Wednesday, November 30, 2016

G'day USA

Cranking over the 100K on the hit counter was a milestone. But keeping my eye on the meter showed it raising at a great rate of knots.
As reported on my past post  of August 3, I noted there were a great number of hits coming from Russia. There is a general consensus that there are good and bad guys out there, just watch James Bond or Rambo movies where the Ruskis (bad guys) match up against the US (good guys).
The hit meter for some reason has gone haywire with hits from the USA. For this weeks counter it show 872 USA and 271 for Australia. Maybe the CIA or FBI or whatever they are called this week are onto it. But then again it could be just a bunch of modellers. Whatever it is guys, I hope you enjoy the rebuilding of South Coast Rail here. If you delve back to older posts you can see how it has evolved from a HO layout to the now On30 layout in the making.
Having said the above I welcome any Russian modellers, the translating feature might make it easier to understand. It would be interesting to see if it can translate Australian slang into other meanings.

Back to Bega

Having now allocated location names to the individual towns I am concentrating on Bega so that there is a place for trains to go to.
Above photo shows where the former terminus of Candelo has been laid flat. Part of the rockface wall has been placed onto the back wall temporarily rather than bin it. Having been painted way back in 1999, the rear wall is now overdue for another coat to freshen it all up. The can of paint is ready to go and is on standby waiting for some one to apply it.
The pile of HO track and points are bundled near the window. These will be eventually sold off to provide funds for future expansion. It is a very different feeling to pull apart an old layout to build a new one, there is so much stuff to move around and get rid of. Very different than building a new layout from scratch.
I know it has been said many times about using pineboard (Homasote USA?)for baseboards but having used it previously on another section and that it proved stable for fifteen years I am again using it on the new portion of the layout. The piece in the above photo came from an old bedroom cupboard and has been patiently waiting in the shed for its callup. The dodgy bit on the right hand side was cut off and then using some old leftover paint it was covered all over for protection from moisture. It is planned to run some MDF vertically along the baseboard facing to freshen it all up.
Looking from the other direction the board is temporarily supported to see how the new width will work. I have decided to leave in the former base of the lower town of Bodalla to form a shelf that can be accessed from the front when the facing goes on.
The former town of Candelo has now been flattened and repainted. All that needs to be done now is to fill in the former turntable pit.
The matching piece of baseboard has been cut and put into place. The crack visible is not earthquake caused but will be duly patched over shortly. Now with the boards in place I couldn't resist the urge to dry run the track layout for Bega. The passenger station will be located on the right and the goods shed on the left hand side. This allows the road access to the goods shed. I have incorporated a gentle curve to the tracks in the station area. It could have easily been straight but to my eye a gentle curve looks better.
Looking in the other direction an NA is in the loop with a six car coal train and two passenger cars are at the station. When trying to set out a layout it is easier to visualise how it will all look and fit together when the items are placed on the board. Compared with a plan on paper, this works so much better. This applied to the track as well and I have many template paper points downloaded from the Peco website. This then accurately shows how much room they will take up.
At the far end of Bega will be some loco facilities. This track comes off the station loop. At the far end of board can be seen some of the former SCR scenery. I have decided to leave it in place and then run the new track through it. This will save me plenty of time in not having to do the scenery again at the back of the layout room.
This is where SCR is up to  at the moment.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Location, Location, Location

The new narrow gauge layout situated on the far South Coast of New South Wales is located in a similar area to its predecessor which was standard gauge.
A new layout also requires new names for the stations, some on the layout will be the same such as Bega and Candelo that were on the previous one.
There was no real reasoning behind picking the new names. No study of the towns on the internet or any personal trips to the area to try and capture the flavour of the place. Well for one thing there was never a railway there in the area so no old fellas can tell me that its wrong.
Basically I opened a map of the area and picked names that I thought would suit. The stations will be at Bega, Wolumla Junction (Happy Phil?) )This is the junction to Candelo), Pambula, Greigs Flat, Snug Cove (love that name had to include) and terminating at Eden.

Location Diagram

Location of South Coast Rail

The last post had the town of Dunno, quickly made up because I was too lazy to look at the map and give it a proper name. This location will now be Bega which will be my second attempt at this location. I have obtained all the required track and points to lay here. I have stuck with the Peco track and points. I would have preferred had Peco made this track not so rough in appearance but its not worth the extra cost to move over to Micro Engineering track to resolve this minor irritation. Once the track is ballasted and weeded over it looks OK.

 Layout Diagram

Updated diagram with town names added  
This may not be the final track layout for the whole layout, we are allowed to change our minds as we go along. One thing that the old DC layout suffered from was the style of control panel once prepared in perspex and holes cut for switches and push buttons. This meant the track plan was virtually locked in, but with DCC, control panels are virtually none existant.
The shed is partly through its transition from the old to the new layout. I still have tons of crap to get rid of that is sitting on the layout. It will have to go before the new track gets laid. I will also repaint the floor to make it look better, it was last done back in 2009.

Demolition Derby 

Work has commenced on getting the town of Bega ready for track laying. The lovely photo of the garratt on the last post has now gone. This was one of my favourite sections and came up nice with the trees and the cutting around the tunnel mouth. We will have to wait and see what pops up here.
Snowing on the South Coast?

The above photo shows that the scenery has started to be stripped back to allow removal of this section. This will then allow this portion of the wall to be repainted to match the front of the shed. You get a sad feeling when all the work end effort goes in a third of the time to demolish than what it took to build in the first place. You have to get over it and move on, I have many photos of this section.

Where Bodalla once stood
This photo shows where the locations of Bodalla and Candelo (upper) were located. One of the down sides of going to O scale is that it takes up much more room. Also shown in the photo is another location where the old track will stay forever (or until the whole layout is demolished). I cannot get to it for removal and the time and effort is also not worth it. Looking at the plan above in this post all of the baseboards to the right of the entry door will be left in situ and I will rework the track through it. There is no point in demolishing it all to lay the track onto modules at this stage.
Bodalla Goods siding - never to be shunted again
The rock wall that has separated Bodalla from Candelo has been removed for future re-use. Luckily I was able to prise it away with little cracking. Bodalla was never a complex yard which is surprising for me. It had a goods siding and another siding that was to go to a livestock unloading point. Never had a single shunt into it!.
A high shot showing the removal work
In the above shot can be seen the second location of the turntable for Candelo. It was never operated in either location. This may show up the downside of having a large layout, too many projects and not enough time to complete them all. One of the O scale buildings is in place to  gauge how much more room is gobbled up in this scale. A lonely NQR wagon is also there to provide some atmosphere to the scene.

So there is progress on the town of Bega. When I get it connected to Eden I will finally have somewhere to come and go from.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Planning the next part

Well firstly thanks to viewers who visited over the many years since March 2009 when this blog started to record the history of South Coast Rail. The hit counter has just tipped over the one hundred thousand clicks which I suppose is a milestone in its self.
Since 2009 when I look back to some of my early work on the HO layout I suppose I can only hope that my modelling has got better. Old code 100 track was replaced with code 75 which I found to be more realistic looking. Its all part of trying to improve with age I guess. What really astounds me is when I look at the dates when the photos were taken and realise how quickly time has gone by. We only have a limited time on the planet so get in quick and finish that dream layout.
When I read that book 101 Track plans for model railroads, I seemed to get stuck longer on the page showing a huge layout and was inspired to one day have a larger layout myself. In the end I built the shed to contain the HO layout that was South Coast Rail. And now that it has been handed over to the On30 scale it is being refilled without any trouble.
This size shed has enabled me to try and create my version of the Victorian Narrow gauge as I see it. I have sort of made the shed two halves. The left hand side has been repainted and now contains the baseboards of the nearly completed Eden. The right hand side will retain all the former baseboards and have the new track laid onto them. If the retirement village calls early then this side is dispensable and stays, the portable section will be coming with me. In my opening I was amazed at how quickly time flies so the next ten years will come as quick as the last ten have gone.
So I am preparing the baseboards where the former towns of Bodalla and the branch line terminus of Candelo once stood. The end result is that I will only get one town out of two as the scale has doubled. I have attached the proposed plan for the next town planned. So far I haven't named the place yet. I will sit down one day with a map and throw a few darts I suppose and get some names. If I am a bad shot this would be how the town of Broken Hill would end up on a South Coast layout.
One thing is for sure when I plan a town layout it always seems to have plenty of points in it. Don't ever ask me to model the Camden line, not enough points. I guess this end result comes from the fact that I like operation on a layout, plenty of shunting and a few mongrel track designs to make the job harder. Having looked at all the track designs of the VR narrow gauge lines I can say that to me most are boring and too easy to shunt. Yes this is exactly what they were looking for in real life and the tracks were designed with that in mind. The only VR track plan with any interest to me was the one at Beech Forest which was unique in two ways for a narrow gauge line in that it had a scissors crossover and also a balloon loop.
6039 about to burrow under Candelo in an area now removed

I have temporarily named this town Dunno until something better comes along. I will have a crossing loop, goods siding, two industry siding, one on each end of the town, a loco shed area, a livestock siding and a few roads for rolling stock storage. This town won't be cramped by any means as the total length is over five metres in length. It will also be a junction station as this is where the track from Eden will join in as shown in another diagram. I didn't want to but I will end up with a liftout section to complete the full circle around the outer wall of the shed. It will also form a triangle which will be handy if any items of rolling stock require turning.
Proposed town of Dunno (its name yet)
The above drawing is fairly to scale. The road will come up from the right over a level crossing into the town and run along the back of the wall and disappear off behind the factory on the left. A platform for about three passenger cars will also be provided. Plenty of light is available in this section with a large window looking out over the garden.
The first diagram is not that clear as to where the tracks on the left hand side go to, so this diagram shows how the lift out section fits in with the rest of the layout. The tracks will be slightly upgrade from Eden to Dunno. Hey this might mean trains heading this way might require an extra loco? More operation, that's what I like.
Well I'll leave you with that lot for a while, so now you know where SCR is heading to.

Monday, October 17, 2016

I've finally Climaxed!

Don't read too much into that heading!. Since changing over to On30 scale as I previously mentioned I always had a wish list of locos and rolling stock. It started with the NA locomotives and they were the reason I moved over to this scale. Other locos on the wish list were a Shay, a climax and a model of the G42 garratt which probably will never happen.
The last blog showed that I managed to get another box ticked when I obtained a shay off Ebay. The shay has managed around a week or so running up and down Eden yard wearing the track out. Albeit slowly. I was shunting it into the engine shed road and it stopped moving but still was making its usual sound. On close examination I was still no wiser into getting it running again. It could be a DCC issue or a mechanical gear issue, I am not sure but have put it aside for the time being until I meet up with an expert in Bachmann shays who might be able to offer some suggestions. But for now it can just sit there and idle away.
It seems I had better luck last week when a Bachmann Climax came up on Ebay and I was lucky(?) enough to win the auction. I fired off a question to the owner to verify if there were any gear issues, something apparently Bachmann and indeed other makers are famous for. The reply said it was a fine runner. It was received today and has been fitted with a dcc decoder although not sound. Obviously
whoever wired it up doesn't know the difference between forward and reverse as it does exactly the opposite to what is selected on the throttle. I'll just have to remember that this loco is the odd man out until I can get a sound decoder fitted to it, then it should be rectified.
The loco sometime down the track will also be weathered to make it look like it has been doing some work. The shay and climax are unusual style locos and I plan to utilise them on coal and timber working. The branch that will contain the coal and timber industries will be some time away so I will have to find some other work for them to do. Maybe shunting duties.
It is certainly noticeable when you operate non sound locos with sound equipped locos. Could it be that cars and pedestrian accidents increase on the layout because they didn't hear it coming?
Another problem has arisen. What is it about the number 8? There are literally millions of numbers out there but this is now the third loco I have amongst a fleet of five that has the number 8. Is it a Chinese lucky number that all their locos have to have this number? The first number 8 belongs to the only modified NA which was number 8 - non negotiable, it has to remain number 8. Then the shay turns up with also number 8. OK one option is to make it number 18 or just invent another number. Then as the photo clearly shows the climax is already numbered 8. I guess I just have to renumber the shay and climax to other numbers. I offer the following photo as a means of getting rid of at least one number 8:
This photo is the first of a series of irregular comments on various aspects of the layout that could be worthy of a laugh. I hope you may enjoy.
Here are a few more photos of the Climax working its way around Eden Yard.

I have also been working around the former sites of Bodalla and Candelo by stripping out the scenery and former HO track. This will be a later blog entry.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

You can Shay that again

When I made the choice to go to narrow gauge, the choice was made easy when Haskell had made the NA Puffing Billy type locomotives. They have just recently followed that up with the common NQR open wagon that was the most prolific in number of VR narrow gauge wagons.
To me modelling the VR narrow gauge is like modelling a smaller version of the full size railways. Narrow gauge modelling encompasses a huge range of styles, sizes and almost anything goes.
Having said that there is one type of narrow gauge locomotive that is almost ugly and unique. That loco is the shay type. I'm not sure in what order the shays sisters were built but the climax and heisler type locomotives were certainly out of the box thinking in design. Their major use was in the logging and mining fields, their design adapted to get the job done.
In building up my fleet of locomotives I have put a few must haves on the list. The top one is a G type garratt of which two were built for the VR narrow gauge. A ready to run one would be nice and although limited brass ones were built, I think now a ready to run model would make me hear those famous words from the Castle "tell him he's dreaming."
Another model is the Climax and Shay. Bachmann have made both models in On30 and luckily last week a Bachmann Shay weathered and sound equipped turned up on Ebay. I started bidding on it and had a limit which was reached within the last minute of the sale. Sorry to the other guy if you are reading this.
No. 8 brings its first log train into Eden
It has certainly been weathered and finished off far better than I could have achieved. This fact alone gives me more layout building time when the job is already done. It also has a driver who looks happy (all the time actually) The timber load might need replacing with something more authentic than trying to burn plastic. The loco turned up and guess what number it was? Yes number 8. Of all the millions of numbers out there in the world now I have a double up with 8A the one off unique NA loco with the straight stack. I'll have to work out something with the numbers. This loco is intended to be able to work the logging branch down to the main line where it will hand over to another loco. More planned operation.
No. 8 holds up traffic over the goods yard level crossing
I suppose the benefit of  being a slow runner is that it takes a while to get to where ever its going. Well that's loco number 4 for the moment. I have some diesel body kits to assemble one day in the future. And to make matters worse we will loose an hour tonight when clocks are put forward for daylight saving.
Another benefit in starting out again is the chance to strip out everything in the shed and refresh things. The walls and roof have been repainted up one end with the usual blue sky paint colour. It certainly made a great improvement over what was there. Fifteen years is too long between paint jobs. So it was looking pretty smick, but missing something to break the "sky".
During my recent August visit to the Puffing Billy railway, I made sure I went into the shop at Belgrave to try and buy anything that would be suitable for the walls of the shed. I was beyond the Thomas the Tank posters but bought the only suitable poster that being a shot of a train on Monbulk trestle with two vintage cars in the foreground. It was purchased for $5 and rolled up to hopefully survive the plane trip back to Sydney. It seemed to be OK.
The Puffing Billy poster safely posted up on the wall
It would look very bare up on the wall alone, but I was lucky to be sent from photos from Alf Batchelder that he had taken on Puffing Billy. I emailed Alf re getting high res copies so I could blow them up and frame them onto the wall of honour. He kindly agreed and sent me some great photos of which I selected four. I had Office Works enlarge them to A3 at a reasonable under $2 each cost onto thicker type paper. These were then put into frames and now run down one side of the shed. It's starting to look good. I still have the opposite wall to decorate yet - plenty of time.
The narrow gauge wall in honour of Puffing Billy
 Its great to be able to theme up walls and your layout area with what you are modelling. I'm just not sure where I'll put all that NSWGR memorabilia now.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Top Job

Well some readers would have noticed that the words "in Transition" were included in the previous blog's title photo. I suppose it was an easing into the the narrow gauge field that I had kept that photo for so long.
It has been over a year since I have made the change to On30 modelling, so I have finally decided to change the header photo. The NA is an out of the box virgin loco that hasn't even received its numbers and other details yet. It and its two sisters have received their voice boxes so they are half way there. The photo will remain until I get the locos fully detailed and the layout further advanced and another shot taken for the header photo.
The shot was taken down my favourite part of the old layout, a place I called the gully and is where many photos were taken of the HO SCR. The previous header photo was also taken just to the left of this shot.
Anyway I hope you don't mind the new photo.
Also for the benefit for any foreign readers I have included a provision to translate the blog into their language. This will be of great benefit to the Russian spies saving them valuable time in getting it translated into their lingo.
I noticed there was provision to translate into Irish, but when I tried it I couldn't understand a word of it even though some of my ancestors came from there. What will be a big help though is the ability to translate the blog into Zulu. I can just visualise them now, jumping up and down for joy as they can finally enjoy the blog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On the Level

Well the last couple of posts haven't been about the layout but I have been working on it slowly but surely. The Victorian trip is still strong in the memory and now that it is recorded on the blog I can go back in time in time and relive it again.
Barry the brush turkey is still hanging around and keeping the shed roof clear of leaves. He comes out onto our back lawn on occasions and we oblige by giving him his daily shower with the garden hose that we keep handy near the back door for hosing pests off.
We feed daily king parrots that come down to get their sunflower seeds. You have to keep your eye on the seed bowls and every now and then a sulphur crested cockatoo will try and muscle in and take over. He is a smart bird because as soon as he sees us pick up the hose he flies off. Being twice the size of the king parrots I'm sure he would eat plenty. The hose is also allocated for rainbow lorikeets who are very aggressive and will chase off the king parrots and take over. We are also feeding two little butcher birds. They come down to the back door in the morning and let go their 'feed me' cry. If its close to getting up time we oblige. They usually feed one at a time, one will sit in the tree until the other one is finished. Judging by the amount of food they are eating they will have fat kids, hope she can pass the eggs okay.
Enough of the nature lesson, onto the layout. I have been concentrating on the level crossing that splits the goods yard.
A template was made from floating timber underlay but was swapped over with thin cork sheeting to enable the colours and road surface to adhere properly.
When initially designing Eden I planned it so that there wasn't a lot of parallel tracks to the baseboard edge. The main track into the station forms a gentle S bend which works well to my eye. Although the majority of track layouts for the Victorian narrow gauge railways are based on straight lines, I still prefer to lay the tracks on curves. This may be another good reason to model freelance, you can do what you want rather than be restricted to the prototype.
The level crossing is slowly taking shape. A layer of dirt has been laid over crossing and timber inserts have been laid between the rails and coloured to match the road either side.
An NA tests the level crossing for clearances, yes the point was changed in time.
Well it was time to spread the dirt around the tracks. This is the part that starts to bring the layout alive. It was treated the same way as I do the ballasting and usually takes a day and a bit at this time of the year. It sets rock solid. You have to make sure that the throw bars to the points are clear from glue. And recheck the next day to be sure.
Viewed from the other direction a fire truck crosses over the crossing. I have also installed some Uneek split rail fencing which has turned out OK. It forms a barrier between the track and the road. The fencing on the right also forms some protection for the telegraph pole.
After a few weeks the weeds have started growing and this section is starting to come to life. No more baseboard in this area.
Viewed from the other direction. The two tracks on the right form part of the goods yard runaround. This will certainly annoy drivers trying to get from one side of the yard to the other when shunting is going on..
Morning peak hour at Eden goods yard
 A few weeks later more progress has been made with the level crossing and its surrounds. The trucks in the picture were obtained at the Broadmeadow exhibition in August. Eventually they will be weathered up.
Model train exhibitions are often a good source of obtaining second hand models. In the above photo I managed to obtain a coach and combine in burgundy colour at the recent Marklin exhibition for only $30 each, a bargain. I also obtained the NQR in the photo for $20 and three Bachmann log wagons for $25 each. I had previously obtained a few Bachmann coaches and combine but they were in canary yellow. I had planned to respray them a red colour to match the VR colour scheme, but when these new ones came along they were sold off to a mate who was also modelling On30 but American style. I intend to use these passenger cars as soon as there is somewhere on the layout to send them. I have kits to assemble authentic VR passenger cars but these may take some time to assemble.
Six hopper cars that will form the coal train for the layout wait for some where to go. The first two have been sprayed red and weathered, the other four will eventually be done the same. A few drums and timber have been put in place to make it start looking like a goods yard.
This photo shows how far the yard dirt has been laid and the weeds growing. It certainly changes the look of the boards.
A view from the end of the board looking up the yard. The run round track has been ballasted and weeded up. The cardboard in the photo represents the footprint of the transfer shed yet to be built. The bare patch will be where the O scale track will be lowered so the floor of an S truck can match the transfer platform level which will match the floor level of the NQR wagon.
The run around track fully ballasted (is dirt ballast?) and weeded. It certainly improves the look of this end of the yard.
Well that it for the progress up to date.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Meet Barry

The train shed, man cave call it what you like sits on one corner of the block well away from the house, so the wife can't hear the carrying on from running nights and other times when the train whistle blows on my new sound loco NA's.
The original shed stood out like the proverbial sore thumb, being probably an asbestos shed covered in corrugated iron with  no attempt to blend it into the surroundings or hide it from view from the house. Eventually I planted a few trees around the shed, and like watching your kids grow up they have become huge. Not really a problem as the rainforest is my favourite type of garden style. Now to have trees hanging over the roof does create problems with falling leaves which increase proportionately to the amount of rainfall. As we have had a dry spell lately there were quite a few up there. There are a couple of ways to fix this problem. Take up a broom/hose/blower or get someone else to do it for you. It was yet another one of those jobs that was on my gunnadoo list that seems to be getting larger rather than smaller. The leaves all seem to gather together at the lowest point on a roof, that being the gutters which doesn't help the water get away.
Last year in the garden I was unlucky enough to receive a visit from one of the local wildlife one of those brush turkeys, that should normally be residing in the 150 square kilometre Kuring-gai National Park that the state government has provided for them to be happy in and not annoy anyone. There is no shooting allowed there so no bullets for them to dodge. Their No 1 enemy the fox has been nearly eliminated by setting out 1080 poison (yes full resolution) so their numbers have increased. The park is beautiful, with many valleys, varied vegetation, and boat hire for them at Bobbin Head if they so desire.
But no, not being satisfied with this wonderfull playground the taxpayers have provided for them, one of them decided to start their famous mound amongst my garden I was trying to establish. All the leaves through out the garden which Don Burke has told me was natures blanket to nurture growth were now all in one corner in a mound. Why did he pick my place when there was all this parkland out there just a few houses away? I must say I was impressed with his workload, for while I was busy sleeping through the night he must have been raking all my leaves into a pile. So the next day armed with my garden rake I thought I would show him who was boss and raked all the leaves back where they had come from. I think he eventually won the battle as it became tiring battling nature.
Now this year was a different matter. If it was the same brush turkey he wisely moved onto my neighbours back yard and had a go there. I don't think they are as garden proud as me and for them he probably did them a favour. All around the fenceline he managed to skitch all the weeds,wandering jew vines, sticks etc into his huge mound they are famous for. This was a wise move for him as he was able to build this mound fairly quickly without interruption. There must be a cutoff point in the bird world where the weight of the bird becomes too much for the branch and it breaks. So then the bird decides it is safer to build a ground level nest. This is probably what happened long ago to the brush turkey. But why so flaming big? It can be up to a few metres across and up to a metre and a half high.
This is a bit of a long story but we now get back to the bit about the leaves on the roof. I still knew I needed to get up there and clean it all off, but one day while modelling away I could hear this noise on the roof. There goes the wind again blowing the branches over the roof. But it was a different sound. Getting out the ladder, I climbed up to see the brush turkey 
Barry in action

(now named Barry) raking the leaves off the roof. He was doing a brilliant job even to the extent of raking the leaves back with his feet towards the gutter. Hey this was brilliant, one minute my enemy and next my best friend cleaning my roof for me!!. This has been going on for over a week, I don't know if he suffers from OCD but he seems to be up there every day.
Barry realises he has been spotted

I haven't had the heart to tell him but when he rakes these leaves back off the roof they are falling on my land and his 'mound' is over the 'fence'. The fence is wire mesh and he can see his love nest from my place, maybe he should have gone to SpecSavers?
Barrys' workload with intended target in the background
 Eventually when Barry leaves for places beyond I will add his good work to the rest of my garden as mulch.
Barrys mound
So if you ever need your backyard raked clear just get in a brush turkey for a while. Costs you nothing. Reader of this blog will remember the troubles I had with the possums in the shed and they clearly fell in to 'pest' category, but with the brush turkey now that he has cleaned off my roof for me I might have to put him into the 'friend' category. How quickly things can change.

Please note that at no time during the production of this blog were any brush turkeys harmed. 
And I really promise that I will be back to 'model railway' items next blog.

Friday, August 19, 2016

One Last bit....

I hope you all didn't find the last blog entry of the Victorian trip too long or boring, but it was good to get it out there. When the Snow train was leaving Southern Cross on the Sunday night I remembered that the camera had an ability to take videos like most can these days. I have another Sony video camera I use specifically for videos.
I have uploaded the short departure clip that was very nostalgic at the time, something that can't be replicated in Sydney until someone sorts out the issues with 3801 and 3830. (How many years now have they been out of service?) 
Anyway here is the short clip.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

And now time for something completely different.....

Any hobby or interest can bring together great friendships and last weekend it was put to the test when a group of five headed off to Victoria sans wives to have a complete train weekend. The mateship goes back over fifty years when most of us attended the same school and those many years later found us together on Friday morning at Central station just after 7.0am.
The overall plan was to catch the XPT to Melbourne Friday, Puffing Billy Saturday, Snow Train to Moe/Walhalla Sunday and hobby shop and fly home Monday afternoon. All was going well until we all received an email from Phil that started with the word "bugger" The rest was to advise us that the rail operator ARTC had decided to have a strike from the Friday to the Sunday and that the XPT was to be cancelled. Doom and gloom as being rail gunzels we were looking forward to the trip on the train. Not to be.
Up at 5.20am to catch the 6.20am train, all went well arriving at Central just after 7.0am and as I wandered across the concourse looking for them, they were easily found by the water on the ground around them, which I found out to be tears. Yes we were to spend the next 13 hours on a coach. We then headed off towards the coaches expecting some Greyhound coaches. I was then told the greyhounds don't run in New South Wales anymore, true in more ways than one. On the checkoff queue on Platform 1 we were entertained by a guy who insisted on singing for us and everybody else. Strange guy as he was wearing a black motorcycle helmet. He must have been expecting a rough ride on the coach? When I got to the lady checking us off, I requested to be put on another bus away from Al Jolson. Luckily for us he must have been going north.
We then joined the best Sydney has to offer in the way of back streets to the Southern Cross drive, then onto the ever slow moving M5 tollway.
So after catching up we settled down into our new home for the day and night. We pulled into a Yass roadhouse to lunch, then off towards Melbourne taking in as many country towns that the train normally stops at. At Harden we were lucky as the driver got lost trying to find the station. We eventually found it but it has some nice old houses. Plenty of modelling potential in that town. The countryside was fairly green obviously the winters rain.
We arrived Albury at 4.15pm, again an early tea with the usual choice of fast food. I reported to the driver that there was no water in the onboard toilet, only the hand wash. We knew who the culprit was, a guy who made at least a dozen trips past me to do whatever he was doing. He certainly used up each passengers quota of water. On one trip to the dunny a flask was taken in there, I assumed it was for more water but on the other hand it could have already had another liquid in it. At least he was quite.
It started getting dark soon and we abandoned the game of "I Spy". Some of the members nodded off.
We arrived at Spencer Street or Southern Cross as some of the new readers will know it as now.
The suitcases were extracted off the bus and we headed over to the booking office to get our 'Myki' cards which is the equivalent of the Opal card here in NSW.
We then found Bourke Street and followed it up to Queen Street where our digs were to be for the next three nights. The hotel was quite nice and reasonable for the heart of Melbourne but, BUT, there was a disco on the low level and our room was on level 4. There must have been previous complaints re the noise as we were given complimentary earplugs for the duration. But finally getting into bed didn't require them due to a combination of being up a sparrow fart and the tiring trip on the bus I think we all just dropped off to sleep. I didn't know any of the songs anyway so it wasn't worth staying up for.
Today was the day for our Puffing Billy trip so alarms were set for 6.30am to allow plenty of time to get to Belgrave for the 11.10am departure to Gembrook. But as another member Ross had previously found out there was trackwork on that weekend and we had to yet again go on a bus to Camberwell and change to a train there. I really don't like their suburban trains, especially the seating arrangement. Maybe all right if you are squashed into a seat with a nice girl opposite rubbing knees?
We got to Belgrave in plenty of time, checked in our tickets and wandered down to the end of the platform to see if we could see our train engine.
Our Loco for the day 12A
12A was spotted off the end of the platform and the cold morning air made the steam more spectacular. Good we got a coloured one. So on both days the focus included narrow gauge operation which I am now modelling. As hard as I tried I don't think I convinced any of the other guys to convert over.
Looking further over to the loco shed we could see steam coming up and out and thought this may be another NA. But to our surprise it turned out to be G42 the garratt ready to go (somewhere?).
G42 with a full head of steam
Much to our surprise G42 was to double head with NA14A as far as Menzies Creek. This was on the 10.30am departure but we were on the 11.10am. We tried to do the right thing and find someone to ask if we could go on it to Lakeside and there change over to our train. We were given mixed messages about changing our travel plans, so we made the decision ourselves and did it. This was a not to be missed moment. I think I overheard someone say it was over the load for one loco. It wasn't by much, just 'Won Ton' over due to most of the train being booked out by China Travel. These travellers made it hard for modeller me to get any good shots  of the loco as they were all hanging off and in the cab and in front of taking many many photos (Ha justa one more!) At least they had smiling faces and were contributing to Puffs operation and future longevity.
So we headed off in an unbooked carriage sucking in the cool mountain air, beautiful.
Our two locos heading over the Monbulk Creek trestle

Its almost a well know fact when leaving Belgrave you travel on the right hand side for the photos over the trestle. Even the Chinese tourists were onto that. We made it successfully over the trestle without tipping off, which would have spoilt the rest of the weekend. Legs hanging out the carriage has been a well known tradition here, can you imagine the uproar if they OH & S boys tried to stop it? I am sure there are no known cases of kiddies legs being taken off over the years.
We said goodbye to G42 at Menzies Creek and continued onto Lakeside the end of our ride behind this loco. This was a good move as I had time to go around with my $2 ruler taking a few measurements I needed for modelling.
Plenty of infrastructure here to model
The whole railway is certainly set up for tourists and a great credit to the Puffing Billy organisation.
Our train to Gembrook with 12A rolls into Lakeside

This was to be my first trip to Gembrook as I had only previously been to Lakeside. I wasn't to be disappointed. The scenery was varied and just as magnificent. I think they were potato fields we went past sloping right down the hill. I am not sure how many tractors lay at the bottom but they sure look steep. Too soon we arrived at Gembrook and headed off to the town for some lunch. I decided for a quick fish and chips and back to the station for photos and measuring up various things I wanted go model
12A bathes in the limited sunshine at Gembrook while the crew partake of lunch.
Most of the day was cool and cloudy and every now and then the sun would try and break through adding a little warmth. That bag of hot chips was certainly a good hand warmer. I took as many photos as I could cram in here, even measuring a potato sack on display proudly showing off the regions heritage. I might need to model one of these to fit into my NQR wagons. Sadly I missed out getting a pile of geniune loco ash from around the ashpit area. I had no plastic bags or other container. How good would this have been on the layout? Loco ash from Gembrook. Oh well another visit for another time.
The loco come onto the train and we were set for departure. Three in our party decided they were getting a little chilly and headed for the comfort of the leading coach with doors. (Wooses) My mate Ross came with me in the NBH and we toughed it out on the way back.
Returning train over Fielder trestle
We stopped at Cockatoo for some reason on the way back and one of the Guards yelled out "Cockatoo" and back from the train came the expected reply "Cockathree" We picked up more passengers at Lakeside and Menzies Creek so the carriages were starting to get full.
I felt a bit sorry for one young Chinese lass who needed to use the conveniences. As soon as she hopped off and was heading in that direction, the bell ringer Station Master requested she join the train to depart. She was saved when the loco was having trouble steaming and was allowed to finally get to where she needed.

We finally made our second crossing of the Monbulk trestle and then we knew Belgrave was just around the corner. Arriving back at the station we spotted G42 still simmering across the yard. It was great to actually see this loco in person and restored to working order. Wow let's hope Haskell make this their second narrow gauge loco.
I purchased a wall poster for my shed with Puffing Billy going over Monbulk trestle and an old car on the road. I wish they had a bigger range to purchase.
We followed the blue painted line up to the electric station and got inside the waiting train as it was now starting to become Melbourne winter weather. A trip back in the dark to Camberwell station saw us again transfer to a bus into Melbourne.
So for tea on the Saturday night it was decided that we would go up to Lygon Street. Another tram ride into the darkness and Captain Phil knew exactly where to get off. We eventually settled down for an Italian restaurant. Some of us had a desert (forget the name) that looked like it was still running down the inside of the glass heading for a pile of various berries at the bottom. We polished these off in no time, but Phil had ordered an 'unknown' dish. Our English waitress did her best to describe it to him. It turned up eventually the size of a keyboard. It looked like a Turkish bread covered in a chocolate sauce and a few sliced strawberries included. Needless to say a knife was procured and duly sliced up between us. A couple next to us ordered the same thing but there was only two of them so I am not sure if they managed. It was nearly after 10 pm when we waddled off back to the hotel.
After more disco music that greets you we headed for a quick shower and off to bed for the next days outing to Walhalla. We were to up at 6.30am so we set my watch alarm, Rosses' travel watch and got a early morning call from reception. There was no way we would miss the train. So after another on the go day we hit the sack despite the ragers and their disco music down below.
With three alarms going off at 6.30am we got up for our next adventure. Meeting down at reception at 7.15am we walked down Bourke Street towards Spencer Street (Southern Cross for the younger readers) station. Some "protein" as Mike would call it was readily had, washed down by about the 10th cappuccino so far. Our 'Snow Express' headed by two R class steam locos was set to depart at 8.32am. It came in on time with its 16 carriages in tow. We were booked in car 12 which was the second last carriage. It was an E type carriage with a compartment originally built for eight but luckily Steamrail only book a maximum of six.
Our train arriving at Southern Cross station
To fill our compartment we were to pick up a friend of some of the guys at Dandenong. He eventually found his way to the compartment and duly settled in. After a while we found out what was in his backpack. It was full of containers of cakes and slices that his wife Sue had made for us all. There were caramel slices and others I didn't know the name of, but who cares they were delicious. Thanks Sue!!.
With the compartment door closed it was quite cosy inside, we generated our own hot air. The guys were happy to have caught up with Leigh and he was a very nice guy. It wasn't long before some of them headed towards car 5 to purchase a bottle of red that was quickly consumed. 
After a while travelling mother nature calls so I headed off down the aisle looking for relief. I queued up outside a dunny that had "Ladies" on the door but as a guy with queue ticket number 7 came out, I didn't think these days it would matter who used it. I was actually gazumped by someone else as I was looking out the window at the time. So I went to the other end of the carriage, spotted another dunny with a stick on label that said "Do not use in the Suburban area". We were well and truly out in the sticks by then so I thought the coast was clear. While waiting for my turn and looking through between carriages I could see that the diaphram plates were sloping away from each other. I was a little concerned in that if my carriage was to tip over I should be in the next one. Now I had been waiting outside the door for over ten minutes and was starting to get concerned for the wellbeing of the person inside the dunny. I then crossed over to the forward carriage and found a Steamrail rep and firstly told him of my concern of the tilting carriage and were we about to tip over. I thought it could be a bung spring or something. He re-assured me that it was normal and on reflection these E type cars have a corridor completely down one side of the carriage unlike a NSW FS type carriage that has a corridor on opposite sides of each half of the carriage. I also advised him of my concerns for the passenger inside the dunny that was taking a long time. When he dug into his pocket and pulled out a T key I was more relieved. He headed for the door opened it and then showed me inside. No one in there, and no dunny either. So I was basically queueing up for nothing. My only complaint for Steamrail on the day. If it ain't a dunny cover the bloody sign up!!. I ended up going back to the ladies.
This was the second 'Snow Express' that Steamrail had run in the last two weeks and on the side of the track interest was huge. Every station, road and vantage point was taken up with people waiting to see the steamer. It has been many years since we have been able to do this in New South Wales.
Eventually we got to Moe and a transfer to road coaches took place. It all went smoothly and we got into our two coaches bound for Walhalla. Around 30 years ago when on a Victorian holiday I intended to drive up to Walhalla but it was raining at the time and didn't go. But now that I am modelling Victorian narrow gauge the trip had more meaning for me. Soon out of town we headed into the farming region. A few slight hills and I was imagining where the actual narrow gauge track went.
We arrived at the town of Erica where the line was cut back to from Walhalla towards the finishing up of the line. As we were approaching two passengers approached the driver. I thought they may have been going to visit Aunty Melba in the town. We pulled up and couldn't hear what was being said. Only one guy got off and it soon became clear when he headed for a big tree. So as soon as he finally got back on the coach we all gave him a great cheer and clap. Or is a coach without a dunny called a bus?
The hills got bigger and more spectacular and the scenery was very similar to around the Dandenongs we experienced the day before. We eventually came down to Thomson and saw the terminus and the jewel in the crown the 'Thomson River' bridge. As we approached Walhalla you could see the railway track running alongside of Stringers Creek.
Walhalla terminus with our special train waiting
The trip included lunch at what was called the 'Goods Shed'. Having been in a few over my life I thought we would be in for a freezing time. But this one was heated and it was very nice. Dinner was either beef or pork roast dinner and the usual pumpkin and peas etc. And desert was sticky date or chocolate desert.
At our table were a couple from Queensland Howard and Janet. After we got talking we discovered Howard was just getting into model trains so we said you are in good company as we are all modellers. Welcome to a great hobby Howard.
Stringers Creek

We had around two hours to fill in before our two o'clock departure of our special train to Thomson. The town of Walhalla is situated in a narrow valley which made construction of houses very difficult.
It was founded on gold mining and at its peak had over 3,500 residents, seven churches and a school with over 500 students (pre-television). It is incredible how much has been preserved and is a fabulous place to visit. Put it on you must do list.
On one side of the valley Stringers Creek runs along side. It looks clear enough to drink from. I took plenty of shots of the creek mainly for modelling purposes. It is next to impossible to try and re-create something from memory and having a picture on hand is almost essential.
What is left of the town is spread out along the valley for a kilometre or so. I purchased a book on Walhalla from the Puffing Billy shop at Gembrook on Saturday which shows the extent of the town.
The Old Post Office and Mechanics Institute in the background
The cemetery is apparently built on the side of a hill (so steep they had to bury some people twice after they had rolled down the hill) and the map of the town shows the cricket ground way up on a hill connected by a winding road.
Walhalla Fire Station
So restricted were they for real estate that the local fire station was built over Stringers Creek as seen in the photo above. It is now a museum. It would have come in handy for a fire at a house above the station recently.
Bandstand rotunda and Walhalla Hotel in the background
After reading many books on the Walhalla railway I spotted a store that looked like it would make a nice model. I took quite a few shots and took measurements to scale up some plans. If I never get back here at least I have the photos.
The Corner Stores wanting to be modelled
What an iconic building to have your photo taken in front of. So we did.
John, Ross, Moi, Mike and Phil
Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to see everything as we had a 3.0pm special train to catch up to Thomson. Retracing our steps we headed for the station passing another old house on the way.
Brewery Creek Cottage

We got back to the train waiting at the station and the carriages quickly filled. No steam here but a small diesel was up to the task. Not breaking any speed records we trundled off up the gorge around 5 - 10km/hr. The journey was around 5 kilometres of restored track. It is a truly remarkable feat the old time engineers were able to build this railway. There is an excellent book on its construction called "Steam on the Lens Volume 2" which has many excellent photos.
Then all of a sudden you come out of the valley onto the Thomson River bridge and slowly make your way across. It is a very impressive structure.
Thomson River Bridge
This was one of the 'must sees' on the trip. I had purchased a small 1.5 metre pull out ruler that enabled me to take a few critical measurements for modelling. We were advised that we only had 20 minutes at Thomson. I could have done with two hours to get all the photos and info I required. People were looking at me strange as I pulled out my small tape measure and wrote down vital numbers.
Moi getting vital measurements
The crowd around the bridge started getting smaller until I realised there was only a few minutes to go until departure. I rushed back to the train and by now all the seats were gone so I managed to get a ride in the back of the brake van.
Hurry up Bob we won't wait for you
  I realised that I had an Ian Lindsay model to construct of this exact van. Rather strange that I was now in it. Having three windows across the back enabled me take a few shots out the back of the train more than compensating for having to stand on the way back. The low light from the cloudy day wasn't that good for taking photos on the way back up the valley. But a few turned out to capture the feel of the line.
One of the rebuilt bridges in Stringers Gorge
We eventually got back to Walhalla station and then headed over to our coaches for the return journey. Down through Erica for the second time and back to Moe station. It would be next to impossible to recognise any part of the Moe station precinct from the old photos I have been studying now. All distant memories.
We were lucky we chose this weekend to do the trip as a SteamRail member told us on the previous trip they had a storm and hail at Traralgon on the way back. The Gods were smiling down on us this day with beautiful weather. So much for my beanie and glove purchases. Might need them next time.
Double R's ready to head for Melbourne
The train arrived close to time. And it was so good to be able travel behind main line steam. Will we ever get two 38's running together again in NSW? Probably not. It soon got dark on the way back and being in the second carriage from the engine was a great blast from the past with the sounds and smell of steam up front. Again the crowds lined everywhere even in the dark and cold to see its return. Absolute magic. A few of Leigh's cakes were soon demolished with a coffee. It was a stop gap until we could get back to Melbourne.
Arriving at Dandenong some of the boys wanted to catch up with Leigh's wife Sue. Luckily our compartment stopped just on the platform allowing a brief catch up at the window. We thanked her for the magic cakes, whistles blowing again and we were off for the last part of the journey into Melbourne. It was a fast trip and plenty of whistle blowing for the level crossings etc.
After dropping off at Flinders Street we travelled around on the viaduct to Spencer Street to get off and return to the hotel for a spruce up. Congratulations SteamRail for a fantastic trip. May we do it again one day.
Double R's head towards Spencer Street
We decided to go up to Little Bourke Street for a Chinese dinner and after consuming a nice meal we got back to the hotel around 10.30pm. For a stir I asked the girl at the counter "Is the disco on tonight, I want to go" "Sorry but it is not on Sunday night.
At least that guaranteed a nice quite night.
Yee ha, we get to sleep in a bit more today. No 5.20am or 6.30am starts. We were booked out of Melbourne on the 2.0pm Qantas flight. Our plan was to go to Train World at North Brighton mainly because we hadn't been there before and it was close to the station. We walked to Flinders Street station to get our train and on the way stopped off for some breakfast (read protein) and yet another coffee.
We went up to the main entrance of Flinders Street station so it could be admired for the brief moment we crossed the road. That done with three minutes spare we caught the next train to North Brighton. We arrived across the road from the shop ten minutes early and sheltering in a closed shop doorway to get out of the cold wind. Right on cue at 10.0am the roller shutters opened and we all strolled across. It is a big shop so we were able to fill in the best part of an hour there. I managed to get some nut and bolt castings and two narrow gauge books on Colac that I didn't have in my collection. I was going to bring some paint back for my narrow gauge wagons but they didn't recommend it on a plane flight.
Then back to the station for the next train to Flinders Street. We got there around midday but decided to catch the Skybus to the airport and have lunch there just to be safe. Then it was time to board our plane and off home. The captain advised we had a tail wind and would be landing by 3.30pm. Soon we were flying over Sydney via the northern suburbs and the harbour bridge.
It was then time to sort out the train tickets and get to Central from the airport. We all scattered in different directions to our homes ending a really fantastic weekend.
So good we might go again next year and include the Caufield Model rail exhibition.
If you have got this far reading the blog you certainly have got staying power. I am sure the rest of the blogs won't be this long.