Saturday 29 February 2020

Brass Models - the foam monster

Brass models - The foam problem

A bit of a departure from my NSW modelling today, although there is a link.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have acquired a number of brass models.  I started with the Bergs 73 class in 1982, and continued as availability, and finances permitted.  I didn’t have a specific plan to model Wagga at that stage, but that didn’t seem to matter.  The models were fantastic

The NSW 46 class HO model was sold in the early 1980s for $450 by Bergs Hobbies.  It was made in Japan by Kumata.  At the time, $450 was a lot more expensive than other new brass Australian outline models, including steam.  This was understandable, as the other brass locos were exclusively made in Korea, with lower standard of living than Japan.  A rerun of the 46 class happened around 20 years ago – and these were all factory painted.  My understanding is that a number of 46 class locos were “discovered” in the Kumata factory, and made available for sale through Bergs Hobbies.

Many of my brass locomotives got to run on the various exhibition layouts I was involved with, but as time went on, the rigors of exhibition running, and the “clumsy oath” operators took their toll.  The brass locos were retired back into their protective boxes, where many still hibernate.

I was reminded last week that I should service a few of the locos that I have, so that got me opening boxes. 

A HO model of the Swiss Am6/6 shunting loco by Fulgurex.  This model was made by Kumata in 1982, one of 400 made at the time.  Note the foam has started to deform - and the plastic freezer bag I have wrapped the model in.
The prototype class consisted of 6 locos, numbered 18521 to 18526.
All six were built specially for heavy shunting in the Limmattal yard in Z├╝rich, although I did not see any at Zurich during my 2018 trip
Entered service in 1976 and still operating, now reclassified as series Am 861.
Weight 111 tonnes.Length over buffers 17.4 m.Power 1435 kW. Max speed 85 kph.
Builder (mechanical) Thyssen Henschel. (Thanks John B for the information)
The poor standard of the foam can be seen from this picture.  Yes, I had pressed in a finger (or two) into the foam, and it didn't bounce back.  And it tore easily

Whilst this model is NOT NSW, the loco was made by Kumata in 1982, the same factory as a number of the Bergs NSW models.  The foam is in the process of turning into a sticky powder.  On any model, this foam will cause damage, and painted model finishes can be ruined.  And if you plan to sell the model on ebay with this foam in the box, then there is a high chance that the foam will simply squash down.  Depending how vigorously the postal service shakes the box, a broken model may appear at the far end.

This foam problem is a timebomb.  All of my 73 class locos had the foam fail within 6 months of each other a few years back, and I expect that the Bergs 30T, 46, 53, and 55 locos (all 1980s Kumata made) will all soon be afflicted.    Other makers are not immune either.    To confirm this, I found my hibernating 46 class.

The foam out of the box.  Whilst not as bad as the Swiss loco, it would soon catch up.  The red mark at the bottom is where I traced the outline of the foam onto another fresh piece of foam

As there is no method to reverse the foam failure, one needs to take precautions.   I wrap all my models in plastic freezer bags, which will at least prevent the sticky foam from touching the model.  And inspect your models from time to time.  If the foam is rotten, throw it away as quickly as you can. 

What to replace the foam with? 

In the USA, REBOXX used to make replacement foam inserts for specific USA prototype models to fit specific brass boxes.  I understand that REBOXX is sadly no longer in business.   There were no similar product offerings for Australian models, although one could adapt the foam inserts from the NU-BOX (WAO Models) to go inside your brass box.  If you were able to take measurements of the bad foam before it failed, I  suspect that you could approach “Clark Rubber” who could cut a replacement from their foam supplies.  If you are cheap, or time poor, you could buy a supply of foam rubber, and cut it out yourself.  Alternately, when in doubt, wrap the model in bubblewrap.

The freshly cut foam inside the Bergs 46 class box.  The red is from the earlier marking out.  I used a very sharp ceramic knife to cut the new foam, trying to minimise any distortions.  The cutout on the LHS is for the spare screws, and hardware that came with the model  

The 46 class returned to the box in the replacement foam.  Having the plastic this way enables the model to be extracted from the foam without tugging on the loco
Now to find my 30T, 53, and 55 class boxes.

Model trains are a multifaceted hobby.  Whatever is your passion, enjoy the journey.
Until next time. 

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Bethungra loop - small details

Small details.
I was reminded last night by one of my Blog readers, that it has been a while since my previous Blog entry, and he was after an update. 

Google street view of the Olympic Hwy, looking south towards the Bethungra loop.  I have included this section of roadway on the layout, so things to note is the trees close to the roadway, the fence line, and the open paddocks either side

Bob, an amateur artist from the Broadway Museum has offered to paint my back scenes.   In the meantime, I added a second  white undercoat to the backboards, and then painted on the blue with a roller.  The shade I chose was Taulbmans “Diamond Blue”, in a 250ml sample pot from Bunnings.  This was not quite enough to cover the entire 4.4 metres of backboard, but the area that I was unable to paint is below the scenery level.  Ideally, the blue should fade out towards the horizon, but my attempts to do this on previous layouts have been less than successful

I use my retaining wall a lot, as it is the right height for doing painting, and cutting large sheets of plywood.   The "diamond blue" colour was rolled onto the white background.  You can see where I ran out of paint.  "Diamond Blue" is a rather subtle blue shade that is a close match to the pictures I took of the prototype.  These are below. What do you think?.

A selection of photos that could inspire the budding artist.  Photos taken close to the Google street view image at the front of this blog post. The railway is just hidden behind the first line of trees.  The heavily timbered hillsides beyond could be painted directly onto the backboards. 

Upper quadrant signal
One of the things that I remember from my train travel from Wagga to Sydney  in the 1960s, was seeing the signal on the upper level of the Bethungra spiral.  I wanted to reproduce this on the layout.  After seeing the upper quadrant signals on the N scale Gunning layout, I made some enquiries as to whether they were a kit.  I was advised that in the absence of a NSW kit, they made the decision to use Ratio parts, and the resultant signal was fragile.
 I didn’t think that fragile was something I wanted to build.
The alternative was to cobble something up from brass.  I ordered some brass Eckon N scale ladders from ebay UK.  Postage and GST made them rather expensive.  However, the ladders are a good length, and quite fine in profile.  They are slightly too large, being 2mm:foot -  an acceptable compromise.  The package arrived after a few weeks.  The Greg Edwards data sheet was my guide to height and profile, and my signal is as pictured.
 The semaphore arm is crudely cut from brass sheet.  The platform handrail is an extension of the ladder rungs, and simplified.  The platform is styrene.  Greg Edward’s relay hut design differed from the picture I took of the upper quadrant north of Junee, so with Greg’s dimensions for height, and end walls, I scratch built a small relay hut completely out of my styrene scrap bin.
More upper quadrant signals should be visible on the layout – maybe a task for the future.
A photo of an upper quadrant signal between Junee and Illabo (near Bethungra), before these signals were replaced in the early 1990s.  Apologies for the slide to digital conversion - I really need to invest in something better

My model.  The semaphore arm is a crude representation of the original, but once painted, should be OK from a distance. The post is solid brass, and the platform is plastic. The lens colours will be painted on

The relay hut - scribed 40 thou styrene makes up the boards, and whilst almost invisible, the door is just scribed into the flat end.  The roof capping is not yet added.  This took me less than 30 minutes to make

Location on the layout.  I had made some provision for this signal during the foam stage by leaving a gap, and have also left the ballasting of the sleeper ends until the signal is installed.  Of course, it will be painted before this happens.  I am not sure about the location of the relay hut in such a location - happy if I could be advised

Boom gates
As I also found no kits for an N scale  NSW boomgates, Greg Edwards data sheets was again consulted.  However I sized my model on some brass washers I had, as I didn’t want to try and cut the flashing light surrounds.  Both boom gates are cut from scrap brass and again, rather crude. 
Both the boom gates, and upper quadrant signal are non operational, and still need painting. 

One of the boom gates made from brass.  The taper on the boom was the most difficult thing about making this model

Google street view shows the boom gates just north of the Bethungra loop in 2017.  

My model of the same location.  Raw brass will need painting.  I may fit red LEDs inside the brass washers, but I will make no attempt to make them work.  The backscene is really too close to imply the road continues on, but maybe Bob can work some magic with the artist brush.

Roadway line marking
I had considered using paint, and a bow pen for the line markings, but a chance comment that pencils were used for line marking on the NSW HO Stockinbingal layout, had me heading to Office Works for suitable markers.  As I have backdated the layout with upper quadrants, I also backdated the road, with yellow safety lines, as opposed to the bland white that is currently used in Australia.  The line marking was done by ruler, and freehand – and the line spacings are probably no-where near scale. Unfortunately, the pencil I chose was actually a  pascal, and would rub off (like chalk on a blackboard).  Easy fix with dullcoat I thought, although I think there was a reaction, and the yellow line tended to spread.  The picture above shows this worse than it looks like in person, and I will most likely leave it.

Telegraph line
I was given a eight second-hand N scale poles and whilst these are not NSWGR, they will do for now.  I “weather” them by painting the shiny plastic poles with a dirty turpentine mixture, which kills the shine, and dulls them down.  The insulators are then painted white.   Unfortunately,  I will have to use the poles sparingly, as I don’t have enough

A pair of lineside telegraph poles - the one on the left as supplied, the one on the right after the dirty turps wash, and insulator paint.  I think these poles are Atlas brand.  Their bases will be removed during installation on the layout.  They have little resemblance to NSWGR poles, but most viewer of the Bethungra layout are not going to notice these things

Ballasting is a task best attacked in small segments.  So far, around 1.5 mtres of track have been ballasted

Trees, and bushes.
This is a work in progress.  I want to get the majority of the ballasting completed before adding the trees, and bushes that may get in the way of the out of scale hands doing the ballasting.  I am trying to make some wirewrapped gum trees, and I hope the results will be good enough for my next blog post

The small details take time.  At what point do I stop?  This is a decision that confronts all layout builders.  I think I will have to run fencing, but roadside signs, and farmhouses may be a step too far.  After all, my long-term aim is to work on my Wagga layout/models.

Happy modelling