Monday 26 June 2023

Finding a train room (2)

 Converting half my garage into a train room.  The saga continues

The ongoing joke with my modelling friends, is where will I be placing all those structures I am making, as  I still do not have a layout. 

Anyone in the AR region of the NMRA will recognise this picture, as it is the background for the 23/24 membership card.  I took this picture of the XPT from the Kemp Street bridge at Junee in February 2023.  Al Harris (the membership officer) asked me if I had anything suitable as a background, and he selected this shot from the half dozen I sent him


The idea was to convert the rear of my 12 x 9 metre garage into a purpose built train room, measuring 9 x 6 metres.  The garage had been built around 1990, and the original owners, had provisioned plumbing in the slab, as well as windows, and doors for a room, and ensuite. 

 To save me repeating, I will refer the reader to my earlier post, posted in 2018.

Since then

Back in 2018, I knew there would be some delays, as there were some necessary steps I needed to do to clear the rear of the brick garage, primarily related with storage.

I obtained a 20 foot container, and positioned this down near my water tanks.  

In 2019, I had a 2 car garage installed, to hide the container

After fitting out with shelves, the parking space on the RHS was immediately taken up to house a dog trailer that previously was stored outside, and in my opinion, should have been left there.  On the LHS, some of the timber, and sheets of plywood for the future layout.

An addition to the brick garage put in by the original owners, was a brick wall, to enclose what I expect was for the original ensuite.  This wall had to go, as it was too wide for my planned ensuite, and if left, would have imposed on the aisle widths, and track radius

The bricks had been laid directly onto the concrete slab, which allowed their removal leaving no imperfections, apart from a ghost image in the floor 

Almost gone.  The bricks were recycled and stacked outside.  The mortar was broken up into small lumps, and filled some holes in my driveway.  Note the plumbing in the slab

In the middle of 2019, I had another unexpected delay.  That was the need to construct an N scale layout - an interpretation of the Bethungra Loop, for the local Broadway museum.  The space in the brick garage that I had cleared, became the work area. 

The Bethungra loop layout just prior to its extraction from my garage in mid 2020.  I wrote up this build in around 10 blog posts, which you can find if you put in "Bethungra" into the search area on the top RHS of this blogpost

Fires and Covid

The summer of 2019/20 was a disaster.  Whilst the closest fire was Dunns Road megafire in Jan and February, it had a major effect on the whole S.E NSW area. 

Here is a real colour image of the smoke from the Dunns Road fire, taken from my front driveway.  The fire front was around 50 km away.  The particulate matter count in Junee on Feb 4th 2020 was 9,132 - where 200 is deemed hazardous

Rebuilding from the fires, gave a lot of work to the local building firms.

Then came Covid.  Whilst the shutdowns did not significantly affect movement in NSW country areas, there was an exodus of people wanting to permanently leave Sydney.  And their destinations were the regional towns/cities.  Wagga Wagga seemed to be very popular, and the number of new houses being built just soaked up any spare building capacity......and it is still happening

Which made my small refurbishment unimportant in the scheme of things.

I had approached 4 builders directly - 2 actually showed up to inspect the work, and then disappeared.  Even an online request via hi-pages failed to attract any interest

Recent thoughts

Of course, in hindsight, the 2 car garage in the paddock could have been made larger, and it could have housed my proposed layout.  If I had known the issues of obtaining builders now, then it would have been perfectly acceptable.  I even contemplated simply building the layout in the brick garage, and not worry about  walls, ceilings, ensuite, kitchette.  Although that would have lead to other problems, vermin (mouse), dust, temperature variations, and the reality that the layout would forever be compromised, and maybe get abandoned

White knight

One of my mates, Brett has in the last month taken pity on my plight.  He recently was with the NSW Public Works department, but had left to take up an assessor role with the insurance industry.  He knew of my desire for a layout, and offered to assist me in the build.  As can be expected, he has a day job, but my room is something that can be built on occasional weekends, without a fixed schedule which suits us both.  Brett's skills are as a chippy, but has contacts from his previous experience, which is great

Bunnings delivering the first material.  Brett had arranged a material quote with Bunnings, which I paid for

Timber Framing, yellow tongue sheeting, and some other hardware as delivered to my driveway.  As rain was expected, I needed to move all this under cover - the 20 sheets of Yellow tongue proved to be a 3 hr challenge - who needs gyms

The wall framed out

And mounted upright.  Brett insisted that if I wanted 6 metres, then I would get 6 metres, so the wall imposes a little on the garage car space.  I am really happy with this compromise

Another change from my original idea was to install a doorway from the train room, into the garage area. The doorway will be a big benefit later, although it will affect the length of the staging tracks at that end.  

Next steps.

I have to arrange an electrician to rough out the wiring for the power points, room lights, and future air conditioning.  More timber will be needed to frame out the ensuites area, and for the plaster board sheeting in the walls, and ceiling.  I also need to further clear my train room area - there is still too much stuff in the way

Until next time, build a model (or two)

Monday 5 June 2023

Solving the HO housing crisis? Scratchbuilding the Docker Street Gatekeeper cottage

 HO model of the Docker Street gatekeeper cottage

Making models out of styrene is an aspect of the hobby I am finding quite satisfying.  Not having a kit, or even plans just adds to the challenge.  And selection of prototype specific structures, firmly sets the location for the model.

My picture of the cottage taken in 1997, just after the headshunt track (for the gasworks siding) had been removed

There are no kits for this design of cottage, but the high peaked roof is indicative of the gothic style used by Whitton for other stations made in the 1880s during the railway's rapid expansion in NSW.  This cottage, and the now demolished cottage at Urana Street had the same basic design, although each got unique additions.

I have more prototype pictures on an earlier blog post


Plans were made from photos, and certain aspects of other buildings I did have plans for. Note, I corrected an error in the roof above from the plans I posted earlier.

Making the cottage out of styrene

The first stage is the tedious step, and takes a good number of hours - cutting out.  I use .040 thou Evergreen brand styrene, which is a compromise with strength, and ease of cutting.

All main walls. Note the fibro annex off the rear (northern wall) is not shown, nor is there any window or door on the northern wall.

The slots in the walls are made by chain drilling, and then cutting out with a sharp hobbyknife.  Working from left to right - mark the area with soft pencil; drill a series of holes; cleanup with a knife

Basic assembly, on a base of 0.040 styrene, with cutouts to enable access to the interior after the roof goes on

The roof is the most complex part of the build. Carefully take measurements from the plan, and cuts need to be made on my dwinding supply of evergreen corrugated styrene.  Even so, I did get a few gaps, as can be seen in the above picture.  I filled these with plastic putty.  Re-inforcement of the valleys between the 4 gables was more trial and error

Whilst nowhere as complex as Wagga Station, I still have more things to learn.  The valleys between the roof gables should include a channel, and my roof method doesn't make provisions for it.  Perhaps filling the valleys with leaves may hide things later?

Front veranda awning, and slot for the chimney

Fibro Annex added - it is loose, as I have made some provision for dropping this lower than the main structure which is something that the prototype did

Facias, roof capping, chimney, veranda posts, trim, guttering, and downpipes finish the basic building - now awaiting paint.  I covered my chimney construction, roof capping, and downpipe methods in earlier blog posts.

The lower wall of the fibro annex can be seen in this picture.  It can be positioned lower

I used the same heritage colour that was on the blockwork of Wagga station, rather than the harsh white of my prototype picture.  Why? It seemed right to tie the two models together, and I already had the paint (a Taubmanns "Bamboo Cane" Sample Pot from Bunnings).  This paint was starting to go off, and I had to strain out some lumps, before thinning for the spraying.  

At this point (about 3 weeks ago), my steady progress stopped, and I didn't get back to the workbench to work on the model for 2 weeks.  

A very rough masking of the walls for the Tamiya flat green, and spray paint.  Some parts of the roof didn't quite get the coverage, and were touched up with a brush.  Similar brushwork on the veranda awning.  Tamiya white on the facias, and Tamiya Aluminium for the guttering

Windows were drawn and painted on clear styrene with a bow pen for the mullions, and brush for the edges.  When dry, these would be cut for each window opening

Weathering with pastel rust powder changed the colour of the roof to be closer to the olive of the protoype roof in my 1997 colour picture.  But, I probably overdid it a bit.

After fitting the windows, and doors, the model is now essentially complete.  There is always more that could be done (such as switch boards, and outside toilet block), and I will wait final placement on the layout. I could also fit an interior, as the cottage is to be placed on the asile side of the tracks

 This cottage will not win any awards, as the painted windows lack the 3D effect.  This was a compromise for speed, over fidelity.


Setting a specific location for a layout is a two edge sword.  Selection of scenery, buildings, and other prototype features is a simple matter of just observation, has been done for you.  However, the downside can be a challenge; locating photos of now disappeared structures and then making plans if none exist increases the sense of satisfaction upon completion.

(I am sorry for the delay in posting - but I didn't want to finish this post with yet another unfinished building)

Until next time