Tuesday 22 March 2016

What Was and What Will be

Hopefully on the last post, I raved on enough to explain my reasoning for switching over to the "dark side" and into modelling On30.
It didn't happen overnight, but when I made the final decision it was all action stations. The HO layout was situated in a shed around 11 metres long and around 4 metres wide at one end. It was the effort of over fifteen years of building and one I never regretted doing. In the end it was complete as far as trackage went and the scenery was fairly well done. With the scenery side of things I did what I called the first passover and it was always an intention to revisit locations and improve/finish areas. This takes away the plywood central look and for me, scenery was a big input to South Coast Rail.
We often strive to get the locos and rolling stock looking 110% but often fail in the scenery department.
The plan above show the South Coast Rail layout in its maximum extent. It was basically a single track around the room twice and the main station Bega was located right down the middle. This was my staging yard where consists could be laid over or broken up and remade. Carriage sidings were located on the left hand side and a small goods yard was located within the circle of track on the right. This area also contained the loco depot. Track was planned for this area but never laid or operated. A turntable was to be constructed that was to lead to a 9 stall roundhouse. Also located at Bega were a cement plant and a flour mill. A secondary loco depot was located up near the carriage sidings

The above shots were taken on the layout way back in April 2006, ten years ago, how time flies. Every item shown in the photos has now gone to new good homes and enjoying a second life.
As mentioned on previous blogs, the layout was DC and driven by a control panel with all good intentions to give operators flexibility. All it did was give the panel operator (usually me) a headache trying to remember who was on what controller, where they were and what they were driving. One spin off from this was to add an extra lap of the layout by building a track across the aisle over to the branch. (See right had side of plan)
Track in middle went across the aisle over to Bega (Ignore signal settings)
This meant an extra lap of the shed going via the crossing loop at Kameruka. Kameruka was the crossing loop station on the Candelo branch and was originally designed as that, a smaller loop, but when twenty wagon trains were thrown at it for crossing then the loop also had to be lengthened.
In the last photo showing the two 49's can be seen the Candelo mine in the background. Luckily the branch had it own separate controller which allowed an operator to be out of the way and plenty of shunting to be had. If they weren't shunting Candelo then the arrival of a twenty car train of BCH hoppers would see them tied up for an hour breaking the train up into 9 car lengths for loading. A brakevan had to accompany the train and be dutifully shunted onto the rear for the return journey. This was the part I enjoyed, shunting and operation.
So currently only half of the layout still exists. All the baseboards that were in the left hand side of the plan have been demolished. That part of the shed has had it's walls painted.
One of the bonuses of rebuilding a layout is that fact that its a good chance for a cleanup. Stored in the shed ever since we moved here was my record collection from the 70's, two nice speakers and my original Dual turntable, a Garrard turntable I picked up at a garage sale for $2. Now trying to get rid of all this stuff was going to be hard and take time away from the new layout. Having siblings that grew up in the same era was handy. An email to my next down the list brother snatched an eager donor for the collection. On the arrival day I hiked up all the items from the shed to the house. His eyes sorta lit up when he flipped through the titles. I said you can't pick and choose,you have to take all or nothing (including the Hugo Montenegro ones). You could see the frustrated look on his wife's eyes saying, 'No not more junk' But mine were saying, 'great more junk gotten rid of'.

The above photos show a reduced pile of 'stuff' that will eventually be further reduced  as we move on. The baseboard frames in the above shots are for the new terminus. They are 1.8 metres long. This will form a terminus 3.6 metres long which will sit in the middle of the shed. The 'back half of the shed still contains most of the original SCR layout still untouched until I get the time or eventually track extensions will deem this necessary.
When dismantling the old layout one of the things I did was to salvage most of the scenery items and sorta sort them into takeaway food containers. Our traditional Thursday night take away Chinese dinners in containers has certainly made a great contribution to the safekeeping and sorting of these scenery items. As can be seen from the photo below, we have been eating Chinese for a long time. Labels will help in the future.
During the week I also picked up a supply of points and track from my local hobby store in Hornsby.
I want to support them and hope they will be around for a long time. Yes maybe could have saved a few dollars via the internet but having them around when I need small items is a blessing.

So with the points and track on hand, I am hoping over the next week or so to get some legs attached to the baseboards an make a start on the Sapphire Coast Rail. 
The "What Will be" part of the title will be explained next blog. Stay tuned.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Time March is on

One of the things I have discovered since I have come over to the 'dark side' of narrow gauge modelling is that there is so much diversification in this side of the hobby.
Firstly there are so many different gauges/scales. This is also true of main line modellers, having to be able to choose from G scale right down to Z scale. I won't start here and try to give an opinion of all these multi scales, but overall I feel there are just too many to choose from. Maybe if we were only given three choices, there would be more availability for the different scales.
Back to narrow gauge, one of best magazines (sorry the only) devoted to narrow gauge is the Narrow Gauge Down Under magazine, published four times a year. For me coming from being a HO NSW modeller I had a pre-conceived idea in what I wanted. Firstly it had to be an Australian railway to model, so that it would be easy to visit. I could have selected the Rio Grande in the USA. Plenty of models are available for purchase, but to visit there and see it all was a long way to go.
The closest I could get to a 'smaller' railway system was the Puffing Billy Victorian narrow gauge. This was run as a real railway in miniature. The availability of the Haskell NA locomotive was the catalyst to start modelling  the VR. Currently you can still obtain the great Ian Lindsay range of the VR narrow gauge wagons. Also available are other items to get you on the way such as VR portable station buildings, buffer stops, good sheds and other bits.  Maybe my only regret coming over is the fact that all the rolling stock is now in kits and require assembling and painting before being able to run. Something we were all spoilt in other scales now, gone are the days of putting kits together to get an 'S' trucks etc. Anyhow I am hoping there will be a sense of satisfaction and achievement once this is done.
Getting back to some of the obscure choices in the narrow gauge world, there are some of the weirdest looking things on the tracks. Like boxes on wheels, towing wagons that look like they have come from the scrap yard. Most of these 'things' seem to run on layouts that are pointless, they could be just a circle of track, or a long  track going through the bush where the end bit is the same as the start bit. Just nothing. This is how I started my modelling career with a circle of track. True I was very happy when this happened, at four years old you don't know what a point is. Luckily this circle was soon joined by more track giving the layout a purpose.
This purpose is what I want to build into the new layout. I like operation and a reason to run trains. If I suffer from one thing  in layout design it is the fact that I probably over design my layouts. I can't help myself, I have designed my new terminus with around 19 points. When compared with the average prototype narrow gauge layout design there seems to be minimum numbers of points. The VR narrow gauge track layout designs are mainly boring but practical. The most interesting layout to my mind is the one for Beech Forest on the Colac to Crowes line. Two things make it different to others, that is the scissors crossover and the balloon loop at one end. Why they had to go to the trouble to especially fabricate a scissors crossover is unknown to me. They had plenty of room to just have two single crossovers.
Another balance that needs to be juggled is the ratio of buildings  to scenery on the layout. I would like to think I can build scenery better than I could build a scratch built  shop for instance. If you get the wall out of square it's there for all to see, but it doesn't matter if you have one too many trees or grass that is too short or long. It's just easier to fudge scenery.
And the day is getting closer for when the first layout boards will be built. I will start with the terminus and work my way around the shed to at least the first crossing loop. That way I can send the trains somewhere and then bring them back.
The last remnants of the HO layout were taken down today and the walls are waiting to have their scars filled, sanded and repainted with the proverbial blue.
So below are some of my thoughts on the reasons I have chosen to go VR Narrow gauge.

HO Consider the modern era HO modeller who wants to model the Hunter Valley coal lines. For one coal train you will need:
3 x 93 class                          $900
9 sets of NHRH hoppers - 63 wagons will cost $350 x 9 = $3159
So one coal train will set you back around $4000 and this is before you get any track and a large shed where to put it all.
On30 Currently there is only one loco available ready to run which is the Haskell NA Puffing Billy locomotive. These will set you back $449. And for rolling stock there are currently no Puffing Billy models available ready to run but Ian Lindsay models and Outback Model Company make some very nice kits for various wagons.
As one ages the eyesight apparently gets worse. This is why N scale is not a popular scale with older modellers. Buy upsizing to On30 the models are easier to see.
Your library shelf of books can be reduced in size. For modellers interested in NSW railways there are hundreds of books on the topic. Many buy these books for "reference purposes" only, but how often do you find yourself with nothing to do, then reach out for a book to look at? All of my books have been looked at at least once, but there are thousands of words contained within them that I will never have time to read.
In comparison because the subject of modelling, is the Victorian narrow gauge, there are only a handful of books of the subject. I have managed to collect a good selection currently available for "reference purposes". So the shelf of books has shrunk.
I prefer picture books for referencing. I am not particularly worried about why things happened back in 1902. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
One lot of books I have acquired is the Train Hobby Publications books. What makes these books excellent is the fact that they are in colour which shows up the style weathering and all aspects of the era they were photographed. Most of the photos were taken around the mid - fifties. There is a three series of books on the two G class in action over the lines. Coloured photos are especially great for weathering purposes. They also show loadings such as potatoes and timber and the various ways in which it was loaded into the NQ wagons. Many photos were also taken of water tanks. Nearly every line seemed to have its own unique design. Some round tanks were steel supported and others wooden. Ballast seemed non existing, just use dirt for the model and it will be prototypical.
After conversion to On30 every time you go to a model railway exhibition, because there are rarely any narrow gauge layouts, you can get in and out quicker. At the Liverpool exhibition this year, I spent most time at The Railcar stand as they cater mainly for narrow gauge items.
Currently there is only one Narrow Gauge convention as the name implies devoted purely to narrow gauge modelling. But it is only held every two years. And they share it around and it is held in different states each year. Next year it will be held in Geelong, last year it was held at Bowral, NSW.
Although I haven't attended one yet, they seem to have a similarity to the old Branchline Modellers convention that were held in Sydney some time ago and was recently re- activated at Coffs Harbour late last year. These conventions make you feel part of the show where you are invited to participate by bringing along models for sharing and showing. If you have that competitive edge then there are contests to enter. This is opposed to the general exhibition where you pay at the door, do a couple of laps of the hall, have a sausage sandwich, have a yack to long lost mates that you only see once a year, finally leave the hall with a goody bag of models and maybe a few bargains from the second hand stall if you are quick enough on the Saturday morning. Then you race home full of enthusiasm, and head for the layout while the creative juices are still flowing strong.
Every issue of the Australian Model Railway magazine that comes out has heaps of ads for new HO models.
Some people just can't help themselves. I have heard that some modellers have to collect the same amount of locos that actually exist in real life. Not so bad when you buy the six models of the 43 class but when it comes to the NR class with over 100 units in real life it gets an expensive exercise.
Some sympathetic manufacturers have offered twin packs of locos which can help these collectors.
Gone it seems are the days when you could by a single carriage or wagon. No sorry sir, the minimum is a three pack.
On the other hand being in On30, you might go a year or so before any new models are announced. So it becomes a cheaper proposition.
When modelling HO scale you would expect that signals are provided on layouts. And depending on the layouts  complexity, this would determine how many signals are needed.
There are basically two choices, either semaphore or colour light. Both choices have very little to offer in the way of readily available to plonk on the layout. Kits are available but these all need assembling and painting.
So come over to On30 modelling and you won't even have to think of them, because most lines never had them! No cost, no worries. The Upper Ferntree Gully line was the only one of the four lines that had any great use for signals. Two signals were provided at Beech Forest on the Colac to Crowes line, and there could be others I am not aware of.

So these are just a few of the reasons I have jumped "to the dark side". Sorry no photos this posting, I had better get on with building the layout.