Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Main North
Last night after much choosing of dates our group was lucky enough to be able to make a visit to Marcus Ammanns' layout. Unfortunately some of the group couldn't make it which indirectly lead to more cake and more room there for the three of us.
For those who don't know Marcus he is regarded as the DCC guru. Having a background in electronics certainly helps the situation. Some improvements in DCC technology have been improved due to his direct inputs. All good news for the hobby.
His layout the Main North is based on selected stations and scenes from Sydney to way up near Gunnedah.  Checking out the link for his web page also reveals a track plan which although three years old looks close to what we saw on the night. One slight change to the plan though. Although the plan shows the location of his wifes car in the garage, a recent update with a newer car has resulted in the car being now too high to fit under the non moveable part of the layout. Its what I call a win win for both parties.

The first photo shows the scene on entry to the room. A lift up flap gets you into the room. On this portion of the layout Werris Creek is on the top level and Broadmeadow on the lower level. You will notice a variety of chairs ranging from the first class chair (with arms), two second class seats (No arms) down to the hard third class milk crate which was put into use on the night, the host generously volunteering to utilise it. The workbench can be seen on the right hand side.

The layout resides in a double garage although this is hard to realise when you first step into the room. The 'S' shape aisleway works it way through the garage and on either side is generally double decked layout. The layout is well lit with lighting behind recently painted valances which look very smart painted in black. Location signs nicely produced in the NSW bar with circle style were ready to be placed into position.

In the above photo Sulphide Junction is on the bottom deck on the right hand side. Now having come down a step in the centre of the photo this now puts the station above Sulphide at about my forehead level. The plan of the layout showed a step that was once? provided for operators shunting on the top deck. You would get no complaints from Ray Pilgrim or Ian and Andrew from Bowen Creek but for the rest of us the only way to view it would be to do a Watusi/Zulu dance which would be rather tiring if you were given the pickup to shunt. Maybe Marcus has something in mind for the future.
The layout is laid with code 100 points and track and according to the layout plan runs for around 70 metres. At the moment no ballast has been laid. Marcus has put a lot of thought into the layout design and with a combination of selective compression and imagination it all works.

As can be seen from the photos scenery at this point in time is not very widespread. As they say Rome wasn't built in a day. It all takes time. Throughout the layout there are many buildings positioned already waiting for the grass to grow around them.
The above coal stage was a win off Ebay and sits in position awaiting connection to the layout.
The above relief building represents Cardiff workshops with Tickhole tunnel in the background heading off towards the next station through the backscene.
At the opposite end of the previous photo is the representation of the Sulphide Junction works, the ultimate destination of the W44 ex Broken Hill concentrate train. This train was run on the night with a double header consisting of a 35 and 60 class locos.
As stated at the beginning the layout is run on DCC. My current layout is DC, a spaghetti junction control panel and wired controllers. This I must admit was my first hands on trying out the DCC system. I can see why it is the ideal system and for various reasons such as cost, how do I get the flipping top of some of the locos??, what wire goes where? and what do I do when I can't find the short or the whole system just shuts down I will stay with my current setup for the time being.

On the night I was given a double headed coal train from Newstan Colliery and had to take it up to Port Waratah. Marcus has made job cards which are about credit card size that fit onto the top of the hand controller. They give all the clear instructions needed to run your train. First off I had to get a single Garratt from a road in Broadmeadow and take it around to Fassifern then into the colliery branch. There was already another garratt waiting and the task was to put together two rakes of eleven hoppers, grab a brake van from a siding then with the double header reverse the consist out onto the main then set forward up "Fassifern Bank" With an actual grade on the layout as I headed up the grade Marcus said hit the F9 button which increased the tone to represent the loco working harder but not faster. I was suitably impressed.
As the train approached Sulphide Junction I was advised although the train was on the down track it started heading into the up refuge. This was mainly due to a human log jam in the aisle and I was tagging along with the train 22 wagons back near the brakevan. No problems though as the track was close in design to the prototype we switched back to the Down Main and off to Broadmeadow. There after a bit more shunting the train headed around to Port Waratah. Time then for another coffee break.
Just outside of Muswellbrook Marcus has scratch built this great compressed model of the Oak Milk factory which really captures the feel of the real building. Wouldn't it be great if Auscision chose this as the next building after the silos???. You can see the new SDS Oak milk wagons are ready for filling. No doubt these will be added to a job card for pickup to Hexham.

Another view of the layout showing the two levels with the Newstan colliery on the lower right and the Oak factory at Muswellbrook on the left hand side. The coal train I ran awaits the arrival of the light engine from Broadmeadow.
Well after a few hours of chewing the fat, running trains eating and drinking and good company we departed. I'd like to thank Kevin Waid for the photos above. It was a great night, thanks again Marcus.


  1. Bob, Thanks for the tour. Now that I'm retired hopefully the grass will grow quicker.
    The raised floor at Broadmeadow/Sulphide Junction made it difficult for operators to pass so it had to go. Gunnedah is now operated by remote except when some shunting etc, the red milk crate comes in handy. A single line "into" Werris Creek replaces Willow Tree.
    Gunnedah now has a Return Loop that allow continuous running over the whole Main North since I relocated Sydney Staging with a Reurn Loop, under Broadmeadow.
    The added benefits of DCC, far outweighs any issues that crop up even the expense (sound decoders etc) and wireless throttles are a necessity for a walk around layout.
    I'll update the Track Plan, soon.

  2. Hi Marcus, how did you go about making the Oak factory? Is it scratch built or have you been able to source various factory kits and redesign them to get the building outline? I’m even curious as to how you made the big OAK sign on top. It’s such an outstanding model. Cheers, Lee