Monday 9 January 2012

Forgive me I am off the Rails...

This post has got very little to do with South Coast Rail but more with the brain spasm I got from the layout room the other day when visitng the shed.
I went into the shed not knowing what project to tackle next (as I always seem to do when I go there). I hardly ever run the layout mainly just build it. Its only when someone wants to come for a run that a loco is sent around to clear the cobwebs from the tunnels and dust off the track. This particular day nothing seemed to be working out OK and this set off the thought juices to maybe something else.
This something else was really 'bad thoughts' something like abandoning all I have done on South Coast Rail, selling the lot off and restarting off with a 6' x 4' board with the ability to actually complete a layout. (Something I've yet to do from over fifty years of modelling). Maybe if I put all the energy into a small area it would be done and finished quicker.
As some of the older members would relate to I started off with Hornby clockwork, moving on to Tri-ang trains. With a slight gap after I had left school I moved on to the Shinohara track with different locos that took my fancy at the time.

Then for a period in time I got into trams and traction modelling for a period. I joined the Sydney Tram Museum, went to Bendigo and Ballarat taking pictures of their systems. This also included trips to Brisbane taking some movie of their last year of trams in 1969?. Traction modelling was started by obtaining a seconds door (the back had a hole in it) and I commenced to get into tramway modelling in a big way. After a few years with this, I felt I had conquered all there was to do modelling a tramway. I had hand laid all the track and installed working overhead as well. You soon get tired of watching the tram do 384 laps in a session and I started looking around for an alternative distraction.
Next on the list (any guesses?) was 009 Narrow gauge modelling utilising EggerBahn and Lilliput models. I think this had the shortest span of attention and in the early 70's N scale was starting to become popular.
So the narrow gauge was sold off and N scale started to replace it. This choice was made easier owing to the fact that I had acceess to a small shed which suited N scale well. The shed had all the extremities filled with track and you had to duck under to get into the middle for operation. This shed must have frustrated my then girlfriend (now wife) who when she found me missing from the house knew where I was.
The N scale managed to stay intact even till we got married and moved to a new house. She still reckons we chose the second house we saw because I happened to mention that if we dug out under the house I could make a layout room. I will concede this is partly true.
Into the early eighties and they started to make better HO NSW models so again I bit the bullet and changed scales.
To get rid of a lot of the N scale equipment I remember one year when I went to the Liverpool Model exhibition. I happended to mention to some of the guys on an N trak layout brought down from Brisbane that I had some equipment to sell. They said can we come up after the exhibition that night.
Later that night a kombi van full of guys piled out into the layout room. Wow that was a successful night. Eventually it all went.
Just after this we were comtemplating moving to a house with no stairs and this was the golden opportunity to start again.
The new house had a back 20' x 12' garage and this is where SCR started back in 1989.
So if you are still with me after that model rail history lesson back to the bit where I went off the rails.
I had a link sent to me of this electric railway down in Chile. I had never seen it before and thought it was unique and still operating.
Photo from web site used without permission but quite happy to publicise.

At the moment this would make a great line to model. The Woodland Scenic factory fire would have no effect on its construction as you will notice if you look at the photos not a friggin tree or touch of green to be seen. As can be seen a had an earlier fondness for overhead traction and considered the making of catenary overhead to be another challenge.
The next step was to find a suitable loco that looked like these locos. The only ones that I could think of were made a long time ago by Model Die Casting / Roundhouse as Box cab locos.

The only trouble is that they are scarcer than the stuff that comes out of rocking horses to find. I also researched on the internet and found that they were poor runners. I was going to try an modify them and add pantographs as well. Has anyone out there got any they no longer need?
I also thought I could make a layout based on the Chile electric locos and also add a few shays and climaxs to the mix. Again more research on the Bachmann shays found that they were prone to plastic gear cracking, rendering the units useless. Apparently the company was aware of this issue and offered replacement gears. This problem with the plastic gears is also an issue with many of the brass models. Locos with split gears just now sit around unable to move. Hundreds of dollars tied up from a lousy plastic few cent cost plastic gear. You would have thought Bachmann would have been aware of this problem before chosing plastic gearing.
So unable to get any Box cab locos and being wary of the shays I didn't have full confidence of making the switch and flogging off SCR.
To make myself feel better I decided to draw up a plan of what I might have built. It was to be a mixture of motive power both electric and non electric. On the plan the red is diesel and steam track and the blue represents electric operation. There are ore, coal and log traffic just to keep it busy. The plan below covers 10' x 12' (One foot squares)

I will now admit to having my plans complex like the proverbial spaghetti bowl as the following plan will attest. Once a layout is built I like to focus on operation, not just watch a train go back and forwards on a straight bit of track or a circle with two sets of points. Achieve layout construction, scenery making and then operation.
The layout was designed for two stages, the left hand terminus and the bottom board, then the top right hand board. Unlike the Chile photos this layout would be rivers, hills and plenty of greenery.
The track shown in red are the unwired ones meaning steam lococ would travel over the whole layout for shunting. I like the idea of interchange between the steam/diesel and electric. This provides more interesting operation. A few crossing loops as well helps the operation side of things. The layout would be built to standard gauge as some of the material was to be salvaged from SCR. I was looking on the internet for layouts of this style but the closest you get is by going to the narrow gauge style layouts. The curves are mainly 18" radius with a few 15" radius to fit it all in.
To to make operation not so straight forward I devised the following trackage between the two major boards.
A train come in from town A, six cars and a loco long. It then goes into Town B. Loco runs around and take three cars into the switchback, it then propels them to track 2. Loco returns back to Town B for the remaining three cars which it then propels into 3. It then reverses onto track 4, then back to track 2 to pick up the first three cars. All 6 cars and the loco head off towards Town C.
A similar process is done but track 1 and 4 are used when going from Town C to Town B. These switching problems are what makes layout operation more interesting to me.
Well no cause for panic as I went down the shed again today and ran a few trains and got the "short line" out of my system.
I shall put this track plan on the back burner, maybe one day I will get to build it. Sorry for the long winded blog today. SCR rules.


  1. Sometimes, Bob, you just need a little diversion or two to dabble in before you regain the light and get back on the pathway to all that is good and right.

    Believe it or not, I was considering last year that I'd go to Chile in 2012 instead of Oz to see those amazing 3'6" trains in the Atacama desert. Then I got it out of my system.

  2. Hi Blair,
    I think you made the right choice coming to Aus! Would still like to build it, but my shed is chocker block with SCR and no room to do it in.
    Ah well we can all dream

  3. Bob, you just need to think outside the box, as they say in MBA classes--build a second level ABOVE SCR! Twice as much railroad in the same amount of room!!!