Blog Archives

Spline now 80% complete …

Hi all,

Over the last few months, I have completed all spline work within the Ardglen area, including the ballast sidings, and also to a point about halfway between Ardglen and Pangela.

This now means I have completed construction of 80% of total spline, which equates to 292 feet (88.5 metres) with just 74 feet (22.5 metres) of spline left to build through Pangela and to connect up to the helix.

The two images below are views of Ardglen from either end, showing the storage and goods sidings.

Ardglen spline (tunnel end)

Ardglen spline looking towards tunnel











The next image is a shot further down the grade from Ardglen, looking back towards the ballast sidings coming off the quarry road.

Ardglen spline with ballast sidings


The next image shows the shunting neck at the end of the quarry road.

Ardglen spline with quarry road shunting neck


The next image shows a general view of the section above Temple Court.  I have yet to finalise setting the grade in this section.  Temple Court has been covered with drop sheets to protect the scenery from dust and dirt whilst working above.


The next series of images show the spline from Ardglen tunnel through to a point about halfway to Pangela.


Upper deck progress …

Hi all,

Since my last post, I have been busy with work on the upper deck above the Chilcott’s Ck to Kankool section.

To support the upper deck valance and future lighting, steel brackets were fabricated from second hand 20x20mm square tube, along with bracing made from thin steel plate.

A simple timber jig was made to hold the pieces of tube in place whilst the brace plate was attached using pop rivets.

support brackets

support brackets







These brackets were then screwed to the wall at strategic locations at wall studs.

After the initial installation of these brackets, I discovered a potential flaw in my design.  The two rivets fixing the brace plate to the vertical tube were shearing off with only minimal downward force being exerted at the outer end of the horizontal tube.  Now, I’m not sure whether it was actual rivet failure or what, so I decided to replace these rivets with a 3/16” bolt/spring washer/nut combination.  The result is a much stronger feeling bracket.


I had also decided to install a ceiling above each scene, as I didn’t fancy the idea of being able to see the open benchwork when looking along the scene from one end.  Once painted, I also think it will assist in spreading the light onto the scene.

The ceiling is made from sheets of 3.2mm MDF (2440x1220mm).  This required the installation of a timber sub-frame built around the steel brackets to allow for the securing of the ceiling.  2×1 DAR pine was used.

upper deck ceiling frame

upper deck ceiling frame


More framing was also installed in the corner to support the backscene and ceiling.

corner framing


A ceiling section was cut to size from the MDF and secured to the timber frame using Liquid Nails and small gauge countersunk screws.  The adhesive was also applied to the steel tube.  Temporary supports were used to hold the ceiling in place whilst fixing the screws.  After the screws were installed, extra temporary supports were fitted to force the ceiling against the steel tube whilst the adhesive cured.

ceiling in place with temporary supports

ceiling in place with temporary supports








The ceiling section in the corner proved to be quite tricky to cut to size, but by using accurate measurements, I ended up with a piece that fitted perfectly.



A couple more sections of backscene was also installed, including the piece in the corner.

more backscene

These sections of backscene have no need to extend completely down to the benchwork, as the track level will be around where the lower edge of the MDF is in the picture above, and the majority of scenery here behind the track will be hills covered with trees.

I also started playing around with how I will locate the Kankool lever frame into the fascia.  The picture below shows a mock-up of what I hope to achieve.

Kankool frame placement

The MDF immediately behind the frame will be the scene fascia and the curved piece in front is to indicate another section of fascia that will serve as ‘protection’ for the frame.  More on this later.


Layout progress update …

Hi all,

Apologies for the lack of updates since early Dec last year.  I have been busy with some scenery in the Temple Court section as well as some more benchwork and spline construction.

Temple Court scenery

I’ve made a start on some static grass application but have not done much since Christmas.  It’s been tricky getting the look and colours right, but I think it will look OK as it progresses.

Some pics below of the progress so far.

Temple Court scenery

Temple Court scenery

Temple Court scenery

I still haven’t done any more with the rocky outcrop, but you can see lots of plaster castings sitting around for inspiration.


Lower level backscene, upper deck benchwork and spline

I also started installing the backscene from staging through Kankool, including the entry from staging onto the Chilcott’s Ck bridge scene.

Backscene at Chilcott's Ck bridge scene

Backscene & upper deck benchwork at Kankool

Backscene & upper deck benchwork at Kankool

The last picture above shows the new supports installed for the upper deck above Kankool as well for backscene support.  As mentioned previously, I am using 3mm MDF as the backscene and this will be painted with the sky colour.

I had always planned to work on the lower deck scenery and trackwork from Chilcott’s Ck bridge to Ardglen first before the upper deck, mainly due to thinking I would have access issues on the lower deck for scenery work if I built the upper deck benchwork.  In the last few weeks I have since decided to progress with upper deck benchwork, spline and scenery from Ardglen through to Pangela as the next stage.

This all came about after I had started to think about getting the bridge in place and laying track from staging through Kankool.  But I realised that this may not be such a good idea as once the bridge was installed, and I had scenery in place, I would be working above all this with the ever present danger of things falling on the scene below.

So, the decision was made to continue with upper deck benchwork above Kankool and around to Pangela as well with spline construction from Ardglen to Pangela.

As I had already built the benchwork for Ardglen and the section above Chilcott’s Ck to Kankool some time ago (see previous post), I started to lay out the spline in this area.

Ardglen spline construction

Upper deck spline

As mentioned above, the plan is to continue with upper deck benchwork all the way from Kankool through Pangela and to build the spline from Ardglen to Pangela, then start on basic scenery formation.  Once all the messy stuff with plaster is done on the upper deck, I’ll probably then look at getting the Chilcott’s Ck bridge installed and continuing with scenery through Kankool and beyond towards Ardglen.

Cheers for now.

A revised ‘new location’ – Temple Court …

Hi all,

Well things have been pretty quiet since my post in late August.  During September, myself, Jodi and Connor went to the United Kingdom for a holiday.  We all had a great time but were glad to be home after being away for a month.

Work on the layout was pretty much non existent since we returned in early October, but a few weeks ago Andrew and I cut up some masonite sheets for more supplies of spline strips, and this spurred me on to complete the section of spline from the bottom of the helix round to the Down storage yard.

Since my post way back in January this year about incorporating an additional crossing loop in this section, I have since changed my mind again and decided to just make it a scene from the area around Temple Court, which is between Pangela and Murrurundi.  The main reason for not going ahead with Wingen, is that trains just wouldn’t have been in the right context for that location (I know – picky, picky! Winking smile ).  If an UP train was being banked in the front all the way from Willow Tree, the bank engines, which were sometimes attached “in the shafts”, normally would have been detached at Murrurundi, and therefore a train with bank engines attached would have looked out of place at Wingen, which is further south from Murrurundi.

I had come across a couple of great pictures showing a big granite rocky outcrop at Temple Court that was just begging to be modelled.

4538+4512+4497+48138 with Up No.606 freight, make their way past

a granite outcrop near Temple Court on 19 May 1982.  The 44 and 48 are the bank engines.

Photo by Mick Morahan

4854+44224+4483+44211 with an Up wheat near Temple Court in 1980.

Photo by Chris Nelson

I have also laid down the foam roadbed in this section in preparation for commencement of laying down the Central Valley tie strips.  The photo below shows the foam in place on top of the spline.

foam roadbed in place

I also installed a few more sections of the PECO flextrack from where I finished off when tracklaying in the helix.  See previous post.


There will be one more length of flextrack installed than in the photo above, which will be close to where this section of track will emerge into the new Temple Court scene.  The CV track will then be laid all the way back to the staging yards.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to carry out some tests on painting the CV track in readiness for laying.  I will keep you all updated as that progresses.


Spline continues …

Hi all,

I have now completed full spline past the teardrop on the main peninsula.  Since the last post, I installed the temporary joists to support the spline up to and around the teardrop.

spline on peninsula

spline at teardrop

spline at teardropAs described previously, the first job is to set out the two centre strips, held in place by nails and temporarily clamped together.  Then, using a plywood template set to 40 inch radius, the centre strips are then adjusted to the correct radius.  Once the final position of the spline looks OK, the centre strips are glued and clamped together.  Then the normal process of attaching the spacer blocks and the other spline strips continues.

completed spline looking back towards Kankool

completed spline looking towards teardrop

teardrop spline

spline at teardrop

Just to finish off, following a request from a fellow modeller, here is a shot of the track plan showing spline progress to date.    The red line shows where I am currently up to, and shows a distance of 92 feet of spline completed.


Peninsula benchwork complete …

Hi all,

Since the last post, I have been quite busy.  I have commenced more spline construction round the corner from Kankool onto the first peninsula section.  I have also now completed the second peninsula with wall frame.  Below are some shots of the benchwork during construction.

main peninsula benchwork

main peninsula benchwork

main peninsula benchwork with wall   main peninsula benchwork with wall

I am amazed at how sturdy the whole structure is now it is complete.  I was thinking I may have had to secure the wall to the floor joists above the ceiling tiles, but I found there is no need to.  To give some idea of size, this main peninsula is 8 metres long.

spline continues from Kankool

Just to finish off this post, the above photo shows the spline continuing along the first peninsula section from Kankool and onto the main peninsula.

It’s amazing now that I have most of the main benchwork up, how I can get more of a picture of how the layout will look.  Up until now, it’s just been a two dimensional drawing; very difficult to imagine how things will look.  But now I’m starting to visualise scenery and track elevations.  All good fun!!


Kankool spline finished …

Hi all,

Well, I have finally completed the section of spline through Kankool.  As mentioned previously, this section has been slow going because, as can be seen, there has been quite a lot of gluing and clamping required, but the end result is very pleasing.

Kankool spline complete This shot also shows the effectiveness of spline to achieve flowing curves with easements, something that would be very difficult to do cutting out from plywood.

The roadbed is still only on temporary risers/joists at the moment, until I get more spline built so that I can start to set the grade from the bridge.  The top surface of the spline is yet to be ‘smoothed’ off prior to laying track.

Kankool spline Another view of the spline through Kankool towards where it turns left along the first peninsula.

The next task is to set out the next peninsula so I can continue with the spline.  Over the next few months, I may make a start on some scenery, if not the Chilcotts Creek bridge.


Spline roadbed Part III …

Hi all,

Well, things have been progressing really well on the spline since my last post.  Spline is in place all the way to the first turnout at Kankool now, where I have split the spline.  But first, some pictures of the construction sequence so far.

After the two centre strips are in place and glued, the next step was to attach the spacer blocks.  These were placed at 100mm intervals.

spacer blocks in place


The glue I am using is a polyurethane product from the SIKA range.  I was originally going to use a Liquid Nails type adhesive, but this is not very easy to dispense from the caulking gun and it ‘skins’ pretty quickly once exposed to the air.  The SIKA stuff is not cheap at around $15 per 500g bottle, but as I am using only small amounts, I think it will go a long way.  It also says, as it cures, it slightly expands into the timber grain to achieve better adhesion.  It is also waterproof.

sika glue

The next step was to work out the position of the bridge.  After allowing for the abutments, I worked out where I would terminate the spline either side.  Then came the installation of the outside spline strips.  These would go up to the start of the bridge only, as I couldn’t see the point in continuing the full spline across the bridge gap, only to remove it later for the bridge.  The centre spline however did go across the gap only for alignment purposes for the continuation of the spline on the other side.

first outside strip in place

completion of full spline from storage to bridge

The process is quite slow, as I have been allowing at least 3 hours for each glue/clamp process before proceeding, although whilst one section is gluing, I can be gluing more spacer blocks in place for the next section.  It all depends on how many clamps you have!  I try to glue and clamp as much as I can in one session.

overall shot of spline under construction

The photo below shows where I was up to on the 18th.  Full spline from the storage yards to about two thirds the way along the wall towards Kankool.  In the background, note the location of the bridge where the centre spline only is present.  This section has now been cut away.  Note how nice flowing curves can be achieved with spline roadbed.

spline showing flowing curves

During the week, I also erected the next section of benchwork where Kankool will be (well, half of it anyway!).  Longer shelf brackets were used here, as this section of the layout will be deeper than where the bridge is.  Again, L girders were made from 3×1 and 2×1 DAR pine.  Temporary joists were placed to allow for spline construction.  These will probably be relocated as I set the elevation of the spline later.  Work on the spline continued around the corner and up to where the first turnout will be at Kankool.

Kankool benchwork & spline

Over the last few days, I have been working out how to make the spline through the turnout area.  Whilst researching spline construction on the net, I have come across a number of articles which have helped in the process.  One of these was very comprehensive, and is here as a PDF.  There is a section in the article about how to make spline under turnouts, so I have tried the method which involves splitting the centre spline strips so one continues straight and the other one follows the diverging route through the turnout.  Hopefully this is explained better in the pictures below.

turnout template in place

spline being split through turnout

As with previous sections of spline, the two centre strips are located on the track centreline and held with nails.  I then placed a drawing of the 1 in 8 turnout over the top to work out its location.  It was then placed underneath the spline so I could line up the strips.  As can be seen, the outside strip has been split away from the other one to follow the diverging route.  Then it’s just a matter of starting the spline again within the turnout, all the time holding it in position with nails.  Then more spacer blocks and continue on with the spline down both routes.  At this point, I’ll only be completing spline up to this turnout, as I want to build the next section of benchwork for the next half of Kankool, so I can get the curve correct and around into the centre peninsular.

Finally, to finish this post, a few shots back at the bridge area.  I took the plunge and cut away the section of centre spline through the bridge gap and commenced setting the first section of spline on risers at the correct elevation.  Once the first section was cut away at the bridge, I then had to work out how I was going to attach the spline to the storage yard plywood.  With the ply being 9mm thick and the foam underlay being 3.5mm, I had to remove 5.5mm from the top of the spline at the storage yard end for about 100mm.  I ended up taking the section outside and placing it in a jig to allow a small router to be set at the correct depth.  It ended up working out nicely.  The spline was then placed back in situ and test fitted.  PERFECT!!  I then cut some risers from 2×1 DAR and set the height of this section to 42”, same as the storage yards.  That means that the grade now begins from the Kankool side of the bridge, as in the prototype.  This meant I had to recalculate the overall grade from the bridge to Ardglen in 3rdPlanit, but it hadn’t changed all that much.  This section of spline has not been attached to the risers just yet.  The first shot shows the spot where the bridge will go, showing completed spline either side.  The second shows the spline in its final location on the risers.  The third is a close-up of where the spline meets the ply, showing the difference in height to allow for the foam on top of the spline.

bridge section

first section in place on risers

where spline meets ply

Cheers for now.

Spline roadbed Part II …

Hi all,

Today saw the installation of the first section of spline. YAY!

I went to the hardware store to get some 6mm masonite to use for the spacer blocks, but could not find any.  So I ended up getting a sheet of 1200 x 600 x 6mm exterior 5-ply.  When I did the drawings for the spline last night, I was envisaging using 50mm long spacers.  So I cut the ply into 50mm wide strips, and then docked these off to 25mm wide, same as the spline height.

After docking about half a dozen ply strips, I then realised that 50mm would probably be too long for around the curves, so I test fitted a piece against my 40 inch radius template and found this to be correct.  So I then proceeded to cut a quantity of the spacers in half which will work better on the curves.  I’ll still be able to use the 50mm ones on straight sections and gentler curves.

I then spent a few hours trying to get the first curve from the storage yard correct.  In the original plan, I wasn’t going to model the bridge over Chilcott’s Creek, which is at the start of the 1 in 40 climb to Ardglen.  After taking some pictures of it last week on the way back from a few days at Dubbo, I am now going to model this bridge.

chilcotts ck bridge

After looking at Google Maps, I calculated that the bridge is 150 feet long with 5 spans each of 30 feet.  Micro Engineering make a 30 foot long plate girder bridge so I am looking at using this.  More on this bridge later.

Anyway, back to the spline.  After some tweaking of the track plan to allow for the bridge and moving it slightly more towards the front of the layout, I came up with a slightly revised track layout for this section along the wall to Kankool.  It’s not that much different from the diagram I have posted previously, but that is the beauty of using spline, in that it can be adjusted as you go.

After making some centreline marks on the benchwork, I then devised a method to hold the spline underneath the storage yard ply just until the spline is complete, and then it will be raised to the correct elevation.

temporary spline anchor point

I cut a short piece of L-girder that I had made previously.  This was clamped basically in line with the easement on top of the ply, then the first piece of spline was clamped here.

At the marks on the joists made previously, I drilled a small hole to allow for a nail to be inserted on the outside of the spline to hold its position.

locating nail

Once this first piece was in position, another piece of strip was cut a bit shorter so the joins are staggered, and was glued and clamped to the first piece.

first piece in place             second piece glued and clamped in position

This first pair of strips forms the centre of the spline.  This will be left to set overnight, and tomorrow I’ll add the spacer blocks and more strips and see how it looks.  The short joist at an angle is the start of a tangent section of track where the bridge will be located.

Cheers for now.

Storage yards benchwork complete …

Hi all,

Just a quick post today.  I have completed the benchwork for the storage yards, and applied a coat of undercoat this afternoon.

I decided to paint the plywood for a number of reasons.

  1. To seal the timber to help keep the dust down
  2. To make an easier surface for laying out the track centrelines
  3. To get rid of the bare timber look

Over the weekend I hope to add a colour coat and then next week will begin the marking out of track centrelines and hopefully start laying some track.

Cheers for now.

%d bloggers like this: