Monday, 26 November 2012

Track Base

A lot has been written about the need for quieter roadbed for model railways mainly driven by the advent of sound equipped locomotives and now sound equipped rolling stock from manufacturers like Athearn and previously Broadway Limited that has raised this to a new level of importance to develop a solution.

To date I cannot say I have been personally successful but I am confident to comment on what will not work - forget foam it is like a driving on a taught drum skin and on Phil Moores layout created panic stations. Work on Phil's Moores layout has lead too the following combinations and methods that I have to decided to place a bet on with a foam on foam for track underlay.

Road-base Construction
The road base is 20 mm plywood screwed to the risers which are manufactured using pine risers screwed to the former's. 

Road Base ready for underlay - Joint for two modules - ply will be split at this location

The 5 mm thick foam is available is large sheets from Thermotec Australia, 168 Carrington Street, Revesby, NSW 2212 Tele:9771 6400The same product is also available at hobby shops in Australia from under the name Track Right. Track-Right formed road base for O scale is a new product in the Australian Market and is by luck a perfect match for the prepared sleeper base assembly's written about in previous articles.

Midwest Cork O scale track base is another alternative and may have some advantages over the use of the formed foam road base this was discussed in an article from Kalmbach in Model Railroader a few years ago. 

The adhesive from the testing on Phil Moores layout is critical and can negate the real or a perceived advantage of using foam road base which is fixed using acrylic sealant.  These sealants are marketed under the names of Parfix by Selleys or Color Seal from Bostick. The colour selected was coffee but grey would be a suitable alternative.

It's use was a based on advice from Chuck Hitchcock in the USA to Phil and has proved to be one on the great discovery's of my modeling life - It is used for every job from gluing foam blocks to track and all other items in between. It properties are just perfect for this hobby its is hi-tack, flexible, adjustable and water based.

The foam underlay is cut into suitable pieces too use the material in the most efficient manner. Position the foam at one end and press into the sealant then apply in a wiping action. 

Adhesive Application

The adhesive is applied for the length of the foam to be applied and then smoothed using a spatula. After completing this task a heavy bead is applied along the side of the road base. At this point the application of the 5 mm foam underlay can be undertaken.

The best method to apply the sealant for either of these jobs is to use a applicator gun and to spread the sealant using a metal cake icing spatula from the $2 shop not the kitchen draw. The spatula gives a perfect film thickness about the thickness of a heavy business card [1 mm]. 

Fitting Foam Underlay
The foam is simply applied to the top side of the road base and then using a scrap piece of pine it is ironed smooth. The natural tack of the acrylic sealant works to your advantage here.

The foam underlay is fixed to the side of the road base using brass thumb tacks. When dry the waste is remove and the road base is ready for application of the Track Right Track Base

Foam Underlay ready for trimming

Repeat with the next piece until the road base is fully covered then trim the excess foam off the side of the road-base using a 25 mm box cutter.

The thumb tacks will be covered with more acrylic sealant when the foam for the scenery is installed. The 5 mm foam is to isolate the scenery from the noise [resonance] created by the rolling stock running on the ply base by creating [hopefully] a flexible barrier between the road-base and scenery-base.

Track Base
Begin by marking a center line at about every 250 mm [10''] into the foam underlay. Apply the adhesive using the techniques outline above on one side and fix the Track Right O Scale Road Base along the center line previously marked. Repeat for the other side and the track base is ready for laying the prepared sleepers.

Marking Center Line

Fitting Road Base

Final Assembly Track ready

Sleepers Installation
The assembly of the sleepers is covered in detail in the articles on sleeper assembly with the finished result below ready to receive code 125 Right-O-Way Steel Rail. The construction of the sleeper base is covered in a previous article on the assembly - click here

Module Construction

The former's were manufactured from 12 mm thick 5 ply in two pieces CNC profiled from DXF profiles generated from the original CAD layouts and manufactured in two parts for economy of material usage - glued into single bulkheads and spaced with pine stringers. Primed finger jointed pine was chosen because of its light weight and dimension stability. All joints are screwed and glued using urethane adhesive.

The cove are constructed from 2400 x 1220 x 1.5 mm styrene sheet with a supplemental sheet to fill the remaining gap in the roof. The styrene is 1.5mm HIPS and supplied by Vale Plastics at Brookvale, NSW Phone: 02 9938 2140.  The styrene is fixed to the ply using acrylic builders adhesive with the glued areas prepared using a orbital sander and 80 grit paper to break the glaze and key the glue areas. 

A 3 mm ply deck is fixed to the top and bottom of the former's to stabilize the structure in conjunction with the styrene cove. 

Valances were cut from 5 mm tempered Masonite which is a vastly superior material to MDF with greater toughness and dimensional stability.  A timber beam is clamped along the top side of the former's to remove sag in the frame before applying the lower and upper fascias which provide the necessary stiffing of the lower structure. The fascias are all fixed using urethane glue as the primary adhesive and screws to hold the fascia in position till the glue has fully cured.

The estimated weight of each module is 80 kg [178 lbs] so to allow ease of handling each corner of the module is fitted with 65 mm swivel caster to allow the modules to be wheeled into an exhibition and the legs extended to place the module into its operating position.

Incorporated into each module is a series of drawers to allow access to all the electronics and to provide storage for stuff. Each module has its own drawer to incorporate the electronics allowing ease of installation and access for repairs. All electronic modules [where possible] are mounted on self adhesive standoffs for speed of mounting and more importantly to allow ready removal in case of problems. A separate drawer is to be incorporated for storage at the opposite end

Commercial folding legs [4 off] are fitted to the underside of the modules. 

Smoke Ducting
Each module has a 100 x 75 duct manufactured from PVC down-pipe allowing air to be drawn from each module using a series of computer fans. This will allow the fumes from any smoke generators to be removed before settling on the layout and will also create a sense of air movement when collecting the smoke.

Fans - one per bay

The legs are removed and the fan assembly screwed to the underside of the PVC duct and connected using 500 mm USB cables

A NCE Lighting Controller module is fitted into each module. These NCE products are not yet available but are in a extended test phase at this time. The Red-Green-Blue component is set using the Lighting Controller module with each module storing four [4] lighting recipes which are selected using the buttons provided with the mixing between the recipes handled by the module. Each lighting recipe's is created by mixing the RGB component using the three [3] lighting mixer knobs mounted on the fascia of the controller. The control module can also be mixed and triggered using the inbuilt DCC address by using suitable software or hardware.

For more information click here: NCE Lighting

Power and Control
The DCC accessory bus has its own command station to operate all the control hardware. This is to isolate the accessory addresses from problems that occur on the track bus and to remove possible latency created by a single command station polling and addressing a large number of accessory devices.

Sound Speakers
Two exciter speakers are incorporated onto each backdrop to introduce the sound atmospherics of wind into each module. A separate exciter speaker is employed in one corner for thunder and will be combined with a LED strobe.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


The Maryvale to Gulgong line was selected after spending a considerable amount of time on the NSW Rail Net site. The line will a be prototype freelanced line as it was never completed. Various publications have covered this area including the actual line from Musslebrook to Denman so these are best left to research by the reader.

The line is to be modeled as a secondary main line circa 1960 connecting to Bylong [thanks  to Ray Pilgrim] via Gulgong. The proposed Gulgong to Maryvale section was 70 kilometers in the real world with the modeled area being Goomla to Spicers Creek which are about 18 kilometers apart with tunnel No 5 located between both providing the scenery break between the two major stage sets.

Spicers Creek

 The line will handle trans-shipment's of coal from the Bylong line to various distribution points on the NSWGR line. A daily passenger train will be headed by a recently acquired 32 class and will be scheduled will run through on the way to and from Musslebrook or in reality running from staging yard to staging yard. Coal trains will be pulled by two yet to be constructed 50 class and locals handled by a proposed 30T. Local passenger traffic will be met with the CPH that I now have with the grain trains pulled by a well weathered but nearly complete 40 class.

The Dream

The dream is just that a home layout that will incorporate the two modules shown above and will fill a 10 x 10 meter garage. The loops penetrates the wall at two places as the wall backs onto a rear fence. The use of this unused area allowed the creation of four separate time zones and stage sets. The goal for the O Scale 2014 exhibition to have Spicers Creek scene available for public display in basic form.

The Spicers Creek stage set is 2 separate modules 3.8 x 1.2 wide. These modules are intended as part of any future home layout so the size and format has taken precedence over exhibition use. Remember that this is the equivalent of a 1900 x 600 mm module in HO but this is the price you pay for using the king of scales.

rev 22/1/13 - links to locomotives added

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Choosing to model in a prototype in a specific location this is really a philosophy that provides a guide to the modeling. Prototype modeling created alternatives such a freelance, prototype freelancing but share one common thread; they all provide a context and constraint for one's modeling.

At this point I will mention Rodney James of AR Kits. Rodney's exhibition layouts displayed a clear philosophy that was had a definite effect on how any layout I was to build was to be achieved - Thank you.!

                          Layout Philosophy:

                          O scale 7 mm NSWGR

                           Prototype freelanced location

                           NMRA DCC Control

                           Sound equipped locomotives

                           Sound equipped rolling stock

                           Modular construction

                           Stage Set to Stage Set Layout Design.

                           Background Sound Track for each Stage Set

                           Object specific Dynamic Point Sounds

                           Day and Night Lighting effects

                           Animation of non railroad items

                           Computer control with JMRI Panels

                           Use of only water based materials

                           Foam scenery and paint texture base

                           Natural Scenery colouring

                           Scale Time Zones and Timetable

                           Signal's Home & Distant

                           Interlocked lever frames

                           Ask for help when its needed and offered....!

Tall order?  Maybe but remember it's now 2012 and not the 80's and the hardware, control and equipment now exist at a affordable level to allow such a philosophy to be attempted. Some of the objectives outlined have a clear solution others not so clear but we not have to invent the systems to attempt all the objectives as the technology exists waiting to be adapted now..!

Monday, 12 November 2012


Over many year's  I have helped construct and viewed many layouts which all have have a gem of a idea that I carefully stored away for later use.

The layout that had the greatest effect on my own thinking was a presentation created by Keith McCarron with modeling by Geoff Knott. What set this layout aside was there was not a single train or piece of rolling stock -  just scenery, structures and a strip of track. What that demonstration gave to the audience was a dawn to dusk light show with coordinated sounds and a afternoon thunder storm complete with lightening, thunder and rain courtesy of a dry ice rain shower.

The demonstration altered my thinking about the hobby and more importantly how I wanted to presented the hobby to the viewer. Frank Ellision's philosophy became mine and it is summed up in  "Trains are the actors and the layout is the stage on which they preform"

By the way I did ask Keith how much this would cost to do; 18 outputs cost $3000 per set of 3 [three] plus software and well it was the 80's.

This of course lead me to experiment with installing sound in locomotives and after many false starts lead to command control with sound offered by Keller Onboard Command Control from the USA. The results in the end proved to be part of a learning curve that lead to DCC, layout sound, PC JMRI control and O scale.

To day it is much more practical to undertake such a concept. The current NMRA DCC system allows 2044 address and it comes free with your system and I believe is one of the most underrated component of the NMRA DCC system. The existence of this and JMRI Panels software has allowed me to explore Keith's concept along with other's I have developed. I will discuss the philosophy that this created in my next blog and begin to expand in practical detail in my future blogs.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A Start

After prevaricating for a many decades the time come to construct a layout and a blog seems to be a good way to clarify philosophy's and techniques that will guide the design and construction .

   What will be in these articles?

- Progress or failure in the building a 7mm O scale NSWGR layout
- Layouts design and guiding philosophies
- Scenery techniques that I have been developed
- Sound for the layout and the associated installations
- Rolling stock and locomotive upgrades
- Whatever needs to be written down

This blog will be a place to write down techniques as they are developed, modified or just copied in a series of structured articles rather than a daily diary about my modeling.

If the reader's finds something of value that will be the benefit for both of us.

Gary Spencer-Salt