Saturday, January 31, 2009

Little Known NZ120 Products

(provided by ECMT)

(provided by ECMT.)
Promodel made a card kit of an NZR Class A No.2 Station a few years ago.
While card kits aren't to everyone's taste, these particular kits were quite well done, especially from a 2 foot viewing distance !
A nice kit, but a little bit fiddly if you haven't a steady hand while wielding a sharp scalpel !

I pimped my kit with added extras like gutters, down pipes, louvres in the toilet windows, screen mesh, chimney flashing, and a poster and blackboard copied from the back of a Journal.
Unfortunately the range was never expanded, and the current range is no longer available as far as I'm aware.
Contact with the manufacturer may yield results.

( this is the first of what will hopefully be a sizable collection of reviews on Nz120 kits that are/were avaliable.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

And its Friday again

Its been a while since we had some layout ideas around here. unfortunately thats going to continue for a wee bit yet.
On the plus side, I've had a number of E-mails across my inbox, that while sworn to secrecy, I can reveal promise an interesting time in the scale in the next few months.
As to what they are, well, you'll just have to wait won't you...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I've added a link to Woodworks, who while mostly involved with those other funny large scales, also sells rail and sleepers that can be used for NZ120 if you are not quite right in the head and want to make your own track.
check at your own peril.

God bless America

(hmm, that will get me a stack of hits from the loony right I think..)

I arrived home tonight to find a package from the states, only 8 days after I placed the order.
for ~$100 ( I have not seen the credit card bill yet, but nor has my wife), I have in my sweaty palms the mechanism for a Kato Mikado (minus the cylinders and trucks). In the first of what should be a more definitive series, heres the low down on it. The main drivers are 9mm in diameter and 10.5mm over the flanges. The wheelbase is approximately 11mm + 11mm + 11mm. Holding it up to the plan, the outer wheels match ( the Ed had an unequal setup) which is good enough for this 2 foot modeler.

So, how does it run? Putting it on the track, and it shorts. Hmmm, it appears that one of the insulators is on backwards. Quickly sorted, and away it goes, off up the steep grade to show it can haul itself around unlike the pathetic Bachmann offerings. Might buy another one next month, and get started on making a couple of tops.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

History update

I'm informed by a Mr Woods that $10 in 1972 is $115 in todays peso's. It does add a bit of perspective to the whole thing, as the 8'6" sole bars and 4'10 passenger bogie side frames would be $14 without wheels.

Anyone now have a hankering for the good old days?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where did we come from?

I've been in a position to do a bit of research on the origins of the scale in the last week or so. This has involved locating a collection of the local rag from the early 70's. Fortunately, the local group does have such a collection, and locating the info I wanted was only a 40km round trip on the bike.

Prior to 1972 there were fragments of information printed in the local rag with lone photo's and brief descriptions of a layout in Auckland by A C Upton, possibly to 1/8 th scale or about 1:100( I have not yet sited the original so will wait to confirm it) although the notes I have suggest he was the first to construct a large NZR based N gauge layout. Another question would be whether or not it was genuine NZ120 or remodeled foreign gear. The first mention I can confirm is of an Ian Lauchland of Stokes valley, who was listed in the August/September 71 issue as working in TT on n scale track, and having built an Mc on a Peco underframe (wow, we have not moved far in 40 years) as well as having other wagons awaiting suitable underframes.

The Catalyst for the Scale appears to have been at the 1972 Convention in Hamilton, with much discussion on the scale. The major players seem to have been Don Lawrence, Paul Berntsen and a young dashing Kevin Crosado (sporting a beard that made Grizzly Adams seem clean shaven). The then editor the late Maurie Dunston started a column in the August/Sep 72 issue called N'zr for eNthusiasts. it was pointed out at the time that the absolute correct scale should be 1:118, but 1:120 made the measurements much simpler at 1' equals 1/10", which makes a hell of a lot of sense in the pre-electronic calculator age (I doubt if the state of the art Odner adding machines would have been up to the task). Just don't tell any of the finescalers and we'll be fine. An Ab plan was included and Maurie was very keen to support the new scale.

The next issue (Oct/Nov 72 brought news of Lost wax brass castings for an 8'6" underframe and a 4'10" coach bogie at $1.20 a set( believe these plus a selection of other detail parts are in the possession of Don Clements at present) from Scalecraft AKA Mr Berntsen. Colin McHarg also offered a scaled down version of his Zinc Ab etch for the then princely sum of $10 (I can't find anywhere to convert this, but the first loco kit on the market, an F, sold for $48 with a motor, so maybe equivalent to $75-80 today).

In the Dec72/Jan73 issue, a 2 page spread reported more doings, and the naming of the scale (yes its that old) That appears to have been suggested by Garry Whincop and Crossado about the same time, although there may have been a frantic spate of letter writing. Maurie suggested that he preferred Nz120 vs other suggestions, and this seems to have become the standard in the journal after this time. Kevin Crosado also suggested that mechanisms should be scratch built as commercial N scale stuff was not overly accurate and had larger flanges than the then equally new 9mm scale. At this point 3/32" to the foot was also suggested (to make the conversion of plans easier) but appeared to die quietly without much support.

It was pointed out that at the end of 1972 the Guild register indicated that 7 people claimed to have layouts modeling NZR on N scale. Again the question is if they were genuine NZ120

There was enough interest to sustain at least page per journal (and often 2) in the issues at a time when other modeling fodder was hard to come by ( again, not much has changed). Paul Berntsen reported the creation of a 4'6" driver for an Ab to be cast in Nickel silver, as well as the fabrication of other wagons. Microtrains (then still Kadee) couplers were chosen as being the most desirable. Sources of wheels were discussed, and Maurie asked repeatedly if anyone was building a layout in the scale rather than just making models to see what they looked like. The last 2 issues from 1973 are missing from the collection I have, but apparently there were pictures of a layout and tables of NZR loco wheelbases and N scale models equivalents.

At the Hastings convention in 1974, Paul Berntsen displayed a Da hauled train and a scratchbuilt Ab chassis.

I'd love to know where the Ab wound up, but I believe that the Da is with Don Clements as well.

While it was obvious that Paul was keen on the scale, another new scale was consuming more and more of his time. Back in late 1971 the 9mm association had been formed by Bob McCully. This group had over 10 members that had started building wagons, and Scalecraft started receiving orders for locomotives. I can imagine Paul was happier working in the larger scale as it would showcase his modeling talent's to a far greater extent, and more importantly, pay the bills, as it does not appear that large numbers of Nz120 loco's were being ordered at this time.

Well, thats it for today. this section will have to wait till I can get my hands on another couple of volumes of journals.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Container Wagons - Adventures in Casting

(Kiwibonds springs to the rescue again)

Container wagons are an important component of the modern era, so back in October when my better half was off overseas for a few weeks, I dug up the casting supplies I’d been hoarding since last century with a view to making some.

A few masters were whipped up from plasticard - they are far less ugly from a nominal two foot viewing distance than close up, so I’m going to be generous and score myself seven out of 10 for these. The proliferation of styrene strips of all sizes and shapes certainly makes scratchbuilding easier than it used to be for those of us whose surname isn’t Boul. That man is a black belt plastic wizard.

OK, so that’s the easy bit, but then it was time to tentatively make my first molds since some pretty mediocre efforts in the early 1990s. With a bit of well timed advice from Rhys about brushing the master with rubber before doing the main pour, I was rewarded next morning with these nice blue bubble-free wobbly jobs…

On to casting…. Although the rubber exceeded my low expectations, the resin (which I later discovered had “Use by 8/99” stamped on the bottom of it) wasn’t really up to the task with at least a 50% failure rate. The stuff just wouldn’t cure consistently, but I did get a few reasonable successes by early November.

The first wagons weren’t too stiff, so I placed some strip brass in with the resin which helped a little, but the real coup occurred when I was ordering new resin and found that my pusher of materials and tools has not only a “quick” resin with a short mix time that sets in about 15 minutes; but also a 16-48 hour cure “high strength” resin. This has turned out to be perfect for the wagons but I’ve also been using it for a few containers as well as the high strength stuff is only a little thicker than water so it flows into all the nooks and crannies and the long cure time lets most of the air bubbles escape. I’ve also found that by filling the container molds about 2/3rds full and then squeezing it from all sides stretches the rubber which allows the resin get into all the details such as the rodding on the green side opening containers which you can see more clearly on the later 10 footers than in my early experiments with the 20s above.

Over the last week or so I’ve made a few UKs as well (that’s lens warp rather than a bent UK before you ask!). The containers provide rigidity over the thinnest part of the wagon chassis, but the high strength resin alone seems stiff enough to run empty flat wagons and a rake of these looks pretty neat actually. Insert Tranz Rail Beard Era joke here. The addition of a little weight helps them track nicely as the resin, even with a couple of containers on board, is pretty light. I have been using both shotgun pellets (thanks to the Blogmeister for that idea) and thin lead squares (I assume its lead) from dental Xrays folded up. You can just see these in the following pic.

For the PKs, I’m using bogie mounted MT trucks but have cut the couplers off to be body mounted on the UKs to keep the bogies about where they should be. I do like the PKs - the shorter wagons look better on curves and trains seem longer if they have more vehicles in them. Something a little different:

I only got four and a half of these HCCs out before the mold became unusable – too many nooks and crannies!

Friday, January 23, 2009

For sale

The comes a point in a mans life where no matter how long he looks at something he knows he is never going to do anything with it. Its whats filled garages up and down this country. It's time to finally bite the bullet and admit that the 3 minitrix 4-6-2 chassis that I have I'm not going to do anything with.

They don't have motors or worm gears ( and I have no idea where you would get them). The wheels are too large for NZR standard classes.One has had the outside frames on the trailing truck removed. $17.50 each and I'll throw in the postage.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


< Finally, someone to rescue me with a post(where the hell are the rest of you?). Even better, its also going to drag the blog kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Brendon Lean, who's stunning painting graces the cover of the latest rag (number 364) demonstrates that there's more where that came from .

"The latest DX in toll rail colours for my midland line layout that runs between, after 2mile and a few k's out of Otira.
The Dx is going to be one of three helpers stationed at Otria.
I made the decals and hand painted the stripes, with an air brushed paint scheme.
There is still some finishing left to do, like the air horns and windows extra, but it is pretty well finished, it is also expecting twins in plastic card and resin form."

Now, even if you feel your models are not up to this standard ( mine aren't, so its not like you are in a minority), if you don't start sending me stuff by this time nest week I'll be down to discussions of my navel fluff, or worse....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On loco's again.

There was a suggestion yesterday on my e-mail that given that spare parts for the Kato 2-8-2 can be got reasonable cheaply (well, as cheap as it gets in these times), what are the possibilities.

The wheels I believe are about 9.5mm diameter, which is a shade under 4'. however the flanges take this out to 10.5mm so we are looking at 4' drivers. This narrows the field to locos like the Q, Aa, Ww, Wf. The side rod's basically rule out the Wf, as it's driven on the 3rd and not the second axle. However,I think it could be possible to remove the leading driver (as it doesn't have any gearing associated with it) and substitute a lead bogie.
Then theres always the cheaper option...

And the path to the dark side....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On track

A topic I've not touched on in any post I think. Typical as its the thing I'm not that good at, and is possibly the most vitally important bit of the layout. theres quite a few different companies that make track now. The most commonly available in this country is the ubiquitous PECO which does have a nice selection of points and a code 55 option which is quite clever in its execution, if somewhat difficult to get rail joiners on. Atlas would have to be next, with a range thats not quite that varied. Micro engineering is one that I've never seen here, but it might be common as muck north of the Bombay hills. they also do a code 40 option ( for a look at the complete range
Finally, for flex track there is the el-cheapo track from Upper Golfballawayoo or whatever, which I'm using at the moment until I get of my chuff and pick one of the real companies products (did I say it was cheap?).
Another option I suppose I should mention, for those who have a touch of the sun. has everything you could ever need if you wanted to lay your own track. They also have a good range of track templates.

And finally a question out there for all my readers. How many of you have built a module to the current NZ120 standard, and how many do you own?

Saturday, January 17, 2009


My plan to build an ed may have just hit a bit of a snag. seems that Bachmann in their infinite wisdom have only put gears on 2 of the 4 axles, which will have dire consequences for the tractive effort once the rods come off. I'm now wishing I had brought a couple of Kato 2-8-2 chassis when the exchange rate was higher (I almost did, but then thought I could do it later when I had more money). The GG1 kato bogies will cost me $100 for 2 locos without motors, but will be powered on 3 axles! I'm not sure I can remove the rods to see what the tractive effort would be like without completely stuffing it up either should the experiment prove a bust.

UPDATE; answers to questions.
1) Gutless, can't haul itself on the flat.
2) Amazingly its back together and still goes.

Will have to go back to plan A (or maybe this was C and we're back to plan B. I forget now)

Saturday morning.

Things are a bit slow here this morning, due to a wee bit of an over indulgence in the amber liquid last night (plus I have to bike out to work this morning to set some stuff up 15km there and back, an then head out to a friends place for a 20km round trip; not having a car has its good points and bad points. At least I'm fit). I'm not overly motivated to model at the moment, due to work pressures and stresses as well (patents suck...). Hopefully this will change soonish and I can get back into sitting at my untidy bench and move some projects forward.
So, in lew of any substantial blog posts from me, hows about some of you send me some pictures of your current modeling project on your bench in NZ120 (if such a thing exist). It doesn't have to be finished or pretty, just in progress or completing.
I'm looking at breaking plastic (if there is such a term) on a couple of Ed tops if I can get inspired enough by a red electrical switch box. Hell, at least its not taxing shape wise. I don't think I'll look at casting these as I think there will be a very limited demand for an Ed (that will jinx it), and I'd have to decide if I was going to cast a Hutt or Addington assembeled version, as the purists among you would complain most voraciously(No, I'm not doing 101 as I don't think I can get the stripes straight, and I don't like the look of them anyway).

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I've been looking at the 2 4-8-2's sitting on my work bench for the last while. I'm not having much success moving the project along to build a couple of Ja's, basically because I can't seem to solve the problems of where to hang stuff off, and building front ends, boilers, cabs and tenders etc. The thing that bugs me most is that the wheels are far too small and look it. If I do build a Ja its aways going to look wrong no matter how detailed it is.
So, what are the options. One that did initially appeal was the X, the original mountain class. Hmmm, ugly and useless.

The second one (which came to me in the shower this morning; where do you do your best thinking?), which some would argue is equally ugly and useless is...

The wheelbase and driver size is spot on. The top is easy to build. I wanted a pair for the layout anyway and was thinking of using Kato mikados until the Peso of the south pacific collapsed (Fiji has Coups and the exchange rate doesn't change for gawds sakes).
I'm awfully tempted. maybe a bit more than that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ghost railways

Living in Nelson does have its drawbacks. The main problem according to a world renown train photographer, is that there is no railway. He does have a point I'll admit. There are the railway preservation people out at founders, but I normally go there to visit the brewery. However from my house (well, the landlords house) I can see the old railway formation as it climbed out of Nelson over the Bishopdale hill. Why they didn't go out round the port is beyond me, but I guess someone with money and land up this way was involved. Skip back to the present and its a cycle track, and a very nice ride out from town in the evening. And it would have been something to watch small tank locos climb the hill with a full load.

It could make a good model as well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Discussions over the weekend broached (among other things) the possibilities of getting plans of diesels that appeared in the NZRLS books in the 80's. As I seem to be in a minority around here for my interest in mobile tea kettles, its something that maybe we should look at getting republished. The only diesel locos that are difficult to model at the moment are the De and Dj. The De's problem is that there is no mechanism with bogies even within co-ee of being correct, while the Dj can be built, but needs access to a milling machine and a steady nerve. I once did some frames for Kiwibonds, literally with my heart in my throat as I couldn't imaging what the hell I was going to do if I broke them.
We are also fortunate that the various rail owners of our system in the last 15 years have just rebuilt old loco's so that the basic plans are still usable, its just the extra humps and bumps that need to be checked. As for the paint schemes, one could make quite a few models before having to do the same scheme twice. Finally, a note for Kiwirail. For god sakes take the crayons away from whoever is coming up with this, or up their meds or something. Its almost a reverse fruit salad, but not in a good way.

'Southern pacific meets flying tomato with a side of salad?'

Sunday, January 11, 2009


A couple of days and I have now run out of resin, but theres a nice pile of wagon tops.

Addition of the pouring channels and air vents seems to have solved the large air bubble problem, and theres now just some small ones present. I'll use this method for all the other 2 piece molds I make from now on. The hutt castings seem to be immune to this problem still.
I have yet to reach the dreaded 'urethane mold wear out point', but I've only done 13 shots in each mold.
Its been an interesting (re) learning process.

Friday, January 09, 2009

More on colours (and others)

Luke has pointed out that maybe all bush is a vibrant green if the sun is out. Quite possibly it is, and I would love to see some pictures to prove this one way or the other. It also has me wondering what colours other locations would have if the weather was better, like Yorkshire maybe ('Does the sun ever shine here lad? I don't know sir, I'm only 9').

I'm also completely underwhelmed by everyone else's plans for the year. lets be having then then. any tall story accepted ( well, maybe not from ECMT...).
And what of my readers from overseas? Any thoughts from there?

Success (sort of)

Cutting larger feed channels into the Lc mold tonight almost worked. theres still air bubbles, but i think its fixable with a bit of practice.
I've also been asked what sort of price the castings are. the only ones I'm comfortable with releasing at the moment are the E hutt and the M wagon top only. These will each be $5.
If anyone is interested, contact me at the Gmail address and we will sort something out.
(update; theres also some La and Lc tops, which are not perfect, but I'd still like opinions on (again, $5 a pop plus some postage). All tops will go on peco underframes with a bit of trimming.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

'And young people today, they just don't believe you'.

I was out walking in the hills behind Nelson yesterday, and managed to look up from my normal 'keep looking at the ground or you'll trip over something you idiot' gait. What immediately struck me (after the tree branch) was the colours of the bush. I've always modeled this as a reasonable dark green. however, as the photo shows its a bit more vibrant than that.

Might be time to buy up the entire green section in the Resene range in test pots, or start modeling somewhere thats burnt grass ( Oh, bugger, I've already done that).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

resin casting the sequel

First test tonight. I took my Lc mold ( the one which i had to cut the master out of), and made some changes. These were based on something I found on Nigel Lawton's website ( about casting stuff. He came up with a method similar to using white metal for castings ie pouring the resin in from the bottom, allowing the resin to fill the mold and let air bubbles escape. This is shown in the first picture.

Here's my attempt.

As you can see, the resin has somewhat filled the mold from the bottom, the strips on the top are my attempt to pour resin down the vent holes (DUH!) as it had stopped going in the side filling hole. I think this just made things worse, and the whole lot set as is. on the plus size, there don't appear to be any air bubbles on the casting in the cured section. I think it might work if I enlarge the filler pipe as the resin has to flow through a gap about 1mm in diameter, which might be the whole problem. I'll cut some larger holes and have another go tomorrow night.


On the NZ120 group in the last couple of weeks, the old articles that John wrote from the early 90's for the local rag have been discussed, and people have been asking which journals that they were in. Now I think this is probably a bit sad in that our group is relying on stuff written nearly 20 years ago to make models from, and possibly more distressing, that no one has really written anything else. When was the last construction article on an NZ120 subject posted in the journal (the ones in the latest journal don't count sorry). Are the plans still printed with an Nz120 scale view?

(oh, and the previous post was an invitation for everyone to comment on what they would like to achieve with their modeling in 2009, if you all didn't take the hint)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Plans for 2009

Well, its about this time of the year that we sit down and with a skin full of booze try to make plans for the new year that we have absolutely no hope of forfilling. with this in mind, I'll present two sets, the readily achievable, and the wildly outlandish.

- organise the A3 module system so that other people can actually follow it, and more importantly, download the files and use it.
- get my resin casting to the point where I can actually sell castings to others.
-get started on a home layout of some sort.

wildly optimistic;
-come up with a full range of wagon kits (any period, so i leave myself some wiggle room).
-Do a steam loco kit (I've got more chance of being elected pope)

Slaving away

Sorry, not many updates this weekend. I've been hard at work on other projects.

'Come closer my pretties....'

Mostly trying to attract low flying aircraft with my lilly white legs.

Friday, January 02, 2009


Well, after a ho hum day in the garage its clear to me that I need to learn some new tricks to use this resin. I just can't seem to get rid of the air bubbles in 2 part molds. Either that or go back to turbo bog or something...


On new years eve, while looking for something else ( a model of an Indian mausoleum, but that's another story), I rediscovered buried treasure. My A and Ab, built on old Mehano pacific chassis ( the company recently went bust) that I purchased with my strawberry picking money nearly 25 years ago.

Back in those days, ordering stuff from overseas was a serious trial that was a hangover from the Spanish inquisition. One had to try to work out what the exchange rate actually was, and then go into the post office and apply for a postal order, fill out the amount you wanted to buy, pay for it up front, and then send the money off into the wild blue yonder in the vain hope that you had not only got the address right, but that they would be able to actually send your order back to you. I think each order took 2 months to arrive back in the country.
The construction methods were not quite up to that of the Bernsens of this world, but would get an A+ for ingenuity. The Ab tender is a toilet roll suitably covered in paper. The boilers were formed around Hornby tanker barrels ( the chassis had become la's probably by then), again with paper. The cabs were plasticard, the domes carved from balsa wood, and the funnels were from cut down PVA bottles ( Merv Smith would have been proud). The motors were not that good ( the A eventually got an athern motor), but they held their own against the converted English stuff we had ( my, Lima was crap wasn't it).
The scale was a bit on the large side (living in a small town, there was no chance to actually see real S scale models), but they looked the part for a young lad. I'll do some remedial work to fix up some of the lose bits, but they will not get rebuilt. It's nice to have reminders of what your skills were like and how far you've come. Not sure if I'll ever take them along to a area group meet. Maybe if I fill up on dutch courage beforehand.

More hutts

Here is a picture of the first hutt out of the mold, along with the master on the right. I have given it a wash of brown to show the detail ( or lack thereof). Also, it seems to be rather shy about having its picture taken.

This is the best I could do with 6-7 attempts trying all sorts of things.