Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where have we gone

A post on the NZ120 list got me going tonight ( well, and a few home brews as well).
The question is always asked 'where can I get kits?'. Nothing much has changed in the last 20 years. Back then everything was hand made, with a hand full of bits made by a few modelers who could. Fast forward 20 years, and it seems to be the same. I've just been scanning an index of NZMRJ articles from 1985-2003, and there's a proliferation of articles and layouts on NZ120 in the late 80's to the late 90's, then it tails off. Where have we all gone (well, I know where I went, where was everyone else?). The question then becomes why isn't there more work done in the scale, given that there are articles on building a variety of wagons and locos. The availability of suitable N scale mechanisms has never been better. So where is everyone? And just whats on your workbench this week?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What else is on the workbench.

Well, a bit of a gap. A long holiday weekend will do that for you.

so, whats on my workbench at the moment. A moment of insanity on Trademe left me lining the pockets of a fellow NZ120er, but with a prize of sorts. I've always wanted to have a look at the Bachmann 4-8-2 light mountain, but never really had the chance. well, now I have my grubby little hands on one. So whats the report like. The wheels are a bit on the small side, scaling out at a little over 48" vs the 54' that we want ( so only 1.25mm out). However they do appear quite obviously small. The coupled wheelbase is spot on at about 14'. The lead bogie wheels are 6" too small as well and the wheelbase is too short. And that's as good as it gets at the moment. I don't have a Ja plan handy, and am working of a K plan, and assuming the measurements are about the same. the cylinders are a bit on the small side and a horizontal, while the Ja's are slightly inclined. However, as I've decided against major surgery ( it always goes wrong for me and I have the carcases to prove it) then they will stay. The performance is very nice. Very good at slow speed. The pickup is not that crash hot without the tender (which will need replacing) so I'll have to sort out how to get a good low friction current collect for it. The front bogie will need a cosmetic outside frame to make it look right without impeding anything. so a bit of a longer term project, but I'm not in a flying rush to get everything built (there's work to think of as well). And I'm not sure how easy it will be to convert into a K series loco as I had originally intended, as it will need a whole new trailing truck.
(And sorry about the crap photo, but by the time I realised the old top was not going back on that well)
That's all for now, but I'm planning on getting back to some of the suggestions for posts in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Well, I’ve been asked to muse on topics, but no ones really added a topic.
I guess the big ones are layout design and planning. Its been done to death everywhere else around the world, but it doesn’t seem to get mentioned in this country. Maybe because the hobby is dominated by S scale, to which the layout planning reply is ‘well, I’ll model a small country station, but have all these loco’s turning up’. So, how does one plan a layout where you can actually model stretches of the main line in a reasonable space, or rather, what does one model. One possibility is a stretch of line, with or without a station, with interesting scenery or terrain. Actual layout examples of this would be Gary Gloags model of the Manawatu gorge, or Cass. Why this may seem to be simple, there s something to be said for a layout with a minimal number of points and complication. Its very simple to operate. Trains can just be left for hours to wander through the scene while one does something else, like talk to punters, or indulge in a bit of reading at home. And the maintenance of the whole mechanical side is much easier too, which should be a major consideration. Another option is to model a junction of some description, or major rural station (Otaki). this gives more options as trains can wander through, or stop and indulge in a bit of shunting. For some odd reason this is a real crowd stopper at exhibitions. I once kept a crowd ( well, group) of punters entertained fro 15 minutes buy shuffling the same rake of wagons from 1 siding to another. maybe they were waiting for it to stall? Finally there is the high maintenance but extremely operationally interesting stations where the engines are changed (Otira, Arthurs pass, Paikakariki). This involves allot of operation for a home layout, and an exhausting amount for an exhibition layout, with only a railcar to rescue the worn out operators.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A look back in time.

After I moved to Wellington, Darryl and I decided to grow an exhibition layout. It can't have been the beer as he doesn't touch the stuff. It was all a horrible mistake, and some of the best fun I've had modeling in my life. My contribution to the monstrosity was Cass; 16' of central Canterbury scenery inspired by photo's in Geoff Churchmans 'Midland line' book.
As I'd had a lot to do with the Dunedin Nz120 layout, I decided that my layout was going to be much lighter and easy to set up. The 4 modules were built from 2 by 1's in a reverse L girder fashion. In the first photo we can see the scenery take shape. the hard shell was not that strong ( one night the cat fell through it, which gave him a hell of a fright), but managed to survive 4 years of exhibitions. One can also note the mess on the floor (I'm much better now I think...)

The ground cover was made mostly by sanding pinex onto PVA, then spraying with some spray can wheat field colour. it did seem to work quite well. in the second picture there's the tranzalpine heading up the Cass bank behind a photo etched Dx. these were done in Dunedin 20 years ago, and were on thick zinc. they were a real bugger to put together too. I did have 2, and have no idea where they went. Also note the test for the back scene height.

Picture 3 is with the back scene up and painted. Obviously it was just too tall at the first try. the trees and fisherman's cottage are in, as well as the bridge, that only ever had one girder. the Cb's were made from cut up drainpipe sections ( done for me by John Rappard) and with microtrains bogie's I think. The Dc top is long gone, but the SD7 mech I still have ( at over 20 years old and still running well). Its set to change from a Dc to a Da, thus reversing the life cycle of these loco's.

The last photo shows the final form of 8' of the layout. It also shows what NZ120 is best for, depositing trains in a landscape. Also note that there is only one track. I've always resisted the urge to add too many tracks to a layout. simpler is better and there is less to go wrong at an exhibition.
Darryl has more photos up from this layout at and he's always been better at writing in a humorous vein.
I've just gone back to have a look through those and there's some good memories there. We did a couple of trips to Chch back in the mid 90's when it was not the done thing to do going that far for Model railway shows. We used Pacifica shipping. They were cheap, and as it turned out, very good to us. Our first trip south was well organised, in that we flew down, did some shopping and then turned up at the venue to find our layout delivered to the door and ready to unpack. none of this driving for 6 hours to get anywhere for us. The only drawback was as I recall that they arrived home smelling slightly of fish....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

post number 2

Well, blogging always starts with a hiss and a roar doesn't it.

So, just to show I'm not all talk, here's the first railway model I've built in quite a while. Its an etch cetera Da phase 1 (1400 to 1429). this is a neat wee kit made by Andrew Wells. in the box you get a brass etched sheet, several nice white metal castings for the horns, headlights and the front and rear hood ends, plus a sheet of decals. these include numbers for 1410, 1429 and 1421, plus 126, 230 and 322. you also get the side stripes, which are almost impossible to paint. I acquired this plus a chassis a while ago from my brother. I think he obtained them from Darryl Bond. Here's what the etch looks like.

So, now for the comments
-I assembled this kit with a 60W iron, and used 10% phosphoric acid as the flux. paint it on with an old brush, then just touch a lightly tined iron to the spots. a quick 'fzzst' and its done. this was the first time I've ever done any real soldering, and it was relatively painless.

-Right, what I did wrong. got the front and rear steps mixed up. this wasn't discovered until I went to put the handrails on at the end. I filled the holes, and just attached the handrails on the outside with solder. a delicate job, but it did work out. As I'm a male I didn't read the instructions that carefully. I should have annealed the cab roof where it is supposed to be bent, but didn't, and just succeeded in braking the etch at these spots. this lead to a tricky job soldering them back on later. Some of the instructions were not that clear either, but having a bit of previous knowledge with 1410 at steam inc I was able to nut it out.

One of the problems I did have was with 1 whitemetal block provided for the ends. at the front this left a large gap of about 1mm. I managed to fill this with solder and then filed it back to flush. Also, there are no handrails for the front and rear of the hoods. this struck me as a bit odd.

So, in summary, its a tricky wee model, only to be attempted by an experienced modeler. I still have yet to get the paint on, and add the couplers, but I do like it sitting on my workbench at the moment.

My brother attempted to convert one into a Db, I know not why, as that would be a phase 3, the hood and headlights are wrong, and he narrowed the footplate stuff down without thinking too much about how the mech was going to fit underneath. I could complete it but the layout I'm planning is based in 1963, 4 years before they were put in service. So if anyone has a kit that they have given up on or want to sell on, I'd be extremely interested.

First post, last post?

Wow, a first post. Sort of needs a great topic, how I'm going to change the world etc. Somehow I don't think its going to happen. So whats this all going to be about. Hopefully it will be a blog on modeling in NZ120, running model railways in 1:120 scale on 9mm gauge track, with some incredibly bad typing and spelling tossed in for good measure. I've been doing this off and on for 20 years now, but have been completely inactive for the last 10 years. What prompted me to get back into it has been the deaths of 2 men.

John Rappard was my NZ120 mentor, he was an incredibly skilled modeler and very generously taught me an awful lot about modeling. I've always tried to live up to his example of helping any other modeler who asks how to do something or improve their skills. I had lost contact with him, and his death came as a bit of a wake up for me.

Pat Eade was another character who released the first commercial range of NZ120 kits. he was also a good bloke, and I remember a few phone chats with him, when I kept pushing him into casting bits for the scale back in the early 1990's (I'm not claiming that I got him into the scale, as it took 10 years to get anywhere with this!).

So, where does this all lead. I've been lurking on the yahoo group for quite a while now. I've watched people talk with little action (where did that plan for a De kit go?), grand schemes come and go, and the scale bumble along with not allot happening ( a few people aside who I'll mention in the next couple of weeks). I'm hoping to bang down some thoughts from the keyboard and try to inspire a few people to have a go at building things. I'll try to do this with some modeling projects, thoughts and ideas. Also possibly a bit of modeling philosophy thrown in.

Sounds ambitious I guess, but it all seems rather pointless if you start something without ambition.:v) And I've always wanted to have a crack at this blogging thing. No idea if I'll be any good, but that's not going to worry me that much anyway, as I dont really care if you read this or not.

Right then, on with the show.