Monday, 21 December 2015

It's that time of the year again!

It's hard to believe that Christmas has rolled around again, and, consequently having been caught unprepared (again), this is just a short post to close off 2015.

For one reason or another, this has been a fairly unproductive year as far as progress on Philip's Creek is concerned. However, the one thing that has changed significantly is the size of the locomotive roster with four locomotives being added in 2015. Up to the beginning of 2015, its 10 locomotives (plus the CPH rail motor and narrow gauge Shay) were acquired gradually over the 19  years that the model railway has been in existence. Now in 2015, that number has been increased by 40 percent. While these have been the subject of separate posts, I thought that it would be appropriate to close the year with a few images of the new additions.

The first to arrive was the long awaited Trainorama 48 class. It only took six years to arrive. It was closely followed by the Auscision 45 class. (I still think 21pins for a decoder is an overkill).  Unpowered 4485, a transferee from the South Coast Railway, completed the Alco additions to the diesel fleet towards the end of the year.

Lastly, there was a single addition to the steam roster as 5069 entered service also towards the end of the year.

As a footnote to my earlier post concerning additional weight in the 50 class tender, the photo below shows 5069 with its very full tender. So far, the additional weight appears to be doing the trick.

As always at this time of the year, I would like to acknowledge all those individuals who have assisted me with comments, advice, information or materials that have contributed to my modelling activities in the previous 12 months. 

And finally, to all readers, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a great 2016.

cheers Phil

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Some Not So New Arrivals

A month or so ago, I became aware of the impending closure of a very impressive NSWGR HO scale layout because the owner had decided to branch out into bigger and better things. His decision provided the opportunity to reallocate a few items of rolling stock to Philip’s Creek. With an appropriate transfer fee agreed, these items are either now in-service or undergoing refurbishment. Each is intended to supplement particular capabilities at Philip’s Creek.

The first is an unpowered Trainorama 44 class that will provide a double-heading  capability without worrying about setting up consists on the Powercab. It has been nicely weathered and has already entered service working with 4473. It will also run with the other mainline Alcos in the fleet (4512 and 44222). I had contemplated purchasing one of these when they were initially released but for one reason or another didn’t go through with it. Unusually, that earlier lassitude on my part has had a positive outcome.

The other three transferees are intended to expand the passenger services  that currently pass through Philip’s Creek. Two of these, a Lima TAM sleeping car and a Powerline FS carriage, will be added to the mail train consist, while the FO will increase the capacity of the local passenger service.

All three carriages were in 'close to original' condition and consequently, I have commenced a few modifications to align them to the current passenger fleet. Primarily, this involves the addition of malthoid roofs and interior detail.

While the photo opposite looks more like a model of a wrecker's yard, it's actually showing two of the carriages in their current state of refurbishment.

Of the three, the most extensive modifications involve the TAM. It is also the only one of the three carriage types that I have not modified previously. Fortunately, a number of articles from AMRM provided guidance. To bring the carriage into my time period, the crown lights above the windows had to go and I purchased an interior from the Old Dog Model Railway range. The roof is currently undergoing its malthoid aka masking tape treatment with replacement vents and wheels from Hobbyland at Hornsby. Painting and weathering will follow.

Interiors for the FO and FS carriages are on order from the same manufacturer. These carriages will be finished over the next few months as time permits and then pressed into service.

While these additions will probably finalise the mail train consist, the local passenger service will continue to grow by a few more FO, as and when they can be purchased.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Eureka 50 Class - adding weight to the tender

My first workings of 5069, the new Eureka 50 class, indicated that there may be few challenges with the tender particularly when operating the locomotive tender first. My first attempt to bring a rake of LCHs and CCHs to the Philip's Creek coal mine tender first resulted in two minor derailments of the tender and some hesitancy of the locomotive when moving through the old Atlas points with about 20mm of dead track on each. The problems that I experienced seemed to confirm. in my mind, my initial impression that the tender needed some extra weight.('Eureka 50 Class - Early Impressions'). However the issue may not be quite that simple!

The pick up arrangement for the tender is shown on the photo opposite. Brass strips fixed to the tender base make contact with lugs on each bogie to convey current from the track to the circuit board and decoder inside the tender. For this arrangement to be effective, there does need to be sufficient weight in the tender to ensure good contact with the track.

Similarly, there also needs to be sufficient weight to ensure that the realistic flanges do their job and keep the wheels on the track as each bogie moves through a point. However, it has been suggested to me that the pivoting of the bogie may be impeded by the friction (albeit ever so slight) between the lugs on the bogie and the metal strip on the tender. So, here we seem to be caught in a dilemma because that contact is necessary for the electrical pick-ups on the tender to function.

I have decided to approach this in two stages, the first being to add additional weight to the tender and then, only if necessary, install an alternate means of electrical contact between the bogie and the tender chassis. This post focuses on the first step only.

Marcus Ammann's very informative web page, Modelling the Main North with DCC (
provides guidance on how to remove the top of the tender. Having done that, my first thought was to add a strip of lead on the inside running the full length of the tender. However, a dummy fit with an equivalent piece of styrene felt as if I was applying pressure to the wires coming out of the top of the circuit board. Instead, I decided to glue a strip of lead into the space provided by the coal moulding. It was glued with super glue and then some blue-tack was added to assist the adhesion. I then glued a strip of very thin styrene beneath it to act as an insulator between the lead and the circuit board should the lead come adrift. I know, probably an overkill with multiple redundancies.

I then added a further strip of lead to the top of the coal in the tender. The photo opposite is a good example of how some colours can change when photographed. The lead is actually a grey colour, not the bronze shade that is shown in the photo. Coal was added to the cover the lead although as can be seen from the photo below some extra coal is still necessary. However, I won't do that until after the locomotive has been weathered. I'll probably make it a fairly full load which may mean moving the apex of the coal more toward the centre of the tender than it is at present.

The results of the early runs after the additional of the extra weight are positive with the instances of the hesitancy reduced and no derailments of the tender bogies to date. However, the real test will come when it's time to move the full coal wagons to Port Waratah.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

It Broke

Some readers will recall that I wrote about the Woodland Scenics 'Tidy Track' and another wheel cleaning product in two posts several years ago. Well, the 'Tidy Track' continued to deliver sterling service - until it broke a few weeks ago! For a little while, I tried to persevere with a shorter handle, but with one telegraph pole broken and some close calls with signals, it was time to do something about it.

I'm sure the people from Woodland Scenics would say that the failure was as a result of misuse.  In reality, it probably was a combination of fatigue and too much downward force creating a stress beyond what the plastic handle could withstand. But, after just two and half years, it's still a bit disappointing.  However, it has been a  useful tool, too useful to consign to the rubbish bin. So the search was on for a suitable repair.

So far three possible solutions have been considered. The first two involve the use of a short length of heavy duty conduit as a sleeve and the third uses a piece of timber to replace the plastic handle.

The first attempt, hereafter referred to as Plan A, involved an attempt to glue the original handle inside the conduit.As with most Plan As, it didn't work too well. The concept of the conduit as a method of splicing the handle together worked OK but the glue failed when the tool was pushed forward. It might have been a different story, if I hadn't tried the make the overall handle longer than it had previously been.

So on to Plan B. The conduit was the same but this time, I drilled and inserted two screws, one through each of the remnant parts of the handle. So far, this arrangement seems to be working and the handle is a bit longer than previously.

However, if Plan B does not work over time, Plan C will be the replacement of a whole handle with a piece of timber. The problem with this option may be the loss of some flexibility in the head/handle interface.

Time will tell but a least the track is getting cleaned, AND the scenery is not being damaged!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Eureka 50 Class - Early Impressions

I had an opportunity to look closely at the new Eureka 50 class (non sound, 5069 to be exact). I'm sure there will be a full review in the next edition of AMRM but this is just a quick post with a few first impressions.

It looks great straight out of the box although I was a little surprised by the weight or perhaps more correctly, less than expected weight.

It ran smoothly on the test track (600mm radius circle) in forward and reverse using DC but I did notice that the front pony truck derailed a few times. That's probably got more to do with one particular joint on the track but other locomotives haven't derailed at that point. If the problem continues, I may have to consider a little extra weight on the pony truck.

The tender also is very light. Purchasing a non sound model may account for this but my gut feel is that I should add some extra lead and probably conceal it with extra coal.

The other surprise was the absence of any instructions. I'm not sure if this is a one off or whether it is standard across the range. Hopefully, I can check when I purchase a suitable decoder. I understand that the decoder is fitted into the tender and I trust that it is a simple job to remove the tender for that purpose.

Operation with a load has yet to occur but I am not anticipating any difficulties. Perhaps the more interesting challenge will be the appropriate level of weathering for the late 1960s and early 1970s. Photos taken on an enthusiasts' trip in 1973 at the very end of its long operational life shows a fairly good paint job, almost to the 'out of the box' images in this post.( I  presume that a some point very late in its operating life, it had a visit to the workshop and a repaint.

The question now is whether to weather?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Attempting to Manage Distance

I believe that it was an American gentleman by the name of Frank Ellison who, in the 1940s or 1950s, described a model railroad as the stage and the trains as actors who enter, move through the stage and depart (or words to that effect). Carrying the stage analogy a bit further, when necessary, the set is changed as the play needs to move the story to another location.  In most model railways, we don't have the luxury of a movable set that can change as the train moves along the track. Instead, what many do is to compact their key scenic elements into a tight non-scale distance using 'modeler's license' and then focus attention on the train moving through those particular spots.

I have certainly done this on Philip's Creek, where the station, coal mine and branch line junction all reside within a distance which represents just 800m in 1:1 scale. It is a single and very concentrated scene. However, I have always had a sense that I wanted to model a train travelling over distance. Some of my blog musings over the past few years have, in part, been working toward creating that sense of distance.

Almost accidentally, I have started to use barriers or backscenes as a means of separating scenes to create, in essence, a separate 'compartment'. This is not a new technique as anyone who operates a multi-level layout will attest. But, in the context of Philip's Creek, it is something that I have drifted into, rather than planning it from the start. So, almost by accident, the layout now has four compartments, in varying stages of construction.
Philip's Creek station and its immediate area (opposite) to the junction with branch line comprise the core of layout.

The Mount Windeatt station (below) and the logging railway compromise the Philip's Creek scene to some extent. There is no physical barrier between the two scenes but because they are two sides of a "U", one tends to focus on one of the two 'compartments'.

The bridge scene is isolated from the remainder of the layout, sitting on the other side of the Muswellbrook/Werris Creek staging area. This scene cannot be viewed from the same location as Philip's Creek. The photo below is a bit distant, but I wanted to show the full extent of the scene.

The final compartment, as a current project, is in the early stages of construction and will become the branch line terminus. Once the backscenes are in place, this section will also not be visible from either of the other two locations.

The wireless controller is essential to make this approach work.

One minor consequence is that I now need to move around the layout to follow a particular train. However that's not really a problem, I need to get a bit more exercise!

On an unrelated matter, with Father's Day approaching, a hint has gone out for contributions to the locomotive fund. Hopefully, at some time soon, I can welcome a new standard goods to the roster at Philip's Creek.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Local Passenger Service - the next construction program

Image from publishers website,
Last March at the Forestville Exhibition, I purchased a copy of a book called Northern Exposures. For someone whose modelling interests lie north of Sydney, this is a great source of photographic information covering the last years of steam in the northern parts of the NSW railway network. It provides an extensive range of photos taken in the period 1965-72 focusing on operations on the Short North , the North Coast and the Main North as well as the Newcastle area.

For me, one of the things that stands out in the book is the extensive local passenger services in the area, and the ubiquitous wagon used for this role, the FO carriage. The book highlighted a significant gap in my collection of  rolling stock, and so that has lead to the start of the next construction program, a number of FOs to facilitate a local passenger train.

A work in progress, the FO with roof not yet fixed in position
As I'm more than happy to construct kits,  the fact that I had 'missed the train' as far as the Austrains FOs is not really a problem. I purchased a Camco kit as a learning exercise to see how I went.

So far so good. The kit itself is fairly basic but as it has been around for 30 plus years  (based on the AMRM review in December 1982), that's probably not surprising. I have made a few adaptions to the kit.

As I have done to several other passenger coaches, I added strips of masking tape sealed with PVA to highlight the usual malthoid roofing. I also altered the ventilator arrangement to match the arrangement shown on a rake of FOs at Kiama station in 1964 (p30 Country Railway Stations - NSW). I suspect that there was a degree of variation as carriages went through refurbishments over their life so it was easier to stick to one specific photo.

The underfloor detail was also changed. I replaced the plastic truss rods with brass wire and added a battery box, generator and circuit board. Fortunately, the recent June edition of AMRM included an article on the conversion of a Camco kit into a Far West Children's Health Scheme carriage and in particular, included a good plan of the underfloor. I am hoping that the underfloor was common to both carriages.

I like to include internal detail in passenger carriages, so I also purchased the  seating for the FO and adding a few passengers. I also drilled a few holes in the toilet area and filled them with lead shot (shown in the photo opposite). I haven't yet got to the point of serious test running to check the overall weight of the carriage, but hopefully, it won't require much more.
Painting is in progress. As can be seen from the photos, I have applied  yellow first and have masked the area where the strip will be before applying the deep indian red to the body.

Weathering should be fairly straight forward and after that onto the next one. Hopefully, the introduction of a local passenger service will not be too far away.

Disclaimer: I have not links with the publisher of Northern Exposures or any of the contributors/photographers. I just think it's a bloody great book!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Road to Nowhere - Dealing with Uncertainty

Well, the ‘short term’ employment continues and that means the taxman and bank manager are happy but the penalty has been a lack of time for things modelling. A two week trip to Gallipoli in June also consumed available spare time but allowed me to cross something off the 'Bucket List', so no complaints there.  However, this all means that work on Philip’s Creek has been restricted to cogitating or planning.

What has been focusing the mind of late are the consequences of the sure onset of one's later years and, in particular, the need for at least one more house move. The need to move has been driven by two certainties; declining mobility will push my wife and I to a single storey house, and a declining pension balance will drive a need to take some cash from the value of the existing family home. The time frame for this final upheaval is uncertain but will probably be sometime in the next five to seven years.

This certainty of having to relocate creates some uncertainty for the future development of Philip’s Creek. Although I have 'flip-flopped' a few times, my most recent plan anticipated a major extension of the layout by creating a helix and an upper level to accommodate a significant branchline. Indeed, the latest extension saw the start of this line just north of Philip’s Creek together with the bridge modelled on Hall’s Creek bridge near Sandy Hollow but going nowhere beyond that. The rolling stock in the photo opposite shows the way the terminus is currently managed - crowded and very restricted!

However, the thought of embarking on such a major construction, including building over the existing sceniced layout, only to have to dismantle it and perhaps, adapt it to a new layout space has reduced the appeal of my earlier plans. My current thinking is to adopt a more simple approach that will permit some flexibility for further extensions once I have moved house. But what?

I really would like to create a home for the silo I built about two years ago and provide an alternate destination for some trains passing through Philip’s Creek. Finally, I also need to create some additional staging space to reduce the overcrowding in the Sydney/Newcastle and Muswellbrook staging areas.

However, the following two photos (taken from opposite ends of the garage) show the only residual space available on the current level. It is not long, about 2.5m and provides the sole access to the layout unless one gets down on hands and knees. So I have the choice of either having an access adjacent to the garage doors or installing a lifting bridge separating the new module from the main portion of the layout. Currently, I am leaning towards the lifting bridge because it will allow more space to open the car door and placate the domestic manager.

All of this pushes me towards another simple module using my standard length of 1.8m combined with a hinged access section. It will be crowded but it does offer the flexibility to extend further with minimal disruption once the house move has been completed.

The track plan will probably look something like the one shown below but I have a habit of making minor alterations once I start laying track, so no guarantees.  

Hopefully, this will future proof the layout to some extent. I know the layout in its current form will fit into one garage space so at worst, I need only to find a generous two car garage, potentially vertically as planned previously. If I get lucky and find a more generous space, then the layout can expand horizontally.

Now if someone can tell me how I can fit 30 hours into a day, I'd be eternally grateful!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Watering the stock

One of the problems with describing myself as semi-retired is that occasionally, one has to do some work. Having said that, even describing yourself as retired means that you still have to do some work but no one wants to pay you for your efforts. But I digress. The reason I do pick up work for which I receive remuneration is because my employer enters a period of intense activity requiring a lot of effort in a short space of time. This is a long winded way of saying that I haven't done too much model railway work on Philip's Creek over the past month or so because I have been busy working!

As a consequence, only a few small jobs have been completed recently. However, one of these is something iconic to any rural area in Australia and other parts of the world, the installation of a humble windmill and some supporting infrastructure.

A while ago, I purchased a white metal Sentinel Windmill kit. In fact, it was so long ago, I had forgotten that I had bought it and was looking to purchase another one. Fortunately, I found my original purchase just in time so there was not duplication.

The kit itself was not complicated but I decided I wanted to build a more common steel tower rather than the older style timber legs in the kit. This was a bit fiddly to get the bracing right but I think it turned out to be a passable representation. The Southern Cross logo was printed on a clear address label and affixed to both sides of the tail.

The tank was also something that I purchased some time ago and the stand was fabricated from styrene. Again, nothing very difficult.

The water trough proved to be a bit more challenging. I split a plastic drink straw in two, added some styrene ends together with some wire to simulate a float valve and then commenced to paint the trough. I was aware of the likely outcome if mineral based paint touched the straw so I used water based paints for everything except the clear gloss that simulated the water. I hoped that the water based paint would act as a seal and prevent contact between the plastic straw and the clear gloss. Sadly that was not to be and the water trough took on some very non prototypical curves. Take 2 and I had learnt my lesson. The fabrication was the same but this time I purchased some water based clear gloss!

As yet, I haven't yet fixed the windmill in place and, periodically, it gets moved to another location to see how it works. Hopefully, once it is finally located, it will fade into the background and just another inconspicuous 'prop', a small but very familiar part of the overall scene that the trains will pass through.

And now all I need to do is to buy some sheep for the paddock!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Modelling a chain wire fence

I must be a glutton for punishment! Not only have I been spending a lot of time stringing five strand barb wire fences but I have also been building a chain wire fence around the local colliery at Philip's Creek.

There are a number of articles on the internet as well as one in AMRM (June 2006) suggesting different methods, and the one that I have used is an amalgamation of several. Even so, a bit of experimentation and decision making was necessary before my methodology was finalised.

I suppose the first decision to make was whether to adopt a prefabricated approach where the fence is constructed 'off-site' and then placed on the layout; or to place the individual posts and then fix the simulated chain wire to these. I chose the prefabricated approach because I thought it would be easier to manage the construction as well as less chance of collateral damage to other scenic elements. I accepted that placing two fence 'modules' side by side creates an unrealistic double post arrangement.

The second decision to make concerned materials. Initially, I tried using thin round styrene but after assembling one section, I found that it lacked sufficient rigidity. I settled on 0.8mm dia brass wire for both the posts and the horizontal top and bottom runners. This wire is a little oversized for the vertical posts and significantly oversized for the horizontal members but when it is all in place on the layout, the scale difference is not really visible. Furthermore, it provides a fairly robust frame for later manipulation and placement.

It was also necessary decide on the material to simulate the chain wire mesh. A number of websites suggest the use of a fabric called tulle. Fortunately my wife had a few offcuts so I tried it out on one section. I thought that it looked more like oversized chicken wire rather than the diamond shape of the chain wire mesh. So I opted to use the other common solution, commercial nylon flywire. Again, this is oversized but it gives the overall appearance of a chain wire fence.

For the longer fencing runs, I created modules each of six panels. Other shorter sections of the fence were made to measure. Each module consisted on single top and bottom runners and the appropriate number of vertical posts. I appreciate that many fences replace the bottom runner with a tensioned wire but this is not universal and the lack of a bottom runner reduces the rigidity of the frame. Besides, it's easy to hide the bottom runner behind additional weeds and foliage.

Each length of wire was longer than required so that it could be cut to size later. I notched both the horizontal and vertical members to allow them to sit flush and then each joint was soldered. The basic frame is shown opposite just prior to gluing the mesh to the frame. I found superglue was best for this activity.

Once the glue had dried, surplus mesh was cut away and the wire trimmed to length. I used elasticised cotton to create the three strands of barb wire that frequently tops this type of fence. Often this part of the fence is bent forward and this would be a simple matter to do once the module was completed. However, I preferred to leave the barb wire section in the vertical plane.

Once completed, each module received a coat of grey primer followed by a wash of silver and reddy brown.

Gates were fashioned in a similar manner but with an added diagonal brace on each panel. For my model, each gate was fitted in the open position.
The final photo shows most of the fence and gates in place. The bottom of each post can be pushed into the ground and then glued in place . Once the fixed panels are in place, the gates are glued into their desired position.

In reality, after spending a fair bit of time over the last few month building fences of various types, they almost seem to disappear into the scene as if they had always been there and there is little to show for this labour. I suppose, that is the consequence of 'modelling the ordinary'!

Additional Information

In response to Col's request the following three photos show more distant views of the chain wire fence. The tulle material has been used on the first nine fence panels counting from the left.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jinxed - Bringing the 45 class into service

There are times in this hobby when things just don't go right and one feels that a jinx has been placed on a certain model or piece of equipment. I had this feeling as I was attempting to bring my Auscision 45 class into service.

As I mentioned in my previous post, both outstanding orders for Alco locomotives recently arrived in the space of three days. The two locomotives were given a bit of exercise on a test track using DC prior to the fitting of DCC decoders. I haven't yet made the jump to sound so I anticipated that both decoder fits would be fairly simple.

As events transpired, I was able to purchase a decoder for the 48 class first and so this determined the order of the work. Fitting the eight pin decoder to the locomotive was very simple and that locomotive was quickly on the painting table for its weathering before entering service.

The focus then turned to the 45 class. I purchased a TCS non sound decoder with the appropriate twenty one pin connection and settled down to install it. The body came off reasonably easily but the dummy plug as a little difficult to remove. It finally came off with a bit of wiggling. However, as this was happening, I bumped one of the air tanks on the side of the locomotive and it separated from the chassis. I wasn't too worried; I had read that they were very fragile and I knew that it could be repaired. I put the air tank aside the time being.

Now it was time to fit the decoder. Something didn't seem right and my first attempt to fit the decoder failed. I stuffed up! There is no other way to describe it. I had put the decoder upside down. When it didn't operate on the programming track, I removed it and attempted to restore the DC plug to check all was still ok. As I was doing this, I realised that I had bent one of the pins, the number one pin as it turns out. I attempted to straighten the pin when suddenly, the pin and surrounding plastic separated from the now 20 pin connector as shown in the adjoining photo.

At this point in time, a lot of things went through my mind, most of which are unprintable but a paraphrase of the slogan from George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' seems appropriate:

"Eight Pins Good, Twenty One Pins Bad!"

As I pondered how to fix this, I decided that the best solution was probably to 'hot wire' the connection for the missing pin directly onto the decoder. The trouble was that I couldn't determine which wire was connected to the missing pin. About 30 minutes fiddling with a multimeter seemed to confirm that the wires on the circuit board were connected to other pins.

I sought advice from Hobbyland at Hornsby and their guidance was that it was a spare. So with some trepidation I returned home, inserted the decoder into the now 20 pin connector worked!

Great, that was fixed and it was time to do a temporary refix of the body just to make sure nothing was fouling. Somehow, something snagged and there was an audible twang as one of the front handrails launched itself into space. It has yet to be recovered. More choice words!

A new handrail was fashioned from brass wire and fitted to the locomotive. Similarly, the dislodged air tank was also reaffixed to the chassis. The final photograph show 4512 now part way through the weathering process. The replaced front handrail is the closest to the camera, slightly misshapen and missing a brace.

So, all's well that ends well, but I can't escape the feeling that there was something more to it than just a simple unfortunate coincidence of random events. Only time will tell.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Last Week, It Rained Alcos

Ok, the title is a bit of an exaggeration but with the arrival of two Alcos (the 48 and the 45) in one week, it seemed certainly seemed like it.

First to come was the overdue Trainorama 48 class. It is about six years since the locomotive was ordered, so it has been a long wait. A glitch in their database meant that I had to wait a little longer before my order was dispatched. This was cleared up just before the Australia Day long weekend and the model arrived last Wednesday. Because I had chased them about the delay, I knew when it was dispatched and was awaiting its arrival.

The 45 class was totally different. I was aware that the models had arrived in Australia but had no idea when I should expect my particular order. Consequently, on last Friday, the arrival of a note from Australia Post telling me that I had a parcel waiting came as a surprise.

Thus in the space of three days, my Alco fleet has increased by 50%.

Interestingly, my reaction to the arrival of both locomotives was a bit 'ho hum'. Both were put on the work bench until other priorities were addressed, and time allowed me to unbox and place each on the layout. I suppose, I had waited so long for the orders, the 48 in particular, another few hours wouldn't make too much difference. From the comments on other blogs and chat rooms, it seems my reaction was not unique.

Both models look great and others have provided interesting photos so I won't duplicate their effort. For example, Bob at  South Coast Rail has some great photos of each locomotive. (

To date, I have done some limited test running using DC. When I get time, I'll run both locomotive on a test track for a while before fitting decoders and weathering. What I did notice was that when running on DC, the 45 class was considerably faster than the 48 so double-heading will be interesting. I understand that this can be addressed with the fine tuning of each locomotive once the DCC chip has been fitted. However, it's not something I have tackled before, so another learning experience coming up!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Take 2 - A KP mail van - the Hawksmoor version

Well that was a bit of a mistake!. I had thrown a few photos as the start of a post on my recently completed KP Mail Van and inadvertently hit the publish button rather than just saving the draft. My humble apologies to those who opened that version. Now to start again, this time with a bit more content.

Last June, I recently purchased a Hawksmoor KP Mail Van kit and finally got around to assembling it just before Christmas. This is a very basic kit that is a recasting of the original MRC kit, this time in polyurethane. It required the addition bogies, couplers and other detail parts.

I used an article in AMRM August 1997 by Garry Kahler that included a plan and elevations to provide some key dimensions and basic information. The kit was close to the dimensions in the article but to get the couplers at the correct high, I had to use the high set kadee version, plus some shims on the bogies.

The kit went together easily although a fair bit of filing and sanding was necessary to make it fit.  As usual, I used masking tape strips on the roof and added replacement roof vents. Other added detail is shown on these two photos. As usual, soldering the underframe truss was a bit of a challenge.

The only problem that I couldn't overcome was the shape of the end walls and the very visible intersection of the side walls. No amount of filling or filing could hide this. However, I am consoled by the fact that the van will usually be marshalled between other cars and the ends will be obscured. 

With the completion of this kit, that's probably about the last of the mail train consist I have been slowly assembling over past few years. 

It's probably about time that I focused on other facilities for Philip's Creek.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Using Elasticised Cotton for Fences - Some Lessons Learnt

Around the end of 2013, there was discussion in Ray Pilgrim's Bylong blog concerning the used of elasticised or stretchy thread as a solution for power lines and fencing wire. After Ray's posts had been published, I purchased a roll of this product, but never let it be said that things happen quickly on Philip's Creek. It took me another year before I finally motivated myself to try the thread, not so much for power lines but rather as fencing wire.

In part, my lethargy was due to the frustrations expressed in an earlier post when I attempted to do the same thing with very fine wire. ( The elasticised thread was certainly easier to use than wire and as such, didn't trigger quite the same reaction as previously. However, it did reconfirm the lesson that I learnt previously, do the fencing early - the sooner the better after the basic landscaping has been applied and most definitely before power poles have been added. On parts of my layout this was not the case and there has been a power and telegraph pole repair program running in parallel with the fencing. On the newer section of Philip's Creek, there is nothing taller than the fence posts, so the work is a little easier.

By the way, the fence posts are combination of a special order of split timber posts from Kerroby Models mixed with some scratch built posts made by splitting a match in two.

At this time, I have competed some fencing around the local church and school and am now working on the fencing of the rail easement on the new and less cluttered section of the layout.

So what have I learnt from this exercise?

Firstly, this thread snags or catches very easily. The thread is very fine and seems to catch on almost anything from grass to rocks, power poles and certainly edges of buildings. Because it is very fine, it is difficult to see and its elasticity means that sometimes, you are not aware of a snag until the tension becomes so great that the thread pulls out back off the needle. It becomes a matter of judgement as to how much loose thread you want hanging around and getting snagged compared with how many times you want to tie off and start again. The photo opposite shows a point where one length was tied off and another started. Although it is fairly obvious in the close up photo, it is difficult to detect from a reasonable viewing distance. The white thread on the grey post also helps.

Secondly, make sure you have a fair amount of thread on the loose side of the needle eye. I lost count of the number of times that the needle was pulled through a fence post only to find that the end of the thread was left a centimetre or two back.

Super glue is your friend. I found that a touch of super glue on the thread as it looped around a corner fence post or bracing pole was sufficient to hold the thread in place after a short setting period. The photo opposite shows two strands in place, each with a loop around the corner post that has been glued in place.

The thread that I purchased was white. There had been some commentary in the earlier articles suggesting that a black thread was available but was not as good. However, I found that it was not easy to paint and the best solution was to run a black permanent marking pen along each strand of 'wire' once it was in place. This has worked well for most of the fence line but colouring in the vicinity of the fence posts is a bit sparse. More work is needed here.

Unless you have brilliant young eyes, some form of magnification is a must.

Finally, there is the question of how much tension should be applied to each fencing wire. I only applied a relatively light tension, sufficient to given the appearance of a well tensioned fence but, hopefully, not too much that it will lose its elasticity very quickly. I do expect some sagging over time but it should be with realistic limits.

Notwithstanding, the small dent that I have made in this project so far, there is still plenty to do, probably still about 2-3m of fences yet to be strung. No rest for the wicked!