Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mood Music. . .

On the way: On Track Models Louvre Van. . .

. . .and the Auscision NGTY grain hopper.

I love the internet.

Can you tell? So, now when I'm slaving away making bridge bents for the Namoi River crossing, I can hear what's going on in Narrabri (that's Nair-a-bry, by the way), by listening to 2Max FM 91.3 "The Voice of Narrabri" on streaming audio. What book about Australia did I read that said that radio in the small inland towns is virtually nothing but oldies? Seems to be the case. But a nice mix of music you might not have heard in a while. How about Charlie Rich and "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues?" Doris Day and "Sentimental Journey?" "L.A. International Airport?" This is a better music mix that most so-called "hard country" stations in the DFW area. And the local chatter and adverts are learnin' me some pronounciatin'.

Got to get the bridge finished so I can link Narrabri and Narrabri West. I've got a railroad to run, especially when 12 of these and nine of these are coming in the mail in the near future.

Excuse me, Ross is coming up with "music for the truckies," 4-8pm on Fridays. Right now, it's a Marty Robbins song about the "Siege of the Alamo". . .

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Here's what I aspire my layout to someday even come 25% of approaching for quality,

Thanks, Ray, for the continuing inspiration. Now, i'll get back to struggling along with building a pile trestle (that plastic Walthers kit is looking better by the moment, but, alas, quite North American). . . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Namoi Bridge, Part II

The 4914, once more, with a train of RU wheat wagons on a very spindly bridge over the Namoi River. . .a mock-up of the 240-some-odd foot crossing between Narrabri and Narrabri West on the North-West NSW layout. . .

I've been putting off working on the west bank of the Namoi River bridge area for a bit now. The first go-round on the east bank (up side) went well, but the ceiling tiles left a God-awful mess sur-forming them to shape. But, apparently I've got that figured out--liberally spray the tiles with soapy water as you carve along, and most of the dust is eliminated.

The other reason for pushing it lower to the list is because I've never built such a bridge before. One of my Aussie Angles came to my rescue with a great set of plans for standard NSWGR pile trestles with 24' pier spacings, so I really no longer have an excuse anymore!

Ceiling tiles stacked up on the west bank of the Namoi River. These have been roughly cut and cemented in place; when the glue is dry, they'll be contoured into riverbanks and the bridge approach.

So I spent a little time this afternoon cutting and gluing stacks of ceiling tiles on the west bank, roughly cutting them to contour. After several hours of letting the glue set up, I got out the rasp and did a little preliminary contour work. I'll hold off the rest until the glue fully cures.

I did start thinking of how I'd build the bridge. I came up with around 226' in length from abutment to abutment, and with 24' pier spacing, that came up to 9 piers. Since the height of the bridge would be below 18', I cna get away with the 3-post piers, seen in this view of a bridge near Wee Waa (if I could recall where I got this photograph, I'd either credit the photographer or thank him personally):

A pair of "candy" 48 Class Alcos on a passenger special in 1991 approaching Wee Waa, atop a three-post pile trestle. These appear to be much closer together than the 24' NSWGR plans I have. . .

There is some question when the actual bridges (there are two--one for the river itself, one for a flood plain) between Narrabri Jct. and Narrabri were rebuilt to the current concrete-and-steel-girder construction. Could it be before 1978? In this case, I'm going for the downtrodden-and-rustic look regardless of what the prototype used at the time. I like wooden pile trestles, and this is my layout's one big bridge. . .

I'd measured out the location of the piers and set some long drywall screws into the scenery, placing my section of Micro-Engineering Code 70 bridge track atop it. And. . .i couldn't resist. . .I once more mocked up a scene. I think this will be a fine looking scene: image it with a real trestle, static-grasses and other weeds, a small but muddy river, and a smattering of tall trees in the back of the scene.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The 49 Class arrives. . .

A different sound in the North-West today: EMD-powered 49 Class branchliner 4914 came downbound from Werris Creek Friday on a short goods train. . .seen here passing Edgeroi bound for Moree. . . .

EMD's were quite the minority in the North-West of New South Wales. The NSWGR was mostly an Alco railroad, especially on the lines out of the Werris Creek loco depot in the 1960s and 70s. The 49 Class--an Clyde-GM six-motor version of the popular EMD G8 export locomotive--were delivered to work between Parkes and Broken Hill, although they did occasionally trickle into Narrabri.

I'd been contemplating a purchase of one of the wonderful Trainorama models for quite some time, and finally gave in, the 4914 with thin-valence arriving last Friday, direct from West Ryde, NSW. After seeing a 49 class "in the flesh" so to speak, I must amend my earlier assessment of this locomotive as being uninformed: they're quite attractive little engines, once you get beyond the standard 3/4 view.

A group shot of my growing loco fleet was in order, so here's a 49 Class, a 47 Class, and a 44 Class--GM, Catepillar/Hitachi, and Alco--standing ready.

And, inspired by the Photoshop talents of Ray Pilgrim, I offer the photo at the top of this posting of the 4914, still in shiny Tuscan paint. Apart from the track, the trees, and the train, everything else in the photo is pasted in from somewhere else. Who needs a layout when you have Photoshop CS2?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Let There be Light!

The shadow-box effect in a darkened room. . .

Just got a package in the mail containing a few T4 "low profile" fluorescent lights I'd ordered on ebay, and I think they'll do quite nicely to light the layout.

I've always wanted a layout with a "shadow box" presentation--ideally a dark room with just the layout fully illuminated like a museum diorama. But, living in Texas, a layout built in any sort of "bonus room" will have a soaring 10-12' high ceiling. (The best space for a layout, I'm thinking, is in a basement with 7' or so ceilings, low enough to hang your lighting from not too far above the layout and lending itself to such a shadow box effect.) With the last two layouts I've built, I'd resorted to hanging cheap "Lights of America" dual T12 fluorescent tubes at the ends of chains dangling from the high ceilings--a lower-cost solution and alternative to building a valance above the layout (essentially constructing a whole other level of benchwork to attach the lighting to)--but one that doesn't look nearly as "finished" as the shadow box design.

With the Narrabri layout, the "finished layout room" ideal is one of my goals--no hanging light fixtures at the end of chains, and hopefully, no unsightly open storage area under the shelved layout sections. Eventually, the whole layout will be "finished" and blend into the room, which will someday also be used as sort of an upstairs home theater as well.

Size comparison: T12 tube on left; T4 tube AND fixture on the right. . . and the T4 puts out just as much light and uses 30% less energy. . .

Another size-comparison. . . .

Back to those T4 tubes. They're not commonly found in your neighborhood Home Depot or Lowes; usually you'd have to go to specialty lighting stores or perhaps an "indoor gardening" store (supplying, well, high intensity lights for those who wish to grow "whatever" inside away from prying eyes). The T4 (and nearly identical T5) lights are very small in size compared to larger T8 and T12 tubes, and provide as much or more light with less wattage. . idea for use as under-deck lighting on a model railroad. Other modelers have tried "rope lights" with very little light output as well as strings of LED lighting which currently is quite expensive by comparison. Some "expert" have used compact fluorescent lights in screw-in fixtures, but wiring all these fixtures didn't sound like something I wanted to get involved in; besides, the pattern of light produced by these CFL's, to me, were less desirable for a narrow, linear layout than fluorescent tubes are.

These T4 fixtures are truly compact, 3/4" across and only 1 1/4" deep, so they're perfect for under my thin-profile layout decks. And they're bright--the 28W 46" long tube provides just as much illumination (2900+ lumens) than the much thicker 40W T12 equivalent and uses 30% less electricity. Five of the fixtures can be daisy-chained together on the same circuit. I figure I'll need a total of 17 fixtures for the railroad, a total of around 750 linear inches. On-line searching has found fixtures than can illuminate the railroad for around $.71 an inch; around $500 for the whole railroad. . .a bit more than using CFL's and screw in bases, but with, I feel, a better quality of light. Lighting--good lighting--isn't cheap. Figure the cost of at least a few locomotives to do it right.

Fixtures attached to L-girder stiffeners along the front of the lighting valance. They can either be daisy-chained using short cords between fixtures, or butted next to each other using a small adapter.

With a half-hour of work, I had the first three "test" fixtures installed above Narrabri, and I was damned impressed by how they look. I've already ordered the rest of what I'll need to finish the layout, and I highly recommend these to others looking for an easy to install and compact lighting system for their shelf-type model railroad.

Good, even lighting--and lots of it. Sorry for lack of depth of field. . this shot hand-held without a tripod.