Thursday, 9 January 2020

Bethungra Loop "N" scale - Part 7

Part 7 - Start made on backdrops and trees

It is really encouraging to have reached this stage on the Bethungra layout.

Another picture of the LRV tour train in 1997 - about to enter tunnel #1.  Again, my slide conversion to digital is rather amateurish.  Things to note is the distant hills. 


For the last 10 years, I have been storing, transporting, and storing again, four 1800 x 915 x 3mm MDF sheets that were given to me.  I always thought they would be good for backscenes, so it was great to finally use them.  These sheets had been previously used.   There was evidence of timber framing,  holes, and all sheets had paint on one side. 

I cut one of the sheets down the middle, and had 3.6 metres of backboards.  Unfortunately, 3.6 mtrs was slightly short, so another sheet was cut, yielding an additional 1.2 mtrs.

These sheets were attached to the timber framing using clamps, and then drilled, and screwed in the normal manner.  I tried to reuse many of the preexisting holes.  Each hole that was used was marked with a texta, as the backscene will need to be removed at least twice more for painting.

The long side needed  two sheets, and my joining method may be unusual.

Clamps and really strong magnets were used to hold the joining piece to the backscene, whilst the white glue dried.  These magnets came out of old mainframe disc drives, and are seriously powerful. 

The other side of the backscene showing the steel plates held in place with the magnets.  The unpainted section of backscene is a legacy of the MDF's previous life as a wardrobe door.


The Junee Broadway Museum had supplied me with 2 types of trees.

 One type included some previous scenery material, so I assume it was part of the original layout.  These had been made from twisted wire, coated with possibly Selleys "no-more gaps", painted, and foam added.

The other tree type was appeared to be hand made in China.  There were over 100, and all sized at 3.5cm, or smaller.  The green foam used was too green, and distracting.  I have found similar on ebay for around $25 delivered.

A selection of passable gum trees, supplied by the museum.  Their height varies, but 7-9cm was typical
The other trees - suspect these were made in China.  Height nominal 3.5cm
The Chinese trees have a pleasing variety, and squinting, they could pass for a gum - but are too small, and a horrible colour.  But they could be used in the distance - providing they can be painted.

The polystyrene foam base they were on would not survive air brushing with floquil, as may of the trees were not firmly planted, and the polystyrene would dissolve under the floquil solvents.  So I found an alternative plastic foam, and planted them in two lots.

My Floquil Pullman green paint jar - more of an olive shade.  When did Floquil stop making bottles that were square?  All of my remaining Floquil is in round bottles.  This could make this paint ANCIENT.  I remember using this paint bottle around 20 years ago to paint a C&O brass doodlebug (but that is another story).  However, the paint is viable, and once thinned, sprayed well 

The chinese trees  - one batch painted, the other as supplied.

Bethungra Loop hill - with the chinese trees on the ridge.  Some of the larger ones were planted a bit closer, down the hill, but the majority were crowded on top.  Whilst this is effective, the size of the ex museum layout trees may make the scene awkward.  What I need are a few trees around 5-6cm high to plant on the lower slope of the hill.  The backscene is yet to be painted, but the shadow on the RHS is a pointer to what is possible.  And no, I haven't ballasted or finished the trackwork in this area

Grouping the larger trees on the hill closest to the viewing point is in my opinion, quite good.  Some more trees have been planted on the flat paddock beyond.  The extensive tree cover in the far distance is still in the future, as is painting the backscene.  

My enthusiasm is returning.  This layout has taken far too long to construct, but the end is now in sight.

Stay safe out there.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Bethungra Loop in N scale - part 6.

Growing weeds - Part 6 of Bethungra Loop layout build

The LRV train approaches the first tunnel.  This is one of my slides, not borrowed images from Bevan Wall's video on you-tube.  Picture taken into the sun doesn't help, nor does my poor slide to digital conversion.  But note the vegetation.   

The time has come to start the "greening" the layout.
First stage was to paint the exposed foam and plaster.  Burnt umber, and raw sienna are the primary paints used
Sifted "Builders Sand" is used to give texture to the foam

White glue was painted onto the painted wood, and foam, and the builders sand sifted onto the wet glue, then saturated with "wet" water, and allowed to dry 

 The Woodland scenics "Yellow Grass" and "Blended Turf" arrived in the post.  I also had some IHC brand of green ground foam, which I wanted to also use.  The IHC foam looks like it should work OK, but it just doesn't.  (There is a reason why it is cheap)

My shaker bottles for the ground foam.  Available from the pantry once the contents have been eaten.
The IHC foam was used on the hill.  The uneven way this foam falls would not be a major problem.   But I didn't like the colour, so it has also been blended with the Woodland scenics foams
An angle that will be impossible to see once the backscene boards are installed.  It shows the "flat paddock", with the loop hill in the background.  Woodland scenics foam used exclusively on the flat paddock, although the nature of the underlying polystyrene beaded foam has given unintended holes in the surface.  IHC foam was used between the up and down  tracks
The Olympic road needed the Sculpt-it treatment.  This was smoothed, and then sanded.  The white "plaster" dust blown off

More paint applied - some raw sienna has contaminated the burnt umber - not that it matters.

Sifted sand and white glue.  The MDF roadway was not sealed, so water spraying was kept as much as possible off the surface.

IHC foam doesn't settle in a fine layer of foam dust, unlike Woodland scenics.  Once trees and weeds are added, the extra clumping might actually be OK.  The "flat paddock" beyond only has Woodland scenic foam.  An application of Woodland scenics "dry grass"  blends the roadway area into the green grasses area.  Once the foam is down, the foam was misted with a weak PVA glue/water mixture from a spray bottle.  Note the raw plywood on the lower LHS of this picture.  I hope this will be a suitable method to identify that the track on this section of the layout,  is not part of the Bethungra Loop scene.  

What a difference the road makes.  Floquil grimy black painted by brush.  The road is a nominal 3.7cm wide - which makes each carriageway  3 mtres scale.  This is under the australian standard of 4 mtrs per carriageway for main roads, but reducing the width is a trick to make the scene look bigger.  It won't be obvious if I use Rosco's N scale cars, and avoid scale sized trucks.  And for the purest, I haven't added the passing lane, which now exists.  I plan to use Tuft brand "sand" sifted plaster on the road shoulders
Next stage is to add trees, and bushes, plus make a start on the backscene.

My thoughts go out to all affected by the current bushfires.

Stay safe.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Bethungra Loop in "N" scale - pt 5

Part 5 - A sea of foam.

Another Bevan Wall video image of the 1997 LVR tour train passing through the cutting between the two tunnels on the Bethungra Loop.  Bevan Wall has made numerous videos of NSW railway action over the last 3 decades, and his DVDs are well worth purchasing (dare I say as a xmas present?).  This image is a screen capture from you-tube

Since my last post, circumstances have conspired to limit the amount of time I can spend on the Bethungra Loop layout.  I won't elaborate here as to the cause, but things are now improving, and may be back to normal sometime in January.

The rear tunnel portal will be impossible to view once the backscene is installed.  The foam "rockwork" above the tunnel is removable for access.

Looking back towards the hill.

Getting down the foam is like a 3 dimensional jigsaw, where all the pieces have to be cut to fit.  Fortunately, some of the foam sizes were at the correct thickness for the largely flat paddock that is between the road, and the railway.

Another view of the paddock, and foam rockwork, after a rudimentary smoothing with coarse sandpaper.  

After sandpaper smoothing.  The section between the two tunnels is nowhere as deep as the prototype, but the lack of depth was a compromise with keeping the grades of the model under 3%.  The three sections of foam visible above the trackwork are all removable

The thickness of the foam can be gauged by this picture.

As I am not a fan of white polystyrene foam, I am pleased to advise that this phase of the layout build is behind me.

I am doing some preparation work for the next phases of the build.  To correct my poor colour choice for the grass in the previous blog post, I have ordered some Woodland Scenics fine ground foam colours (Blended Turf, and Yellow Grass), which I hope will be arriving in my mailbox soon.  I also sourced some large sheets of 3mm MDF for the backscene, and have taken a couple of pictures of the upper loop, to aid with painting

Taken from the Olympic Way road, looking towards the railway.  The "flat" paddock is quite a feature, as is the line of trees hiding the railway.  Of note is the heavy tree cover on the hills

In the meantime, whenever I get a spare 30 minutes or so, I will be mixing up the Sculpt-it "plaster" and applying to the areas of foam that either need gaps filled, or cuttings/rockwork done.

Until next time

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Bethungra Loop - scenery starts on the Hill

Bethungra Loop - Part 4. 

Scenery has never been my strong suit.  And this being my first attempt at anything N scale, I was not anticipating a quick build.

A picture taken from a 1997 Bevan Wall video shows LVR loco 5367 about to exit from the first tunnel of the Bethungra loop.  Bevan has made a lot of videos showing rail activity in NSW, and these never cease to inspire.
I like to get ideas for all my modelling from the prototype.  I am fortunate to live close by the loop, although I really do not have enough images to do it justice.

As before, I will let my in progress pictures do the talking

Many years ago, beer was transported by rail.  To stop the kegs moving in transit, large mattress sized polystyrene foam blocks were used.  These were discarded by the receiving depot.  The leftover remains of one of these mattresses recently came into my possession, (Thanks Steve) and I thought it appropriate to use it for this project.  But to go on record, I hate white polystyrene beaded foam.

My hotwire cutter made cutting the foam easier than a saw or knife.  Although I still had a garbage bag on standby to dispose the offcuts,

The Olympic way roadway was cut from MDF, and positioned.
4 tunnel portals constructed from MDF, and fitted.  There is not a lot of clearance for trains, and all locos, and carriages were tested.
Foam was cut, glued, and slid into position.  Some profiling is visible in this picture. The adhesive I am using is a water based Selley's "No More Gaps"
The hotwire cutter is not the easiest thing to use for fine shaping of the foam.  To complete the profiling, I use coarse sandpaper, with a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the foam particles dislodged.

Sculpt-it was my "plaster" of choice.  It is actually a paper pulp type product, a lot easier to use than traditional plasters, but used in a similar way.  I like it because it  sticks where it is put, has a longer work time, and can be added without too much mess.  Cost is at least double the cost for an equivalent quantity of plaster. 

Painted scene with 'Raw Sienna' colour water based paint , and "Zip Texturing"  (a light dusting of rock coloured plaster, from the former 'Tuft' range.).  The tunnel portal is still to be painted
Some small rocks, a hit of some greenery in the cutting, and ballasting with the Bombo N scale ballast from Chucks Range - acquired at the N scale convention last month.  The Museum had provided HO scaled ballast for ballasting, but the size was unsuitable.

You will notice that the ballast does not extend into the tunnel.  Something that I can correct, as I have made the rockwork above the tunnel removeable.  This is also an aid to cleaning the track, AND recovery of any rollingstock that happens to misadventure..  

An overview of progress with the scenery to date.  I thought it best to experiment with a small area first.  The dried grass is not that successful, although it can be disguised to some extent with trees. I will think about alternatives, as I would like a bit more green - particularly on the upper hill (see the picture on Part 1 of this series).  The rockwork, and ballasting are OK, and actually look better without the LED worklight washing out the scene

Next steps are to repeat this process on the rest of the layout. 

Until next time.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Bethungra Loop in "N scale" - part 3

Things have been a bit slower than I hoped on the Bethungra N scale layout rebuild, but progress has been steady.

Derailments are something that I want to avoid with good trackwork.  This unfortunate incident a few months ago in Junee.  A pair of 830 class locos had run through a stop signal, and derailed on the check point, Cause of the derailment is subject to an inquiry - rumour is that vandals had removed the wheel chocks, entered the cab, and disengaged the handbrake

Track laying continued, final wire jumpers installed, and I soon had a continuous run.  Then I cleaned the rail head.    I try and avoid using bright boy, peco track cleaning blocks or other abrasives.  These have their place, but only to remove visible corrosion.  For the most part, I use a wooden block, normally a pinewood offcut, and polish the rail head.  It does take extra time, but doesn’t introduce micro-scratching of the rail, which can give later dirt build up on the rail a convenient place to stick.
Testing in the semi-dark, with a headlight equipped loco will give an indication of where the cleaning needs to be redone, as the loco headlight will flicker at those spots.

Testing a train.
My test train was allowed to circulate around the layout.  After 4 successful laps, the test loco decided to partially derail on the approach to the bridge.  There was no obvious kink in the track at that point, but I did find the track on the curve had a slight negative camber (think superelevation, but instead of the lean to the inside of the curve, it was to the outside).  Problem possibly caused by reusing S/H track?  After a bit of adjustment, and packing the outside rail, the derailments at this point seems to have been solved.

Before track painting.

After painting, and rail top cleaning.  This is the location of the module join.  The silver sides of the rail are still slightly visible in the camera flash

Track painting
Once I was happy with the track, I spray painted the track with thinned ‘Floquil Roof Brown’.  This spray takes the shine off the sides of the rail, and dulls down the plastic look of the sleepers.  The track railhead is again cleaned, ideally less than 30 minutes after spraying - before the Floquil paint properly cures.

The Museum items
Before I start on the scenery, I wanted to test the trains from the museum.  Last week,  Bob from the Broadway Museum dropped off the locos,  carriages, powerpack and scenery items.  He also provided some other locos for me to test. 

The Atlas GP38, and NSW 45 class were  owned by the museum.  The atlas loco looked new, and had a 99 Euro price tag on the box.  The GM loco was recently donated by Peter Dinham, with thanks. 
The NSW rolling stock items, are I believe, constructed from  N-Trains kits

Two of the carriages.  These are Kato, and I think are Japanese prototype.  One of the Rapido couplers will need to be changed to Microtrains to enable them to run behind the loco 

Locos and rolling stock.
 The museum owned a NSW 45 class, and an American GP38.  Both had micro train couplers.  There were only 4 australian freight cars (again with micro train couplers), and a number of NSW look-a-like passenger cars with Rapido couplers.
The Atlas GP38 loco ran sweetly, and attaching the 4 freight wagons, hauled them up around the layout with no problems.  The NSW 45 also was a quiet and smooth, but tended to slow down, and stall a few times.  Recleaning the track didn’t fix the issue.
The passenger carriages were from Kato and Bachmann.  They ran well behind my original test loco which also had rapido couplers

A “new” loco joins the fleet.
At the Wagga Wagga model train exhibition last weekend, I mentioned the 45 class issue with Peter Dinham, a member of the Canberra Monaro N scale group.  Peter not only gave me some good advice, he also donated  a loco -  a Commonweath Railways GM class.  Peter was aware of the original “Bethungra Loop” layout in the Broadway museum, and this was his way to assist its rebuilding.  The GM was surplus to Peter’s requirements, not having been converted to DCC (and unlikely to be), it had not turned a wheel in a long time.

Servicing the 45 class.
On the workbench, I tested the loco.  Electrical power was not being picked up by one side of the leading bogie.  I was able to remove the resin shell from the lifelike chassis.  The cause of the electrical problem was that the phosphor bronze pickup to the leading bogie had been bent, and not making contact with the nib on the bogie.  After correction of the pickup, lubrication, and wheel cleaning, the 45 class now is performing superbly.  After over a dozen runs over the full track, not once has it derailed

The 45 class drifts downgrade under the now painted crossover bridge.  Scenery will enhance this scene

Servicing the GM class
Peter’s GM Class loco also had a problem.  It would run erratically,  with surges, and stalls.  Again, on the workbench, I discovered that it too had bogie electrical pickup problems.  Some adjustment of the phosphor bronze wipers, clean out of the old grease, replacement with Labelle oil, wheel cleaning, I am happy to report it is now running much better.  Testing will continue, but so far, so good

Management of the controller power cord is in the way of the future perspex front  It is possible to hole saw through the plywood to accommodate it, or perhaps position the power pack on a separate table, or underneath.  There is also the push button for visitors to start the train to consider.  

The power pack.
The H&M Clipper power pack was in its day, a very desirable unit.  It still performs well, a testament to its construction.  But, in a museum context, the power pack control is awkward.  More on this aspect in a future blog-post.

Next stage is the scenery.   Happy modelling