Sunday, February 28, 2010


As an avid reader of the UK-based magazine, Model Railway Journal, I had often noted contributors’ reference to using carpet underlay to represent grass. The results always seemed quite effective. So when considering how to model long dry grass at the end of summer, I thought it was time to try the method myself.

First, I had to locate some of the underlay. This is the old, ‘hairy’ material that has now been superseded by a foam-based alternative. Consequently, trying to locate some was a little challenging! After several phone calls and a visit to a large carpet supplier’s commercial outlet, two linear meters worth was purchased. (Yes, I know; that is a lot of underlay...)

The underlay was teased apart and dunked in a bucket of cheap bleach. This gets rid of the grey/brown dye and takes it back to a light blond colour. The rinsed underlay is then glued to the layout in small balls. Once dry, the small, tightly ‘planted’ balls are severed with a scapple and then the new ‘grass’ is trimmed with a pair of small scissors.

While I could have left the bleached underlay the blond colour, it just didn’t look quite right. A treatment of highly diluted light yellow paint was applied with an airbrush to give depth and a sense of realism. I’ve provided an image of the results on my trial plywood board, which also features an attempt at using locally sourced sand and BBQ ash for ‘gravel’.

I am reasonably happy with the overall effect but in the future will use less yellow as well as other ‘earthy’ colours to tie the gravel and grass together.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


As previously mentioned, I have decided to model Victorian Railways broad gauge in 18.2mm gauge. This has resulted in me having to hand lay my track. While some people try to avoid such activities like the plague, I actually quite enjoy the process.

After gluing some lengths of 3mm cork sheet down, I proceeded to lay my sleepers – one at a time! Given that my lay out is based on a rundown early 1970’s branch line, terminus sleepers were laid in a somewhat random fashion (while observing the prototypal spacing). The sleepers are coloured with mahogany colour wood stain and weathered with various shades of grey and brown acrylic paint.

The Micro Engineering code 55 track is held down by Micro spikes, which themselves are installed by countersinking a 0.75mm drill hole. I have used brass etched fish plates from Model Etch.

The track has been weathered – although I’m not entirely happy with the colour. I have supplied an image of track section that is nearing completion. This length of track is the defunct turntable pit road – now without turn table. The introduction of diesel locomotives some 15 years before renders such infrastructure redundant.

Fine Scale Wheel Sets

In more recent times I have decided to adopt 18.2mm guage. This enables me to more closely represent the Victorian Railway’s 5’3” broad gauge.

I have managed to source fine scale RP25-88 VR prototype wheel sets from Steam Era Models. I have attached some images to compare the standard wheel sets provided on typical ready-to-run models (in this case Austrains’ ELX wagon and Trainorama’s ZLP wagon) with the fine scale versions.

KMQ Container Wagon

While visiting the Australian Model Railway Association’s Perth Exhibition last year, I came across a HO scale kit of the Victorian Railways’ KMQ wagon. Produced by Tony Crennan of Model Etch, the kit is made of brass and acrylic components and is a dream to construct. The end product is, in my opinion, very satisfying. My kit has been fitted with Steam Era Models' RP25-88 fine scale, 18.2mm broad gauge wheels. Auscision intend to release a ready-to-run version in late 2010. It will be interesting to compare the two. Auscision will have their work cut out for them to surpass the quality of this kit, in my opinion.

According to Mark Bau’s well resourced web site (, "...export rice traffic from Deniliquin and canned fruit traffic from Shepparton increased dramatically in the late 70's and early 80's. The VR found itself seriously short of container wagons – along with the money to finance new ones. The KMQ was an appealing cheap solution as they could be constructed from the remains of scrapped 4 wheel vans. Converted from U, T and KAB wagons, KMQ's were formed by removing the body from the underframe and installing a chequer plate floor with container lugs. At least two KMQ's were stencilled for explosive traffic and KMQ 67 even received a unique red/orange paint scheme for this traffic."

As can be seen, the KMQ model is yet to be painted. It will receive a coat of Steam Era Models’ ‘VR Brown’ with the QB well wagon kit that is also nearing completion. The QB will be a blog for another day...