Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Work

Another couple of pics to show the work conducted on recent visits. Firstly, reworking a second door.

This will allow direct access to the deck from the main bedroom. It's also an opportunity to completely rework the surfaces and strip off any old paint, sand back to original and then start repainting - hence the white undercoat. I've also fitted lugs for a padlock and will be fitting an original lock, door handle and striker plate on the next visit. You can also see one of the little wooden lugs I've created that swivel at the bottom of the windows to lock them in place when closed.

Work as also started on the western end.


There was a small patch of rotten matchboard that I replaced with the few remaining scraps of new matchboard that I got a hold of several years ago. You can also see that I've been busy screwing the matchboard directly into the timbers behind, firming them up. There is a lot more of this to do before striping off the old paint, filling the holes and repainting but, with the summer holiday coming up, that should be done relatively soon.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Old Photographs

This weekend I was able to get some work done on the inside including hanging this picture that I've had knocking around for some years.

Not a brilliant pic I know but it shows how the bulkhead was designed to take this particular picture.

And I also know it's not an authentic QR picture but from an NSW carriage. I remember these pictures in the dog-boxes that I sometimes used to catch home from school. They depicted various views of NSW in an early attempt to promote tourism (and thus train travel) across the state. This particular couplet features Jenolan Caves, a favourite location of mine appealing to my geological bent.

Legend has it that the great photographer Frank Hurley actually took many of these shots for the NSW railways but there is no way of finding out who the original photographer is on these two photographs. I fancy though that, because of the contrast and technique used as well as the then difficult to reach locality, this would be just the kind of shot that Frank would have taken.

Now they grace the bulkhead behind the dining area providing a beautiful and authentic(-ish) setting for the diners.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Slow Progress

The last few weeks have been pretty chaotic and I haven't been able to spend the time on the carriage that I would like to have but I've still managed to get something done.

As you can see, the front steps are in place and that mound of dirt in front has been spread around greatly improving access. I've also had to replace some of the palings on the sides because they warped so badly, others were pulled back into shape and rescrewed into position.

I also started tinkering with the windows that are accessible from the deck trying to beef up the security - but I'll give more details and coverage of that when I've progressed the job a bit further.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Working on the deck

This last week my mate Andrew Browne came over from Sydney to help me get the deck finished. He worked alone through the week while I was at work and managed to get all the subframe sorted ready for a joint onslaught on Saturday. By COB on Saturday we managed to get most of the decking laid and the palings up around the outside. Still need to sort out some finishing touches and add the stairs at the western end but we're getting there!

From the outside at the end of work on Saturday

From the inside

And, on another note, if you have lusted after Clarabelle and wanted a similar carriage for yourself, here's your chance. The Mary Valley Heritage Railway is selling off some of their excess stock, including 1071, a sister carriage to mine. Details here:


I would love to buy another one of these but do not have the time, money or location to look after it. Besides, there are only so many carriages in a loving wife's life that she can stand!

If perchance you do go ahead and buy one of these carriages, stay in touch and let me know how you go with it. It's a lot of fun if you're into this kind of thing!

Monday, October 15, 2012


This week I thought I'd go through what's involved in bringing the exterior of Clarabelle back to life. This series of shots explains it all!

This is the area I decided to focus on. It was painted by me with a cheap acrylic paint several years ago after stripping off the remains of the original paint and giving it a good sanding. But the cheap paint hasn't lasted and needs replacing.

First I go over the whole area with my sander and 40 grit paper. I call this the investigator stage where I use the sander to ask questions about the integrity of the remaining paint and the underlaying surface. This is where I find any problems that need attention.

Here I've raked the seams of the matchboard and cleaned them out. More problems can be revealed at this stage, particularly gaps between the matchboard that will need to be either closed by repinning or filled with a suitable filler. This job is best done with No-Gaps, exterior grade, or similar acrylic filler.

Once more with the sander taking back much of the surface to bare wood. It always amazes me that the timber is in such good condition after almost 90 years service and almost complete neglect for the last 20 years! I've also filled a few problem areas here using an epoxy bog then sanded smooth. I'm not too particular about getting all the old paint off - if it survives two rigorous sandings with 40 grit, it probably deserves to stay! What is important is to make sure that the edges of any remaining paint work are feathered into the surface so that there are no tell-tale edges that will shine through the new paint work.

I use a 3-in-1 sealer, primer and undercoat which also serves as a good surface filler. And a lesson from my model building is that an important reason for undercoating is to identify any further problems with the surface that can be fixed before putting on the top coats.

Three coats of top coat are required because red is a notoriously difficult colour to get a good coverage with. The amount of paint also adds to the density of the final finish. And, because I'm now playing for keeps, I'm using a much better quality exterior grade acrylic paint that should last a lot longer than the old cheap stuff. Yes, the drop light needs further attention and painting in a different shade of red (Deep Indian Red) but I'm pleased with the surface and finish this process can achieve.

I'm keen to hear your comments on this process, particularly if you have had experience of restoring a similar old wooden surface. Do any of you have tips or recommendations to improve my technique?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Anti-Graffiti Coat

Managed to spray on the new anti-graffiti coat on to most of the side exposed to the road.

You can see that the left end which has not been coated is a brighter red and that there is overspray on the windows which will have to be scraped off but hopefully, if she does get hit again, any new graffiti can be removed with a high-pressure hose.

Fingures crossed, we'll never need to do that!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Putting her right

It’s been a long weekend here in Adelaide and while most people were fretting about which football team would win one of the two grand finals, I was out at Clarabelle with Chester sorting out the graffiti and putting her back together again.

She probably hasn't looked this good since 1980!

I’m such a schmuck! It’s taken me this long before I realised I can buy an inexpensive spray gun and paint a whole side of the carriage in around 20 minutes instead of two days! It does mean some cleaning up of overspray on windows and touching up the drop lights in a different shade of red but I’d need to do that anyway. Spraying also makes getting at the underside easy – so easy that Chester did most of that!

Close up detail of the colour scheme

Now to let her stand for a week, let the paint harden and then coat with an anti-graffiti spray I tracked down. The campers are back in the area now so hopefully we’ve seen the last of the graffiti vandals for a while!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Graffiti Vandalism

Just when all was going well some moron (or morons) graffitied one side of Clarabelle. I can't describe how angry, frustrated, disappointed and sad I feel about this. Years of hard work spoilt in one night by some semi-literate coward with a spray can. Yes, it can be patched up and painted over, but that's a whole lot of extra work I didn't need.

If anyone has any suggestions as to how to prevent this from happening again, I would really like to hear them.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Final End

Time to assault the final end that has not been restored since I bought the carriage back in 2005.

The first point of attack are the toplights. Originally the carriage was built with small windows (toplights) above the main windows. They were of red glass on the doors and green glass above the windows. Some time later, (I think in the 1950's or 1960's) QR took the toplights out and replaced them with panels made of plywood. I'm not sure why this was done but have heard that they were prone to rot and required extra attention.

Well I decided very early in the piece to replace the toplights, which meant rebuilding the frames and glazing them, then replacing the old plywood panels with the new toplights. Let me take you through the process of replacing a toplight step by step so you can see what's involved.

As you can see, this is quite an undertaking! That pinkish-red paint on the upper parts is the original paint from the QR days and hasn't been touched, probably since 1985! The brownish-red paint is a cheap acrylic I've slapped on a few years ago to prevent things getting any worse until I can get around to fixing it up.

First thing to do is knock out the plywood panel and clean the whole area up using a 40 grit sandpaper. This is the result and you can see that most of the timber is actually pretty sound - considering it's 88 years old and received no attention or care for the last 25 years! But the sill and the area below the sill are going to need some more attention - there is a lot of rot in this area.

 Here I've chiselled out the the old sill and much of the rotten wood under it. I then attacked it with a wire brush to get the rest of the rot out.

Now I test fit the new sill made from Tasmanian Oak. The original timbers are Silky Oak and that is too expensive to contemplate using - particularly as it's all going to be painted over and won't be seen!

Removing the new sill, I now bog up the underlaying timber with an epoxy filler. This stuff sets very quickly and can then be sanded into shape, paying particular attention to recreate the curved front edge.

The new sill is screwed in place.

More bogging and sanding to fill out all the gaps

Then a coat of 3-in-1 to seal the whole lot up. I've had to darken this image a lot because of all the white surfaces not showing up the detail of what's happened here.

This is one of the toplights, I've had to make 46 in all. They are a simple double-frame construction with a smaller frame on the inside.

And here it is installed in the carriage. At the moment it's all just held in with sealant (I use No Gaps) but I might put a few nails through the quadrant at either end just to hold it all secure.

I would be interested in any comments from readers who have tackled similar problems and how they dealt with them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

From the air

I was just looking over Google Maps and found out that they have updated the images for where Clarabelle used to be near Wellington NSW. She was there from mid 2005 until earlier this year and, during that whole time, this area was covered by an earlier air phtograph so she did not feature. Now that she's been moved, they have updated the pic and there she is (or rather was!).

Looks small from this hight but there she is at the edge of the paddock

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Finishing the Deck

More work on the deck this weekend with a fence going up around two sides.

Looking along the side of the carriage at the inside of the deck. This weekend I put up the fences.

Apart from a lick of paint, I'm going to leave the deck for now and concentrate on the outside of the carriage. This deck is only one third done but servicable for getting in and out of the carriage. I'll leave the finishing until a mate comes over from Sydney to lend me a hand, probably in mid October.

A view of the deck from inside the carriage. Those windows need a bloody good clean!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Building a deck

It’s been a couple of weeks and it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything, just that I haven’t been working directly on the carriage and work has been slow.
I’ve been building a deck next to the carriage to make access easier. I actually started some time back, buying the various timbers and cutting the posts to let in the joists, adding stirrups to the posts etc so that, theoretically, I’d have all the bits on site and I’d just have to bolt the whole thing together. Of course it’s not that simple and this is the result of two weekend’s construction activities at the site.

However, I am pleased with the way it’s coming together – except for that wonky post on the corner (as straight as a dog’s back leg). I have a plan to sort that out and eventually the deck will extend for three times this length along the carriage. Already getting in and out is so much easier but there’s a lot of effort and hard work in making life easier!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Clarabelle in her Undies

I had one clear day to work on Clarabelle yesterday which ended up me leaving her in her undies!

As you can see from the pic, I had a large area of matchboard to sort out which involved a lot of sanding, raking then sanding the seams, some filling, more sanding, pinning some pieces back in place, more sanding. The end result of all this hard work was a lot of exposed timber that I didn’t want to leave exposed to the elements for too long.

By the time it came to painting I only had enough time to put on a coat of 3-1 (sealer, Primer and undercoat) before I had to leave. Seeing as I won’t be able to get back to her next weekend, this coat should have a couple of weeks to really harden off before I get to put on some top coat.

The pic was taken late in the day so there are long shadows bringing out the unevenness of the surfaces. Up close and in other, less cruel light, this all looks good and sound.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

More painting...

This past weekend saw more painting but I’m working to a slower, more thorough pace than when Clarabelle was out at Wellington. I now have the time to do things properly and so this coat of paint should be the final one. That means getting the underlying surfaces up to scratch, lots of sanding and filling – even some minor wood-butchery cutting out rot and making it all good. But it was still a long day’s work and by the time I had finished, it was too dark to photograph my handy work! 

Upon getting home last night I realised that I’d left some bits and pieces on board that I really needed at home and, more importantly, I’d left the garbage there which would stink the whole carriage out if left for a week. So this morning I got up early and made a dash out to Clarabelle before work which allowed me to photograph her in the morning sun. I still need to give the drop lights a top coat of Deep Indian Red but I think you’ll agree, she’s looking good.

I also made a start on a deck on the south side, marking out positions for posts and assembling some of the posts and joists. I’ll give you an up-date on that project later.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Right Red (Finally!)

This is a long-winded tale that has come full circle. It starts back when I first got Clarabelle and was searching for the right colour to paint her. I took a fleck of the original paint to a hardware store that offered a colour-matching service and they came up with Capsicum Red as being a close match. So I promptly purchased four litres and started slapping it on Clarabelle.

The result can be seen in this pic of Clarabelle during the loading for the move in 2005. The section below the windows has been painted Capsicum Red and the result is – well at the time, it looked too red! Neither Abbie or I were happy with the colour match and resorted to a cheaper bulk acrylic colour marketed as Heritage Red which seemed to be a better match.

As time went on I realised that there were actually two reds involved in the colour scheme of these types of carriages and I did find a good match for the trim red on the droplights as Deep Indian Red. But the Heritage Red, being cheaper, didn’t hold the colour very well and turned a more brown-red – but I had 20 litres of the stuff and so it was good enough as a first attempt to cover and protect the carriage sides. 

Now that I’ve run out of Heritage Red the search has been on to find a better match in a better quality paint to bring the outsides up to scratch. I’ve blogged about this before http://collectingqr.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/wrong-colour.html and haven’t had much success. On arrival in Adelaide I set about trying to find the right red again even going to the lengths of buying a small tin of modellers paint in Tuscan Red (the official colour given by QR for their red carriages) and, when I went to get a colour match at the hardware store, that came up as Indian Red and the colour marketed as Tuscan Red by the paint companies bore no resemblance to the red I was after!

So the latest attempt has been to take out a variety of those little swatches of colour you can get from the hardware store and try to get a match against the only remaining piece of original paint work still attached to Clarabelle (the eastern end). This was still compromised by fading of the original paint and worn-in grime and dirt but I finally got what looked like a good match and it was – Capsicum Red!

6 panels painted in Capsicum Red with Deep Indian Red droplights. Needs some tidying up but I think I've finally got the colour scheme right after all these years!

So, being cautious, I bought just one litre and last weekend got to slap some around. Low an behold, it was the right colour all along! Now it’s back to the paint store for more and soon (hopefully!) Clarabelle will be restored to the right colour for the first time in 20 years!

Sister carriage 1074 as preserved in Ipswich for comparison. And is that a third readdy-brown I see lining the windows and doors? AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

First Sight

While sorting through old files, I came across this shot of Clarabelle on the first day that I saw here. From memory that was the 19th December 2005. As you can see, there's been a lot of work put into her since then!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Annual Report 1881

This is exciting and a bargain to-boot! I won this earlier this week on Ebay and it arrived in the post this morning.

It’s the Annual Report for the Commissioner of Railways for Queensland Government Railways in 1881 (published 1882). Think about that; this dates to the time Ned Kelly was having a shoot-out at Glenrowan a thousand kilometres to the south!

It’s packed with details about stock and locomotives and traffic and every conceivable detail of what was then still an embryonic network. It includes a map of the system which shows in effect four separate railways starting in Brisbane, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Townsville and reaching inland. The Northern Railway only extends 55 miles to Ravenswood Junction with an extension to Charters towers under construction and a route surveyed as far as Hughenden. Significantly, there are no plotted intentions to connect these separate railways with a line following the coast. 

This copy comes without a binding – so I’ll get that sorted – then she will sit in Clarabelle for quiet contemplation and reading on quiet nights when the insides are fitted out. 

And the bargain? $14.38 for a piece of QR history! 

I’m a happy man!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Before and After

Oh Bliss! With my wife away for the weekend and Chester on school holidays I bundled the pair of us off to Clarabelle for a couple of days. I had the Monday off so we camped two nights onboard and, although a little cold, t'was a splendid time for the pair of us! We have a proper mattress in the main bedroom so sleeping is comfortable and a camp stove and gas lights provide us with the cooking facilities and light we need to make an over-night stay enjoyable.

And I managed to get a fair bit done to the northern side during the day. Mostly cutting out rot, sanding back and painting but I didn't get to a finished stage that I could photograph. So I thought this time around I'd show a couple of before and after pics of work on the interior.

Then, before restoration

These are two pics of the lining of the carriage in the dining area. In the first pic some work has already been done. Toplights nave been fabricated and installed, droplights rebuilt and reglazed, rub-rails removed, refurbished and refitted, lining below rub-rails replaced and straightened, window sills fabricated and the bulkhead on the left build from scratch.

Now, restoration almost complete

In the second pic the main difference is a few coats of paint. The table has also been made and installed and the seat relocated. This still requires the excess paint scrapped off the windows and some sanding back of some rather heavy-handed bogging up of holes where luggage racks were attached but this is a dramatic improvement over the first pic, don't you think?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Luggage Racks

Most of the fittings in Clarabelle were stripped out at some time in her past, probably soon after she was decommissioned in 1990. This included all the metal work that could be salvaged for scrap or repurposed. Door locks, handles, grab rails and other fittings were removed and probably melted down. Luggage racks were also removed but many of these found their way into people's homes as novelty shelving.

So I've had to refind all kinds of bits and pieces which, if they are still available, are now classed as antiques and attract prices to match! Luggage racks regularly turn up on Ebay which is my main source for them and I now have several of them - probably enough for my intended uses around the inside of the carriage.

It was while collecting luggage racks that I became aware of there being two types and I've been able to piece together a bit of their history from a variety of sources.

The older types have the 'QGR' motif and are usually bronze. Frequently these have been painted over in the colour I now call Deep Indian Red. They appear to have been fitted to carriages well into the 1950s and originally Clarabelle would have been decked out with this kind of luggage rack.

The second type of rack have the 'QR' motif. These are often chrome-plated and can be polished to a high shine. I think that these started to appear in trains in the 1960's.

At the top is the older type of luggage rack support with the QGR motif while below is the more modern type with just 'QR' in the lacework

Beggars can't be choosers and I have to take whatever I can find so I now have a mixture of these two types of luggage racks ready for installation with some already installed. And it's when I came to installing them that I realised that they come in a bewildering range of sizes! The racks on the market have been sourced from a variety of different types of carriages and thus were required to be all different lengths. The longest I have is 2.4 metres long and fits across one end of the carriage.

Authentic luggage racks have the carriage number stamped into the back of the mounting plate of the supports. Not that forgeries are a problem! While luggage racks used in NSW were subsequently copied and sold through home wares stores, so far as I know this did not happen with QR luggage racks. If it has ends that resemble either of the above, you can be assured that it is the genuine article!

I would be interested to know if any readers can fill in some more details about the history of these racks. When did they change from the old type to the new type? If you know, please drop me a line or add a comment on this blog.

A modern type rack in gleaming chrome-plate installed in the carriage

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Professional Photographer

Just thought I'd throw in these pics taken by Advertiser photographer Nigel Parsons for the Sunday Mail. These pics weren't used in the final article that came out last Sunday.
Looking along the inside
Contemplating more work over a coffee in the dining area
It was probably the hat that got this pic excluded

Monday, July 2, 2012

Another move

It's been a while, over a year in fact! But the inteveneing 12 months has seen my family and I move to Adelaide and take up new lives and jobs in this wonderful city. We intend for this to be a permanent move and so have spent a good part of the last year planning the move of Clarabelle over to South Australia to join us. And that happend last month when she arrived on the back of Mario's truck, delivered to the new site at the St Kilda Tramway Museum.

On the back of the truck, leaving Wellington

Clarabelle now stands on a small plot sublet by the Tramway Museum to the SA Finescale Modellers club of which I'm now a member. She's much more accessible for me here being just an easy 35 minute drive from my new home so hopefully I'll be able to make some more serious progress on her restoration and refit!

Stay tuned!

Safe and sound at her new home in Adelaide

... And here are a few more pics of the big move.
Getting ready to load at the Wellington end, Mario checks his truck

Uncle Purrie checks out the alignment

and up she goes!

On arrival at St Kilda the truck moves Clarabelle into position to drop the rails before moving forward

Abbs cooks snags for all the helpers while Clarabell is unloaded in the background
Unloading in progress

Mario, Abbie and me pose for a pic when the job is done