The railcar on the main

This short video shows the branch railcar running up the main line to Tarawangan station where it stops before reversing down the line to take the branch line. The video features the signals that control the railcar’s path – a chance to demonstrate some operating signals. The outer home signal and the three-arm signal were each made by Ray Pilgrim (Signals Branch). I made the inner home signal from a Uneek kit.

Another NODY – this time with a tarp

Flushed with enthusiasm after completing the underfloor of one NODY (post of July 30 2022), I decided that the next NODY upgrade would include tarpaulin supports with tarpaulin in place. I began by bending eleven lengths of .030″ brass wire for the supports. Usually, I make a jig when making multiples, but this time simply used the HO scale diagram in AMRM August 1993 as the guide. Each support has three in-line bends, so the task was not onerous. The supports fit into predrilled .030″ holes of a set depth in the top rails. This ensures that the poles remain at a uniform height above the top rails.

I added the same underfloor detail as for the previous NODY, although the final result is neater this time thanks to a few refinements in the process. I wouldn’t say the process was any faster, but I was better prepared with a more efficient order of assembly. I painted the underfloor details before embarking on the tarpaulin.

Primed underfloor and tarpaulin supports soon to be united.
Tarpaulin supports in position prior to draping tissue over them.

Testing materials for the tarpaulin: Up to this point everything was relatively uncomplicated; the real challenge was to find a suitable material to drape over the supports that would sag prototypically and be durable enough to withstand the rigours of time and occasional handling. I chose four forms of tissue paper: facial tissue single ply and double ply, dressmaker’s tissue paper, and the white tissue from a face mask. I cut 60x50mm pieces of each and draped those pieces over four tarpaulin supports spaced 15mm apart. I then saturated each with isopropanol, followed by neat Woodland Scenics scenery cement applied with an eye dropper. I allowed each piece to find its own form (sag, wrinkling, etc) – in other words, I did not try to work the materials in any way. They dried for three hours in a warm room.

Facial tissue: single ply (L) and double ply (R). Draped dry over the supports, then sprayed with scenic cement.
The dressmaker’s tissue (L) wouldn’t absorb the glue initially, so I soaked it in boiling water for a few minutes. The creases in the face mask tissue (R) did not reduce after the glue was added, nor did it follow the shape of the formers.

The facial tissue draped most easily over the supports, but neither the single ply nor the double ply gave me confidence that they would give a natural-looking result without some input from me. I decided the best outcome would likely be achieved by applying a single ply followed, while wet, with a second single ply. I was surprised at how much the tissue wrinkled of its own accord, so the following day I brushed on two coats of neat PVA. The PVA gave the tissue some extra strength and rigidity and disguised some of the smaller wrinkles. I trimmed the edges before airbrushing with grimy black. As I had not worked the tissue while wet, I needed to cut and fold the corners so that the tarp better followed the wagon top rails. I added small pieces of tissue over the corner folds to give them more strength.

The corners and ends before cutting and folding them to better align with the wagon edges.
After cutting and folding. The small pieces of additional tissue can be seen across the corner folds.

Once satisfied with the corners and general alignment of the tarp, I gave it random applications of aged concrete and grime. This was followed by dry-brushed highlights and light touches of weathering powders.

The tarp was given a base coat of weathered black, followed by random patches of aged concrete and grime, then finished with dry-brushed highlights and weathering powders.

Overall, I am pleased with this first attempt, particularly with how the natural wrinkles suggest the tarp has been pulled taut by ropes. However, there is room for improvement, such as the corner folds. Also, these wagons used two or three tarps that overlapped each other. I expect that working two smaller tarps – one at a time – may produce a more convincing overall result.

Another world of modelling – 2

GWR 2-8-0T locomotive 4231 in 2mm finescale

This is the second locomotive I scratchbuilt in 2mm finescale (in 1981). These GJ Churchward-designed locomotives have always appealed to me. Being new to 2mm finescale scratchbuilding at the time I wanted to build a model into which I could confidently fit a motor and gear assembly. This was my first attempt at outside pistons and motion. I also wanted a loco that would likely be able to haul a long rake of freight wagons.

The loco can easily haul 50 four-wheel wagons or 9 bogie coaches.

The model and chassis are entirely scratchbuilt. The only commercial parts are the motor (an early can version), gears and wheels (purchased from The 2mm Scale Association shop). A split frame nickel-silver chassis enables electrical pick-up from all wheels, including the pony truck. The pony truck frames are soldered to a piece of PCB. Phosphor-bronze wire wipers soldered to the PCB transfer power to a PCB rubbing plate soldered to the main chassis. I built a gear train, set in a fabricated gearbox, to limit the top speed to a scale maximum 50mph. Idler gears drive the four pairs of drivers allowing the coupling rods to be essentially cosmetic. The coupling rods and connecting rods were cut from nickel-silver sheet and filed to shape. The pistons are fashioned from a solid piece of tufnol glued to the chassis.

The footplate, tanks, cab sides and firebox are made of .015″ brass sheet, cut filed and folded to shape. The boiler and smokebox are 0.010″ brass sheet rolled to the correct diameter and soldered to the tanks and firebox. The smokebox saddle is a piece of tufnol cut and filed to shape. It is glued to the smokebox and the footplate. Both the chassis and the pony truck are screwed to the saddle from below.

The chimney, safety valve bonnet, whistles, tank vents, buffers and other fittings are hand-turned from brass. I didn’t have access to a lathe, so all were turned on my mini-drill using files and mini-saws. Brake shoes and actuating gear were cut and filed from nickel-silver sheet and brass bar. Handrails of fine brass rod are held in place with knobs of twisted fuse wire.

All fittings were fabricated using hand tools.

I hand-painted the model and applied lettering produced and sold by The 2mm Scale Association. It had been my intention to strip the paint and spray it when I acquired an airbrush but, when the time came, I just couldn’t work up the courage.

Even in 2mm scale the loco looks massive and powerful.
However …

Dioramas atop the helix

The helix that links the two levels of the layout takes up considerable space within the room. I decided to make use of that space by incorporating it into the layout’s scenery. This short video outlines how I used dioramas to maximise the scenic area of the Burrawon branch. There are also a few views of scenery atop a stacked helix on my previous triple-decked layout.

Tarawangan signals – 2

The last three signals for Tarawangan arrived a few weeks ago. Two are bracket signals, each with a shunt arm located below the bracket deck. One, located at the end of the down platform, is the down main starter and branch/yard entry. The other is located on the branch to control the junction with the main lines and entry into the yard (photo below). In each instance, the shunt arm permits shunting movements onto either the branch/yard or the main lines.

RH bracket for up branch trains running onto the main line (left arm) or entering Tarawangan yard (right arm). The shunt ahead arm under the bracket permits shunting on either line. (Photo: Ray Pilgrim)
Branch up bracket signal in place but not yet connected to the servo controllers. Tarawangan up main outer home signal in the background.

The third signal has three siding arms on the 23ft post. The three arms control movements from the up main: crossing from the up main to the down main; crossing the down main directly onto the branch (by-passing the yard); crossing the down main into the yard (including the branch line that runs through the yard). Tarana had a four arm signal at the down end of the up platform with three arms performing similar functions to the model, and the fourth arm for trains reversing into the up refuge siding.

Three siding arms on 23ft post, to be located at Tarawangan up platform down end, control moves off the up main, all of which are in the down direction. (Photo: Ray Pilgrim)

These three signals complete the signal requirements for the layout (16 arms). All, except the Tarawangan Up main home signal, have been constructed by Ray Pilgrim (Signals Branch). They look great and operate flawlessly. These signals required new elements which Ray had to design and fabricate. I thank him sincerely for the time he put into these tasks and his patient assistance and guidance. Although I have tried to follow prototype signalling practice as I understand it, this is an operating layout and the signals ultimately need to work in and for that setting. They most certainly look the part.

Each of the new signals has three linear servo’s. I had previously been using one Tam Valley Octo III servo controller to activate the servo’s and had devised a means for activating more than eight servo’s from it (Signals for Tarawangan, October 30, 2021). Sadly, Tam Valley stopped making the Octo III while restructuring. Fortunately, Sydney-based Railcon produce a servo controller that is suitable for points and signals (MD003). Each MD003 unit can control two servo’s. They are activated by SPST toggle switches and are easy to install and to fine-tune. I am now using these exclusively. As it has taken a few weeks to obtain the other items needed to get the signals operating I have taken the opportunity to plan a wiring arrangement that is organised and neat (unlike the other wiring under the layout). This has inspired me to adopt a similar procedure for all of the layout’s wiring – something that I plan to undertake in stages.

New signals in place. Left foreground: Down main starter/branch entry on bracket. Shunt ahead for either road. Right foreground: top arm for distant crossover onto down main; middle arm for distant crossing onto branch; bottom arm for crossover into yard/down main.

Post-script: Back in November, after the previous signals had arrived (post of October 30, 2021), I soon realised that two of them were not best located. So, after a couple of weeks’ deliberation and being sure that the new positions worked visually and operationally, I cut new holes and re-located the signals. The old holes were filled in and ground cover added.

The branch home/siding signal (front left) and the down main/branch bracket signal (centre left) as first located at Tarawangan.
The re-located signals from the down main platform (compare with the above photo from the same position). The increased distance between the two signals helps make the yard area appear longer both from this angle and from side-on.
Main/branch bracket signal in new position. White filler (right) is the previous position.
Re-positioned branch/siding signal. White filler (left) in the previous position.


I have been adding details and weathering to various items recently. A key aspect has been trying to add texture to the rust and grime on these models. I think it makes dark rust, in particular, look more convincing. The following is a collection of recent work.

The farm ute displaying the characteristic rust in the lower corners of the mudguards and the lower sills. Dry-brushed shades of rust and mud. The stain from spilled fuel is India ink in isopropanol. Airbrush-finished with clear matte – I masked the windscreen, but not the other windows to give them the look of accumulated dirt and grime.
Three-quarter view of GLV 31560 reveals end details and light weathering. I added details above and below the floor as I did with the GLXs. Various shades of rust, dirt and grime sprayed and dry-brushed onto the body and roof. Bogies yet to be weathered and ‘roller bearing’ decals to be added above the bogies. Although generally satisfied with the weathering, I felt it needed something to give it a bit more pep.
I gave the weathering some texture by dabbing various shades of rust, dirt and grime powders into wet-brushed paint patches. This is not so obvious in the photo but is clearly evident ‘in the flesh’. Unfortunately, German Grey isn’t as dark as it looks when compared to black: I realised too late (the decals were already soaking) that I should have painted the code boards black to better disguise that I was cutting-and-shutting several decals together. Bogies now weathered and with texture. ‘Roller bearings’ decals in place.
‘Roller bearings’ decals also added to NLHX 29605.
Three-quarter view of a repainted and weathered On-Track Models LLV. It was in candy livery which I don’t care for and also is outside my modelling era. I saw recently that only two LLV’s were ever painted in that livery and that they were based at Cowra. The weathering is textured by stippling weathering powders into patches of wet-brushed paint.
LLV 1560 triple valve side. The textured patches of rust and grime are evident in the lower corners, under the doors and on the roof.
Ground-level view of the other side of LLV 1560.
Weathered IDR Models rivetted BBWs. These wagons were first sprayed with weathered black, followed by patches of grimy black and rust. While still wet, I misted grime over all surfaces to represent ballast dust. Finished with dry-brushed highlights of rust, grimy black and grime.
Trying for an atmospheric photo of the ute on the open road. Despite the body and chassis being separate castings, held together with screws and a clever insert, I was unable to get them apart in order to fit a driver. Unfortunately, this view reveals the driverless state.
From this angle it is less obvious that there is no driver.

Lineside tour along the Burrawon branch model railway

Come on a tour of both fantasy and reality as 4858 heads a pair of brake vans along the branch. 4858 stops at the Little River bridge and One Mile halt so we can view some nearby sights and structures. Brief descriptions are given about the construction of the structures. All aboard!

Detailing an Austrains NODY open wagon

When I lifted this wagon from the storage siding my plan was to give it a heavy weathering, including creating some rust holes. However, by the time I reached the modelling table, the plan had expanded to adding substantial extra detail. Given these Austrains wagons came onto the market over twenty years ago, I’m sure others have embarked on a similar project. I can’t recall any specific instance, nor have I looked, except at Andrew Hayne’s prototype notes and Roger Porter’s scale diagram in AMRM August 1993 (published some years before Austrains released their model). I had fitted Kadee couplers and brake hoses when I bought the wagon. Last year I lightly weathered it (post of December 18, 2021).

Austrains NODY wagon as purchased. I applied light weathering in 2021.

I disassembled the model into its core components: body, underfloor, weights, and removable mouldings. The underfloor is secured to the body with two small screws. The press-fitted mouldings appear a little coarse but are reasonable representations of the prototype fittings.

Core components: weights, underfloor/chassis, and body.
Removable mouldings. These press-fit into the holes visible in the body sides.

Work begins: I first added four 10mm long wedges of scale 8 x 4″ styrene strip to represent additional underfloor gussets either side of the chassis spine. Ideally, the gussets should extend to the inner edges of the body sides but are limited by the cut-outs for the mouldings. The spacing between the original outer gussets (black in the photo below) and the wagon centre is greater than indicated on the plan and hence the spacing between them and the additional gussets (white) is smaller. I chose to live with that discrepancy as it affected the location of one gas tank only; and is it not obvious when the wagon is on the layout. Next, a 7mm wide strip of .010″ styrene was glued to the chassis spine yielding a 0.5mm web on each side.

Additional gussets and .010″ styrene strip glued to the existing chassis spine.

I used both the plans and the prototype photos from Hayne’s article to locate detail items. Hayne noted that there was some variation between wagons. Indeed, I found it difficult sometimes to correlate the photos and the plans resulting, I suspect, in a bit of a mule model. (NB. some of the dimensions given on the plan also do not correlate with the line drawing. I referred to photos in these instances.) I used AR Kits underfloor details for the key elements viz tanks, triple valve, brake actuating arms, handbrake handles, etc. I replaced the steps with Main West (AR Kits) etched BDX steps – not strictly correct, but less obtrusive than the original mouldings. Piping and rodding is represented by .010″, .015″ and .030″ wire as appropriate. Finally, I fabricated and fitted coupler release bars (.010″ wire) and brackets (2 x 1.5mm .020″ styrene) to each end.

Underfloor detailing prior to painting includes brake gear, tanks, piping, actuating arms and rods, handbrake handles, and other fittings. A bit rough and ready, but nothing that paint and weathering won’t disguise satisfactorily.
Brake cylinder side before painting. The additional underfloor items give the model ‘substance’.

I re-fitted the wheels once all the details were in place to test that nothing interfered with the free-running of the model. I then sprayed the underfloor with Outlaw Paints grey primer. The following day I first sprayed the entire underfloor with weathered black, followed immediately with patches of grimy black and rust. This was allowed to dry overnight before commencing weathering.

Everything looks so much neater after a coat of paint. Patches of rust and grimy black sprayed immediately over still wet weathered black.

Weathering: I subsequently decided against representing heavy deterioration as the first batch of these wagons were outshopped in 1977- just three years before my layout’s nominal 1980 time frame. However, I did add more grime and some textured dirt inside and outside the body. I highlighted underfloor details with dry-brushed road grime and dust and added some accumulated muck (powders stippled into wet-brushed patches) in places.

Brake cylinder side painted and weathered.
Triple valve side painted and weathered.

Final thoughts: In general, I am pleased with the result. That said, it is difficult to see much of the underfloor detail under normal running conditions and lighting (which is why I do not usually add piping and rodding under floors). There are a few things that I will do slightly differently with the remaining NODYs which should streamline the process and yield neater results. I also intend fitting one with tarpaulin ridge poles and tarpaulin in place. Best get to it then. Happy modelling.

Resurrecting a brace of AR Kits HLX louvre vans

Having completed the upgrade of the AR Kits GLV/GLX louvre vans, I turned my attention to a pair of AR Kits HLX vans. As with all AR Kits rolling stock that I purchased around twenty years ago, they were assembled and put to work, unpainted and without decals. So, to the HLX upgrades but, first, a brief history of the vans.

A brief history: These vans were designed for forklift access, hence the large double, sliding door access on each side. Seventy-five were built in 1959-60 and numbered 29550 -29624. They were initially painted grey and coded HLV with 2CG bogies, but by 1969 they had been fitted for bogie exchange (2CL bogies) and re-coded HLX. In the 1970’s some were painted PTC blue and by the end of that decade some had reverted to 2CG bogies and HLV code. After 1980, they were coded NLHF and NLHX (bogie exchange). They carried fruit and general freight. (source

The models: AR Kits label these ‘kombo kits’ as the sides consist of several separate elements that need to be glued together before the van is assembled. These two vans do not have the crisp finish of other AR Kits. Indeed, the plastic of both is somewhat blotchy and soapy. The quality of the assembly suggests that I rushed it. One way to improve the overall appearance of the completed models would be to disassemble each model into its core components, clean those up and then re-assemble them. A cursory look at the joints and the strength of them ruled that option out. Instead, I decided on an approach of gentle improvement.

A reasonable base from which to start. The HLX’s as retrieved from storage, except I have replaced the bogies. No footsteps fitted. The blotchy plastic is visible on the side.
Some work is needed on the less than ideal joints between roof, ends and sides.

Work begins. I began with the discrepancy in alignment between the sides and the ends. The ends stood proud of the sides by varying amounts, so I glued .010 x .040″ styrene strip along the ends of the sides. The process was repeated to correct the misalignment of the roof and ends. After allowing the glue 24 hours to fully set, I then sanded the strips down until they were flush with the van ends.

.010 x .040″ styrene strip glued along the ends of the sides and roof edge. Once fully dry, the strips will be sanded flush with the ends and the sides.

Underfloor: I removed some underfloor items that were absent in prototype photos. Footsteps were fitted and some other details were re-positioned per the photos. Release levers were added to the handbrake brackets, and .015″ wire run between each pair of fittings. The web of the longitudinal chassis frames is represented by scale .010 x .060″ styrene strip. The transverse chassis pieces on the models are a scale 4″ thick so I didn’t add webbing to those.

Underfloor detail: Footsteps plus re-positioned brackets and fittings with .015″ wire linking each pair. Styrene strip added to the chassis rails. The outer ends will be profiled to prevent contact with the wheels. Adding the relevant underfloor pipework would nicely populate this view.

An aside: Adding all the associated pipework would really make the underfloor more accurate and interesting (on all rolling stock), but the reality is that it cannot be seen when the models are on the layout (and I’m not building competition-level models). I do admire those modellers who do put in that extra effort – their work inspires me to improve my knowledge and skill, but also causes me to battle with the knowledge that the model could be further improved by adding the pipework, so perhaps one day in the future I’ll do that.

Revised underfloor details: triple valve side.
Revised underfloor details: reservoir tank side. The gap between the roof and the side needs to be filled. (Blotchy plastic evident on side.)

Body: Details added to the ends included holes to represent buffer shaft openings, brake hoses, coupler release levers, and curious brackets for lamp irons above and either side of the couplers.

Additional end details: coupler release levers, brake hoses, fittings above the couplers, buffer shaft holes.

Painting and finishing: The models were cleaned with isopropanol and then air-dried before airbrushing with Outlaw Paints grey primer.

Primer applied. Photographs are excellent for highlighting issues: gaps to be filled between the roof and end on both vans; van on left: left-hand bracket above coupler slightly too long at top. Easy adjustments.

Next day, the van bodies and rooves were sprayed with Vallejo German grey, while the underfloor was sprayed grimy black.

Colour coat of Vallejo German grey

Again the paint was allowed to dry overnight before spraying a light coat of grimy black from below. Grimy black was also sprayed across the roof (from side to side). Next, I dry-brushed rust irregularly down the sides and ends and around areas where rust might occur.

Initial weathering on NLHX 29605 triple-valve side
HLX 29577 reservoir tank side

I wasn’t entirely happy with the weathering at this point, so a few days later, I wet-brushed rust and weathered black into areas where rust and dirt/grime accumulated on the prototype. Various shades of rust and dirt powders were then worked into the wet paint and allowed to dry. A final airbrushing with Outlaw Paints matte clear sealed the weathering.

Decals: I eventually found the decals that came with the kits. Before applying the decals, I sprayed the code board areas with gloss clear. I forgot to add the ‘roller bearing’ decals, so another couple of trips to the spray booth are due.

HLX 29577 after adding weathering powder to wet-brushed rust and weathered black to give some texture to the rust. Forgot to add ‘roller bearing’ decals, so not quite finished.
NLHX 29605 displaying textured rust. ‘Roller bearing’ decals to be added.

Bogies: The bogies had been painted previously with weathered black. They also had received over-spray of the various colours used on the sides. The dedicated task was dry-brushing the bogies with rust, grimy black and grime, before adding the merest touches of gloss clear and silver.

Final thoughts: The vans were initially assembled around twenty years ago, per the instructions and without recourse to scale diagrams. I cannot attest to their dimensional accuracy in terms of the adjustments I have made in improving their assembled appearance, but I think the final result is a reasonable depiction of the prototype. I used prototype photos as a guide for weathering but did not attempt to replicate any particular van. All in all, I am satisfied with the results and I now have two more covered vans that I am prepared to run on the layout.

A ground-level view of the vans. The massive axles of the all brass wheels supplied with the kit twenty years ago need to be replaced with a more modern set.

Rail enthusiasts special to Burrawon

Locomotive 42110 heads a rail enthusiasts tour up the mainline to Tarawangan where it runs round the train before heading down the Burrawon Branch. Large mainline locomotives such as 42110 are a rare sight on the branch except on charter tours such as this and the occasional heavy wheat train.

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