Monday, 17 December 2012

December update

Because of our busy social calendar in early December (my birthday) and the lead up to Christmas, I've not been able to spend much time on the layout lately. When work came to a halt last week I was working on three areas, switching between them as I waited for glue, etc. to dry.  Here's a quick update on how they're progressing:

This photo shows the area north of Davis. It took a couple of goes, but I finally got the road edges looking the way I wanted. Now I have to finish the road surface. The farther gravelled area is where the stock pens and loading chute will be located. The closer gravelled area is where livestock cars will be 'bedded'. Before livestock was loaded into stock cars, the floor was covered with a layer of (typically) straw or sand, to a depth of about 10cm (4"). I still have to add a pile of sand for the bedding, and scatter around some old straw, representing straw that was cleaned out of cars before new bedding was added.

I am especially grateful to my friend Gordon, from Texas, for his help with my mini-project on livestock movements. Livestock movement once played a big part on the (real) GC&SF, which even advertised itself as "The cattle route of Texas", and Gordon has happily shared his first-hand knowledge of and experience in that business with me. Thanks for all the help Gordon.

Although it's hard to see, this next photo shows the low hill and quarry located between Davis and Dougherty. I still have a lot more work to do on the quarry, and I'm not entirely happy with the way it's looking at present. The photo also shows the new fascia panel that I have installed here, which incorporates two cut-outs to house CCTV monitors covering the continuous run staging tracks that sit directly below the visible trackage at this point. When the terrain behind the fascia is further developed, I will cut the top of the fascia away to match the profile behind.

The final photo shows the south end of Dougherty, and the small rise that will eventually screen the view across to the quarry at Big Canyon (where the various bottles and tools are sitting). I've started work on the road that will cross the tracks here leading to both the depot (between the tracks, just to the left of the grey area) and the team track area (the gravelled surface at the foot of the hill).

I doubt that I'll get time to do much more work on the layout before Christmas, but with luck I should be able to get some work done between Christmas and New Year.

Thanks for looking.  And please have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Scenery update

After letting October slip by without a post, I decided that I should make a bigger effort to keep this blog up to date.  So here's an update on the scenery I've been working on since the last ops session.

This first picture shows the low hill that sits at the end of the Wynnewood/Davis peninsula. The hill will be moderately wooded to provide a sight screen, blocking the view from one side of the peninsula to the other..

The plastic bags are sitting where Johnstone Engineering (Davis) will be located. The single ended siding in the foreground is the Davis stock yard track. The pens and chute will be located on the gravelled area, and stock-car bedding will be done near the end of the track.  The tracks on the far side of the peninsula are for the Kerr-McGee refinery at Wynnewood. (I need a couple of TrainCat models 40' tank car loading platforms for here, but they seem to be unavailable.)

This next photo shows that I've started construction of a hill that will separate Davis from Dougherty.  In reality, that part of the railroad winds through Oklahoma's Arbuckle mountains, and comes to the edge of the Washita River in a couple of places.  Unfortunately, I don't have room to model those scenic features, which is a great pity as I was really hoping to model "The Cut" south of Davis, due to its picturesque nature and its history.

The cut-away section on the right is for the Southern Rock Asphalt quarry, which was actually located some distance from the rail line, but I've used my modeller's licence to relocate it close to town.

The small panel on the right of the fascia controls the hidden staging tracks that sit directly under the layout at this location.  When I rebuild the fascia for this section I will include CCTV monitoring of the staging yard tracks.

This last photo shows a small hill at the south end of Dougherty, which (once tree covered) will screen the view of the Dolese Bros. quarry at Big Canyon (on the other side of the peninsula).  If you look closely you can see the edge of the water pond at Big Canyon, in the background.

The masking tape across the tracks in the foreground is where I will locate a road.  The dark patch just right of centre will become a gravel area for loading/unloading cars on the team track.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Postcards from Davis

Building good scenery has never been one of my strong skills. That's partly because I'd rather be running trains than building scenery, and partly because I'm colour blind. The last time that I built any scenery was for my N-trak module, and the work had to be re-done because I had made the grass too bright. Or so I was told, but it looked fine to me :-)

With help from Rod and John F, my layout now has some scenery at Davis. There is still more work to be done, and the buildings need to be weathered, but even I have to admit that the improvement is enormous. So much so in fact that the organisers of the 13th National N Scale Convention have asked me for new photos to include on the Convention's layout tour page.

These are compressed versions of the images I'm offering. I wonder which will be accepted.

Thanks for looking.

November 9th operating session

Wow!  Here it is, November already, and I didn't post anything during October. So much for my plan to have at least one post every month...

Anyway, last Friday was once again operating night on the GC&SF. In contrast to the September session when everything ran about as smoothly as one could ever expect, we seemed to have problems right from the start. As a consequence of resolving one problem after another, I didn't remember to take many photos. Luckily, Bethie's catering was up to its usual high standard. (Thanks Beth.)

So here are the best of the few photos that I remembered to take.

Here, Vic and Rod are running the northbound Ardmore local, and preparing to set out a cut of empty gondolas at Dolese Bros. quarry at Big Canyon.

John F ran a southbound fast freight (train 37). In this photo he is doing his best to stay out of the photo, as his train passes through Davis.

Noel and Dennis ran the Pauls Valley turn. Here's Noel driving the train as it leaves Davis heading towards Wynnewood.

Here Barry is uncoupling cars from a northbound fast freight (train 38) at Ardmore.

I'm sorry I don't have more pics from this session, but thanks for looking anyway.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

14 September 2012 - Operating session

Last night we held another ops session on the GC&SF.  Apart from a few very minor glitches, the session  ran very well.  We operated the fast clock (Stan's Fast Clock) at 5:1 ratio, and managed to run all but one train to schedule. I originally planned to operate only the morning session of the timetable, but things ran so well that we started on the afternoon session as well.

Although the GC already has a wireless DCC system, on the night we also trialled the use of WiThrottle coupled with both iPhones and Android phones for throttles. The guys who used smart phones for throttles seemed quite pleased with their performance, but whether they'll use them in preference to their dedicated Digitrax throttles has yet to be seen.

Barry running the local out of Ardmore. Here he is doing some switching at Dougherty:

Dennis is running the morning north-end local, and has just left Pauls Valley on his way to Davis:

Charlie is delivering some propane cars to the refinery at Wynnewood. We're not exactly sure why the rear of the train is in the siding at Martin Fertilizer:

Vic and John C are the yard crew at Pauls Valley. Here's Vic switching some cars at the elevator:

Brendan operating the yard at Ardmore using his iPhone:

Dennis (middle) was switching Davis when a stock extra (driven by Rod on the left) arrived from the south, and a passenger train (driven by John F) arrived from the north. As the stock train was a little too long for the siding, and the passenger train only just fitted, some careful maneuvering was required for the trains to pass. John is using his Android smart phone as a throttle.

John and Rod celebrate a job "well done".

Vic and John C switching cars at Pauls Valley:

Charlie has gone for beans, and Rod has just delivered his stock cars to stock pens at Pauls Valley.  Pauls Valley yard crewmen John and Vic smile for the rail fan with the camera.

John F is building the afternoon local prior to departure from Davis:

Greg switching the afternoon Ardmore local freight at Dougherty:

My thanks go to all who came over last night to run the layout last night, and make it one of our best sessions.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Android throttle

A friend recently gave me an unwanted Android smart phone to play with, and this evening I pulled out my spare WiFi router and set up a network in my trainroom so I can try out the free Android "Engine Driver Throttle" JMRI application.

I'm very impressed with this bit of software, which is easier to install and configure than I had expected. Selecting and releasing locos is very easy - probably easier than on my DT402D. I haven't yet tried any of the advanced functions such as consisting, but I'll give that a go over the coming weekend.  (Edit: As it turns out, the "advanced features" are very limited. Consisting is possible, but only in elephant style.)

The JMRI web page for Engine Driver Throttle is here.

More information and the software can be obtained from here.

Note that Engine Driver throttle is for Android phones.  For devices running iOS, you can use WiThrottle (which is not free) or WiThrottle Lite (which is).

What a great way to extend the life of an unwanted smart phone.

Thanks for looking.


The latest version of Engine Driver allows three locos to be selected at once, and offers better consisting capability.  I just tried out this latest version and had three trains running around the layout at once using my smart phone. It's kinda neat being able to run three trains from the one hand-held device.

I also tested out the improved consisting capability. You just keep 'acquiring' the locos on the same throttle, and when you're done the s/w allows you to specify which loco is "lead" loco (it defaults to the first selected), and to specify the direction of travel of each loco. You can add extra locos by 'acquiring' them as you want to.  I didn't think to test how to remove a loco from the consist, or how to change settings such as the direction of travel of individual locos, once you've built the consist. Perhaps the worst negative was that when you release the top loco the consist is lost.

Anyway, this piece of software is certainly evolving in the right direction - and it's FREE!!


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Scenery at Davis

Rod came over this afternoon, and we started on the scenery for Davis.  Well, actually, Rod did most of the creative work, while I made the tea, got the biscuits, etc...

Here's Rod taking a brief break to smile for the camera:

Here's how it looked when we knocked off for the day:

There's still a lot more to be done before those grain-loaded trucks can make their deliveries to the elevator.

That's it for today. Thanks for looking.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


For the past few days I've been assembling my Central Valley truss bridge kit. When I first opened the package, I thought it looked quite daunting. However, the kit is very well thought out, and assembles quite nicely. There is a bit of flash and extraneous moulding stuff that has to be removed, but the plastic is very easy to work with, and not as brittle as it first looks.

The only real snag that I encountered was in the final step, which required me to thread some string-line (representing cables) through parts of the structure. Well, after trying for some time, I gave up on that. Now that I know how the kit assembles, (next time) I would thread the line as I assembled the parts, rather than leaving it until last. My 'plan B' is to use some fine spring steel to represent the cables, but I don't have any that is suitable at present.

Here's the kit as it now looks:

This is a very nice looking bridge and should look great once I've painted and weathered it.

The smaller deck-girder bridge is from GreenMax, and will be used as one of the approaches to the truss bridge. There should be two girder bridges end-to-end, but I don't have the space for both of them.

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Work resumes ....

I haven't done much on the layout lately, but I received a parcel of GreenMax building kits from PlazaJapan today, and it shook me out of my lethargy.  I think I had become a bit bored with working on Davis, and needed to do something else for a while.

Here's an aerial shot of Davis as it now looks, showing the final road arrangement:

Davis is at the point where I can start to add some basic greenery, but as I'm colour-blind, I'm not game to tackle that without help.

The main (and cheapest) item in the package from Japan was a GreenMax deck girder bridge kit, which I want to use (in conjunction with a Central Valley truss bridge) for the crossing of the Washita River.  Although there was once a truss bridge of some sort across the Washita River between Big Canyon and Gene Autry, it was gone by 1960. However, I don't like the bridge that now stands there, so I'm taking some "modellers' licence".

So this afternoon, inspired by the arrival of the GreenMax bridge, I set to work on the river crossing. I had already done some work shaping the Arbuckle mountains further upstream, using blue foam sheets. But I found that job to be more difficult than it looks. Today I went back to the tried-and-true cardboard strip method for the hill and cliff-face on the north side of the river. Here's how it looked after the cardboard webbing was installed:

The clothes pegs are to hold the webbing together while the glue sets. I found that idea on someone's blog, but I forget whose blog it was. To that unknown person go my thanks.

The webbing isn't as close as I have used previously, but that's because my next step was to cover the cardboard web with masking tape:

The Washita River is actually quite wide at the point that I'm modelling, and the slope down to the river on this side should be quite gentle rather than the steep drop that I have built. I'll take another look at that slope tomorrow, but I don't have enough space to do a more accurate representation, and still include the rugged cliff face at Big Canyon. This final picture shows what the area looks like now, although the view is from the opposite side of the tracks (ie the backdrop side).

Too bad I'm not modelling this scene from the opposite side. My representation could be very close.

To see how the area really looked from the aisle side back in the era that I'm modelling, click here.

Well that's it for today. Thanks for looking.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Operating session 13th July 2012

Here are some of the photos that were taken during the GC&SF ops session held on Friday 13th July.

Is Friday the 13th unlucky? It certainly was for John F. who featured in every disaster we had for the evening. They weren't John's fault ... but we still blamed him anyway.

In this first pic, Ron and Noel are discussing a train in staging, while John C (yard operator at Ardmore) and John F are working a north-bound freight train.

Brendan and Vic operating the Pauls Valley yard. Noel is watching as Dennis is switching at Wynnewood.

Rod (in the back) is running a passenger train while Barry and Greg watch.

Charlie is running the Ardmore local, and is switching some cars at Dougherty.

John F, Brendan and Vic contemplating what has to be done, while a north-bound train load of tank cars passes through town.

Dennis, operating the Pauls Valley local freight, waits for an extra driven by Rod to clear the main.

Ooops ... Dennis has just discovered that the battery in his wireless throttle has died, while John F was driving a train through town.

Rod in the background, John F and John C.  We had a lot of fun....

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Davis update

Today I painted the rail at Davis.  Before picking up the brush I did some research into what other modellers do to make their track look more realistic. I was tempted to try painting the ties and rail in the secondary track differently to the mainline track, to represent the fact that it received less maintenance. I finally decided that I should learn to crawl before I try walking, and left the ties alone.

After considering and trying several options, I brushed Floquil Roof Brown on the sides of the rail.  It didn't go on as thick as I would have liked, but seemed okay at the time.  Now that I look at the photos though, I think it needs another coat.

The plastic rail joiners in the photo were installed when my layout was still operating on DC/cab-control. I plan to rewire the two turnouts in this photo as I did with the ones here, and when I do that I will also replace the plastic joiners with metal ones.

Here's a view of Davis with the roads installed and the rails painted:
Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Refinery train at Davis

The rest of the tank cars that I had on order arrived today, and I wasted little time in replacing their pizza-cutter wheelsets with low-profile wheels, before putting the cars into service.

Here is the train, northbound at Davis:

As you can also see in the photo, I've started painting the styrene roads with several shades of grey to represent asphalt surface that has been installed and repaired at different times. Once that's done, I'll glue it into place, and then do some more work on the surface with chalks and pencils.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Street building at Davis....

Over the past few days I've been cutting and painting styrene sheet for the streets at Davis. The following photo shows the general arrangement, but I (then) still had to cut and fit the bits that will go between the rails:

The photo also shows that I've cut and installed the brick sheet for the passenger platform at the Davis depot.

I was originally planning for all the roads to represent asphalt surfaces, but after spending some time "driving" around Davis on Google Streetview, I decided that the roads between the station and the backdrop will be concrete with kerbing. This photo shows those sections after I have scribed the gaps in the the concrete surface, and added the kerbing (which is 0.040" x 0.040" styrene strip).

I still have to paint these sections a light grey to represent concrete.

I'm planning to put several buildings or building flats along the wall behind the depot, to represent the business district of Davis.

The two roads that lead off the aisle side of the depot have been painted in various shades of grey to represent asphalt that has been laid and repaired at different times. Once all the roads have been installed I will attack them with chalks to give them a well-used appearance.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Tank cars

Today I placed into service the first of several batches of new tank cars which will run in my "refinery extra" that switches tank cars at the Kerr-McGee Refinery at Wynnewood.

This first photo shows the six tank cars lined up on the siding at Wynnewood. The silver cars are stock Bachmann 36'6" single-dome tank cars lettered for TEXACO. The black cars are Micro-Trains 10,000 gallon single-dome tank cars that I painted and lettered for TEXACO, using decals that I got from a custom decal maker who is no longer in business. (That's a pity, as these were the easiest decals I've ever worked with.)
Here's a photo showing a side-by-side comparison of the two types of tank car:

I'm very impressed with the Bachmann car. It has very fine details, low-profile metal wheels and operating body-mounted knuckle couplers (although I find them to be a bit big). It compares very well with Atlas and MTL offerings, and makes a nice change from the MTL single dome car.

Jerry's decals were a delight to work with, and they're the easiest decals I've ever applied. I used Tamiya TS-29 Semi-Gloss Black (spray can) for the base coat, and then applied Testor's Glosscote (spray) for a smooth surface to apply the decals on. When the decals were dry I gave the cars a coat of Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear (spray can).  I only wish that it was that easy to paint and decal ATSF box cars.

I also have on order a Micro-Trains runner pack of TEXACO tank cars, and I can't wait to have the whole train in action.

Postscript: Since painting these cars I've come to the conclusion that this black/white scheme is a not correct. I've yet to find a photo of a car in this scheme, and judging by the photos I've seen, it seems that most of the cars in the 3XXX number range were 8000 gallon capacity or thereabouts (not 10k as these MTL cars are supposed to be). Oh well, they're not the only foobies I have on the layout, and they'll do as stand-ins until I can replace them.  (That's a pity though, as I like this scheme.)