Sunday 30 May 2010

Preparing for the Epping Model Railway Exhibition

The Epping Model Railway Exhibition will be taking place in Sydney over the holiday weekend of 12-14 June at "The Brickpit Sports Stadium" at Thornleigh. It's a new venue for the exhibition this year; previous years being held at Epping Boys' High School. Having visited the stadium a few times before when I used to live nearby, I can say that the exhibition space should be excellent. There is also plenty of undercover parking as well, something that might be very much appreciated if the Sydney rain continues over the long weekend. The exhibition opens each day at 10am but the queue starts much earlier than that!

The exhibition is always worth a visit, with a good selection of layouts and commercial stands in attendance (read my report from last year). This exhibition is also renowned for its second-hand stall. As such, I have been preparing for the second-hand stall by assembling a range of "surplus" locomotives and rolling stock to sell at the exhibition. I sent my list off last Friday to meet the first deadline from the organisers.

Most of what I will be trying to sell is from my Union Pacific period, a time when I collected some locos and an assortment of box cars and tank cars simply because I liked the look of them. Nearly all of them have never been out of the box. The lesson here is to think twice, and then think again, before buying trains just because you like the look of them!

And what second-hand sale wouldn't be complete these days if I didn't try and sell a couple of Lima locomotives? I will try to sell my Victorian Railways S class and B class diesels at a bargain price!

I will be at the exhibition on Saturday (12 June) and possibly back again on Monday afternoon (14 June). I look forward to catching up with friends and meeting new people at that time. Hope to see you there.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Heads up for the SAR Model Railway Convention in September

I received in the post on Friday the registration form for the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention. The convention is being held on Saturday 11th September at the Flinders Medical Centre in Bedford Park, a suburb of Adelaide. This will be Convention No. 15.

I have been to several of these conventions in Adelaide over a number of years and I always find them interesting and rewarding. There is always something to learn, people to meet, and the quality of the convention notes are superb.

Topics being preseneted this year include:
  • the 720 class steam locomotive
  • the Wilmington line
  • the Indian Pacific cars
  • the Moping Branch layout
  • SAR models I've built by the mercurial Frank Kelly
  • stepdown platforms
  • building resin structure kits
I commend the convention to all those interested in the prototype and model railways.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Out of the armchair

Today was a beautiful crisp and sunny day in Canberra. Yet it all started routinely enough. By mid-morning, I was well into the morning chores. A little later, I got a phone call from one my of train photography mates, Andrew (that's Andrew with an R.).  Andrew told me that a good "lash-up" was on its way south and that we should meet at his place and then drive to Gunning to take some photos.

It was a simple choice: continue with the morning chores or head off to Gunning for train photos.

I managed to drive to Andrew's house in north Canberra pretty quickly and then we headed off together to Gunning.  By now, it was lunchtime and I was just as keen to get to Gunning for an egg and bacon roll as I was to take some photos!  We managed to get to Gunning in good time and I stopped for that roll, much to Andrew's concern that we'd just as likely miss "the shot" if I wasn't quick enough!

No worries. We headed north out of Gunning and found a spot called "razorback" in the Cullerin Range (between top and bottom bridges for us "locals"). Dazza was already perched on one of those big granite tors and it wasn't long before we were joined by three or four other railway photographers.

We didn't have to wait long. The train with four locos and a long tail of empty grain hoppers snaked around the big, wide curve in perfect sunshine.  Kevin Schultz was at the reins of EL60 with a couple of T's (385 and 386) and VL 352 behind for extra horsepower. Good stuff!

Then we all raced back to our cars for the chase; back in the direction of Gunning and Yass. Andrew and I managed to arrive at the road overbridge at Gunning just as the train peeled around the curve and we took a few quick shots. We then took off for the Hume Highway and then drove just south of Jerrawa for the next shot, and then onto Binalong for this last shot.

It was a great day to be out of the armchair and into the sunshine.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Brisbane Model Train Show 2010

On the 1st May, I flew from Canberra to Brisbane with a friend (David Low) to attend the Brisbane Model Train Show. The flight was uneventful, although David was particularly impressed by the QANTAS breakfast (he obviously needs to get out more!).

Upon arrival at Brisbane airport, we raced over and caught the Skytrain which would take us to Fortitude Valley railway station. Luckily for me, David "shouted" me the train fare - a whopping $56 return fare for the two of us (thanks, David). We got out of the train at Fortitude Valley station, walked through the small above-station shopping centre, and then outside for the five minute walk to the RNA Showgrounds and the train show.

The train show was held in two large pavilions (one pavilion less than when I last attended a couple of years ago). The outer ring within the pavilions was where the commercial traders were mostly located and included ARHS (QLD), Auscision, Austral Modelcraft, Christmas Every Day, Chucks Ballast, Eureka Models, Forest Miniatures, Gwydir Valley Models, Horizon Hobbies, Modular Train Tables, Remote Control Systems, Train World, and Wuiske Models, among others.

Inside the commercial ring were the layouts. The layouts were generally representative of what you'd see at most model railway exhibitions, albeit with an emphasis on layouts of most appeal to the general public.

I was, however, very impressed by a Great Western Railway (GWR) branch terminus layout called Princetown, based on the prototype Princetown branch line through Dartmoor in England. The model was to 00 scale (1:76). I really liked the atmosphere created by some excellent scenery and layout composition, with a sense of spaciousness and without any unsightly clutter. I spent quite a lot of time enjoying the fine scenic detail and talking with the operators (who, oddly enough, were both keen on electricity and wiring layouts - a rare pair indeed!). The station and associated buildings were very nicely done. The GWR tank engine saw plenty of duty ferrying passengers back and forth throughout the day (see photo below).

Another excellent layout was the small Quinton River layout (actually called Beauaraba Siding) that was built in 00 scale (rather unusual for Australian "prototype" layouts) and based on an Australian theme. This layout, whilst compact, had some fine scenery and buildings on display.  Of special interest to me were the "invisible" stainless steel "Alex Jackson" type of couplings which worked a treat. These couplings are popular in the UK and I can see why - unobtrusive, and very effective coupling and uncoupling of wagons. The layout featured a very nice trestle which is illustrated below.

I also enjoyed the Queensland Railways (QR) S scale (1:64) Rosevale layout, which I had seen at the Brisbane Exhibition a couple of years ago. Rosevale is based on the south-east Division of the QR and set in the 1940-1960s time frame. I especially liked the buildings on this layout, particularly the pub (see photo below). The pub was based on the Railway Hotel at Imbil. My only "complaint" with this layout was that the trains seemed to be running too fast, but perhaps in S scale things just seem that way....

The Running Creek/West Goodna layout was another Queensland prototype layout in S scale. The locale is the Goodna and Redbank area in the Brisbane suburbs. However, the layout actually resides in Sydney. The layout was being exhibited for the last time. A photo of a diesel railcar crossing the steel bridge and approaching Goodna Station is in the photo below.

Of interest, was the layout called Freestone (photo below).  This layout was another QR layout, this time based on the town of Freestone about 20kms east of Warwick in Queensland.  The layout had a large curved backscene on which a suitable series of photos had been glued. Talking to the builder of the layout, getting the photos to stick was particularly challenging but photographic paper (?) and PVA did the trick!

Another layout at which I spent some time, was Brendale. Brendale was an HO scale Australian layout, with the occasional running of some US prototype trains as well. I had a good chat here about the merits of DCC (digital command control) and the NCE system in particular. The Brendale operators I spoke with were all very happy with the NCE system.

And speaking of DCC and curved backdrops, the Coffs Harbour Modellers modular layout was a showcase exhibit with superb lighting, scenery, and outstanding controlled running of the trains. I even spied a special guest operating the layout on Saturday morning - an office-bearer of the NMRA Australasian Region,  Master Model Railroader (MMR), and DCC expert from the Central Coast of NSW.... I have seen this layout a few times now and never get tired of watching the trains roll by in such a well presented display.

The day passed quickly - looking at layouts, chatting to people we knew already and those we got to know, buying the odd item or two, and generally having a good time.

I especially want to commend the catering staff (called "Pink", from memory) who managed the food and drink demands of the crowd exceedingly well. They were well organised, well staffed, and flexible enough to take payment for small items without having to queue at the two registers at the end of the line. Well done!

Just before closing time at 5pm, David and I headed back to the train station and then to the airport. David enjoyed another QANTAS meal on the way home and we arrived back in Canberra around 8.30pm - the end of an entertaining day out.

Thursday 6 May 2010

New Zealand Model Railway Convention - addendum

I want to finish off my description of the New Zealand Model Railway Convention by thanking the organisers of the event and the individuals who gave presentations and clinics. I also want to thank the people who displayed their layouts in the hall at the Convention and the people who displayed their home layouts on the layout tours. Finally, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and hospitality of all the people I met and chatted to at the Convention.

The Convention was a great success, but there was more. Whilst there were no official layout tours on Monday 5th April, since the Convention was over, some local modellers gave times for an open house during the day.

I was exceedingly lucky to get to the home of Peter Ross, with barely a minute to spare, on my way home late in the afternoon from a day trip to Akaroa. Peter's layout, Amberley, is an S scale (1:64) work-in-progress based on the line between Amberley and Waipara, not too far north of Christchurch, and set in the 1950s. Peter was kind enough to invite me in and spend time talking with me about the layout well past the open house closing time.  Thank you Peter - and what a superb layout!

Until next time....

Wednesday 5 May 2010

New Zealand Model Railway Convention - Part 3

The third day of the New Zealand Model Railway Convention in Christchurch was Sunday 4th April. The weather had turned cold and overcast which was a pity since the afternoon activity included a trip to Ferrymead Heritage Park and some 1:1 steam train action. More on that later.

The morning clinics included "Freelance modelling", "Desert scenery", "Image manipulation", and "NZ scenery". I went to the clinic on New Zealand scenery and I was not disappointed. Barry Fitzgerald and John Dudson gave a great presentation on making and displaying some typical New Zealand trees and vegetation. Referring to my notes, I recorded the following dot points:
  • look for particular motifs specific to the location you're modelling - helps to identify the location and give credibility to the scene - but motifs need to complement each other
  • look for typical scenery and the familiarity of everyday life
  • study the local architecture and apply to your modelling
  • "detail is not overcrowding"
  • provide for lineside interest (e.g. cameo scenes)
In particular, the presentation demonstrated the making of New Zealand cabbage trees using the paper star method (a method that seemed to be recognised by my New Zealand compatriots but not by me!). The technique goes something like this:
  • use paper or thin cardboard (the suggested paper thickness was 80-85 gsm) to cut out a round-shaped disc of a size suitable for your cabbage tree foliage in your scale (S scale in this example)
  • divide into quadrants in order to ensure even cuts around the disc to create "leaves"
  • use scissors for the cutting (be careful not to cut through the centre or you won't have a disc anymore, but only part of a disc)
  • put a pin through the centre (hence the "paper star" look)
  • fold the "leaves" back and repeat process with more discs to build up layers of foliage until you have sufficient for your tree head
  • you can add a lower fringe of grey paper "leaves" to represent dead or dried fronds
  • select a suitable twig for the trunk and secure the "paper stars" head using PVA glue
  • add additional fronds with green paper to the top using the same paper star method
  • tease out the "leaves" or fronds to match the shape of the real-life cabbage trees
  • paint paper stars shades of green or brown or yellow as appropriate
  • add cabbage trees together in clumps on your layout
More scenery tips:
  • build scenery on the layout from the ground up
  • look for colour, texture, and variety (e.g. at every step you have a colour option)
  • static grass is a good scenery method but use different shades of scenery flock
  • important to blend colours to overcome the "same look" (a suggestion was to make up a colour chart of colour shades, particularly in the green and brown colour ranges)
  • use rock moulds for modelling rock outcrops but pay attention to colour shades (recommend using Woodland Scenics colour range of paints)
  • for concrete, "Tradeset 45" plaster recommended (sets in 45 minutes)
There was also a demonstration of making a conifer using a suitable stick and "sea foam".

The second session of clinics on Sunday morning included "Track matters" with Iain Rice, "Modelling in the garden", Adapting RTR locos", and "Operation NZ style". I attended this latter clinic on model railway layout operation by Trevor James. Trevor based his talk on his own S scale NZR prototype layout, currently under the moniker of "My layout"! Trevor introduced his (absolutely beautiful) layout with a track plan and photos, based on a fictional railway line between Auckland and Wellington (on the North Island). The track plan looks like a figure eight in the middle of a surrounding single main line and featuring two big towns (Waimarino and Tipapa Junction) and end points (Auckland and Wellington) as off-scene staging.

Trevor explained how he applied the common US model railway operation method of cards and waybills. The planning process and use of an operating system went something like this:
  • a point-to-point layout with two main intermediate towns towns, a couple of smaller settlements, and off-scene staging at both ends representing Auckland and Wellington
  • a "wish list" determined key features on the layout (e.g. a wharf scene, bridges, farming, a swamp, industries, etc.)
  • it was also important to give the layout a reason-for-being (e.g. traffic generation)
  • establish appropriate industries and position on the layout
  • design a timetable for trains on the layout ( time a locomotive as it runs around the layout and get times between stations; then using a train in each direction, build up a sequence of trains and times)
  • establish type of train (express goods, etc.) and position in the timetable
  • trial and error will help set an acceptable timetable from which to work from
  • further detail can be added to include instructions on what to do at particular locations throughout the layout, taking into account other trains that might also be around (this layout operates one train in each direction with single line running)
  • draw up work orders for each train, based on the type of wagons you have, the industries to serve, and the timetable
  • from what I recall, the information was initially put into Microsoft Excel
  • later, Trevor experimented with a computerised car card system called ShipIt
  • ShipIt requires lists of rolling stock, locomotives, guards vans, trains, towns, shippers, products, consignees, etc.
  • inputing all the necessary information into ShipIt was tedious and repetitive but Trevor said he would persevere!
  • the conclusion of the talk was that creating a focus on operation was a realistic and enjoyable way to run trains on his layout
After lunch, there was another afternoon of layout tours to enjoy. The layouts I visited were in the New Brighton area of Christchurch and included British N and OO gauge, US N and G scale, S and O scale NZR, and a huge HO/OO/S layout that had examples of pretty much all the major model train prototypes from across the world! Afterwards, we had time to visit Ferrymead Heritage Park. I have included some pictures from Ferrymead below, including the two steam locomotives in operation on the day

The last photo shows my NZ compatriots (the three chaps at the back) with whom I enjoyed a pleasant Sunday afternoon visiting home layouts and the wonderful Ferrymead Heritage Park. Thank you, one and all.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

New Zealand Model Railway Convention - Part 2

Well, I'd better catch up with my report of the New Zealand Model Railway Convention from Christchurch at Easter (a few weeks ago now).

Day 2 was on Saturday 3rd April. The morning started with a number of concurrent clinics. The clinics included "modelling with CAD" and "NZ scenery". I went to the clinic on layout design by Iain Rice. This presentation followed on from Iain's presentation the previous day. I made some notes during the session in my usual dot point format which I will use here.

Layout design:
  • design for realism and visual effect
  • take a natural viewpoint (the way the layout will be viewed compared to how we view the prototype - the two are not the same)
  • design with consistency when it comes to standards and quality (without a consistent display, variation to standards and quality become obvious and detract from the display)
  • accurate observation of the prototype and layout are critical, especially vegetation
  • use natural colours - colour intensity recedes with distance; restrained colours more appropriate than stark, bright colours; requires superb observation and translation to model; and backdrops are important to finish off scenes
Iain then went on to describe some methods to employ when planning a layout.
  • Need to look at the combined relationship between layout height, viewpoint & backscene
  • Need to pin down the horizon. In real life, the horizon is the eye level to the edge of the visible earth. Therefore, we need to account for the horizon on our model the same way, paying attention to the position of the skyline above (hills) or below (valleys) the horizon.
The functions of the backscene:
  • cut out distractions and focus attention on the layout
  • give the impression of distance and depth to a layout
  • establishes the horizon (viewing perspective)
  • contains the scene
  • complements the model display
  • layout lighting enhances the way a layout is observed by the viewer
  • lighting affects the way colour on the layout is perceived (i.e. prototype v. model colours)
  • light at back of scene to kill off shadows from light at the front of the display
Composition of layout design:
  • need for the right balance between the position of vertical and horizontal scenic elements
  • needs to be visually appealing
  • suggests the use of view blocks to focus a viewer's attention in order to showcase a particular scene or to "discourage" the close examination of a scene or scenic element. Thus, view blocks can direct a view or block a view.
  • the span of vision for humans is 3' (36 inches) for a view 4' 6" (54 inches) wide - that's what my notes say!
  • visual compression - not always possible to reduce a scenic element (e.g. a building) to an exact scale reduction because the object is often too large for the available space. Or it may not look right on the layout, irrespective of what the 1:1 scale might suggest. In these situations, try compressing the object proportionately by 80-90% and then make to scale (i.e. reduce the proportion of the actual object to be scaled for modelling purposes).
Visual planning aids:
  • perspective sketching is helpful (and Iain is quite skilled in this type of art)
  • a "planning model" may help visualise your plan. The idea would be to do mock-ups, either in the same scale as your layout or smaller to check positioning and whether it looks right
  • establish visual balance for enhanced composition
The clinic I went to next was on room and layout lighting. The clinic was given by a local Christchurch lighting specialist and focused on the different types of lighting, light bulbs and tubes that could be used for a layout and layout room. An early decision that affects lighting is to decide the purpose of the room in which your layout lives. Is the room totally for the layout or are there other purposes? A room just for the layout will have a different emphasis on room lighting than a room with multiple purposes.

The main learning point for me was to look for daylight fluorescent tubes rated at 4200-4800K. Fluorescent tubes still offer better quality lighting for the money than alternatives (such as halogen or LEDs for room and layout lighting). Interestingly, Iain Rice recommended "cool white" lights at 4200K as well.

The second half of the day was spent on a layout tour. I saw layouts at five different homes in the north Christchurch area. The five layouts included three English, three US, and one NZR 1:64 (S scale) layout. And if you can add up, let me explain that a couple of the homes had more than one layout! Scales represented included N, HO, OO, S, and G scale garden railroading.

I really appreciated the time the layout owners gave to host the tour, provide information and respond to questions, and for their obvious delight in running trains! And thanks to our driver who took four of us around in his car. The afternoon was very enjoyable indeed.

The next blog posting will have Day 3 and some photos...stay tuned!