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.


  1. Hi Bob,
    I think you've listed a pretty good rationale for the On30 decision. Judging by some of your scenery efforts on the former HO layout, I think you'll very much enjoy getting your hands dirty on this new project. The other beauty of a scale like On30 is it tends to open up some opportunity for some very unique locomotives and rolling stock. Pieces with character rather than the endless rakes of the same freight car that usually appears with more modern rail operations. Each one of you locos and rolling stock is going to have its own life story.

    Glad to hear you mention the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention as well. If you can manage to make the time to travel down for the next one in Geelong in 2017, I think you'll thoroughly enjoy the chance they provide to get amongst a great group of fellow NG enthusiasts and share a bunch of ideas. My first ANGC I attended was almost overwhelming and information overload!


  2. Thanks Dan for your welcoming words. I fully concur with statements above.
    The more I am getting into the scale the more I am enjoying.
    Attending Geelong next year is on my gunnadoo list.

  3. Brilliant advice Bob. Some very good points on how the choice of prototype can save you time and money! I might have to change prototypes to Polish narrow gauge!

  4. Great reading Bob.
    Got me thinking of turning the Camden Line into On30.

  5. Bob,
    Great to chat on Tuesday.

    Your analysis, in part, looks a bit like what I did many years ago when converting from N Scale to HO.

    However, the factor I think that has been overlooked is one's heritage. I can't think of any other way to describe it and it is a variable when it comes to importance that one assigns to it. My sense of heritage is which railways you knew as you grew up. So if you lived close to the Dandenongs, you may feel a close affinity for narrow gauge. For someone like me growing up near the Short North, NSWGR may well be the default prototype. However, as I said, this can also be a variable which means that its importance changes from individual to individual.
    cheers Phil

  6. Seems like an awful lot of justification going on here Bob ;-)

    Ray P

  7. Ray,
    Yes, I need those words to make myself feel better about the move.
    You should see how much cleaner one end of the shed is now looking!
    As long as its anything to do with railways I'm happy.