I drove up to Sydney from Canberra early yesterday morning with a friend to attend the 28th Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention at Loftus.
I went to my five allocated topics:
DCC and sound
How does a steam locomotive work
NSW concrete stations
Timetable operation for model railways
I won't give a description for each presentation because much of the information is available from the notes and in a forthcoming DVD of the presentations (the content, rather than video of the actual presentations). Information about the notes and DVD can be found from the MRNSW website when it is next updated. However, from a form available on the day, the notes should be available for $10 and the DVD for $15. I can say that the notes are a lot more informative than they used to be a few years ago.
My general summation of the day was positive. I listened to the presentations with interest and for the most part I was rewarded with useful and informative information. For me, I really came to the convention to hear about DCC, timetable operations, and the traversers. The othere two presentations were also of interest, and I heard from friends on the day that Ray Love and Craig Mackey's presentation on oil-burning locomotives was terrific.
I enjoyed Ray Pilgrim's talk on DCC and sound. I also enjoyed some superb photos and video from his payout, Bylong. Why the current version of the layout hasn't been featured in AMRM is a mystery to me - it's a superb layout and one that I follow regularly on Ray's Bylong website (which you can find in my blog roll). Ray has a preference for Soundtraxx Tsunami decoders and takes great care in trying to match the sound files with the appropriate NSW locomotives. Moreover, the sound is made even more appropriate by the care in which the CV files are set for train speed, acceleration through notch 1 to notch 8, and for braking and momentum control. These features are made easier by the use of a software system called Decoder Pro from JMRI.
The presentation on traversers was also very interesting; albeit Phil Collin's horizontal traverser was very similar to the one I made for my previous layout, Winmar. Phil's traverser was improved though with the use of additional drawer rollers in the intermediate sections of his 8-track fiddle yard. Phil also had fabricated a plexiglass cover to help protect the trains from dust, something I would recommend. The other half of the presentation was from Alan Garbutt on vertical traversers. Alan was inspired by an article in the October 1979 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman where a modeller had made a traverser that ran up and down a wall to store and deliver particular trains to the main line and the layout. Having seen this in operation at Alan's home a couple of years ago on a NMRA monthly meeting, I can vouch for its effectiveness. The bottom line for both the horizontal and vertical traverser is the space saving, and also the cost saving in not having to buy points and point motors for ladder tracks.
Finally, and it was the last presentation for me on the day, was the one about timetable operation from Gary Hughes and Jim Crew. Unfortunately, there was a technical problem that prevented the visual display of the presentation through the projector, but it was nevertheless informative with just the spoken notes. The talk was based on Gary's home layout, the Hartley Railway. Gary gave advice on setting appropriate objectives, layout requirements, personnel, and operating techniques. Similar advice, albeit from US prototype modellers, comes from the US model railroad press (e.g Allen McClelland, Andy Sperandeo, Tony Koester, and others), as well as from the DVD on model train operation from Paul Scoles.
In Australia, Kev Loughhead's Moping Branch has been a local inspiration for model railway operation (Moping Branch is featured in the July 2011 issue of AMRM) as well as Ray Pilgrim's Bylong.
Gary's presentation stressed the need to take the lead from the prototype to work through the elements of timetable operation on the model railway. In this regard, NSW Working Timetables are very useful. Jim Crew gave us information on the use of fast clocks as used on Gary's layout. One nice feature of the custom-built clocks was an option to "rewind" time when unexpected things happened that severely delay operations. If only the prototype railways had this option!
There were a number of commercial outlets at the convention, including Anton's, Bergs, Casula Hobbies, Eureka, Kerroby, Model Railroad Crafstman, Pallas, and SCR Publications. It was good to see some of the outlets selling the latest issue (No.11) of the Australian Journal of Railway Modelling (AJRM).
Ian Black showed how he converted Lima steel-sided passenger cars into authentic looking Southern Aurora cars. Having a table demonstration like Ian's was a nice feature that showcases skills and ideas throughout a day already packed with scheduled formal presentations.
The other feature of the day was the layout on show - Waterfall - from the good-natured chaps from the Illawarra. I really liked being able to get up close to this layout and really spend time looking at the terrific scenic details on this layout. It was also good to have time to chat, something that's not always possible in the hustle and bustle of exhibitions.
While the day for me started around 4.45am and didn't finish until I got home around 10pm, it was nevertheless a great day. There was plenty of informative presentations and some good opportunities to chat with other modellers in the breaks. All in all, it was a great day out.