Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GT wagon unearthed from King Tut's tomb.

DB writeth: On a recent trip to I noted a comment on the impressive GT car carrier wagons. I made one of these about 15 years ago - not sure if it ever ran on the Otaki to Cass layout, but well of my fellow blogistas might remember.

In a flash of muted brilliance, the wagon was made from some non-shiny (but not quite matte finish either) aluminium 'roofing' sheet with very subtle corrugations in it. Some panel lines were lightly scribed in an up-and-downwards direction and then the sheet was bent over a sturdy steel file into the shape the GTs used to have. The bending process becomes more difficult the further you get into it, so one side came out quite well and the other, the one it would seem that I chose to photograph here, is not so neat around the top. From memory (as I'm illicitly typing this at work) the now U shaped sheet was contact glued to a small block of wood that sits low in the wagon.

Plasticard ends with door detail were glued in place, basic underframe detail and weight added, and the whole shebang placed onto Microtrains bogies with extended shanks (as used on N scale American Autoracks).

The logos on the side were a mix of computer black-and-white laser printing and some dodgy hand painting for the Honda logos. For the record, I was a Honda fanboi well before the Fast and the Furious, although I never did fit chrome spinners or biplane spoilers onto my little purple Honda City...

The GT runs pretty well with its low center of gravity, and the truck mounted couplers allow it to operate around surprisingly tight curves with little drama but much silliness as it's pretty long. For that reason you have to watch the overhangs on the inside and outside of curves when mowing your scenery and placing tunnel portals.

Karl Morris made an NZ120 GT as well - I think it was made from a broadside photograph of a real one, laser printed to size (in colour with the advances in modern technology we just take for granted today!) and stuck onto a wooden block or something.

The real GT wagons have subsequently been rebuilt with curved top corners and smoother sides (I see one is even in a variation of the KiwiRail livery now), so as well as being a pretty crummy model, this is a pretty dated one too, but it was certainly a novelty back then.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Location, location, location

Well, things are a bit slow here at Chateau Dandruff over the last week. I'm just really not in the mood at the moment to do bench type modeling, and while I keep thinking I should learn CAD, I can't seem to force myself to at the moment. However, while awaiting resupply for the ongoing track making , here's one of the few things I have done.

It came time to sort out how to join the modules together in a way that doesn't allow for future movement. There's been quite a few methods proposed over the milenia, but one I'm an old fan of is the dowel and bolt method, where wooden dowels are used to align the baseboards accurately, and then bolts are used for the actual holding together bit. this has worked well for me previously (well, mostly it has), but chance gave me a more modern update.

Having access to some surplus to requirements 9.5mm stainless pressure pipe, it gave me an idea to possibly kill 2 birds with one stone.

The outside of the pipe is the positive location, and the bolt runs through the center.

I'm still not quite convinced this will do the job well enough, so I will probably add in some 'split' door hinges for fine alignment (fix hinges between modules, knock the pins out and 'voila').

Saturday, June 26, 2010

HO....Why Not?

Again at great personal risk of being excommunicated (especially on a Sunday morning when the righteous are afoot), Am_Fet ponders:

I must admit to being surprised at the turn the comments section took after my last post on the planned "SaltWorks" layout...until I actually reread the post and realised I had made the mistake of not actually making it clear that I HAD dropped the idea of modeling in HO and was reverting back to doing it as an Nz120 showpiece.

However, the comments made me pose the question...Why Not?

The first thing to investigate here (working on the fact that I have already got a baseboard dimensions in mind) is size. If I take an Nz120 DXB plan and scale it up by a factor of 1.379, I get this:

And thanks to Magikan (who once flirted with such things), a comparison shot between an HO RoadRailer and an Nz120 ZK which in real life are roughly the same size:

So immediately we are looking at locomotives and rolling stock that are roughly bigger by half again with all the size constraints that entails. For instance, if SaltWorks was going to be in HO I would have to make it longer and wider to fit in what I would like to see. For those interested, the scaling factor to get from HO to S is HO fits effectively between S and Nz120.

Okay, so if thats palatable (which I'm not sure about), then how would I go about addressing all the issues of modeling our local trains in HO?

Wheels: Sure, TT wheels (12mm gauge) are available from Europe, but personally I think any canny kiwi would simply be able to order some finescale NWSL 16.5mm gauge wheels, chop in half, remove a section of axle, then rejoin with a brass sleeve. Or even get some new axles turned up on a CNC lathe that would help set the essential back-to-back dimension into the bargain:

Instant 12mm wheel with a finescale profile, and in lots of different sizes to boot. Which lead us nicely into....

Bogies and underframes: Lets face it, if you model the 1950's and in need of some 4 wheel underframes in HO, your might be able to get away with some of the long wheelbase European stuff for a 13' underframe, but the springs and brakes will all be wrong blahblahblah....simpler just to model those new fangled roller bearing bogies and flog a half decent looking sideframe from the Yank market, set on a scale width bolster and cast (with the right wheels of course)....which is exactly what Magikan has done here:

Wagons: Once the bogies are done, the wagons are easy. Just take the IA drawing and expand, much like I did with this 1:32 one.

Locomotives: As Magikan pointed out, the Aussies sometimes come up with some usable stuff, like this QR1460 by K&M Engineering (which just shouts "DQ" at the top of its lungs)

Theoretically (and without any actual investigation in the real world), I would look at re-gauging existing N (spreading) or even HO locomotives (squeezing) with new wheelsets and axles to get the correct gauge....if a bogie with the correct wheelbase can be found. We've proven (through KiwiBonds DXB and Magikans DFT) that the tops are easy thanks to laser etching...

Track: Why do people always stress about hand laying track? If you take your time and are careful, its easy. If you arent, simply recycle and try again. If you follow the correct procedure, even points arent as hard as what some people try and convince you they are.

Buildings: In my opinion, sourcing from overseas is a waste of time...Saltworks requires buildings that will need to scratchbuilt anyway. For those wanting to try the scale, I cant quite see any of the HO manufacturers doing NZ "vernacular" buildings (NZ Railway Houses, Bay Villas, California Bungalows or State Houses) any time soon. Even the shop fronts dont look right to NZ eyes. Plus you'll have to build your railway buildings anyway for the same reason ("Dear Mr Walthers, Can I please have a 30' Goods Shed?"). Not all doom and gloom though; Doesnt the Car and Wagon depot at Napier look like a Pikestuff kit? And hasnt that just given me another idea for a shelf layout?

Vehicles: Okay, maybe....I think I need a bus and thats it...But even thats proving problematic, all american buses either seem to be those ugly yellow school buses that some firm has had a monopoly on building since the 1960's, or a 1950's "Greyhound"...the doors all open on the wrong side anyway.

People: Availability of figures is not a good argument, fellas, especially if those figures all look vaguely "foreign" (a man with a hat and a suitcase? A HAT?????) By the time I've handbuilt all my locomotives and wagons, laid the track, scratchbuilt the station infrastructure, and sceniced the thing, I'll be on my deathbed being given the last rites by a priest who looks suspiciously like Father Jack and wondering if English OO would have been so much easier. Honestly, when was the last time you visited an NZR layout that had people on it? In fact, when was the last time you visited an NZR layout that was finished??

Okay, so where does this leave us? In my opinion, modeling in HO is harder than Nz120 as the supposed "benefits" of buildings and figures are made null in void anyway by the uniqueness of the New Zealand environment. Having said that, IT IS POSSIBLE if you have access to the new technology (like I do) as that removes the argument of mechanisms and track....and quite tempting as the layout you build will be a one of a kind, not just a facsimile of any others.

SaltWorks will probably stay Nz120 (unless I can be convinced otherwise...and lets face it, I'm easily bribed, a fact which has kept me in chocolate biscuits at work for years)...but who knows what scale the next layout may be??

Saturday morning

Hmm, 2 cups of tea and I still don't really feel human.

Not much to report at Chateau Dandruff for the week really. I've done some things with putting the layout together and should really discuss them at some point, but the work is so shoddy I'm rather reluctant too. I've been having a look at assembling some trackgang underframes, and have decided that I'm just not happy with them, so I'll have to sort something out to get round that impasse.

On a brighter note (well, sort of), I've been doing some more thinking about the Ka project. With the driving wheels being the major stumbling block currently (and the previous potential point of supply having shuffled off this mortal coil) I've had a chance to have a 'WTF' moment and a bit of clarity has ensued. The previous top plan was to get the tyres turned to NMRA profiles, then have the inners cast and inserted and finally stub axles assembled. Thanks to a conversation held by E-mail over the course of the week, I've come up with possibly an easier plan. That is to get the wheel blanks RPed and then have the stub axle inserted and the rim turned down. This would be cast in whatever bronze that the local casters use, which from working with the couplings is extremely hard, and then possibly nickel plated, though I'm not sure that this is necessary. Only 1 place to fail mechanically (as opposed to 2), and I like it a bit more.
The gears might take a bit longer to solve, and I am seriously contemplating casting my own in an engineering resin. This may sound daft, but there are resins available that can be used for short run injection moulds, so that will be tough enough.

I suppose that the next job will be sideframes and valve gear, though if the 2mm chaps cab get something like this to work, I'm sure we will manage somehow. I wonder how the drive train is set up......

Finally, if anyone has a spare million lying round under the couch, here is a deal for you. Trains past the front door, but the weather tends to be on the far side of 'damp'

Friday, June 25, 2010

Now with Added Salt...

Am_Fet writes:

This whole idea came about due to a joke really....unfortunately it has now crossed over into the realms of being "A Great Idea" and I feel compelled to carry on with it. Magikan and I were chuckling about the ongoing HOn3½ discussion on the Railchat Yahoo group on the morning train, and i suggested with all the things we were developing quietly it wouldnt be that much harder to build a complete layout in HO and frighten everyone with it (lets face it, we only need to increase the scale of the CAD drawings).

In discussions for layouts, I thought a small shunting layout would be all youd want to "dip your toes" so to speak, and suggested Lake Grassmere from an earlier Blog post. Anyway, somehow by the end of the day the whole thing had been turned around, and the plan is now for a model of the inner working's of the Dominion Salt Works at Lake Grassmere.....I still have no idea how we got there.

First of all, I was inspired by the work of Chris Nevard in England. He has built a set of exquisite layouts, all built in a kind of "shadow box" that I really like, as it sets the layout up as a "stage", as well as closing up for security while transporting the thing:

So working on this general design idea with an eye on the photos previously published, I started scribbling down some ideas on how I could see the concept fitting into an enclosed space and came up with this quick scribble, which was quickly sent around the troops for comment:

And here is the area modeled on the ground...

So the question on everyones lips is, Why didnt I include the main line interchange siding? And although I advocated it in the original blog post, in reality it would be very difficult to keep the "fully contained" layout idea while having to support either a loop or two sets of hidden sidings for the mainline trains to work from. In reality, it is so much easier to focus on a cameo scene within the plant; luckily, this area has enough points and track to make a fully self contained shunting layout, but designing this had made me realise these areas are few and far between. Most often they are independent private sidings that interchange with KiwiRail; KR's answer to a lot of these situations now seems to be just a single siding and a crossing loop if you're lucky as they already have access to the rest of the network to get onto the right ends of wagons, or at least make sure they are blocked correctly before being set out for loading/unloading.

Anyway, enough waffle....the next step was to work on drawing it out full size and consulting with the Tracklaying Contractors (Druff and Co. of Nelson). After much heated debate (with peoples parentage being called into question) and van interior measurements being taken, it was decided to increase the overall size of the baseboard to 1500 x 500. This would support a nice curve in the sidings heading to the right.

This all sounds very linear, but in reality the plan changed every hour as new data was found. Firstly, Google Streeview threw up the chestnut that the outer sidings eventually met and terminated at a weighbridge:

The Head Druff suggested this could be a good opportunity to provide a small sector plate as a run around, and I may still look into adding it. I was also able to get a rough overview of the whole area...and I really need a bus to sit on the level crossing:

In the end, the final plan came out looking something like this after I had played around and shunted it on 3rd Planit:

I've even had a go at mocking up heights and pelmets in the junk room with bits of leftover kitchen:

So, all in all, I'm happy enough with the concept to keep on it. I'll probably shunt it with a DC (I have a weird feeling its all done by tractor though) and the wagons are readily available....or will be once the ZH finally makes an appearance. Pity my job changed 180 degrees and I'm now spending 12 hour days on the new IP based radios and the refit of Train Control...sigh...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Doubling up

There's been a bit of a flurry again on the modular thread at A new convert has asked what the plan is. The first comment, echoed by the 'old hands' is 'what plan?'. Honestly I didn't think that Freemo needed one. The plan for a layout at any location revolves around the modules available for that particular get together. I don't think that we could get the whole group to agree on a particular line to model in its entirety. Indeed we can't even really agree on a period. I think that the Europeans have it right in that they just get together and put together a large layout for the weekend.

'Dammit, Hans, we've both modeled the same station!'
When I was a member of the Dunedin modular layout group, while we didn't model the same scene twice, there was not any pressure to model a particular location because it would 'fit' better into the layout. A member would start with an idea of a location that he wanted to model, and then the rest of the group wold assist him to do it with as much or little help as they desired/required. It all worked fairly well, and I can't remember any problems during my 3 years membership.

Probably the most important point is that you should build whatever tickles your fancy. After all, its very hard to build several Freemo modules of a prototype area that you don't really like, but have to make to 'fit in' to an exhibition layout that might only get together once a year (if that). I'd suggest that a better plan is to build a home layout that is at least part 'portable' possibly including a few curved modules. Other 'useful' modules would be junctions from large to small so that there can be some variation in train direction. Even the humble 2 loop bog standard NZR country station with a lean to station and goods shed should not be overlooked. A line side industry is also an excellent prototype ie a freezing works, lime works or even a salt plant.

As an afterthought, don't forget that NZ120 means that you can extend outside the normally modeled areas of the larger scales. As I managed to prove with Cass, a single line doesn't have to be boring, its the scene that makes the layout. Also, I would not assume any particular scene has been 'taken' by a modeler until there is solid proof that construction has actually started, untill then its a free for all......

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The power of positive selling

I've been watching with a mixture of interest and bemusement the mounting tally of Dx sideframe sets being signed up for. With the tally currently standing at 73 sets (and weren't there only 55 of these things in country?) I can only wonder if we are going to see 73 Dx's in the next 12 months gracing layouts, or at least the forum threads on NZ120. maybe it could be the 2011 project; to build a model of a Dx.

Its also been quite positive on several other points. It shows that the scale is no longer completely full of cheapskates, and possibly more importantly, that well made RP detail bits have a market in the scale.
I'm now waiting to see whats coming next. Will we see a modern type 16/18/20 bogie? (well, to me they all look the same). At say $7-10 a pair (without wheels) cast in brass how many would be takers? Dare I even venture a 4 wheeled wagon underframe?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tracklaying X; How many shekels?

Well, since you have all been reading this thread (mainly cos its been the only one up that day) and I've now mostly finished the first module, I think its time to comment on the really important item for all you NZ120 modelers out there: the price.

Based on current costs from Woodsworks, the cost of making 1 linear metre of track is $13. This is $8 for the 2 pieces of code 55 rail, and $5 for the sleepers (assuming you are placing on every 3cm (or approximately every 5th sleeper). no account is taken of the cost of additional dummy sleepers sorry (I'm burying everything in ballast, so who will ever know). OK, so this may seem a bit steep. However this price is fixed ragardless of what you are making, so the cost is 413/M even through a point. A quick measure of my longest point (on a 1200mm radius, I think anything larger will be pointless*) gives a length of about 15cm. now, if we multiply this by 4 (to take account of the point blades) and add the cost of 2 strips of uncut sleeper material 950C), the cost is ~$3.50 for a point...
Looking on line this morning 9and remebering that currently the pound is in the crapper globally) the cost of a standard PECO point would be roughly $20 (give or take a bit).

The first module of track has cost me about $90. The next 2 are a bit more track intensive, but theres still no way I could afford to do 25 points with PECO.

Oh, and my track is much nicer to look at, well I think so....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Back on track

Well, the bits from Steve turned up today, and it was time to see if having the right bits improved things


Well, that looks a lot better. It all fits in, and wiggles in the right places. And to confirm a long suspected belief, Atlas and kato bits do seem to be interchangable. The Atlas worm gears and bearings fit right in to the Kato chassis slots.
(Oh, and to the inevitable question; no, its still to long).

Ok, now the icky bit. The squemish can again look away as we set the fretsaw on 'mutilate'. Weeeeeee...

The next issues to be addressed will be building the subframe, and getting the drive shafts cut to the right length. Hopefully this will be done somewhere where there is not a homicidal spanish minidrill involved.

In retrospect, an Atlas slow speed motor with flywheels might have been a better choice in this application, but the Mashima can motor should have far more grunt

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Can the 2mm scale guys teach us some stuff?

While watching some 'train porn' with Teach last week, I came across some real gems. The DVD was the 2mm society's 60th anniversary DVD with some footage of various layouts. 1 to me really stood out. This is Chee Tor, built 20 years ago by the Manchester model railway club. I think its supposed to be in the midlands somewhere on the old LMS route.

Its a beautiful model to look at.

The second, and even more interesting video is this one, which is a layout called Welton Down.
At first it looked like a pretty average modern British roundy roundy layout. then we got a look behind the scenes.

The most interesting part starts at about the 2:55 mark.
No, its not the fact that there is a woman operating a layout, its the amazing cassette storage system and its use. Place the cassette into position, attach the hair clips, run the train round, move cassette to other end, collect train, place back on the rack. Repeat until you get dizzy. Its much simpler engineering wise than a sector table spiny thing, in fact I think I could almost build one. I can see there will be some problems to be addressed like some sort of stop so that the trains don't take a header onto the floor, and some sort of padding so that they don't fall over every time they get moved, but nothing that's insurmountable.

It's just dawned on me today that I could use this for Paekakariki. I had been contemplating a couple of return loops with fiddle yards, and not really liking the idea much at all. this seems to be a much cooler idea, simpler, and could cut down on the number of operators required. in fact, I could probably get away with doing it single handed, as the train frequency isn't going to be that great.
the length could be varied depending on the location of the layout (I'm a bit pushed for space currently and I could probably do 3' either end in the garage, and 4-5 feet in a hall). The tables to base the ends on could also double as sides in the transport box.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tracklaying IX; the end

It became time to face one of the areas that previous layouts built by this scribe have been less than perfect. Indeed the language after one particular show was such that a catholic schoolgirl would have blushed. I refer of course to the track joins between baseboards. I decided a while ago that I would lay the rails right up to the edges, rather than bugger around with 'joiner' pieces of track. They never look quite right, always seem to be the wrong size, and in the box you forgot at home.

Previously I had used PCB board screwed to the end of the layout with the rail soldered on top, but this no longer seemed to be robust enough. what was needed was something that could withstand the clumsiest of layout assemblers (ie me).

I started of by drilling pilot holes, into which I inserted brass 1" flathead screws. I then found some brass that was 1mm but 2 mm, cut to length (18mm) and soldered it to the screws.

The rail was then cut to length and soldered into position, checking all the time that the gauge was correct.

the only step left is to Araldite the sleepers into position relative to the surrounding wood, and finally cut the sleepers in 1/2 with the trusty fret saw (how did I survive so long without one of these things?).

The result should stand the tests of time, and indeed my incompetence.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

AO3: Goooooooooal!

DB contemplated a few days ago: As well as being a fine excuse to have a glass of wine at 2pm on a Saturday and do nothing much else, the thing I like the most about the soccer world cup is the opportunity to completely escape the world for 90 minutes. I think that's why some people go to church, and why the rest of us heathens play with toy trains.

Once the game is done, any thoughts of gardening, painting, carwashing and house cleaning couldn't be further from the woefully inadequate forefront of my mind, so one might as well pay a semi-conscious visit to the peaceful haven that is the train room, where there is nary a vuvuzela within earshot.

My AO passenger car master continues to slowly take shape. I've cast a few ends (which have come out superbly (as well as their masters would allow anyway) and made up some side bits to stick together.

As I write this, I have the sides, ends and and roof stuck together, with the big lump awaiting sanding and finishing. Apologies for the crappy cameraphone picture, but sometimes the best camera is the one you have at hand (or in your pocket) !

[update before posting: NZ scores a goal! In the world cup! Against another team! And not an own-goal either! The crowd goes wild!]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Son of "DFT in a Day"

I came to the conclusion some time ago that while a lot of experimenting was happening not a lot of model building on my part was in evidence.

Time to change that, but what to build.

After looking through some of the previous blog posts I came across Kiwibond's DFT in a Day series.
Now that caught my interest, but none existed in "Kiwirail 2" paint, until 7160 appeared a couple of weeks ago.

So a DFT it was to be, but of course having relatively easy access to a laser I couldn't resist changing things slightly from the DFT in a Day concept.
It is still a one off scratch build, but using laser cut parts for the main components of the model.

Main component sub assemblies.

I'm also trying something different with the cab. The idea is to laser cut the pieces from clear styrene, with raster cuts for the windows. This allows you to peel off the masking tape applied during cutting but leave it in place over the windows.
Paint the cab, peel off the remaining masking tape and you have clear flush windows, hopefully.

DFT body slowly coming together.
More to follow later...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

With the near completion of the track on my first module, my thoughts have turned to just how I'm going to operate the points. I have had some ideas of a system I like to have. The aim is to have a setup that replicates the north and south signal boxes, at its most extreme with a prototypical lever frame. As there is some interest from the photo-taking peanut gallery in being able to take pictures from both sides, and also to be able to operate from both sides, whatever system chosen will have to be flexible. This will probably rule out a manual 'wire-in-tube' system (but its a remote possibility). Likewise anything involving nylon or string, as I've quite honestly thought of his sort of system as slightly 'hinky'. this moves us onto point machines. Solenoids are out to, as they just are not reliable enough, and can be very hard on points. The Tortoise would be ideal, but costs an arm and a leg, and given that I'll need 30 odd machines I won't get much change out of a kidney or 2. Another option is to come up with and build my own switch machines, which would require me to acquire some engineering skills, and it would have to be cheap. A common solution to the problem is to use micro RC servos with an electronic device driver. As long as these are properly set up they run fine. The last option is one I have discussed earlier, memory wire. This is a real unknown, though I have had some feedback on it from an overseas forum here.

I'll kick this around a bit over the next week or so, but time is ticking away....

Monday, June 14, 2010

DX bogie siiiides... Git yer DX bogie sides herrrre...

DB Says:

You may recall an experiment with rapid prototyping of DX bogie sides from a few months back.

And the results on the DX model itself. Much nicer than my previously modified Dash-8 sides.

One night last week I managed to find a few hours where I wasn't working late at work or working late at home, or thinking about work, or drinking heavily to avoid thinking about work. Out came the DX bogie CAD files and I managed to figure out how to make the brake gear a little less chunky (now with cylindrical cylinders and a freestanding representation of the actuating linkage) and I also managed to thin the frames to make installation easier.

Now new and improved!

A few people expressed interest in these back then, so here's your chance to own your own - each individually RP'd (i.e. NOT castings) to maintain perfect fidelity.

It cost me close to a hundred dollars and many hours of fuddling around in AutoCAD for my prototype set (4 sides) for DX 5293 - not a terribly sustainable cost for a DX fleet, but if others are keen, I can order a bulk run, and obviously the price comes down for everyone. That's how Supply and Demand works, according to my 4th form Economics training. Of course the bogie sides would only be 10 Roubles each if the Soviets had won the cold war; but then they would be upside down and in 1:190th scale and made of potato peelings.

We could get that cost down below $15 a set (4 sides including postage) if we could get expressions of interest for about 30 sets. As I plan to have a bunch of DXs, with four locos complete already, I'm in for 10-12 sets myself to get the ball rolling.

While there might be one or two spares available for later, don't count on it, as I'll have to pay for these up front, so this might be the chance of a lifetime. And don't forget that as well as snazzying up your Trackside or scratchbuilt or 1990s-Dunedin-Zinc-Etched DX, it wouldn't surprise me if we see a laser-etch-based DX available within the next year. So be in or... ... be out I suppose. What say you, savages?

Reply to this thread with your interest within the next week with # sets, and your location (for possible pooling of shipping costs).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tracklaying pt VIII; is it time to say goodbye?

I spent yesterday afternoon putting the final touches to the 2 curved points. I even went so far as to purchase a set of micro drills and a pin vice from Jaycars (for only $32, but I'm not quite sure about the quality of the drills). These were used to drill out the throw bars. it took me 5 goes to get 2 throw bars with the holes in the center of the PGB stock as the drill kept wandering off. I was brave enough to try my homicidal Spanish minidrill, which seemed to work OK (I didn't spill any blood, nor did any wayward bits of drill go whistling past my ears).

After tidying my piss-poor soldering up as best I could, I trialed some wagons through the track work. These worked well enough without check rails, so I then soldered these in. The NMRA track gauge said that there were no problems with the tolerances. However when I tried the wagons through them, the wheels were a bit tight, and of course these were our old friends the Peco under frames. I had thought that the newer spoked wheels were NMRA compliant, though a bit narrow on the back to back. However tests with wheels that were 'right' revealed that these were fine through the points.For once it wasn't my track laying.

Thus I am faced with saying good by to an old friend, who has carried my 4 wheeled wagons many kilometers, both scale and real. Their enormous flanges have smoothed out the many flaws in my track work. Unfortunately, as time and skills move on, what once was extremely useful is now a liability. It seems that I will have to replace all my Peco wheel sets with Parkside Dundas or Farish.

However its starting to look quite sexy. I've debated whether or not to move the right hand side track a bit more towards the camera so that the tracks running across the road crossing are parallel. Unfortunately this would shorten an already short passing loop, making it a bit less useful. I don't think its going to make a huge difference so I might just leave it where it is.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gorgeous 3: From the sublime to the ridiculous

DB says:

Apparently Red Bull gives you wiiiings. I'm not sure what gives you legs, although I do know several recipes for getting legless.

Here's some pink foam giving my new layout section leeeegs.


This 'little' section is turning out pretty big. Still easily lifted and maneuvered around though...

Friday, June 11, 2010

After the grim reaper.

Well, yesterdays news got me thinking a bit, plus the local support group meeting last night.

First up, the group meeting was well supported last night. Some interesting discussions as always (though the exact price for a G numberplate was not discussed; please don't post it in the comments section as the gentleman in questions wife doesn't know...). I took along the curvy bit of track, and discussed my problems with converting a technique from one scale into another. I also had a discussion on electromagnetic coils which could bear some fruit over the weekend on the uncoupling front.. And did you know that 30 'G' class Garratt kits sold?
(I now know the sort of person who would buy one too)

Yesterday was also a good 'community outreach to the elderly'. You know, going round to the house, a couple of cups of tea and a chat, and installing a few Tortoise switch machines. We got a fair bit of work done and it will be good to see it running once the control panel is made. I've also come up with a good idea for point motors that could be quite cheap, but I'll have to do a bit more work on it to see how it will work.

Back to the first point now. At the meeting I announced Grahams passing, and this then lead to the story of another well known modeler who had been asked to help out catalog a collection for a 'soon to be deceased' fellow modeler. Now this doesn't sound like a fun task after the fact, so it must be even less fun for all parties before. The only bright point is that the person who knows just what the hell all the bits are is still there to describe it. The main pitfall of the process has been the wife's discovery of just how much has been spent on the 'drip feed'.
Now, how may others out there have any sort of plan involving our 'assets' when we shuffle off this mortal coil. I know I haven't. (And I probably should, given that I work with a stack of noxious chemicals all day and have a family history of heart disease and cancer. The only way I could possibly make it worse would be to run around on hilltops during thunderstorms yelling ' All gods are bastards'). So when I pass on the lady of the house will be left with a room full of crap to deal with, and there really is a vast amount of stuff ( there's at least 4-5 divisions worth of WW2-modern wargaming stuff, plus all the ancient armies, and then the 'odds and sods'). All of it isn't even cataloged for insurance.

And I guess this all leads back to Graham. No one in this country has had such a wide influence on the hobby. He created from scratch a range of world class wheels (Australia doesn't have anything like it)and expanded over time to include so much more modeling bits and bobs. There will be very few of us who have not purchased or used a North yard product, from a catalog which ran to 10 pages of everything a modeler could need on the engineering side. Almost all the S scale wagons and locos in the country run on his wheel sets. Indeed it was only last week that I was discussing with him the private production of 54" driver tyres for NZ120. He is going to be sorely missed, and to be brutally honest its left a huge hole to fill ( I'm not proud of it, but its what most of us will be thinking)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Breaking News....

I have just had it passed on to me that Graham Selman, proprietor of North Yard, passed away last night.

While remembering Grahams enormous contribution to the hobby in New Zealand with his range of correct wheels and chassis, it does raise questions about the future of Sn3½ in the country as the scale seems to rely quite heavily on Grahams products.

It remains to be seen if anyone has the acumen and money to step up to the plate to carry on his work.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tracklaying ptVII

I can see that I'm going to have to finish this series before my roman numeral knowledge runs out. Today's progress is the soldering of rail to sleepers.

I started out by soldering the outside rails in place, having first filed out the areas where the blades will fit. I then made up and placed the frog. This was a bit more of a challenge as there is a curve running through it. I'm not sure I've got it quite right. Then I soldered in the first blade. There is is a bit of wheel drop through the knuckle but its not too bad when the wagons are pushed through it and it should sort itself out once the check rails are in place.

Also note the nice curvature that one can build in with hand laid track. I'm starting to really enjoy making it (and will probably continue to until I have to face a scissors crossover).

As a further question, does anyone know what the expansion coefficient of nickel silver is? I might have to start thinking about gaping some of this rail.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

AO2: False starts and tube tops

DB Says:

It seems like forever since I made a worthwhile post here. Ahhh, it has been forever.

One of my last dips into the blogstream was this catchily titled start to an AO big-window passenger car for the TranzAlpine.

Things started with a hiss and a roar, but I struggled with the roof. You may recall that I started back then with a piece of balsa, which was carefully carved, sanded and paper-topped. Nice job too, but all very uncleverly to the wrong roof radius so it wasn't a great fit with the end I'd made. Close but no banana.

No worries. Bung some filler on the ends and sand to shape. Erk. OK... try again. Now that looks pretty decent up against the roof curve built into the end... but as the pumped up ends are now a smidge taller, it looks like there's a sag in the roof. Because there's a sag in the roof. That won't do. Throw more filler onto the middle of the roof then. Oooo, ugly. More filler, more sanding, more filler. Oooo, ugly. Rinse and repeat over the course of two weeks. Talk about getting 'bogged' down.

As NZ120 is supposed to be the nice easy scale, surely there has to be an easier way...

Just then, (obviously not "just then", but it adds a sense of drama, no?) I stumbled upon an appropriately sized tube at the hardware store that might just do the trick: let me introduce you to Schedule 80 one inch dia plastic pipe for in-ground lawn sprinklers and the like:
[you may have to hum to yourself while I spend the next half hour dremeling, cutting and sanding]

Now that's more like it!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Putting it all down on paper....

Am_Fet writes:

As threatened late last week, this is the blog post about how I would do a layout based on MacLennan.....except its not. Well, it sort of is....if you look slightly to the side of it and squint....

MacLennan shares a lot of similarities with another of my favourite stations, Waihao Forks (both on a curve, both with a crossover to the stockyards, Any Aucklander is unable to locate them on a map, etc...). So, rather than re-invent the wheel (which several luddites still suggest was a bad idea and we should all just crawl back into the swamp), I will present for you here the design details of my Waihao Forks layout back in the days when I modeled in some other scale. Feel free to read "MacLennan" wherever necessary.

The first real bombshell came when I borrowed a swag of White Swan publications off the eminent Squadron Leader (last seen flying a Mahogany Bomber). The two books here that really kicked off the design process were by those two brilliant Poms, Barry Norman and Iain Rice (starts crawling now to prevent litigation over copyright infringements).

The first plan is from Barry Norman:

Fantastic! The layout is on a curve and fits nicely back into a corner! Give me a piece of that!!

Following Barry's lead, I used the sector plate at one end to serve the 3 roads at the end without using points. Admittedly, I did have concerns about this layout size-wise, and whether the sector plates at each end would be too more cogitating ensued.....and then the epiphany, courtesy of Iain Rice:

Navigation sidings is far and away my favourite Iain Rice plan....I'd love to populate it with a selection of J50, J52 and N1 locomotives and base it somewhere in darkest London, running freights south via Snow Hill and Blackfriars....sigh....

Meanwhile, back on this planet, I'd like to point out that it wasnt the layout plan that attracted me to this, but more the way the layout is constructed. Note the fold lines...very clever...

So, using the ideas of both layouts, I drew up a scale plan of The Forks, then married it to a plan of the baseboard, and wiggled it around a few times...

Until I came up with this:

Things to note:

- I've enlarged the sector plates, and used the shelf at the back to hold a cassette to get stock on and off the layout.

- The fold line at the left is where the "wings" are positioned, hiding the sector plate at that end.

- The track at the stock yard carries on "offstage" to allow more J and S wagons to be stored on it.

- To allow the layout to fold on top of itself, the hinges need to be mounted above track level. On the right side of the layout, this is achieve by have a large hinge located in the (removable) goods shed.

At his stage, Cabbage came on board and suggested that the whole baseboard could be built from foam, so I prepared a cutting template and played with how the layout would fold over onto itself (shown in yellow in the plan):

And then....The Chairman of the Board discovered Nz120 and milk trains, and the whole project was shelved.

Still, I present it here in the hopes it may inspire others or at least provide the catalyst for someone else's design problem. I'm more than happy for someone to pick this idea up and run with fact, I'll even pass on all the design work, and even do some more if needed (contact me through the Head Druff). As previously mentioned, it will suit MacLennan to a T, as well as a lot of other small NZR stations located on curves.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Just what every model railway needs...

A stack of birds.

Looong Weekend

Isn't it annoying that just when a 3 day break comes along with the added promise of bad weather to force one inside, one is forced to do things other than making models. Yesterday ,due to the fine weather, I was shanghaied into a road trip to Blenheim and back, which somewhat limits ones modeling opportunities.

Photo for the week comes from Drew with the first of the DFT's for Auckland passing through Taranaki. Comments have revolved around how to add the numbers in white to the long hood.

I've also come up with that major difference between the 2mm/N scale groups in GB and our little NZ120 fraternity here. These 2 organisations are similar in size and financials to the local Guild (each association has an annual membership fee of 20 quid). Thus they actually have funds to subsidise small projects. this is not a perfect system as I see in the last couple of weeks that the supply of wheels is currently up in the air until new assemblers can be found.NZR modeling in this country has always been lead by private enterprise, but the numbers of potential customers were much higher.
(Oh, and before anyone suggests that the guild might subsidise bits for NZ120, don't bother. The guild has a long history of not getting involved in anything like this, and rightly so.)

Things have been happening on the workbench though, as I laid out the sleepers for the other side of the south end of Paekakariki.

Examination of the initial plan revealed that I had placed the blades for the second point on top of the frog for the first, so I had to do a bit of re-gigging at this point to get things looking a bit better.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Tracklaying ptVI

Finally some actual modeling. Sometimes i think I'm in danger of becoming one of those 'thinks to much, does to little' modelers. I finaly got round laying my first section of track into position on the module. as I'm still not sure about fixing it just yet, I fixed it with double sided tape, having first measured and drawn where the centerlines were on the foam.

Readers with some form of short term memory will remember my positioning conundrum. its been solved by moving the whole formation closer to the Wellington end (the left) of the module, and accepting a narrower main st in Paekakariki. I have also drilled holes for the point actuation, whatever form it might take.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dereliction in the Deep South

Am_Fet writes:

Every now and then I stumble across a picture in a book that really flicks on the old thinking light bulb. Sometimes its enough to even get the research juices flowing, and after an afternoon (or so) I've nutted out the kernel for a small module.

The subject of todays post is MacLennan on the old Catlins Branch running in a roughly southward direction from Blaclutha. It was built to access the massive stands of native forest in the area, but the ruggedness of the area asked some serious questions of the surveyours and builders. The family connection is that my Great Grandfather on my mothers side had a farm in the Chaslands area and worked on the construction of the line with his own gang to supplement the farms income.

It was reading the book by A.R Tyrell on the line that my interest was piqued by the construction of the line from Owaka to MacLennan; a seriously hairy piece of railway with steep grades and the sharpest curve in the South Island. In fact, on an earlier holiday weekend through the area I can remember being startled (seriously!) by winding the way up an incredibly steep hill to find the Caberfeidh (Cab-er-fay)railway station at the top of did the railway get so high??

Anyway, I went looking in Google Earth (as always) to see what could be seen...and the formation of the line in this area is very well preserved. I suggest you have a look if you can, search on either "Caberfeidh" or "MacLennan" and follow the line as it winded down the hill.

MacLennan station itself is situated on a curve and is similar in makeup to Waihao Forks, including being situated beside a major bridge over a river; a loop, goods sheed road and a scissors crossover feeding the stockyards are all there(although the original plan shown here just has a plain crossover, it was replaced quite early on).

Built as depicted in the photo supplied by my good friend Euan at the top of this post, MacLennan would make a neat visual diorama of "station within landscape", and the fact that it wasnt closed until 1971 means that those lovely Dj's made an appearance as well. Populate it with a handfull of wagons ranging from La's, Lc's, Kp's up to J's and H's, and it would be enough to keep someone happy and occupied for a few years....longer if it is then made part of a larger layout.

Next week I will post a layout suggestion (based on this basic premise) for a folding layout using foam as the main ingedient (just like KiwiBonds).

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I've spent the last couple of days writing various drafts of a blog posting response to the suggestion that there should be an RTR train set style box released. I've deleted every one. I can think of a wide multitude of stumbling blocks to the enterprise (from practical to legal to health and safety issues, oh and the store markup of 50%). And, given that we are a widely varied lot, I don't even think we could agree on the locomotive that should be in their, let alone the wagons.

Now, I probably shouldn't be the one to shoot stuff down. My Ka from the ground up project is probably as daft as it gets and I'm not sure its going to work out in the end as there could well be some insurmountable hurdles (drive train is the one that springs to mind, though at least its at the start of the project and will kill it quick. its much better to fail at the start of a project than at the end)

And other thoughts; I really need to stop biovating and get back to the work bench, where not much has happened in the last couple of weeks.