Friday 28 September 2012

NMRA Convention 2012 Part 2

Yes I know it's been almost four weeks since the NMRA Australasian Region Convention. And I know good blog practice is to be current and post regularly. Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes!

In this second and final instalment about the NMRA Convention 2012, I wanted to quickly go through some of the presentations. Then I will follow up with a few photos from a couple of the layout visits I managed to squeeze in on the Sunday afternoon before driving back to Canberra.

The convention opened with a short introduction and then a delay while some technical issues were overcome with the computer and projector. The first presentation was in the Main Hall and featured the planning and building of the fabulous Smuggler's Cove layout. I cannot avoid adding some more photos...

Geoff and Michael explained how they planned and designed the layout after a trip they both had to the New England area of the United States. They both saw potential for a new model railroad from the scenery and small fishing villages along the Maine coast. During the trip, which I understand was a holiday with wives and not a train research trip per se, Geoff and Michael took lots of photos, bought books, artist drawings, brochures, and post cards of structures and scenes. In other words, they collected as much info as they could! One rather expensive purchase (but well worth the expense) was the motif for the layout.

The photos and prints and post cards were used as inspiration for specific scenes and buildings on the layout. Construction took place from November 2011 to July 2012 when the layout was displayed at the Castle Hill Model Railway Exhibition. There is nothing like a tight time frame to concentrate the mind and the effort! The layout as presented was in two modules, but there is a third module to be finished and added to the layout. That should be worth the wait.

After this introductory session, the next session had three options - "From the beginning", Planning your layout", and "Scratchbuilding in styrene". I went to the session on planning your layout which was given by Sam M. from the Central Coast. I wanted to go to the scrathcbuilding session too but I was able to spend time with John B. at his modelling desk later in the day. Sam went over some basic but important considerations to work through when planning a layout: for example, determining standards for the layout (layout height, size, aisle width, track radius, train length, purpose, etc.).

After a break for morning tea, there were more concurrent sessions. I went to the sessions on spline roadbed and plastic structures beyond the box. Bob B. gave a great presentation and demonstration of building spline roadbed using 6mm MDF cut into 20mm wide strips and hot glued together, using short spacers between each length of MDF until a 30mm wide spline was created (for HO scale). The session on plastic structures from Kelly was also very interesting, especially painting to take the plastic sheen off the buildings.

The afternoon sessions comprised adding fine detail, route control for tortoise point motors (an excellent presentation from Erik B.), and another instalment from Geoff and Michael (on structures, boats, water and scenery). Let me quote from their notes about the way they construct their buildings:
Every building has a cardboard sub – structure. Thick card was cut to match the plan then tacked together to check dimensions and visual effect. Problems were corrected, the card recut if necessary, then window and door openings cut. In most cases timber bracing was added as re-enforcing to corners, sides and roofing. We used a combination of Outback Model Co. , Grant Line , Atlantic Scale Models and Tichy windows and doors. Different siding and roofing materials were then laminated onto the card sub- structure. These included Artists coloured card, commercial wall and roofing printed card sheeting as well as basswood and balsa. The card and printed sheeting, once applied , was given a sprayed coat of artists fixative or matt finish to help preserve the surface.

On the Sunday there was a general presentation in the Main Hall from Sowerby S. on layout lighting, followed by a David O'H. presentation on detailing Australian rolling stock kits (pay attention to the prototype using photos or direct observation!).

The clinics and formal presentations finished late morning, although one might have been forgiven for wondering if there really was a finish to the day since no formal closing session was provided. We just mulled around the hall until we realised that that was all folks! It was a disappointing conclusion for the convention which, despite some technical and noise issues at times, was interesting enough.

After grabbing some lunch at a local takeaway outlet, I went to check out four layouts - all of which I had seen before when I was living in Sydney and a regular attendee of the NMRA Division 7 (NSW) monthly meetings (that included the Central Coast).

The first layout I went to was Dennis C.'s HO scale NSW layout based on Barmedman. The layout was in a new home, this time inside the house instead of the garage. I like this option! Dennis is a very good kit builder and has built a number of white metal NSW steam locomotives for me in the past. More information about the layout can be found from this website link.

The second layout visit I made was just up the street at Sam's place. I really like this layout because of it's operational focus. To give you an idea of the layout plan, the control panel schematic will do nicely, but more information can be found from this website link.

The third layout was just around the corner at the home of Rowan M. (recently elected VP of the NMRA Australasian Regional Committee). Rowan's layout is ambitious to say the least - an HO scale model railway based on the Main South Line in NSW from Sydney to Junee! A sample view of just one "corridor" should give you an idea of how such a large endeavour might look. More info from this website link.

The final layout for me on the day was the Great Northern Great Falls Division by Gerry H. The layout is beautifully presented. The operation and scenery are exceptionally well done. You can read and see more from this website link. Thanks to Gerry and his wife for the lovely afternoon tea as well - got me through the drive back to Canberra!

And, let me conclude with a beaut little layout that was also on display at the Convention. The layout was  called Lizard Ridge (On30).

I enjoyed the weekend and the limited amount of layout tours I could manage in an afternoon. Next year the Convention is being hosted by NMRA Division 2 in Canberra.....hey, that's my mob!

Monday 3 September 2012

NMRA Convention 2012 - Part 1

I spent an enjoyable weekend on the Central Coast of New South Wales at the Australasian NMRA Convention. The Convention had the usual array of presentations, modelling clinics, and layout tours. Models were on display for assessment for the NMRA achievement program awards. A handful of layouts were also on display; the feature being the latest modelling creation from Messrs Flack and Nott - Smuggler's Cove.

The Smuggler's Cove (On30) layout was presented in a similar style to previous layouts from this partnership. Smuggler's Cove is essentially a set of two joined dioramas with a couple of trains running through them. A third portion of the layout is still to be added. The layout was first exhibited at the recent Castle Hill Model Railway Exhibition in Sydney. The NMRA Convention was fortunate to not only have the layout on display, but to have Messrs Flack and Nott give two presentations on the design and construction of the layout.

Smuggler's Cove is a fictional location in Maine in the New England region of the United States. The model features some superb scratchbuilt structures and magnificent detailed scenery. The layout lighting and general presentation are superb.

The following photographs of Smuggler's Cove show just a taste of this superbly displayed layout.

I will have more to say on the Convention in my next blog post but I wanted to give you a taste of the weekend with some photo's of the Smuggler's Cove layout.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition

Last Saturday I travelled to Melbourne for the Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition.The exhibition was held at Caulfield race course. The venue is easy to access by public transport. I took the Frankston train from Southern Cross station to Caulfield without a hitch.  I had a great time at the exhibition and stayed for pretty much the whole day.

There were 73 stands at the exhibition this year. There were about 30 layouts ranging from N scale to Lego Gauge. Commercial stands were of course well represented. The commercial stands of most interest to me included Auscision, Austrains, Blue and Gold Models, Brunel Hobbies, Eureka, Model Etch, Orient Express Model Shop, Pallas Hobbies, Runway 13 from Canberra, SDC, Southern Rail Models, and Train World.

Of the layouts, the following took my interest:

Ardival (Scale 7, O scale) based on Findhorn near Inverness in Scotland in the 1870s. Whilst the prototype ceased running in 1869, the layout represents the continuation of the Highland Railway past that time. Scale 7 uses exact scale wheels which are also beneficial for small wheel-based locomotives on a model railway layout.

Beaufort (HO scale) represents a town mid-way between Ararat and Ballarat in Victoria. The layout runs trains in the period 1950-1995 which gives plenty of variety throughout the day for the public. The layout runs mostly commercially produced locomotives and rolling stock of Victorian and modern-era prototypes. The layout uses Digitrax DCC and is integrated with a computer interface using JMRI.

Beaufort also featured a very nicely modelled vineyard and winery; a scenic item that I have not seen before but which was very well done.

Benalta (HO scale) represents a fictitious double track location in north-east Victoria. The layout also runs a variety of locomotives and rolling stock featuring Victorian Railways, NSW railways and National Rail. One interesting feature of Benalta is the relatively low height at which the layout is exhibited, something that has good and bad points depending on one's point of view.

Brani Gate (HO, Union Pacific) made the trip to Melbourne from Canberra. A feature of this layout is the lighting that changes to represent different times of the day. The layout is DCC controlled using the NCE system. The layout height for this layout is higher than Benalta to give an "eye level" perspective of the moving trains.

Coliban Valley (HO scale) represents a fictitious town in rural Victoria on a double-track main line with a short branch line. The layout is operated using DCC and also featured a loco with a small camera on its nose for a driver-like view on a TV monitor.

Eurobahn (HO scale, European) was a classic exhibition-style layout with great scenery and a long expanse of main line to showcase a variety of European trains. Trains from many European countries were featured which added to the variety and interest in the layout. The layout was exhibited by the European Model Railway Association.

Ettamogah (HO scale) was my favourite Australian layout on the day. The layout featured the modern Ettamogah container terminal just north of Albury (NSW) on the Main South line. The layout also featured the dual carriage Hume Highway with what looked to me like Faller highway paper. And just like the real Hume Highway, there were plenty of monstrous trucks about. Ettamogah container terminal uses Australia's only Cargo Sprinters and the two of them had been nicely scratchbuilt and operated on the layout. Good use had been made of the recently available HO scale card containers. A nice trick was the placing of card containers (with the floor cut out) over the top of the more expensive plastic containers in open wagons to create the illusion of added variety.

Evershot (00 scale) was one of my favourite layouts of the day. The layout was set in Dorset in England during the Second World War and just afterwards. The layout was beautifully detailed and depicted a small rural town and railway station as well as a (non-prototypical) narrow gauge line. The town scene was well crafted and certainly gave a good representation of an English country town.A useful feature was the stand on one corner of the layout with a four page leaflet giving more detail about the area the layout was based on and the layout itself.

Gippsford (O scale, 1/4" to the foot) is a VR layout based on Nyora and Stratford in the Gippsland region of Victoria set in the 1960s and 1970s. The layout is operated by DCC. A feature of this layout was the twin rows of high intensity LED lighting used to illuminate the layout.

 Leafy Bay (HO scale) is a small layout featuring Victorian prototype. It represents an imaginary Victorian seaside town. A feature of this layout is the fiddle yard that uses a sector plate for bringing trains on and off the layout.

Southern Glory (OO scale, British) was also a fantastic model railway layout. The layout was a small shunting layout based on the Southern region of British Rail in the period 1959-1964. The detail on this layout was exquisite. The layout used DCC for operation. A three road fiddle yard off-scene completed the layout. The overall length of the layout and fiddle yard was just over 2 metres, giving hope to modellers looking to find a potential layout in a limited space. The layout was very well presented that only added to the neat appearance of the layout.

Tanoden (N scale, Japanese) was in a similar vein to the previous layout Enoshima (featured in recent issues of Continental Modeller magazine) from Doug Coster. The layout featured a highly urbanised Japanese city district with both trams and trains, including the bullet train of course. A monorail is also in attendance for those commuters seeking another form of urban transportation.

Victoria Bridge (HO scale) from the Waverley Model Railway Club in Melbourne represents a Victorian double-tracked mainline with a country station and yard on one side and a delightfully modelled bridge featured on the other side. The layout is nicely detailed with typically rural scenery and infrastructure. A good variety of Victorian locos and rolling stock were on display, ranging from the H class steam loco to modern era X class diesel locomotives.

I cannot complete the selected layout itinerary without mentioning the Epping (NSW) club's Berowra Brisbane Waters which made another exhibition appearance, albeit a first for this exhibition at Caulfield. I understand the layout's trip to Melbourne was sponsored by Austrains; a great way to help showcase layouts from interstate that would not ordinarily make the journey.

I had a very enjoyable time at Caulfield and it made my trip from Canberra well worthwhile.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Upcoming model railway exhibitions

I have a busy weekend coming up.

This weekend is the Queen's Birthday long weekend. That means there are model railway exhibitions on in Adelaide and Sydney. I will be attending both exhibitions this year.

The Adelaide Model Railway Exhibition is being held at the greyhound track, Angle Park. The exhibition opens at 9am on Saturday and I'll be wandering in some time after 10am. I will spend the day there and then fly to Sydney on Sunday morning.

On Sunday I will go to the Epping Model Railway Club's exhibition at The Brickpit, Thornleigh. The exhibition opens at 10am which will give me time to get there from the Sydney domestic airport terminal (but not by suburban train as the Main Northern Line and the North Shore Line are both closed for trackwork).

I hope to catch up with people and visit the commercial stands at both exhibitions. Should be a great weekend.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Time and distance

One of the difficulties model railways have is in dealing with time and distance.

Layouts that want an operational focus will have to come to terms with the fact that the scale distance between towns on the model railroad can in no way approximate the prototype. We already seek to compress towns and yards to fit within our defined model railroad space as best we can. Trying to actually compress real distance between towns is even more difficult due to limitations on model railroad space.

And when the distance between towns is relatively short on our model railroads, the amount of time a train takes between those towns is also relatively short.

For the most part we get by with using fast clocks. Fast clocks seek to reduce "real" time to model time so that we can have some useful timetable operation. It's no good using real time when the time it takes for your train to travel between Town A and Town B is ten seconds! By using a fast clock we can pretend that the train took ten minutes or forty minutes or whatever between towns.

The time factor, even with a fast clock, also faces the problem that it is often the case that as the head of the train arrives at Town B, its tail is just leaving Town A! While the distance between towns will depend on overall layout size, I have operated very large model railroads in the US where this is still a problem.

In essence, if we want to try and replicate time and distance on the model railroad based on the prototype, it is damned hard to do well. This leads to compromise and ingenious proxies (like the fast clock) to help us manage as best we can.

However, I am thinking of an alternative solution. I haven't calculated the exact times to use just yet, so please just stay with me at the conceptual level at this stage!

On my proposed US layout, one option for my layout plan is to have a key junction station as the starting point, a large station and yard in the middle of the layout footprint for interchange, and then continue along the branch to another junction station for the remainder (including modelling a couple of the intermediate towns here).

In this scenario, the first "half" of the layout will be the first station and the middle station with no modelled towns/yards in between. I am therefore skipping 2 intermediate towns from the prototype because I don't have the space and they aren't operationally interesting enough to warrant inclusion on this part of the layout. What this means is that I would have two stations close to each other on the layout but on the prototype they are actually 60 miles (97km) apart. Using a fast clock in this scenario won't really work.

There is a peninsula between the two towns and I want to enclose this curved section in a shadow box. It is not considered part of "the railway". It won't be scenicked and the top of the box will be used by the dispatcher for his paperwork. As such, this curved section on the model railway does not really exist! This section will also need to be long enough (and hidden) to hold a complete train so train length becomes an issue too.

My idea is to hold the train in this "hidden" section while I run a real time/scale time sequence that will represent the time and distance between the two major towns I am modelling on the layout, but representing the 60 real miles apart on the prototype.

The travel of my model train (distance and time) will be represented by four lights, each representing the four towns on this section of the prototype. The first light goes on when the train leaves the first modelled station and yard (the junction - Town A). The train enters the curved shadow box around the peninsula and stops, being now fully enclosed and not visible at either end. A second light now comes on and the first light goes out. The second light indicates that the train has "arrived" at the second (unmodelled) station. After (say) thirty real seconds, the second light goes off and a third light goes on, representing the next unmodelled town. After another thirty seconds, the third light goes out and the fourth light comes on to indicate that the train is now (under power) entering the fourth town which is the mid-town on the layout that is actually modelled. We have now used a proxy for the time and distance between two modelled towns, including the two unmodelled intermediate towns.

I appreciate the fact that we will have the train operator/s waiting for over a real 60 seconds to get his/her train from Town A to Town D. And most of this real time is actually just waiting for some lights to go on and off before moving the train into the next station and yard on the model railroad. I figure that if I had the space and had actually modelled those two small intermediate towns, then the real time factor of the train moving between Town A and Town D would be the same or more. So pretending to run the train through those unmodelled intermediate towns shouldn't be much of a strain.

By holding up the train off-stage between modelled stations (or in the space-time warp I would prefer to call it), I am using a proxy for the time and distance between two towns, some 60 real miles apart on the prototype.

Comments welcome....

Saturday 17 March 2012

Australian HO broad gauge

At the Sandown Model Railway Exhibition last weekend in Melbourne, Bendigo Rail Models (distributed by Auscision) released the Victorian Railways flat top T class diesel locomotive in HO scale. The model is available in a range of prototype numbers and versions according to three different time periods - see info here.

The flat top T class had also been previously announced by Austrains. I imagine Austrains will release a statement to the market advising what their intentions are for their model; not necessarily in response to the new model from Bendigo, but because of some speculation already circling in news groups. Austrains had previously released models of the later versions of the T class (as had Powerline). The Victorian Railways T class is therefore a popular class of locomotive.

The T class, however, was predominantly a locomotive used on the broad gauge (5' 3") of the Victorian Railways. This list of VR T class diesels indicates that nearly all the T class diesels, certainly in the early years to the 1970s, were broad gauge locos.

Whilst my Australian model railway interests are largely NSW, I also have an interest in Victorian Railways and also the Commonwealth/South Australian railways. As such, the issue of track gauge always stands out. In Victoria, the broad gauge dominated for most of its history while in South Australia, all three conventional track gauges (3' 6", 4' 8 1/2" and 5' 3") were used. In NSW, the standard gauge (4' 8 1/2") was the norm. In HO scale, the 16.5mm gauge reflects the standard gauge track of the prototype.

But herein is a dilemma for Victorian modellers. As much of their railway was (and to a lesser extent remains today) on the broad gauge, what is to be done about the HO scale track gauge? The standard gauge track in HO scale (16.5mm) will be too narrow for modellers of the broad gauge prototype. The answer, to date, has been the production of broad gauge models with wheel spacings to sit on HO scale standard gauge track. This is the so-called scale track dilemma most notorious in British model railway circles where the OO scale (4mm) models are running around on HO scale (3.5mm to the foot) track.

In Britain, the compromise is readily excepted. A shift to HO scale from OO scale remains unlikely; certainly from the main model railway manufacturers servicing that market. From time to time the issue receives some emotional comment and correspondence in the British model railway press. There are many who are happy to stay with the 4mm scale motive power and rolling stock on HO scale track.

In Australia, the debate about broad gauge track has received less publicity which may also reflect less interest. On the other hand, Australian prototype modellers modelling narrow gauge (3' 6") in HO scale are quite aware of the scale-gauge issue and work accordingly using 12mm track (HOn3.5). Some modellers prefer to model the Australian narrow gauge railways in S scale (3/16" to the foot) using 16.5mm track (for example in Western Australia and in Queensland). Modellers of Australian broad gauge railways (mainly Victorian Railways) seem quite happy to ignore the scale-track gauge issue (and here I willingly admit to being one of them).

I therefore really have two questions to ask:

Firstly, is it necessary (desired?) to model the Victorian Railways broad gauge in HO scale using the wider scale track (18.37mm) instead of 16.5mm?

And, should manufacturers of model railway equipment for broad gauge prototypes like Victorian Railways ensure that a supply of accurately gauged locos and rolling stock are available for sale? Or, alternatively, produce models that at least can be be readily converted to the broader gauge than the usual 16.5mm gauge (using spacers is what I understand happens in the UK).

I am interested in what people think about this issue so please feel free to comment.

Monday 2 January 2012

2012 - Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all our readers of Armchair Modeller Down Under.

I am looking forward to a productive 2012 for both my blogging and model railway layout construction. I also hope to visit a few exhibitions this year, as well as reporting more frequently on some of the more interesting articles in the model railway press.

And I will be looking for opportunities to start some discussion from time to time on some of the significant issues facing model railways and building model railway layouts.

I trust 2012 will be a good year for you as well.