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

Saturday 19 October 2019

Bethungra Loop - in "N" scale pt2

Having spent last weekend at the National "N Scale" convention in Canberra, my progress on Bethungra was slowed.  I had hoped to get all the track down for instance.  Still, the delay in the layout build was fully compensated with inspiration at the Convention.

The Convention may have a focus in N scale, but there were many non scale specific clinic topics, as well as some world class modelling to keep the delegates entertained.  Quite good retail support, with Peter Boorman's Workshops, Pallas Hobbies, and Badger Bits to name a few.  Clinics that I attended included  NSW stock yards, plug casting, weathering USA freight wagons, styrene buildings, lightweight module design and an interesting one from Greg Edwards on some of the background into the color images in the recent "NSW Railways in Colour" book.  The highlight though, for me, and most others was Ross Balderson's Newcastle 1899, which although not yet finished, actually had moving trains
Excellence in N scale - Ross Balderson's Newcastle 1899 has taken 7 years of construction to reach this point, but every building, vehicle (and ship) is a faithful representation of the original, many constructed based from period photographs

One of the side benefits of the convention, was I was able to purchase 2 x 1KG packets of N scale ballast (Bombo quarry), some will get used on Bethungra.  I even won a  brand new "Micro Trains" USA N scale boxcar as a lucky door prize - although I don't have a loco with the right coupling to immediately test on Bethungra.  Micro Trains (USA) was a major sponsor of the convention.

The next N scale convention is in Sydney in 2021.


Benchwork construction for the extension of Bethungra was a little challenging.  Unlike most exhibition layouts where module sections are bolted together, I needed a rise in elevation of the tracks on the extension.  The tracks would also cross the section boundary not on the flat - one track would have a falling gradient, the other a rising gradient. Anyway, best I illustrate the process with pictures.

Way back in 1985, the ACT Model Railway society built a module layout, that used a leg leveling system that used "T" nuts and bolts into the bottom of the legs.  I was the owner of 2 of these modules.  After 20 years of disuse, I thought they would make a contribution to Bethungra.  

I constructed an interface on top of the existing benchwork.  The T nuts and bolt were attached to the other side, leaving the bolt ends exposed.  These bolts don't extend to the edge of the benchwork, so they shouldn't snag during transportation of the sections.  And the spacing also allows the extension benchwork to rest on the existing benchwork, and then wiggled onto the end, and slid into position.  The wing nuts and washers tighten the join.  Note the profile variations for the trackbed at the ed
After adding the extension, here is the view from the current benchwork

Another angle.  The bolt is tightly forced into the T nut - it is unlikely to work loose in the few times the layout will be unbolted.  

The other pair of legs, and the new timber frame.  Using the existing benchwork as one end, makes assembly easy - although I have not added any leg folding mechanism.  The section will be laid on its side during transport.  The legs are lightly braced.  One other thing I would like to say, is that the plywood top was donated by the "Mens Shed", who gave me  more sheets that I needed for this project, although they will be handy when it comes to the Wagga layout.  To ease my guilt, I am supplying all the other timber and hardware to the Broadway Museum at no charge

I did not want to introduce an vertical "kink" in the join across the benchwork.  A metal ruler allowed me to see any variation.   The "down" track has not yet been attached

After cork and track had been installed, I added PCB slabs to the track on both sides of the join, secured with screws, before cutting.  The screws will enable some adjustments of the track  Up.down, left right to remove any variation.  And the PCB could also host checkrails, although testing has not needed them so far.  Note the screws came out of old VHS Cassette cases - I never throw away something that could be re-purposed 
Buried in one of my boxes, I had a pair of N scale through deck girders.  (Could be Peco).  A section of 0.040 thick styrene was added, and I had my deck bridge.  Tested for size.  Both the upper and lower track was not secured at this time.

On the workbench, some simple abutments were cut, again from 0.040 styrene sheet

After a bit of timber sculpting, the bridge is in.  The lower trackbed is still floating, as I wanted the upper track fixed first.  There is a 40mm clearance.

Cork added to the extension.  I cut my HO cork down the middle, which allows me to bend it to tight radius, AND allows me to align on the previously made pencil line radius - thus retaining the original centerline geometry 

Track down.  All flextrack.  It would be easier to use set radius curves for this, as the flextrack tends to kink when connecting them on curves.  However, with careful positioning of the joins, this can be minimized.  My test train is also pictured.  The F7 (or F9) is missing its shell, but runs OK.  The coil wagons were from my scrapbox, but good for this purpose.  I have been running the test train up and down the spiral, often at speed, and derailments were few, track fixed, and tested some more.   
During the convention, I spoke to a few modellers about my excursion into N scale.  Much to my amazement, an article on the original Bethungra Layout in the Broadway Museum had been published in an "N scale Modelling in Australia" magazine a few years ago.  A link to that issue is below.

Until next time.  Happy modelling