Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas to the readers of Armchair Modeller Down Under.

I hope that Christmas is good to you and that you manage to find some time to get out of the armchair and into some modelling. Perhaps some of Santa's gifts will provide you with something to do over the coming weeks, whether it's building a kit or working on the layout.

For myself, I will be taking a couple of kits with me for the annual beach side holiday. I will also pack plenty of good reading material, including the latest (January 2011) issues of Model Railroader and Model Railroad Craftsman. And, hopefully, Santa will deliver to me the latest Ray Love book on the New South Wales Railways that was advertised in the November/December issue of AMRM.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

New England Model Railway Club Convention 2010

Armchair Modeller Down Under was fortunate to have a special correspondent at the New England Model Railway Club Convention last weekend. Here is his report on the event:

On the weekend of 6-7 November in Armidale (NSW), the New England Model Railway Club (NEMRC) held its third model railway convention. The previous two conventions in 2001 and 2005 had been held at Ebor. Some 85 or so modellers from as far away as Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Biloela (Qld) enjoyed a fantastic weekend.

Registration commenced on the Friday evening (5th November) so that by starting time on Saturday most people had been signed in without a fuss. The format provided plenty of opportunity for modellers to keep themselves amused.

There were eight presentations, each of one hour length, delivered on each day of the convention. The presentations were held concurrently, so you had to choose which of the two talks you would listen to. The presentations were repeated the following day so that there was an opportunity to go to all of them if you wanted to. The presenters included Gerry Hopkins (DCC control and Decoder Pro, and also DCC friendly locos, turnouts and accessory decoders); John Brown (Scratch building in styrene); Howard Armstrong (Rail tank cars in NSW); Dean Bradley (Weathering with a heavy hand); Laurie McLean (Lights, sounds and action); Peter Street (Modelling oil depots); Stephen Ottaway (Fettlers’ transportation), and Gary Ible and Warren Herbert held a layout planning forum.

If the talks weren’t of interest, there was plenty to do in the main hall. Participants were encouraged to bring a model to put on display and the result was an impressive and diverse array of models that took up six or so tables. Also on display were two modules of Exeter Bank, the exhibition layout started by the late Rodney James. The first and last showing of this layout was at the Brisbane exhibition some 5 or 6 years ago. Also on display was Bowen Creek, the P87 layout of Ian Millard and Andrew Campbell - a brilliant portrayal of a simple intermediate station on a line in country NSW. It was great to be able to examine the workmanship of these layouts without the constraints of barriers and crowds, as is the case at exhibitions.

There were a series of modelling demonstrations that ran over the weekend. Len Durkin gave a clinic on how to use Fast Tracks jigs to build turnouts; Rhett Herbert showed how to kitbash a better looking bogie sheep van, while Peter Boorman demonstrated soldering. Jim Pullen gave a clinic on modelling poplar trees that provided attendees with the opportunity to actually build their own trees if they wanted to. Dean Bradley, John Brown and Gerry Hopkins gave clinics to support their respective presentations. This format gave people an opportunity to get a better understanding of the topic they discussed in their presentation.

The commercial sector was well represented by Gwydir Valley Models, Peter Boormans Workshop and AR Kits. On the Saturday afternoon, attendees were able to visit three nearby layouts in club members’ homes. In the main hall a slide show through a data projector ran over the whole weekend.

Not to be underestimated was the opportunity to socialise with other modellers in a very open and relaxed atmosphere. This extended to the dinner on Saturday night which featured John Thompson (author of books on the 36 and 38 class locos) as an after dinner speaker. Everyone appreciated John’s thought provoking oratory on how modelling railways can contribute to having a great life.

It seemed that there was an endless supply of lucky door prizes handed out over the weekend, reflecting the effort that the organising committee put into the event. For those who didn’t have to get away in a hurry and wanted even more; after the convention had ended on Sunday afternoon an opportunity was provided to check out the NEMRC clubroom near the Armidale railway station and to inspect the restored station building at Dumaresq.

The NEMRC organising committee are to be congratulated on delivering an excellent weekend. They have set a standard that organisers of similar events will have to try extremely hard to match.

Monday 8 November 2010

Photos from the Wagga Wagga MRE

As I said in my post last night, there were several layouts of interest on show at the Wagga Wagga Model Railway and Hobby Exhibition over the weekend. I have managed to upload some photos this morning into Blogger and here is a sample of the layouts from the exhibition.

The first four images are of the Tumut/Gilmore layout.

The above photo shows the view looking across Gilmore station. And the shot below shows a 49 class shunting the goods shed siding at Gilmore.

The next two photos are of Tumut. The first photo shows a CPH railmotor easing into Tumut station. The second photo shows the yard with one siding curving off sharply to service some industries along the roadside.

The next photo is of Eskbank station on the circa. 1899 Eskbank layout. The station building is quite a work of art.

The next photo shows the G scale layout, Leonville Junction.

A layout still under construction is the Boorawa part of the Galong/Boorawa layout. In this photo a mixed goods is departing the yard at Boorawa.

And lastly, from the Brisbane Water layout, we have a 10 class steam loco with crane picking up coal from the S wagon. This little loco buzzes back and forth throughout exhibitions and must have done hundreds of scale miles by now given the number of exhibitions this layout has appeared at over the years. Nevertheless, there is always something of interest to see on this Brisbane Water layout, a testament to the quality of the layout through all these years.

And that's it folks!

Sunday 7 November 2010

Wagga Wagga MRE 2010

The 11th annual Wagga Wagga Model Railway and Hobby Exhibition is over for another year. I hadn't been for a few years but when a mate suggested we drive down to check it out, I thought "why not?".

So I went down to Wagga Wagga by car with Andrew Rosenbauer yesterday. The drive down was also a good excuse for some prototype rail photography too. We saw triple NR's at Binalong, a pair of 81's on an empty grain train at Harden, a CPH rail motor pair at Junee departing for Griffith, and  8173, L270, and 8109 on an empty sleeper train arriving at Junee on the Up. Not bad for a morning's drive down south!

At the exhibition, there were about a dozen or so layouts. Some of the layouts included Benalta (HO), Brisbane Water (HO), Canberra/Monara N scale Austrack layout, Crestwood (HO), Eskbank (HO), Galong/Boorawa (HO), Kookaburra Park (HO), Leonville Junction (G), Nicholls Siding (HO), and Tumut/Gilmore (HO). Other hobbies represented included stamp collecting, military modelling, and crafts.

I hadn't seen the Tumut/Gilmore layout before and I was quite impressed. The layout depicted the stations and yards at Tumut and Gilmore on the branchline from Cootamundra. The scenery was well done with a good blend of colours depicting the grass and vegetation, while the structures supported the railway yards very nicely. Having visited Tumut many times over the past fifteen years, it was good to reflect on those past visits while watching the trains working between the two stations on the layout. A nice touch was a spiral-bound booklet with information explaining the planning and construction of the layout; very interesting indeed.

There were also a number of commercial stands, including Aust N Rail, Chuck's Ballast, Kerroby, Pallas Hobbies, Runway 13, and Trainworld. There were also a couple of traders selling books and secondhand items. However, my purchases were quite modest: three pairs of KD #148 couplers and a book by Lloyd Holmes about his life on the railway.

A feature of the exhibition is a modelling display based on a small diorama. There were about six entries this year - all showcasing small railway scenes to good effect. However, I was disappointed that the dioramas were in (or on) a display case in a very poorly lit area of the hall. It was hard to see all the detail and the work in these dioramas to full effect. However, I understand that John Harriott won the competition while Phil Skelton and Mick Davis also had commendable displays.

The exhibition again was a chance to catch up with friends from the local area and also from Sydney. Travelling the exhibition circuit certainly is a social occasion! The day was pleasant enough, although the drive back was a tad boring as we took the Hume Highway back to Canberra.

I'd like to finish off this post with some photos from the exhibition but I am having a problem uploading the images into Blogger. I'll try again tomorrow night.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

How much prototype is enough for Australian HO?

There has been an interesting exchange of opinions on one of the model railway listservs recently about HO scale models and accuracy to the prototype.

The focus of the discussion was the NSWGR S truck. However, the debate is relevant to all models of Australian prototype. But I want to concentrate on HO scale models for the time being, given the size of this market in Australia and the focus of the manufacturers to produce models to this scale.

I believe that HO scale model manufacturers in our hobby are committed to making their models as accurate as possible to the prototype. However, there are likely to be commercial and production considerations that make concessions to prototype accuracy necessary. These considerations might include the cost of production, the ease of construction during the production process, generic prototype fundamentals over individual prototype specifics, and whether detail items may actually be too fragile for the expected model railway use.

On the demand side of the equation, we hear that modellers want their HO scale models to be accurate to the prototype. We sometimes hear major debates about whether the sill detail is a scale 1 inch too wide on the model, or whether all the detail rivets in the undercarriage have been reproduced to "scale" thickness. On the other hand, models that have a number of omissions or errors are quite rightly criticised. But these are all value judgements.

The Australian manufacturers sourcing product from the factories in China, as well as a bevy of local "cottage industry" producers, all face the same scale-prototype dillemma - how much accuracy should be provided?

Austrains tries to make some differentiation between the level of detail accuracy with their basic (Basix) range and their more detailed "standard" models. This strategy is probably a good one. I do wonder, however, whether a significant portion of the buying public really care, and just purchase models based on the availability of their favourite or needed models.

Interestingly, I suspect that all scale model hobbies face the same issue: a commitment to produce accurate models with reasoned concessions to accuracy when applicable. For example, a few railway modellers I know have a penchant for model tanks. There are highly detailed plastic kits of model tanks in 1:35 and 1:72 scale, as well as a range of supplementary super detail items including turret assemblies and tracks.

The issue therefore becomes to what level of detail and prototype accuracy is required by the market (and the market is segmented to include collectors, rivet counters, "average" modellers, etc.) and what does this mean for the manufacturers who produce for this market? Should model railway manufacturers keep striving for even greater scale accuracy if the retail cost rises considerably, or the model becomes too fragile to handle? Is there an acceptable standard for prototype accuracy that could be enhanced with super-detail parts supplied by third party manufacturers?

I'd be interested in hearing from modellers and manufacturers what they consider to be acceptable tolerances for HO scale railway models based on the prototype, keeping in mind the differences in individual modeller's wants and the market realities in which the manufacturers operate within.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Bungendore Model Railway Exhibition 2010

This afternoon I made the drive for a quick visit to the Bungendore Model Railway Exhibition. Bungendore is about 40km from home in Canberra. I didn't have a lot of spare time this weekend so I only had about an hour at the exhibition to have a good look around.

This was the first model railway exhibition in Bungendore, held at the multi-purpose hall of Bungendore Primary School. There were about fifteen layouts (HO and N scale) and about half a dozen commercial traders. It was a good balance for a relatively small exhibition.

Most of the layouts were exhibited by local Bungendore or Canberra railway modellers. The layouts included Crestwood, Eskbank, Little Austria, Nicholls Siding, NMRA (ACT Division) US layout, Sodor, Sydney Central, and the Canberra Monaro N scale Group's AusTrak modular layout. Springfield Junction (Hills Model Railway Society), South Creek (NSW N scale Group) and Strawberry Hills (Sydney N scale Model Railway Club) made the trip from Sydney.Yallah came from the Illawarra.

I have included a few photos from my short visit today.

The first two photos are from the Eskbank (circa. 1899) layout (HO scale). Eskbank is a real location near Lithgow (NSW) at the western foot of the Blue Mountains. The first photos shows (or should that be shews?) a short freight consist moving slowly through Eskbank station. Note that the freight car just behind the loco is a wagon hauling coal gas. The second photo shows a U105 on the turntable at Eskbank. The U105 Baldwin locomotive is based on a Roundhouse model (I think) and the turntable is by Fleischmann.

The next photo is from Ross Balderson's Sydney Central (N scale). The photo show the trams along Eddy Avenue, a common sight in 1958, the period in which the model typifies.

The next three photos show generic NSW locations on typical exhibition-style layouts (plenty of colour and movement). In order, the layouts are Crestwood (HO), Nicholls Siding (HO), and South Creek (N scale).

The last three photos are from the US-inspired Springfield Junction (HO) layout. I saw this layout previously at the Beecroft Exhibition a couple of months ago.This layout operates using NCE digital command control (DCC). Note the way in which the throttle sits when not in use on the layout.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Sydney Model Railway Exhibition Report 2010

The Sydney Model Railway Exhibition is over for another year. The 2010 exhibition, the 48th, was another great show with plenty of layouts and commercial stands to keep everyone happy. Moreover, I spent almost all of Saturday talking to people which is testimony to the fact that the exhibition is a great social venue for the hobby. I made a second visit on Sunday to actually see the layouts and do a bit of shopping.

As I said in my previous post, there were about thirty layouts on show covering the majority of scales. The most common scale was HO scale followed by layouts in N scale (including the fabulous Sydney Central Station, and the Japanese Enoshima layout). Particular favourites for me included Eskbank (HO), Tarana (N), Time and Patience (HO), Waterfall (HO), and Wallerawang (HO). The Epping Club once again exhibited Brisbane Waters (HO) and this layout, still popular, must surely be Australia's most exhibited model railway layout over the years!

There was a display of live steam engines from the Western Districts Live Steamers, as well as a couple of G scale garden layouts. In O scale there was the wonderful Muskrat Ramble, and 4mm scale was represented by Bridport South Western layout.  The exhibition is a pretty good indication of what the hobby has to offer; from the popular Lego City display and G scale garden railroading, to live steam, narrow gauge, and the traditional HO, 4mm, and N scales.

There were over 50 commercial trade stands (including scale and enthusiast associations). The major local manufacturers were all there, including Auscision, Austrains, Bergs, Eureka, On Track, Powerline (Train Hobby), Southern Rail, and Trainorama. Specialist suppliers such as Chucks Ballast, Kerroby, IDR and InFront Models were also there, as were retail shops such as Casula Hobbies, Gwydir Valley, Orient Express, and Traintasia, among others. The trade stands were certainly in the majority, something I have noticed more and more in recent times. In addition, there were a number of skill demonstrations, including white metal kit assembly and making trees.

I have included a few photos from the exhibition, but it never quite beats actually being there...

Eskbank features period modelling of the "early days" (1855-1930) of the New South Wales Government Railways and is based on the real Eskbank near Lithgow. This layout is scheduled to feature in the next issue of Australian Journal of Railway Modelling.

Waterfall debuted on the exhibition circuit at the Malkara Exhibition in Canberra in August. Since then, the layout has seen a massive increase in the number of trees plus many additional detail items. The layout is under continuous improvement and the lads from Illawarra should be very pleased with how the layout is progressing. Well done, chaps!

Ross Balderson's iconic N scale display of Sydney Central Station is a beautiful example of architectural modelling. The presentation of the exhibit is also superb. The public will have another chance to see the layout when it goes on display at the Bungendore Model Railway Exhibition on the 16th October.

Muskrat Ramble is a wonderful example of scenery modelling. While trains do meander through the forest, past the waterfront and out to the cottonfields, the main emphasis of this layout is the detailed scenery.

Wallerawang is a typical exhibition layout with a station and yard but the unique feature of this layout is the wonderful station building.

Bridport South Western is a 4mm scale layout based on the London South Western in the 1830s. A highlight of this display is the pre-recorded running commentary that gives a great explanation of both the features of the model and the prototype.

Museum Station is a HO scale representation of Museum Station, part of the Sydney city underground suburban network. With model railway manufacturers introducing a wide range of electric suburban and interurban sets, perhaps we will see more examples of suburban railroading in the future.

Finally, the last three images (below) show the highly colourful and detailed Japanese N scale layout, Enoshima. This layout has plenty of fast train action within a largely packed urban cityscape. In addition, a sample of Japanese pop music is displayed on the LCD screen in one of the tall buildings. The layout is a great example of colour, movement, and sound.

Friday 1 October 2010

Sydney Model Railway Exhibition 2010

Tomorrow morning I will be driving from Canberra to Liverpool, Sydney, for the annual October long weekend Sydney Model Railway Exhibition. Since I am staying in Sydney tomorrow night, I'll be back at the exhibition on Sunday as well before driving home.

I have some advance information that tells me that there will be about 30 layouts and over 40 commercial stands. I must say that I have seen most of the layouts before; but then again, I do go to a fair number of exhibitions throughout the year!

Some of the layouts on show this weekend that I have enjoyed before include: Bridport South Western, Enoshima, Eskbank, Muskrat Ramble, Sydney Central Station, Time and Patience, and Waterfall. Muskrat Ramble is featured in the latest issue of Narrow Gauge Down Under (no relation), and Eskbank will be featured in the next issue of Australian Journal of Railway Modelling. And the excellent Waterfall layout will be having its next outing since it was first exhibited in "pristine" form at Canberra in August.

I look forward to the exhibition tomorrow and catching up with Sydney friends and the usual contingent of modellers from Canberra. See you there!

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Adelaide layouts and NRM photos 2010

As I indicated in my previous post, I have a few photos to show from my trip to Adelaide for the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention.

The first two sets of photos show the two home layouts I managed to visit after the Convention. Both of these layouts featured (along with The Moping Branch layout) in the book "Recollections" by Kevin Kavanagh released last year at the Convention. The book gives a good insight into a handful of layouts owned and operated by like-minded individuals who have been part of the ABLO (Adelaide Branch Line Operators) group during the past forty years or so. The two layouts featured below still use a card operating system based on the ABLO method. The ABLO card system was featured in an article in the January 1977 issue of the Australian Model Railway Magazine (AMRM).

The first three photos shows the layout of Kev Kavanagh (not The Moping Branch Kev) that I was privileged to visit on the day after the Convention. The layout is the Huntingdale & Grange Railway. This layout was featured in the December 1997 issue of AMRM.

The next four photos shows the layout of Hugh Williams. This layout was moved in total from its former home in Belair to its new owner and new location - quite a move given the size of the layout and the complexity of the track plan. The layout runs around itself in three loops and each level is visible behind each other. As I said in the previous post, I did not find the visible layers distracting at all while I was operating my train. A description of the layout and a line diagram of the track plan are in the book "Recollections".

Finally, I have included a couple of photos from the National Railway Museum at Port Adelaide. The photos show, in order, a portrait of the front end of the SAR 930 class diesel; a shot of the Commonwealth Railways Budd car (that one is for Bob Stack), and the third photo is of a trio of LCL containers sitting in an open wagon (that's for Bob Gallagher).

I have already pencilled in some time away next year for the Convention plus a couple of extra days for "sightseeing". Keep a lookout for the 2011 dates that will be advised on the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention website.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

SAR Convention 2010 Report

Sorry for the delay in reporting back on the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention held a couple of weekends ago in Adelaide.

The 2010 Convention was really great this year. We had some first class presentations, including a wonderful photo presentation and explanation of the famous Moping Branch layout. The Moping Branch layout was featured in a couple of AMRM articles well over 20 years ago. A DVD of the layout was also on sale for $20 and I was one of the lucky ones to buy a copy before they sold out on the day!

The other featured presentations included:
  •  the 720 class steam locomotive
  • the Wilmington line
  • the Indian Pacific cars
  • SAR models I've built by the mercurial Frank Kelly
  • stepdown platforms
  • building resin structure kits
In addition to the presentations, I managed to catch up with regular attendees from South Australia (Les Fordham, Paul Dolan, Peter Knife, and Greg), Melbourne (Kym and David), and Sydney (Bob, Ian, and Es). I also had a good chat with several others as well, including Don Bishop who did the presentation on the Moping Branch.

The 2010 Convention was the 15th and I have been going every year since 1998, missing only one Convention in that time. Once again, the annual Convention notes were a high quality product. I now have four thick volumes of truly exceptional historical articles and photographs dealing with both the South Australian Railways (SAR) and Commonwealth Railways (CR).

On the Sunday, the day after the Convention, I went to the National Rail Museum (formerly known as the Port Dock Railway Museum) at Port Adelaide. The Museum had a sale of railway memorabilia and train magazines in the morning. I bought a Working Timetable from the early 1970s.

Mid-morning saw me off to Kev Kavanagh's home to see his beautiful Huntingdale model railway. The layout is a two level point-to-point layout based on the SAR. When I download the photos from my camera I will put a couple up on the blog.

The afternoon saw me back at the National Railway Museum. I had a good look around, taking a few photos along the way. Bob Gallagher (former Managing Editor of AMRM) had asked me to track down and photograph a wooden LCL container at the Museum. Thankfully, I found it OK inside an SAR bogie open wagon with a couple of of the traditional steel LCL containers for company.

I took a couple of days leave this trip and on Monday (13th September) I drove up to Crystal Brook hoping to see plenty of train action. At Crystal Brook, some shunting was taking place at the grain silos; unfortunately using tractor power rather than loco power. As it turned out, the weather turned overcast so I didn't stay too long. I did see a Perth-Melbourne intermodal speed through Crystal Brook with a couple of QR locos on the front - a 6000 class and a LDP. I ended up getting a photo of the train at Snowtown. I returned to Adelaide via Clare before the weather really let loose with strong winds and a torrential downpour of rain.

That night I had been invited to an operating session of the Belair layout at the home of Hugh Williams. This layout was a multi-ringed layout featuring SAR and Victorian Railways (VR) prototypes. There were about seven operators on the layout, albeit I had a personal coach with me to help me run my timetabled set of trains (thanks, Steve). Photos to come shortly....

The two home layouts I visited, as was the Moping Branch, were multi-level and multi-track but without the double-deck configuration I mostly see in US model railroad magazines. All three layouts used a card operating system based on the system developed by the ABLO group from the 1960's-1970s. The three layouts looped at least twice and the multi-levels remained visible, even though each level was independent of each other in terms of the fictional geography of the layout. In that sense, they were similar in style to Bob Stack's South Coast Rail.

I didn't find the visible multi-levels at all distracting as I concentrated on running my individual trains around the layouts. I am now seriously looking at this option for my home layout since it gives the extra running length without taking up too much space and/or relying on space-hugging helixes to elevate tracks to the higher level.

All in all, I had a great time in Adelaide. Thank you one and all.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention 2010

This Saturday I will be attending the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention. I have been to several over the years and always have a great time. And the presentation notes are second to none!

I am actually flying down to Adelaide tomorrow morning for a work seminar. I will be then spending the next few days in Adelaide at the Convention on Saturday, visiiting the National Rail Museum and a couple of layouts on Sunday, and then looking for opportunities to take some photos of 1:1 rail action in the Adelaide environs after that. I might have a look around some of the Adelaide hobby shops as well, including Orient Express Model Railway Shop in suburban Unley where I want to check out the Zimo system of DCC.

I am really looking forward to the trip and will report back next week

Sunday 22 August 2010

Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition 2010

The Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition is over for another year. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the exhibition run by the AMRA Victorian Branch. I went to the exhibition yesterday, flying down from Canberra, and had a great time.

There were 25 layouts out of 65 stands. The plethora of commercial stands at the one location made it very easy for shoppers to part with their money! Of most interest, were the Austrains Victorian Railways 4 wheelers (B, I, and IA) which sold out just after lunch on Saturday. I understand more packs were made available today from an express overnight shipment from Sydney. Austrains were also selling their newly arrived NR in Southern Spirit green and white livery.

A number of pilot models were on display at the Caulfield exhibition. Auscision had their forthcoming Victorian Railways GY 4 wheeler. Trainorama displayed their Commonwealth Railways GM and NSWR 48 class diesel locomotives. Elsewhere, the NSWR 48 class diesel (in four different versions) was on display from Powerline. Meanwhile, Eureka was also at the exhibition, fielding a number of inquiries about the continuing delays for the VR R and K class steam locos and the NSWR 40 class diesel. Ron Cunningham advised that Eureka were going to use a new manufacturer since they had been cut by Sandakan (Kader). However, I am not sure if the models previously announced have been cut by Sandakan or not. Perhaps Ron will explain more in due course on his website.

Of the layouts, the AMRA Victorian Branch were exhibiting their HO scale US prototype layout Wills Street for the last time. The layout was being offered for sale. The photo belows shows a BN&Q train heading through a rather deserted looking yard on Wills Street.

Another large US layout on display, and exhibited at the show last year, was from Glenn Brooks and the Latrobe Valley Model Railway Association featuring western railroad action based on the Union Pacific and Rio Grande. This layout was very impressive, both in terms of physical size and plenty of continuous train action.

The Coffs Harbour (NSW) Railway Modellers Group came all the way south of the border to display their large US-styled HO scale layout. The layout scenery and buildings are based on the US scene, but at different times during the day trains from the US, NSW and Victorian Railways all get a turn showing their wares around the layout under digital command control (DCC). The photo belows show US steam action with a long train of reefers.

VR-based layouts in HO scale included Benalta, Broadford, Coliban Valley, End of the line, and Tyobic. I hadn't seen Tyobic before and it followed the tradition of a VR country through-station with a yard. The layout had a split backscene, like End of the line, that sent a train through to the fiddleyard through a gap in the backscene just passed a nicely modelled railway crossing. The next two photos illustrate Tyobic.

In N scale, layouts on show included Georgetown (UK), Springhill Yellow Pine Division (US), and Enoshima (Japanese). I think Enoshima was being displayed at Caulfield for the first time and certainly drew in the crowds.

There were also two very different but very interesting layouts on display. The first, was the HO scale Howjadoit, that showed a small compact layout under different stages of construction. This display was a great demonstration of how a layout is constructed, something we need to show to the public more often.

The second interesting layout was the Oe scale Pierreville. Pierreville depicts a French railroad station where narrow and standard gauge tracks meet to transfer passengers between the systems. A nice feature of the layout was the fernicular railroad at the front. And I was quite intrigued by the system of getting trains on and off the layout (see photo below).

As well as enjoying the layouts and commercial stands, I caught up with several railway modellers that I know very well; most from Canberra or Sydney strangely enough. All in all, it was a great day out.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Beecroft MRE 2010

I had to go to Sydney today to sign some papers after getting a call last night from the real estate agent selling our Sydney home. Driving from Canberra to Sydney and back in a day (that's seven hours all up) isn't my idea of fun until I realised that the Beecroft Model Railway Exhibition was on this weekend. Amazingly enough, the M2 tollway exits onto Pennant Hills Road not far from where the exhibition was being held!

Not one to let opportunity pass one by, I managed to spend a couple of hours at the exhibition to make the trip to Sydney really well worth the effort.

The exhibition was held in a small hall on the corner of Copeland Street and busy Beecroft Road. I parked the car at the railway station car park and walked the short way to the hall. The hall was one of those special buildings trapped in a time warp from the past (i.e. my early childhood) but nevertheless functional for a small exhibition such as this. There was also a second-hand stall where I picked up a copy of Ron Preston's book on the 32 class for $40 - thank you very much!

I have included a sample photo of each of the layouts on display, minus a possible "Thomas" layout that I think was in a separate foyer off to the side of the main hall.

The first layout that greeted visitors upon entering the hall was the US-prototype layout Springfield in HO scale. I hadn't seen this layout before. The layout featured some nice kit-built industries and townscape while keeping the punters happy with plenty of train movement. The layout was operated using NCE DCC hand-held controllers. When not in use, the  controllers fit between the two knobs on the side of the layout as illustrated in the first photo (lower left).

Nearby, was a Hornby three rail layout and a small garden layout. Interestingly, my 10 year-old daughter thought the Hornby three rail layout the most interesting of all the layouts on display!

Moving around the hall counter-clockwise I caught up with Anton Bognar (Anton's Hobbies) who was displaying his HO scale European layout, Ochsenhausen. Next to him was the layout Back of Beyond featuring Australian N scale.

The next layout was Grischun, a Swiss standard and narrow gauge layout (HO scale) making its exhibition debut.Grishun was built by former Canberra-resident Greg C. and it was great to catch up with him there since we haven't chatted face-to-face for almost ten years! Grischun was up to Greg's usual fine standards and exhibition organisers should mark this layout as one to grab next time around! The scenery is terrific and there is enough train action on three different levels to keep everyone happy. Some nice HO standard gauge and HOn Bemo traction locomotives were particular highlights.

Next to Grischun was the well-crafted Mullet Creek layout in HO scale from Geoff Small. Mullet Creek shows some lovely waterway scenery based on the Hawkesbury River area north of Sydney. This layout also featured catenary and, like the prototype, always seems to get in the way when taking photos!

The simple Rydal Hill was next, demonstrating the virtues of a small layout when space is at a premium. The layout is a single line with a short dock at the rear of the station platform. The "banana" ends (illustrated in the second photo), brings the track on both sides of the scenic section around to the fiddleyard at the rear. I could easily imagine the scenic section at the front as a layout module connected to a small fiddleyard at the rear by these curved ends.

I had such an enjoyable time that I didn't notice that two hours had passed and we had to be on our way up the road to Hornsby and the real estate agents, stopping at MicroModels Hobbyland to pick up the fishbelly MLV produced by IDR castings (the last one in the shop folks!). Ian is casting some more of these MLV kits so make sure you get one this time around.

The drive home to Canberra was uneventful. I was so bored with the drive and keen to get home that I didn't even stop at Goulburn for the habitual scan of Goulburn railway yard and station. Nevertheless, the Beecroft Model Railway Exhibition gave the trip some entertaining focus and was well worth the look.