Monday 31 August 2020

There has to be a plan...

So while work has quitened down on the layout for a while, I thought I would outline some of the background thoughts on the design of my VR narrow gauge layout.

The HO NSW layout managed to last from 2000 until 2015 and at that time I got itchy feet on a new challenge. This is not an unknown disease for railway modellers and has no known cure. The HO layout was completed with all track work done and the majority of the scenery was in place although it was always the intention to go back and improve the scenery when time permitted. The layout was done when DCC was in the early stages and never being one for understanding electronics I stuck to the tried and true DC format. When I was told that I could operate a sound loco on DC I went and got the Eureka Garratt which I was very happy with. But it didn't go beyond there.

I was told if I went DCC then you only need two wires to the track and the rest is done through the throttle and that you could even run two trains towards each other on the same track as per the Adams Family.

The HO layout sported a control panel that had a gang of five push buttons for each section of track, the theory was there could be up to five operators working trains at once. But looking back that never happened, maybe four was the maximum ever achieved.

Backside of panel

After a trip to Victoria riding Puffing Billy I thought maybe this might be another choice for me to make. At the time after some investigation there were still the Ian Lindsay selection of VR narrow gauge rolling stock available and to nucleus was the NA locomotive that was made by Haskell Models. Had this not been available who knows what I would have ended up modelling?

So the choice was made and I started selling off all my models, books and anything else that could be converted to cash. I must admit a lot of the fun is the research and planning that goes into making a new start on a layout. I really liked the HO layout and it was hard to do the first hammer blow and start demolishing, but after a while the pain had been replaced by enthusiasm I was getting on the new build. Having been through other scales and modelling options throughout my life this was a new adventure.

The HO layout plan

I was lucky that I had a large shed for the new layout. It was extended back in 1999 from basically a single car garage size to having an extra 4 metre by 4 metre extension added.

To design a narrow gauge layout I needed a total rethink in track design. Most track designs for the narrow gauge are basically boring with just loops so what I had to rethink was how to make the whole operation more interesting. I thought I could do this with the emphasis on operation. VR narrow gauge operation relied a lot on potato and timber traffic and throw in some covered vans and a few livestock wagons then that was basically the package. To add further operation I obtained a six wagon timber train and a six wagon coal train. True these full timber and coal trains never operated on the VR but my fictional layout was based on the south coast of New South Wales so anything goes. The timber and coal trains were also an excuse to obtain both a shay and climax locos. They will bring the loads down from Candelo to Bega where a loco swap will take place for the trip around eventually to Bega for unloading. And then the return trip will have the reverse working.

This plan had the basics, but the branch was not final

The HO layout was completely demolished on  the left hand side as per the above plan and the new layout was designed in a modular style to both aid a future sell off or relocating to a retirement home or some other reason. The layout on the right hand side of the plan will be sacrificial and hopefully will be able to be rescued (i.e. pulled apart) in future times. This is basically built on the old HO baseboards which were built permanently in place, never meant to be pulled apart. The middle 'blob' on the right was a part I wanted to incorporate in the new layout mainly because it was there and was built very strong. At this stage I wasn't sure of the final configuration on this part.

There are signature pieces that make this build interesting rather than just a flat style layout. I have tried to build my version of the Monbulk trestle just outside of Belgrave on the Puffing Billy line.

The other big build is the Thomson River bridge which is coming along well and will hopefully be finished soon. Being nearly two metres long in O scale it is taking a while.

Another design trying to get the branch sorted.

I had the left hand of the plan finalised but it was the fitting in of the branch that was causing angst. It was still hard to take the brain out of HO thinking as the track was the same width and you would lay it all out and it would work but when the buildings were in place then the real estate area soon gobbled up room. In the above plan it incorporated a reversing station where you would run out from the main, run around and then head up to the branch terminus. Then there was a siding for the logging train. Sort of a forced operation.

The final plan

I ended up with the above plan which I am happy with. It is large but how could you have a big shed and only half fill it up with a layout? It provides plenty of operation and is big enough for operators not to get in the way of each other. As the plan stands above all the track has been laid except the section between Bega and Snug Cove across the door. As soon as this section is done then there will be a continuous run available or an out and back run from Eden. Couple this with log and coal trains running then things can get interesting.

So far I have only released photos from Eden up to Pambula as the rest of the run is bare track through unsceniced sections. Control is via NCE wireless controllers as it would not have worked with wired controllers.

So that's the full layout as it stands and as more is done there will be more updates. Once I had done the plan above I was able to produce the following schematic diagram which also shows the elevation of the tracks and length of run.

Also a plan of Broadwater was drawn up, it also shows a simulated train in the loop. Each station will be done in turn.

As you can see from the plans, I am a big fan of not having the tracks run parallel to the baseboard edges. I think gentle curves look way better.

I have uploaded more 'Other Side' explanations for the record. More to be added in future.

Thursday 13 August 2020


 I can't believe it has been two months since I have posted, 11th June. So no posting for July. I still can't claim any new work being done on the layout as I am still using the excuses I had in June for not progressing.

The last baseboard has been constructed on my sons layout and we just have the lift out section to go. Still a lot of work to go and although the boards are nearly done there is track to be laid and the wiring up of the control panel and the proving that it all works. At least he has made the right move and has started with DCC and sound equipped locos.

I think I abandoned the HO scale just a little to quick and start my new adventure in On30 narrow gauge. Had DCC and sound locos been available to the same extent as they are today back twenty years ago I may have remained with that scale, but may have also rebuilt the layout by then.

The move over to narrow gauge is one I haven't regretted, I am enjoying the research and the new adventure. You also get to meet a new band of friends. I adopted the Victorian narrow gauge because I had always admired the Puffing Billy locos and the uniqueness of their size. I have always been surrounded with the New South Wales railways and was even employed with them for over forty years. That was the catalyst for modelling NSW trains, you were familiar with the real product, and you had a big pool of contacts built up over the years to enable problems to be resolved. So the NSW trains have been and gone and I am fully immersed with the narrow gauge.

With my modelling of the VR narrow gauge, I was very lucky to make the transition in a period where I was still able to obtain the excellent products of Ian Storrie aka Ian Lindsay models. Unfortunately Ian now is not making any further models but when I got into On30 he was still in production and I

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obtained most of his models on offer. I think Ian has singly done the most for this particular scale and prototype. So now his absence will leave a big hole in VR modelling. We will become a rare breed indeed. Our only hope for the future is that maybe 3d printing will fill the hole that Ian has left.

Once I am able to resume work in the shed I will get back into the construction of my version of the Thomson River bridge. The basics are done. The bridge piers have been made and painted (thanks Roger and Ian), the supporting timber piers are done and most of the bridge superstructure has been made - watch this space.

When I made the decision to change scales there was a ton of work ahead to make the changeover. The first thing was to get rid of all the HO material including reference books etc. I thought what was the use of keeping all the books on the shelf, never to be looked at again when they could be onsold to provide funds for the new build. Having helped in the past with moving on an estate, which was a lot of work, I decided to clean it all out. My equivalent narrow gauge library is now small enough to reside inside the house and at arms reach from my computer in the study. I think I have obtained nearly every book on the VR narrow gauge that has been printed and a collection of dvd's on the subject. Also sad face where the current corona virus situation has resulted in the yearly visit to Victoria being cancelled this year. May have to go twice next year to make up for it!.

Part of the conversion to the new scale was the creation of a trackplan for the new layout. Designing a narrow gauge layout is a different mindset than designing a narrow gauge layout. Before I committed I was studying the various books I had collected to absorb some of the character of the narrow gauge. When you look at all of the Victorian narrow gauge track layouts they are very simple designs. Most are just loops with points at each end to enable shunting to easily take place in either direction. The only 'oddball' in all of the four line was Beech Forest on the Colac to Crowes line. Beech Forest was blessed with a balloon loop at one end, complete with tennis court in the middle and a scissors crossover at the beginning of the yard. I don't know why they built the scissors as there seemed to be plenty of room to build two single crossovers. But it makes for an interesting narrow gauge layout and I know of one modeller who has taken up this challenge.

The shed has been in use for a model railway for over 30 years now. Initially a fibro, corrugated iron roof and uninsulated it was lined, insulated and contained an HO model until 1999 when a 4 x 4 metre square extension was added. (They can never be too big) The old HO was demolished and a new HO South Coast Rail established until around the end of 2015 when I decided to make the change. (There is a link on this blog to a few hundred photos of the old HO layout)

The old layouts last resting place

Once I had stripped up all the old track then came the total refurbishment of the shed. The walls needed a repaint, holes where the old baseboards were demolished needed filling. The floor needed repainting so really it was a good chance to refresh the whole shed. So it was a major task to completely rebuild the layout. A new design was needed and the planning had commenced even before the old layout was down.

Demolition well under way

More demolition, the extension was towards the back

Planning underway even before complete demolition

Looking at the above photos and the state of demolition I had to be sure I was making the right choice to change. So far so good.

As I don't think I will be making any further progress on the layout on the next post I will put up some track layout design concepts I considered and the final plan that was adopted. See you next posting.