Monday 3 October 2016

Sydney Model Railway Exhibition 2016

For me, the Labor Day October long weekend is synonymous with the Sydney Model Railway Exhibition at Liverpool. And so it was that I made the 2.5 hour journey from Canberra to Liverpool for this annual exhibition.

I had purchased my ticket online in the preceding week. However, when I arrived around late morning on Saturday the general admission queue was very small. Nevertheless, I gained entry straight away and made my way around the perimeter of the main hall. The majority of the trade stands occupied this space and so my circumnavigation took a wee while as I looked for new products, examples of pre-production models, and any bargains. Austrains and Trainorama seemed to have some decent specials, and I think Southern Rail Models may have had some discounted L class locos, but that was pretty much it as far as I could see. The SDS Models upcoming Speed-E-Gas tanker was on display and looked terrific, as did the selection of models in the showcases from Auscision and Bergs. Other notable commercial stands included Orient Express from Adelaide, Runway 13 from Canberra, ARHS books, Anton's Trains, Casula Hobbies, Chucks Ballast, Railroad Model Craftsman, Train World, Kerroby Models, Eureka Models, Pallas Hobbies, and IDR Models.

As for the layouts, there were about 25 or so. Most of the layouts I had seen before, but that shouldn't surprise as I have visited quite a few exhibitions over the years.

Here are a few representative layouts from the exhibition.

Upon entering the exhibition, there was the familiar live steam Railways in the Garden layout. The railway uses two gauges of running tracks - 45mm and 32mm - and the locos are fired by either gas, methylated spirits, or coal.

Bethungra Spiral (HO, NSW) from the Epping Model Railway Club was on display and the scenery looked superb. This layout offers a different design to the usual exhibition layout which are mostly based on station and yard scenes.

Yendys (HO, Australian) made the journey up to Liverpool from Canberra. This layout has been around the exhibition circuit quite a while now. I love the composition of the layout, and the bridge scene is always a stand-out. Colour light signalling had been added this time around.

Oddwalls (HO, NSW), another exhibition regular, features a typical country town and distinctly Australian scenery. Here a 32 class engine hauls a rake of four-wheeled goods wagons.

Mungo Scotts (HO, NSW) has also been on the exhibition circuit for a while now. The layout was built and is exhibited by the Sydney Model Railway Society. The photo below shows a Beyer-Garratt locomotive on the Metropolitan Goods line with a run-through train.

Goulburn (HO, NSW/Australian) from the Guildford Model Railway Group, was making its second exhibition appearance. This layout has proved inspirational to a couple of my model railway friends; something that makes attending exhibitions worthwhile. The photo below captures the Sydney-bound XPT about to depart Goulburn railway station.

Waterfall (HO, NSW) from the Illawarra Model Railway Association, was tucked away in an annex off the main hall (across from SDS Models). This layout is a quality exhibit and features some great scenery, especially around the station precinct.

Broxburn Sidings (OO) was also off the main hall. This layout is a lovely compact layout featuring industrial sidings with plenty of opportunity for shunting action.

Kyogle (N scale, NSW) from Peter Boorman was a nicely crafted rural NSW layout featuring a station, yard and bridge scene. This layout will be featured in the December 2016 issue of the Australian Model Railway Magazine.

Dunblurtin (N scale, NSW) was first exhibited by its previous owner way back in 1990! This layout has stood the test of time with some nice scenery, buildings, and plenty of train action.

Industry Lane (00, British) was my favourite layout from the Epping Model Railway Exhibition in June. It remains one of my favourite layouts. This layout demonstrates that you can still have a great model railway even in a relatively small amount of space. The buildings and scenic composition are superb. More information about the layout and the community group can be found at the following web address:

Another small layout, this time in G scale, was Whiskey Springs. This layout was a highly detailed logging-style model railway that featured exquisite scenery.

Valley Heights (O scale, NSW) is another layout I have seen before. This time I paid particular attention to the roundhouse (instead of the elevated coal stage which probably gets more than its fair share of attention). The roundhouse has great atmospheric charm generated from the larger modelling scale.

While many of the layouts I had seen before, I still enjoyed the exhibition and catching up with fellow modellers from Sydney, Canberra, and rural NSW. As Canberra does not have a dedicated model railway shop, the Liverpool exhibition was a great opportunity to check out a wide range of retailers all in the one spot. Sometimes modellers don't always appreciate the convenience of having a large range of commercial retailers all in the one place at the one time. That said, I do wonder whether there are sufficient new layouts being constructed to keep exhibitions fresh and engaging for both the public and for existing railway modellers. Perhaps this is a topic to keep for another time...

Monday 12 September 2016

Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention 2016

It's been almost ten days since I attended the Modelling the Railways of South Australia Convention in Adelaide. Whilst I stayed on in South Australia for three days after the Convention, it has still taken me another week to get in front of the computer to pen this short post. I trust Les will forgive me!

The Convention was again held at the Flinders Medical Centre. I travelled to the venue by bus from the Adelaide CBD which is a comfortable and convenient ride. The Convention once again lived up to expectations with a series of interesting presentations and a wonderful model display that showed the best of South Australian railway modelling. This diorama is an impressive example.

The presentations included the following:
The BHP Iron Knob Tramway (prototype)
Getting the details right (on structures) (modelling)
The 2000 class railcars (prototype)
The 830 class (prototype)
The O gauge Garden Railway (model)
Murray Bridge in N scale (model)
Railway cottages of the South Australian Railways (SAR) (prototype)
Terowie North - 25th Anniversary (model)

In addition, the beautifully produced and comprehensive package of notes accompanied the presentations. The Convention notes provide a wealth of detailed information. In fact, as was stated during the day, the notes from these Conventions represent a massive resource of historical and contemporary information about railways and railway life in South Australia.  All present recognised this and warmly thanked the production team for another year's worth of quality information. My notes from all the Conventions I have attended comes to six volumes of very full-looking 3-ring binders which is an impressive collection of unique information.

I must add that on the day before the Convention there was a mass protest outside the South Australian State Library and Archives in response to significant budget cuts by the South Australian Government.  This follows similar budget cuts at the Federal level to the National Library of Australia.  These valuable Australian institutions deserve better than this!

Back to the Convention: A number of commercial stands were present throughout the day, including Orient Express Model Railways, Ozrail, End of the Line Hobbies, and Train World.

The day ended with the usual raffle draws and associated prizes. I once again failed to win anything despite a modest investment in tickets. Better luck next year!

Thanks to the organisers and to the production team publishing the Convention notes. I very much look forward to the Convention in 2017 (likely to be again the first Saturday in September).

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition 2016

I made the trip down to Melbourne over the weekend to visit the Caulfield Model Railway Exhibition. The event was organised by the Australian Model Railway Assocoation (AMRA) Victorian Branch. The exhibition was held at Caulfield Racecourse as in previous years.

There were 35 layouts and just over 30 commercial stands at the exhibition. I thought Waterfall and Mullet Creek were the standout quality layouts at the show this year, even though I have seen them at NSW exhibitions in the past. The wonderful Victorian Railways Maryborough layout was not in attendance which was a pity as this is an absolutely brilliant layout.

Of the layouts that caught my eye, here is a sample.

Jackson Creek (On30) set in the Otway Ranges of Victoria and showcased some wonderful buildings from the Outback Model Company.

Filching Road (O scale, British) is a fictitious location in Eastbourne, East Sussex in the southern part of England. The layout is small and can fit in the back of a station wagon (estate car for all you British folk out there). I just love this tank locomotive.

Catherwood Junction (OO scale) is a British layout which represents a small junction station in the West Dorset part of south England. This is a lovely layout with nice composition giving the full flavour of compact British modelling. Operation is by digital command control (DCC).

Midsomer Norton (OO scale) is another British layout and one I have enjoyed at previous Caulfield exhibitions. I understand that the layout is up for sale now. The layout is octagonal in shape and features the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. The photo below shows loading coal from the Norton Hill colliery which operated from 1839 to 1966.

Crosby Stephen (OO scale) is a British-themed layout based on the Settle and Carlisle Railway in the inter-war period. The station has features from Crosby Garrett and Kirkby Stephen on the prototype which is where the modelled station gets its name. This layout is owned and operated by the Sunbury Model Railway Club.

Triang Hornby Wrenn Minic (OO scale) was a trip down memory lane with a layout featuring these pioneering model railways from the UK. Many of us would have started out with models from this period. It is also a good reference point to see how far manufactured model railways have come; yet it remains surprisingly appealing even after 50 years of model railway development and technology.

A town like Alice (HO scale) is a modern Australian-themes layout featuring trains from Australian National Railways (ANR) and Genesee & Wyoming Australia (GWA) prototypes. The layout is operated with DCC and follows on from the previous layout, Barcoola.

Broadview (HO scale) is based on a prototype location in Central Victoria. The layout features a broad range of trains from Victoria and interstate trains from NSW. This layout has plenty of railway action with three main lines (two broad gauge and one standard gauge) to keep the punters happy.

Black Springs (HO scale) is a fictitious location in Victoria. The station resembles Swan Hill. This layout had been absent from the exhibition scene for a number of years but is now back with DCC and JMRI digital operation.

Mullet Creek (HO scale, NSW) made the trek from NSW and was a standout layout from the exhibition. A feature that enhances its quality is the use of layout lighting, something that many layouts at Caulfield still do not provide. The venue has poor lighting which makes layout lighting all the more important. The exceptional water scenes always continue to amaze.

Waterfall (HO scale, NSW) was the other standout layout. The layout is based on the real locale of Waterfall south of Sydney on the line to Wollongong. You will see a great variety of steam and diesel-hauled trains on this layout. The backscene is especially noteworthy.

Neubahn (HO scale) was a European-themed layout featuring a good selection of modern diesel freight and passenger action on a double track mainline.

Rounding off this post is Stone Creek (N scale, US). This nicely proportioned N scale (1:160) layout represents a branchline with point-to-point operation between Roscoe and Whitestone. The trestle bridge was scratchbuilt. I like the use of the dam/weir to link the backscene with the modelled scenery.

Once again, an enjoyable day out with the World's Greatest Hobby.

Sunday 19 June 2016

Epping Model Railway Club Exhibition 2016

The 2016 Epping Model Railway Club's exhibition last weekend was a good one.  There were 22 layouts on display and 23 commercial exhibits. As usual, the second hand stall was very popular for sellers and buyers alike. The modelling clinics were a little different this year with a focus on building home layouts. The clinics were managed by David L. from the Epping Club in concert with the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) who manned the stand and answered questions from the public relating to all the facets of building a home layout. Great idea, David!

I caught up with a good many fellow modellers at the exhibition and still managed to actually see the layouts on display. Here is a sample of the layouts that caught the eye of my camera.

Goulburn (Australian/NSW, HO scale) was a new exhibit from the Guildford Model Railway Group. The layout is 6.5 metres (22') long and 2.8 metres (9') deep. The main feature of the layout is a wonderful model of the prototype Goulburn station. Other building features include the long run-through goods shed, steel footbridges, and the workshop area with overhead crane. Trains from the period of the 1960s to the present day made their appearance, reflecting the individual membership's era preferences. The layout is operated by conventional DC control.

Gordon (VR/SAR HO scale) was a layout I had not seen before. It represents the prototype in near the Dandenong Ranges top of the Great Dividing Range between Melbourne and Adelaide. A good variety of Australian locos and rollingstock from the 1960-1980 period was on display. Interestingly, the May and June 2016 issues of Newsrail feature two articles on the prototype Gordon station.

Bullo Pit (British, O scale) is a 7mm/foot scale layout based on a real location in Gloucestershire in the 1920s. The layout represents the tidal inlet from the River Severn and associated rail infrastructure. There was plenty of shunting going on with a range of four-wheeled wagons.

Erbschaft (German, HO scale) is a fictitious town set in the 1960s.  The layout is Marklin with centre-stud track and a good range of locos and rollingstock. Buildings are mainly kit-built structures from Faller and Kibri. Erbschaft was a very nice medium-sized layout.

Over the Fence (Australian/NSW, HO scale) was a new layout to the Epping exhibition, although it had debuted at Sandown in Melbourne earlier in the year. Once again the houses and buildings on the layout represented superb renditions of real structures modelled to scale in styrene. A double-track main line kept trains moving throughout the day; a highlight being the running of an Auscision Countrylink XPT that looked superb snaking its way to the rear of the houses. The durable H&M Clipper transformer powers the trains and never seems to miss a beat.

Oddwalls (NSW, HO scale) made another exhibition appearance from the craftsmanship of Geoff Small. Oddwalls represents a fictitious rural NSW town set in the 1960s. The station area with the main street and country-style buildings are the central scenic highlight of the layout with plenty of detail to be spotted throughout. This layout is compact-sized and an entertaining NSW-themed layout that runs well and looks great.

Wumbat (NSW, HO scale) represents another fictitious NSW rural-based layout. The layout dimensions are 3 metres by 1.2 metres and consists of six modules. Note the impressive way the layout is displayed in a theatre-box style of presentation.

Industry Lane (British, OO scale) is based on a fictitious industrial branch serving a number of industries: fuel/oil, cement, and a large manufacturing complex. The focus of the layout is shunting and this is accomplished using short wheel-based freight wagons and a single locomotive operated with digital command control (DCC). The entire layout, including fiddle yard, is only 1.5 metres (5') in length. The fiddle yard uses a sliding traverser to move trains on and off the layout. I really enjoyed this layout and admired what could be achieved in a relatively small space. Industry Lane was my favourite layout from the exhibition.

Moonan Flats (NSW, O scale) represents a what-might-have-been scenario had the real railway reached this town in the Barrington Tops of NSW. The station layout is simple but highly detailed, enabling a good showcasing of NSW outline O scale locomotives and rollingstock.


Wallerawang Junction (Australian/NSW, HO scale) is based on the prototype station on the Main Western line beyond Lithgow. The era modelled is the 1960 to mid-70s period when Wallerawang was a busy rail station and yard. There was plenty of steam and diesel train action on this layout.

Bullenbung Creek (NSW, HO scale), the featured layout at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention earlier this year, made its first Epping exhibition appearance. The layout took its inspiration from Belfrayden on the Uranquinty-Kywong branch line. This lightly-trafficed rural branchline has been well modelled using hand-laid code 55 rail soldered to PCB sleepers. The layout is operated using DCC and locos all have sound. My favourite was the 24 class (2417 pictured below) which performed its duties with no-fuss aplomb.

The Yard (NSW, HO scale) was another NSW-themed layout making its first appearance on the exhibition scene. The focal point is indeed the yard and the Pioneer cement silos. Other rail-served industries included stock pens, loading ramp and goods shed. Track is Peco code 83 with insulfrog points operated by Tortoise switch motors. The layout uses an NCE Pro Cab for DCC operation.

Stikodelom (NSW, O scale) showcased some quality O scale locomotives, rollingstock and scenery. The location is fictitious but certainly has that generic rural NSW feel about the place. The Beyer-garrat (pictured below) is a very impressive sight in this scale.

Bethungra was the new layout from the Epping Model Railway Club making its debut exhibition appearance. The trees on the layout are superb (well done, Phil). Unfortunately, I don't have any photos but can direct you to this Youtube clip from John Thoroughgood who captured the layout in a nice two minute video.

And of course, there was the ever-popular Lego layout.

I really enjoyed the exhibition and the opportunity to chat with friends from the hobby.  I'd like to thank the Epping Model Railway Club for another successful event.

Saturday 4 June 2016

A long haul

It is almost half way through 2016 but it feels like an eternity since just over a year ago my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He was given 4-6 weeks to live. Back then he was 89 years' old.  Many people would nod their head and say he had had a pretty good innings. The thing is, not many people are prepared to give up their wicket irrespective of their score. And this was, and remains true even now because my father is still with us and still exhibits the same patience and caring for others that he always has.

Dad's home had to be sold to pay for the nursing home accommodation bond and ongoing monthly costs which are substantial. It's a super expensive business being sick and old, and in need of professional palliative care. There were some other problems too that just compounded the anguish and strain which didn't make things easy, including some medical issues in my immediate family. For me, after four years of suspected prostate cancer (including four lots of biopsies in that period), it was detected and confirmed in February. I had surgery in April. I had spoken to a number of people (incuding some railway modellers) who had gone through it and I took heart from their positive experiences. The surgery went well. My latest test result is good. My recovery is better than what I'd expected at this time. Fingers crossed that this continues.

In the last twelve months or so I have come into contact with more aged, frail and sick people than I could ever have imagined. I have spent countless hours visiting doctors, health professionals, aged care facilities, banks and other professional services. Not surprisingly, there was no spare time for things like model railways. The last twelve months have shown me a completely different side of life that I had never encountered before.  And what, you may ask, does it all mean?

Well it means a few things which I think are very important:

1. We need to live each day to the utmost and to appreciate everything good around us
2. We need to be thankful for good health and the health of all our family members
3. We need to be thankful for supportive family and friends, and to let them know how much we appreciate their love and support. And this includes reaching out to others who are in need.

I dipped my toes back into the hobby at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention. I caught up with several people and had a good chat about a range of different things; health issues and family issues included. Model railways then is not just about model railways.

Many of my friends who have been supportive have come from the hobby of model railways. This includes my good friend Alan from Kansas City in the USA who I met a few years ago through the NMRA. And it includes modeller friends in Australia from my own city (thanks especially to David) and from people in Sydney and the Central Coast as well.

I will be attending the Epping Model Railway Club's exhibition at Normanhurst this coming weekend (likely to be Saturday for me at this stage). Perhaps I will catch up with some more friends for a good chat, see some inspiring layouts, and come home refreshed and energised for the future ahead.