Sydney STA

Sydney STA
Sydney STA fleet for layout

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Sparky in me.....

The last couple of weeks I have spent on the next phase of the Petersham station module of the layout - Wiring up the track and point motors.

My youth comes haunting back to me
When I was a young teenage, my nerdy school friends use to take me to visit the electronic hobby stores in York street, Sydney such as Tandy and Dick Smith. They understood wiring circuit diagrams, resistors, capacitors and making those electronic kits with the plastic circuit boards. For me, I had no interest or understanding of how it works.

Unfortunately my ignorance has caught up with me with my interest in model railways that learning fundamental electronics is essential for a functional working model railway. 

I spent the first couple of days trying to solder the wiring for the track and the peco point motors under the baseboard with access and light limited. This was slow and painful and I decided to turn the benchwork on its side which aided the job of wiring immensely. Below is my first go at wiring the track and the point motors.

Forum Groups
I rarely use the internet forum groups for advice but wanted to get some idea of the best wiring size for the power bus (main track wiring) and drop feeders (track feeders) as the most of the internet sites suggested wiring size referred to AWG which is not used much in Australia. People on the forum were helpful and I settled for heavy duty speaker wire for the power bus which is connected at intervals with untwisted 5 Cat wire for drop feeders by yellow splice connector clips.

Below is my dummies guide to my track wiring. I have decided to not only include drop feeders at each piece of rail but also at the each end of the baseboard module so that it will make it easier to dismantle the layout as the track will also be cut at each baseboard end.
Powering the point motors
The last layout I built, Bilby Beach, I tried powering the point motors with much failure. I used Peco point motors as they are relatively not too expensive and seem simple to wire up. However, I used on/off switches which was wrong. This time I bought a Peco Capacity discharge unit which provides that short burst of power for the point motor and also a number of momentary on-off-on switches so the point motor does not burn out.

Below is the much neater arrangement of the wiring. The wiring for the points is shown with orange wire and purple wiring leading to the switch. The green wire is to power the point motor using the Peco instructions provided.

Lessons learnt
  • Even though we have the ability to search the Internet for advice on how to do things, until this is put into practice there is no way for me to learn a skill- this is done through trial and error and developing the skill. I only learnt through the fact that something doesn't work.  
  • Cutting corners doesn't work
    • I tried this with not cleaning the soldering iron before working - Solder doesn't stick
    • Not using the use my helping hands tool - There is no way to hold the wire, soldering iron and solder steady making this task slower.

The next challenge
I have started to incorporate point indicators with LEDs to the point motors to show which way the point is in use which is to be displayed on a control panel in front of the module.

Below is my soldering work with the LEDs and 1K resistor attached to the Helping Hand tool. More in the next post.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Finally...a track plan and some track laid

In the last post I described my pain in designing the track plan, as "Murphy law" has I showed a modeller friend my initial plan and he came up with some weaknesses with it.

With the Petersham station module track plan this will more or less stay as it is with a few minor changes. Although not a direct copy of the prototype it will have some of the features such as the shunting neck. On the other hand the 1970s module will require some changing  in order for the locomotives  to shunt effectively into the oil siding.

There is also a lot of real estate which has not been decided upon yet. Below is the draft track plan.

Another important milestone is that in the last two weekends I have started to lay track, adding point motors and wiring. So after 9 months of obtaining the Train Room, track is finally been laid, woo hoo!!.


 In the above picture is the planned "Petersham" station and goods yard with No:4827 doing a test run.

Here is another view from what will be the Crystal street bridge. There is still a bit of work to fine tune the wiring and also wiring the point motors which I will update in the next blog update.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Track Pain design

I have labelled this post as "Track Pain design" as this is one part of building a layout which I find overwhelming, filled with decisions and compromises. I needed somewhere to start and knew I wanted to model Petersham station area when trams previously run along Trafalgar Street.

 A first time visit to the ARHS Resource Centre at Redfern assisted me in determining what the goods yard looked like before the Training Centre was built.  The blokes there were very helpful but I stumped them by asking them for the dimensions for the North Strathfield "Ärnotts" underpass which they couldn't tell me on the day as I will be modelling something similar for the 1970s section of the layout.

After I left I received a call stating that they had found the information which meant another planned visit. 

From the visit, I discovered that the Petersham goods yard and the trackwork around the station had gone through various transformations over its time.

This made it difficult to determine how will I plan the track work for Petersham. Will I stick with the prototype with the exact era or if its  even possible considering how much space I have.

The left photo is how the track work looked before goods yard was extended all the way to Gordon street.

This photo shows how the goods yard looked in about 1937 and probably when the goods yard area was most extensively.

There was a turnback between the two local tracks on the station and a shunting neck heading towards Crystal street.

Also. only No#1 track had electrical overhead.

Based on this diagram it would not be possible to include all this so compromises and decisions will be made.

In the end, I was able to complete a design for the track plans for the layout .
This process took a few weeks:
  • Testing with full size cut-outs of Peco points

  • Q&A with my friendly model train shop regarding double and single slips
  • A feeble attempt to learn and use "Anyrail" software to prepare a written diagram of the track plan.
Full details will be posted in the next update.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Building Bridges

Weeks have passed since my last post and I must say that this part of the build has been the most challenging so far considering I am no carpenter.
Two key challenges:
1) Elevating the track bed so that the track and scenery would not be flat
2) Incorporating a lift out section so access can be made to the centre of the room without breaking one's back.
Elevating the track bed
This took a bit of trial and error and initially the track bed was to rise 65mm in a distance of 1800mm an incline of 3.6% this might not seem so much but for a small HO scale locomotive this could cause problems in the future. After some discussion with another fellow modeller, I decide that I would remove the initial risers and only have a rise of only up to 45mm within the 1800mm distance. The grade being a more realistic and gentler 2% grade.
Elevating track to accommodate road underpass.
This section of the layout will represent the 1970s
The road will slope under the bridge instead of being flat similar to the "Ärnotts biscuits" rail bridge on Parramatta road.
Continuous round-the-room layout presents problems
One of the issues of having a continuous round the room track plan is being able to access the inside of the room.
Although a "duck-under" is one option, it would be inconvenient for visitors to duck to go into the room considering that the baseboard is only one metre from the ground requiring them to "limbo" into the room. The solution has been a lift up section/bridge that allows part of the board to be removed.
As yet I have not worked out how the electronics will function or if I will have an emergency cut off switch if the bridge is up so trains don't go over the "ravine". 

Top side and bottom side of lift up bridge.

Below is another section of the layout that to link two separate sections via a wooden bridge . I now have linked all benchwork together around the room.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Little Portugal: Salted Cod and Structures

 Any reason to make a visit to the location of my planned layout is a blessing. 

I suggested going to Petersham one Saturday. My motive was to have the opportunity to get to take photos of the area and get some ideas for my layout. My wife would also get to enjoy her culinary delights and visiting another part of cultural Sydney.
I was surprised to walk around along New Canterbury road to find many older generation of Europeans chatting over coffee. Our lunch at a Portuguese restaurant was salted cod and roast pork with seafood all accompanied by plenty of roasted potatoes. Whilst the family finished off eating their meal I got to walk around and take some photos

Part of building a model layout is to do research of the area planned to be modelling. Studying the area and reading and viewing old photos. What I like about the commercial buildings in the inner suburbs of Sydney is the unique late 19th century architecture of the shops. I especially liked are the large arches above the shops. I have seen these in and around Neutral bay and Cremorne. I hope to be able to include these style of shop buildings on my layout. However, I have not seen kits of these so I will need to scratch-build them.

Below is New Canterbury road outside the restaurant. In the 1950s, trams use to travel this route but is now replaced by bus 444 & 445.

The above shops are along Audrey St heading towards the Station. The tram also ran down this street to Petersham. 
The other buildings that were interesting was the old Majestic cinema that has been converted to apartments. I remember passing this theatre when I was a child it use to show Green/Italian movies before being converted to a Roller Skating rink that became rundown.
In the 1930s to 1950s before the advent of TV most suburbs had a ''movie house''. There were hundreds of cinemas around Sydney suburbs they would not only play movies but also Newsreels.
I hope to include a cinema on my layout, to reflect the time before TV arrived and viewing entertainment required a trip to the suburbs.   
One gem I spotted near the carpark where we parked was an old warehouse building along Marrickville road that was previously used by a furniture and removalist company - Beynon & Hayward. I like the unique shape of the roof and the corrugated iron on the rear. The council is deciding what to do with it and plan to knock it down to use for a carpark. Others wish to preserve it and have it as heritage listed. I do hope this too.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sky's the limit

"God called the expanse sky. And there was evening, and there was morning - the second day. And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered in one place and let dry ground appear". And it was so.

Whilst it was the second day that God created the sky it has taken me a couple of months to finally get the sky backdrop completed and attaching to the benchwork for all planned scenic areas.

My main accomplishment was being able to bend the backdrops around the corner benchwork as I had seen this done on other layouts. This was more easily done than I had thought as the backdrop was made from 3mm MDF white melamine from Bunnings which was thin enough to bend.
My only regret is painting the first two boards onto the white melamine side as the paint did not stick and required a couple of coats of paint. The colour used was Accent Brand - Iris Waters blue. I bought 1 litre of paint and it covered most of the layout backdrop.

Above: This is longest part of the layout 2 1/2 meters that will be where the planned "Petersham"station will be placed.

The second accomplishment is that by having the benchwork in place I have been able to recycle part of the old Bilby beach layout for a play area for my son. I have been able to babysit him whilst I do work on the layout. He has been happy to sniff around my unpacked boxes of model cars, buildings and trains and get them out and play with them on the benchwork.

Above: My son's play are whilst I continue work on the layout.
My third and final accomplishment is being able to recycle and use part of my old Bilby beach layout and I have begun to incorporating it into my new layout. The dimensions are 1m x 50omm compared to the original size of 1m x 1m making it more suitable to fit the size of the room. However,  I will have to make some modifications to the track plan and the scenery than the original.  

Above: View of old Bilby beach that will be incorporate to the new layout via a single track bridge.
In future, I hope to make a lighting valence for one part of the layout that does not get sufficient lighting. So far my research has not provided me with enough confidence to attempt this project.

Thanks for all those who are visiting my blog. Comments and ideas are welcome!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Winter time modelling

The winter months has made it too cold to do any work at night in the train room as the room has no insulation or heating. I have used the time in the last month or so few to finish off some very long overdue vehicles that were purchased some years ago during our home visit from Switzerland and were partially built in Switzerland.

This will add at least one more to the fleet of period buses as well as adding more period trucks to the layout.

Boxed white metal kits no longer produced by Weico and Peter Young

Instead of building the kits straight from the box I have kit bashed the Ampol Petrol Tanker and used the Ford Thames Trader Cabin instead. I then intend to use the Dodge cabin as the basis for the Australian Military tipper truck.

Work in progress

I have added detailed parts - side mirror and headlights from Herpa and windscreen wipers from another German maker Automobilia. The taxi is awaiting a home made decal to be printed. 
The truck is loosely based on the prototype shown in the link below
Ampol Petrol Tanker Truck ready for service with Weico Holden FX sedan taxi painted in RSL taxi livery colours
The Weico AEC Double Decker bus took a couple of goes to do. The body parts did not fit tightly and required some putty to cover the gaps and required finding substitute headlights and bumper bar which were not supplied in the kit. The two Chevrolet Blitz tow trucks were given to me by a friend. Although Sydney PTC did not have these brand trucks in their fleet I thought it would be appropriate to paint and customise these models into Sydney green and cream to suit the 1950s era and match the buses.   
Weico AEC Double decker bus with double doors & two Chevrolet Blitz tow trucks

Now to get started on modelling some Sydney Trams.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Mid Week Field Trip

Building a layout is not properly researched without at least visiting some railway in real life. Since my layout is based in the inner west line in Sydney, I could visit the railway area that I wanted to model quite easily..
I thought I could do this during a weekend, however with a young family and competing needs i.e. going to the Eveleigh farmers market taking a priority the visit never happened.

However, I thought I could make a quick visit and use my MyMulti 2 weekly and last week during lunch time I visited the line.

Pictured below is the original heritage station which was built in 1885 but was no longer used in the 1920s due to the addition tracks I hope to have this pictured in the background somehow.

Below: The current station building and platform will be the focus of the layout given that it will be set in the 1950s considering it was built in 1920s.

Below is the disused NSWR signal box near the station near the Petersham training centre that use to be the goods yard area before it was no longer used. I hope to incorporate this in the layout.

With only 20 minutes until the inward train back to St James I only had time to take photos around the station and a quick walk up the heritage footbridge.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Stocktake Time

5 months on
It's that time of year 30th June, a time to get ready for tax and to review all your receipts. I also thought it would be good to review my progress on the train room. It has been 5 months since I gained access to building a train room. I would have expected by now to have completed much more than what I had expected.  However a one month holiday and dealing with personal matters as well as juggling a young family has squeezed the time to progress with  building the layout.

Benchwork commences
I have visited Bunnings, the hardware store almost every second weekend to start building the benchwork modules and also the benchwork stands. Most Bunnings  outlets can cut the wood to size which is handy since doing the carpentry for the layout is not my strong point and rather look forward to doing scenery work.

I have a built the modules from 64mm x 19mm premium pine cut to lengths of 1200mm long and 600mm wide as the standard size. There are also 600mm x 600mm square modules. The modules are along the backwall as well as the right hand side wall. I have used this standard size so that if I need to dismantle it later it would be easier.

The track will be sitting on 7mm thick pine panels fixed to the modules

Below is a photo of the backwall and side wall modules

Benchwork stands
I have used Metalmate slotted steel angle purchased at Bunnings which comes in standard sizes of 600mm,900mm and 1200mm as the basis of the baseboard stands which can also act as shelving. The height of the benchwork will be 900mm so my kids can view the layout.  
Below is a picture of the far end of the layout where a proposed swing bridge will link the wall layout section with the middle layout section.
Below is the proposed staging yard. The benchwork is made from modules of 300mm wide and 1200mm. As this is along the bay window the proposed trackwork will not be scenicked.
The benchwork is 85% complete and it is hoped that trackwork will begin shortly after I have completed a few of the more difficult parts of the benchwork including a swing bridge and elevating the track along a grade for the middle section.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A train room is born

In February 2014, I was fortunate enough to be able to have access to a spare room. It was used as office space but I will be using it as our kids play area as well as having the ability to build my dream ho scale model railway layout.

The room is located under the common walkway and is separate from the main living area. It has long bay window on the left.

Here are dimensions of the room

The main baseboard will be against the long wall. While it is planned that the layout will be a continuous around the room the track along  the bay window will not have any scenery.
Below is the room before any work commencing and with the old Bilby beach layout

So the challenge begins!