Friday 13 December 2013


In my role of armchair modeller, I tend to spend quite a bit of time reading model railway magazines and blogs on model railway topics. They all pretty much give an opinion or two on some aspect of the hobby or on life in general. For example, you can see some of the blog sites in my blog roll that I will often refer to, even if the updates are as slow as my own! What amazes me, however, is how worked up some people can be in their derision of people's modelling preferences and their modelling efforts, and in some cases, the person as well. Model railroading is supposed to be fun, is it not?

Recently, I was going through the blog of US modeller Lance Mindheim. Lance had his layout featured in the December 2013 issue of Model Railroader. The layout is a great example of taking inspiration from the prototype (Miami, Florida, in this case) and building a really nice model railroad. The composition and scenic elements of the layout are superb. There really should be no doubt that Lance is darn good modeller with a quality model railroad. And, as an aside, I hear Lance is to be a guest speaker next Easter at the New Zealand Model Railway Convention in Hamilton, New Zealand (home of the Chiefs rugby union team).

In Lance's blog entry for 30th November 2013, entitled "Live by the sword, die by the sword", Lance has compiled a number of derogatory comments from a UK forum about his layout and his layout article in Model Railroader. It seems that there are some people who don't like the dimensions of Lance's layouts. Building layouts using a standard 6' by 1' baseboard size irks some people. Other comments are critical of Lance's views about model railroading, particularly his expression about "modelling the ordinary". One US commentator didn't like the fact that an image of Lance's layout in Model Railroader had been digitally enhanced with the addition of a photo backdrop instead of showing the basement plumbing!

Lance shrugs off these comments and so he should. Lance is a very good modeller; one who thinks seriously about his modelling while at the same time enjoying the hobby as well. One of the greatest ironies from the criticisms is the fact that the UK model railroad magazines regularly feature micro-layouts which gives pause for thought for those who don't like shunty-plank designs!

The other interesting observation from these criticisms is the comment about Lance's personal views that he expresses sometimes in his model railroad blog and in his other blogs. Personally, I don't know why this is a problem when millions of bloggers around the world are just airing their opinion on pretty much everything. Blogs, by their very nature, are opinion pieces. I could go on, but I don't want to offend anyone with a lecture on the impact of social media on contemporary society...

Whatever ones opinion and whatever the way one chooses to express it, the model railway hobby includes people with umpteen different views on everything from layout planning to scenic detail and operational preferences. Note that I am talking about opinion, not fact. HO scale is 3.5mm to the foot - that's a fact without too much argument. Opinions about a layout in HO scale is another matter. The variety in what modellers do in HO scale (and other scales) is enormous and something we should cherish no matter what our own selective interests may be.

Variety and newness can help instigate our own thinking, whether it emanates from some feature we dislike on a layout or something we find fresh and appealing. Sometimes something that didn't interest us last year is now of immense importance as it now coincides with some modelling work we are doing now, rather than previously when we had just a passing interest. Newness can thus mean relevance at a certain point in time.

People are in the hobby for a range of different reasons and with a range of different skill sets. Individual preferences will abound but we are all part of our common hobby. Like humanity itself, essentially we are all the same. Where we differ in our preferences and approaches in doing things, we should take the opportunity to enhance our knowledge rather than simply deride those who take a different path to our own. It would be a boring hobby and a boring Australia if it were any other way.

That said, may you all have a safe and enjoyable festive season and New Year.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Scale ACT 2013

The ACT Scale Modellers' Society has it's annual Scale ACT event this weekend at Kaleen High School in Canberra (also the venue of the annual Canberra Model Train Expo which will be on again next year 29-30 March).

There is a range of models on display including aircraft, shipping, and military armour such as tanks. Here are three images of what you can see from the many models on display throughout the venue.

In addition to the models on display, there are many commercial stands selling kits, after-market detail parts, decals, and modelling tools. Rather surprisingly, there were hardly any jars or tins of paints for sale from any of the vendors. This was disappointing as I was expecting to be able to see a wide range of brands and paint colours used in aircraft and military modelling. It looks like I will have to wait until the Australia Day holiday weekend in January when Cancon comes to town with the war gamers and military modelling vendors.

If you like plastic kit modelling and want to see some good quality examples, then take a visit to Scale ACT at Kaleen this weekend.

Monday 23 September 2013

Canberra NMRA Convention a huge success

The 2013 NMRA Australasia Region Convention is over for another year. The convention in Canberra was a huge success from what attendees were saying throughout the weekend. The Committee should be very satisfied with how the convention went and with the layout tours that were on offer.

PHOTO: Rob A. hosted an operating session and an open house as part of the Convention. Rob's layout is based on a fictional NSW-Victorian railway line on the east coast of Australia between Eden (NSW) and North Geelong (VIC).

The facilities at the convention location were good; the clinics were well attended; the food was sufficient; the ladies' program was very much complimented; and the layout tours were interesting. The opportunity to visit the ARHS Canberra Division premises in Kingston on the Sunday afternoon and look over progress on the restoration of Beyer-Garratt 6029 was also very popular - details about the restoration of 6029 here.

The dinner at Ainslie Football Club was made even better by the outstanding after-dinner talk by local modeller Stephen H., who combined a wicked wit with a wonderful knowledge of history, the law, and railroading into a very entertaining presentation.

The convener of the Canberra Convention, Viv B., commented to me that there were two critical factors for the success of the convention: good planning and organisation in preparation for the event itself. The fact that there are several ex-military personnel on the Committee would no doubt have helped in that department.

Choosing a venue with good facilities and where clinics could be held without undue noise were paramount. The physical separation of the main hall, the classrooms where the clinics were held, and a good-sized area for vendors and for attendees to talk with each other really made everything work well together. Excellent signage helped direct people into the building and where to find all the rooms and amenities. Good parking was also provided at the event location. A good variety of interesting presentation topics with the provision of the necessary IT equipment were also important considerations. Interestingly, because of the physical separation of most of the areas, a public address system was not needed (even in the main hall). A good ladies' program was also important.

Overall Viv and the team should be congratulated for putting on a terrific NMRA Convention. Well done to all involved!

The 2014 NMRA Australasian Region Convention will be held on the Gold Coast in south-east Queensland. Further information about next year's convention will be posted on the NMRA Australasia website as it becomes available.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

National Model Railroad Association Convention 2013

The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) Convention for 2013 is being held in Canberra. The Convention is being held on the weekend of 21-22 September at the University of Canberra High School, Kaleen (was the Kaleen High School) 104 Baldwin Drive, Kaleen, ACT. Kaleen is on the north side of Canberra.

You don't have to be a member of the NMRA to come along. The Convention registration form can be downloaded from the Convention site. There are some great layouts to visit, including Kangaroo Valley; the layout of Stephe Jitts (his layout was featured in AMRM February 2012)


The organising committee has put together a great program of presentations and clinics that should be of interest to all model railroaders, no matter what prototype you follow. The presentations include the following:

Eddie Gallier 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping
David O'HearnFences - Prototypes and Modelling Them
Brad HintonModelling the prototype from afar: The Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern
Gavin Hince MMRTBA
Geoff Langbridge Colour Isn't Colour
Allan Garbutt & Phil Collins Storage Yards - Building A Better Mouse Trap
Phil Badger MMR Beyond The Fence
David Low WW 1 Narrow Gauge
Bob Best Taking Measurements from Photos
Rob Nesbitt Catenary, A brief history and modelling notes
Jess Brisbane History of the Maine 2 Footers
Stephe Jitts MMR The Science and Fiction of Wheels
Chris Minahan Communication and Model Railway Operations
Erik Bennett Advanced DCC - How It Works

Layout tour information can be found here.

I hope you can join us in Canberra on the weekend of 21-22 September for what looks to be a great weekend of model railroading.

Oh, and by the way, Floriade will be on at this time along with a host of other Canberra attractions including the Australian National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Australian War Museum, Botanic Gardens, and the new National Arboretum. And hopefully the warm weather we have enjoyed this week (20C+) will continue throughout the rest of September. So why not make a long weekend of it and enjoy the Convention and the local attractions too!

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Congratulations AMRM

The 300th issue of the Australian Model Railway Magazine (AMRM) is a significant achievement.  As the recent articles on the history of AMRM attest, many people have contributed to the production and commercial success of the magazine over the past fifty years. Bob Gallagher and Alan Brown were to my mind the cornerstone of that success.

The current issue (June 2013) of AMRM continues the tradition of featuring Australian model railway layouts. Glenburn is a truly wonderful layout depicting a time that is often not often portrayed on a model railway. Over the years there have been many fine layouts depicted in the pages of AMRM which have provided an inspiration to us all. I must add that I was very impressed with the photo taken by John Burford on page 55 of the current issue showing a nicely lit cameo scene from his new On30 layout. John's reminiscences are similar to mine as well.

I bought my first copy of AMRM (Issue 79) from Micro Models at Hornsby in 1976. In those days Micro Models was located in the Westfield Plaza shopping centre. Micro Models still exists, under different ownership, and is now located on the Pacific Highway at Hornsby. The success of this hobby store over an equivalent amount of time as AMRM is also worthy of note.

That first issue of AMRM for me was the trigger to take model railways seriously and to focus on Australian (NSW) railway modelling. Up until that time, I had the usual assortment of Triang/Hornby models from train sets acquired as presents over the years. I had no permanent space for a layout so the model railway was only put up occasionally, on a carpeted floor no less!

In that particular issue of AMRM were articles on The Mayfield Lines, the SAR 720 steam locomotive, making styrene windows, and three pages of reviews. I was later able to visit The Mayfield Lines in person, an O gauge wind-up model railway in the garden of Len Clark. Ironically, this type of model railway was already "old hat" but it emphasised to me how much the hobby had to do with imagination as much as it did with constructing a piece of railway reality.

I studiously acquired back issues of the magazine and bought each new copy as it appeared in the hobby shop. Around the same time, and not far from where I was living at the time, was Mansfield Hobbies at Waitara. I would have to say that it was a combination of AMRM and David Anderson from Mansfield Hobbies who established my direction into the model railways of NSW.

While many years have passed since those days, and I now model a US prototype railway, AMRM was a part of my model railway development. And while I may decry the cluttered page layout of the magazine and the front cover that needs a modern facelift, I don’t fail to appreciate the hard work that goes into the regular production of the magazine and the exceptional quality of the photographs - James McInerney is to be congratulated.

And speaking of model railway magazines, I should add that my involvement with the Australian Journal of Railway Modelling ceased in October 2011, four months after the magazine was successfully relaunched at the Epping Model Railway Exhibition with issue 11. Stephen took full control of the administration, sales, distribution, communication, and publishing of the magazine after that date. I hope that another issue will be forthcoming because AJRM has given us some excellent articles in the past.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Geoff Nott

I am sad to report that noted Australian railway modeller, Geoff Nott, died today in Sydney. Geoff will be remembered for his skilled creative work on a number of classic model railroads including the famous Muskrat Ramble. Geoff's most recent layout, Smuggler's Cove, was built over the past two years with fellow modeller, Michael Flack. The photo below, taken in September last year, shows Geoff on the left and Michael on the right.

Geoff and Michael presented at the NMRA Convention in Gosford last year. Smuggler's Cove was exhibited at the Convention. The layout (pictured below) was another superb scenic extravaganza; defined by brilliant scenery, composition, and craftsmanship.

Geoff had a wonderful and gifted artistic talent for model railways, and was always willing to share his knowledge and expertise with a full range of people, especially children. I remember his contribution at exhibitions where he and colleagues gave many scenery clinics and demonstrations. The photo below shows Geoff at a scenery clinic at the Epping Model Railway Exhibition in 2011.

Recently, at the NMRA Thousand Lakes Region Convention in Minneapolis which I attended in May, tribute was paid to Geoff as a wonderful inspiration for model railroading. At the time, I knew that Geoff had been battling cancer but I didn't know to what extent.

The news today was still a shock -  Geoff was a wonderful person and will long be remembered.

Thursday 4 April 2013

The making of our plastic trains and slot cars

I just stumbled across a couple of interesting YouTube clips about the manufacturing process for model trains and slot cars. Both clips look like they come from a YouTube set of similar clips about how things are made. There is all manner of manufactured products featured, including how prototype steel rails are made and how mass-produced hot dogs are made.

I am interested in some of the manufacturing processes to find out if they might be industries useful for the model railroad. I therefore want to understand the production process and what are the inputs into the manufacturing process. While the transport in or out of the factory would also be of interest, it's not critical. I can either do further research on particular manufacturing companies or just make it up for the model railroad if it all sounds plausible.

Anyway, here are the two clips. The first is on model train production. I am not sure the clip is complete because it sort of just ends but there is still enough of interest there. It would be interesting to get a comment from one of our local Australian manufacturers to see if what's shown in the clip is the same as what goes on in the Chinese factories they use.

The slot car clip says it's about Scalextric slot cars but they look like Carrera products to me!

Friday 22 March 2013

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2013

Tomorrow is the opening day of the Canberra Model Railway Expo. This year the expo is celebrating it's 25th anniversary. The exhibition will feature about 25 layouts (including Waterfall if my information is correct) and just over 20 commercial traders as well.

Some of the commercial traders include Austrains, Casula Hobbies, Eureka, Gwydir Valley Models, Model Railroad Craftsman, MicroModels Hobbyland, On Track, Runway 17, Southern Models, and TrainWorld.

I hope the expo will have a successful weekend.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year 2013

Happy New Year!

I am keeping my resolutions to myself this year as past failures have been rather embarrassing. But I am starting off the New Year with the desire to keep up-to-date with my model railway reading which lapsed last year (along with model railway construction and blog writing) due to other time pressures.

And speaking about time, the people at Kalmbach Publishing in the US must be in a time warp of some sort because yesterday (31st December 2012) I received my latest copy of Model Railroader - the February 2013 issue. Since it is now the 1st of January, the magazine is a month ahead of the cover date. No matter - it's a good read over the January holidays while I wait for the January/February issue of the Australian Model Railway Magazine due out later this month with a cover date and issue date more in keeping with reality.

The February 2013 Model Railroader does have some good reading.

In particular, I am following the progress of the quarry branch series. Part 2 is in the latest issue. I am also following progress on the quarry branch articles with the video blogs that I can see as a subscriber to Model Railroader. I like this feature as the video nicely supports the article content.  

Model Railroader, like other model railway magazines around the world (e.g. British Railway Modelling and Railroad Model Craftsman) is also available in digital format. I haven't committed to the digital formats as yet as I find the hard copy paper editions easier to read. However, storage of paper magazines is a problem. I am sticking with the paper magazine for Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman for now, but I do buy the occasional British model railway magazine as a digital copy. And I do love Model Railroad Hobbyist which is digital.

Kalmbach Publishing and Model Railroader will be moving further into digital content in a couple of months time with the launch of its MRVideoPlus website which will become an additional source of regular information with video, 3D track plans, and how-to articles. My only concern is whether the new MRVideoPlus will become the prime source of content at the expense of the magazine. We will have to wait and see.

For now, it's sitting back with the hard copy of the February 2013 issue of Model Railroader and enjoying the read.