Monday, 18 November 2019

Philden Road Part Four

...or the one about bad knees, bad luck and the badass hail storm.

Sometimes things that have absolutely nothing to do with model railroading just seem to find a way of halting progress on your layout, despite your best attempts to do otherwise. In a week when a doctor's appointment following a brush with a little old lady at the supermarket checkout revealed I had done my MCL, meniscus and have further aggravated some quadricep ligament damage in my right knee, (simply from changing the direction of my step at the last minute to avoid possibly knocking her over), Sunday afternoon's recovery session from my son's engagement party the night before soon turned into the hail storm from hell.

Hail storm, Aura estate, Sunshine Coast, Sunday 17 November 2019.

An afternoon on the front patio with a glass of bubbly whilst watching a summer storm roll in over the suburbs of Caloundra, quickly turned into a hobbled dash by Dad to bring my son's car up onto the patio to avoid getting any hail damage. By the time I closed the driver's door behind me, golf ball sized hail stones began pelting me and our entire street with a defeaning roar.

Hail storm damage, Caloundra West, Sunshine Coast, Sunday 17 November 2019.

Not content to pelt the side of my son's car anyway, the storm let loose on the front of our house, leaving the garage door dimpled and punching holes in the concrete rendering on the front of the house. Once inside, frantic calls from my son and his fiance quickly had me hobbling upstairs behind my wife to discover that 3 of the 4 upstairs windows in our bedroom were smashed, and we now had hail the size of golf balls bouncing off our bed and out into the hallway.

Free air-conditioning courtesy of a monster hailstorm that belted our suburb in Caloundra.

By the time we could grab all the buckets and towels we could find, our bed and bedroom furniture were soaked and the full force of the storm had the blinds flapping and everyone was getting struck by inward coming hailstones while stepping over broken glass to try and rescue... You guessed it. Dad's model trains which were stored under the bed.

No it wasn't a drive-by shooting by the mafia, just a Queensland summer hail storm. Sunshine Coast, 17 Nov 2019.

The hail storm was the most badass I've ever experienced, and while I was kneeling down passing my model train boxes and prized XPT set to my son to run downstairs to safety for me, his fiance and my wife were filling buckets and the esky with incoming hail stones and carefully picking up large pieces of broken glass which filled another bucket. Then just like that it was over. A bit of light rain followed, (enough to further soak the carpet), then the sun came out. And so did the gawkers, Instagramers and YouTubers who soon congregated in front of our house.

They don't build houses like they used to. What you think is concrete rendered brick turns out is just concrete papier-mache.

I think we must have been close to the worst hit house in the street, but due to the angle the storm came from and the angle our house faces the road, our house seemed to be the easiest to film. I checked on the elderly lady next door who said both she and her house were fine, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening cleaning up the mess. Glass all over the floor and bedding, bedside lamps and furniture all wet and needing to be wiped down and wet model train boxes waiting for me to see to. I guess it's just bad luck that the models and other train stuff that I was selling on eBay were all safely stacked by my desk downstairs waiting to be sold and posted, while my prized models for the new layout were all wet underneath our bed upstairs. The boxes ended up being slightly water damaged, but all the models inside appear to be fine. I guess I should be thankful for small mercies.

My wife Denise was fantastic, and together we had Gaffa-taped the windows with black garbage bags and booked an emergency window repair call-out while the neighbourhood continued to just mill about and walk around filming everything on their iPhones. By eight o'clock that night O'Brien glass had replaced the three broken windows, and I could then move all the furniture to vacuum the entire room and hallway on my hands and knees to ensure not even the tiniest speck of glass remained in the carpet, (broken glass has long been my pet phobia). Denise and I finally put all the bedroom furniture back in place around half past ten, and fell into bed exhausted.

Bad knees, bad luck and one helluva badass storm!

All I wanted to do today was work on my layout benchwork.

Today was supposed to be a free Monday for me to work on the layout. Instead, I thought I'd take Denise out to the Coffee Club down by Bulcock Beach in Caloundra for breakfast. All four of us were amazing when it came to securing the house and cleaning up so quickly, and driving out of our estate the morning after, the roads around Aura were lined with hail damaged cars, more houses with broken windows taped up with cardboard boxes or bags and so-called brick rendered houses littered with gunshot holes. Maybe there's a lesson in there for us model railroaders; nail some blue plastic netting over the top of silver insulation paper, smear it with 3 mm of concrete render, paint it and call it a brick rendered home. It's disgusting the corners people cut to save money yet charge the prices they do for new homes. I've built HO scale model train buildings that are stronger.

Anyway, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of a Monday morning down by a near deserted Bulcock Beach, while back in our estate tow trucks spent all day towing away vehicles with shattered windscreens and trying to sqeeze down ridiculously narrow streets past tradies' utes and glass repair trucks. Although my son's car did get some hail damage down the driver's side door panels, my quick actions at least saved him having his car off the road while we decide what to do given there is a huge excess on the young guy's insurance and he now has a wedding to save up for.

Back at our place, the landlord arranged a building inspection this afternoon and apparently the colourbond roof is so badly beaten up and bent out of shape that the entire roof of the two storied home will have to be replaced. Sometime in the next few months. Meanwhile there is a two day wait for a call-out if you want your window repaired on the Sunshine Coast. Moral of the story; fix it first before you Facebook it!

So, with the bad luck and badass storm now out of the way, an MRI scan this week will determine what course of action to take with my knee. Fortunately our business will soon start winding down towards the Christmas break which should ease our workload, but when I had three weeks planned of simply being at home to work on the new layout, I'm still hoping I somehow get a chance to get the benchwork finished, painted and set up above the desk to start work on the layout itself instead of being told to rest up. I guess I'll learn my fate over the coming week.

Anyway, next post I'll share some good news from my son's engagement party, give an update of all things N scale and reveal the meaning behind the name of my Canadian layout. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

Till next time, keep smiling, otherwise the world will send you crazy.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Philden Road Part Three

...or the one about getting the benchwork right before thinking about anything else.

Its all too easy to get carried away with thoughts of what you're going to incorporate into a new layout without first drawing some kind of plan. Blindly knocking a frame together may seem like a great place to start, but without knowing the length of layout area you have to work with, any track plan you conjure up can easily become a waste of time. Before I dared draw a plan or cut a length of timber for the new layout, I had to first work out how much room I had to display the layout and more importantly how I would transport it if I were to ever again take a layout to a model train show.

Despite having more room in our new surrounds than the small waterfront apartment that Philden once occupied, we are planning to upgrade our car in the coming year, and the last thing I wanted was for the layout to dictate what size car we could buy, or the car to dictate whether the layout could ever be taken on the road. You see, Philden was 1880 mm long, with another 800 mm of staging that later became the Beach Extension, making for a total length of 2.62 metres. Taking Philden on the road called for the front seats to be moved forward to fit the 1.88 metre long section in the back of our Ford Mondeo, making for a less than comfortable trip wherever we took the layout. Chances are that the new car might be shorter than the Mondeo.

Incorporating two distinct scenes on Philden Road called for the new layout to be longer and wider, while still being able to fit into the back of a mid-sized car with the back seats folded flat. Working on the premise of the boot access of any half decent mid-sized car being at least 900 mm wide and 1.65 metres long, I settled on building the benchwork for the new layout in two 1650 mm x 450 mm sections, giving me a total layout length of 3.3 metres and width of 450 mm. While it is longer and wider than Philden, the new layout will be much easier to fit into our current car, and less of an issue when it comes time to shop for its' vehicular replacement.

Its funny how the settled dimensions of a new layout then have a ripple effect on the rest of the decision making process. The trackplan then has to fit the active scenic areas of the layout, the active scenic area then determines the length of your sidings, and the length of your sidings then dictates what length trains you can run. With the benchwork construction progressing nicely, I could get back to thinking about everything else; the rollingstock, the structures and the topography of the scenery I wished to create. Even with more layout space to work with, surprisingly there still isn't a swathe of space to fill with structures or sidings to fill with rollingstock.

The still under construction benchwork for Philden Road is taking place in the garage.

I suppose what I got from that recognition, is that I didn't need a large amount of wagons to fill out the roster on the new layout. In fact, I still had a little too much in terms of the amount of same-type, different-numbered wagons. Which is fine by me, as I could just list them on Ebay and turn them into some more cash.

What getting the benchwork dimensions right highlighted, was just how much of our living area would be taken up by this and my Candian Canyon N scale layout that will ultimately rest beneath it. Plans for any other small layout projects I was conjuring up would honestly only be a waste of time. There is no more living room space (or any other room for that matter) available for sale either now or in the indefinite future. I guess it is time to admit that beyond Philden Road and Brandon Canyon, there will be no time for me to contemplate building anything else. It finally seems as good a time as any to free those secret models from the closet, and sell them on eBay as well.

So its now a case of good-bye to those out-of-era models that I once held hopes for. Double-deck candy coloured V sets and early 1980's ice chilled reefers aren't going to have a place on the new layout. So I've listed them on eBay along with the Bicentennial 80 Class loco I jumped the gun in ordering before settling on modelling post 1996. There are even a small handful of Queensland Rail 12 mm guage models that I felt I had too many of the same wagon type for the siding lengths I'll be able to accommodate on Philden Road. I don't stand to gain anything other than getting back some of what I originally outlayed.

I think it goes to highlight that no matter how grand your plans may be, its more important to get your benchwork right before thinking about anything else. Its strange how the new layout now seems to be taking on a less is best mentality. Fewer sidings, fewer structures and fewer rollingstock. What it does allow for, is leaving more scenic areas between key scenes, something of which I've been studying a lot of lately on other people's layouts.

So with my roster almost finalised for Philden Road, (I'll have some newly released Wuiske Models KSA cattle wagons arriving shortly amongst a friend's order), perhaps its time to provide a run-through of what I'll be running on the layout in the next post. Starting with the locomotives, (both Queensland and New South Wales), that will eventually trundle over and under Philden Road. But until I finish sanding, painting and assembling the new benchwork, and packing all the items on eBay that I hope all sell over the coming week, I'll let that be a story for another day.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Philden Road Part Two

...or the one about building a work bench from left over pieces, and buy-and-sell no-no's.

I've had enough! Starting work on the new layout has highlighted one thing; I'm getting too old to be scurrying around the floor of the garage like a crab, measuring, cutting, drilling and screwing the benchwork up, I mean together, and using the trusty esky as my work bench. If the esky isn't killing my back from being hunched over, then its taking a toll on my knees from being knelt down on the concrete floor while working. Oh, that and having to tell the wife that I've just sawn into the lid of the family esky. The same esky that we've had since the kids were little and holds more sentiment than cold drinks on a hot day.

The problem with using an esky as a work bench, is explaining to your wife that you've just sawn into the lid!

With the esky now placed on the protected species list, I had to come up with a better idea before I progressed any further on either of the layouts. Enter the original lid from Philden. Already stained, lined and just sitting under the stairwell doing nothing, at 1880mm long it ticked all the boxes. All I had to do was add some legs.

The final project on the esky, was to build a new work bench from leftover bits and pieces.

Pinching some 43 x 19mm lengths of pine from the pile earmarked to commence work on my new Philden Road layout, I also recycled the coach bolts that once held the leg panels in place beneath my old layout to make this a rather cheap project.

The old lid from my former layout Philden proved to be the winning candidate for the new work bench.

I love cheap projects. Or I am cheap, depending on who you ask. But rather than just stop at adding legs to the one-time lid from the old layout to create a work bench, I also knocked-up a cheap spray booth to sit in place atop the work bench using leftover pieces from my now failed N Scale layout.

The finished work bench is 1050 mm high.

All up, I used only 6 x 1.2 metre lenths of 43 x 19 mm pine, 1 sheet of 7 mm plywood, a left over sheet of 3 mm white laminated MDF sheet, 4 x 70 mm coach bolts and a handful of screws and some liquid nails. Aside from measuring the legs at 1050 mm long, the side braces and angle braces were just held in place while marked with a pencil before sawing, gluing and screwing them in place. The recycled work bench only took a little over an hour to knock together.

The base of the removable spray booth was built to slide out of the way along the work bench when not used.

Having recently purchased an air compressor and air brush, I next needed something to stop the paint overspray from finding its way onto the white plaster walls of our garage. One sheet of 7 mm x 1200 mm x 450 mm plywood was enough to fashion a base and backdrop onto some 600 mm long pine offcuts, spaced either side of the work bench so that the booth could be slid along the bench while still being held in place. A couple of corner supports were then glued and screwed into place to hold the side walls.

For this project I got to play with my new mini trigger clamps. It's like suddenly having an extra pair of hands!

The side walls were cut from leftover white laminated 3 mm MDF sheet. I shaped the curved upper corners by tracing the outline of a round dinner plate with a pencil and using a jigsaw to cut the pieces before gluing and screwing each one into place. A narrower top lid was also cut and glued into place. Finally I sealed any gaps both inside and out with liquid nails and white caulk to essentially keep any paint spray from escaping. At 600 mm wide and 420 mm tall, it does seem to let enough light onto the work area. I guess the real test will come when I pull out the airbrush and use it for the first time.

The finished spray booth made from one sheet of plywood and some leftover offcuts.

So with the esky once more cleaned and put safely away to prevent any further carnage, I now have a dedicated work area in the garage I can use to work on the new layout, or fiddle-fart around with any modelling projects. My back and knees have already thanked me for it, as I was able to use the new work bench to build the spray booth that now sits atop it.

Finally! A proper work area in the garage for constructing my new layouts!

All up, it was a great little Saturday project. One that will make future work on the new layouts a lot less backbreaking!

In other news, this weekend made for the third weekend in a row that I have ventured off into the land of buy-and-sells looking for missing pieces or bargains for the new layouts I'm constructing. Two weeks ago it was the large local Caloundra Model Railway Club buy-and-sell here on the Sunshine Coast. Last week it was the AMRA Queensland branch buy-and-sell at Zillmere down in Brisbane, while today involved another trip down the Brice Highway to the All Guage Model Railway Club buy-and-sell on the southside of Brisbane at Carina.

Buy-and-sells can be funny things. Sure you can find some bargains as I did, but more often than not the meaning of the word bargain translates as 'something you do not need at a price you can't resist.' So yep, while I did get a few N scale items I can use on my Brandon Canyon layout, there's also the odd item I've come home with and gone, "damn, where am I going to use that?" The upside is that my questionable impulse buys usually relate to building kits, and as I've learned, once you head down the path of kitbashing buildings, there's no such thing as having too many windows, doors or pretty much anything.

Buy-and-sells also seem to bring a lot of rubbish out of people's cupboards, and sometimes it makes me cringe to see a $500 price tag on a bruised and battered old locomotive, (good luck with that). Those who are serious about just moving the stuff on and turning it into cash generally clear out their table in the first hour or two. If like me, you enjoy walking around the entire room first just to see what is there, chances are that the item you were thinking about will be gone by the time you come back for that second look. Trust me, I learned this lesson rather quickly! I now walk into a buy-and-sell with a budget in mind, act hard and fast with my decision making and haggle, but not to the point of being insulting with my offer. After all, they are modellers like you and I who are just trying to move on some unwanted items in order to afford the wanted ones. It's the modeller's equivalent of the circle of life!

That said, next weekend will make buy-and-sell number four in a row, with the Railway Modellers Club of Queensland swap meet at Brendale meaning another trip down the Bruce on Saturday morning. So whether or not I find those elusive bargain priced N Scale Canadian coal hoppers I've been looking for, I know that there'll be some HO Scale Chep and Loscam pallets waiting for me to collect from a certain Craig Mackie for a scene on Philden Road.

Now that I have a new work bench to work from, I'm hoping that scene may be that little bit closer to fruition. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.