Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Oh My God"

Which is exactly what I thought when I saw this Journal Cover. This shows (in excruciating detail) just what NZ120 is not about. This was shot at a model railway show one Saturday night when we had gone home( Update; Brian McKenzie is the guilty party). If we had known, we would have beaten him to death with a mallet first (the wooden kind, not the loco), Or at least pointed out some better locations. it would have been so much better with this shot.

Still, its the only time NZ120 has featured on the cover of the local rag(please step up to prove me wrong :v).
I wish they had done a better job of capturing our work.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Enough with the talking already

Today I've actually done something a bit more concrete than the last couple of days. I've been trying to work out how the whole layout will fit together. I was trying to make a 1:12 th scale model to see how everything was going to fit, and it was going incredibly badly. The solution? Just move to full scale.

The width of the paper is 2'6". I think the whole layout will need to be deeper. So much for portability. I'm still not quite happy with the layout at the wellington end of the loco depot, but I think everything else will work (and fit more importantly). The only other problem is that the passing loops at the station will only be 4' long, which limits the train length to about 16 4 wheeled wagons. not quite as long as I would have liked. I'll have to see what i can do about that, possibly by slipping both sides of the main line further towards each other.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on The way forward

( Careful here as my spelling is now being carefully checked. Thanks Cat :v)

The brains trust, firing on all neuron, has been busy today on fiurther discussions.
the common points that have turned up are

1) Resin loco tops. While etching is state of the art at the moment, its not every ones cup of tea to assemble the kits. Resin offers the option to 'plug and play' so to speak. The models I made 20 years ago I still think would stack up (and there's still a few in existence from what I've heard). Likewise for the wagons. Rapid prototyping seems to be a buzz area at the moment, but until we actually see some results and models on offer, its all just vapour-ware really.

2) Layouts. its been pointed out that you could build a couple of 2' by 1' modules to the suggested standard, and carry them on an aeroplane as hand luggage. While I'm not sure about hand luggage (the US allowances are much larger than here, to the point where I think I could almost take my wife as carry on luggage), I think for a couple of slightly larger pieces they could be take as luggage. 4' by 2' won't work like that, and I think the days of trekking the length of the country in a hired truck are long gone. However, if people could just turn up on the morning and slot their module in, it would be really great. We are also not sure every prospective NZ120er reads the local rag, and exhibitions are the way to go.

So whats needed is a range of cheap middle of the road models for the average modeler (like the old trackside range, but with improved running qualities) and some visible exhibition layouts to run them on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Way Forward

There's been a fair bit of discussion on the NZ120 group in the last couple of days, starting with,"where are all the NZ120 layouts at shows?"
this might well be extended to the question, where are the NZ120 layouts full stop?
I know there's bits and pieces lurking around the country, but they are well hidden. Gary Gloag is still on the exhibition circuit and flying the flag, but at the moment he appears to be rather alone. I must admit that I should probably be doing more modeling wise, but its a work in progress and a quite sizable project. I've already started contemplating modeling a bit of the Kapiti coast further towards wellington on the Pukerua bank to get something running. We'll see what happens to that.
I've probed my brains trust today to see what they think. One came back with;
"The scale needs:

1) Affordable, easy to put together locomotives that don’t look like crap (one piece cast tops?)
2) Lots of well written, pertinent articles in the modelling press
3) A nationally known layout that goes to exhibitions."

(then there was a bit of waffling prompted by a post lunch sugar high which I've spared you all from)

while I think No 1 is a bit more difficult than it seems (given the recent discussion on rapid prototyping of models and the real costs involved), number 2 should definitely be doable, and number 3 should follow on. in a reasonably straightforward manner.
So the question would then become why aren't more people writing articles for the local rag? Now I've chosen to communicate by writing a blog, which admittedly is not widely read at the moment (a check on Google reveals I'm No28 on the search engine rankings). I'm not sure when the last time i saw an article in the journal, and apart from pictures from the latest convention of K900 I think that's about it. Now this contrasts from the late 80's to the mid 1990's when there was an article in every other journal, plus at least 1 cover shot.
A thoughts just come to mind here (German weiss beer is cheap this week at the local supermarket). in the last 15 years the standards in S scale modeling have markedly increased, to the point where you no longer see average modelers submitting their work. now in NZ120 with the difficulty of actually working to higher and higher standards (apart from the gubbins in the loco's), maybe its something to do with the age old modesty, that my modeling isn't good enough etc. Well, gents, regardless of whether you think its good enough, others don't share your views. I cringe at some of the shortcuts I was forced to make, but some of the best fine scale modelers were impressed by what Darryl and I had done, simply because we have tried something that not many of them could contemplate; the New Zealand scene. Its all very easy to model whats on railway land in the larger scales, but not many step far outside the boundary fence.
I think that's enough rambling for now. Send me some photo's and a note or 2 and I'll post them here ( I appear to have solved the picture problem, so feel free to go back and have a more close inspection of the track plan further down the page).
And maybe I should make this thing more widely known. Its the modesty thing again I guess.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Correction (sort of)

E.C.M.T informs me I'm not the only NZ120 blog on the planet.
Welcome Dorian.
( I'm still not altering things about being the only NZ120 blog until you make more posts though :v)
and this is my first blog post with no spelling error's, so the machine tells me.

Back to basics

Post 2 today.

As I said last time, I've been looking at how I'm going to make the layout work. So maybe I should set out my aims for the whole thing.

1) To simulate the operation of a change over point between electrics and something else.
2) To be an NZ 120 ;layout of the style were the railway is part of the scenery, not the main attraction.
3) To be a place to display locomotives, and rolling stock.

Hmm, I was expecting a bit more than that, but I be "a simple man of simple mind".

(I still can't work out what the hell I'm doing wrong with the pictures. they just don't want to expand for some odd reason that's buried deeper than I can see).

dark tracks are (of course) what I'm planning on keeping. One of the main tricks is to get the feel for a location without removing too many tracks.

the operation scheme for the loco depot would be as follows.

A loco would arrive from the north. it would move into the depot and first be turned to face north again. it would then move to the refueling/ash/water track. It would then either be placed in the shed, or run back on the track on the station side of the loco shed. They are then ready to move forward to the lead track to collect a northbound train.

At an exhibition the loco depot in itself would be a full time job positioning loco's, and I think I'll aim to make this one of the focal points of the layout. The other one would be the actual physical process of changing the loco's over. There's no shunting to be seen, but I don't think I'm going to miss it.

"Matha, git ma 4 by 2's ah feel a layout commin on."

I've been doing a bit of thinking about track plans in the last week or so, primarily how the whole engine change over thing is going to work. I'll post an original track plan later, but I've also turned to thinking about baseboards. having a look out on the net, I always seem to run across people who build 'portable' layouts from the heaviest things they can find. The layouts seem to be designed to outlast the pyramids, and be able to take a direct hit from a 500 pound bomb (however, this might be an idea if your country isn't on good terms with America at the moment).
Further to this, we welcome our first guest blogger, 'Trainee Fettler' ( how does one become a professional fettler BTW? I don't know as I've never fettled) with his ramblings on the subject.

"Everyone knows that when you build a portable layout it needs to be built light for ease of shifting and robust to cope with the knocks that are bound to happen. And yet we now seem to be intent on building for robustness, convincing ourselves that yes, my trains really do need 16mm MDF roadbed to keep them from hitting the floor......and suddenly weight allowance flies out the window. Never mind, we say, this thing wont break, will withstand any unforeseen accidents and will last for years!

What on earth are we thinking?? Why are we intent on making life hard for ourselves?

Firstly, choice of material. Wood is heavy; Foam is light, end of story. But you need it to be robust! BOLLOCKS!!!!! Two guys moving a light foam module have less chance of ramming it into things than they do trying to manhandle a 7 tonne MDF module about. You want to add dings into a module? Quickest way to do that is to drop it onto a concrete floor....and I cant see that happening with a lightweight foam module. And if it does, I'm picking you can fix it easier with foam than you can with wood as well.

"It needs to be able to support the trains". Seriously, how much do your trains weigh? I'm picking you don't scale down the weight as well, so that Ka doesn't weigh 2 and a bit tonnes in 3/ why on earth are we using baseboard materials that suppose it does? MDF? Ply??? Great for boats and walk in wardrobes, useless for modules.

"It has to last for years". How many years do you plan on exhibiting this monster? I don't know if I could cope with standing behind the same layout for the public to gawp at for longer than a couple of years, after that I'd like to think it would be time for something new. So again, why do we build them as if we are handing them down to our great grandchildren?

This comment from Iain Rice should be a mantra for everyone: "I want to arrive 10 minutes before the doors open to the public and leave 5 minutes after they close".

As for home layouts? Totally different kettle of fish...."

I'll take the time here to point out that MDF is possibly one of the worst things you can use for portable layouts. It's essentially thick cardboard, and will adsorb water like a sponge until its collapses. It also has a density approaching that of concrete.

(also, for legal reasons, the view's of Trainee Fettler should not be taken as the views of the proprietor of this blog, except where they agree with his views in which case they should be taken as the proprietor's views. Hope that clears everything up.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We all have to start somewhere

Found in the old photo files. Its not NZ120, but still important.

Here are a couple of steam loco's I built 25 years ago. Made from a mixture of plasticard, real card, spare parts, cast parts and all without the aid of a T square or a plan from the looks of things.

I still have these loco's somewhere, but a quick search tonight has failed to turn them up. They were built on old mehano 4-6-2 chassis for the then princely sum of US$28. The A eventually acquired an athern motor from a DD-40 (which surprisingly fit in the boiler), but the Ab still has the old 3 pole motor. The Dj was built by Darryl

This just goes to show that no matter how good your skills are now, you had to start somewhere.

And speaking of starting somewhere, here is a now world famous train photographer in a cherubic stage. Looking on is my father back when he had hair. I think he's trying to work out where the money went....

And man we had some serious security fences back then. Those things would have held back a crowd of hells angles intent on doing some serious railway modeling.


Some more thoughts on the last post. I've been asked whats wrong with the current standard as it does allow for larger or smaller modules. Fair enough, but theres still the bugbear of having a track 575mm from the front of the layout for the return rack. I suppose that you could build a narrow bit to carry a single track at the back. However its still fundamentally designed for the good old 2' by 4'. I don't know about you but that's just getting a wee bit big to cart round. I'm more aware of this as I'm not running a car, so have to be able to shift things with a minimum of trouble.
While pondering today at work (Boss is in the US for 2 weeks) I did come up with another reason why I like this new type set up. I'm still not quite sure which side I want to view the layout from. Previous layout have been designed to only see everything from 1 angle. now some modes lend themselves to this, but with others it would be great to be able to get some more interesting angles viewer wise.
I'll also admit that there are several people who have built modules for the old system, who quite rightly don't want to change now. There's allot of work tied up with building something like that, and its hard to start again.
Ah well, my attempt to remake the world has not made it out of the starting blocks. Business as usual I guess.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A New Direction?

I was around when the original NZ120 modular standard was created. I can even vaguely remember the discussions that went on at the time. However I think it was about the time I quit the Co-op, so I didn't have that much input into the final thing.

To tell all 3 of you the truth, the modular standard has always bugged me. its all rather inflexible for actually modeling NZ scenes, and the chances of actually getting together with other NZ120 modelers are rather minimal, let alone traveling with a set of 4' by 2' modules.

At the weekend I came across this website, and a solution that I really like;

Its flexible and you can design a layout to fit into your home without being tired to the 4' by 2' ( I must look, its this in the bible in Genesis? ' ...And Moses did take the tablets, being 2 cubits by 4 cubits, and laid them down, and low, the trains did run...').

Thoughts anyone?

And here's tonight's picture. I really must add couplers and some MU pipes.
(I always though it was cheesy modeling preserved locomotives. I've made a big exception in this case. I think Frank would have approved. Also I've worked on both of them)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'..And he waved the fastest soldering iron in the west...'

Well, an afternoon off work, and a chance to relax and get some modeling in.

I set to and folded up the top of the Da, then discovered that the rear walkway I had added was 1/2 mm to narrow, so had to do a bit of work to get the cast lead ends in. Everything else went along OK (I'm starting to enjoy assembling these things. Bizarre for an etched kit I know). Only burnt myself once which is always good. and managed to fold up the rear end handrail freehand. The only serious casualty today was the DIGITRAX decoder that now refuses to work, since all the smoke has escaped. you would think they would have found something else by now that would work better.

The end result, a beautiful pair.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Of to the races

Came home tonight to find the Da footplate etch from Andrew Wells in the mail box. Its a dud etch but perfect for my purposes. So away with the soldering iron and files.

How did I extend the footplate 3mm? It turns out that there is a small piece of footplate as part of the etch. Now I have no idea where it is supposed to go. The only problem is that theres not enough, and you need 2 kits to be able to do this properly. With a bit of filing and some bracing the whole thing solders like so.

The plus with using the Atlas SD-7 is that the bogies can be reversed, which gives 2mm extra length, which still looks right length wise, and accommodates a slightly larger fuel tank.
And as a safety tip, drinking while soldering has pluses and minuses. the big plus is you don't notice quite so much when you burn yourself.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

'Hello, my name is XXXX and I'm a model railroader"

I went along to the local NZR modelers group ( I think it was the S scale NZR modelers group, but I appear to have buggered that up now). Different format to what I'm use to. first a sit around with what everyone has been up to. I took the Da along, and surprised a few by producing it out of my coat pocket. So other nice models were displayed.

After this support group, we headed off downstairs to 'Der Room'.
The guy was an excellent modeler. a beautiful collection of wagons and loco's, hand laid track which was just gorgeous (despite not having track chairs), and with some fantastically well made buildings as well). I'll point out here that I do not give praise lightly.
'Can we see something run?'
'Sorry, but I've got to do a bit of work on the locos to get them going well.'

The collection included a north yard A that had been modified by Kevin Barry, a Berntsen Ab (which just looked wrong), a JG models Ab, and a Ja that looked like an early John Gardner model. And none of them went right. the conversation continued, with several members of the group relating their trials and tribulations with assembling S scale loco kits. most were returned to the manufacturer for a rebuild. One in particular was praised for his chassis skills, but not for his superstructures.

I guess its a problem that we have avoided in NZ120, as no one in their right mind (if you are not, please don't be offended) would build a mechanism, and we have got by using close enough stuff from N scale.
My attempts to make N scale steam locos closer to the prototypes that they represent have ended in disaster.
So, throwing this out to the peanut galley. What would you prefer; prototype fidelity, or something that looks OK, but will put in the hard yards on the layout?

Finescalers look away now

Well, thought I would get started on the Clyde Da this weekend. As I had done the correct-ish bogie sideframes for 1410, it was natural that i should do the same thing for the phase II Da. I firstly took any finescale modeling book I had and tossed them safely out of the way in the cupboard. Then 4 bits of 3mm brass 1/2mm brass bar of approximately the right length were sweated together. The sides were marked out with reference to photo's and the SD7 frames that they would be sitting on the outside of. I had done a rough sketch of the general outline of the sideframes, and also the bits that were important to get the correct look. after the filing was done I had 4 sideframes that looked about right ( and completely by accident were symmetrical as well).

The brake cylinders were larger than the phase I and so 2 different diameters of brass pipe were soldered together ( one inside the other). The ends were rounded and then a piece of 2/1mm brass wire was soldered through the middle.

The cylinders were then soldered to the sideframes using the Mk1 eyball method of measure.

The phase II bogies had 2 damping springs on each bogie, which connected behind the brake cylinder. this was bent up with the aid of pliers ( which were good enough for the width: working from an exact plan is not all its cracked up to be) and soldered into position.

the Sd-7 bogies were modified by removing the brake cylinders, and also the brake linkages to the center wheel for each bogie. the sideframes were epoxied into place, removing plastic where necessary for a correct fit.

The brake linkages were made up from microstrip and copper wire and soldered into position, and epoxied to the plastic. I'm not going to comment on this bit, but they would not allow some of the language on TV before 8:30 PM. eventually this was complete to my satisfaction ie I just stood further away.

The police line up. Left is the SD-7 bogie with the brake cylinders removed. The middle is the previously shown phase I bogie, and on the right is the newly minted phase II bogie. I'm now going to cheat and use plastic for the sandboxes, as I don't have any brass of the right size....

So everything is now waiting on the footplate thats in the mail.