Category Archives: Scales

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Site seeing – June 1

Over on Gene’s P48 (Proto 48 – Fine US O Scale) blog he’s building the first of a series of Wilson meat reefers.  Today’s first post provides some information about the series of cars that he is building. The following articles are bringing the build process up to date so far.

While the articles are about building a car in American Proto 48 O Scale there is much to be learned about scratchbuilding from gene that can be applied to any scratch build or bash project you might have in the work. Take the time and take a look around. I’ll be applying the techniques Gene’s been writing about to my future modelling work.

Site 1: Commentary – Meat Reefers [+ Link Here]

This article provides a run down of the types of reefer and some of the inaccuracies in existing models of this type.

Site 2: Modeling: Meat Reefers [+ Link Here]

This is the first article on building the reefer. The focus of this article is on the basics of the design and starting the body.

Site 2 Modeling: Next step on the reefer [+ Link Here]

The second article focuses on the steps to complete the basic body. This includes some really great ideas on how to complete the sub-roof for structural integrity and the visible roof.

Site 3: Modeling: Refining the door and the roof [+ Link Here]

In the third instalment of this series Gene focuses on fixing a problem with the door, take note, after he had already built it, and focuses on refining the final roof structure.

Site 4: Modeling: Simple Fixture for Roof [+ Link Here]

Gene shows the fixture he built for measuring and cutting the roofing boards.

Site 5: Modeling: Wilson Underframe Construction [+ Link Here]

Gene goes on with the build this time focusing on the under frame.

Site 6: Modeling: Progress on the Wilson reefer [+ Link Here]

Gene continues with the under frame, focusing on building the bolsters.

O Scale switcher – the longest project in modelling history

In the beginning…

A long time ago, in a modelling landscape far, far away… there was a UK Model Trains magazine (I cannot remember the issue) that described the conversion of the Atlas O scale Plymouth switcher; the aim being to turn it into an industrial UK shunter.

If my memory serves me well it would have been about 1982 or there about. In short order I found myself owning four of these locomotives, and set about modelling the shunter as I’d seen it a couple of years previously. Having said all of this the title of this article now becomes important because I am about to finish the project that I started sometime back in the early to mid 1980s, in the mid 2010s. Yep – that’s 30 years.

That ‘Model Trains’ magazine article suggested either:

  1. Keeping the cab height the same as it was on the original model and raising the buffer beam height to allow for buffers etc. or
  2. Raising the entire cab by about a scale foot and raising the height of the footplate at the same time to allow for buffers to be mounted on the end of the frame.

I chose the second option as I wanted a snappy looking locomotive and not something half thought out that I’d never be happy with. So with magazine, (I have the copy somewhere and I’ll update the article details when I have them) plasticard, liquid glue, files and a sense of adventure I started working on the model.

I left the length of the loco as it was, and raised the body height with a conveniently wide piece of plasticard stock to get the height visually right. In reality that was the easy part as you’re just adding that to the bottom of the body.

20150205_172152 20150205_172140 20150205_172108 20150205_171852

All images are Copyright Andrew Martin 2015 unless otherwise noted

In the four photos of the unmodified model note the squat nature of the body. The last photo shows the difference in height between the modified and original loco that the two 40 thou shims of plasticard give. It should be noted that the loco models that I have come with a textured surface on the footplate simulating a safety tread pattern. This was sanded down and removed prior to installing the higher floor.

Next I cleaned up the four pane windows and made them single pane. Finally I sanded down and covered over the buffing faces on the loco ends in preparation for the 3 link couplings and buffers. The only problem was that having put all of that work into the loco – it did not look right to me. It looked like a higher roofed American loco and not something that would have been made in or for an English railway, especially a Quarry railway which I’d always wanted to model (and still do). So it was back to the drawing board.

The second coming…

Unfortunately I only have photos from the second rebuild that I started in 1996 or there about and none from that first effort as it was back in the early 1980s and I don’t remember owning a camera at the time (being a poor electronics apprentice).

Before I begin any modelling project (I over think them to be honest) I do a lot of work on how the final model will look; This locomotive was no different. First was a working sketch that I scanned recently and cleaned up below. (Yes I store all my sketches of train models.)

Figure 1: Concept Drawing – Copyright Andrew Martin 2015

There are some differences between the concept sketch and the final model that I’ll be completing in the next week or two – overall I’ve come pretty close to what I wanted. I’ve not bothered with the end rails and chain nor the MU stand. As the quarry locomotives were generally run individually and not in MU service in the UK from what I can gather. Additionally I took about 10 mm off the rear end of the unit since I did not want the air tank or a balcony on that end with the new look.

The changes

Photo 1: The extent of the surgery

If it’s blue, it’s not new. The bubbly mess of plastic in the cab end of the hood is what happens when you try and speed up curing of putty with an incandescent bulb. The stove pipe chimney was the result of that and not planned. However, I did add 5mm in the front of the hood to extend the hood forward and rebuilt the front top are of the hood too as the bulky light on the original just irked me too much to live with. The entire cab roof, and rear wall was sawn out, and a plasticard cab end and roof was put in its place. This sounds fairly straightforward, until you see the amount of work that actually went into designing and building the new cab end.

Photo 2: Cab end plate, and ribbing waiting for the skin to go on


Photo 2 above shows the planning and work that went into the design of the new cab. When the skin (10 thou plasticard) went on it was measured and cut in one piece to ensure that there would be no visible seams on the face of the loco. This went off without a hitch and I learned a lot out of that exercise that has helped me in my model building since. Photo 3 below shows what the cab looks like after the skin has been cut and glued in place.

Photo 3: The new cab end completed


Also in Photo 3 above you’ll note the

  • Oleo buffers (from House of O Gauge in the UK – now gone I believe). These are working buffers and work as well as they look.
  • The electrical conduit to the light is fine solder Super-Glued in place. The light is a square styrene section with a circular section cut into the square frame and then drilled out to accept an LED. This will go back into the cab and into the DCC board. I had thought about having a duel sealed beam set, but I liked the look of this better.
  • To remove the need for a rear facing horn, I cut a small slot into the top left of the cab for the horn. I’ve yet to place a horn placed on the front of the loco.
  • The three link couplings are also working with draw gear behind them on the front and the back. Finally the electrical junction box is a 1:48th MU cover glued on to the face.
  • Finally the window frames are all 20 thou and allow a 0.5mm overhang into the window space. I am hoping to get some microscope slide covers cut and put in place in all of the windows. Should that prove too bothersome I will cut out some Monitor protector plastic that I’ve saved from work and use that in its place. It will be secured in either case by Revel clear cement.

Photo 4: The front of the loco
Photo 4: The front of the loco_

It’s getting late, so I’ll just add a couple more photos. If you have questions let me know in the comments and I’ll answer them for you.

Photo 5: A 3/4 view of the front of the loco


I’m not sure if I am going to leave the running gear showing like this or turn it into a tram loco. But the tram idea has me in its grip at the moment.

Photo 6: Rear left 3/4 view showing the fuel filler and tank gauge


The fuel filler and gauge are from a 1:48 scale add on kit I’m using on my GP38-2 rebuilds.

Well – that’s it for now. Talk to you all later.



Why I chose not to design my layout – Part 3

I wanted to show my working (as my Math teacher always encouraged me to do) on the layout design as it evolves to meet my needs. I was not happy with the way the original design performed when I looked at the yard throat design. There was an ‘irksome’ separation between the mainline and the branchline running into the future Industrial park extension. Image 1 below, shows my attempt to fix that issue; a simplified version of the first track layout.

New Layout Design - Take 2
Image 1: Take 2 on the layout design

The throat area is the set of switches around the Interchange track and the branch out to the rest of the industrial park. In mock operating sessions the biggest issue I had on the fist design was the lead out to the rest of the industrial park had crept down quite a way onto the upright of the L shaped boards. Keep in mind here that the other boards are not yet attached to the three boards in the image.

Additionally, I wanted to have a better yard throat, that was easier to switch through and took up less space.  After due reflection, the layout just didn’t look right for a small, smart industrial line with the smarts to build their own industrial park out of a couple of abandoned branch lines. Thus we arrive at version 3.

New Layout Design - Take 3
Image 2: Take 3 of the layout design

First there’s a better use of space,and visual appeal (to me anyway) with the long classification track #1, and the maintenance lead / class track # 2 being at the front end of the board.

All of it coming direct off the old main (now the interchange track). It simply feels better, and right in a way that the previous versions did not. I’ve run a quick thought exercise ops session on the new layout, and it also makes it easier to do business on the new layout. I’ll post the results of that a few days in the future once I have some other modelling work that I have to complete done.

On reflection I will be moving the switch (currently a Wye that will be replaced with a left #5) further back toward the camera to extend the run-around on both the main and the loop. This will stop just short of the road overpass and ensure that a loco can pull clear of the switch to allow the run-around move to take place. Additionally it will allow the

That’s it for me at the moment. Talk to you all later. If you have any questions let me know.

Site seeing March 18

So much for catching up! I had promised to catch up on my posts after a long week of the flu; Sun Tzu was right – no plan survives first contact with an adversary (or a past time).

Site 1: BobbyPitts44 build of a flexiflow car

Over on the FreeRails forum (Link Here) there’s a brief discussion on the work done to take what is essentially a 1960s era toy freight car and turn it into a scratchbuilding masterpiece.

While the forum does not have a lot of information on the build, luckily his Flickr site does. Everything is back – to – front, but there is some really amazing work there to be viewed.

View the Flickr site (Link here)

It’s great work and well worth a view.

Site seeing – March 7


Lance Mindheim is a force in the design of operational layouts. Today’s site seeing tour takes us to an article on his views and to his new website (built on WordPress no less).

Site 1: Railroad Model Craftsmen

In this article (offsite link) Lance talks about the play value in our layouts, and how without the play value, the layout will in the long run fail to please.

Site 2: Lance Mindheim’s new site

Lance has moved his site (offsite link) across to a new platform that finally allows searching. He’ll be updating and moving older content across to the new site over time. But for the moment the link I’ve provided takes you straight to the blog. This is where most of the content is right now.

Site Seeing February 21

It’s all operations Saturday, thanks to Martin Hogg, the owner and operator of Brett.

Site 1: Brett – a full operating session video

Martin Hogg’s released a new video (Brett’s been featured recently on the blog).

This time you get to see a full operating session from start to finish.

This video shows just how much enjoyment you can derive from switching on a relatively small layout with a reasonably simple track plan.

I’m guessing the operating session lasted around 25 – 30 minutes from start to finish. As soon as I get some feedback from Martin I’ll update this post and let you know for sure.

Good work that man! On you Martin.

Update 1:
I talked with Martin Hogg today and he confirmed that the operating session takes about 25 minutes (although he says its heard to be sure as he was busy phaffing around with the camera to be sure). He’ll be running another session to confirm that but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be right around the 25 minute mark, depending on the work to be done.

Layout Builders of Note – Chris Gilbert


I’ve known Chris Gilbert for many years thanks to the Internet, specifically RMWeb. Chris has always managed to be a great mentor on things model railroad, even if he was not aware of his mentorship. He’s been successful in building, exhibiting and publishing a range of model small exhibition layouts over the last several years. What gets me is how quickly he puts these model marvels together.

Florida Springs (V 2.0) – An HO Scale exhibition layout

Chris in his own style said that he started the layout on Tuesday the 10th of February with a trip to his local hardware store.

Within five days he was at this stage:

As if that was not enough to make me feel like I need to pick up my game, his detailing is exquisite. If you take a link at post number 5 (link here) you’ll see what I mean.

Every time I see what Chris can do in so short a time, I am simply bowled over. He thinks about something and then he gets it done. It’s something that I am going to aim for in my modelling this year.

Before I can get there though I have to complete some other modelling projects to finish for my local model club show in April (you can read more about that on the Modellers of Ballarat blog (link here).

I’ve listed other sites in the resources section below. Enjoy having a look at Chris’ layouts. They really are magnificent works of art.


· You can find out more about the O scale Fort Smith Railroad layout (External Link) here.

· You can visit Chris’ YouTube channel (link here) – and watch his videos of Haston and North Haston – great stuff.

Site seeing – February 14 – with a difference

Site seeing with a difference this St Valentines Day. The family headed for the ocean today to Geelong Victoria. While we were down that way I took the opportunity to visit K & L Model Railways Hobbies & Model Construction Supplies of 81 Ryrie St, Geelong VIC 3220.

All I have to say is – what a surprise. The shop is small, but what it lacks in floor space it more than makes up for in stock. They have a great range of O scale parts, kits and so on.

Had a chat to the owner to the owner this morning and I’ll be back there again once I have a bit more disposable income.

With K & L’s assistance I’ll be building a rake of O scale (7mm:Foot) NSWGR 4 wheel RU Grain wagons (see a photo here: Offsite Photo).

These cars have been on my build list for some times but not being able to find a local source of Brass ‘W’ irons and sprung axle blocks has meant that I’ve had to hold off on the build.

With K & L’s owner assuring me that he can get me everything I need the RU planning process can begin. I expect to build the first body out of styrene, then I’ll cast the remaining bodies before tackling the chassis out of brass section. This will make mounting and securing the ‘W’ irons much easier.

All the best on a lovely ‘cool’ summer Saturday in Ballarat.

The difference that trees can make to a scene

The difference that a few trees can make to a layout scene should never be underestimated.

Over on the Port Rowan layout blog Trevor has just completed the planting of trees at St Williams, where (unlike the original) the layout bends around the wall.  use the link below and look at the two pictures on the page. There is certainly more than trees going on here, there’s light and shadow and a fence and some other additions to the scene.

But Wow! What a difference has been made by the addition of the tree armatures.

Check out that post: Link Here

But wait, there’s still more. Check out his second post from a couple of days later: Link Here

Trevor now goes into the scene and really shows some of the visual differences the trees make. I’ve never met Trevor, and we live on totally different sides of the planet, but I feel tied to his style of modelling.

Hope that you are having a good evening where ever you are.

The new layout boards are complete!

Originally Posted on the Old HVL blog March 24, 2013

OK, so a little about the design and build of the layout boards.
In general all wood is fine quality pine dressed all round (DAR). The board top is 12 mm ply (1/2 inch), while the sky board is 6mm (1/4″) ply. THe legs are “L” girders using 1×2 and 1×3 DAR pine glued and screwed on the along their length. At the base of the leg is a glue bock of 2×1 DAR pine which is used to locate a T nut, with a 5/16″ bolt as a leveller. The nut for the 5/16th bolt mounts on the top of the glue block locking the bolt in place once you’ve levelled the board. I’ll be building a better foot arrangement at some point in the future that is easier on the floor, most likely a wooden ball with a 5/16″ nut through the centre of the wooden ball.

All of the side and end rails are 3 x 1 DAR pine and these have not been glued, but have been Kreg pocket screwed together. The ply was then glued and screwed to the box. Nice, tight and very rigid. There is one rail across the board in the centre  of 2×1″ DAR pine, this has also been Kreg pocket screwed to the sides and the top was glued and screwed tothis also. The skyboard is glued and screwed to 1×2 pine DAR which acts as a stiffener and mounting point on the back of the main board. Mounting to the rear of the main boards is achieved using Kreg pocket screws.

The legs are mounted to the main board using 3 screws on each side to the sides. The top horizontal board bears the weight of the main board above; while the bottom horizontal board acts as a bearing face between boards and allows the boards to lock together using a wooden clamps from offcut of the hozontal boards and 1 x 2 DAR pine. Think an inverted U locking the two legs together. Nice, tight, simple and about 3 months in the planning.

Overall what are my impressions? Very happy to be over the hump of the work. The boards are light and strong. I can lift them fork lift style on my own without hurting myself and as I have a 50 year old back; this is a good thing. Thanks to my wife (Janette) for suggesting the mounting height for the sky boards. At 400mm above the plane of the board they are high enough to be at or just below my eye height, and with the 2×1 stiffeners behind allow easy mounting of lights that will hang out over the board for better simulation of daylight.

I’ve a few sketches and such to put on the gallery site later in the week. This should give you an idea of how the parts look. More photos will be coming before I paint everything later this month or during April, depending on the weather. Well a great day in all, now some remedial work on the old boards to bring them up to spec and height, and then my work is done.