Thursday, 5 December 2013

Tank-car loading platforms - almost done

Constructing the first tank-car loading platform was more challenging than I had expected, mainly due to my 63 year old eyesight.  After consulting with the guys, and on the recommendation of Darren, I bought a "headband magnifier" from Jaycar, before tackling the remaining two kits.  The magnifier worked a treat, and I'll get a lot of use from it in future.

The second kit went together with far less stress than the first, and came out a lot better.  By the time I'd finished the third I had developed some techniques which resulted in much better workmanship, and this third assembly is easily the best of the three.  After finishing the third kit I went back to the first and repaired the damaged access platform.

Here's how the three platforms look posed temporarilly on the 'concrete' at the refinery.

While positioning the platforms I found that on the first platform that I assembled (the one on the right) one of the access platforms had become glued into the horizontal position, and would not clear cars. While forcing it upwards, I broke the glue connection on one of the diagonal braces, which is why it looks crooked in the photo.

Here are some pictures of the refinery scene, with tank cars spotted along both sides of the platforms:

In answer to Rod's question against the previous post, I've decided to paint these platforms a grimy black, which seems to be appropriate for the era based on the few photos that I can find online.  I still need to add pipes and filling hoses and nozzles for LPG/propane.  TrainCat provides instructions for adding equipment for loading bulk oil, but I suspect that it is not appropriate for loading LPG.  If anyone knows where to get that equipment please let me know.

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tank-car loading platforms - one down, two to go...

Back in this post I mentioned that I had some TrainCat tank-car loading platforms on order for the Kerr McGee Refinery at Wynnewood.  The kits arrived a few weeks back, but today was my first chance to tackle building them.

TrainCat describes these kits as being "a quick one evening kit", and that is probably true if you've had experience with similar kits before.  But this was the first brass kit of any sort that I've assembled, and I found the job to be a lot more fiddly than I had expected.  All up, it took me about 4 hours from Go to Whoa which I guess does meet the "one evening" description, and I'm sure that I will reduce that substantially when I do the next two kits.

The quality of the kits and instructions is very good, although I did have one piece break when I folded it over.  I glued the parts together and they seemed fine, until the glue joint failed when I accidentally put too much pressure on it during final assembly.

Here's the assembled kit sitting on my work map.  You can see that the access platform on the far side is missing one of the handrails.

I'll repair the damaged platform in a day or two, after the rest of the glue has set properly.

Time to get back to work. Thanks for looking.


Friday, 18 October 2013

New (sort of) 'puter for the layout

The old laptop that I've been using to run JMRI/DecoderPro and Stan's Fast Clock has been giving me a bit of grief whenever I try to operate JMRI WiThrottle server. The network between the laptop and the wireless router kept dropping out for no reason that we could identify.

So yesterday I installed an old desk-top PC and monitor in place of the lappie. I installed DecoderPro and added my loco roster, so you can select the loco you want to use from the list provided on the smart-phone:

To be honest though, I think that it will probably be quicker to just enter the loco number than to scroll through the list of nearly 50 locomotives for the one you're after.

Greg and Brendan will no doubt be pleased that I have this sorted now, as they sometimes use their smart-phones as throttles.

Thanks for looking.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Operating the GC&SF - October 2013

Here are some photos that I took at last Friday night's operating session on the GC&SF.  Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of everbody who attended, and I apologise to those that I missed.

First off, this is the starting line-up in the south staging yard.

From left to right, the trains are:
1. the Ardmore local, with empty gondolas for the quarries at Big Canyon and Dougherty,
2. a north-bound through freight (train 38),
3. The Texas Chief,
4. another north-bound through freight (train 40),
5. The Ranger, and
6. a stock-car extra.

The GP7s are Atlas, the E6s and PAs are Lifelike, and the FTs are Micro-Trains.  The track on the far right is the hidden continuous run connection between Ardmore and Pauls Valley. It doesn't get used during operating sessions.

Here's Noel running The Ranger northwards through Big Canyon:
Brendan is collecting cars at Davis for the morning run to Pauls Valley:
It's good to see the car-card sorting shelves being used as I intended.

Here's Charlie preparing to leave south staging with train 38:
Vic and Greg ran the yard at Ardmore. Here's Vic, but I didn't get a photo of Greg
Here's Charlie again, demonstrating what happens when you don't look ahead. He's just discovered that there's already a train sitting on the main at Gene Autry.  (No, that's NOT a mid-train BAAB loco set.)
He was a much happier fellow by the time his train passed Big Canyon quarry:
I believe that the crusher kit (Walther's Glacier Gravel) is based on the actual Dolese Bros. structure at Big Canyon. I have some TrainCat conveyors on order to add to this scene. 

This is Darren bringing the Ardmore local freight into Dougherty:
Left to right, Noel, John F, Brendan (background) and John C at Ardmore.  John F is operating the southbound through freight that is visible in the distance. John C is running Pauls Valley.
John F's through freight is passing through Big Canyon, while Darren's local freight crew waits on the siding for the main track to become available for switching.
That's it for this session. Thanks for looking.


Monday, 30 September 2013

Rock face at Big Canyon

At the top of his Zebras and Warbonnets blog, Geoff Hoad has a great photo (taken by C. Dwane Stevens) of the AT&SF main track just south of the Big Canyon quarry, where the rail line squeezes in between the Washita River and the Arbuckle Mountains.

Early in September I started to do some work on the rock faces that I'm building to represent this area on my layout.  I did some more carving of the foam 'cliffs' and then masked off the track in preparation for adding some plaster the next day.  As fate would have it, that 'next day' took several weeks to arrive.

Here's how the scene looked when I finished work for the day, all those weeks ago:

This is a closer view of the rock face:

The technique I used was a blend of ideas that I had seen elsewhere. I started by filling the unwanted holes and gaps (especially those between the layers of foam) with plaster. A few days later I chipped away any plaster that was in the wrong places, and then repeated the process with grey grout.

While the grout was drying I painted on a wash of very dilute black paint, allowing it to soak into the plaster and grout. Unfortunately, I was too aggressive in applying this wash, and I washed much of the plaster and grout out of the gaps between the foam layers. Here's how it looked after this work:

As the wash dried I noticed that in many places the blue foam was still showing through, So I painted these areas with various shades of thinned grey latex paint. After it dried I applied another layer of black wash to blend it all together.

To finish off, I painted the top of the hill and the river bank, both of which will eventually be covered by grass, bush and trees, with my chosen earth tones.

Here's how the scene looked as the paint was drying.
This is the first time I've ever tried to model a rock face, and I think that from a distance it looks fairly good. Up close though (at normal viewing distance) it's a different story. The horizontal gaps between the layers of foam, the rounded blobs of plaster, and the small gaps where the foam still shows through, all have to go.

The cliff face will stay as it is for now, but after my October operating session I will tackle it again.  I've learned a lot from this exercise, and I know I can do much better, now that I know what pitfalls to watch out for.

Thanks for following along.


Saturday, 17 August 2013

August operating session

I called the crew together to run the GC&SF again last night. A few of the guys couldn't make it, but we still had a starting crew of eight, which is enough to operate with a 6:1 fast clock.

Overall, everything went very well, although we had several problems with passenger cars separating. Many of my passenger cars have MTL trucks that I bought way back in the '70s, and they don't have the reverse-angle draft gear knuckles. They've been troublesome for quite a while, and I think that the time has come for me to do something about them.

Before the session started we had a show-and-tell from John C., who brought along his sound-equipped BLI PA locomotives for me to test out on the layout. The BLI PAs are the most accurate N-scale models of ATSF PAs available, but they don't pull as well as my LifeLike models (but then, what does?).  We cranked the sound right up (too loud, really), and were all very impressed by both their appearance and their sound. I have a few matters to look into, but it looks like I might get myself a BLI PA/PB set.

Here are some photos from the night. This is Darren collecting cars at Davis before making the run to Pauls Valley.

John C. (yard operator at Pauls Valley) is cutting the way-car from a southbound fast freight operated by Barry, before adding some freight cars:

Brendan is switching empty gondolas for loaded ones at Dougherty:
Vic is running the southbound "Ranger", which is being pulled by John C's PA/PB/PA lashup:
We were all impressed by how well these BLI locos looked and sounded:
So impressed, in fact, that I now have a PA and PB (both powered) on order.

Greg (yard operator at Ardmore) is switching cars while a northbound train of tank cars awaits the arrival of the southbound "Ranger".
Charlie's tank car train is sitting on the main track at Wynnewood waiting for the southbound local operated by Darren to complete some switching moves. When Darren has finished, Charlie has to swap some tank cars at the Kerr-McGee Refinery.
I think it was another great session, and I'm really enjoying seeing the GC&SF operated the way I intended. Thanks guys for coming over. The next session is scheduled for mid-October.

Thanks for looking.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Another Wynnewood update

I've been doing a bit of work at Wynnewood lately, and the basic scenery is coming together. This photo shows the work in progress.  The roads are done, and I've made a strong start on the base ground cover in the gravel and grassy areas.  The area in the far distance is looking dark because the ground foam is still wet.

Here's how it looked a few days later, with the cars and structures set up in readiness for my operating session of 16th August:

I still have more work to do in the area behind the station, but I can't do that until I've decided what structures will be used there. I've also noticed that TrainCat is once again posting on the forums, and I'm hopeful that I'll soon be able to get some loading platforms for the refinery (they'll sit between the tracks where the tank cars are sitting).


Monday, 22 July 2013

Car-card sorting shelves

I'm a big fan of car-card and waybill systems, but one of its weaknesses is the need for the operators to manage/juggle a bunch of cards in addition to running the train. It helps greatly to have 2-person crews, so one can drive the train and the other can handle the paperwork as would a real conductor. Then there's the question of where can the conductor place the cards so he can sort out what work has to be done. If the layout has no scenery then they might be tempted to place the cards right on the layout itself, but that's not acceptable if the layout has scenery.

To help my crews, I've installed shelves (for want of a better name) like this around my layout:

I stole this idea from Rob McM's "Pacifico" layout.

My shelves were made by gluing a 10mm strip of 3mm MDF board along the bottom edge of a 35mm strip of 3mm MDF. They were then painted and attached to the fascia using double-sided tape. You can get a better idea of how they're made from this next photo:

I contemplate that when a train arrives at a town to do some switching, the crew will place the car-cards for the cars to be switched out, or perhaps those to be collected, in the shelf nearest to the industry. Whatever works for the individual operators is fine with me.

My shelves haven't been tested in an operating session yet, but John F. has made some as well, and says that they worked out very well, and he received favourable comments from the operators at his last session (which I was unable to attend).

Thanks for looking.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Operating session 14 June 2013

Last Friday we finally held the first operating session on the GC&SF for 2013.  I was a bit concerned about how things would go in Dougherty, Davis and Wynnewood, where I've been doing some scenery work this year, but as far as I'm aware there were no problems at all. One turnout at Big Canyon did cause some electrical issues, and we had some derailments caused by wheelsets dropping out of trucks (odd, since the cars are not new) and one problem with a coupler trip pin on a new Atlas car. But otherwise, things seem to have run very well.

The guys did a great job of running the layout, and it's always very pleasing to see it running the way I've intended it to be run. Thanks guys!

Here are some photos that I took on the evening. I didn't check my camera settings before taking these photos, and the depth of field is not good.

JohnF and JohnC (Pauls Valley yard operator for the evening) at Pauls Valley. JohnF is waiting for his train to ascend the grade from north-end staging.

Here's Rod with the northbound passenger Train 6 at Wynnewood:

Train 6 is arriving at Pauls Valley, where southbound freight Train 37 operated by JohnF is being worked by yardmaster JohnC:

Over at Ardmore, yardmaster Brendan is removing cars from the Ardmore local freight, operated by Noel and Dennis (out of shot). Noel is selecting the car-cards he has to hand over to Brendan.

Brendan is using his iPhone to run locos using JMRI and WiThrottle.  The system also works with Android smart phones running Engine Driver.  If you have a spare wireless router and a smart phone it's a great addition to an existing DCC system (wireless or otherwise).

Here's another photo of action at Ardmore, which turned out to be the only picture that I took with Dennis in it. What is Dennis doing?

Greg ran the Pauls Valley local freight.  In this picture, the locos and caboose have just arrived on the house track, behind the depot.

These photos taken by Greg show what can happen when a train's driver doesn't notice that a wheelset has come adrift from its truck:

The guilty driver (that would be me) was ridiculed for his lack of attentiveness, in the time-honoured tradition:

And over at Pauls Valley, someone forgot to realign a siding switch ahead of the northbound Kansas Cityan:

It looks like safety standards are slipping on the GC&SF!

Thanks for coming over guys, and thanks also for running the layout so well.


Monday, 10 June 2013

Another Wynnewood update

Well, I didn't achieve my goal of having the base scenery down at Wynnewood by the end of May, and with the next GC&SF operating session just a few days off I have packed away my tools and equipment so I can get the layout back to operating readiness.

These photos show what I did get done, and trust me when I say that many hours of work went into getting this done! The first picture shows that I have installed the main roads and the brick and concrete bases for the depot and various industries. The large pads in the foreground are for the Kerr McGee refinery. I've also marked out where some secondary roads will go, but not yet built them.
This photo shows how the town looks with the (mostly unpainted) buildings in place, and cars spotted.

I want to install two or three of TrainCat's  tank car loading platforms on the concrete pad between the two rows of tank cars, if they ever again become available.
Thanks for looking.


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Wynnewood progress report

As today is the middle day of the month, I thought I should post a progress report on my plan to have the base scenery at Wynnewood done by the end of the month.

My temporary job as manager of the Akoonah Park camping ground is taking up a lot of my time, so I'm well behind schedule. Actually, it's not so much the time the job requires, as it is the frequent 30 minute interuptions to the day.

Nevertheless, progress has been made.  I've worked out where the roads will go, and made a start on them.  I've also built the core buildings for Martin Fertilizer and Musgrove Lumber.  The original plan was for Musgrove Lumber to have a row of buildings along both sides of the rail siding, but after experimenting with cardboard mock-ups, I feel that having buildings on the aisle side of the track will make it very difficult for operators to work the siding. I'll ask the guys what they think when they come over for my next operating session in mid June.

I've also installed the foundation and "brick" paving for the depot, and slightly realigned the station siding.  And I have painted the rails - the mainline got two coats of rail brown, and the secondary tracks got a coat of rail brown followed by a coat of red-brown.

I still have a lot more prep work to get done before I can start laying the ground cover. If I can't finish it by the end of May, I have a 'hard' target of getting it done before the June operating session.


Friday, 3 May 2013

Martin Fertilizer, Wynnewood

I've set myself the target of having the base scenery done at Wynnewood by the end of this month. That's a big challenge for me as I haven't even built the core structures for Wynnewood yet, or even decided where they (or the roads) will go.

So, over the past two evenings I've been building Martin Fertilizer. I was planning on using a structure I made for my N-trak module, but decided I wanted something a little bigger, and more like the real building.

Courtesy of Google Streetview, here is the real Martin Fertilizer:

And here is my model:

I had to estimate the dimensions.  And I should have referred to the photos more frequently than I did because I missed one door completely and placed another in the wrong place.  I've left the roof off until after I paint the building and install the window glazing).

This building is not served by rail, but the location of the disused siding at the rear of the building leads me to think that it once might have been. That's certainly enough evidence for me to exercise my modellers' licence.
I will be modelling Martin Fertilizer in earlier (and hopefully more prosperous) times.  I believe that the siding behind Martin Fertilizer once extended beyond W. Seminole Street.

In the top right-hand corner of the last photo you can see some of the sheds at Musgrove Lumber, which is the next industry I have to model.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

13th Australian N Scale Convention

Well, the 2013 Convention has been and gone, and I totally enjoyed every moment of it.  We had around 170 delegates and partners, including six from the USA.

We had clinics - here's Jim Younkins from the USA presenting an entertaining clinic on how he designed and built his home layout:

We had layout tours, including the GC&SF. Here are some of the visitors outside my train room:

(That shed in the distance is the garden shed. My train room is hidden by the bushes on the left.)

For me, one of the big surprises from this convention was the discovery that there are two extremely good N scale layouts modelling Victorian locations, within minutes of my place.  I am really looking forward to visiting these layouts so I can see them up close.  Darren and Chris do excellent work.

Darren Lagerwey watches the action on Darren French's "Cann River" layout:

Chris Pearce's "Wallan":

The guest speaker at the convention dinner was Craig Martyn from BLMA Models:

A special treat for our crew was that our friend and mentor Rod Warren won the 2013 Dane Parker Award.  Here he is being presented with the trophy by Roger Vistarini:

Congratulations Rod!

All of the above photos were taken by Debra Vistarini (but I have cropped several of them).  There are more photos from Debra on the convention site here.

Now that the convention is out of the way I have no more excuses for not getting on with the modelling.

Thanks for reading.