a van loaded with cameras around streets all over the world, and the resulting images have been digitised so that you can get a 3D view of the world from street level, as well as spy satellite.

How could this be useful you might ask? well, Today I've just been having a look at one of the roads beside Paekakariki railway station. i can see all the houses, and have a guess as to when they were built etc. I don't think it will make too much difference as I will probably just model a set of railway houses along this edge of the layout. I've also had a look at the outside of the Air-rail shed on SH 1, as well as the station buildings.

while I don't think that there is much demand for rural areas, the cities seem to be fairly well covered. Its worth a play just to see if you can find anything useful.
(Oh, and if you are not on what passes for broadband in this country, don't even bother)

And heres an example....

Paekakariki South Box, as seen via "Street View" from SH1...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the modeling bench

Yes, Guards vans again...

Tonight we get to move to the body of the 47' van. These vans were the first to have internal doors instead of the previous externally hung doors, which are far easier to model. After tossing round several plans while in the shower (its where I do some of my best thinking) involving various arrangements and throwing out the hardest to implement, I settled on building the sides in 2 layers. I used the grooved plasticard cut to the correct height (in this case 17mm) from the scaled plan. The inner layer is all one piece cut to a length 2mm shorter than the van length, with the windows cut out and the door edges marked. I marked these to the nearest grove rather than the precise measurement as its far easier to cut and looks much neater. The edges were cleaned up with a file.

The windows are then marked and cut. This is a hard task and can end in disaster. The trick is to start the knife blade in the corners and cut away. Do this for all the corners stating on that particular orientation. DON'T try to cut in one go, 5-6 cuts is far better. Rotate the side and then cut away from the next set of corners in the same fashion. when you have gone all the way around, if the centers will not poke out easily, turn the side over and make a couple of thin cuts on the white stress lines that should be visible. the centers should then poke out. I then use a knife blade to clean the window edges up and make them square.

Cut the outside layer to the lengths indicated on the plan so that the door openings are the correct size, clean up the edges with a file and then glue into place. I do this with the sides vertical on the workbench so that the bottom edges line up. You should now have 2 sides with a rebated edge at each end.

The door openings have small edge pieces top and bottom, and I used strips of plasticard cut from the grooved sheet. The last challenging bit is the horizontal board along the top. This is cut from thin plasticard (maybe 0.1 or 0.2mm thick).
cut this 2mm wide ( or whatever the plan says) and glue into position. After the glue is dry then remove the plastic that's covering the door spaces.

The ends were done in a similar way to the 30' van. I started at the platform end. An inner was cut to the correct size for the width of the inner side, and glued in flush with the end of the inner piece. The pieces each side of the door opening were cut to size and glued on, and the sided filed back so that the end was flush at the corner. I cut out the door panel in the same manner as the 30' van and glued it into place. The opposite end was a bit harder as the door is recessed. I cut out an inner of the correct width again, and glued it into place 7mm from the end of the van. The end pieces were cut to size and glued into the ends. I then cut another 2 pieces as the sides of the short corridor and glued them in. Another door was cut and glued at the end. As a last step the horizontal strip was added at the top and cut back to size when dry. I finally glued in a couple of braces to stop the sides from bowing.

These long wordy posts have made it very clear to me that I have not taken enough pictures, and I'm crap at drawing diagrams.

To finish up as I'm impatient, I glued the body onto the underframe. The headstocks are 2mm by 1mm Channel that I now use for this purpose.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Last night I got out my full size plan again. This time just to check what the sizes of the loops were, and how a train would look in it. The train is 22 wagons long, and possibly looks a bit short. However its a trade off between having something that looks really good, vs something that looks almost as good, but will fit in the garage. A big layout is all very good, but when you have not got the space to set it up, its all pretty pointless really.

here we have the Da with train, Railcar on the other side of the station, and the pair of Ed's in the siding.
Another issue I was looking at was operating positions. At the moment I'm fairly set at 4, which would be the signal/points operator, engine shed, and each end. I wanted to see what the views would be like from each end.

'Looking North'

'Looking South'

I'm still not sure if it will work, but until the thing is further along in the building process there is not much point thinking further about it.

And its nice to think about something other than guards vans for a while....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Van part something or other; underframes.

For those of you with nothing better to read, here's the next installment from guards van central.

Next step in the 47' van saga was to assemble the underframe. this posed a bit of a problem as I did not have any bits of 2mm plasticard long enough, so I had to splice 2 pieces together. The pieces were cut 15mm wide (it seemed to match the plan where I couldn't see what the correct width should be). They were then marked and drilled out progressively from 1mm to 2.5mm. I then had to remove some material so that the wheels wouldn't rub on the undereframe. The electric drill was shanghaied into service, and using a 5mm drill bit, a fair bit of material was removed. This was then expanded with a knife and file until the bogies could swivel without the wheels rubbing.

The headstocks were added from 2mm by 1mm brass channel, cut to length, and then glued onto the respective ends of the underframe bits. I cut 2 strips 2mm wide off a sheet of 0.5mm plasticard. These were cut to length and used to get the 2 halves of the underframe lined up correctly. A piece of 1 mm plasticard was then used as the backbone of the underframe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There was something in the air that night….

…the stars were bright, Fernando…

DB Says: Despite the encroachment of gray hair onto a once fertile dome, I’m a bit young to remember the ABBA craze. But that doesn’t matter because we all know their songs - you could say they’re as popular now as ever. The same could be said for layouts that run around rooms above doors, they’re also as popular as they ever were, which is to say, not at all.

So you may be wondering, dear reader, why a moderately sane person is still flirting with such madness.

Mainly, because it’s the only way I can fit a decent length of track into a fairly small room that has far too many useful doors, windows and wardrobes in it to be an ideal trainroom. As for the viewing problem, I have to admit that Moana, which I’ve fallen in love with over the past 5 years, is only going to work when viewed from standing on a chair. Same with the staging yard, although as I’ve said before, I’m not going to be spending much time in there shuffling identical looking coal trains about.

Luckily however, the midland line (which apparently is now called ‘The Coal Route’™) has your veritable boatload of other scenes that ‘work’ from a low viewpoint – especially the viaducts and clifftop running between Staircase and Cragieburn.

Right, I’m sick of defending my stupidity to you both. Once I have a bee in my bonnet it isn’t going away until it stings me - so lets make some stuff.

This layout is going to be a modular layout (or more properly, 'sectional', I suppose). This way it can move if need be and could be re-assembled at the first USA NZ120 convention or other exhibitions. Most importantly, it will be in parts so the bits can be brought down to a more sensible height to be worked on. This is important, because scenicking it while standing on a stool is going to get old real fast, ergo things are going to have to be light and portable.

As for material, big 8x2 sheets of pink insulation foam are light, strong, seem to do well across ranges of heat and humidity, and they're easy to work with. A public service announcement: MR rag recommends the use of the pink or blue stuff rather than the white bubbly polystyrene which is quite flammable. I bought 2 inch thick slabs for bases and some one inch stuff for backdrops and other bits. A little cutting and gluing later, we have the result as seen in the above picture.

Or from a more accessible height, since foam layouts are so easily moved around:
The plan here (the tracks and other items are just plopped into place to see how things will look) is to make Moana with my favourite curve at the near end, swamp and lake at left, with the station behind it against the backdrop, the trains disappearing under the overbridge to the staging yard. There will be a slight hill where the glue gun is so the viewer will look down into that scene rather than sneaking a look from too close to the hole in the backdrop that leads to the staging yard. In case you are wondering why the main backscene continues beyond that point into the staging yard, its to give strength to the main foam base, which site on only two wall brackets. If you weren't, sorry for wasting a few more seconds of your day.Lets look at a couple of prototype pics to clarify the the intention. Firstly, here's a view (above) from a similar position to the Pink Elephant above. The station building is way in the background.Next, here's a view from almost the same spot, looking the other way - i.e the left half of the module, looking straight across the curve to the backdrop. The trees at left hide the join with the next module. The flax-filled swamp is behind the tracks and will run up to the backdrop to avoid any nasty lake-joins at that spot. Note that the track is on a slight embankment, which I might pump up a few mm to make the train more visible from standing-on-carpet level at this spot.
Lastly, the above pic is an overall shot of the other end of Moana (as seen from above the staging yard) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and vertically compressed in Photoshop, so the train is missing a few slices. I've marked the relevant features on it and there will be a test in the morning. Not sure whether that made things any clearer at all...

Monday, August 24, 2009


This series is starting to become like Peter Ross' Wf articles in the journal a few years back. I feel like I might wake up one morning, put on a cardigan and a pair of thick rimmed glasses and start to make every guards van type ever made...

I mentioned in the last post in this series that I had filed down one of the sideframe tabs so that the wheels were parallel. Here's a picture of the bogie together. I probably filed about 1mm off the tab, so its not a lot of work.

The next step in our sorry saga is to make the bogies look correct again. The later bogie type for the 47' van I'm building is subtly different from the earlier type on the 1889 van. This type still has the strip across the top, but does not have the strip running right round the bottom. The outside lower braces just run from the top bar to the bottom corner of the axle guide.

I cut the top pieces to size and glued then on with 5 minute Araldite. I then cut the lower braces to size. I cut 8 plus 2 spares as my manual dexterity skills lead to long sessions searching for errant pieces on the floor and cutting extras saves a stack of time. For the first bogie I tined the brass microstrip and carefully/quickly soldered the lower braces into place(with the aid of some tweezers). Glue was then applied to the point where the brace touched the axle guide. This was a bit of a challenge to my skills and so I changed the method for the second bogie. The lower braces were glued in place to the axle guides and then soldered to the upper brace.

So, which method was best? Neither to be quite honest. The best method would be to do this before the bogies are actually assembled. A curse on my impetuosity. Maybe I'll learn for the next guards van. Where did I put that Cardy

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Groundhog day; guards vans again

Its like a stuck record. I can't work out why but I'm still working on building guards vans. And the next question would be; who the hell cares anyway.

I've received in the post this last week another package from Russell at Trackgang (he's the equivalent of my crack dealer, well if I was going to have a crack dealer). 2 pairs of guards van bogies, plus underframes, footsteps and brake cylinders.

I figured it might be easier if I was building on a premade underframe with the bogie pivots already built in. The wheels were the British 6.2mm diameter on 15mm axles. I do prefer these over the slightly smaller US wheels looks wise, but it does mean that I can't add the Markits pinpoint bearings. I drilled out the frames slightly with a 1.5mm drill as previously described in the Nc review. The bogies were then put together by gluing one sideframe to the bolster, putting the wheels in and then gluing the other sideframe on. I had to do a bit of filing in the attachment tab to get the second sideframe to sit in a position where the wheels were parallel. I drilled out the holes in the bogie bolsters and the pivots on the underframe with a 2.5mm drill. I also did a bit of filing so that the bearing surfaces on the bogies were parallel with the wheel axles. Russell tells me that the complete kits are sold with self tapping screws. I used some bolts brought from Dick Smith (M2.5 mixed bolts). I placed a washer or 2 between the bogie and the underframe to get the correct ride height. The plus with using bolts is that the hole is always square (assuming you can hold a drill straight, the self tappers can wander off.) and you can take them apart easily if you so desire. Once attached it all looked like this.

Something didn't look quite right to me here, so I compared it to my 1st guards van.

The bogies here are far further inboard than the earlier frame. Wondering if it was a design change by the time later ones were built I checked the Fred lee plans for the 30' steel van. While I can't reproduce them here, I can confirm that the bogie spacing should be far wider than it actually is on the kit. Mulling this over I can only come to a similar conclusion to Darryl in that the bogies are moved inboard to fit the large coupler boxes. They may also be moved to accomidate the steps. We are not on our own here as I've also seen it perpetuated in the larger scales.

Image from the BOP trackgang site.
(Please drop me a line if I'm incorrect about the bogie spacing, which should be 20 scale feet, or you would rather I didn't use the photo.)

If it is to clear the steps then its a very strange solution. The vans just don't look right, and I'd far rather have a correct bogie wheelbase than steps. My 1889 van doesn't have any, though I'm considering adding them fixed to the bogies to get around this problem.

Oddly enough the real thing had the same problems and here is their solution.

F491 at Founders park

Quite Complimentary

AmFet writes: Admittedly I haven't had much time lately to wield scalpels or burn myself with soldering irons, but the odd moment has still been taken up with "pondering"...a most underrated pastime, and one that can be performed on boring train trips to and from work.

My latest ponderings have been on Locomotive paint schemes, and why some look good while some are real stinkers. In particular (in the stinker category), the TOLL "Vomit Bonnet" and the Phase II KiwiRail scheme.

My own musings on the TOLL scheme is that it was trying to introduce "Aussie Brashness" into our staid society (Un-Kiwi nose whiskers, Un-Kiwi Orange swoosh logo, etc)...and I have yet to find anyone who says nice things about it....until now. For some reason, I actually like the scheme now they've patched them with the big KR stickers, and I've been racking my brain to work out why.

The best I can come up with is that Red and Green are "Complimentary" colours, and so add a splash of colour to an otherwise large stretch of (what was) weak-kneed green. In my opinion, it is very striking and most "modelable".

I'm also starting to like the second KR scheme (and listening to Concert FM while I work), but that can be the subject of a second blog post.....

PS Thanks to Drew for the photo!

Friday, August 21, 2009

400th post

My first thought on this is ' That is one hell of a lot of writing'. I'm still amazed that there is only one other NZR modeling blog, and there still isn't anyone writing about their doings in one of the 2 older scales. I guess when one has to deal with larger bits of ironmongery, then one may be too tired to share their efforts.

I was going to write something more interesting but there's some interesting stuff that I want to get back to on my work bench as the latest bag of bits from Trackgang has arrived.

On the subject of Trackgang, Russell informs me that he has had a steady stream of customers. I'm still to see this translate into models being built. I've heard rumors that there's at least 1 DFT being built, and for those of you able to see Manaia's pictures on the Nz120 Yahoo group they show a fair bit of modeling going on in the scale, even if there's not much write up about any of it.

At the current posting rate we should hit 500 posts sometime in December. I suppose i could write a sort of wish list of things I would like to have done by then, or at least by the end of the year;
-Finish some more locos' (possibly the Ed's or even the wf)
-Get at least one of my current TS projects to completion (can anyone suggest where I can get plastic laser cut?)
-Maybe start on a layout of some sort.
-Start using the site a bit more as a repository for reviews and modeling articles.

Whats everyone else's plans for the next 3 months?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Layout Idea: Rewanui on a wall

I received a plan of Rewanui in the magic electric mail bag today. This interesting wee station served coal mines at the top of the Rewanui Incline north of Greymouth. And one halfway up - the main line ran under the bin. For most of its life, the inclined section of the line was equipped with a Fell-style centre rail, but unlike the Rimutaka line, the raised centre rails on the West Coast branches were not used for adhesion (going up) but braking the loaded trains on the way down by means of specially equipped four wheel brake vans. In the latter years of steam, fully airbraked stock and locos fitted with twin pumps managed to descend safely without the use of the centre rail which, was then removed.

Empty trains arrived uphill from the bottom of the plan (above), entered the 'station' at far right, and then ran around and propelled empty wagons back to the bins that were on the other side of the river. Traffic was mainly coal of course, but the odd wagon of supplies or timber could be seen. A miners train carrying workers to their shift and back home again ran a few times a day.

As a minimalist NZ120 layout (below) you could probably fit it along one Metric Wall (or two, if you bent it in the middle). The loops don't have to be long - the trains were short because of the grades. I've spun it 180 degrees from the plan above so the trains arrive from off-stage top-right. The 'station' and bins trackage could be made more (or slightly less) complex as desired.

Thanks to the available photographic coverage in books, Rewanui is best remembered in the last days of steam, but our family went up the incline in 1981 on the miner's train just before it all ended, and my mother cruelly snapped my brother and I in our Sunday Best Bowl Haircuts on the front of DJ 3672. The loco has run around its train at the station and is ready to head back down to Greymouth. The point in the foreground is set for the line across the bridge to the bins and from memory the frog end was on a fully planked Y shaped bridge which I've shown on my plan.

The layout could be operated in various eras - a Ww, We, or other tank loco and a short motley rake of Qs with a 4 wheeled van or two; or in diesel days a DJ or DSC with Qs, LAs and LCs. A fantasy-football option would be to pretend the mines stayed open and the line was rebuilt after the 1984 flood, running it with a DBR or DC and some HCCs. Or even pairs of DXs and a very short rake of modern hopper wagons... enough already.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

There's a floor in my plan...

DB says: Last week I dismantled the layout that I'd started and promptly stopped almost a year ago - the most incomplete layout I've ever made. I'm not sure I would have removed it if I'd remembered this bilious green carpet was underneath, but on the plus side, the room is a lot easier to navigate now without the large over-built wooden structures and piles of junk that tended to form under them.

Lessons learned: That layout was going to be bulletproof. People could stand on it. As such it was heavy, inflexible and involved a lot of carpentry (Mr Birch, our old woodwork teacher - who seems to get a surprisingly large amount of airtime on this blog - would be happy).

But how many people have a really (really, really) permanent layout? People move houses, interests change... I vow the next construction will be simpler, easier and faster to make, more flexible to allow for future changes and not take up the entire room's floor.

A layout passes, and I didn't shed a tear. It's the circle of life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Resurrecting old models

I've had an old cast Z from a mold that John made 20 years ago. However it was not the right width which annoys my inner finescaler. To placate the annoying bastard I took the wagon to pieces to fix this and fit some Trackgang 6' passenger bogies. the sides were cast in something called 'Epi-fill' which was a polyester resin that's no longer available. it was quite flexible back in the day. Surprisingly the structural properties have changed in the 15 years or so since it was cast, as it fractured in several places as I was taking it apart. I had employed the solid block inside method in construction, and decided to do so again (the inner wood block provides a solid inner form and somewhere to screw the bogies into). Previously the wooden center was 18mm by 18mm pine, when 16mm would be far more exact. After a look in the various hardware stores I discovered that they don't make the 16 by 16mm variety any more. This then lead to cutting out various bits of MDF until
l I reached something close to 16mm. These pieces were all glued together.

The sides were then sanded flat on the insides before being epoxied to the wooden inner.

I chamfered the inside of the side ends at a 45 degree angle to make fitting the ends a bit easier, as the casting thickness was still not quite uniform. The ends were cut from grooved plasticard and also had the 45 degree shaping. These bits then slotted together in a very reasonable fit.

for the roof I had a few options. After tossing the rest out, I recycled the balsa roof from the mk 1 version. This was persuaded off the previous wooden former and then epoxied into place on the mk 2 version.

So after a couple of hours I'm back to the same wagon thats 2mm narrower. Woo Hoo.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pining : Seedling Traffic Wagon

DB says: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I snapped a picture of the Southerner passing one of a variety of different livestock wagons that were painted white and used for pine seedling traffic in the very early 80s. "That would make a nice model someday..."

Nine and a half thousand sunrises later, during a recent visit to the central brewery at Motorised Dandruff HQ, I noted Captain DruffnStuff had a few spare cast H tops lying around. "I wouldn't mind one of those" I said. "Take two", he said. I proferred some Peco chassis in exchange and stuffed them into the Mini for the long swim home.

Attached to a shorty Peco, some shotgun pellets installed for weight, and with some false roof planking added, this pretty looking thing has languished for the past few weeks before being tarped today. I used Glad Wrap for tarps on an old pair of LCs, and these have held up well in the past 13 or so years (as long as you don't poke them). I like the textures...

For the H I used some very thin plastic bag material that happened to blow past the workbench at an opportune time. The plastic was scrunched up, flattened out again, and attached with contact glue. Some orange-ish paint had yellow added to make it a little less red.

Hmmm. Not too bad, but the glad wrap looks a little better. I should have squished this stuff into the roof boards to make them stand out more under the tarp. If I could ever find some of that Tamiya Smoke that Rhys uses (or my Acrylic Black, which as I type this, recollect was used on a Recabbed DG cab, but that's another story. I've been looking for it for three weeks... Going mad.) then a wash of that might bring out some of the wrinkles. I thought about adding some of that side bracing in the prototype pic, but I think that's a long wheelbase one, whereas Rhys's model is a wee one that may not have had it. That's my excuse anyway.

If you'd like to make your own Seed Traffic H, an Elephant Traffic H (that's why they had the wide doors he says), or even a plain old Livestock Traffic H, Rhys still has a couple of these nice tops that I'm sure he would part with for some food stamps.

Today's somewhat surreal post sponsored by Skyy Vodka plus Orange and Mango smoothie, plus some ice, stirred, not shaken. Mmmmm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pimp my Guards Van 5 : Fin.

DB Says:

Ummm, where were we...? Bogies. The pointy ends of the big screws used to attach these on the observation car stuck up through the floor of course, but rather than cutting them down, I painted them flat black, as they're almost completely hidden from view. I removed the bogie brake cyls from AG90's bogies, but I don't think it was worth the effort and won't bother from here on in.

The plan was to wrap superfine strip styrene around the cars to represent the module joins, but I decided to leave this out, fearing the possibility of making a complete shambles vs a small visual improvement. About this time, the 'regular' FM handrails and safety gates on AG 78 were also glued up and into place.

I painfully welded up four more end platforms for the observation van and these came out close to passable. They were stuck in place along with more Preiser 1:120 tourists/boilermakers/commuters-from-the-1960s and two giant HO mutant children with orange backpacks. Now that I think about it, I should have made someone up as Where's Wally or Adolf Hitler or Zaphod Beeblebrox. Makes mental note...I normally like to weather things up a bit, but the Tranz is kept very clean, smart and shiny. Dullcote was sprayed on the roof, and a thin coat of acrylic semi-gloss clear was laid on the decals, which were leftovers from the DCP effort of a few months ago. Anyone who has tried clearcoating ALPS decals before will know that putting anything stronger than this or Dullcote on them is a receipe for disaster, but they really do need to be covered.

So that's my extra-short off-season Tranz Alpine consist completed. 56 foot cars - for those who don't want to stand for the whole trip - will be constructed later in the year.

A critical review: they run well, but when seen up close, these aren't perfect models. I should have marked out the window openings more carefully (oh, my sagging duckets!) and cut them out with round corners. The end railings are a bit messy in places. A few imperfect details were added in the wrong place in haste, or left out altogether.

Not that I'm losing sleep over it.

I don't build NZ120 models to be competition-winners, so up-close, the vans look a little hokey around the edges, but that won't be the case for long. When I'm done building a few things around them, they'll be reduced to a small part of a long train flowing through scenery. And isn't that the essence of NZ120?

Doing something imperfectly is not failure.
Failure is not doing anything.
So pick up a knife. Aim it at some plastic. Just do it*!

                          - D Bond, one of the great contemporary philosophers

*This blog post sponsored by Nike. All trademarks and catchphrases referenced are the property of their respective owners. Some products may be produced by child slave labourers in factories that also process peanuts.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

layout ideas

Todays layout ideas post comes from Micheal Harrison. he's an Sscaler but we are trying to get himto see the light....

"Shelf Benchwork

I have a small storage room. I admit it. It’s not big enough to be called a bedroom but it’s bigger than a wardrobe. For the last year ‘the s**t room’ as it’s been called by the family has been full of moving boxes still waiting to be emptied. Not long ago I had a good clean up and managed to get all the boxes to one wall and all at a uniform height. Just so happened I was reading a magazine at the same time from the states called ‘Model Railroad Planning’. In the magazine was an article on shelf layouts and how they were perfect for small spaces. That got the brain ticking. Why not build a shelf layout above the boxes.
The article described the shelf modules and their construction. They are fantastic and require a woodworking shop (the ones we remember from high school) and half the timber yard at the Dunedin Mega 10.
I drew up a few designs for a basic shelf layout. Nothing fancy and not that original. All the timber products, shelf brackets and screws can easily be found at a Mega 10 or Bunning’s.

There are no set dimensions so you can make the shelves as wide and long as you like (within reason). By building them as small shelves you can add a few together to make a decent area and pull them apart to fit through doorways when moving.

I use soft board on top of the MDF for two reasons. One, it’s very easy to push track pins in if that’s the way you secure your track and two, it reduces running noise. The fascia is also fairly deep to conceal any wiring and point motors.
Originally the shelf was going to be for a small 1:64 shunting layout, but there is no reason why this wouldn’t work for NZ 120."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Van pt III

Today we get to the make or break step; Painting. After a bit of consultation with my remaining brain cell, I decided to go with red (I've seen people paint vans anything from burgundy to red oxide). A quick look through the box gave me the options of Humbrol signal red or Tamiya red. I'd already used the Humbrol colour on the Da's and it was just a wee bit too red for what I wanted. So Tamiya red it was.

The most important thing with the first coat is to get a good even coverage everywhere while making sure that its not too thick. The colour is not quite as bright as the pictures show it to be.

As an interesting observation after the 1st coat there were patches of a worn pinky shade that might be useful for getting some of the faded looks on other equipment at a later date. After the second coat on things were very, well, red. Out with the magic weathering mix. Getting a darker shade into all the nooks and crannys worked wonders, and suddenly all my carefully applied detail came back out.

However after 2 coats of this I still wasn't getting to the grungy end of life type look that I wanted. Cue the undiluted Tamiya smoke. 2 coats of this and we are in business.
The last steps are a coat of matt varnish, and then a dry brush with the Humbrol chocolate brown. A very careful dry brush with Valejo Iraqi sand adds the finishing touch, and I think I may have just overdone it.

I'm still not quite happy with it, but its done apart from the couplers. and handrails.

'Hey, there aren't wood screws under this'

It doesn't compare too badly with the real thing.

I think the most important things with a model like this is to get the proportions right and add as much small detail as your skills will allow. Having the correct looking bogies improves things no end looks wise.