After completing my small New South Wales signal box in my last post, I found myself staring long and hard at the photos I had taken of Neath Signal Box in the Hunter Valley. While it captured the essence of the hardy little survivor from the steam age, I soon realised that I was only going to get one chance to make this look like a replica of the original before gluing it into place on my layout. And that meant taking a scalpel to the so-far finished model to give the building some cosmetic surgery.
|The long vacant concrete slab still needed some modification to fit the signal box's shape.|
With the assembly and painting of the Walker Models kit already finished in my Signal Box Part One post, I started by testing that the structure was going to fit on the concrete slab I had built into position two years earlier when first constructing my layout. It turned out it didn't. Fortunately the building fitted perfectly between the lengthwise gap I'd left between the fencing. The foundations however were about 9 mm too narrow for the width of the building, which called for me to scrape away some of the scenery base and cut, paint and glue a fifth strip of balsa foundation in the area shown above.
|Leftover flextrack ties or sleepers and some 1.5 mm round polystyrene make for easy line-side fencing.|
Next up was the white metal post and rail fence shown in the photo. For this I cheated a little and used some 1.5 mm round styrene strip shoved through the holes of some plastic PECO sleepers or ties that were trimmed from a scrap piece of flextrack. I then pre-drilled the holes where the fence would sit alongside the track, and cut the sleepers to the desired height.
|I glued the fence into position as I constructed it.|
With the extra strip of balsa wood foundation now secured in place, I then glued the sleeper posts with the styrene rod in place into the pre-drilled holes and fixed a second railing to the top using some super glue. I came back to paint the posts white later.
|Some orange paint applied to my silver mesh ribbon turns it into some modern orange safety barrier mesh.|
Next I turned my attention to the orange safety barrier mesh that had been tacked onto the bottom of the stairs in the photo. Using the same silver ribbon as I did for the security screen mesh on the windows, I painted this with some old Humbrol Enamel No. 18 Orange and set is aside to dry while I turned my attention to the awning supports. There is a strip of piping conduit on the corner of the building that runs all the way from the roof awning to the ground. I cut this using the same 1.5 mm round styrene strip and glued it to the painted using some balsa cement before painting it in the same Senco Off White Acrylic that I used for the weatherboards. I then matched the bottom of the styrene strip to the photo by painting in in the matching Tamiya XF-11 J.N. Green that I used for the brickwork.
Finally I cut the cross beam supports away from the side roof fascia, and also the platform awning support post from the corner of the handrail. Turning to my box of scrap parts leftover from my Faller Cement Works kit, I found a leftover section of 1 mm diameter drain pipe complete with a 45 degree angle bend, and used this as the awning down pipe that is awkwardly positioned between the signal box and the stairwell. I then used a leftover off-cut from this to glue the angled awning support beam that can be seen beside the door on the original. I then drew the latchbolt onto the balsa door with a black pen, and added the blue rectangular security company sticker to the left of the door.
|The end result viewed in daylight, and once more out of place against the Caloundra skyline,|
My photos also showed an interesting radio antennae that was anchored to the platform base and platform awning. In the photo it is quite tall, and I guessed it to be around 4.5 metres tall. So I cut another length of 1.5 mm round styrene strip to a height I thought looked right, and then glued two angle brackets from my leftover kit scrap-box either side of it before painting it with my silver paint pen. Finally I could then add all these signature pieces to my finished model, and weather it accordingly.
|I next added the LED light and glued the structure to the layout.|
To add the tiny LED light inside the signal box, I taped the wire to a 1.5 mm x 40 mm high strip of styrene rod and shoved it up from underneath the layout into the pre-drilled holes in both the concrete slab and the base of the Walker Models building before gluing the signal box in place on my layout. The styrene riser holds the LED just above the height of the window frame so that it is not visible through the security mesh windows. If ever I need to replace the LED, it can be pulled back out from underneath.
|The completed signal box now stands guard by the entry to Philden Station.|
On the rear of the signal box I added a resin cast silver power metre box. The resin casting was a seconds sample given to me by Stuart from Walker Models to play around with, and I just gave it my silver paint pen treatment followed by a little dab of Rustall. I don't know if there was one on the back of the signal box as it was the one side I forgot to photograph when I visited the Hunter Valley in 2016. But for the sake of adding a little interest, I think it looks pretty neat.
|Its a little bit ramshackle, but still structurally strong. Just what I was aiming for.|
I measured the length of the orange safety barrier mesh before I trimmed it to ensure it just tucks messily in behind the white track-side safety fence. I've set my model in the era between 2002-2005, and the photographs I took of the building a decade later in 2016 show the building in a little worse condition and the safety barrier near trampled to death. So for arguments sake, we'll just say that this captures the beginnings of trespassers pushing their way through the safety barrier.
|The end result was a pleasing enough match to Neath Signal Box. That's me on a visit in May 2016.|
Since purchasing this kit two years ago, Walker Models have since released a newer version of the Neath Signal Box kit that is more accurate when it comes to the window sizes, roof awnings and supports and the shape of the platform as you can see on the real life version above. The original version I have just shown you how to build is now sold as the small NSWGR Signal Box. For myself, I'm glad I stuck with building the original kit, as it still enables me to keep the bus set down area on my layout that sits between the backdrop and the end of the railway station platform. Making the few cosmetic changes has enabled me to at least capture the essence of that day back in May 2016 when I visited what remained of Neath Railway Station, didn't see any trains, but at least had a great dinner at the nearby Neath Hotel.
In keeping with my promise to always have something new to show on the layout each time it is exhibited, Philden now has a signal box finished in time for the Gold Coast Model Train Show on the 28th-29th October 2017. Following my layout's third public outing, there is a new structure to be erected in the railway station precinct, and some heavy modifications to the spare siding opposite my cement plant to accommodate my new XGAY grain hoppers expected to arrive any week now. With an ATN Access L class loco already waiting to haul in the first set of empties, Pacific National still bringing in steel and cement, and the daily Countrylink Explorer leaving to and from Sydney, there's reason enough to think that there's still life in the old signal box yet. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.
See also; Signal Box part One