Sunday, 20 February 2011

The mystery and subtlety of weathering

Last Friday I drove from Canberra to Sydney for a work-related meeting in Hornsby. When I travel to Sydney for the day I usually take the Exeter turnoff from the Hume Highway for breakfast at the Exeter Post Office cafe. This trip was no different. I can heartily recommend the turkish toast with butter and vegemite!

Of course, this route off the Hume Highway means one continues north from Exeter to Moss Vale and Berrima before rejoining the Hume Highway and onwards to Sydney. Taking this route means there is a good chance to see a train or two roll through this part of the Southern Highlands. I only saw one train at Moss Vale but I did see some shunting in the sidings of the Berrima branch, near the large Omya factory complex. The branch here feeds the huge Blue Circle cement works at Berrima and the Ingham stock feed factory (grain). This means there are usually plenty of grain and cement wagons in the sidings.

Now I don't usually stop to spend much time looking at these wagons but on this trip the road that takes you to the highway was closed, meaning I had to turn around and find a detour. A train was shunting some cement wagons behind a stationary set of grain hoppers and I watched this for a few minutes before I suddenly realised what a wonderful example of weathering was in evidence on the NPRY cement wagons.

My weathering antennae is very sensitive at the moment because a fellow railway modeller in Canberra has turned his attention to building 1:35 scale WWII tanks (I think it's just a phase he is going through). And this chap has been despairing at the sheer brilliance displayed by military modellers who have weathered tanks so realistically and in such fine detail. The many different weathering methods for tanks abound in military modelling magazines and the brilliant AFV DVD on acrylic techniques. I bought my copy of the DVD from Crusader Trading  in Fyshwick, Canberra, to see how it would work with model railways (Answer: yes it would work, but you'd never weather your fleet of rolling stock to this detail in a lifetime).

Anyway, if you're up for the challenge, here are a few quick photos of these cement wagons. The weather was overcast which wasn't great for photography but you'll get the picture. Just have a look at the different shades, textures, and general grime on these wagons. I doubt I could do justice to these examples in weathering my four AR Kit HO scale models of the prototype. The critical points of weathering interest, IMHO, are the subtle variation in shades, the peeled surface texture, and the streak marks.

I wouldn't mind seeing Mr Mig Jimenez having a crack at one of these cement wagons with his weathering that would be something worth waiting for.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Winmar is no more

My New South Wales-based prototype layout, Winmar, finally came to an end last Sunday. I had been progressively dismantling the layout over the past three months and all that remained last weekend was the outside frame, the traverser, and some internal bracing (see photo).

The track had been removed some time ago and I had cut away most of the timberwork and the baseboard top. Anton's 60' turntable and the associated wiring had also been removed. The control panel was disconnected from the multitude of wires that fed into it (photo below - don't get confused by the orientation; the panel was actually sitting lengthwise on the floor but I reoriented the photo to make the panel easier to read ). All the wiring on the layout was disconnected from the track and point motors and much of it can be used again.

It was actually quite sad after the 16' x 8' outside frame had been totally unbolted and unscrewed from the woodwork. My dad had built the frame and the baseboard lattice grid for me back in the 1970s, using aluminium for the outside frame which I think was pretty revolutionary at the time. He bolted the aluminium outside frame to a wooden frame that comprised four sides and a 12" lattice grid supporting the baseboard (but obviously not including the operating well in the centre). He screwed every screw into the 12'' wooden lattice grid inside the frame by hand - and there were hundreds of those damn screws.

Later, I added risers and put a new plywood top on the frame and gridwork. Trackwork followed many years (and many houses) later. Scenery was postponed when it was clear that a move from Sydney to Canberra was beckoning around 2008. Since then, I have lived in four different houses. The current house has a double garage with a wall down the centre that splits the garage in two - each half being just wide enough for Winmar to fit but not allowing any movement of the 12 track traverser (fiddle yard). The traverser (photo below) was salvaged from the layout frame last Sunday and can be used again, given the right circumstances.

I now have an almost empty half-garage (albeit still prone to water seepage when it rains) which is waiting for some decisions as to how it will be used in the future. Competing for the space (in both halves of the garage) are the two cars that currently sit outide on the driveway. In Canberra, housing vehicles is a little more pressing than in more temperate climates like Sydney.

I recently had a couple of quotes for a carport out the front of the garage for the two cars. Alas, the carport would be outside the building line and unlikely to get official approval. The other option would be to see if we could add a second storey above the garage for a hobby room! I hear from some mates who were visiting model railraod layouts in Texas last year that building a second storey above the house or garage for a train layout is not as unusual as one might think! Obviously there's a cost to be considered with this option well above that for any possible (unapproved) carport.

The two Davids who helped me on Sunday with the final dismantling of Winmar were sure supportive of the second-storey above-the-garage option but I wonder how they'd feel if I started asking for building construction donations!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Upcoming Canberra Model Railway Expo

I bumped into a mate of mine from the Canberra Model Railway Club the other day at Fisher Discounts in Fyshwick (Canberra).

Ron told me that the upcoming Canberra Model Railway Expo was on track for the April 2-3 weekend. The event is being held again at Kaleen High School, although I hear that the high school may have a fancier name these days on account of some new relationship with the University of Canberra. Whatever the case, I know the place as Kaleen High School!

Naturally, I will make the trip to north Canberra from south Canberra to see the exhibition and to chat with fellow railway modellers. I hope that a good contingent of interstate modellers make the trip because it's a good weekend in Canberra - some model railways and then plenty of other sites to see around the place.

Last year I got to catch up with friends from the mid-north coast of NSW which was great. Dinner at a restaurant in Dickson followed with another local modeller and a fine evening was had by all.

So if you're from outside Canberra, come to the Canberra Model Railway Expo on April 2-3 and spend some time here. It's a pretty good place to visit; even better to live here!