Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas railway modellers

I want to wish readers of this blog (and sister blog DME Down Under) a very happy Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year.

In 2010 I will begin the construction of a new model railway layout. As such, my blogs will give regular progress reports, and make some general observations about layouts, the prototype, and model railways. Naturally, I will also be seeking the individual and collective wisdom from interested modellers through the blogs, at exhibitions and conventions, and in person.

Also in 2010, I will be working on a couple of model railway projects with some model railway "identities" in Australia that should also offer plenty of food for thought.

I hope 2010 is a good year for you all.

Monday, 16 November 2009


My layout Winmar, based on a fictional location just north of Albury on the Main South line in New South Wales, should be delivered to our new home at the end of next week. The layout has been stored, among other things, inside a 40 foot container at Allied Pickfords. With the extremely hot weather of late, I am hoping the layout (and other things) will be ok since I am not sure if the container sits out in some open yard or whether the container is under cover in some sort of warehouse.

Anyway, I will take delivery of Winmar on Friday week and have it placed inside the garage for the time being. I am still of the mind to disassemble the layout, lift up the track, and remove most of the wiring to be used again on a new layout. I guess that the condition of the layout when it is unpacked from the container will also have a bearing on my final decision.

Notwithstanding the desire to start afresh, I still really like the layout diagram and the concept of running a branch and an industrial siding off the main body of the layout. Having a small loco depot (Winmar being a junction station) is also a plus.

Here is the layout diagram in original form (click on the image to expand it for viewing). I did make some changes to the arrangement of the track on the baseboard when I actually laid the track down. I made changes to the purple-coloured sidings behind the station, lengthening one of the double sidings and omitting the siding off to the left (still in purple). Also, S7 in the blue-grey colour was extended around as an inside curve and joins the main just short of the entrance to the traverser as a grains loop siding.

Perhaps I might consider taking out just the station "module" and seeing if I can use it within the body of the new layout, although at this stage it is not clear what the new layout will actually look like and nor what final area in the garage I will have to work in. I am also considering whether to use the twelve track traverser (the traverser moves on heavy duty rollers from a computer server stack) since this will be easy to unscrew and keep intact. Suffice to say, the original layout plan as shown in the diagram and with the traverser fiddle yard at the rear is very much likely to change in context ... or disappear all together.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Railway operation is for me

Last night I went over to Rob's place for the monthly operating session on his VR/NSWR layout. The layout uses DCC for loco control and a card operating system based on train sequences.

The experience of operating this layout has reinforced to me that I really love model railway layouts that feature a system of "prototype" operation. Now, this layout wasn't run exactly as on the prototype because it represents a railway line between towns in Victoria and the southeast coast of NSW where no real prototype line existed. But that's not the point: the layout is run as an approximation of prototype railroading with an emphasis on establishing a real purpose for the movement of particular trains and the locations on the line. This blend of operation and railway purpose is what is of greatest interest to me. It also helps to have a good bunch of people to be with during the operating session and Rob's "crew" certainly fits that category.

I am now more seriously considering that when the move to the new home takes place in a couple of weeks time, the "old" layout (Winmar) will get dismantled. I need to build a new layout based on my model railway operation-oriented preferences. My thinking at this stage favours a shelf type of layout. The design of the layout will be planned specifically for the actual size and shape of the available space in the garage of the new house. I shouldn't need to compromise the new layout because of a previously designed and built layout from many years ago; one that was constructed within the parameters of a different overall plan and housed in a different location in Sydney.

The development of Winmar did offer some operational potential with the proposed Lake Hume branch and the industrial siding leading off to the traverser (fiddle yard). However, in the new location in Canberra, a single-top baseboard that is 16' x 8' in size does not really fit conveniently within the space available, and nor does it really offer an easy path for any potential Lake Hume Branch extension in the future.

The stage is therefore set for a new layout design that reflects my current thinking and preferences. The layout will be designed specifically for the new physical space of the garage at the house we move to at the end of the month. I think we have a new beginning...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Wagga Wagga Model Railway Exhibition

Just a quick note this evening to advertise the annual Wagga Wagga Model Railway & Hobby Exhibition. The exhibition is on this weekend at the Kyeamba Smith Hall in Wagga Wagga. Although I can't make it myself to the exhibition since I will be in Sydney this weekend, I reckon the show will be worth a look. I have been to the show in the past and had a good time there.

As with all model railway exhibitions, seeing what other modellers have accomplished and checking out the commercial displays is always an interesting experience. And of course, chatting to fellow modellers and picking up the odd tip often comes in handy as well.

I hope the 2009 Wagga Wagga Model Railway & Hobby Exhibition will be a great success.

Monday, 26 October 2009

A new house, a new model railway?

Regular readers might know that I have been looking at buying a house in Canberra for some time now. Well, the house I blogged about on 26th September is now the house that has been purchased. In a month's time we will be living in our own house in Canberra and we can put to an end the renting cycle that has bedevilled us this year.

The house has a separate-standing double garage with two external doors, and two roll-a-doors at the front. The structure used to be a single garage but has been extended to a double. It now incorporates a pitched roof, but the original outer brick wall remains as a central divide in the remodelled double garage.

I mentioned in that previous blog post in September that I was concerned about the brick wall down the centre of the garage. However, I can now report that this isn't such a major problem after all. Firstly, the brick wall doesn't extend all the way to the front of the garage and there is sufficient space to wind a peninsula around the edge. Secondly, the brick wall is certainly strong enough to run a shelf layout around it (and through a couple of the bricks if need be). And thirdly, I can pull the brick wall down if I really have to since it no longer provides any structural support.

The garage has to have insulation added to the walls and under the pitched roof. The walls also have to be lined. I may paint the concrete floor, although I am not so sure that this really helps all that much in preventing the build-up of dust. There also needs to be improved lighting. And oh by the way, somehow I have to find room for a work bench, a couple of steel cabinets, all my tools, gardening equipment, a lawn mower, and three bicycles. And Winmar. Hmmmmmm.

This brings me to my closing thought on this evening's blog post: should I keep my existing layout, Winmar, or should I scrap it and start a new Australian-prototype layout from scratch?

Monday, 19 October 2009

Back in Oz after US trip

I am back from my trip to South Dakota (SD) and Minnesota (MN) in the USA. It was an interesting two weeks travelling across two US states to follow a prototype railroad between Rapid City (SD) and Winona (MN). I drove almost 1500 miles during the course of my trip so there was plenty of experience driving on "the other" side of the road! The weather wasn't the best and I would have liked to have seen more prototype railroad action, but the trip was still worthwhile and enjoyable.

The full story is in my other model railway blog, DME Down Under.

I will get back into the swing of things with new posts to this blog in the next few days.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Off to South Dakota

On Tuesday I head off to South Dakota to railfan the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern (DME) railroad. This US Class 2 railroad has been of interest to me for the past ten months; so much so that I am looking at building a model railroad based on the DME. I blog about this proposed layout on sister blog, DME Down Under.

I mention this now for two reasons: firstly, my report on the 2009 NMRA Convention that I attended today in Sydney is in DME Down Under and I don't need to repeat that report here; and secondly, I will have only limited opportunity to blog while I am away which means that DME Down Under will have priority!

A full report of the trip and my evolving thinking around the model railroad will reach Armchair Modeller Down Under when I get back after the 18th October.

Until next time...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Sydney MR exhibition 2009 report

I spent much of today at the Sydney Model Railway Exhibition. Tomorrow I will go to the NMRA Convention. I had initially thought I could spend the first half of the day at the exhibition and then I could drive from Liverpool to Castle Hill for the afternoon session of the Convention. It was not to be; there were simply too many layouts, trade stands, and people to catch up with at the exhibition. Moreover, the exhibition was absolutely packed out!

The exhibition featured a couple of really great layouts. The best was the 7mm (O scale) layout, Stringybark Creek. The layout represents an area of the NSW north coast in the period 1950-65. On display were a standard goods and a nineteen class steam locomotive, plus a delightful 400 class railmotor. The layout had some excellent scenery, especially the buildings. I really loved the Norco dairy factory, the pub, and the trestle bridge.

The other super quality layout was A Tracktiv Effort by Peter Lewis. The layout is 5.6 metres in length, enclosed in the plexiglass showcase style like his former layout. Peter was responsible for the superb Time and Patience layout. This new layout is in the same mould - a Newcastle (NSW) suburban scene with excellent structures and the inevitable corner petrol station, with trains running in the background, albeit on a double track this time around. I can't say I like the name of this layout but I can say I do like the layout itself.

The third top quality layout on display was Eskbank. This wasn't the first time I'd seen this layout at the Sydney exhibition, but it is always interesting to watch. The layout is circa 1899 and is based on Eskbank near Lithgow in NSW. The "olden days" locos and rollingstock are certainly of unique interest compared to the modern image of today and the steam-diesel transition era preferred by most modellers. The station building and loco depot are really superb and are a great credit to the builder, David Low.

A new layout, Wallerawang, was being exhibited for the first time from the Guildford Model Railway Group in Sydney (not the layout by Jack Parker featured recently in an issue of AMRM). The exhibition layout is 6.5 metres in length and based on the station and yard at Wallerawang on the Main Western line in NSW (actually, not far from Lithgow).

The large generic prototype layout (but really US-based) from the Coffs Harbour Modellers' Group was also on display and presented exceptionally well, especially with the self-enclosed lighting that really showcased the layout to maximum effect. Similarly well lit and presented was the much smaller but superbly modelled Plainview (On30), a diorama style North American freelance bush logging layout from Viv Farrow.

Old favourites making another exhibition appearance included Brunswick Park, Dirt, Dungog, Galong, Jembaicumbene, Smaldon Curve, and Tarana.

The floorplan included in my blog post yesterday gives details of all the layouts and trade stands (so I won't mention everything I saw today). However, it was good to see that the four main Australian r-t-r locomotive and rollingstock manufacturers were there - Auscision, Austrains, Eureka, and Trainorama. Other notable Australian model railway suppliers were Antons Trains, Balmain Drawingboard, Bergs Hobbies, Casula Hobbies, Chuck's Ballast Supplies, Frate-N, Gwyder Valley Models, IDR kits, InFront Models, Kerroby Models, Kieran Ryan Models, O-Aust kits, On Track Models, Powerline, and VR models from the Victorian Hobby Centre.
My only gripe with the exhibition was the generally poor lighting. Because the sports arena had such a high ceiling, and the flourescent lights attached directly to the ceiling rather than hanging down, the overall lighting within the building was not great. Where layouts did not provide their own lighting, or sufficient lighting, the full impact of the layout was compromised, IMHO.
Tomorrow, the NMRA Convention...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Sydney Model Railway Exhibition

This weekend I am off to the Sydney Model Railway Exhibition at Liverpool. I am also going to the NMRA Convention at Castle Hill in Sydney. It will be a huge weekend, including layout visits on Monday and Tuesday!

The Sydney Model Railway Exhibition is one of the biggest in Australia, and possibly one of the best. I always look forward to this exhibition to catch up with friends, see lots of layouts, buy the odd item or two from the trade stands, and generally take in the model railway atmosphere. You can see what layouts and trade stands will be present from the floor plan.

I can see from the floor plan that there are some layouts I have seen before (Eskbank, for example) and some new ones (or one's I don't remember!) too. There is a feast of trade stands as well, always well worth visiting to see what's available and what might be tempting to purchase.

The NMRA Convention is on this weekend too. I am still deciding on the logistics as to where and when I will get to the exhibition and the convention. I still haven't fixed the times and places yet, although I have a three hour drive from Canberra to Sydney tomorrow morning to think about it.

Wherever I am over the weekend, track me down and say hello!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Model railways across the Tasman

I just received my latest issue of NZ Model Railway Journal. I really want to give this model railway magazine a real plug since I regard it as one of the finest model railway magazines published anywhere in the world.

That's quite a statement. Let me elaborate.

The Journal is produced to an excellent quality, both in terms of production values and in content. The Journal is printed on fine quality glossy paper, has brilliant photographs of both model and railway prototypes, and has some excellent model railway articles. The text is clear and easy to read. The way the magazine articles are presented is simple, organised, and straightforward. With plenty of half-page and third-of-the-page sized photographs, images are easy to look at and with informative captions.

Obviously, New Zealanders are the main audience. The "favoured" scale is 3/16 inch to the foot - S scale (1:64). In this scale one can use track for HO scale standard gauge railways that in S scale represent the narrow gauge 3'6" gauge used by the New Zealand railway system.

In the latest issue though is a layout article built to 1:150 scale and despite the freelance design, is a very fine layout. The images are superb! And if you're into actually model railway construction of wagons and locos, there are two great articles in the latest issue on building a Roturua guards' van and another article on matching rods and frames for loco construction. There is plenty of news and some fine prototype photographs in black and white - very much in the style of the UK finescale magazine Model Railway Journal "real atmosphere" - as well as a couple of colour shots taken at Reefton in the 1950's.

The Journal can be purchased in Sydney at the ARHS Bookshop at Central Station. Maybe give the shop a call before Saturday and see whether they can bring some copies of the NZ Model Railway Journal to the AMRA model railway exhibition at Liverpool this coming long weekend. Alternatively, just subscribe to the Journal via the website.

Whilst the New Zealand content may not be relevant to some people, I always find something of interest to read. And as to publishing standards, the NZ Model Railway Journal is one of the best - a great credit to the voluntary editorial and production team. Well done!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Buying a house for the layout

I spent much of today looking at houses for sale in Canberra. The reason is that the family is sick of renting and we are keen to find somewhere to live that we can call home now that we have settled back into Canberra life (we lived in Canberra for five years in the late 1990s). Naturally, we have some pretty clear ideas as to the type of house we are looking for and what attributes are important to us. You can guess at what I am particularly interested in.

The first problem is that Canberra house prices are ridiculously high; almost as high as Sydney property prices for equivalent stock. The second problem is the complicated triad of relationships between the type of house, location, and the market price (i.e. the price at which someone will pay - often much higher than what most of the houses I have seen so far are actually worth). And thirdly, at what point does one compromise space for that dream layout if nearly all the other desirable attributes of a home can be ticked off the checklist?

The latter point is a problem that I now face after viewing one of the houses for sale today that had most of what we are after within that complicated triad of relationships. The price is within bounds, the basic house layout and structure are ok, and the location is within an acceptable distance from work. And yes, there is a double garage but there is also a solid brick wall down the middle, possibly the original outer wall of an original single garage. The actual length and width of this double garage are also an issue since I don't think there is enough space. The garage is capable of fitting in a car on each side but without too much extra space for anything else (not that I would actually put a car in there!).

I sometimes read about modellers who "build the house around their model railway empire". I'd like to say that this will be possible, but somehow I rather doubt it. Pity really.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Modelling the Railways of SA Convention is over for another year

I returned home to Canberra this afternoon after spending an enjoyable day yesterday at the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention in Adelaide. I think that the attendance at the convention this year would have been one of the biggest since the auditorium looked pretty full. Congratulations and thank you to Les Fordham and the team who put together another great convention and another set of quality notes.

One of the key features of the convention this year was signal cabins. Over here in NSW, we call them signal boxes. Anyway, David Goedecke gave a great presentation on Modelling South Australian Signal Cabins, including detailed prototype notes and photos; describing how he built a model of the cabin at Ambleside. What was especially interesting was how David became interested in signal cabins. David told us that when he was a young boy he came upon a book in the local library about the life of a signalman in England - "Signalman's morning" by Adrian Vaughan. After reading this book, David became fascinated with signal cabins and their operation. I can well understand from my own childhood experiences where interests in later life originally formed. Random childhood events often have enormous impact on our lives, albeit at the time, seemingly so innocuous!

Signal cabins were clearly of interest to other people as well since there were plenty of examples in the model display area, mostly in HO scale but at least one in N scale. I have included photos of just three examples showing HO scale models of Ambleside (Goedecke), Adelaide (Gavin Thrum), and Penfield (Vic Kollosuhe).

I also really enjoyed the presentation from Lindsay Baker about oil depots. Oil depots are a particular favourite of mine. It was good to hear first hand from Lindsay who had worked in the industry for many years for Golden Fleece. Lindsay also gave us an insight into how he has used oil depots on his HO scale layout - based on Naracoorte - called the South Eastern Division. Lindsay highlighted the different types of petroleum products carried and distributed by rail, as well as mentioning the diversity of customers that kept oil depots in business. In addition, Lindsay reminded us that oil depots were supposed to be securely fenced! The combination of prototype information and his description of how he uses oil depots on his superb home layout was a great way to showcase an effective and believable lineside industry. Lindsay modelled an oil depot for the display area and I have included a photo below.

And speaking of the display area, there was plenty to see including signal cabins, SAR cabooses, locos and rollingstock. There was an even a small model of a Country Fire Association (CFA) shed and surrounding infrastructure. But possibly the pick of the display was Frank Kelly's superb model of SAR locomotive No.1 and train - photo below.

Other presentations from the day included early passenger cars of the Ghan by John Beckhaus, the 600 class steam engines of the SAR by Bob Burford, modelling SAR/VR joint stock Pullman passenger cars by Noel Potter and Stuart Hicks, SAR Webb cabooses in N scale by Mark Wilson, and photos of modern rollingstock by Noel Potter. The special guest speaker was Les Smith, ex-Australian National Chief Mechanical Engineer, who closed the day with a fabulous account of some of the goings-on during the AN period - sometimes fact is stranger than fiction!

Finally, in addition to the presentations, I really enjoyed catching up with people and meeting some new people (even a couple from Canberra) over the course of the day. All in all, it was another great convention and well worth the trip.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

AMRM October 2009

I received my latest issue of the Australian Model Railway Magazine (AMRM) today. The October issue is 72 pages in length with a hefty amount of advertising to keep the Australian economy (and the magazine) ticking over. I haven't read everything in the current issue as yet, although I have read in full the AMRM News section, Market Place, Reviews, and the featured layout.

I have every issue of AMRM from about the late 1970's when I bought my first copy at Micro Models in what was then, Hornsby Westfield Plaza. Micro Models is still in business, now as Hobbyland and on the Pacific Highway at Hornsby, under the management of Ian Radcliffe. I mention this because Ian and his son, Mathew, have some excellent models showcased in this latest issue of AMRM in the Gallery section. I should also add that I have a couple of Ian's excellent kits that he markets under the IDR brand (hey Ian, you need to update your blog!).

The featured layout in the October AMRM is a 1:48 scale (On2.5) freelance layout called Quart Pot Creek built by Geoff McMahon. The layout has some superb scenery (especially the trees), beautifully captured by the camera of John Dennis. John actually presented a clinic at the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention in Sydney earlier this year showing how he takes model railway photographs. From what I recall, he uses a simple compact camera but takes the same shot three or four times using different ranges of focus that he later "sews up" with a computer program (the name of which temporarily escapes me) to vastly improve the depth of field. The upshot is that John takes some superb model photos!

And also speaking of John Dennis, many years ago when he exhibited his Dutton Bay Tramway at the Sydney Model Railway Exhibition in Liverpool, we got into conversation about his model of the gypsum loading facility he had on his layout. John kindly later sent me photos of the prototype gypsum loading facilities at Kevin, South Australia - thank you John!

The October issue of AMRM continues the article about the Sydney suburban electric cars - this time on how to repower the motor bogie. The most interesting aspect of this series of articles is the use of battery power and radio control, something I was advocating a couple of years ago myself in the letters page of AMRM!

There's also an article (just skimmed the text so far) on building a laser cut trestle in N scale, looking a tad more realistic at completion than the following article on using old film canisters for bridge piers. Personally, I'd stick with the HO scale bridge piers from Uneek, available from Anton's Trains and other good hobby shops.

Bob Gallagher and Ben O'Malley look at loading pipes on the NSWGR TME flat wagon using the TME produced most recently by Austrains. The TME wagon is available ready-to-run from Austrains and Trainmaster, or in kit form from Casula Hobbies - ask Joe for the decals!

The rest of the magazine offers a variety of short articles, including Beyond the fence by Phil Jeffrey, and Ralph Holden's From the Superintendent's notebook. In this issue there is no Branchline Ramblings from Ron Cunningham who must be busy pacing the house waiting on the Eureka 38's to finally arrive from China! And he's not the only one; I have almost worn out the carpet and my 84 year-old dad has been losing his hair waiting in anticipation over the past five years!

Finally, good to see almost half-a-dozen letters in the Mailbag section.

Now, let's get back to the lounge and finishing off reading this latest issue of AMRM.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Looking forward to Adelaide this weekend

I am looking forward to going to Adelaide this coming weekend. I will be attending the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention being held on Saturday at the Flinders Medical Centre.

I have been to several of these Conventions in Adelaide over the years and I have always enjoyed them immensely. The Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention is full of information. There are presentations and a set of high quality notes that are produced each year. The notes are really a set of quality articles that support the presentations and form part of a reference library from previous Conventions. The notes are organised by subject headings and form individual inserts into ring binders. The articles are fully indexed and the current index of notes is now very comprehensive. I cannot recommend the Convention notes highly enough!

In addition, the Convention has a model display where models of locos, rollingstock, and buildings are showcased. In some years, a display layout is also exhibited.

The Convention last year featured a display layout and a diorama; both HOn3.5 and of excellent quality. In the first photo below you can see the display layout with Commonwealth Railways NM25 hauling a mixed goods train on the bridge over Wirreanda Creek. The actual prototype NM25 is preserved by the Pichi Richi Railway in Quorn, South Australia.

The next photo shows the diorama built by the Northern Modellers Group. The diorama featured some really terrific buildings. One of the builders of the diorama, Des McAuliffe (thanks for the correction, Iain), also gave an excellent presentation on model railway operations, illustrating his talk with video from his HO scale South Australian-prototype home layout.

The last photo here shows the Criterion Hotel, a typical South Australian-looking pub. The model is in HO scale and is built from card. Interestingly, many of the buildings on display at the 2008 Convention and previous conventions have featured buildings made from card.

I am certainly looking forward to what I will hear and see at the 2009 Convention this Saturday. A report will follow upon my return home.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Model railway operation using staff control

I had an enjoyable operating session last night at the home of one of the local members of the Australasian Division of the NMRA. The layout is a fictional railway line located between North Geelong in Victoria and Eden on the far south coast of NSW. As a consequence, the line is standard gauge. The locos and rollingstock come from both the Victorian and NSW railways, as well as Freight Australia, Great Northern, R&H, and National Rail.

The layout is controlled using an older version of Easy DCC and works to a train order sequence. A card for each train gives instructions as to the origin and destination, and any operational requirements en route. For example, one of my trains last night was a goods train that had instructions to pick up and set out wagons at various locations along the way. Shunting in a number of yards and keeping to sequence was indeed quite a challenge, especially if through trains were waiting on me clearing the main to allow them uninterrupted passage.

There were about nine of us working these trains, including what the Americans would call yardmasters at the terminus points (North Geelong and Eden) and at the key crossing point (Latrobe Valley) midway between the two.

Operation was an interesting combination of radio control and staff exchange. This meant that one couldn't enter a new section of the railroad without permission (obtained through using the individual radio control handsets and microphones) and without getting the staff for that section. Upon leaving the section, the staff had to be returned. The photo below shows the staffs for the five key sections of the layout. You can see that there are two trains in operation by the fact that the staff for section B and section D are not in the box.

You can also see in the photo how the staffs are stored in a vertical position. The staffs sit in the box and actually operate a switch at the base of the wooden holders to indicate when a staff is in position in the wooden box or has been removed. The staff set-up also controls the signals to give the correct colour light signal for approaching trains. Very ingenious indeed!

I really enjoyed the operating night and using another type of digital control system. I am becoming more interested in using digital control every time I have the chance to experience a real operational model railroad, rather than simple loop layouts that are popular at model railway exhibitions. Operating a Victorian/NSW layout was also an interesting experience. It was certainly nice to see all those Austrains, Auscision and Trainorama locos and wagons in use.

Thanks to Rob and the other chaps for a really great evening!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Technology in the hobby - publishing

I susbscribe to Model Railroader magazine (MR). I have about fifteen years' worth of back issues plus some from 1978-1979. Only recently have I begun to look at actually modelling a US prototype railroad - the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DME) which I blog about at DME Down Under.

Yet my decision to renew my MR subscription earlier this year was not based on just getting a monthly magazine in the post box. The tipping point for me was the additional content one has access to from the Model Railroader web site. MR is really using the internet to leverage more of it's magazine content and provide new ways of delivering that content for subscribers.

This additional web-based content gives product alerts and reviews, model railroad industry news as it happens (I see Faller has recently gone into bankruptcy), additional layout photos, a track plan database, and a series of videocasts by Cody Grivno, David Popp, and others on various model railroading topics.

But for me, the History according to Hediger series has been terrific. The format is an interview style between David Popp and Senior MR editor, Jim Hediger. Jim has been with the MR publishing team for over thirty years and his Ohio Southern layout is one of the greats. Jim shares some anecdotes about the history of his layout (now thirty years old) in his gravelly voice and with his wry sense of humour. The use of this web format interview style really brings Jim's knowledge and character to life, especially for those of us living on the other side of the world.

And this is where Model Railroader magazine is ahead of the rest - the supplementary content for subscribers available on the internet. The web allows for so much more than just the monthly publication of text. The web allows for video and podcasting, it enhances the scale of content (e.g. the thousands of track plans in the track plan database), and it allows for more immediate news and interaction (e.g. the news and MR reader forums).

The MR reader forums can also be used by the publishers to see what the the current issues of importance are to modellers (often emergent issues that can be picked up before they become mainstream) and whether the magazine and website can cater for these interests ahead of the model railroad magazine competition.

I do think, however, that MR could use a blog based on Tony Koester's Trains of thought column (as could AMRM with Ron Cunningham's Branchline Ramblings). I realise that Tony's column comes out monthly with MR magazine and Ron's column is now irregular in the bi-monthly AMRM. Good blogs usually have content loaded more than once a month (weekly is a good consistency to aim for) but I think there would be enough comments and interaction to provide sufficient content changes to overcome this lack of weekly updating by the authors.

We often think of how technology is improving the hobby through digital electronics and more life-like scale model locomotives and rollingstock. Technology is also helping to deliver model railway and prototype information in more interesting, more personable, and more timely and interactive ways.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Caulfield exhibition report - final

Thanks to the people who have been in touch asking for more photos from the AMRA Caulfield model railway exhibition from last weekend. Here are a few more photos from the exhibition. I will load some more photos into a photostream in Flickr and link to there at another time.

However, I have a few images here to show. The first image shows one side of the layout, Murri. This side features the station and yard while the other side is principally an open fiddleyard from where the trains are stored between runs. You can get a good view here as to how the layout is illuminated, using fluorescent globes mounted between boards attached to a metal frame.

The next image shows End of the line - note the gap between the scenic boards in the middle towards the top of the photo where trains enter from a lead that turns ninety degrees to the left to a small stub-ended fiddleyard. This image shows the station area in the foreground and the sidings at the top right of the photo.

The next image is a full length shot of the HO scale US-inspired Yardwork layout. The layout as exhibited is the same as it is at home. Note the book-case like framing and the neutral colours.

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, the operators of Bright/Everton operate the layout outside of the middle well and are indeed part of the spectators! The next image shows the operators on the Everton side of the layout. One thing I forgot to ask them was what headset communication system they were using to let operators on each side know when a train was coming.

I also want to mention Duck Creek, a narrow gauge HO scale Victorian-inspired layout. Duck Creek had been exhibited in early August at the Malkara exhibition in Canberra. Because I'd seen it so recently, I didn't spend as much time looking at this layout as I did for others. However, it is a very nice and compact layout, worthy of a mention and a photo!

And to end off our journey to Caulfield, the dirt road rail crossing between Everton and Bright...

As one exhibition ends one weekend, another begins! This weekend (29-30 August) the Newcastle (Our Town) model railway exhibition is being held at Broadmeadow. I sure hope Bob takes his camera and gives us a report on his South Coast Rail blog! Until next time...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Caulfield exhibition - next instalment

Following on from last evening's blog post, I want to showcase a couple of overseas prototype layouts on display at the Caulfield exhibition last weekend. You will notice that I have not covered all the foreign prototype layouts - for example, Oakham (UK), Birkenstadt (German), Schoenblick (German) and the On30 scale timber railway Ashbyrne. I must also add that there was another Victorian prototype layout, Benalta, on display but the lighting was not conducive for taking pictures.

Of the foreign prototype layouts, I really liked Yardwork based on the prototype Wisconsin Central of the USA. Yardwork portrays a locomotive depot and yard lead tracks. There are a couple of industrial spurs for shunting purposes. The layout diagram on the control panel in the first photo shows the track configuration. Layout operation is by Digitrax DCC.

Yardwork is three metres in length with two short end extensions capable of housing a loco "offstage". When at home, the layout sits in a bedroom and therefore demonstrates that it is indeed possible to have an operating model railway in the house. The next image shows the right-hand side of the layout and the extension piece that takes a loco "offstage".

The next photo shows the full length of the layout looking down the yard from the right hand end. You can see the loco depot in the foreground and the lead yards further back. Industrial spurs for shunting are on the right.

A good selection of Wisconsin Central motive power was on display, including this model of an EMD-built SD35 (No. 2500) by the sanding tower.

Another nice layout, but in N scale, was the Thompson River Canyon layout. This layout was based on the Canadian prototype. The layout displayed some excellent mountain scenery, including steep rocky terrain, snow sheds, and a number of bridges. The image below shows a Canadian Pacific train led by a Sd90/43mac loco (a Kato model I think) crossing one of these mountain bridges.

Phoenix Electric
is a HO scale traction layout based on the Pacific Electric Railway of Los Angeles, California. The layout is the work of the Ballarat & District Model Railway Club. The layout featured an urban environment, something that is good to see given the number of rural-based settings most exhibition layouts portray. The street scenes, buildings, and industrial areas certainly portrayed the urban environment nicely. The layout put to good use plenty of the Walthers building kits to give the layout a strong urban feel. The photo below shows passengers about to board one of the red trolley buses for their morning commute to work. The layout control system used DCC from NCE.

The next layout I want to highlight from last weekend is the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway (UK) prototype-based layout, Midsomer Norton. This layout is 4mm scale using 00 gauge track. The layout is set around 1950 and had a good period feel to it with a very well modelled station and yard area. The layout was built in the shape of a pentagon which is an unusual but effective method of layout display. A person could literally walk all around the layout looking at different scenes. The image below shows S&DJR 7F 2-8-0 No.53804 at the head of a coal train - note the lanterns and the three link couplings.

No doubt you can guess that I was most impressed by Yardwork. This layout exemplified to me what can be achieved within a relatively small amount of space and inside the home environment. Building and finishing a layout of this size is quite achievable and certainly allows for good detail and interesting operation using DCC and sound.

I must say that my plans for a US-prototype layout based on the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DME) had it's preliminary thinking along similar lines to the Yardwork layout, albeit I still favour a traverser at each end rather than just an extended length of track for "offstage". My thinking on my planned US prototype layout is chronicled in my other model railway blog, DME Down Under.

The third instalment on the Caulfield exhibition in Armchair Modeller Down Under will feature some general comments and some more photos from the exhibition. Keep watching...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Caulfield exhibition report

I intend to blog each day this week about the AMRA Caulfield model railway exhibition from last weekend. This is because there is much to report. I need to upload the full set of photos onto Flickr and then use the Blogger slideshow widget to link to them. In the meantime, I will blog a few different posts to show a small selection of photos in each, and to keep the length of the posts down a bit.

This blog post looks at layouts based on the Victorian Railways. I may come back to them later in the week with some additional images. In the next post, however, I will show some photos of other layouts of different prototypes.

The first photo is of the layout Murranbilla. The layout is a single track generic station and yard set in south-eastern Australia. The cattle yard (pictured) and cement plant were nice features, as was the dry creek bed and trestle bridge at the other end of the layout. The painted backscene on this layout was particularly impressive.

The next two photos are from the layout called Murri. Murri is another one of those generic prototype layouts also set somewhere is south-eastern Australia. The first shot shows a pair of SAR 930 class diesels hauling a fast goods service through the main station and yard.

The second photo shows a pair of T class diesels in post-Victorian Railways ownership - the lead loco being a CFCLA loco and the second being a Southern Shorthaul (SSR) loco. The pair are pulling a set of ballast hoppers out of the yard at the opposite end of the layout to the above shot.

The next image is of a delightful VR layout, Bright/Everton. The layout design was in the traditional loop format, although the operators stood outside the middle well and operated the layout from the front on both sides. This certainly made the operators accessible to the public! The layout featured Bright on one side of the layout and Everton on the other. In the image here a Y class diesel is pulling a short goods train out of the loop at Everton.

The last photo for this post this evening is from another excellent VR layout - the End of the line. The name says exactly what it means and shows a small terminus and yard of "a typical branchline terminus located on the Victorian Railways network" (so the program blurb says). I liked this layout a lot because it demonstrated what could be achieved in a layout length of a couple of metres. The gap between the backscene behind the station that was set further back than the backscene behind the yard to the right (to allow the entry of trains from a small fiddle yard) might not impress purists but I didn't let it detract from the overall display. The photo shows a nicely painted railmotor (a PSM brass or SEM kit ?) waiting at the station.

I thoroughly enjoyed these Victorian-based layouts and spent considerable time at all of them watching the trains roll by or seeing a range of different shunting movements.

My next blog post will have some more images from the Caulfield exhibition so stay tuned...

Monday, 24 August 2009

My weekend in Melbourne

Just a quick post about the weekend before a more comprehensive post with photos a little later on.

I flew to Melbourne on Saturday morning. I then caught the airport bus into Southern Cross Station. I bought my return ticket to Ballarat (about $20) and then boarded one of the Velocity sets (platform 8 south) to begin the trip. The train was delayed because of two defective cars that had to be uncoupled from the train. The train ended up being about 30 minutes late into Ballarat, not helped by a 12 minute delay in a crossing loop en route. From Ballarat station, I caught a taxi to pick up a rental car at Wendouree.

I drove from Ballarat down to Pittong and Skipton. The scenery here was more interesting - lightly wooded areas along the rail trail, green fields, and the occasional flock of sheep grazing - with mostly good sunshine but a chilly wind. Got plenty of photos of the kaolin factory at Pittong, some nice shots of parts of the rail trail, and some shots of what was left in the rail yard at Skipton.

I drove back to Ballarat, returned the car, taxi to station, and uneventful trip by Velocity train to Melbourne. Whilst no train photos, I still had a good day driving in the countryside and getting some good photos of an industry and some associated town and rail yard shots at Skipton.

I went to the Caulfield exhibition on the Sunday (yesterday). The exhibition was fantastic - great location, great exhibits, good trade displays, and good facilities. More about the exhibition (and photos) in the next post.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Day trip to Skipton

Next weekend I am flying down to Melbourne. As I said in a previous blog post, I wil be visiting the AMRA (Victoria) Model Railway Exhibition at Caulfield racecourse.

I am really looking forward to seeing some great layouts at the exhibition. I will also be interested in the commercial outlets and checking out anything new on show. For example, I understand that Railmotor Models will have a sample of their forthcoming SCT diesel locomotive in HO scale on display at the Caulfield exhibition.

However, the exhibition will fill only one of the two days for me. I am planning on taking a day trip by train from Melbourne to Ballarat in the morning and returning later that afternoon. I intend to hire a car and then follow the rail line south-west to Skipton, stopping to check out the quarry at Kopke and the Imerys kaolin operations at Pittong. I hope that there will still be some rail infrastructure along the way to Skipton, although I realise that the rails have been lifted and been replaced by a rail trail. Good to read here how Imerys worked with local people to help with the construction of the rail trail. If I had more time (and a bicycle), I wouldn't mind doing the Ballarat-Skipton rail trail ride.

I like exploring places (and industries) that I haven't seen before so the Skipton trip should be quite enjoyable.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Lake Hume

In a previous blog post about my current layout Winmar, I mentioned a possible branch line extension to Lake Hume.

My fictional railway junction of Winmar is just north of Albury. The equally fictional Lake Hume branch extends east towards a real body of water called Lake Hume. A real railway (the Wodonga-Cudgewa line) to Lake Hume exists on the Victorian side of the border. My Lake Hume branch would be the NSW equivalent of the Cudgewa line and would reflect the historical parochialism of state-based railway systems.

As such, some recent thinking has converged around the idea of using my (yet to be constructed) model railway terminus at Lake Hume as the basis for this small exhibition layout I have been rambling on about. If I did this, then this module would be available for both my home-based layout AND for exhibitions. I could develop the module along the lines of a four metre (a bit more than 12 foot) display with a traverser at one end, similar to layouts popular in the UK at exhibitions. I could perhaps turn the terminus into a L-shape with that power station or mineral sands industry extending onto a new baseboard beyond the station and yard itself.

And, what might be doubly appealing, I could run a session using some of my Victorian locos and wagons as well and pretend I was in Victoria! Don't know what the Victorians might think of that scenario but I am sure most exhibition-goers wouldn't know the prototypical difference. Hmmm.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

AMRA Model Railway Exhibition - Caulfield

The 2009 AMRA (Victoria) Model Railway Exhibition will be held at Caulfield racecourse on the weekend of 22-23 August. I will be going down to Melbourne that weekend to take a look.

I went to the same exhibition last year, also at Caulfield racecourse, and was very impressed by both the venue and the layouts on display. It's always great to see new layouts and talk with people who model different prototypes (in this instance, principally Victorian Railways).

In fact, as I recall, I came home thinking about building a small Victorian Railways exhibition layout myself. I even started some rudimenatry research and was quite interested in the Skipton line that ran south-west from Ballarat (now a 55km rail trail).

I can't say I know too many people living in NSW or the ACT who build layouts based on the old Victorian Railways, although Peter Street on the NSW north coast has a nice example. And Stephen Ottaway has discussed with me the potential of building a layout with a fictitious NSWR/VR rail interchange at Delegate, near the NSW and Victorian border. Perhaps my interest will be rekindled at Caulfield in a couple of weeks time.

I am looking forward to the trip but must remember to bring a spare SD card for my camera this time AND have the camera battery fully charged!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Malkara, Canberra, 2009

The 37th annual Malkara Model Railway & Scale Model Exhibition was held today and yesterday in Canberra. The event is the Malkara School's major fundraiser and plays host to a range of model trains, boats and 'planes, as well as doll houses and other crafts.

I only had an hour on Saturday and a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to get around the displays. After chatting with people (including Lloyd Sawyer from the now retired Lloyd's Model Railways) and buying a couple of things from The Model Railroad Craftsman, time was at a premium. I glanced at several exhibits but only spent time at displays of immediate interest to me. I took several quick shots with my "snappy" camera; a few being shown below.

The Epping Model Railway Club exhibited East Mateland and although a veteran of the exhibition circuit these days, was still voted by the public as the most popular layout of the show.

The first photo shows Phil Skelton's beautiful streamlined 38 class and passenger car set crossing the four-track steel bridge just past East Mateland station. The second photo shows a garratt with a line of LCH and CCH four-wheeled coal hoppers. And the third shot shows a 620/720 railcar set.

In the same room were two small but delightful layouts. The first was the HOn2.5 Duck Creek. This layout had some exceptional scenery, including a terrific saw mill with appropriate industrial sounds. Victorian Railways narrow gauge locos and rolling stock were nicely modelled.

The other layout was a terminus station layout, Blagdon, showcasing the Wrington Vale Light Railway in the UK during the first quarter of the 20th century. The layout was about 12 feet long (approx. 4 metres) and is quite a nice length for this kind of layout.

Canberra-based layout Willigobung was also on display. Willigobung is a real town name, although the layout is fictionally based on the Main South somewhere between Yass Junction and Cootamundra. This was the last photo of my day since the battery in the camera ran out!

There were several other layouts exhibited (including Crestwood, Kelly River, Tarana, Yendys, and the Canberra NMRA club's US modular exhibition layout). However, the layout, L's PaPerGlen, was of special interest because of the central road and rail overbridge - a feature that I had not seen modelled previously. The roadway sits above the rail line on the bridge.

Besides RRMC, other commercial outlets at Malkara were Pallas Hobbies, Kerroby models, Simply Glues, and local airbrushing specialist Runway 13.

The Malkara event is not a specialist model railway exhibition. However, it is always popular with the public who come to support a good cause. And there is always the chance that the Malkara event might ignite an interest in hobbies and crafts with people who would probably not ordinarily come to a specialist hobby event - something to hope for.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention 2009

Yesterday I drove up to Sydney from Canberra to attend the 26th annual Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention. The convention was held on the very south side of Sydney at Loftus, next to the tramway museum. The drive took three hours one way via the Picton turn-off and Appin.

Two special recognition awards were presented to start the day's proceedings. The awards went to Peter Berg of Bergs Hobbies for his commercial and personal commitment to the hobby, and to Ray Pilgrim for all his help and assistance to the Convention organisers over many years. Both awards were certainly well deserved.

The 2009 Convention followed the format of previous years: attendees go to five selected presentations out of the eleven (twelve in some years) on the day. The five presentations I attended were as follows:

  • Layout baseboard construction and base scenery by Terry Flynn.
  • Transportation of milled agricultural products by Phil Collins.
  • From raindrops to tender tanks (2 parts in one session) by Ray Love and Craig Mackey.
  • Modelling NSW yard lights by Max Stuart
  • Weathering track by Phil Badger
Rather than rewrite my notes of each session and summarise the articles from the Convention booklet, I want to just highlight some of the main points of personal interest.

The presentation by Terry on baseboards went through standard materials (wood, steel and aluminium) and construction (box, grid, and L-girder) procedures. However, I was very interested in the FREMO (free form layout standards) for modular layout construction. I can see how the FREMO standards might be useful for encouraging individuals to actually build a module that can be assembled with other modules into an operating layout. There should be no more excuses that one can't build a layout - just build a module instead and link it up with your friends or club members' modules! Terry mentioned that the Australian Model Railway Association (AMRA) has just published FREMO standards, based on the US FREMO standards. I later discovered some FREMO operations from North America in Utah and Calgary. There are more.

Phil Collins gave us a history of how milled grain products (e.g. glucose, flour, etc.) have been transported by rail in NSW. There were plenty of photos to illustrate his talk. Of special interest to me were the wagons used to transport glucose. Manildra (thanks for the correction, Phil) converted a former BMT milk tanker (BMT 1) for glucose transport. This vehicle didn't last too long since the underframe bent because glucose is much heavier than milk! The other interesting point of note was the use by Cargill of specially converted former DOT (Departmental oil tankers - thanks for the correction, David) into vegetable oil tankers.

The first presentation I attended by Ray Love (assisted by Craig Mackey) managed to put part 1 and 2 into the one session! Ray showed a series of photographs to illustrate the way the NSW railways obtained, transported, and supplied water to service steam locomotive requirements - essentially from dam or reservoir to water tank and water column. Of special interest was the pump house at Glenreagh which Peter Jarvis modelled very nicely. Naturally, like much of the New South Wales railways, there were plenty of variations in type and colour of water supply infrastructure like pumphouses, water tanks, and water columns. Reference to photos and dates is recommended.

Max Stuart's presentation on yard lights was the best presentation of the day, in my opinion. He combined both prototype and model construction in the one session with good photos and illustrations, an informative talk, and a very beautiful diorama to showcase the working yard lights. Max based his work on an article by Bob Stack on yard lights that appeared in an old issue of Australian Journal of Railway Modelling (AJRM). Bob Stack is of course the chief superintendant of South Coast Rail. I am sure both Bob and Stephen Ottaway (editor of AJRM) would be chuffed that Max was able to turn the information from that magazine article into an excellent working model. Attending the yard light presentation was not only informative, but practical as well. Max had some kits available of the yard light with a full set of pieces (including cast goose-necks) and instructions. I bought one complete kit but could very easily go back to Max for more!

The final presentation at 4.30pm was from noted Australian modeller Phil Badger. Phil is well known in model railway circles for his many presentations over the years and his practical assistance to the hobby with brass etchings of components and kits. Phil talked about weathering and how it impacts on track and lineside structures. A big reminder I got from Phil's presentation was to pay closer attention to track and lineside details when looking at photographs, noting in particular railway era and colour variations of track, roadbed, and lineside paraphanalia.

Thanks to Peter Jarvis and the other organisers for another successful Convention.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Winmar - first photos

To illustrate some of the points mentioned in my previous blog post, I have included some photos from the archives of my Winmar layout (thanks, Bob!). The photo of the track diagram on the control panel was taken just before the whole layout was put into storage a couple of months ago. The front face needs the masking tape removed at the bottom and another coat of paint.

The layout diagram shows the station (the black horizontal bar at the front) with the main line and a platform road linking both the loco depot (on the right) and the Lake Hume branch and oil depot on the left. There are three loop sidings (including the grain loop - inner left) and a headshunt. The dead end factory sidings (there is only one now) are in purple. Towards the top tight quadrant of the panel diagram is where an industrial siding forks off from the main. Both the main line and the industrial siding curve around to meet the tracks on the traverser.

The control panel is a box made from plywood with a lid that opens at the front using a piano hinge. The four panel meters measure current and voltage for each of the two controllers (cabs). The top row of switches are numbered and have blue/orange lights to indicate power and cab (one or two) for the fiddle yard sidings. The bottom row of switches are numbered for the power blocks on the display side of the layout. Three switches to right of the masking tape are for the three turntable roads in loco. The back of the panel box is open for access to the wiring and to house a couple of transformers. The panel box sits on an upside-down baby change table (that was no longer required!) which has been slightly modified with castors and elbow rests. Bob Stack drew up the layout diagram for me using a computer software drawing program. I laminated the plan and stuck it to the control panel box. I still have to finish the edging.

The next two photos show the front of the layout from different ends. The first photo looks down the straight from the Lake Hume branch end of the layout. You can see in this early photo that the sharp S-bend is still in place on the left. The replacement S-bend now takes the siding about four inches into the operating well but maintains the same length. The second photo shows the turntable at the loco depot end of the layout. A bicentennial liveried 80 class is visiting to add some colour to the shot.

This last photo shows the unfinished twelve tracks on the traverser. All the tracks are down now and wired up. Note the handles (on both sides of the traverser) for moving the traverser in and out to match up the selected fiddle yard track to the main line of the layout. You can also see one length of the aluminium framing that holds the layout baseboard grid together.

When I get my other computer tower connected up to a screen, I'll find and then copy some more photos of Winmar to my "active" computer for uploading to the blog.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Notes on a layout - Winmar

I was searching through a bundle of papers in the study over the weekend and found my notebook about my Australian layout, Winmar. It was interesting reading to go back a few years and see how some of the ideas formed about the layout. Here are some tidbits from those notes:
  • the layout was named after former St Kilda AFL player, Nicky Winmar
  • the layout design was influenced by the prototype track configuration at Culcairn and Blayney, both towns in New South Wales, but on different lines.
  • I liked the Main South Line for the types of trains I could run (express passenger and varied freight). I also liked the added operational interest generated by using a fictitious pioneer branch (inspired by a Lloyd Holmes article on Culcairn in one of the Byways of Steam books), and just like the lines to Oaklands, Kywong, Westby, and Holbrook.
  • the layout baseboard had initially been built by my dad in the late 1970's using a 12 inch grid framed at the perimeter by aluminium lengths for rigidity. The baseboard is 16' x 8' with an operating well in the middle. I put a series of formers on the layout to raise the actual baseboard height above the grid so I could fit point motors and dip the scenery. The baseboard is now extremely heavy but after several moves, remains intact.
  • the 8' long traverser that acts as a fiddle yard first used drawer rollers. These were not strong enough so I decided to use heavier steel rollers used to hold shelves of computer servers. This has been much better, although I intend to put in another roller in the middle to prevent some slight sagging.
  • I had initially used a diamond crossing to get from the inner siding to a factory but was later informed that diamond crossings were very rare on the NSWR. I changed that to an 'S' bend from the inner siding to the factory/flour mill/biscuit factory (still undecided on that one) used 24" radius curved Shinohara track. This has since been replaced by 30" curved Shinohara track, requiring an insert in one corner of the operating well to hold the track and the to-be-constructed industry.
  • a mixture of Peco and Seep point motors were used. The Seep motors seem a more simple yet just as effective mode of turnout operation.
  • single track running is fine for home layouts
  • the junction behind the station to the left (but at the front of the viewing area) at Winmar offers potential for future extension and the Lake Hume branch is gradually finding some "prototype history" to explain its existence.
  • the Lake Hume branch could be used to bring coal to the power station and agricultural supplies to farmers, and ship out timber, livestock and grain. I made a subsequent note that perhaps a mineral sands industry (like Bemax) might be possible.
There were a few more bits and pieces of information in the notebook. However, much of what was important in the early planning and construction days were formed from the thinking recorded in the notebook and mentioned in point form here. Perhaps if I had started a blog back then, there would have been even more revealed and remembered.

Now, if I could find some of the digital photos that either Bob or I have taken of the layout to actually illustrate these notes I'd be very happy!

Friday, 3 July 2009

The 2009 NMRA Convention in Sydney, Australia

Following on from my previous blog post, I must mention the NMRA Australia 2009 Convention to be held at Castle Hill (Sydney) between the 2nd and 5th of October. It is the 25th anniversary convention so it too will be a special time. The NMRA convention program is out now. Registrations are being taken for the convention plus orders for commemorative shirts. There are also plenty of layout tours featuring mostly US and Australian prototype model railway layouts.

The dates do clash with the AMRA Sydney Model Railway Exhibition at the Whitlam Leisure Centre in Liverpool. However, I believe there will be time on the Monday available for NMRA convention attendees to make the trip to Liverpool. The Sydney exhibition is returning to the Liverpool venue after a few years away at Hurstville.

The NSW October Labour Day weekend promises to be a very, very busy time.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The 2009 NMRA Convention in Hartford, USA

I am a National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) member. When I was living in Sydney I'd attend the monthly layout visits when I could and found them always interesting events. Now in Canberra, I have made a couple of layout visits but still to get into a more regular routine.

One of our Canberra mob, John P., is heading off to the US at the end of this week to attend the annual NMRA Convention being held this year in Hartford, Connecticut. The convention begins on July 5th.

It's likely that several Australians will be making the trip to the US to go to the Convention in Harford, CT. The clinics and layout tours look terrific.

My hope is to go to the 2010 NMRA Convention in Milwaukee. The 2010 convention will be the 75th anniversary of the NMRA so it promises to be extra special. And, Milwaukee is (sort of) close enough to my favourite US prototype railroads, the Soo and the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern.

In the meantime, I hope John and the other Aussies have a great time in Connecticut and bring back lots of good ideas and tips for the rest of us!

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


One of the great challenges of model railways is signalling. On the New South Wales Government railways and subsequent authorities, working semaphore signals dominated the safety and perway landscape.

In model form, the best working semaphore signals I have seen were on the layout "Menangle", probably thirty years ago. Mind you, not many layouts even try to have working semaphore signals. Winmar, for example, does not anticipate seeing signals for some time (and not just because the layout is in storage in a Canberra warehouse). Working signals do look great - even working colour light signals.

Anyway, I was out last weekend at Gunning to see that the semaphore signals have finally been removed. The change to colour light signals in the Cullerin is pretty much complete. The remains of the semaphore signals and posts have been cut up and sent to the tip. The colour light signals that had literally been under wrap for a while now are now in action. You can see a before and after shot below. The photos were taken on the 5th and 27th June 2009.

There's something about working semaphores that really can't be outdone by their colour light equivalents - but colour light signals are much easier to model!