Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition 2016

I made the trip down to Melbourne over the weekend to visit the Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition. The event was organised by the Australian Model Railway Assocoation (AMRA) Victorian Branch. The exhibition was held at Caulfield Racecourse as in previous years.

There were 35 layouts and just over 30 commercial stands at the exhibition. I thought Waterfall and Mullet Creek were the standout quality layouts at the show this year, even though I have seen them at NSW exhibitions in the past. The wonderful Victorian Railways Maryborough layout was not in attendance which was a pity as this is an absolutely brilliant layout.

Of the layouts that caught my eye, here is a sample.

Jackson Creek (On30) set in the Otway Ranges of Victoria and showcased some wonderful buildings from the Outback Model Company.

Filching Road (O scale, British) is a fictitious location in Eastbourne, East Sussex in the southern part of England. The layout is small and can fit in the back of a station wagon (estate car for all you British folk out there). I just love this tank locomotive.

Catherwood Junction (OO scale) is a British layout which represents a small junction station in the West Dorset part of south England. This is a lovely layout with nice composition giving the full flavour of compact British modelling. Operation is by digital command control (DCC).

Midsomer Norton (OO scale) is another British layout and one I have enjoyed at previous Caulfield exhibitions. I understand that the layout is up for sale now. The layout is octagonal in shape and features the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. The photo below shows loading coal from the Norton Hill colliery which operated from 1839 to 1966.

Crosby Stephen (OO scale) is a British-themed layout based on the Settle and Carlisle Railway in the inter-war period. The station has features from Crosby Garrett and Kirkby Stephen on the prototype which is where the modelled station gets its name. This layout is owned and operated by the Sunbury Model Railway Club.

Triang Hornby Wrenn Minic (OO scale) was a trip down memory lane with a layout featuring these pioneering model railways from the UK. Many of us would have started out with models from this period. It is also a good reference point to see how far manufactured model railways have come; yet it remains surprisingly appealing even after 50 years of model railway development and technology.

A town like Alice (HO scale) is a modern Australian-themes layout featuring trains from Australian National Railways (ANR) and Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) prototypes. The layout is operated with DCC and follows on from the previous layout, Barcoola.

Broadview (HO scale) is based on a prototype location in Central Victoria. The layout features a broad range of trains from Victoria and interstate trains from NSW. This layout has plenty of railway action with three main lines (two broad gauge and one standard gauge) to keep the punters happy.

Black Springs (HO scale) is a fictitious location in Victoria. The station resembles Swan Hill. This layout had been absent from the exhibition scene for a number of years but is now back with DCC and JMRI digital operation.

Mullet Creek (HO scale, NSW) made the trek from NSW and was a standout layout from the exhibition. A feature that enhances its quality is the use of layout lighting, something that many layouts at Caulfield still do not provide. The venue has poor lighting which makes layout lighting all the more important. The exceptional water scenes always continue to amaze.

Waterfall (HO scale, NSW) was the other standout layout. The layout is based on the real locale of Waterfall south of Sydney on the line to Wollongong. You will see a great variety of steam and diesel-hauled trains on this layout. The backscene is especially noteworthy.

Neubahn (HO scale) was a European-themed layout featuring a good selection of modern diesel freight and passenger action on a double track mainline.

Rounding off this post is Stone Creek (N scale, US). This nicely proportioned N scale (1:160) layout represents a branchline with point-to-point operation between Roscoe and Whitestone. The trestle bridge was scratchbuilt. I like the use of the dam/weir to link the backscene with the modelled scenery.

Once again, an enjoyable day out with the World's Greatest Hobby.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Epping Model Railway Club Exhibition 2016

The 2016 Epping Model Railway Club's exhibition last weekend was a good one.  There were 22 layouts on display and 23 commercial exhibits. As usual, the second hand stall was very popular for sellers and buyers alike. The modelling clinics were a little different this year with a focus on building home layouts. The clinics were managed by David L. from the Epping Club in concert with the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) who manned the stand and answered questions from the public relating to all the facets of building a home layout. Great idea, David!

I caught up with a good many fellow modellers at the exhibition and still managed to actually see the layouts on display. Here is a sample of the layouts that caught the eye of my camera.

Goulburn (Australian/NSW, HO scale) was a new exhibit from the Guildford Model Railway Group. The layout is 6.5 metres (22') long and 2.8 metres (9') deep. The main feature of the layout is a wonderful model of the prototype Goulburn station. Other building features include the long run-through goods shed, steel footbridges, and the workshop area with overhead crane. Trains from the period of the 1960s to the present day made their appearance, reflecting the individual membership's era preferences. The layout is operated by conventional DC control.

Gordon (VR/SAR HO scale) was a layout I had not seen before. It represents the prototype in near the Dandenong Ranges top of the Great Dividing Range between Melbourne and Adelaide. A good variety of Australian locos and rollingstock from the 1960-1980 period was on display. Interestingly, the May and June 2016 issues of Newsrail feature two articles on the prototype Gordon station.

Bullo Pit (British, O scale) is a 7mm/foot scale layout based on a real location in Gloucestershire in the 1920s. The layout represents the tidal inlet from the River Severn and associated rail infrastructure. There was plenty of shunting going on with a range of four-wheeled wagons.

Erbschaft (German, HO scale) is a fictitious town set in the 1960s.  The layout is Marklin with centre-stud track and a good range of locos and rollingstock. Buildings are mainly kit-built structures from Faller and Kibri. Erbschaft was a very nice medium-sized layout.

Over the Fence (Australian/NSW, HO scale) was a new layout to the Epping exhibition, although it had debuted at Sandown in Melbourne earlier in the year. Once again the houses and buildings on the layout represented superb renditions of real structures modelled to scale in styrene. A double-track main line kept trains moving throughout the day; a highlight being the running of an Auscision Countrylink XPT that looked superb snaking its way to the rear of the houses. The durable H&M Clipper transformer powers the trains and never seems to miss a beat.

Oddwalls (NSW, HO scale) made another exhibition appearance from the craftsmanship of Geoff Small. Oddwalls represents a fictitious rural NSW town set in the 1960s. The station area with the main street and country-style buildings are the central scenic highlight of the layout with plenty of detail to be spotted throughout. This layout is compact-sized and an entertaining NSW-themed layout that runs well and looks great.

Wumbat (NSW, HO scale) represents another fictitious NSW rural-based layout. The layout dimensions are 3 metres by 1.2 metres and consists of six modules. Note the impressive way the layout is displayed in a theatre-box style of presentation.

Industry Lane (British, OO scale) is based on a fictitious industrial branch serving a number of industries: fuel/oil, cement, and a large manufacturing complex. The focus of the layout is shunting and this is accomplished using short wheel-based freight wagons and a single locomotive operated with digital command control (DCC). The entire layout, including fiddle yard, is only 1.5 metres (5') in length. The fiddle yard uses a sliding traverser to move trains on and off the layout. I really enjoyed this layout and admired what could be achieved in a relatively small space. Industry Lane was my favourite layout from the exhibition.

Moonan Flats (NSW, O scale) represents a what-might-have-been scenario had the real railway reached this town in the Barrington Tops of NSW. The station layout is simple but highly detailed, enabling a good showcasing of NSW outline O scale locomotives and rollingstock.


Wallerawang Junction (Australian/NSW, HO scale) is based on the prototype station on the Main Western line beyond Lithgow. The era modelled is the 1960 to mid-70s period when Wallerawang was a busy rail station and yard. There was plenty of steam and diesel train action on this layout.

Bullenbung Creek (NSW, HO scale), the featured layout at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention earlier this year, made its first Epping exhibition appearance. The layout took its inspiration from Belfrayden on the Uranquinty-Kywong branch line. This lightly-trafficed rural branchline has been well modelled using hand-laid code 55 rail soldered to PCB sleepers. The layout is operated using DCC and locos all have sound. My favourite was the 24 class (2417 pictured below) which performed its duties with no-fuss aplomb.

The Yard (NSW, HO scale) was another NSW-themed layout making its first appearance on the exhibition scene. The focal point is indeed the yard and the Pioneer cement silos. Other rail-served industries included stock pens, loading ramp and goods shed. Track is Peco code 83 with insulfrog points operated by Tortoise switch motors. The layout uses an NCE Pro Cab for DCC operation.

Stikodelom (NSW, O scale) showcased some quality O scale locomotives, rollingstock and scenery. The location is fictitious but certainly has that generic rural NSW feel about the place. The Beyer-garrat (pictured below) is a very impressive sight in this scale.

Bethungra was the new layout from the Epping Model Railway Club making its debut exhibition appearance. The trees on the layout are superb (well done, Phil). Unfortunately, I don't have any photos but can direct you to this Youtube clip from John Thoroughgood who captured the layout in a nice two minute video.

And of course, there was the ever-popular Lego layout.

I really enjoyed the exhibition and the opportunity to chat with friends from the hobby.  I'd like to thank the Epping Model Railway Club for another successful event.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A long haul

It is almost half way through 2016 but it feels like an eternity since just over a year ago my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He was given 4-6 weeks to live. Back then he was 89 years' old.  Many people would nod their head and say he had had a pretty good innings. The thing is, not many people are prepared to give up their wicket irrespective of their score. And this was, and remains true even now because my father is still with us and still exhibits the same patience and caring for others that he always has.

Dad's home had to be sold to pay for the nursing home accommodation bond and ongoing monthly costs which are substantial. It's a super expensive business being sick and old, and in need of professional palliative care. There were some other problems too that just compounded the anguish and strain which didn't make things easy, including some medical issues in my immediate family. For me, after four years of suspected prostate cancer (including four lots of biopsies in that period), it was detected and confirmed in February. I had surgery in April. I had spoken to a number of people (incuding some railway modellers) who had gone through it and I took heart from their positive experiences. The surgery went well. My latest test result is good. My recovery is better than what I'd expected at this time. Fingers crossed that this continues.

In the last twelve months or so I have come into contact with more aged, frail and sick people than I could ever have imagined. I have spent countless hours visiting doctors, health professionals, aged care facilities, banks and other professional services. Not surprisingly, there was no spare time for things like model railways. The last twelve months have shown me a completely different side of life that I had never encountered before.  And what, you may ask, does it all mean?

Well it means a few things which I think are very important:

1. We need to live each day to the utmost and to appreciate everything good around us
2. We need to be thankful for good health and the health of all our family members
3. We need to be thankful for supportive family and friends, and to let them know how much we appreciate their love and support. And this includes reaching out to others who are in need.

I dipped my toes back into the hobby at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention. I caught up with several people and had a good chat about a range of different things; health issues and family issues included. Model railways then is not just about model railways.

Many of my friends who have been supportive have come from the hobby of model railways. This includes my good friend Alan from Kansas City in the USA who I met a few years ago through the NMRA. And it includes modeller friends in Australia from my own city (thanks especially to David) and from people in Sydney and the Central Coast as well.

I will be attending the Epping Model Railway Club's exhibition at Normanhurst this coming weekend (likely to be Saturday for me at this stage). Perhaps I will catch up with some more friends for a good chat, see some inspiring layouts, and come home refreshed and energised for the future ahead.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Canberra Model Railway Expo - postscript

The Canberra Model Railway Expo is over for another year. The 2015 expo was a very enjoyable exhibition. The event was well organised with good parking (special thanks to the volunteers on duty all weekend), a great variety of model railroads scattered throughout the school, and just enough commercial vendors to keep me within budget (hey, my wife may read this!). Special thanks to Ian from Micro Models Hobbyland at Hornsby and Gary from Model Railroad Craftsman at Blacktown for ferrying some goodies to Canberra for me. In addition, catching up friends and fellow railway modellers was also part of the terrific weekend experience.

There were 25 layouts on display according to my count. I saw them all and this time I spent much of my time looking at the detail in the scenic displays. This included the natural vegetation, the industries and other buildings, as well as different cameo scenes. The hobby of railway modelling is indeed a very creative pursuit.

Now, before we get into the photos from a sample of layouts, let me confess that the camera I used today is a very old point-and-shoot because I have "misplaced" the other 2014 camera. I am still searching the house for that camera and hopefully I will find it before next year's Canberra model railway Expo!

And now some detail shots that I quite like from a selection of layouts:

Layout: Electric Car Sheds (NSW, HO scale)

Layout: Springfield Junction (USA, HO scale)

Layout: 12th Street Yard (USA, HO scale)

Layout: Brunswick Park (NSW, HO scale)

Layout: Tanoden (Japan, N scale)

Layout: Moose Jaw Southern (Canada, N scale)

Layout: 638 Mile (NSW, HO scale)

Layout: Western Front 1917 (France, HO scale) - displayed along with an accompanying video of the real WWI trains and railroad construction as part of the NMRA information stand.

In summary, the Canberra Model Railway Expo was a great weekend. Thank you to the club members of the Canberra Model Railway Club Inc. (CMRCI) and to all the volunteers who helped make the event such a success.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2015

The Canberra Model Railway Expo is on again this year. There will a range of layouts and a good selection of commercial vendors. I know that Micro Models Hobbyland from Hornsby, and Model Railroad Craftsman from Blacktown will be in attendance.

The location of the exhibition is the same as in previous years: University of Canberra High School, 104 Baldwin Drive, Kaleen. Opening hours are 9am-5pm on Saturday (28 March) and 9am-4pm on Sunday (29 March).

Entrance fees are very reasonable: $10 each for adults, $5 each for children and seniors, and family admittance for $20 (two adults and two children).

The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) will have a stand at the exhibition on both days featuring the WWI diorama/layout of Mr D. Low. The NMRA Australasian Region has good representation around the country these days and the Canberra group is no exception.

At this stage, I am planning on being at the expo on both days from mid-morning onwards. I hope to catch up with modellers then.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Rules and playing the game

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I went to Cancon in Canberra to check out the way in which miniature wargames and even board games use rules to simulate some aspect of reality. It was difficult to follow some of the WWII miniature wargames with the complexities involved but I nevertheless came home with these three rule books to examine at my leisure.

These rule books, and others including the popular Flames of War, seek to represent different conflicts (principally WWII) in terms of geographic location, battle contexts, and military personnel and equipment. Establishing the right combination of personnel and equipment (e.g. number of soldiers and number of tanks) is necessary for each "game". Added complexity comes into play when dealing with levels of experience and resilience to stress in combat situations; psychological aspects that seek to simulate real life situations and add operational interest. Some miniature wargames include aircraft to add another layer of complexity.

The upshot is that these wargames rely on history (and research) for their operational contexts. While not mandatory, having a good understanding of the history enhances the experience of the game. The games also rely on geography and the types of equipment rosters applicable at the time and place. Such characteristics are very similar to those in the model railroad hobby. Also very similar to the model railroading experience is the commercial side of the hobby with various books and magazines, kits, detail parts, hobby tools and accessories, and paints and powders all available at the show.

There are of course some differences between the two hobbies  However, I am more interested in finding out whether aspects of the wargaming experience (e.g. the rules and the "playing") can be applied to enhance the operational enjoyment of model railroads. I need to read more and talk with more wargamers to better understand what they do and how they do it.

That said, I would be interested in hearing from any dual code modellers (wargaming and model railroading) to get their perspective on the operational aspects of both hobbies.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Model railways as a game

Welcome to Armchair Modeller Down Under in 2015.

Last year was a rather quiet year with my time taken up with a number of other activities. I hope this year will allow me some spare time to publish regular posts here and in sister blog, DME Down Under.

One of the themes I want to cover this year is gamification.  Briefly, gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self contributions. In the context of model railways where we seek to draw inspiration from the prototype, I want to investigate some of the thinking around gamification and how other hobbies, such as wargamers, combine elements of gamification with historical or contemporary real life practices. Gamification is also important in other fields such as education and technology development.

In model railways, many of us want to simulate prototype railway operation on our layouts to increase our enjoyment of the hobby and to give a sense of purpose. At the same time, we cannot always exactly replicate the prototype (although there are modellers who aim for such perfection) and therefore compromise prototype operational authenticity to increase modelling potential and other operational practicalities. Gamification is something I am interested in furthering my knowledge about to see if there are elements I can use to increase the enjoyment of my model railway.

And this is one reason why I will be attending Cancon this Australia Day long weekend in Canberra. I will be interested in the different forms of wargaming, in particular the rules and concepts, which underlie the actual playing of the game. As people know, wargaming is often based on an extensive knowledge of historical conflicts with as much enthusiasm and detail as many in the hobby of model railways. There is definitely a connection to history and research that both hobbies share.

In addition, the range of paints and ancillary items for sale at Cancon are of use in both hobbies and are an added bonus. I especially enjoy talking with people about the painting techniques of wargame miniatures which is indeed a very special skill.

So, with this rather offbeat introduction to the year, I hope that you will find this and future blog posts on Armchair Modeller Down Under of continued interest.