Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Moving... to bring the railroad or start again, that is the question.

So the exciting news is we'll be relocating early next year to continue my ministry training. We're in the process of looking for somewhere to live and of course, a prerequisite is that any house/garage must have space for a model railroad. I'm just not sure if that space should house THIS model railroad or a new version of the Thoroughfare Gap Railroad.

Taking the current version of the Thoroughfare Gap Railroad in some ways is easier. Yes, it will be a challenge but it can be done. My practical-minded friends and our moving company all have good ideas for shifting it safely. Inevitably there will be some damage and some time will be needed to set everything up and troubleshoot issues. But I could be running trains again pretty quickly. My internship is for two years, so we will be likely moving again soon. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm not sure I'd want to move the layout twice (but then again, why not).

Starting a new version of the Thoroughfare Gap Railroad (ie dismantling this one) sounds exciting, but also daunting. Do I really want to be building a new railroad during this season when I'm still focused on my training? While I may be pressed for time, starting again does have some advantages. I'd build something modular so that it could be moved easily. This would mean I can also build just a couple of modules at a time so there would be no pressure to get the whole thing done. Furthermore, it would be a good opportunity to fix all the design issues I have with the current layout, the core of which is 15 years old. There are things I'd not do again. Is this an opportunity to start again with a clean slate? Of course, it would not be a complete build from scratch. I'll keep all my trees, buildings and scenery details, and possibly some bridges could be repurposed. But, the landscape, backdrops and trackwork will have to be new.

Currently, I'm oscillating between the two options. I do enjoy the creative outlet of building scenery. But, I also really enjoy running trains. While I'm making up my mind, I want to share the railroad with others. So I'm preparing to have an open house where I'll be inviting people to visit the layout before its move. I also plan to take more photos of the layout, which I'll share here too. 

Have you had a similar situation? Did you take your layout with you or decide to start again? 

Saturday, 19 February 2022

So its been a year

Wow, so it's almost been a year since I posted last. Back in July I did post a new video to my YouTube channel but neglected to post a link here. So here it is below for those that haven't seen it.

Truth be told the last 12 months have been very busy and I have been completely immersed in my studies.  I am scheduled to begin a training internship for ministry in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) in 2023, but there is some uncertainty about where it may be. Because of this, I've found that my motivation to continue building my layout has evaporated. It doesn't seem to make sense to continue to pour creative energy into a layout that may be mothballed or moved. Of course, I may be able to stay where I am, which would mean the layout can stay as well. But in the meantime, development is on hold.

 Over the next twelve months, I aim to take some more focus stacked photos and more videos of the layout to document the layout, in case it is eventually moved. I'll post them here when I'm able. 

So I have not been building, but I have been running trains. I used to run a car card and waybill system, but lately, I've just been running whatever trains I have felt like. My son is showing more interest in operating the layout so I may see how he likes the car card system. Perhaps our experience may be covered in a future post. 

So apologies for the radio silence. But hopefully, I can have a few more posts in the coming months. 

Monday, 8 March 2021

Traction tyre repairs to Bachmann New Tooling 4-4-0

The other day I noticed that 119 was limping along the track. It looked like the locomotive would hit a pothole and bump up and down. I took it off the track and found that the track tyres, which are fitted to the front drivers, had perished and had snapped. The remnants of the tyre were just sitting the groove on the driving wheel. Each time the gap in the traction tyre passed over the rail, the locomotive would dip.

This was not a surprise as I had noted that the tyres had been degrading for some time. Before Christmas, I replaced the tyres on the Jupiter after observing a similar failure. I'm not sure what caused the degradation. I used to have several of the old design Bachmann 4-4-0's which also had traction tyres and never had any problems with them. 

I first noticed the degradation after I had been using CRC contact cleaner to clean the tracks about two years ago. I stopped using the contact cleaner and the degradation continued. So perhaps it was just the nature of the tyre used by Bachmann for the new tooling model, in combination with some other factors of my layout environment.

Anyhow, the fix was pretty easy. I found some traction tyres online from a New Zealand based hobby shop for Marklin models, but they fit the Bachmann locomotives fine. I used their 10.4mm diameter tyres, which do stretch for a nice fit on the Bachmann locomotive. 

I laid the locomotive on its side and used a small set of pliers to gently undo the small bolt holding on the connecting rods to the front driver. I swung the connecting rods out the way and removed the old tyre. Then is was a case of slipping the new tyre on. I found it easiest to slip it over the top of the driver, then using a pair of tweezers, applied tension to seat the tyre in the groove. Then it was a case of assembling the connecting rods and turning the locomotive over and doing the other side. 

Now 119 runs smoothly again. It will be interesting to see if the Marklin tyres have a better, worse or similar lifespan. 

The remnants of the old tyre can be seen curling around the edge of the front driver. (The drawing pin just propped the locomotive up for the camera).

I used tweezers to help pull the tyre onto the driver.

Monday, 15 February 2021

A Train Robbery - Diorama

It's been three months since I've posted anything to the blog. Being in the southern hemisphere, its summertime. That has meant I've been spending time with the family on outdoor adventures and the layout has not had much of a look in.

Since the kids went back to school a couple of weeks ago I've found some time to run some trains. I'm also building a diorama for my Dad to try and capture something of the essence of the train robbery at blue cut from the opening scene of the movie the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The diorama also is inspired by the song "A Train Robbery" from the 1980's album "The Legend of Jesse James", sung by Paul Kennerly. Levon Helm (who sung the part of Jesse on the album) also recorded a version of the song on his 2007 album, Dirt Farmer. 

A basic mockup of the scene to test the concept. More figures will be required further up the bank on the left.

The diorama is quite small and when finished will sit on a shelf in his study. As such, it is designed with only one viewing angle. This allowed me to experiment with some forced perspective techniques. The rails were glued to individually stained balsa wood ties and ballasted in place. They are S scale in width at the front and HO scale at the rear. The base is made from foam and covered with real dirt, static grass and rock moulds.

The trees are conifers, which line up with the words of the song. Although the movie shows deciduous trees. I chose to run with the conifers as I would need to produce less of them and also have found a technique I'm comfortable with using. They also block off parts of the scene and force you to look into the scene a certain way.

The backdrop was painted using my usual technique, learned from Chris Lyon on YouTube. However, I added a dark blue/black wash over the backdrop scene to try and mimic the feel of the night. 

The locomotive is a static 4-4-0 model of no particular prototype, made from leftovers in my box of bits. The drivers, stack, headlight and pilot are from an IHC 4-4-0, the boiler from a Roundhouse 2-8-0 and the cab from a Bachmann Spectrum 4-6-0. I filed off the arched roof and made a flat pitched roof from styrene. The chassis is carved from a chunk of balsa wood.  It still needs to be permanently assembled but I'm waiting till after I've installed the wiring for the lights. 

I repainted an Old Time Bachmann 4-4-0 tender and photographed it with one of my baggage cars. Manipulating the image in photoshop I created a cut out of the train to paste onto the backdrop. This gives the train an appearance of length and also contributes to the forced perspective.

The Diorama will have its own roof but no downlights. The only light will be from the locomotive firebox and headlight, the lantern at Jesse's feet and the sparks from the brakes and smokestack. I hope to be able to model some smoke to add some volume to the sky. I'm wondering if the explosion techniques used here by Bjørn Jacobsen for military dioramas could be adapted to locomotive smoke and wood sparks. It's worth an experiment anyway. Hopefully, all these elements will create a sense of drama and mood. 

The next step is to tackle the wiring for the lights. I need to give some thought to this as the diorama will sit next to two others on the shelf. The system ideally would power all three dioramas, and I need to make connections so each diorama can be plugged into the same power source. With the lighting in place, I can get an idea as to where the shadows may fall and that may inform the placement of the figures. Or then again it may not. 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Firefly in the paintshop

A previous post mentioned how I used a printed tender wrapper on the Jupiter to more accurately represent the artwork on the locomotive. Since the success of that project, I'd been planning to update my 2-8-0 Consolidation, the Firefly, with a similar modification. 

The Firefly was my first attempt at kitbashing and some of my skills have since improved. Comparing the locomotive side by side with my more recent efforts made me want to have a second run at it. The areas I wanted to improve were mainly the tender, which had some poorly colour matched and ill-fitting decals and the cab, which had some shaky hand painting. 

The old Firefly - I feel my skills and techniques have improved I wanted to correct the poorly sized and coloured tender decals and hand-painted details on the locomotive, which were not sharp.

I started with the tender shell, giving it a bath in isopropyl alcohol (thanks Galen for the advice). Once the paint was removed, I repainted it with a darker shade of blue which more closely matches the Scottish blue of the decals. Like my other decals, I'm indebted to the artwork of John Ott. I've used the artwork for the Jupiter as the base, as I really enjoy the combinations of the dark blue and deep reds. I lengthened the artwork in Affinity Photo to create a tender wrapper in the right dimensions and found a font that closely matches the Jupiter's to write the name 'Firefly'. 

The tender after its alcohol bath before being tidied up. Not much to look at, but the red plastic is the lip from the IHC 4-4-0 tender. The rest is a Roundhouse 4-4-0 tender shell with a slice taken out the middle to lower it. 

The wrapper was printed on good quality, 80 gsm copier paper. Despite my initial concerns, with the Jupiter project, the copier paper worked really well for a wrapper. I found that long wrapper decals on decal paper had a tendency to stretch out of shape when wrapping around a tender if I wasn't careful. Copier paper doesn't have the same issue. The quality appears the same to me. I sized the decal to the same dimensions of the tender side so I do not have an issue with the raised edge. I touched up the edge of the paper wrapper (which is flush with the edge of tender) with the appropriate paint before applying the wrapper to the tender. To finish it off, the tender needed some foot stirrups. I harvested some off a surplus tender, painted and glued them on. 

I then turned my attention to the cab. I had a dilemma at this point. I really like wooden cabs, and three of my six locomotives are fitted with wooden cabs. It is probable that Jupiter's cab was not painted blue and had a varnished wood finish or was painted to look like faux wood (apparently common). This is the approach taken by John Ott for his locomotive art prints I have not yet repainted my Jupiter model and wondered about applying this colour scheme to Firefly's cab as well. In the end, I decided I would retain the blue and red scheme for the Firefly, resolving to repaint Jupiter someday. Otherwise almost all my locomotives would end up with wooden cabs. As much as I like them, it is nice to have variety.

The striping on the cab made from leftover red decals. 

So, the cab was also stripped and repainted. To do the red striping on the cab I tried applying paint to a flat piece of strip wood and then rubbed the wood over the raised details on the cab. This only applied paint to the very top of the edges but the finish was not as crisp as I wanted. After several attempts, I abandoned this approach and I cut up some red decals (on actual decal paper) into lengths and set them in place. A paper decal was used for the name board on the cab. To round it off, I placed some glazing in the forward cab windows. 

The tender with stirrups and the wrapper applied. The drivers were changed from Humbrol Red to Humbrol Scarlet.

I repainted the pilot, headlight and sand dome in the dark blue colour. I also applied a paper decal wrapper for the sand dome and on the headlight side panels. To finish the model off I repainted the drivers and the wheels in Humbrol Scarlet. This is brighter than the Humbrol Red I had used previously, which just seems to set off the rest of the locomotive. Final details included a bell cord (more about those later), whistle lever and I glued the engineer and fireman back in place. 

I think the final result looks pretty sharp and I'm very pleased with how it has turned out. The original locomotive was a bit scruffy, but the new version really stands out. Do you think the new colour scheme is an improvement? Have you ever returned to a project and refreshed it?

Firefly 2.0 - There is less red on the cab, but I feel this is balanced by the red on the headlight, dome and brighter red on the wheels.
The new Firefly on the trestle. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

A very special leaving present

At the beginning of the year, I left my job of 13 years to complete my theology degree. It was a hard decision to make as I really enjoyed my role and the people I met in local government.  But I am finding my studies very engaging and enjoyable. 

My colleagues are a good bunch and commissioned this fantastic caricature of me as a leaving gift. They even got it framed. I think it is fantastic! They did a superb job communicating with the artist about the sort of trains I'm fond of, all unbeknownst to me! There were many reasons why this was an incredibly personal and significant gift for me and I'm very grateful to my friends and colleagues at the Gore District Council for this thoughtful gift. It was great working with you all over the last 13 years. You all give so much and make such a difference in our community. Thank you. 


The artist is Shaun Yeo from Invercargill, New Zealand. As you can see, Yeo is a talented cartoonist and illustrator who also accepts commissions.

I hope you enjoy the creative flair. Who knows, perhaps if you're searching for the right gift for a fellow modeller, they may appreciate the uniqueness and whimsy of a caricature. You may be able to find a local cartoonist who could help you out.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

10,000 visits

According to the counter on the left-hand side of the page, the blog has clocked over 10,000 page views. I'm also pleased that people find the content on my YouTube Channel interesting. Currently, it has 331 subscribers and is slowly growing. It's not the numbers that are important, but that people find something enjoyable in the content. 

Thank you to everyone who has visited. It's great knowing that people can share the enjoyment of a great hobby, even though we'll likely never meet in person.

I've not had much time to work on the layout in the last month or two. However, I have taken some more photos of various scenes. I've also updated the banner on the blogs front page. Most of the locomotives on the old banner have since been repainted or replaced so it was in need of an update.

Griffin crosses the trestle near the redwood logging camp.

Another view of Griffin crossing the trestle.

Jupiter in the background.

All the companies locomotives at Cass.