Experimenting in scenery modelling

The following is a post that I had mostly done in August, but never got around to posting for some reason. So here is is now!

As a warm up to making some larger scale train layouts, I thought I would try my hand at some very small test scenery. first step, “laying out” deciding how it will lay. Wasn’t too hard, and wasn’t too creative. I found a length of track that was exactly the length of the scrap plywood square i was going to use. SCORE

the raw design. nothing spectacular, some plywood and a perfect length of track

step 2, laying down the grass. It was pretty straight forward, cover the plywood with white glue wherever I wanted grass to stick, then cover in the grass material.

Ground cover applied. It looks pretty good actually. I was expecting something crap to happen the first time

Step 3, Laying the track. Much like laying the grass. cover where you want to stick the track in white glue, and press on the track. I’m not sure if this is how others attach track in full layouts, but it will work for this one I think.

the track in position

After the track is glued down, I clamped it down so the track is firmly on the baseboard. I guess this isn’t really possible on a large scale layout, but it worked for this mini layout. On a larger layout I guess I’d try to find heavy objects like books etc… to put on top.

Holding the track in place while it drys. Overkill? maybe. I don’t think i’ll be able to get these clamps on many areas on a proper layout

Then we have step 4, the ballast. I’m using some balast I bought at the model railway expo I went to over the weekend. The idea was simple, put the gravel on the layout where I wanted it, and cover the gravel with a watered down white glue mix. It worked, but I ended up with what I think is way too much glue on the track. You see, water surface tension meant the glue would sit on top of the ballast a bit, before it would soak in. That sucked, as it made it really hard to keep the glue where I wanted it. I ended up with glue up the inside of the track, and a little on top of the track too. Painful. I think I’ve heard of people watering down the whiteglue with methylated spirits instead of water. I guess that would make it dry quicker, and maybe reduce the surface tension issue. I might try that on another test layout.

Gluing the ballast down. Lots of glue!

After that point, i’m afraid my documentation jumps a little bit. With the glue dry, I drilled a hole into the board, and added a tree of my own construction. I made the tree from twisted copper wire, covered in a layer of solder to hold it all together, then painted brown. The foliage is made from purpose brought model greenery, kinda like green cotton wool (except synthetic). The tips of the tree got spots of white glue, and then the foliage placed into position. And then, once everything has dried, you have this:

I think it turned out rather well, and has given me some confidence that so will my future efforts

It looks nice. Maybe a little trim, or paint around the edge, and I’ve got a nice little display piece for my train.

HO Pizza Layout

Long before I took the step into model railways, I was inspired by Carl Arendt’s Small Layout Scrapbook, which is full of many model train layouts of small size. Unfortunately, last year Carl passed away, but his site lives on. Some other model train enthusiasts have taken on the operation of the site. Posts aren’t as regular now, but at least they can keep his site up to inspire others with the large back catalogue.

The Small Layout Scrapbook has many layouts ranging from small to absolutely tiny. I think I took the most interest in the pizza layouts. A pizza layout is basically a small loop of track, which often resembles a the shape and size of a Pizza.

The track loop done, with the only engine I have that will fit on it!

Without a lot of room for a massive layout inside, I was inspired to try my hand at my own pizza layout. I figure it is a good size to get a feel for landscaping and building scenery, without too much lost if it falls in a pile.

So, first step was to take a piece of flexi track and bend it in a complete loop. It seemed like it would be a quick and easy task, but it took me the best part of a night to get it to the point pictured above. The track is OK, if you run the train in one direction, and derails if you drive it the other way. Hopefully a little tweaking will have the track running reliably in both directions.

The next step will be to work out what I’m putting on the landscape, and start working on that. Stay tuned for future updates.

Train modelling off and running (mega train post)

As you would realise from my previous posts, my model railroading has begun, in a small way.

Well, before christmas, I was at tool / hobby store again . While I was there, I realised they were selling off some bits and pieces cheap, I mean real cheap.

I spent at least half an hour, maybe more digging through a box of HO scale track, looking for straight pieces, and sets of curves

If you go by the price stickers on the track, I bought over $300 worth of train track ($2 a piece, for 150 pieces), and was charged $10 for that. It should have been $15, as they were supposed to be 10c each, but I wasn’t complaining.

While I was there,I also picked up a length of flexi track to have a play around with.

Most of the 150 pieces of track. I had already used some when the photo was taken

So, beginning that night, I spent the weekend progressively expanding my railway. Beginning by expanding the loop around the tree to a long stretch past the front of the TV.

Here we can see the expansion of the main line. Now stretching past the TV. It wasn't long before this wasn't far enough.

And then expanding that back towards the tree in another long run. I also extended the other end out past the coat rack near our doorway. I was particularly chuffed when I managed to integrate one of the track crossing pieces, and it worked!

Full size. This is as it stands at the peak of the layout.

Over the weekend, Diana and I made the trip back to the hobby store. We were originally seeking farm animals and such at a different store near by. We didn’t leave with more train track this time, but Diana surprised me, and bought me a new train for me:

The new train. YAY!

This train is a whole other ball game compared to the first one. Its quieter. it runs slower and a lot more realistically. It runs a bit better, due to the fact it picks up power from all wheels at once. It’s very nice!

I thought I had enough track for a life time, but I was already wishing I bought more. I have enough to make a nice long single track, but what if I wanted to add a second track along side the first? the box of train track was taunting me. I needed more. I would never get another opportunity to get train track for so cheap.

The thursday before christmas was payday, and eventually the hobby store got the better of me.
I took the long way to work that morning and got another bunch of track. This time, there were less straight pieces (I got most of those last time), and same with the smaller radius curves. I got what I could find, which included a bunch of the larger radius curves, most with the power clips attached. When I got the new train engine, it hits the power clips, so I usually just pull them off. you don’t really need them on EVERY piece of track.

The total haul. thats a lot of track!

As pictured above, I have rather a large amount of track. Each stack of curves with rubber bands is a complete loop of track. there should be all up, about 300 pieces of track. By my count, that’s about $600 worth of track if you take the sticker price of it, all for about $30. That is obscenely cheap!

I’ve begun my small double loop for under the christmas tree next year! so look out for that in future updates.

I’m also going to upload some photos to flickr of my trains. feel free to have a look

HO model train layout

I have begun work on my very first permanent model train layout! This display is going to be a multi purpose layout. It is an evolution of the simple 2 loop layout I had running under the christmas tree. I’m planning for this to become a regular addition under the christmas tree. I also want the display to be usable throughout the year as a permanent display, as well as a test track for rolling stock and new and/or modified engines.

Beginning as 2 1200x600mm sheets of MDF and some 1200mm sticks of timber, I went to quite a bit of effort to construct the interlocking frame. The base board is made in two halfs. I plan on the display being able to separate for storage and moving.

One thing I discovered, is as the glue dried, it actually put a bow in the frames. I guess I should have clamped the sheets to the bench as they dried. I guess I’ll try that next time. The bow wasn’t too bad, and both sides seemed to bend similarly, so I was still good to continue.


With the glue dried, now its time to begin setting things out how I want them. the only thing is, I’m still working out how I want them to be.

The obvious one is two loops, around the middle. I guess its going to vaguely going to resemble that, no matter what I do, but I want to try to add something extra to the layout.

Things I’m thinking are:

  • A hill in the middle, split in a cross shape, to allow the legs of the christmas tree to slot into place, and locating some small houses around the mountain area
  • Build up the base, so the inner loop is higher than the outer loop. its further up the mountain
  • turnouts? Sidings? It would be nice to put some in, but at $30 or more per set of points, I don’t think I’ll be able to put too many of those in. It would be nice to put some in so its possible to join the layout to an epic loop of track like I did for this christmas just gone. There are other methods of achieving this though, I may just leave enough room around the edges to lay an extra track thru the layout.
  • A tunnel in the back corner


That’s where I’m at so far. I still have much thinking to do, but I’m hoping to make progress on it soon. I’ll keep everyone updated.

Christmas micro train layout


Here is a photo of my mum’s DuploLego pizza layout. You find layouts in the most unlikely places sometimes. Actually, It wasn’t too unexpected for me, as my mum has done similar in previous years.

It seems to be a mining train operating in a bauble mine amongst a forest of trees.
It must be hard work moving all those Christmas decorations!

And the transition into model train nut continues….

Model railroad houses

As you will already know if you’ve read my previous post, my journey in model railroading has begun with a simple loop under the Christmas tree.

I seem to be undergoing a fast paced evolution of building modelling. Beginning with a quickly built house of Lego, and a tunnel of one half of a case of Pepsi, things are progressing from there.

As an extra house, I drew windows and doors on a small cardboard box. It was very ugly, but evolved fast . I put a cardboard roof on it and painted it with acrylic artists paint. It looked better, but still looked kinda crappy.

Then I built a train platform with found balsa wood and cardboard , and painted it too. Its ok, but lacks realism and details.


At this point, I discovered the beauty of printing textures onto paper, and using that to add detail to the houses. Balsa wood window and door frames help make it stand out better as well. (see photo below)


After building this house with printed textures I went back to my painted house, and applied textures to it aswell. Much better. It’s amazing how much better it looks when done like this. There are still ways to improve  the houses, but this is a journey of many steps. I’m yet to add doors and windows to this house, so it’s currently a room with no doors.

And finally there is the little outhouse I’ve made. Same method as the other houses, but with a painted balsa wood door. I think it turned out pretty well. I should have covered the white paper up a bit better though.

And thats it for this installment.
Until next time, enjoy.

Christmas Train

I’ve now officially made the dive into the hobby of model railroading! I’m going to justify model railroading by stating that it’s not actually me taking up a new hobby, but its me merely expanding my interest in modeling from making 1:24 scale cars, to also modelling trains.

Starting off small (and cheap) I found a Model Power train set which was on special at a local hobby store for $60.

This is the train set I'm starting with. Mine is painted a little different.

At the same time, I bought several $1 carriages which they were selling off. I figured they would be pretty crappy, but for $3, I got some extra rolling stock to play with.

So, I’ve got a whole set with controller, engine, track  and rolling stock.  I didnt’ know what to expect with the set. Not being any of the better known brands, it might be rough, it might be noisy, it might continually derail. Inspecting the carriages and the engine, I was happy with my purchase. This set, after all set me back $60. You don’t have to look far to spend more than that on a single engine, or even a single carriage of high quality. I actually like the little diesel shunter the kit came with, and the carriages aren’t too bad, for me to get started on at least.

As it was so close to christmas, my plan is to build a christmas train under the christmas tree. Possibly before I had even left the store, I had a cool idea. What I want to do is repaint / decal the carriages, with a personalised carriage for each member of our family, adding carriages as new additions come along.

The tree looks a little sparse, but it has a train, with a Pepsi max tunnel! Yea!!!

I’ve already started mocking up some pictures for the side of the trains on the computer. Printing them out, and sticking them on the side of the carriages. below you can see the demo carriage I have made for our dog Bella. Dizzy, the pictured cat, will also get a carriage soon too, as will my wife and I. I will need time to plan and paint though!

The first mockup, for Bella our dog

I’m already planning on repainting the carriages so they look great, and integrate the pictures in as much as possible. For the time being, I’ll keep using the cheap carriages, as that’s what I’ve got. Maybe by next christmas I’ll be able to upgrade the $1 cars to ones which run a little nicer.

Whats Happening this week

Or Oh No!. its the end of the week  and I have nothing ready to post this week!

Well, first off, the last few weeks have been busy, with a trip to Hamilton Island with my wonderful new wife Diana for our honey moon, and then a trip to Wollongong the next weekend for my cousin’s 21st birthday, I haven’t done a whole lot

Our honeymoon coincided with our 3rd anniversary of seeing each other, so it served a double purpose.

For our anniversary, Diana was kind enough to buy me an awesome Ryobi 125mm angle grinder. Its great to have a good quality grinder, as the cheap ones seem to vibrate a bit more, and the switches of the ones I have are a bit poor, and so they are hard to turn on, and off.

Ryobi Angle Grinder

My new angle grinder, Thank you sweetie

I bought a lovely pair of butterfly shaped earings

Also, as there wasn’t much point flying such a large present halfway across the country, we bought each other a small gift. seeming Diana has just started studying again, I found here a cool Hello Kitty pencil case, and filled it with pens. Diana found me a cool solar powered robot kit, which reminds me, I need to build it. unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the pencil case, or the robot.

So what else have I been up to, apart from all this jet setting? not too much really.

Nitro car

My nitro exhaust is coming together slowly. I haven’t had much of a chance to run the car lately. I really should give it a run. Its looking like I’m going to go down the alloy path with the pipe, I have a nice thick plate for the mount. All I need to do now is everything else…. get a piece of suitably sized alloy pipe, work out how to bend it nicely, and in what shape I need it bent, and then get the two pieces brazed together


I’ve been trying to practice my welding here and there, whenever I have a chance. I currently need to source some more practice steel, as running stringers on plate gets old pretty quick

welding pad

Sure, all the practice helps, but what I really want to do is join steel

Vice stand Take 2

You may have seen the vice stand I made a while back, well its getting a makeover. I was never really happy with it, it was too light, and unstable, and had a tendency to rock. I have an old steel car rim kicking around the house, so my plan is to cut off the feet, and make it a bit shorter, then attach the pipe to the wheel rim, and maybe, depending on how it goes with its initial weight, I’ll add some concrete

vice stand

the old cross legs weren't that stable. I'm hoping by welding it to the car rim, it will be a lot more stable

Welding bench

well, my handy little welding bench is very handy, and I want to make it better. Recently at aldi’s there was a sale on fire extinguishers and fire blankets. I’m planning on adding both to the trolley, as I think it’s a really good idea, with all that molten metal flying around.

I’m also looking to improve the surface. currently the underlying surface is wood with a metal sheet on top. I was thinking of pouring  a concrete top in it instead of the wood, but I’m told that its not the greatest idea to get the concrete too hot, as it can crack or explode, So I’m not too sure. Maybe one solution is a fire brick lining, or maybe a single solid plate across the whole surface? I’m not sure yet.

That’s about it for now. Sorry for the non post today. I’ll try to have something with more substance for next time.

Learning to Silver Solder

I got it to flow!

My first successful effort. not neat, but it worked. This piece is just the brass pipe sitting on the brass strap.

So, before I can make my new exhaust header, I need to learn how to join the pipe, and the piece of metal.

I thought I would investigate brazing the pieces together, as it seems like the best way to join the two relatively small and thin pieces together.

Upon doing some reading online, there appeared to be 2 categories, Silver Soldering, and Brazing. Both seemed to be a very similar process, but there seems to be some difference between silver soldering and brazing, and my understanding those are:

  • Silver Soldering uses filler rods which contain, as the name suggests, Silver, whereas actual brazing uses bronze filler rods.
  • Brazing requires more heat, due to the bronze filler rods having a higher melting point, and as thus, you really want oxy/acetylene gas.
  • Silver Soldering isn’t very good at filling gaps, close fit up is needed. Brazing is much better at filling gaps in a workpiece.

Now, that may, or may not be completely accurate, but that’s my current understanding of the differences. I’m always willing to learn more if you are knowledgable of the matters.

the 2% sliver rods are what i'm using

These are the silver solder rods that I'm using. 2% seem to work. Higher silver content makes them melt at lower temperatures.

So, off to Bunnings to take a look at what they have. They are selling flux coated brazing rods suitable for what I want to do for $14 for a pack of 4 maybe 6, or much longer lengths (about a meter i think) of 2% silver rods for about $2 a length. Then, of course you have to add flux to the cost of the unfluxed rods, which adds about $15, but a small container of flux will last a long time, and is a lot cheaper if you are using more than a few lengths. I went with the 2% rods, and a container of flux.

Ezi-Weld flux

Ezi-Weld flux 602 silver soldering flux. You need to make sure you get Silver Solder flux, not soft solder flux, otherwise it won't work.

My first attempt didn’t go very well, I couldn’t really get the brazing rod to flow, But the next day I tried again, and things seemed to work much better.

I put my initial problem down to not enough heat. My first go I was trying to heat the brass on a 3/4 of paver brick, which I guess I needed to heat up too, before it would stop stealing heat from the brass. I also worked out there is a sweet spot in the gas torch where the most heat is generated. The first day I was playing around trying to work out that position.

My second go was done mostly on the other  1/4 of the paver, which seemed to heat up quicker. I’d learnt from the day before on where to hold the flame, and everything was great.

The second successful attempt, with the pipe mounted in a hold drilled in the plate.

After having some initial success, I decided to take it one step closer to the likely final product (the exhaust pipe for my nitro car).  I drilled a hole the same size as the pipe in the piece of brass, and inserted it to make sure it fit.

Cleaning up the pieces with a wire brush, i then fluxed both pieces, before refitting them together, and resting the workpiece on my paver brick.

Bottom of the thru hole

This is the bottom side of the thru hole joint. All of the solder was applied to the top, and was sucked thru to this side

I fired up the gas torch, with my new flint lighter, which is so much easier, as well as safer, then using matches. I’m so glad I picked up one of these bad boys. The silver solder flowed nicely and made its way right thru to the other side, as you can see from the picture above.

Flint lighter

I always thought these were just for oxy/acetylene torches, but they work perfectly for LPG too!

So, that’s the state of my silver soldering. Next will be having a go at trying to get the tight bends needed in the pipe. I’m still trying to decide if I want to do this in brass, or have a go at the aluminium, or just plain steel. Before I make that decision, I’ll have to do some weighing up, mostly of being able to get the right sized metal.

Anyway, that’s all from me for this week. Stay tuned till next week, when I find something else to talk about.

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Colt Nitro – Tuned exhaust upgrade

When I found these cheap tuned exhausts for “1/10 sized” RC engines (I’ll read that as about .15 engines, which seem to be the norm for this scale), I thought they seemed pretty cool, and cheap. If you search tuned pipe on ebay, you should get a range of different pipes. The store I bought mine from can be found HERE.

ebay picture of the exhaust

Here is the picture of the exhaust from the ebay store

The pipe was cheap, really cheap, at about $12.50 Australian. But are they too cheap? I guess we’ll find out. At this price, I wonder how “tuned” they really are, but that won’t stop me from giving it a go.

Assembling the pipe

The first delema I had was linking the manifold with the pipe. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the pipe needs a short piece of silicon tube to join the two, and it wasn’t supplied with the  pipe.

A trip to the local hardware store yelded a length of clear PVC pipe. I wanted silicone pipe, but they didn’t have any of that. It will be an experiment to see how the PVC holds up to the heat. My money is on not very well.

With the tube in hand, I went home to cut off a piece.

To get the piece of tube to fit tightly on the exhaust pipe and its header, I placed the tube in a cup of boiling water. This had the effect of softening it up, so I could get a firmer fit. I put zip ties on each end of the tube, so it held firmly onto the exhaust pipe, and the header.

Getting everything ready to join the header and the pipe.

ziptied pipe

The pipe with zip ties in place

Fitting the tuned exhaust

Before I could put the new pipe on the car, I had to pull the old pipe off. It wasn’t too difficult, but to get to one of the screws, I had to take the top off the radio box, and the arm off the throttle servo. After that, I had a clear shot straight to both screws. The screws undid easily, and the old exhaust dropped off.

When the exhaust does come off, you will want to be careful that you don’t loose, or damage the gasket which is between the exhaust and the engine. Should you want to put the old exhaust back on again, it will be easier if you already have the gasket. Otherwise you would have to make a new one.

I had to pull the top off the throttle servo to get to one of the screws which hold the exhaust on.

With the old exhaust now off, I was free to screw the new one on. Using the original screws, the new pipe bolted on nicely. I’ll note here that I didn’t fit any gasket between the engine and exhaust this time, but when it goes on properly, I will have to make one up.

When I got the pipe screwed on, it was clear that the pipe wasn’t going to be able to stay where it was. You’ll see in the photos that the pipe was litterally touching the fuel tank.

As you can see from this picture, the pipe touches the fuel tank, and is way too close to the front tire.


My future plan will be to attempt to modify things so there is some more clearance between the pipe and the tank. I’m actually thinking of having a go at making a custom header for the engine that will sit the pipe back a bit further, and away from the front wheels. Before I do that, I need to learn how to braze. The header that came with the pipe seems to be made out of aluminium alloy, but I think the new one will most likely be made out of brass and/or copper, which I see as the easiest and cheapest metal for me to work with.

So stay tuned