Saturday, February 24, 2018

Track, Points and Wiring on the Colliery Branch Module

A couple of weeks since the last update, and another modular section of the layout has track and points permanently down and operational. This section of the layout (represented by the green shaded section of the track diagram) is a corner module made up of two 1200x600mm foam boards, with the resulting L Shape being 1200x1800mm overall (roughly 4x6 feet for the imperialists amongst us).

With each Knauf foam board weighing about 1.15kg, two of these together, with the addition of a light timber frame underneath made up of 38x19mm pine, makes a manageable sized module that is both strong, and with track and wiring is probably around 3.5kg (approx 8 pounds), which is also quite light and easily lifted off the layout framing and onto the mobile tool trolley/workbench in the centre of the room where the majority of work on the module is done.

This particular module contains two main line tracks, as well as the first half of the colliery siding. The main line track closest to the centre is part of the line “into” Gunnedah, and the main line closest to the outside is part of the line “beyond” Gunnedah. As far as the layout is concerned, everything “Beyond Gunnedah” simply wraps around the outside of what is “Towards Gunnedah”. Doing it this way at least gives the impression of distance when operating a train.

Some initial work was done a few months ago when my wife was able to lay out the points and bend some lengths of track relatively accurately to where they were going to go on this module, so it was just a matter of massaging what was already done until it sat exactly where it needed to go.

With the track laid out exactly where it was going to go, the next step is to figure out where the best place to put the dropper wires will be. Using best practices, just about every individual length of track has dropper wires attached, so it is worthwhile thinking about where droppers can go to make connecting them to the main bus wires running underneath the module both as practical and as neat as possible.

Where there are multiple droppers coming through in close proximity, we have twisted pairs of dropper wires together before then soldering them to the main bus wiring. This has no detrimental effect to the power supply to the track, and also reduces the amount of attachment points to theng.w

Once the dropper wires were then soldered to the track and points, the track was then joined together again so that the foam underlay could be measured out and then attached to the track. To assist the foam underlay being bent around a curve, cuts were made most of the way across the foam underlay from the outside edge of the curved section about every inch (25.4mm) or so, allowing the outside edge to fan out as the foam underlay was curved around reducing the tendency for it to buckle up around the inside edge.

Once each section of track was glued to the foam it was then time to glue the track down in position on the module. Before the points are glued into place, holes are cut in the module for the point motors, a very simple task using a “Multitool” ( ) with a cutting blade, which goes through the 50mm thick module foam like a hot knife through butter, and leaves almost zero mess which is a bonus.

Once the track is all glued down into position, holes can be punched through the module foam, which is easily accomplished using a phillips head screwdriver, and the dropper wires can be pushed through. Handy tip, once the hole has been made for the dropper wires, cut a length of plastic drinking straw to the depth of the hole and push the drinking straw section into the hole. Doing this makes pushing the dropper wires through effortless.

Once all of the above board work has been done, the module can be flipped over. track facing down, and the fun can begin with the wiring. I don’t know about anybody else, but I have always found wiring to be quite therapeutic and enjoyable, both the physical aspect of cutting/stripping/crimping/soldering etc, as well as the technical/logical aspect of knowing how it all works. So whilst I am no longer able to do the physical aspect, it is still up to me to work out and then explain where all of the wires go.

Whilst the wiring is pretty much unseen when the module is in position, I still want it to be as neat and tidy as possible. Generally speaking if you take the time to make something look nice, it will typically be a high quality job, and especially so with wiring getting it right the first time is highly desirable, as fault finding can be tedious at best, time consuming, and damn well frustrating.

Like before, taking the time to figure out where the wiring is going to go beforehand makes everything so much simpler. As you can see with the module flipped over, the main bus wiring simply comes in from the front of the module (the plug that joins the bus wiring to the main layout bus wiring yet to be fitted), through the timber frame, and then runs around to where the grouped dropper wires are coming through the  foam module.

 Using a set of wire strippers that allow the plastic insulation to be spread anywhere along the length of wire allows the insulation to be spread where the dropper wires need to be attached, and after soldering the dropper wires in place a small amount of heat shrink is put over the soldered joint.

Once all of the soldering is completed, a few cable ties are used to group the wires together neatly, and we are also trialling a smear of glue along the uncut tag of the cable ties assisted by masking tape, to hold the wiring firmly in place once the module is flipped over into its resting position.

Once the wiring is completed underneath, the module can be flipped over and is ready for final track inspection, and a quick test to make sure that the point motors are operating properly. Although the point motor logic boards are located on the layout proper, it is only a matter of running a couple of wires to the centre of the room where the module is being worked on and connecting them to the point motor  trigger wires (which are also accessible at the front of the module). It is much simpler checking the point motor operation and that the point blades are throwing correctly when you can get your head directly above them, as opposed to when the module is in its location.

Once happy that all track related work is done, the module is then placed back where it belongs and the bus wiring is connected to the main layout bus wiring. If everything has been done correctly the light globe used for short circuit detection for that module will remain unlit, which it did, and upon placing a locomotive on the track and calling up its operating number, it comes to life and happy moves backwards and forwards along the track as it should, which it also did.

Obviously scenery is still to come, but it’s always nice when the track work and wiring is completed for each module, as it is then time to move onto the next module, and get one step closer to being able to run trains around the whole room.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Flour Mill Module Track and Points Permanently Down and Wired

The last couple of weeks have seen work progressing on the layout, mainly working on finishing the last module which contains the end of what is effectively the main Gunnedah yard section, shaded green area on the track map.

On the prototype, this siding is the site of what was the Bruntons Flour Mill, which consisted of a typical for the period three-storey building of brick construction, which was joined in 1946 by a set of six 110 foot silos.

Looking into the history of the mill, it was interesting to see that the portion of land that the mill is located on, was originally set aside for the cattle sale yards, way back in 1890. This somewhat uninteresting fact does however allow me to draw a very (very very very……) long bow in relation to what I have planned for this location on the layout.

I quite like the look of the old flour mill buildings, the problem that I have is that where this is situated on the layout, space is somewhat at a premium both horizontally and vertically, the latter being somewhat less of a problem.

At a rough measurement, I’ve probably got about room for a structure no more than about 14cm wide, and probably limited to about 20cm tall. The height issue is not really a problem, because of the way the outside top fascia panel is slightly below eye line when standing, you wouldn’t actually see the top of the building anyway. It would basically be a matter of building the structure so that it stops just short of “the sky”, whatever happens to fit within that height is all that needs to be built.

There are a few potential kits on the market that bare a reasonable likeness to the prototype building, that could no doubt be modified to fit the available space, right now that’s not the priority so I have time to contemplate what may go there when the time comes.

On the layout the line that comes around to the mill siding splits into two sidings on this last module, both being around 1200mm in length. So while the rear siding (which is located roughly 210 mm from the front edge of the layout) is at the moment likely to be the mill, the siding closest to the front of the layout is going to be the cattle siding.

In reality, the Gunnedah sale yards are located slightly further along the main line, however, the shape of the layout doesn’t quite lend itself to having the cattle siding where it should be, but it does fit in nicely on this last module, and in reality the only real difference is that it is now accessed via the main yard rather than the main line

Operationally, it probably works better that the cattle siding is an extension of the main yard, and being that this siding sits in about 110mm from the front edge at its closest point towards the end of the siding, it gives enough room for some loading ramps, and where it widens to around 300mm there is room for some semblance of a cattle yard.

In any case the scenic aspects of the layout are still a little way away, but it is nonetheless pleasing to see more track and points permanently down and operating. This last module is reasonably simple with basically one set of operating points and four separate lines of track, by the time you wire droppers off every individual piece of track and add a point motor, you still end up with quite a few wires.

Once again the modular construction makes the task of wiring much easier, with the module flipped over to access the dropper wires that have been passed through holes in the foam board, it is a relatively simple task of running a pair of thicker “bus” wires that the droppers all attached to in a relatively neat fashion. A few cable ties and some masking tape sees the wiring neatly held in place.

All going to plan there should be some more progress over the coming weeks with more track going down permanently and wiring completed on modules around the room.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

40-class Locomotives Arrive In Gunnedah

Did the 40-class ever run out to Gunnedah, I’m not really sure, in any case when I ordered them back during 2008/2009 I wasn’t particularly concerned about that, they were simply one of my favourite locomotives, so I ordered one of each colour, 4001 in blue, 4018 in red and 4019 in green.

After a little bit of research, I figured out that those three locomotives were in those colours at the same time for a while, 4018 was painted from green to red in August 1958, 4019 was still green until May 1960, and 4001 was still in blue in July 1962. This would mean that between August 1958 and May 1960 these three units could have double or triple headed in these colours. I have seen photographs of triple 40-class working the Newcastle  Flyer, I wonder if 01, 18 and 19 were ever captured working together in their three different colours?

It’s kind of funny to think that it took longer for the 40-class to be delivered, than it does for a child to complete high school, but, much has been said about this particular locomotive and the difficulties and delays involved, so I won’t go into that any further.

My three arrived just before Christmas, but it was only recently that they were unpacked and placed on the layout. I ordered my three with factory weathering, which on my three is basically a light dusting over the bogies and underbody, which is enough to take away the shiny black finish, giving a fairly fresh “not long out of shops” look.

I am reasonably happy with how they look, the colours look good to my eyes, some of the detail is very nice, and some parts are somewhat underwhelming, the most obvious feature that does take away somewhat from the overall appearance is the height of the running boards over the bogies, which appears to be too great. Again much discussion has been made of this point, they are what they are, and for the most when running back and forth on the layout they do look okay.

One thing that has me slightly stumped, is that under DCC control they seem to take forever to stop, so even at speed step one, once returned it to zero, they take a few locomotive lengths to stop, which is ridiculous. I have gone into Decoder Pro and set CV4 to zero which had some effect, but nowhere near enough. Looking through the QSI document, it is possible that CV24 may need looking into??? Curious to know if anybody else has had this phenomenon with their 40-class?

As for progress on the layout, a friend of mine spent a couple of hours the other week labelling the points in Gunnedah yard and the appropriate pushbutton switches that activate the points. Until the proper yard panel is built, the pushbutton switches are just temporarily hanging, so it was quite difficult to know which buttons activated which set of points when wanting to run locomotives through the yard section. At least now each set of points is identified which makes life somewhat easier when wanting to change roads.

Some track has been roughly laid out where it needs to go further around the layout, and hopefully over the coming weeks this track can be permanently laid with dropper wires attached.

Apart from that there’s not much to report on, so I will leave it there for now, with some pictures below of the 40-class and a few other shots just for the sake of it.


Friday, December 22, 2017


It’s hard to believe another year has just about gone by, and more than likely for most people it has not been without its challenges, nonetheless, I hope that at this time of year a little bit of Christmas spirit touches everybody, and a very Merry Christmas is had by all.

My wife was very determined that we were going to have a very “Christmasy” Christmas this year, and has gone all out with the decorations. We are fortunate to have a nice sized back room that is just perfect for decorating, and decorated it certainly is.

The main feature (as far as I’m concerned haha) is the “Christmas Express”, which you can see in the video, chuffing its way through the snow covered winter wonderland.

Upon completion of this highly detailed, prototypically accurate, fine scale, miniature representation of the real thing, my wife and daughter questioned me as to why my layout is taking so long, when they have gotten this up and running and finished in only a couple of hours, clearly they are much better at this model railway caper than I am!

Best wishes to everybody over the holiday period, take care, be safe, and hopefully we will all get something a little railway related under the Christmas tree, and even if some of you steam buffs have been a little naughty, even a piece of coal won’t go astray haha……


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Light Engine Movements at Gunnedah

Last weekend I had a surprise visit from some old friends, some of which I have  known since my first year of high school in 1984, our common interest has always been the old Rotary powered Mazda’s. Back in the day these were plentiful and cheap, and with some simple modifications went very very well indeed, now they are not so plentiful, and commanding some very very big dollars. But what does this have to do with model railways?

One of my mates brought along his son who is very much into model railways, and while his main interest has been in steam era British railways, he also has a keen interest in the New South Wales railways, especially the electric passenger trains and the early diesel rail cars like the 620-720 sets.

So after a couple of hours standing around ogling our old Mazda’s and talking all things car related, everybody headed off except my mate and his son, so it was time to adjourn to the train shed and start talking all things model railways.

It was also a chance to turn on the layout lights and fire up the DCC system, and give some trains a run through the mostly completed Gunnedah yard track work.

I only had 4875 sitting on the operating track work, but after running it back and forth a few times, it was soon joined by 42201, 6041, and my 624-724 set that I don’t think has been out of the box since getting it in August 2008, apart from once when I first bought my NCE Power Cab in 2009 and sat it on a single length of flex track to change it from the short to the long address.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours chatting about trains, and for me watching trains actually being run back and forth through Gunnedah yard, which is probably about an eight meter run or thereabouts with what track is down at the moment.

It's great to get trains running to test out the track work, to make sure that everything is running smoothly before any ballasting or scenery begins, so I was very thankful to have somebody keen and interested to do this for me.

A few videos were taken on the iPad of the light engine movements, a couple I have uploaded.

As an aside, I definitely need to get to the Haskel back scene behind Gunnedah, as it has started to lift, so will need some glueing back down at some point.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Meatworks Research

As a bit of an addendum to the previous update, I remembered a particular abattoir that I had seen pictures of, that was almost the perfect example of what I am trying to find for Gunnedah.

The abattoir in particular is the MacLaucghlin Meatworks, which was in use for an amazingly short period of time, built in 1938 and closing during 1942.

There is a detailed write-up on the NSW Railways Infrastructure and Operations blog site, as well as a great collection of extremely detailed photographs, a couple of which I have reproduce w, mainly to show what a great subject for a model this particular abattoir would make.


I also came across some other rather stunning pictures of this abattoir  that I thought   worthy of sharing.

From the Facebook page "Explored Visions by GD"

  And probably my favourite photograph is this one found on Flickr, 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Searching Wide & Far for an Abattoir for Gunnedah

--> Whilst the “Beyond” part of the layout is some way from completion, there is always a need to be looking ahead so that when the time comes I am at least organised to a certain extent.

One of the challenges with any layout is finding appropriate buildings be they stations, goods sheds, residential housing or industrial buildings. For those that model British, European or American railways/railroads, there are quite a few manufacturers that cater for the various styles of buildings found in these locations, however for those modelling Australian locations, the availability is not so great, especially when it comes to the more out of the ordinary buildings.

And (yes I’m starting a sentence with a conjunction but apparently it’s okay) so it is with Gunnedah and its sizeable abattoir located on its own siding as the main line continues northwards. From the information and pictures I have gathered, modelling the Gunnedah abattoir to scale would require a massive amount of space as it is a sizeable piece of industry, so it is a matter of finding something that fits with the scale of the layout, but still has that “abattoir” look about it, or is at least something that when you are told this is the abattoir, your mind quite happily accepts that it indeed “looks” like an abattoir.

To some extent it is kind of lucky that there is no real specific look to an abattoir, they tend to be not particularly architectural, don’t really follow any particular style or even size, which definitely makes the job of finding something appropriate somewhat easier, but not totally.

As part of my research into finding a suitable building to represent the abattoir, apart from looking at the real thing, I have also looked at other layouts that feature an abattoir of some sort to see what they have used for ideas and inspiration. One of the best looking abattoir complexes I have seen is located on Ray Pilgrims high-quality NSWGR based layout Bylong ( ), which features a collection of structures that make up the abattoir buildings, as well as an adjoining cattle yard. I have borrowed a couple of photos from Rays  blog site to illustrate how good it looks. I’m not sure if this is modelled on a particular location or building type, but in its setting is perfectly believable as an abattoir.

American company Walthers are prolific manufacturer of railway related products, and have a large variety of industrial style buildings, however none of the ones I have seen looked to be totally suitable for use as an Australian style abattoir. Casting my search a little wider I came across a website specialising in HO scale structures, one in particular catching my eye as something that maybe suitable.

The website is and the actual structure is called Judys Jams and Jellies. What I initially liked about this building is that it appears to feature a red brick and concrete main structure, which whilst not identical, is not massively dissimilar to the actual abattoir at Gunnedah if you squint really hard. Photographs of Gunnedah abattoir were given to me some years ago by Marcus Ammann who also has a spectacular NSWGR based layout The Main North,

The other appealing factor of this building is the footprint, at 16.5” long x 5” deep x 9.75” high (including roof details) or 419mm x 127mm x 248mm for those metrically minded. When we did a rough layout of the abattoir siding the other week (which will be in a forthcoming blog post) I had placed the track roughly a tissue box width from the back scene, which is somewhere around 4.75”, so this structure at around 5” deep would suit perfectly well.

Being slightly more picky, it would be good if the platform side of the building did not have a section at the end which juts out, effectively cutting down the length of the loading platform (which will need to be extended anyway to the whole length of the building), and if it was 50% longer overall it would be even better, but, as an off the shelf proposition it is definitely one of the better ones I have seen so far.

Being a kit will obviously cause some challenges, my daughter however is very accomplished at building some of the more complicated Lego kits, so I wonder if with a bit of patience making the step to styrene model railway kits is not too much of a stretch!

In the meantime I will continue to search and see what other structures may be useful for Gunnedah’s abattoir, and I also welcome any suggestions that anybody might have for structures that will fit the scene, ideally around 5” deep and anywhere up to 36” long will do the job nicely.