Sunday 30 March 2014

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2014

The 26th Canberra Model Railway Expo was held over weekend (29-30 March) at Kaleen High School, a northern suburb of Canberra. The Expo was organised by the Canberra Model Railway Club. Once again, this exhibition was a great way to see plenty of model railway action and to shop at the numerous commercial outlets. There were over 50 exhibits and commercial stands in all.

Here is a selection of layouts that caught my eye during the afternoon today.

The first image shows the layout, Binabeen. This layout is under new ownership in Goulburn, having been called Willigobung by the previous Canberra-based owners. Binabeen is a HO scale NSW layout representative of the type of  large layout facilities on the double-track Main South Line.

Another HO scale NSW layout on display was Binalong from the Epping Model Railway Club in Sydney. The layout is based on the real Binalong which is also on the Main South line. Binalong won the award for best layout on show. In the image we see a streamlined 38 class pausing at the station with a Melbourne-bound passenger service.

The next image is from the 638 Mile layout, a HO scale NSW-themed layout. The 638 means that the location is 638 miles from Sydney. The layout is operated by DCC (digital command control) using NCE equipment. The image below shows a 620/720 railcar set in "candy stripe" livery leaving the station.

The wonderful O gauge layout, Arakoola, was on display, featuring a mix of steam and early diesel locomotives set in a rural NSW yard environment. The layout showcases some superb modelling and demonstrates what can be achieved in the larger scale. A photographic backdrop provides good depth to the modelled portion of the layout, as can be seen in the photo below. In the photo, a 50 class standard goods locomotive sits simmering in the yard awaiting the ok to proceed down the line.

Some Sydney-themed layouts were also on display. The suburban Yendys layout was exhibited by thee ACT Model Railway Society. Yendys is a HO scale layout operated by DCC. The image below shows an interurban set about to depart the station.

Mungo Scotts is an HO scale layout based on the Mungo Scott flour mill facilities near Lilyfield in Sydney. The rail line is now used by the recently opened Dulwich Hill tramway extension. The HO scale layout depicts the line in its days as a freight operation.

Another HO scale NSW layout was Electric Car Sheds that featured a selection of electric passenger and goods trains based in a typical electric car shed environment in Sydney.

Blue Ridge is an HO scale US-themed layout that showed what can be achieved in a relatively small space. The layout would fit easily into a standard sized bedroom and uses standard commercially produced locomotives, rolling stock and buildings. The layout was based on the southern end of the Cascade Mountains in California where the McLeod River Railroad had its operations. The layout was run on DC and I was impressed by the smooth-running of the trains even late on the final afternoon of the exhibition.

And rounding out the day for me was the compact N scale layout, Midford. One of the things I like about N scale is the buildings and Midford had some good examples.

There were plenty of other layouts and commercial stands at the exhibition to provide for a wide range of interests. I hope the exhibition was a success for the organisers because it was well worth the visit, especially on a rainy Canberra weekend.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Model Railroad Planning 2014

Just got my copy of Model Railroad Planning 2014 direct from Kalmbach Publishing. As usual, it is full of interesting articles and some excellent model railroad photography.

The first article is "operating a busy passenger terminal" which is based on the New Orleans Passenger Terminal (NOUPT). The modelled station is huge and exceptionally well done, including fully lit interiors. The layout is HO scale.

The next article is the "Southern Pacific's Siskiyou Line" in N scale. The layout size is 25 x 27 feet which is pretty big for an N scale layout. One of the things I like about the articles in MRP is the emphasis on the decision-making process in designing a layout. This article didn't disappoint in that department.

"Alice Street in 4x8 feet" is a prototypical track plan based on the Santa Fe rail-marine operation out of Oakland, California. There are some fascinating historical photos (B&W) here.

The next article is called "A moving experience" about a layout built for a newly purchased retirement home. The original layout based on Moscow, Idaho (I think the Americans pronounce it moss-cow) was featured in Model Railroad Planning in 2008.

My favourite article is "Switching for breakfast". This article describes the prototypical train operations for switching (shunting) the large Post Cereals food complex at Battle Creek, Michigan. A description of a typical shift switching the industry was very informative. For me, the best part of the article was a table showing the different spots (positions) within the Post Cereals complex that had to be switched with what particular product (receiving and shipments).  This table alone gave me plenty of food for thought in just what variety can be achieved with a single, large industry on a model railroad. A HO and N scale track plan accompanies the article providing suggestions for how the prototype can be modelled.

A short article on five layouts in four different scales that occupy 14 x 34 inches was next.

Lance Mindheim follows with an article, "Simple plan, plenty of action" based on a southeastern USA switching layout. Lance makes a nice distinction between planning and design - planning deals with more strategic issues that will inform the decisions about overall layout design (track arrangements, for example.). The suggested model railroad layout plan is for a room size of 12 x 13 feet. Lance includes both a plan of the layout and a plan showing switching options.

"Big train, small layout" has an interesting circular design based on a figure eight. It is a portable layout used for model railroad exhibitions and is a little bit different to the norm.

Byron Henderson's article, "North Western's Chicago commute" offers some thoughts about a model railroad track plan 8 x 20 foot in size. The layout is based on the Chicago & North Western's commuter services between the North Western station and the western suburbs of Chicago. Again, the thinking behind the layout design is what is key to this article.

"Slogging up to Locust Summit" is a model railroad based on the Reading Co.'s train operations over Locust Summit near Gordon, Pennsylvania. The track plan fits into a space of 31 x 40 feet and includes plenty of big hauling steam locomotives on this predominantly coal-hauling route. An interesting depiction of a typical day at Gordon gives a nice summary on operations. There are some nice model photographs in this article as well.

Tony Koester next goes out on a bit of a limb with an idea about modelling the same town on two decks and switching cars between them. This idea could be a way to save on available space.

My other favourite article from Model Railroad Planning 2014 is the article by James McNab: "Choosing the right place at the right time". The article describes the importance of time and place in consideration of design and the need for being selective about motive power and rolling stock. It is important to balance traffic levels for certain times of the year (for example, seasonal factors play a major role in agricultural production). James' layout is the Iowa Interstate Grimes Line. The article has both model and prototype photos. Videos of this layout are available on the Model Railroader website to registered viewers: see

Model Railroad Planning 2014 ends with articles on staging yards, improving a published (Atlas) track plan, space-saving use of "wye-less wyes", dummy tracks, and modelling a passenger terminal in 15 x 18 feet.

While the focus of the annual is on US modelling and prototypes, there is enough information and thinking potential here for anyone interested in model railways to find something of use. As usual, this publication is of high quality and recommended.