Thursday, February 24, 2011

Layout Part VIII - Coal Merchants

As mentioned in the last post, I had planned on doing something about the coal merchants at Swallow's End last night but was foiled by the lack of suitable materials.  This problem was solved today and, with mojo in full swing, I got stuck in tonight and did something about it.  The pictures below tell the story...

The first is a general view looking from the buffer stop end towards the points showing the two merchants in relation to each other.  The merchants are not yet named but there are two main families in Longreach - the Tanks and the Ballards - so I am thinking of naming the coal merchants after these families. 

The first merchant the train comes to has staithes (which on doing research is actually the North East name for them but has been adopted by modellers who don't know any different cause they live on the other side of the planet!!  I can't remember from my looking for pictures and reading what the rest of England calls them - and please don't mention the Scots... please) which are made from Evergreen plastic sheet.  In this case I have scientifically measured them so each bin is the equivalent of a 9' sleeper in width and then staggered down with vertical timbers to make a suitable area to chuck the coal into. 

The other merchant merely has a pair of concrete slabs.  The theory goes they had one, got prosperous, and so laid a second to allow two wagons to be unloaded.  This is the Scalescenes Concrete Ground (TX19) with a piece of manila folder under it.  I have PVAd it to the baseboard and will scenic around it in due course.  Biggest hassle I have is working out how to make realistic "heaps".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I had planned on doing something about my coal merchants this evening however when I went looking for my collection of Scale Scenes papers to do the concrete pad on which the purveyors of Black Diamonds will ply their trade, I discovered I don't have any.  So I looked on the computer to further discover that I hadn't gotten around to purchasing the relevant sheet from the scratch builders section of the site.  Bother.  Since I will need to print the page at work, I will put the project back a day.

The second of the coal merchants (I found that somewhere like Grassington & Threshfield has about 8 merchants working from the yard so I thought 2 wasn't unreasonable) will have staithes.  I have been considering how to build these.  One option I thought of was to use surplus sleepers held together with short lengths of rail.  I don't know if that would be used over there but I have seen retaining walls here which have been built of sleepers and short lengths used to give added strength.  The alternative was to use some of the plastic card I have which I used to try my hand at wagon bodies.  In any event, this didn't get off the ground either so looks like a busy night tomorrow as I will be away for the weekend in Brisbane - the plus of this being I will get to a shop which sells brass tubing and what not and I have a shopping list for TOUs and fences for cattle docks. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

108 goes 2mm

Thought I would post this pic - doesn't show the evenings work but...

The ordered 2mm drop in wheels arrived from Mr Shop 3 today - thanks Ray - and so I spent the evening sorting the 108.  This involved me rushing in and putting all the wheel sets in, wiring the DCC controller to Swallow's End and... nothing much happening. CV's wouldn't read, all sorts of drama and so I put it all back to N and DC and put it on the kids Kato oval.  Worked - after I cleaned wheels and so forth.

So then I put the chips back in and programmed it all to work on DCC in N and then went on an axle by axle plan to see if everything would work.  It did.  Most usefully with all axles changed to 2mm ones it still worked on the Kato oval so I now have a test track/running in loop for when I do the Class 24 - hopefully tomorrow.  Then I guess I better get all the track sorted on Swallow's End and the traverser/fiddle yard built since I now will have locos/trains to run.

To make the night perfect, Essendon made it to the next round of the pre-season and won very big against Brisbane.  Footy is back too!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cattle Dock Part I

Swallow's End, like a lot of small terminus stations I suspect, has a cattle dock.  The problem I had was what to do about it.  The Ratio one, while very nice, is a bit on the same old same old as it is one of the best kits around I feel.  I have one on St Alban's Priory for example.  The appeal of scratch building one was high but I lacked inspiration.  Enter fellow 2mm Association member Julia "Missy" Adams.  She constructed one for her layout "Highclere" - photos and discussion found here.  I thought it particularly good and decided that if imitation was the sincerest form of flattery I should copy hers!

I have used some Ratio platform edging for the sides and scrap piece of the flag stones from the same supplier.  To work out the height, I put a wagon on the layout where the cattle dock is going and used that!  Effort shown at the bottom of this post.  The ramp is at 1:4 - this is following the discussion on the 2mmVAG and talks with a couple of cattle producers here in Outback Queensland. 

I haven't started on a fence - been mulling over what to do.  Missy's is very good and I suspect I will do something similar for the robustness and uniqueness.  I had thought of robbing the unopened Ratio kit Amity has in her UFO box but decided against it.  There will only be one pen - the overall dimensions of the pad scale out to 5 yards x 7 but allowing for a couple of flags being on the loading side of the fence (the ruler side on in the photos) I suspect I will end up with something around the 28 sq yd area - which is enough for 10 head apparently allowing for movement.  At any rate, the pen will hold what a wagon will hold and that is enough for this sleepy little back water.

Overall dimensions are 81mm x 30 x 10.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Given that most people loath this chore - and it is something which, in the past, I have found difficult to get "right" - I thought I would share my technique which I have developed while ballasting Swallow's End.  Regular readers will know I am deviating from my normal method with SE and ballasting before the rest of the scenery rather than after.  The first efforts were done with Amity's help a couple of weeks ago and resulted in the ballast shown in the first picture.

This was done in what I would describe as my tried and true method.  Ballast was put on dry and then teased into place with a brush, before being wetted then glued down with the good old PVA/water/detergent mix.  Wait for it to dry then tidy up the bits which didn't work properly.  The big "disappointment" (which it isn't really) is the lack of neatness in the edges.  So what to do?

The main thing I was looking for was the neat edge, which while not especially common in the post 1950's era was still around at terminus stations on quiet branches up until the Beeching Axe fell, mostly because the staff had little to do but keep the place neat and tidy.  My original plan had called for the track to be laid on double sided tape, then ballasted and once the surplus was removed, the PVA/H2O mix applied to set it all in place.  This, in practice, didn't work with the DS tape I tried and, with limited options here in Longreach, I had resigned myself to gluing the track down followed by the tedium of ballasting as described.

I thought about what sort of look I was seeking and read some comments about putting a strip of glue down and applying ballast to this to make an edge while ballasting Peco track - which obviously needs a lot more ballast than 2mm on PCB sleepers.  I thought this would work in 2mm and thought I would give it ago using thin DS tape to make uniform edges.

This photo shows what I was aiming for and I am well pleased.  So, having achieved it, I thought I should take some photos of the process.

Step one - stick the DS tape on the outside of the sleepers. In this case it is 3mm wide DS tape and, while I am not sure if it is right, it looks right to me so by virtue of Rule 1, that is what I have!!

Step two - expose the upper sticky side (and in my case I cut away from where the cattle dock is going) and then sprinkle on the ballast.  As previously mentioned it is the Woodland Sceneics variety.  Can't remember which type - search back though the blog to find it.

Step three - using your wife's eyelash brush (with permission - in my case Amity volunteered it at the original ballasting session) arrange the ballast as neatly as possible.  Be warned, too much pressure on the bristles of the brush and you may have to start again.  How do I know this????

Step four - using a NEW fine tipped brush (new works better cause the bristles aren't hard) do the final detailing bits.   
Step five - using a fine atomiser (again, if you are lucky like me, your wife will donate one from her stash of "stuff".  This one is particularly good.) wet the track.  I use window cleaner in my water as the tension release agent as it doesn't sud up.

Step six - Apply the PVA/H2O mix.  I use a surplus Children's Panadol syringe.  If you have enough children you have plenty of these around!  Make sure you keep it with your ballasting kit and don't use it on the kids!

 Once applied it should look something like this.  I went along and did some further touch ups with a cocktail stick and the end of my metal straight edge to ensure things were no going to set in the wrong spot.

And the finished product.  Now to build the cattle dock.  Missy (aka Julia Adams) has provided the inspiration and I plan on nicking her design.  More to follow - but when I went looking for the parts earlier this evening I discovered a blown bulb in the store room and I have put off finding a new bulb until tomorrow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Photo update

As promised in the last post here are some photos of the track work as it stands.  While it isn't especially clear all the plain track has been painted in a combination of Track and Sleeper colours from the Precision range and, to me, looks pretty good.  The point timbering hasn't been painted and all the points will be removed this evening (and labeled!!) so I can sort out things like TOUs and switching of the frogs (silly me only brought two colours of wire with me). 

Progress since the last update includes ballasting the full length of the approach track from the fiddle yard and wiring the plain track for DCC operation (which was much simpler than doing it for DC cab control as all the wires were joined up - same amount of droppers however).  The ballasting result was much better this time - although no photos.  I will take some photos and post a description of how the two sessions were approached.  Certainly I know how I will be doing the rest!

Fiddle yard end crossing with platform road above and coal merchant siding below.  Cattle dock is off to the right from this view - the track leaves from the toe of the bottom point.

Coal merchants labeled.  There will be two at Swallow's End - one with a concrete slab to work from (which will be in front of where the ballasting is up to) and one with coal staithes - this area is visible marked on the board.

Another view of the crossing above - this time in the plan view and from the other side of the baseboard.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Layout Part VII - Track work finished

Just a short update.  I got stuck in tonight and finished off the track work - actually I did an hour on the last point last night (68 chair plates in the hour which finished that task and the side rails done) - but other than painting the plain track and sorting the switch blades and TOUs and ballast the track is done.  The soldering iron can go away for a bit.  Tomorrow I plan on doing the painting and, now that I have a tripod and can therefore take timed exposure shots, some better quality photos of progress.  I am also looking at making up foot prints of the various structures so, in addition to the ballasting, the surrounding ground will start to be done.  All very exciting - and the axles for the Class 108 and the missing one for the 24 have been ordered.  The mojo is well back having been MIA over the Christmas/New Year period.  Must be being back at work and wanting something else to do!