Monday 13 November 2023

An inspirational weekend

It has been a while since my last post which heralded quite a dramatic event for me. Initially, I was on sick leave but then decided to take my long service leave. Part of the reason for that was trying to make sense of everything that had happened since it was such a huge shock and the mental impact was greater than I expected. All good now. 

Anyway, the last few months has allowed me to do some travel here in Australia, mainly to Sydney, Melbourne, and one trip to North Queensland. I also managed a short trip to Wellington, New Zealand.

I was in North Queensland late October and it was sugar cane harvesting time. I didn't have too much spare time looking for cane trains but there were plenty of full cane wagons ready for collection and transport to the local mills. I was really impressed with the extent of the cane railway system.

I also visited the model railway exhibitions in Adelaide in June and Melbourne in August. Unfortunately, no reports were forthcoming as blogging wasn't high on my agenda.

I thought it was about time to get back into the blog, especially after two inspirational events over the most recent weekend. On Saturday I operated on a large NSW-themed layout and then on the Sunday I attended ScaleACT 2023.

The first experience was my first operating session on SJ's Kangaroo Valley Railway in its new home just outside of Canberra. 


We didn't run a timetabled session like they usually do but rather did a sequential set of train movements using a simple instructional card system. This enabled new people like myself to get a feel for the layout and where everything was located. I ran the suburban electric services for my first couple of train movements (see photo below) before moving onto other passenger train operations.

It was a very interesting session and the nine operators on the day all had a great time. Many thanks SJ.

On Sunday I went to the annual ScaleACT plastic kit show from the ACT Scale Model Society. This year it was held in a new venue - Thoroughbred Park in Canberra. This is a great venue for this type of show. There were over 700 entrants into the model judging display which I understand was the largest number ever for ScaleACT. Check out this video summary of the models on display. 

In addition, ScaleACT did some live streaming via Facebook for the first time. I went to the Clayton Ockerby session which was very informative. Clayton has his own Youtube channel which is worth checking out. I find military modellers offer some interesting model painting techniques that we can apply to the model railway hobby.

There were several traders selling model kits, tools, paints, and accessories. Burfitt Tools and Kerroby were there, as well as SMS paints (all familiar to the model railway scene). There was also a second hand stall which was very popular. 

I spent more time than I expected talking with different people (had a good chat with Clayton later in the day - top bloke!) which I guess is similar to my experience at model train exhibitions!

Anyway, there was one model on display (a helicopter lettered for the Ukraine airforce) that I really loved. The two photos below show you what I mean.

So, the weekend was very inspirational and I hope this energises me into getting back into my layout and moving the layout forward.

Monday 27 February 2023

My early 2023 update and unforseen twist

It has been quite a while since my last blog post for varying reasons. The good was a trip overseas last September-October which ended with a visit to the Great Electric Train Show in Milton Keynes on 9th October 2022. I had planned on publishing some photos with a couple of blog posts after that but family and work commitments got in the way. And then it seemed the timing had passed.


I also had a wonderful visit to the home of legendary British modeller and author, Tony Wright. I must say this was a real highlight seeing "Little Bytham" in person. Tony was a most accommodating host and he and his wife made me feel most welcome. I also bought Tony's book about the building of this exceptional layout which is both informative and captivating. Again, I was slow to get the photos from my phone to the computer, albeit it takes me several goes to get the actual transfer to work!

I had lots of plans and intentions for 2023, starting with some long service leave in March and possibly additional leave mid-year. I am still working on my US layout and had plans to accelerate things in 2023. There are several upcoming model railway exhibitions I was planning on attending: Forestville (4-5 March), Canberra (26-27 March), Sandown (11-13 March), and the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention over the Easter weekend in April, and the Epping Club's exhibition at Rosehill (6-7 May). And then there was possible travel in the second half of the year. However, these plans are in disarray for the moment.

Alas, I ended up with a heart attack. Fortunately, the attack itself wasn't too bad but the discovery of blocked arteries was a real shock. I spent all last week in hospital and had my first two stents put in last Friday. Got a couple more to go in the coming weeks. At age 61 who never smoked, was never overweight, and had a reasonably healthy diet (but not enough exercise), I have been rocked to my core.

Amazingly, I am back home but instructed not to do anything (well, I can type a bit as long as I can keep my concentration) for at least two weeks and then to take further direction from my cardiologist. The next couple of stents can't go in for a few weeks apparantly. Funnily enough, you'd think that having permission to do nothing would be a good thing, but it's not: just leads to more thinking and worrying!

I am lucky to have an engrossing hobby and friends in model railways that will help move my mind into more positive thoughts and activities. Thanks to LF, DL, DM, JP, and a couple of other people who helped ease my mind over the past week. Thanks also to MD who shared his story with me, and my local NMRA club members.

I hope to get to the Canberra Exhibition but this will depend on the date for the next "procedure". And I'd like to think, at the very least, I'll be all set to go to the Epping Club's exhibition in May.

My 2023 is now a lot different to what I was looking forward to at the start of the year. But at least I am able to pen this blog post and hope to pen a whole lot more (plus modelling) throughout 2023.

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition 2022

I have a belated report on the AMRA Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition from the weekend of 20-21 August. It was so good to be back after all the Covid-19 cancellations of the two previous years. The layouts on show had something to offer everyone, so let's get started with the layouts that caught my eye over the two days of the event. Click on the photos to expand.

Maryborough (HO scale) was clearly the standout Australian prototype layout. I've seen the layout before but it is truly a masterpiece. The station building, as you can see, is an amazing structure. The layout was constructed by the members of AMRA (Victoria Branch) to represent the station and surrounds from the post WWII era until 1962. The layout featured a wide range of locomotives and rolling stock over the weekend and no matter what was running, I enjoyed every minute of this layout.


Another Australian layout from AMRA (Victoria Branch) was the HO scale Murri layout. Murri is a generic southeastern Australian prototype layout with trains running from the early 20th century to moden day. The station area is a busy scene with plenty of through running, passenger trains, and yard workings.

Borderline (HO scale) was an HO scale generic Australian layout based on a fictional location on the border of Victoria and South Australia. As such, you can see plenty of interstate action on this layout.

The Peterborough Line (HO scale) has two signature scenes: the Light River Bridge (at Hamley Bridge) and Gumbowie. Both of these iconic scenes are no longer around on the prototype but it is good to see them represented in model form with this layout.

Tallarook (HO scale) was another great Australian prototype layout, based on the Victorian main northeast line. Tallarook is the junction of the Mansfield and Alexandra branch lines. The layout featured some superb scenery (especially the trees) as well as a good variety of trains.

The Epping Model Railway Club made the journey south to Melbourne with their exhibition layout, Binalong (HO scale). Binalong is in New South Wales on the Main South between Sydney and Melbourne. As such, it sees plenty of train action.


Turning to a Victorian-themed N scale layout, Billabong Flat was a lovely little layout featuring a rural terminus staion and reail yard. The compact size of the layout (1.6m x 0.6m) demonstrated how much fun you can have with N scale in such a small amount of space. I had a good chat with the layout owner who impressed upon me how far Australian N scale modelling had come over the years. Might be a good reason to attend the Australian N Scale Convention in Goulburn in October!

A layout showing good potential was Skipton (Victorian, HO scale). The layout was originally built in 2017 by a group of high school students and is based on the prototype station of the same name. It is a terminus station with turntable and a run-around siding. Actually, if I was to model a Victorian place myself, Skipton would be high on my list.

Electric Car Sheds (NSW, HO scale) showcases electric rail transport and suburban coaching stock based on a typical Sydney electric train maintenance depot. You can see a wonderful variety of electric traction on show with this layout.

Cheakamus Canyon (HO scale) is based on the prototype in British Columbia, Canada. The layout is a scenic extravaganza and features four marvellous bridge scenes replicating actual locations on the railroad. The vertical scenery in particular is a real standout for this layout.

Moving to O scale, Paradise Valley was a wonderful On30 layout from the Puffing Billy Modellers' Group. The layout is based on the Upper Ferntree Gully to Gembrook narrow gauge line in the 1950s. The layout and scenery are superb. The name Paradise Valley is the original name of Clematis station.

Black Stump (On 30) was another wonderful layout based on Victorian narrow gauge of the Otway Ranges. I'd seen this layout before at the Ballarat Exhibition a few months ago but it is one layout you can see several times and still admire the scenery and workmanship.

Eddington Quay (O/16.5) was a 7mm narrow gauge layout based on a secluded cove on the Devon Cornwall border. Using 16.5mm trck gives a prototype gauge of 2' 3''. This is a nicely presented layout with some wonderful buildings. The steam locos (and some freight stock) were kits built from the Smallbrook Studio range.

Another O scale layout was Daraby (British) that featured steam and diesel traction on an ened-to-end shunting layout. This layout really showed the detail and operational attributes of the larger scale.

Allanleigh (OO scale, British) was one of my favourite layouts from the exhibition. Allanleigh is a fictitious UK village set in the late 1960s-early 1970s period. This layout is another terminus station but with good shunting operations servicing two local industry sidings. This layout is DCC (Digitrax) and operated by smart phones over wi-fi. I enjoyed spending time at this layout and had an enjoyable chat with one of the lads on Sunday morning.

One of my other favourite layouts (and representing a new model railway interest for me) was the European-based layout Neubahn. The layout was built to an adapted version of European FREMO modular standards.  Neubahn features a double track mainline with through station. The layout can be controlled by DC or DCC but the catenary (very nicely done) is not powered. The layout showcases a range of European HO scale trains from Roco, Brawa, Fleischmann, Rivarossi, REE Models, ACME, and LS Models. The buildings came from commercial European kits that looked the part with some light weathering. I really enjoyed watching the range of trains on the Neubahn layout with action from Austrian, Dutch, French, German (including DR), Italian and Swiss prototypes.

Making another exhibition appearance was Railways of Japan. I'd seen this N scale layout in Ballarat earlier in the year but the detail on this layout is such that you can always find something you'd missed from a previous viewing.


The exhibition gave plenty of opportunity to spend hard-earned money with a plethora of commercial trade stands. The SDS Models NSW 81 class in candy livery was on sale and looked superb. The blue units should be on their way soon. IDR Models Victorian Railways DERM (upcoming) also looked to be popular based on the amount of interest around the trade stand. And Auscision had a number of display models from their upcoming HO scale and N scale models that certainly drew a good many eyeballs! Casula Models were also in attendance where I spent some money on several packs of KD couplers. Other stands that I noticed were Eureka Models, Brunel Hobbies, Pallas Hobbies, Train World, SEM, Buckambool, On Track Models, and Metro Hobbies. The AMRA second-hand stall did a roaring trade based on my frequent visits to check out how turnover of stock was progressing.

The AMRA Victoria Branch are to be congratulated for another fine exhibition.



Tuesday 21 June 2022

Waverley Model Railway Club's Exhibition 2022

OK folks - time now for the overview of the Waverley Model Railway Club's 2022 Exhibition in Melbourne held over the weekend of 11-13 June. There were some nice layouts at this exhibition so let's get into those straight away.

Victoria Bridge (HO scale) was a terrific layout with great scenery and plenty of train action. This layout is from the Waverley Model Railway Club and featured Victorian Railways passenger and freight trains. The layout is a double track mainline, with station and yard facilities. The highlight is the bridge on one side of the layout, loosely based on the Taradale viaduct on the Melbourne to Bendigo line. Layout operation is via digital command control (DCC).



Another large and fabulous layout was the The Beechie, an On30 layout from the Sunbury Model Railway Club. This layout is a fictional narrow gauge layout as seen on the Beech Forest line in the Otway Ranges in Victoria. This layout is associated with the On30 layout exhibited at Ballarat mentioned in the previous blog post.

Collinsille Riverland Railway Company (HO scale with broad gauge and narrow gauge track) was another beautifully constructed layout with a plethora of fantastic buildings across the full space of the layout. The layout is based on a fictional coastal river port and includes a multitude of buildings scratchbuilt from plans and information about the tramways, trains and surroundings from all over Australia. That said, there is a strong sense of place in this layout with the beautifully modelled and painted timber structures. There are a multitude of small scenes scattered throughout the layout which heightens the visual interest and appreciation of the skills involved in this layout's construction.

At the other of the scale, in terms of size, was the small Inglenook layout, Port Flora (HO scale). I really enjoyed this little layout with its simplicity but entertaining shunting movements. The layout uses the familiar card system from which specific freight wagons are assembled into a small train. These type of layouts demonstrate that a small, high quality layout is very achievable if one takes the time and thought over its construction and scene setting.

Genesis (OO scale) from the Waverley Model Railway Club was a British layout making its exhibition debut. The scenery is nicely done with that characteristic English flavour.

Hollow Glen was another OO scale layout based on a fictitious English castle in the northern border region of England and Scotland. The layout is deliberately set a low height to better engage some of the younger exhibition visitors.

Another British layout, but this time N scale, was Brocklebank.

Another N scale layout was the Swiss-themed Langweiss.

Grainger's Bridge, Hillsborough and Outback Return was a US N scale modular layout from the Waverley Model Railway Club. These modules are made by individual club members. The photo below shows one of the modules.

Railways of Japan (N scale) was a modular layout featuring some iconic Japanese scenes in both rural and urban areas. The modules were full of lights, colour and action! The modules are made by members of the Australian Japanese Model Railway Group.


The Waverley Model Railway Club should be congratulated for putting on a very nice exhibition.