Sunday 4 June 2023

Some Alterations Done

 I'm still poking around where the incline is. The new incline is working well but the set of carriages which caused me to change it still has some problems. To be correct, a couple of carriages have problems and it appears that the chassis is twisted by not very much but enough to cause a problem, not just on the incline but in other areas too - mainly on curves.

Yesterday, I decided to complete a job that I thought should only take ten minutes. I wanted to add a siding at the coal mine for a couple of extra hoppers. I have a hopper from the loco depot and an American hopper, which was a gift from an American friend, that travels to my Tathra station for unloading. I could be good to unload some supplies at the mine as well. I did think that it would be a good spot for my explosives van until it was pointed out to me that using dynamite in a coal mine would kill everyone. I'm sure other supplies could be dropped off there.

As I like photos, here is the process.


I marked where the point is going and used a razor saw on the ends of the track to mark on the track where to cut.

I then removed the length of track and believe it or not, cut out the middle. It seemed easier than trying to measure small bits of track.

Job done. How long did it take? About half an hour but about half of that was putting in the siding after finding a suitable piece of scrap cork. I then planed the top of the baseboard so that I can attach a facia board with a bit of height to prevent accidental knocking off of trains to the floor. It hasn't happened yet but I reckon it could be a possibility.


Before I took the last image, I also installed the windows int he coal tipple and reassembled it.

I've a busy week ahead with work and I reckon my fifteen minutes a day will be running trains.

Until next time.

Sunday 14 May 2023

New Incline

 Last Sunday I wrote about having trains running by Friday. That didn't happen. I had to order some more cork off ebay which arrived on Thursday. I painted it yesterday and it's ready to go onto the layout. The incline has been installed and I padded out a section with some green foam which I bought at Bunnings a long time ago. It now looks like this:

Compare it to before.

This time I have more space for the track. It will be laid directly onto the cork on top of the plywood incline. In the image above you can see where the incline is exposed. It had picture mounting board on it, if fact the rest of it still does and you can see the same closer to the camera. I used this method on my last layout and it ran faultlessly. Like last time I used 4th radius set track on the inner curve, however, this time I also used it on the outer curve with some short straight sections in between each double curve section to help maintain the space between the tracks. I also used set track spacing which is wider. I did this to speed up track laying of a slightly tricky bit. The cardboard was wider, but it hung over the side of the Woodland Scenics foam inclines. I propped up the edges with some foam core board. This wasn't always spot on. I'd rushed the job originally and spent way too much time fixing bits if it.

Hopefully, by this time next week, trains will be running again.

Until next time.

Sunday 7 May 2023

Stuff Has Happened

 In the last few months a lot of stuff has happened. But if I didn't blog it, did it really happen?

The last post finished with more track painting. That was done. 

I put in a section a section above the mainline on the top level for a little town scene. I've now inherited all of Dad's Metcalfe buildings, so there is a row of shops roughly placed on the top.

The next stuff to be done was the baseboard next to the station. This was put in place and buildings taken out of storage. I seem to have enough buildings to build a small city - which was the idea with the first layout in this location. I've placed a few buildings on the layout to see what it looks like. See the first picture.

It's a small square with a market. I think the bus stop might need to go but realistically, the main purpose was to empty a couple of boxes.

On the rear of this square is a small goods yard, utilising Dad's Metcalfe buildings from a small shunting layout that he enjoyed building. I though it would be good to try and replicate  part of his layout. I've done my best to get something that is fun to shunt. See the next picture for that.

I've adjusted the good shed to be parallel to the other tracks and that can squeeze in an extra bogie wagon. The yard can hold 6 bogie wagons and will be shunted by a X200 rail tractor. I've yet to steal some set track points from Dad's layout.

I've also spent a lot of time running my layout. It runs really well with the odd issue.

And, living in Sydney, I went to the Epping Model Railway Club Exhibition a Rosehill Gardens. I wasn't planning on buying much but SDS had some FO carriages on special.

They run really well except for one spot - the odd issue. It's on the incline near the door of the room and a number of cars were coming off on the same spot. It's the same spot as a few other issues. It has been packed a few times and the track isn't as good as it should be. The incline changes from a Woodland Scenics foam incline to a wooden bridge back to the foam incline. I took up the track and relaid it. It seemed to work better but it failed on repetition. I adjusted wheels and bogies as well. All to no avail. Earlier today the area looked like this:

The bridge was glued at one end and when the support was placed underneath it, the support lifted the other end, nearest the camera just enough to cause some issues. I decided to fix all the issues in one go. The inner track of the incline is too close to the other tracks. This caused some clearance issues with the scenery. I'm going to bring the tracks out a bit more so that I can fix the scenery issue. This means that I'll need to realign some ballasted track from the junction and add a bit more board as I may have cut the board to narrow originally. 

To do this, I have cut a new section of plywood running replacing the bridge and the incline. Hopefully, in the next couple of days, I'll be able to cut some timber supports and paint the new board.

I'm hoping to get trains running by Friday night.

Until next time.

Saturday 31 December 2022

Happy 2023!

 G'day and happy New Year!

I'll be honest, despite my best intentions, not much work has happened on the layout. Today I thought I'd do something small and quick. By the time I moved the stock away from where I was about to work, time started to disappear.

I need to clear some space in the train room. I have a stack of boxes with buildings in them but nowhere on the layout to put them. A quick trip to Bunnings bought me the timber that I needed for the very top level. Before I add the timber, I need to paint and ballast the track. That was today's job. 

I painted the track leading into the covered sections and then I stared on a whole lot more. I couldn't do all of it as the air compressor was starting to get hot but I got enough to do the ballasting that I needed to do. Now I just need to wait until that is dry to put the top on.

It's not an interesting image but here is some of today's painting efforts.

Tomorrow's plan is much the same as today's.

Until next time.

Sunday 13 November 2022

Operations Part 2 Some Paperwork

I'm an operator. My trains need some sort of purpose. Wagons moving on the layout need to have a reason to be there. Even as a teenager with my British trains, I had some sort of paperwork. These were simple cards with the wagon name and number and a fictional destination. Most destinations were off the layout. 

When I started modelling NSW trains something similar was used. I also rolled a dice so that there was some randomness to how many wagons I needed for certain industries. I didn't have car card boxes but wooden pegs blu-taced (I'm sure that's a word) to the layout to hold my small cards, handwritten on small steel blue bits of cardboard that I have scrounged from somewhere. The ideas came from several articles from the Australian Model Railway Magazine over the years.

I can handle trains wandering aimlessly around the layout - it is sometimes truly blissful.

But... shunting is just plain fun.

I've built a couple of layouts with Inglenook shunting puzzles in them. So that I knew what to put where, I created some shunting lists. I still have them somewhere and when I needed to change from bogie wagons to four wheel wagons, it was a simple process.

For the last few layouts I have been using car cards and way bills. The waybills have been getting simpler and more user friendly over the years as I have guests operating the layouts. The car cards clipped together becomes the crew's paperwork.

I've considered 'switch lists' for the crews to fill out and created my own version of an X2010 form used by real train crews. I found an image online to help me out and it was put together using Word. I print it on A5 paper for small clipboards. Here it is:

I have found this useful when running by myself as I don't have to juggle cards. I showed this to one of my operators who thought that it would be good.

Then I found out about JMRI Operations Pro. I subscribe to, which about a week ago posted a video about using Operations Pro. It's part of the JMRI package which I download with Decoder Pro. I didn't know that I already had it. I followed the tutorial on and that got me started.

I spoke to the same operator about how marvellous this program is and that it would get rid of car cards. He seemed a little hesitant.

I entered in my container wagons. I have recently reduced them to 15 from 23 or more. In the last post I wrote about the GME wagons on a dedicated pathway from the harbour to the container depot and back again. I haven't quite worked out how to make that happen. I have however worked out how to take 9 wagons from Boydtown Yard to Junction Yard and then only 6 to Billabong Marina.

I had a lot of help from SoCal Scale Models on YouTube. Check out his video here and then subscribe to his channel. He will explain it better than I will here.

The trick is all about "movements". I had 9 wagons entering the yard from two trains. The default number of movements is 5, which means 5 wagons will be added to the train. I was getting four left behind every time. Once that was fixed, I wanted to park them all at Junction Yard and pick up the six already there. I need 9 movements to drop off and 6 movements to pick up. I can now take 9 wagons to Junction Yard but JMRI has me consistently dropping 5 and picking up 2. I still leave for Billabong Marina with 6 container wagons and need 6 movements to set out all the wagons.

It's the reverse on the way back. Something that I have found interesting is that out of the 15 wagons, only 11 or 12 are used for each journey. On one return journey, one lonely ICX wagon didn't move at all.

This is what the operator gets:

The crew receive their manifest for the job. The train is T005. T is for Trip working. 005 is the fifth trip working on the line. It is an odd number as travelling from Billabong Marina to Boydtown is in a down direction from Sydney. The train to the port is T004. It may be renumbered later when schedules are sorted out. I had to come up with a numbering system based on the real thing.

The crew assemble the train leave with all six wagons.

When they get to Junction Yard, they drop off 2 and pick up 5. Not all of the wagons in the yard are leaving but we leave with 9 wagons for Boydtown Yard. In theory, four will leave for Canberra and five will leave for Melbourne. I think it may depend on which order they are built.

When a train arrives and has been shunted, the train needs to be terminated in JMRI and the wagon locations are stored in the software and ready to be built into a new train.

While it isn't what I had planned, there is some sense of randomness about which wagons are used. I makes it a little more interesting.

At the moment, there are only 9 cars in the yard so everything is working well. Hopefully I'll add some more cars this week.

Until next time.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Operations Part 1

I don't know how many parts there are going to be in this. So let's start with part one. I'm sure that it'll be interrupted by other topics.

So... Covid finally got me. The next day after my last post and it laid me up for a couple of weeks. I seem to have recovered well, except for the time lost from work. In my line of work, at this time of year, there are deadlines which I have to meet. I'm going to need to burn a bit of midnight oil to catch up. At the same time, I've got to help my parents move out of their house. It'll all be over by Christmas but in the meantime, I'll be busy.

This means I'm going to need a bit of time set aside to wind down. If you've followed my blog on Billabong Marina, you may have come across my 15 minute a day philosophy. If not, check it out here. I have to confess, that I don't always stick to it and sometimes my 15 minutes is spent on other hobbies. But when life gets busy, I always fall back on it.

What's this got to do with operations? Just before I got sick, I nutted out some ideas.

First up, I use car cards and waybills. This means that I need to make a whole heap of boxes - one for each industry and siding. Done. I even painted them according to the colours used on my waybills. I colour code the destinations for different sections on my layout. I got the idea from the Willow Creek Railroad. It's worth clicking on the link.

Next I had to plan and write up my waybills. I put a lot of effort in making sure that every wagon goes to the right place and all the sidings are shunted with the right number of wagons. I've seen other layouts and they have a one in one out policy. If you put a cement wagon in, you pull one cement wagon out, even if there are two in the siding. I have worked my waybills out this way.

I also have the idea that every morning four trains arrives from Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Bega. The last is a pick up goods. Don't forget that my layout is fictitious and that I have dumped enough people to populate a small city where there is currently nothing but bush.

These trains arrive in Boydtown Yard and get sorted onto different trains. Trip trains take the wagons to their destinations, swap them over and return to Boydtown Yard for the wagons to be re-marshalled into the trains for the four off layout destinations. These trains leave for staging and the session is over. This did happen a couple of times with the old layout.

Right before my Covid stint, I did start messing about with this. I have to say it is a lot of fun. I made sure that all of the car cards were sorted correctly into the right boxes. However, while chatting to a mate, who gave the layout the once over on a visit, came the suggestion that the layout was overstocked. He's not wrong.

Here's one example. The fish siding at the new Billabong Marina takes four refrigerated vans. The fish is loaded for overnight delivery to Canberra and Sydney they are swapped over near the end of an operation day with four which have come off the inbound trains earlier in the day.

Is it fair to expect that in the real world, this might not happen? Could the vans of the arriving trains just be taken and deposited in to an empty siding? The folks at the fish siding could spend all day loading them for an evening pick up. This means there are four vans that don't need to be on the layout.

Here is another example. I have 6 Austrains GME container wagons. I love the back story which was on the Austrains website at the time. They were in fixed trains with a guards van at each end and were worked between - I want to say - White Bay where there containers came from the ship to Rozelle Yard where the containers were unloaded. I could be totally wrong. I haven't been able to find the information for a few years. I like the idea and have always kept the wagons together. They work from the new Billabong Marina to the Junction Yard Container Depot.  (One day I should put together a diagram of the layout.) 

When they are picked up from the harbour, they have always been replaced by the same number of wagons. Could they be picked up from the container depot in the morning and be placed wharf side and returned in the evening?

The container depot can hold 12 of this length wagon. Does it need to be full all the time? One thought is that it could hold the 6 GME wagons in the morning. When the trains from staging arrive, containers are taken off and then hauled to Junction Yard. The GMEs are picked up and taken to the harbour. In the evening, the reverse happens.

However, the loco could leave the harbour with nothing but a guards van as there are no wagons to collect. I have now got away from the one in, one out idea with both of these examples.

As I muck about on the layout, I jot down notes as I go. I hope to spend some time this week jotting down more notes. The layout needs a bit of clearing at the moment as somethings were placed in the layout room for somewhere to go. My first job tomorrow with be to tidy up a bit.

I also want to find out more about JMRI Operations Pro. It could be something worth trying.

Let me finish with a photo I took on a trip to the UK before the pandemic. I don't have an image of what I've been writing about and I like a photo in my posts. It's a class 66 with some hopper wagons heading through Leicester 15th January, 2020. 

Until next time.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Not the post I started drafting.

Once again I've found myself with a long time between posts. In fact, I started this post 4 weeks ago and I was going to write all about operations. I even had comments on the last one, which I don't normally get. I might need to start checking more often.

If I thought that first seven weeks had been a bit hectic with Covid and unrelated colds and rearranging the house for the final part of some renovations, the next five were worse - my parents decided to sell their house of 56 years and downsize into a two bedroom retirement place.

There was a lot of stuff to do and pack up.

There are a lot of sad moments in packing up a house. A lot of memories in all of the rooms, a lot of rediscovered treasures from an age gone by, some from people who are no longer with us.

Perhaps, not the saddest moment but sad none the less was watching Dad packing up his trains and taking the layout apart.

It was one of CJ Freezer's plans from "Book of Model Railway Track Plans", called Trent. It went up pretty quickly but like most layouts, it never got finished. It reached its purpose though. It provided Dad with a lot of fun (and sometimes trouble) and gave us something to talk about. He enjoyed running a Garratt with ore wagons around it. Can we ask a layout to do anymore than that?

He also has a smaller, more portable layout designed by Paul Lunn. It's about 900x1200mm and has two docksides linked by a hidden reversing siding. He saw it in a Railway Modeller but it's also in the Peco Setrack OO/HO Plan Book. He loved the idea and built it, along with the Metcalfe buildings the article suggested.

While the layout may not run again in its proper form, the buildings have been passed on to me for my layout. I can't use them all but there is a section yet to be filled in that perhaps, I could put some track to utilise the Metcalfe brewery. It does need some attention with windows which have fallen out.

As for layout for Dad, I'm not sure how much room he'll have, but we're thinking of some ideas.

In the meantime, we went to Asquith station to watch 3801 return to Sydney from Newcastle on Saturday. I headed to Mt Colah this morning to see it again. I'll leave you with the clip.

Until next time.