Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 River Scene Update

Things slowed down for a little while we all discussed and planned for the new modules on our exhibition layout. But we've now been back at it as we have to complete some work and tidy up the layout very soon otherwise when we pull down the exhibition layout for its work, we'll have nowhere to drive a train!

So Rob, Peter, Dallas, Bobby and Self have been at it again. Rob has been busy till now working on all the bridges for the river scene. You don't know how much effort can be expended until you do a big river scene with enough bridges to cater for six tracks. We thought a month should get it to a runnable position with just some scenicing to be done after that - what a good joke. We've been at it since the beginning of October and still going at it.

We are using 4 of the Central Valley Model Works 150' Truss bridges to handle the bridge at the back of the scene, with enough Micro Engineering Tall Steel Viaduct sections to cater for the next bridge on the river. The next bridge is a doubler track one and is made from 2 of the Kato Truss Bridges with the lead on and off being Kato Plate Girder Bridge segments. The last bridge which is the front one will be a double track one as well. It is a Ratio Plastic Models Stone Arch Viaduct.

So Rob started off with ripping up a good chunk of the old plaster work so that the river could have more perspective built into it and to also cater for all the bridge supports.

Wooden pillars were put in to support the bridge trestles and feet.

The Kato Plate Girder segments which were previously blue have now been painted and weathered to suit our tastes.

So it was now starting to look pretty good. The Kato Truss bridge was also modified to allow the top to come off for easy cleaning of the track.

Some of the bridge trestle supports will be those Fine N Scale Bridge Piers with Footers, while others will be styrene or plaster. The styrene ones are just covers to go over the plywood former, hence they will be nice and strong.

So the foam is now shapped roughly to what we think will do. Note that the bridge that will be the Stone Viaduct has not yet been replaced. We will leave it till last, so the old temporaty plywood one will do for now.

Then Peter got into it and started to put in the plaster cast rocks. He used the Woodland Scenics ones that a member had to cast up a pile of rocks and then selected bits and pieces from the lot. He cut and broke up many to get the shapes wanted.

It sure leaves a lot of gaps when you are laying them out, which will need a lot of time to join together.

Eventually found one neat trick. To join them up, make a really sloppy mix of plaster. Spray water on all the rocks so they wont absorb too much water out of the sloppy mix later, and then very carefully pour on the sloppy mix into the gaps. If the gap is a bit big, it will build up if you wait a few seconds between pours.

Now make sure to not do too much at a time (I did and boy did I pay for it) as it only stays soft for a while. This allows you time to scrape off with a dental pick (or any small tool) any excess plaster that made its way onto the good rock surfaces.

Once the joingin of the plaster rocks was complete, Peter got into it with some water based artists paints and got it all looking like a good hard granite. We will in fact most likely use decomposed granit for our river ed when we get to that stage.

So that's what we've up to on the river scene. When I get a little less slack, I'll update you all on the rest of what's been happening on the layout.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beginning to Lay Turf

Over the last month the layout has been getting a bit more attention with more scenery being done. The hill near the town has seen the most attention with the curved rock walls being cemented into place and then getting a coat of paint and dirt to blend them in.

Here is a photo showing them after just having been glued in with plaster. The joins have been neatly smoothed over and textured so as to match the rockwork itself.

And here is a photo showing the hil itself with them all in place. It sure make driving a drain around feel a bit better with the wall in place and not straight vertical white plaster.

Next I tried a bit of ballasting to see the result. Yes I know you ballast last, but I just had to see how it would look. So I did some under the bridge which already had some grass and dirt on one side already. It looked good and hence has spurred us on. The trains looked even better swinging through under the bridge now.

I did the gluing of the ballast using my old tool - a small eye drop bottle with a very fine hole. This has always been a real pain as you had to squeeze it hard and it would clog and had such a small capacity. I’d also tried in the past a sauce bottle, but they are not fine enough and give way too large a drop size when you need to control it at that fine level.

So I’d seen that Xuron has some nice bottles, so I got one in. It was a Xuron 820, which is a 2 ounce bottle with needle adapter and 0.020” I.D. capillary tube (blunt end needle).

The plastic it is made of is nice and soft, yet strong enough it doesn’t let the fluid just flow out everywhere. That combined with the 20 thou needle means nice small drops can be released, but you can also make it flow like a fire hose (very fine one at that) if squeezed harder. They also do a 10 thou ID needle, which I will probably get to check out as well. But for this work the 20 thou is perfect for me.

Of course before applying the glue on the ballast I wet down the ballasted areas with wet water. This was made of a litre of tap water with a soup spoon or two of isopropyl alcohol and the usual dozen drops of detergent. All this put into a good pump pack like one of those Hills branded ones. Then I sprayed all over the ballast and then ad only then was I ready to glue it down.

I was using a 50/50 Aquadhere/Water mix with some drops of detergent in it to fix the ballast down.  Actually it probably has about 10% more water added to it for good measure, so I'd say it is now 40/60 Aquadhere/Water with a good dozen or two drops of detergent in a litre. I found that using the bottle in fire hose mode was very easy and very controllable and I used about three runs up each side of the rail and one down the centre to do it nicely to the white wet colour for the ballast. It actually made it quite a treat to do ballasting for a change. When dried it was all nice and solid and you couldn't see that any glue had been applied - it was invisible.

Probably what also helped me a lot with the ballasting was using a good brush to brush out the ballast and to level it etc. I’d always just used an artists largish brush and it just wasn’t nice. This brush was like a sheila’s blush brush except all the bristles were the same length such that it can stand up on the bristle tips. They are also nice and soft like a girlie brush.

The brush was a Model Expo JS154 Super-Soft Modeller’s Dusting Brush. It is not long, only 4½” (11.4 cm) from tip to top of handle, but once you get the hang of it, it is great. The width of the brush head is just wider tan N scale track ties by about 3mm either side or so. The trick to me in using the brush for ballasting, seems to be to hold the brush vertical and only apply enough force that it never pushes below the sleeper tops by more than a few thou (1/4 mm maybe). I was able to do my best ballasting to date using these new tool finds.

So on the day of the good ballasting experience with the new tools, the station got all the ballast laid except for up against the platforms for now. Gee it looks good now looking at person height on the layout with a train coming through the station.

After that bit of ballasting, it was time to go lay some dirt over the hill itself right up to the edges to cover the fresh glue/plaster from the walls being joined to it.

So the usual 50/50 white glue and water mix was used, but with some brown type acrylic artists paints (about 2½ bucks at a 2 dollar shop) added to it so the mix would partially soak into the white plaster parts to colour them in case dirt gets chipped off the surface to expose the white. Onto this was of course sprinkled a good dose of local dirt from just up Kremzow road in Brendale.

This dirt is a fine clay type silt based soil. Very low in any type of organic matter and hence doesn’t shrink too much or have any life in it. So after a bit of crushing, I place it through a number of sieves so that I have fine dust, small sand sized, medium sand sized, and of course large – up to 3-5mm sizes of dirt.

It is so easy to go out and find sources of this around the area. I also have a red coloured one we also use on the layout. So a good sprinkle of the fine and a bit of small and medium sand sizes was applied to the hill all over it to give a good base for the grass that is to come.

Next I got into sprinkling down some of the fine dirt between the three mainlines and between the outer lines and the rock walls. This will make it almost ready then to ballast. Also a sloppy mix of plaster was poured at the base of the left hand slope of the hill to bring it level with the towns main road. The buildings will sit a lot more level now and not sop towards their back boundaries.

Over the last week some of the Fine Turf ground foam from Woodland Scenics has been applied. We are mainly using Burnt Grass colour with some of the dark and light greens being thrown in here and there to give variety.

Once again the 50/50 white glue and water mix came out and this time was put into a sprayer (another good one like a Hills)  and sprayed all over the dirt areas in probably 1 square foot areas at a time (30cm x 30cm) until it was wetand white coloured. Then the ground foam was sprinkled on. Then move to the next square foot and repeat. Later on we’ll wet it again and do static grass on top of this to finish it off nicely. Even without the static grass, it is looking pretty good and is a damn sight better than plain plaster or even the brown paint we had a while back.

The road on the left side of the hill is only brown paint for now until the bitumen can be laid as we did on the railway crossing.

Since we were in the mood, Peter got into it and finished the timber on the aisle way of the large mountain. We’ll paint it shortly and this will now protect the foam of the mountain being accidently bumped and dented all the time.

Since the white glue was already out and the brushes wet, there was still time before knock off to do a bit of dirt scattering on the big mountain. So out with the brush and 50/50 glue/water mix and some more dirt has been sprinkled on the layout. Managed to get about half the mountain done for now. The left has now been dirtied and the right is waiting.

In the above photo you can see Peter’s first trees in the forest for the mountain. We will soon setup a production line and mass produce these wonders of modern technology – puff balls.

You take a golf ball sized chunk of polyester fibre, the stuff in cheap pillows or fish tank filters or the small bag sized piles you get at a two dollar shop (4 bucks for 100 gms) or from a large haberdashery or such - about 10 bucks a kg which is a hugh pillow size. It is all used for toy stuffing too. You then roll it into a rough ball shape. Don't make it too round - you don't see round trees unless they are in pots in your back yard. Next you spray it with some black paint. This gets rid of the “white” problem .

Once dry, you get out your Black & Gold brand hair spray (or nick your missus can if you are game) and spray the puff ball and then roll it in Woodland Scenics “Fine Turf” of the desired colour. Plonk it on a toothpick until dry.

Next get out a pair of sharp scissors and cut the ball in half. Voila! Now you have two tree tops for your forest. I reckon between the use of the “Fine Turf” and the “Course Turf” ground foam products from Woodland Scenics which have about 4 or so colours that would suit a forest, we’ll end up with a nice variety of colours and textures to the mountain. We might also get some of that JTT Scenery Products brand of ground foam as its colours are different to the Woodland Scenics colours and will add to our variety. For the test we only used one colour as per below:

We’ll use real trees with trunks like maybe the real cheap trees and some handmade ones for the first 3-4 inches from all edges and then use puff balls in the middle. We will also probably put a few tall real ones in amongst the puff balls to add some big height differences and uniqueness. Maybe a pine tree or two towards the top of the mountain.

The back corner between the big mountain and the river has also been “dirtied” ready for grass to be planted.

The railway crossing is really starting to look something now that ballast and dirt and the first layer of grass like substances are down.

See you next time I blog away - I'm starting to really like this doing scenery stuff!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Currency at Last

Finally the blog is back up to date for a change! Last issue I mentioned artists spatulas. Here is a shot of the two I use. They are nice and thin like metal shims and hence nice and bendy (and sharp as bloody hell).
Saturday saw the railroad crossing finished for now and then left to dry overnight (except for those others who continue to play the “wet paint” scene and keep putting their big fingers into it!).
The bits left around between the tracks will be picked off after it is all dried, and the boxing then also removed. We can then ballast around it and start to finish the station platforms and station area.

Saturday saw Peter get his label maker out and label up the recently adjusted block switch board for the small yard.
The small yard being as in the pic below. The tracks are also labelled to match the panel, and when the scenicing of it is complete, then signposts along the tracks will number them and remove the need for the yellow stickers. But all in due time.
The foam has now been pretty much all covered with toilet paper, PVA and paint (PPP) in the back corner and on the mountain. Just a bit of gap filling needed and then we’ll be able to start spreading the soil and sowing the grass seed to get us a good paddock back there.
Here is the foam around the tunnel entrance on the back which was recently sealed over with the brown PPP stuff.
And the Miners dongas and hall area is also now PPP’d as of one week ago. Now for some dirt and some bushes and weeds and the odd spot of grass. Won’t be long now till the rail yard there can be worked on and used.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Honest, We are doing Something

A bit more work is being done on the permanent layout. The corner everyone tends to lean on has gotten some dirt and grass cover added to it and some short trees on the hill sides. A few large trees may yet sprout – hey Rob?!! We will also add a Perspex edge to help protect the corner as well. The concrete (plaster) abutments for the road bridge have also been painted with thinned down “Aged Concrete” Floquil paint.
Rob has been busy assembling the other bridge for the layout that will be the second back or back line bridge. This bridge will be made of 3 or so of the Central Valley N Scale 150ft. Pratt Truss Bridge Kits. He has also weathered it – and it is looking GOOD. Just a few more piers to be bought and feet for them.
The BIG mountain has been attacked with a big knife and hacksaw blade – this time to make a removable hatch so you can get to the track to retrieve loco’s and wagons if ever the case was needed.
The whole and also the sides of the plug have now also been painted with that awful fence paint that was bought a while back to paint the “ground” of layouts – shocking chalky stuff that it is, it is perfect to seal the foam and not stick to itself since it is so chalky. Some roadway is appearing near the town. When you leave town you cross the three mainlines near the railway station. So rather than dirt, asphalt is needed. Kevin and I got some stuff from our glue mate EFD Glue (Simply Glues) two AMRA shows back. It is a latex based product that is gritty and gives a good asphalt look. I also bought some Micro-balloons to mix in with it to make it finer again – just right for N scale. I use artists spatulas (the really really thin ones – the ones you get and can give yourself a serious paper cut with – ie loose half your finger!) to put it on and by wetting the spatula at the end I can finish the surface as you would when floating a concrete floor at the end.
So I got this piece in from the edge of the layout to the outer mainlines spur. Since it worked well, I’ve just put in the boxing across the other tracks to start laying in the roadway across the tracks.
Between the two rails of each track, I am not sure whether to put in timber decking or maybe give this product a go – time will tell.
The product can be purchased in a number of colours, I got the grey which I think gives a really good weathered asphalt look. Either a fine white paint pen or pinstripe white decals will finish it nicely. Oh, and the other day I was NOT sleeping under the layout – I was instead doing some wiring. Due to movement in timber and track, the electrical conductivity of the double track truss bridge became non-existent and showed up a design fault. Ie I’d forgotten to put enough droppers down that end of the layout. So under the layout with drills, chocolate blocks, dropper wire and a lot of swearing. Now it all works like a bought one. But it does show that in future we will have to also make sure to wire all points up with feeds to their blades as well since conductivity there was also playing up. I’d rather not rely on just pressure of the blade giving us conductivity on the point. A good feeder will make them work so much better.
The other week also saw Rob get into putting on the points on the outside mainline at the back where the timber yard will go. This will allow the passing loop to be installed from which a spur to the timber yard will be put in and from there a spur to the far right where the timber mill will be located. Paul Hucklebridge has finished building the Walthers timber yard which comprises of two buildings like below.
To this end I’ve also worked out the numbering on the track blocks to the small yard on that side of the layout and will number the switches for them. Rob and I also fixed all the blocks and actually made them work – they had not worked in ages by the look of it, and wasn’t noticed as only DCC locos had been parking over there. Well they all now work and there is room on the switchboard to cater for the timber mill and yard as well as the fuel depot near the river as well. As mentioned last time, that small mountain at the back right is gone – here’s the evidence below. We’ll put the timber mill into the corner there and maybe get a small pond in the front between the back and front mainlines.
While we’ve been at it, OK, it was me, I got into the paint cupboard again and attacked the curved plaster walls around the main loop at the end of the big yard. They at least now don’t look white. Maybe some grey might fix them up and give them a bit more of a granite look rather than the dirt look I managed to impart to them. Mind you, my shirt was more brown that the rock by the end of the day. So We’ve just got to get into the walls with a hacksaw blade and trim them down to size so we can then putty them into place and patch up with the hill. Then I can get the Grass Master out again and put in a paddock on the hill for the church or house to sit in.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peek-a-boo, I see you

Well, after seeing what Craig of "Craig's Shed" fame and Greg of "Greg's Railway Modelling Musings" quickly had done with their little Spycams, I decided I just had to get one of these gadgets so as to (1) have some fun and (2) more easily show our layouts.

So I placed my order and eventually took delivery of one Swann brand RemoteCam Video Camera & Recorder - DVR-410. It came with a 2GB micro SD card which will suffice for either 2000 still photos or about 25 minutes of 720 x 480 AVI video. All in one cute little package the size and shape of a car key ring.

So with a full charge and play the night before, I headed down to the club on Wednesday morning and besides a lot of running on the layouts and cleaning tracks, I took out the spycam.

The first video of the day was hand held to see what the camera could do with N Scale. We see Rod's Japanese locos hauling a long container train.

Next I got the spycam and with some trusty masking tape afixed it on its side to a 53' Athearn N scale flatcar. I then pushed the wagon around the clubs permanent N Scale layout, of which you've been reading about in this blog, with a 9600 class 2-8-0 steam loco. Here you see a trip of about half way around the layout.

After this it was onto the club's exhibition layout. First we travel anti-clockwise.

The for a differnet perspective, we travel in clockwise.

And to round out the day, a driveby by an English passenger set being hauled by the Japanese 9600 class steamer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Big Move of 2011

It will sound like I am talking HO scale here, but hang in there - it leads to bigger N scale.

It was finally time - time for the HO club layout to move into its new digs in the new 12m x 12m extension to the club rooms. So it was all hands on deck to get it moved. During the week a few members got in and started bolting braces to the legs of the layout and bolting on castor wheels.

On the Saturday we added all the final castor wheels and braces and let the layout down onto the wheels. Months prior to this the entry and exit to the workshop are was widened as much as possible to allow the layout to travel through - only inches to spare in the end, so good planning.

Here we see some wheels on the legs.

So it was shoulders to the layout and push, push, push.

Once through the workshop exit, we had to rotate the layout by 180 degrees so it would fit like we wanted. With all the wheels and manpower it was quite easy.

Now that the HO layout was taken care of, what were we to do with the vacant land until we build out extension to the N Scale Permanent Club Layout?

Well of course the N Scalers got very busy and put up the whole N Scale Exhibition Layout and got it running. Now we can work on it and test it any time we want.