Thursday, 10 August 2017

X factor layout design theory

I have been asked “What is an ‘X’ Factor layout?”  Well, simply, it is a method of arranging a point to point layout in a way that allows easy remarshalling of trains in staging yards after an operating session.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  So let’s head down the rabbit hole and explore some theory on why a layout needs staging yards. 

Staging yards are a way of hiding a lot of trains away from the scenery portion of the layout.  Consider staging yards to be the rest of the world.  Trains can be held there awaiting their opportunity to enter the layout proper, do some shunting, or stop at the station, and then depart somewhere else.  Once they have left the scene, then, they are then not expected to return – at least not in that operating session. 

Without staging yards, it is operationally difficult to integrate your layout into a much larger railway system.

Let us take, for example, the common 2.4 x 1.2 metre layout in a spare room.  This size is commonly used, as it is a sheet of plywood.  Access is on 3 sides. 

This layout has 2 stations, one on each side of the plywood, separated with a backscene.  Trains circulate  from one station to the other, maybe doing some shunting.  A tunnel hides the “oval”.  A lot of people start with this concept.    Rather limiting is what you might be saying, although you have to start somewhere.

Consider the track diagram below

                            Simple linear layout,  with  staging at each end

With a simple change, we can transform the 2.4 x 1.2 metre layout into the above point to point layout, which has trains travelling from somewhere to somewhere else.  This is where the “X” factor comes in.    

Original layout, with staging tracks along the wall.

I have located the staging yards along the walls of our spare room, although they could be placed almost anywhere – even in an adjoining room.   You will note that the “mainline” oval is not broken, and could be used for multiple laps before the train reaches the other staging yard.    Repeat for all trains, until the operation session is completed.  The “X” factor is the shared trackage between the staging yards, and the mainline oval.  To reset for the next operating session,  simply reverse the trains from one staging yard to the other, utilising the shared tracks
My Wagga layout is planned to have two 9 track staging yards (Albury Staging, and Junee Staging) at either end of the main line.  These staging yards will be located UNDERNEATH the main line.  Trains will be marshalled with locomotives at the front of the train.  Once the train has finished its run, it will have the locomotive at the buffer stop end of the other staging yard.   
Of course, there is a problem – how do you stop trains leaving one staging yard  from crashing into trains arriving, or departing the other staging yard?  I posed this question to the presenters of a “X factor layout” clinic at the 2015 NMRA Portland USA convention   I did not receive a satisfactory answer.
But there is a simple solution.  Keep one of the staging yards “inside” the layout.  And only use the crossover trackage when remarshalling, OR if running trains in a continuous loop.  I plan to use a shinohara scissors crossover in the “X” position.

The Wagga layout design has  two 9 track staging yards (Albury Staging, and Junee Staging) at either end of the main line.  Trains will be marshalled with locomotives at the front of the train.  Once the train has finished its run, it will have the locomotive at the buffer stop end of the other staging yard. 

                Detail, not to scale, of the staging yard throat, and X factor crossovers on my layout

My benchwork  is hoped to  includes a “void” at the rear of the Murrumbidgee river bridge, beyond the backscene.  This void location will have access to the scissors crossover, and has access to the staging yard throats, and can directly observe any trains leaving, and entering the mainline.  An ideal dispatcher role.  Only the dispatcher can change the pointwork on the scissors crossover.  I am not sure if I will need to re-run a train during an operating session, (eg second division of the Intercapital Daylight), but there is that option with the dispatcher.

                                         concept model, showing the dispatcher void

And why have I chosen 9 tracks per staging yard?  Well, many of the electronic DCC route selection modules have provision to throw 8 point motors – which equates to 9 stub tracks. I had arranged the yard design to minimise the “shelf width”, although they end up being twice as long.  The longest train is around 3.3 metres (10 car Auscsion Southern Aurora), so I will need sidings of this length

 Will that be enough tracks for a full operating session?  8 or 9 mainline trains in each direction?  Probably NOT.   But I am not yet locked in to this number, and the planning and pondering continues.  

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Ladysmith silo - field trip

The next structure for Ladysmith is the S008 silo.  I had one of Keiran Ryan's S008 silo kits (the old styrene one, not the more recent laser cut offering), and about 3 hours into cutting out the parts from 40 thou sheet, I reaslised that I really didn't have enough details.  Surprisingly, Keiran in his "Australian Railway Detail Photos" (Vol 1, 2 or 3) had also failed to have covered the S008 silo.  So, today being a nice day, and as  I had a 5pm meeting in Wagga, I thought I would go early with camera and visit Ladysmith silo.  Oh the joys of modelling something close

As luck would have it, a truck was being weighed on the weighbridge, and would shortly be receiving a grain load from the silo.  The guys were very friendly, and allowed me to take my detail pictures.  I was wearing a safety jacket, and I stayed out of their way.  The below images are just a sample of what I took.  And yes, I did get to go inside the silo.

One can't forget the outbuildings

Anyway, now armed with around 70 images, including some of the bulk grain shed which I don't think I can fit on the layout, I am feeling a bit more confident with Keiran's kit.

Happy modelling

Friday, 28 July 2017

Spending a penny

The next structure at Ladysmith is the C2 toilet block, plus lamp room.  In the small booklet, "Wagga Wagga to Tumbarumba Railway - why it was built" (by Tumba Rail 2016), has a picture of the Ladysmith station building, with a C2 toilet block just visible in the background.   Unfortunately, I do not know when this structure was demolished, but the book does state that the Forest Hill station, and toilet block lasted to at least 1975 - which postdates my nominal 1970 date.  I am assuming that the Ladysmith block lasted beyond 1970

When Tumba Rail took over the lease of Ladysmith, they constructed a look-a-like C2 toilet block, but modified the lamp room.

Greg Edwards Data Sheets has plans of the both the C1, C2, and C2 + lamp room structures, and I used these sheets to cut out the shapes from 20 thou styrene sheet.

The curve on the roof was a challenge.  After getting one curve sort of close, I used that as the template for the others.  

For the lamp room, I needed a window, and I discovered a very close match with a  Grandt Line window in my surplus window parts bin.  After scratching the Ladies windows on the Ladysmith station building, I was looking for shortcut.

The vents for the gents area were constructed from thin styrene strip.

Basic shape glued together.  I had reinforced some of the wall joints with scrap styrene blocks.  I had entertained the thought that I would fit a full interior, but sanity prevailed.

Some basic painting of the interior   I had fitted the eves, and vents too

Whilst I am covering the sides in corrugated iron (Brunel Models corrugated Iron fabrication jig allows strange shapes to be made), the exterior details also got some paint.  Some  roof beams are also installed - I felt that the roof may have been a bit weak without them.  I am trying to match the colours on the Ladysmith station.

The roof was made from a flat sheet of 20 thou styrene, which I scribed about every 1mm.  The scribing actually causes the sheet to distort naturally, forming  a curve, which I used to good advantage

The roof goes on, and I set aside for a day to fully harden.  After that I made up the curved valence, and the curved roofing sheets in a similar fashion to the water tanks of Ladysmith.   These were glued to the roof. .   Dullcoat to kill the shine, some paper edges for the sides, and glazing for the window

Build time took about a week.  The finished result is a bit rough, and the curve valence of the roof is marginally thicker than it should be. However, it looks the part, and apart from the lack of downpipes (I am looking for photographs showing this), it is time to move to the next structure.

Happy modelling

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Ladysmith Station Building (2)

Fitting the front station awnings was the next task for the station building.  The supports were fitted more or less in the locations on Greg Edwards A4 station plan.  Important to make sure that they are aligned so as to not have any gaps underneath the awning.

I tend to use track cleaning rubbers for purposes they were never intended, like weights, and props for photography

Once the awning is installed, facia boards cut and positioned, the chimneys were assembled, and fitted.  I painted the roof  with Floquil "Bright Silver"

And my experiment with having part of the roof removable was successful.  The next challenge was the water tanks, guttering and downpipes.  The kit provides nothing, so I was on my own  My pictures taken in the early 1980s show one water tank, with "shelter", and one end without a tank

 The guttering was interesting.  I had some styrene 1.5mm "U" channel, which I butchered to make an "L" channel.  Painted with "Roof Brown".  After some false starts, I was able to get the guttering to adhere to the facia board using microscale metal foil adhesive, and then reinforce the joint with 2 part 5 minute epoxy.  The guttering  has proved  strong enough with the handling.for the next stages.

I made up a water tank, and platform, using the Greg Edwards plan.  I loosely positioned this to the end of the station, to assist me in the location of the downpipes

The downpipes (or spouting) had some interesting bends, and is quite awkward.  I use solder to act as a template, whilst I fit, cut and bend to shape.

When I was happy with the shape, I transferred it to some brass rod, of approximately the right diameter.  I secured the brass to the building with very fine wire, twisted to create a "pin" and fitted into a hole drilled in the wall.  Repeat for the other end, and then paint

Complete assembly of the stands, and water tanks.  The tanks are made up of a long aluminium corrugated iron made using Brunel's tool.  You will find it curves gently.  Once a roll has been made, it can be tightened without creasing, and the extra thickness adds to the strength.  Cut a lid, and glue.  The angled boards are made from thin card, scribed, and cut.  White glue and stripwood.  Yes, it is very fiddly

It certainly looks the part when attached.  Note the Ladies toilet window - if I had left the window in the original kit location, this pleasing result would have been impossible..  Repeat for the other end, and fit the corrugated iron "lid"

I have started wioth some fine detailing.  The Ladysmith station building sign was made by printing a sign, and attaching it to a styrene backing.  However, there is still much ro be done.  The tanks need some taps, the "Ladies", "Waiting room", and "Staionmaster" signs to me made, the chimney pots, and the Ladies Toilet vent for the roof.  And weathering.  The piers underneath the astation will have to wait until the platform is made

Should I have not bought the kit, and just reverted  to scratchbuilding the lot?  Maybe.  Having to rectify kit errors was a significant time waster, and some compromises with the roof pitch, and station master door I am just going to have to live with.  But, the kit is solid, and as I hope I have shown, can be super detailed.    Anyway, no time to ponder, there are more structures awaiting.

Happy modelling.  Rob

Monday, 10 July 2017

Ladysmith Station Building (1)

Ladysmith station was the 2nd station on the Tumbarumba Branch, after leaving Wagga.  The railways considered the station reasonably important, as it was built to their A4 design.  After trains stopped running in the late 1980s, the station's future was uncertain, but the lease was taken over by the Tumba Railway group, and the station is now looking very nice.   In May, 2017 the station turned 100

 As expected, the 2017 condition is slightly different from the 1970 era that I want to model.  My pictures taken in 1980, as well as the picture in the Train Hobby book "NSW Branchlines Volume 2 show a similar heritage scheme to the one today, although the mustard colour today is darker than the foremetioned pictures.  The 1970 colour might have been closer to the white of the station at Tarcutta?  However, I cannot find a 1970 picture, so I am proceeding with the heritage scheme.

I thought I would buy a laser cut kit of the NSW A4 station kit from Model Train buildings
I had hoped that a kit would be a simple way forward, as well as giving me a clue on enlarging and modifying their Tenterfield Statiun kit, to fit the Wagga station

The kit was ordered, and arrived promptly.  The package included a number of laser cut sheets, instructions, and 4 Grandt Line windows, plus glazing.  The instructions were fairly rudimentary, so access to Greg Edwards Data sheet is pretty useful.  Oh, and I also had taken a lot of detail pictures of Ladysmith

The instructions recommend painting prior to assembly.  I used the following paints
Floquil Depot Buff for the walls,  Floquil, Rail Brown for the floor, , and Floquil Roof Brown for the trim.  I know that Floquil is no longer available, but it is important to NOT use a water based paint, unless one has sealed the wood.  Floquil being a lacquer was brushed straight on

The fit of the parts is excellent.  I used white glue.  The above picture was taken AFTER I discovered discrepencies with the Kit, vs the Data sheet.  My photos of Ladysmith showed it closer to the A4 design.

Whilst I decided to live with the roof pitch, and door location to the stationmasters office, the windows to the Ladies Powder room, and Lavatory were very wrong - wrong size, wrong shape, and wrong position, so needed rectification.  Fixing these took a lot longer than I had hoped  There were some other problems too, but no others involved surgery

Before the roof goes on, it was necessary to fit the seats in the waiting room.  The kits seats are nowhere as neat as the real ones (above), but for an interior detail, it is OK.

The main roof consists of 4 beams, and 6 corrugated iron wooden sheets.  The rear sheets have been fitted and glued.  I plan to leave the other sloping sheets and two beams removable, for later super detailing of the interior.

It may be silly to fit awnings on the rear of the station, as my layout will have the station visible only from the platform face, but the awnings are a necessary detail, which I needed to have.

The kit supplies NOTHING, which is a shame, as the awning brackets would have been an ideal task for the laser cutter.

There are 4 windows.  Assembly sequence is from right to left
- drill holes for the brackets, and fit stripwood (I used Northeastern 3" square stripwood) in `the holes to approximate the awning design
- Cut and fit support wood between the earlier stripwood
- Fit window, after painting, and glazing (the glazing supplied in the kit is laser cut, exactly right - a very nice touch, which beggars the question why the awnings are omitted?)
- Fit corrugated iron.  I made mine using Brunel Hobbies HO corrugated iron maker jig, and some disposable aluminium tray material, that came from Coles underneath some yummy treats.  The tool works extremely well, and is recommended

Well that is it for now.  I have a distraction with track laying on Pete's Hobby Railway, (a real 610mm gauge) so part 2 of Ladysmith may be a few more days away.

Cheers. Rob

 Built to the NSWGR A4