Monday, November 28, 2011

Building the Strath Hobbies 500 class: Part 2

The next major component to adjust was the polyurethane casting that forms the nose and roof of the long hood. Nothing too difficult here, basically the roof profile is far too flat - but some time with some course-grade sandpaper fixes this quite easily - realistically I should have filed off all the detail cast onto the roof, and replicated it on the re-profiled roof using styrene strip, but having adjusted the radius of the curved sides, this improved its appearance and was good enough. I then drilled out the A end marker lights with a 2mm bit, and then using a cutting disk in the dremel, removed the inner polyurethane walls which have to removed anyway to allow the mechanism to fit.

Once happy with the fit, the nose/hood casting was epoxied into place.

Then it was onto detailing - A set of associated distributors dual-armed windscreen wipers were purchased, and cut in half, providing sufficient windscreen wipers and rear-vision mirrors for one loco - these were soldered into place. Some small model etch lashing rings were then prepared, primed and painted with Floquil Caboose Red and then fitted to the top of the hood casting to represent lift rings. The whitemetal horns and cab vents were then fitted out and soldered/epoxied into place on the cab roof.

The exhaust stack (the angled type) was then filed to shape (out of the box, it looks like a block of balsa) and epoxied into place.

Then it was onto the handrails - theres a fret of the front and rear handrails, as well as a packet of stainless steel handrail knobs for the hood sides - sone .8mm holes were drilled into the side of the hood, knobs glued in and then a length of brass wire inserted through the lot - theres some 18 knobs on each side here, so this takes some time.

Then the hood door handles were drilled out and lengths of brass wire fabricated to represent the handles - these were then soldered from the inside of the hood to secure.

The cab handrails were then added, before the very last step of soldering the runningboard handrails onto each pilot (in retrospect, this would have been better to do post painting, as applying the decals became a real problem).

Once complete, the body was then washed in warm soapy water and left to air dry overnight. The body was then primed and sprayed all over Floquil Caboose Red. Once dry the hood, pilots and cab were masked off, and the runningboards sprayed with Floquil Engine Black.

Once dry, the body was then given an all-over coat of gloss clear coat and decals applied (this was an all-dayer). After many applications of solvaset, the loco was left to dry, before a coat of testors dullcote was applied.

This then allowed me to start on the mechanism. The mech was a Proto2000 S1 mechanism, which had the top weight removed, and the lower running boards filled down by some .5mm to reduce its overall height. The fuel tank was ground off with the trusty dremel and the polyurethane casting expoxied into place. As I was very unhappy with the appearance of the bogie sideframes (they look like shortened Lima C38 class tender bogie sideframes), I manufactured a set of masters for some better looking sideframes with the correct distance between axle boxes for the S1 mechanism. These were then cast by my brother Nick.

These were then fitted to the mechanism and the whole lot given a liberal coat of Floquil Engine Black. A TCS M1 decoder was then fitted and the lighting fitted. I had to make my own coupler boxes using a rather crude styrene and spring steel wire contraption to keep the couplers at a realistic height and ensure no part of the coupler box was protruding from the pilot.

Then once assembled, the whole loco was given a liberal coat of weathering, and the cab was glazed, crew fitted and cab blinds installed. Then it was off to the test track!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

12 years of difference...

First of all, part 2 of the 500 class construction saga will continue in a later post.

Last night, I took the near complete Strath Hobbies 500 class loco to my brothers layout for a bit of a show and tell, and while I was there, he produced the first 500 I built way back in 1999 (I was in year 7 at primary school) - this was a balsa body which rode on two unpowered Athearn Budd car bogies - at the time, I was very impressed with my work and now moreso, as Given I was 12, it scales remarkably well in the major dimensions, which was suprising.

The new 500 (516) is a brass, whitemetal and polyurethane composite kit from Strath Hobbies, riding on a heavily modified Proto 2000 S1 mechanism.

516 still has a fair way to go in order to be complete, but most of the hard yards are now complete - fitting of a decoder, lighting and fitting couplers still remain - the coupler issue still giving me some grief, as not even a #33 coupler box is small enough to fit between the pilot and the bogie...any ideas would be appreciated!

Sometimes its a nice reminder to see where we've come from as modellers, and gives a bit of perspective when critiquing our latest builds!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Building the Strath Hobbies 500 class: Part 1

This will be a brief description of the construction of the Strath Hobbies 500 class kit, available through End of the Line Hobbies (Victor Harbor, SA).

To start with, purchased a body-only kit as I already had an old Life Like Proto 2000 SW1 mechanism that was dying for some use, having been stored since 2004. The body only kit retails for $250, while the full kit (with a Hollywood Foundry mech) retails for around the $500 mark.

I was visiting my brother's layout "Tookayerta" when it was suggested that a 500 class shunter would be an ideal candidate to shunt the industrial sidings on the "to be built" section of his layout. To my suprise, Nick pulled out a A0 sized general arrangement drawing of a said loco, and then comparisons were made between the drawing and photos posted on the Model Etch website of a built Strath Hobbies 500.

I then decided, that there could be a number of alterations made to the kit to make it better represent the prototype.

The problems outlined were easily fixed - these being:
- Roof profile incorrect
- Bogie sideframes too high and too short
- Lack of general pilot detail
- Cab roof issues
- Exhaust stacks incorrectly shaped

So, off the Victor Harbor I went and purchased a kit. On opening the box, you get a number of brass etches for the hood sides, footplate, pilots, steps, end handrails, cab and a pre-formed cab roof. A bag of whitemetal sideframes, air cylinders, horns, air vents, and two types of exhaust stacks. Then there are also polyurethane castings for the fuel tank and hood roof and nose. A seperate envelope is included which protects the decal sheet for the SAR/ANR Red/Yellow livery - if you want the AN version, End of the Line can supply them.

I also purchased extra detail parts in the form of Associated Distributors single armed windscreen wipers (and mirrors) and Model Etch lost wax air hoses.

As seems to be a common problem with the Strath kits, the instructions leave a little to be desired - but there are some relatively decent resolution colour photos of a completed model included, so it makes life a little easier - the photos were kept, while the instructions were discarded.

The footplate folds up quite easily, with the etched pilots then being sweated onto the tabs at each end of the footplate. Then the steps are folded up and soldered together - care needs to be taken here, as the A end steps are slightly longer than the B end steps.

Then the cab was folded into a box and tacked into place with solder - there are some small tabs on the bottom of most parts which fit into slots etched into the footplate - a great idea as it keeps things square (sad I only noticed these after filing a heap of them off!). Once square, I then soldered the cab into place.

Next was the cab roof - this was a two hour job to get sitting square, but with a huge ammount of solder, flux,swearing, patience and burned finger tips (not neccessarily in that order), the roof was fitted and cleaned up using various files, dremel disks and sand paper.

Then it was onto the hood sides - there is a very thin etch with the grilles and various vents - now the kit supplies the air intake vents fitted with later era paper air filters, which if you are modelling a loco from between introduction and the mid 80's you might want to replace the grilles with some fine brass mesh. These needs to be sweated onto the back of the hood etches. Once these are fitted, solder the hood sides to the footplate. Now go and have a beer and relax for a while.

I'll leave it here until the next installment...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Liralau loco - reconstruction well underway and other bits and pieces

Hi All,
It certainly has been some time since this blog has been updated - with layout time being greatly reduced by time spent on the south coast with SteamRanger and various other 'home duties' that keep getting in the way, as well as time spent preparing the rapid prototyped masters for my brothers upcoming second version 8300 brakevans - keep an eye on the various web forums for more information - the standard gauge varients and CGP class vans will follow once the orginal version is complete.

A month or so ago, a brief moment of insantity saw me remove most trackwork on the depot modules in order for me to begin their well overdue rebuild - remembering these are the last two of the original modules which had not been relaid during the major rebuild of 2009/2010. Consequently the trackwork was pretty average to say the least, resulting in numerous derailments on badly aligned rail joins, as well as basically rendering the road to the turntable useless by having it situated too close to the mainline, meaning any loco stabled here would be side-swipped by any passing train.

The depot yard arrangement has been changed to allow greater flexibility - a headshunt is now provided, the turntable road now re-slewed away from the mainline and a way and works siding added (this will not be fitted with a powered point motor, as it is really only for looks).

On Wednesday evening, I fitted the point motors, however after securing one, murphy came out to play (damn him!) and one of the point control wires snapped (probably a result of trying to straighten it out) just low enough to ensure as the point was thrown, it would slip out of the hole in the tiebar. My solution was to take a short length of 2.5mm dia. K&S brass tube, heat it with a blow torch and then push it through the tiebar (melting as it went). This gave me an extra 3mm of length on the underside of the point, which will mean theres no way that wire can ever come out (unless it snaps off at the servo itself).

On Sunday afternoon, all wiring was completed and the first ground cover applied - basically a dirt-covered yard covering the turntable road and diesel loco servicing facilities. Now this has had time to dry, I will start weathering the ground prior to installation of structures etc - those structures in the above photo have been temporarily placed into position, and may yet be completely replaced.

Onto other matters:

Last Saturday was the annual Modelling the Railways of South Australia convention - as always a great variety of quality presentations were provided, as was an excellent display of participants models. Of note was Gavin Thrum's beautiful model of light pacific No. 621 (apparently his first ever loco scratchbuild).

A talk was presented on the Penfield Branch - now this would be a perfect exhibition layout for anyone wanting a small(ish) layout, with plenty of shunting posibilities and a regular railcar services..a good layout diagram was provided, but could also be modified into an "around the walls" shelf layout - I'm considering building a small shelf layout in the workshop based on this idea (maybe in a year of so).

The Superchook power car saga has also come to an end, with the cars now back operational - Brian Woods of Junction Models kindly provided two new axles and gears for the spud unit, which didn't initially cure the problem, which was later traced to a slipping worm gear on the motor - a drop of loctite cured that!

Anyway, Until next time - happy modelling!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Progress post AMRE

There's been a little progress since the Adelaide Model Railway Exhibition last month. The layout is now back up and running at home, with my loco storage facility now under construction. This depot is mounted between the front modules and the rear set up tracks (which doubles as a second yard when at home).

The centre of this module being a Walthers 90' Turntable which has been 'Australianised'. Unfortunatley, there have been a few headaches getting the table to perform as well as was expected, which having read several US forums, isn't a suprise - thus why Walthers now release it as a DCC ready "built up" with indexing etc.

The main issue being that the table bridge itself has alot of play when in position, to the point that any loco entering it, will most likely derail as the table can move left to right. I'm thinking about installing some sort of solenoid to secure a locking pin (similar to the prototype) to prevent the bridge moving.

Motor control is temporarily via an ancient "Power Mite" controller (possibly from my first train set some 23 years ago) - its certainly showing its age and its performance is average at best. I intend to replace the controller with a TCS T1 decoder for motor control and a return loop controller to control bridge power.

Given nothings been wired of sceniced yet, all track has been tacked into position so that I can adjust/remove the turnable from its hole in the baseboard while it is tweaked.

Once i've finished this section of the layout, work will then focus on rebuilding Liralau's loco servicing facilites, with a new track arrangement, relaid mainline and passing loop, and a scenery update - as this was the last section of the "original" layout to have been rebuilt - to me this section is now the most embarrasing section of the whole layout, so its certainly time to do something about it. I intend to get this done over the next few months.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adelaide Model Railway Exhibition over for another year

Liralau had its last outing for the year (quiet year this year) at the Adelaide Model Railway Exhibition this weekend.

Having completed wiring the new setup tracks last Wednesday night, i'm glad to say the layout performed flawlessly - which made my weekend enjoyable as for a change I didn't have to spend the whole weekend under the layout or behind it trying it keep trains on the move. I would like to thank my crew for yet another great weekend - my brother Nick, Pete Semmel (who came from Melbourne for the weekend again), Ash Bennett, Brad Turner and my long suffering partner Sarah for putting up with the mayhem prior to the show (again).

There was alot of fun had this year (probably helped by the fact that Allan and Dwayne (running Stewarts) were next door), and we had the innaugural appearance of the "little man in blue" who brought the planking craze to the exhibition - all in the name of fun - he also appeared to become a little randy at times, taking a liking to the cows and sheep (where comments were made - something to do with modelling the New Zealand railways), not only on our layout, but also Paradigm, Stewarts and Florey Springs.

The dinner on Sunday night was also an enjoyable social aspect of the show which keeps us coming back year after year.

Now onto my favourite hate...

Once the layout was put to bed, dog fed, dinner prepared and eaten, I sat down to review some photos of the weekend, and see what people thought of the exhibition - reading a few of the various forums, yet again, there have been many comments made regarding the usual "same old" layouts turning up year after year. Well, perhaps its time for these folk to "put up or shut up", Adelaide only has a reasonably small modelling community, and of that small modelling community, theres only a small ammount of people who have the ability to build, maintain and exhibit a model railway layout.

Its interesting to watch these forums, particuarly with the "armchair experts" who feel they have "seen it all before" and therefore deserve a show with new layouts every year. Well, let me tell you something - each year, I throw a few thousand dollars at the layout to keep it running, and its not always that the changes are evident to the casual observer. For example, new stationary decoders, point motors, re-wiring, re-laying track etc - I had a number of punters come up to me over the weekend and ask "is anything new?", my answer being "yes, we've rebuilt the rear staging tracks" - at which they mumbled about the show being a "waste of money" and wonder off. I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly can't afford to build a brand new layout each year (don't get me wrong, i'd love to though - and plans still exist for Liralau's eventual replacement layout deep in the back of my mind).

I don't want this to tarnish my enjoyment of the weekend (or peoples opinions of me, as a member of the modelling community) but I feel it is important to voice the exhibitors side of the arguement for a change.

I'll put some photos online soon,
Until then, happy modelling!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New setup tracks

With the Adelaide Model Railway Show fast approaching, work has quickened on rebuilding the setup tracks for Liralau - this time, they've been built like the proverbial brick sh*t house, they are damn heavy, but should last for many years without bowing.I'd rather over engineer them, than have them bow and have to start over next year.

Sarah's given the completed modules a coat of paint to seal them, and to blend them into the rest of the layout, now it actually looks finished out the back.

Last night track laying began in earnest, with the join behind the pub being re-laid (again) - still needs some work, but the Auscision B class that always gave trouble traversed it with ease. Even with the gaps cut into the rail for the module join, so far so good. We've now gone from 2 1/2 roads on the set up tracks to four, with loco and railcar/railmotor sidings at each end, i've also been able to ease the radius slightly on the end curves and also ease the kink that used to exist at each end of the yard.

The yard is being laid with a mixture of Peco code 100 and 75 points (shimmed to match the rail height of the code 100 points) and Peco code 100 streamline flex (I can't believe it was cheaper than the Atlas equivalent) - by the time the yards complete, there should be over 20 metres of standing room on those sidings - enough room to have the full Overland in the yard without fouling any of the other roads.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Following on from my earlier post regarding Railshow, one of our operators- Brad Turner, provided me this photo of my two car superchook set 2301-2302 pausing momentarily at Liralau station while on tour.

Unfortunatley, the spud has a split gear which caused some running problems - i'm hoping to have a replacement power bogie shortly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

SARMA's Railshow 2011

Last weekend, saw Liralau exhibited for the first time for 2011, at the South Australian Railway Modellers' Association's Railshow 2011, held at The Tea Tree Gully Arts and Recreation Centre, which was a great venue - not only because it is approximately 4 and a half minutes drive from our new home, but it also is a relativley modern venue with floors that are dead flat - fantastic for those of us trying to get their layouts level. This show is one of the best in the state and Iain does a great job keeping us all in order and under control.

Unfortunatley, this show also highlighted that the set up tracks have long passed their use-by date, and will need to be completely rebuilt from scratch prior to the layouts next showing in June at the Adelaide Model Railway Exhibition, at Greyhound Park. Much grief was caused by these now badly warped and twisted set up tracks, which had been a minor problem at home, but caused major problems at the show - perhaps it was a case of one exhibition too many. Drawings are currently being prepared now, if anyone has been here before and can offer any pearls of wisdom, please comment below, as i'd appreciate some ideas.

The good news however is that the 2009/2010 rebuilt sceniced section of the layout performed flawlessly for the whole weekend - with the exception of one failed point motor that was replaced on the evening before the show which caused some trouble on Friday night - this was subsequently traced to a self-tapping screw head used to mount the motor and associated bracket to the underside of the trackbed being about 1/8" too thick and causing the arm fitted to the motor to get caught. Some quick work with the dremel fixed this quite quickly, and we didn't have a problem with it for the rest of the show. I should also take this opportunity to thank Gerry from TimeSaver Layouts for his prompt assistance in getting the replacement point motor in the mail, and having it in time to replace it last Thursday night.

The show was also the first time John Eassie had brought Austrains to Adelaide since 1999, so a third series X class #X47 was aquired - I've been trying to aquire a 3rd series X class in traditional VR Blue and Gold livery for some time, so I was very pleased when I saw one at his stall amongst the QRN liveried units - sadly there were no V/Line or VR units however in the "junk box" on special, but who am I to complain, i've finally got the loco to share haulage of my Overland set with my Traino AN green signle ended 930.

The well documented build of my two car STA 2300 class "Superchook" set came to a close on Saturday, when the pair finally entered service after a 7 month build process. I am extremely happy with them, and am now looking to commence work on assembling the 2500 class trailer to go between the pair. I just need to replace a split gear on the leading axle of the Tenshodo spud.

So, now with 8 metres of set up tracks to assemble, I am going to have my work cut out for me over the next month or so, but this will hopefully make our lives alot easier in the long run.

Keep an eye on this blog for further updates.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A new year, a new house and most importantly...a new train room!

First of all, happy new year to all of my followers.

The new year break was extremely busy with a week spent in Melbourne - which was made better by the fact that our Red Premium seats on the Overland were paid for by GSR as thanks for me allowing them to use some of my photos to advertise this years Southern Spirit tour programme - and amazingly, they were found from this blog!

The Melbourne trip involved alot of train travel, with a trip to Geelong behind N457, a V/Locity trip to Ballarat and of course a trip to Belgrave on Puffing Billy - photos of this trip can be found on my flickr page ( I also had the pleasure of viewing Seymour Rail Heritage Centre's "Fireworks Express" at Southern Cross station on New Years Eve, hauled by restored heritage EMD's B74 and S303 - along with the societies collection of restored Spirit of Progress S cars, and the Parlor car on the rear.

On our return to Adelaide, we moved into our new home in the North-Eastern suburbs of Adelaide, and have subsequently spent the last month and a half fixing those things that Sarah continually finds! But, now there is a big but here... I do finally have a layout room and attached workshop - or is that a layout room, workshop and attached house?

Liralau was set up once we'd settled in, so without further ado, here's a couple of pics of the new room following fit out - all I need now is an air conditioner out there and it will be very comfortable at any time of the year.