Monday, 22 May 2017

Adding miles in miniature


I love freight cars. They instantly convey a sense of purpose on a model railway by depicting what railways were designed for in the first place, moving objects from point A to B over long distances. But how do you add miles to a model in miniature? There's really only one way, and that is to dirty them up. Over the weekend, I managed to weather a few more wagons on my roster using the same method I explained in my previous review on easy Rustall weathering methods. Rather than write another step-by-step post, I thought I'd just share some before and after shots that demonstrate how some subtle weathering can create the illusion that our shiny, well detailed models have actually covered some miles in service.

I started with the Auscision Models NLJX louvered van that I reviewed previously.

Next I weathered it using the Rustall method I described earlier and added some N scale Blair Line graffiti decals.

On a HO scale model, the N scale graffiti looks more height appropriate for a tagger standing at ground height.

When I rolled the finished model back into place on the siding beside my cement plant, the NLJX van looks as though it has done more than a few trips to and from Sydney, and probably got 'tagged' by a graffiti artist while the train was 'holed-up' waiting for a path in or out of Enfield Yard.

Next I turned to the Auscision Models NCTY steel wagons. Great looking models, but they can't stay that clean forever.

I scuffed the white cradles a bit where the steel coils would sit, using a silver paint pen to simulate steel scrapes.

Using the same method, the end result is by far more believable, yet subtle enough to appreciate the nice blue paint job.

When the next coil steel load arrived back at Philden, the NCTY wagon was looking a lot more well-travelled. The road grime in the well of the wagon and especially around the side ribbing is convincing enough for me to believe that the shipment has just been railed in from Port Kembla.

Philden Yard now looks a little more convincing with some weathered wagons waiting to be unloaded.

Weathering some freight wagons may not be everyone's idea of a dirty weekend, but it was a fun project to enjoy over a rainy weekend. I now only have my fleet of cement hoppers to be weathered for my freight car roster to look well-travelled.

See also; Easy Rustall weathering method for my step-by-step guide to weathering a freight car.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Bringing back the Bulldog


It seems that unmistakable EMD Bulldog nose has reared it's head once more in Philden Yard. More than a year since a 421 class locomotive was last seen at Philden, the classy curves of a Clyde Engineering built AJ16C General Motors Electro-Motive diesel have emerged from the shadows of the overpass to work the cement plant once more.

After spotting loaded cement hoppers the night before, 42109 returns the next day to collect the empties.

Unlike its predecessor 42101 who was last seen working Philden still wearing it's NSW State Rail Authority candy livery, 42109 has been deployed by private operator Interail on hook-and-pull duties to work the cement plant, and arrived recently overhauled, looking clean and sporting the rainbow colours of predecessor Northern Rivers Railroad.

The 421's are a classy looking loco. Retaining the American Bulldog nose at the no. 1 end, they had a second cab compartment added to the flat no. 2 end that made them one of the most unique examples of their type in the world. There were only 10 built in 1965-66 and by 1986-87 all had been withdrawn from government service. Four were later purchased by the Northern Rivers Railroad group who restored them and returned the locos to service in 1997, working cement and flyash trains between Grafton and Murwillumbah. By 1999, NRR were using the locomotives on the Ritz Rail tourist train between Casino and Murwillumbah. The party only lasted to March 2002, when the Ritz Rail train was discontinued and the Northern Rivers Railroad was purchased by Queensland Rail and renamed Interail. All four 421 class locos were included in the sale and were later used on infrastructure work on the NSW north coast, coal haulage in the northern Hunter Valley and container trains between Casino and Acacia Ridge Yard in Brisbane.

And viewed from the other side of the layout, the Bulldog returns through the mouse-hole with another loaded cement train.

Despite not even being born at the time the 421 Class locos were introduced into service on the N.S.W.G.R. there are a lot of stories I can tell of the surviving class members' second life wearing rainbow colours. Such as the 7 years I worked for Woolworths Distribution, driving a forklift in their distribution centre alongside Acacia Ridge rail yard in Brisbane. Often on a Friday night I'd be assigned to work the pallet yard which just so happened to be hard up against the fence of the railway siding. In between loading trucks and sorting pallets, I'd always leave a gap so that I had a clear view of the 2 sidings that ended hard against the fence. At some point after 6 pm on a Friday night when they were done shunting for the week, a pair of 421's would always end up parked at the end of the siding, their round noses glistening in the light of the distribution centre truck bays. It became my Friday night train fix before the weekend.

42109 poses on my desk alongside a photo of her in my book working a ballast train in the summer of 2003/2004.

Another story was from over the summer of 2003/2004, when I set off with my young family on a day's adventure through the Brisbane Border Ranges, driving the Lions Road while following the NSW North Coast Line from the back of Beaudesert to Kyogle. After waiting at the top of the Cougal Spiral to photograph a train, the batteries on the camera died and I couldn't buy anymore until we reached Kyogle. Deciding to drive south to Casino and cut across to Byron Bay to stay the night before heading back to Brisbane the next day, my wife Denise became excited for me when we passed a slow train on the highway near Nammoona. Pulling off to the side of the road in a hurry at a level crossing that was only a short distance in front of us, I jumped out with my camera ready and the sound of crossing bells chiming in my ears only to discover the train had stopped and was now travelling backwards away from us. The bells stopped chiming, the traffic continued across the railway line once more and I remember returning to the car shaking my head and saying, "of all the luck." Just as I started the car to continue on our way, the crossing lights sprang to life and the distant rumble of two diesels filled the air once more. I jumped from the car again and this time snapped 42109 with a 422 class diesel tucked in behind as they struggled up the crest of a grade with a loaded ballast train. My guess is the train stalled on the hill leading up to the road crossing and needed a bigger run-up. For a weekend of chasing trains, it was the only photo I returned home with!

It was stories such as these that prompted me to put together my photographic memoir titled 30 Years Chasing Trains, but funnily enough the memories of that train chasing mis-adventure with my young family, (back before my kids grew up and moved out of home), made adding 42109 to my small layout all that more special.

I had to go out and buy my new Auscision model before the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show weekend to operate as a partner-in-crime with my Pacific National 82 Class loco. The model performed faultlessly over the entire weekend and is easily the nicest locomotive I've owned to date. Bringing the Bulldog back to Philden has been a special moment for me. Just like the first CountryLink Xplorer I owned was sold, and later came back in the original phase I CountryLink livery, the original candy liveried 421 that I also sold over a year ago has now come back in another form, this time in the much more era-appropriate Interail livery that perfectly positions it in the 2002-2005 era I find myself modelling on Philden.

Through a lot of trial and error, I am now happy enough with the roster I have built for my small layout, and will hopefully look at adding just one more locomotive to Philden in the coming year. I think a sound equipped loco capable of operating on DC mode will be the order of the day, and nothing that doesn't belong between 2002-2005. I had a close look at Southern Rail Models' West Australian L class while at the Brisbane Model Train Show, and one of those would look terrific working back and forth in the Interail livery which it wore from 2003, whereas the L's didn't dress-up in Pacific National colours until 2006, after they were purchased from ATN. They had a great offer on the ATN Access sound-equipped locos over the weekend, but as they only pulled grain trains and there's no room for wheat silos on Philden, it was a well-educated pass. Besides, my wife really likes the Interail livery.

So for now I'm going to let it all be a bit of wishful thinking for later this year, and simply enjoy having the Bulldog back. I'll also be following with interest SDS Model's 81 class refresh of the former Austrains model, only this time with sound, after ruling out the Auscision Models 442 class as the only paint schemes on offer for the mid 2000's was the R&H Transport (again, only seen on container trains) and the unique CFCLA livery (which didn't really see much service on anything before being donated to the GL rebuild program). With wet weather the forecast for the weekend, I'm going to weather up my NCTY steel wagons and the NLJX louvered van.

See also; The ALMOST Mail Train and Review; Auscision Models' 421 Class

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Exhibition #1 Brisbane Beginnings


All is well in the universe. After a successful debut at the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show over the weekend of May 6-7, Philden is back home, unpacked, undamaged and once more standing proudly above my desk as I write this. Unbolting a 2.6 metre (or just under 9 foot long) layout, and carrying it down 5 flights of stairs before packing it carefully in the back of our hatchback for the 90 km trip down to Brisbane wasn't as daunting as I'd imagined. Upon arrival, it simply bolted back together without any fuss and ran like clockwork until the final closing announcement was made on Sunday afternoon.

One tight squeeze, and it just fitted. Denise was worried it would look like we'd stolen a hearse!

Although I primarily built Philden as a space-saving measure, I always had one eye on being able to take the finished layout to exhibitions. As such, the layout was designed to fit into the back of our Ford Mondeo hatch. Having measured the space available in the back of our hatchback 2 years ago when I first started construction, we had one moment where Denise and I held our breath as we started loading the car. The back seats don't quite fold-down flat, and the angle that the layout sat in the back of the car required the front seats to be moved forward ever so slightly. Fortunately we didn't have to set off with our knees pressed up against the windscreen! So with Carrie Underwood blaring on the car stereo, we made good time heading down the Bruce Highway against the traffic on a Friday afternoon and arrived at the Brisbane Showgrounds around 4 pm to set-up.

Friday night lights! A quick test after set-up to make sure it all worked.

Donning our flouro-yellow safety vests, Denise and I soon set to work putting my layout together. The floor of Brisbane Showground's Marquee proved impossible to find a patch of level ground. Fortunately the event organizers were better prepared than I was. There were plastic bins full of ply and timber off-cuts at the ready, and a fellow modeler soon appeared with a spirit level in hand. Just over an hour later, the layout was all wired-up and a quick test with one of my locos revealed all was well. So finding ourselves in Brisbane on a Friday night, we headed off to visit our daughter before the drive back to the Sunshine Coast.

Saturday morning before the doors opened. I thought the curtains looked like they needed ironing.

Saturday. Day one of the 40th running of the Brisbane Model Train Show found us waking early for another 90 km drive down to Brisbane. Carrie Underwood sang in the new day on the car stereo once more, and after a couple of hot meat pies and an iced coffee while the crowd steadily built outside, Philden began it's new life on the exhibition circuit.

I had to set up so close to Walker Models' stand because of the slope of the floor.

It didn't take long for the crowd to pour in, and by 10 am our friends Stuart and Mardi next to us at the Walker Models stand were already doing a roaring trade. Stuart and I thought that being side-by-side would enable Mardi and Denise some time to chat throughout the day. It wasn't until around 2.30 pm however that the crowd calmed down enough to say more than hi. James McInerney from Australian Model Railway Magazine stopped by for a chat, and it was nice to finally talk face to face with someone I'd only previously shared comments with over each other's blog.

Clyde-EMD power made a stunning return, only my 421 came back looking even better in the Interail livery.

Without any infra-red, auto-reversing gizmo to automate running trains, it was left to me, or Denise whenever she took over the throttle, to provide a continuous up-and-back parade of trains for the general public. Being a little unsure of what glitches I may have encountered on the layout's first outing, I elected to set the layout up exactly as it stands above my desk at home, with me standing out front to the side of the little staging shelf. Being that little closer to the public gave me a great insight into what caught their attention.

Dimming the lights during the show made for some great night scenes such as this one of the Xplorer at Philden Station.

Over the two days of the show, I could almost sense that moment where the viewing public had seen enough and were about to turn and walk away. So I chose that sense of feeling to dim the lights on the overhead LED strip using my remote control, and listen to them say in return, "Oh, its night time. And LOOK! There's little people waiting inside the station!" I think the waiting room on my railway station became the most photographed part of the layout, and it was a reminder to myself that it is the little animations such as these that captures the general public's attention. I doubt I would have been able to gauge people's reactions as closely had the layout's backdrop been reversed and the layout been displayed from the opposite side with me standing behind it.

Easily the most photographed scene on my layout over the weekend of the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show.

There were a number of glowing comments I received from people throughout the weekend, such as fellow blogger Craig Mackie saying that the layout looked better in person than on the internet. Being a perfectionist however, there's a number of things that I need to tweak before Philden's next exhibition at the Pine Rivers Model Train Show in August.

Firstly, while focusing so much on decorating the layout's timber work with some authentic NSW railway memorabilia, I'd overlooked the need to include my layout's name anywhere. I lost count of how many people stood in front and read aloud, "All stations to Granville," simply because that's what the signs said. I need to add a name somewhere for people to know that the layout is called Philden, and then I can avoid all the questions such as; "is that a model of the Granville Bridge?"

Secondly, I'd never had the grain of wheat light bulbs run continuously for that long and for two days straight. By Sunday afternoon the light in the station waiting room was just starting to become visible through a crack in the roof. It seems the warmth given off from the grain of wheat light bulbs caused the wood glue in the roof of the model to dry out and shrink by the umpteenth of a millimeter, but enough to let some light through. This week I'm going to take them out and replace them with some softer LED's. Fixing the crack in the roof will be a piece of cake, and then that problem will be solved.

Thirdly, I got to talk to a lot of people. While some recognized me from this blog, most had never heard of it when I asked them. They all then proceeded to ask me for the web address. I didn't even have a pen and paper let alone a business card. So there's something else I'll have to look at.

Overall however, the layout's first exhibition was a success, and I enjoyed having my wife Denise play such a big part of it, from set-up right through to pack-down. Her thoughtfulness even extended to the point of making sure she took my phone, the car keys and my wallet when I arrived on Saturday morning, just so that I could concentrate on running my trains without any phone calls or distractions. When I did get the chance to go for a quick walk through the venue late each afternoon however, I'd invariably find that I didn't have my wallet on me, and there were some nice specials on offer too! Ah Denise, you know me too well.

Almost lost in the crowd on account of being one of the smallest layouts on display.

By the time the last train ran out of Philden Station on Sunday afternoon, there were zero derailments for the weekend and only one close call from a curious young hand who was trying to pick the horn from my Xplorer set that was parked on the staging shelf. Both Xplorer and said child remain unharmed, (just). What the 2017 edition of the Brisbane Model Train Show did provide however, was a set of memories that now stretch back to 1991, when I'd first moved to Queensland and had attended my first model train show only to discover that by comparison my own modelling skills were purely dreadful. By 2002, I returned with an N scale layout that was built atop a 4 door pine cupboard, called the C&NW Overton Subdivision and by comparison was on the better side of okay. I've only missed attending the Brisbane Model Train Show a handful of times since 1991, and Brisbane for me will always signal new beginnings. I moved to Brisbane when I met Denise, both our children were born there and now Philden now becomes my second layout to have debuted in the River City.

So 45 minutes after the show was declared over, Denise and I pulled out of the Brisbane Showgrounds with the layout once more packed safely away in the back of the Mondeo. Carrie Underwood was singing on the 90 km drive back up the Bruce Highway to make it a 540 km round trip weekend of Country, and the memory of this year's Brisbane Show will provide me with plenty of enthusiasm to not just make a few minor tweaks on Philden, but figure a way to make it look even better the next time the layout is exhibited.

Until the next post, take care!