Saturday, 12 October 2013

Out with the old...

A house move from the Central Coast to northern Sydney saw the previous layout pulled to bits. It was the culmination of a couple of years planning, compromising and pondering. It was shaped like a backwards ‘e’. The oval held a six road staging yard with a double track mainline at the back. Part of this was to be home to part of a suburban station. As the lines came around to the middle, the two lines went through another passing station with a four road marshalling yard, a steelworks and fuel depot on the outside of the oval (next to an operating aisle) and a fairly sizable locomotive depot on the inside of the oval. The last part of the ‘e’ was a terminus based on C. J. Freezer’s Minories with an extra platform stuck in. There was also a plan to have a timesaver style layout with a pier and warehouses kicking back from the fourth platform.  Also located on the inside of the oval in front of the mainline was a little shunting area. Originally it was to be small branch line terminus with a dock for fishing boats and a small dairy siding which was later extended and included sidings for a wheat train and a ballast train. It was linked to the mainline so it became a loop line and storage for up to three trains. I was pretty proud of myself to cram this into 12 feet by 12 feet or 3.5m by 3.5m.

Trains from the terminus heading towards Sydney would take a single line the formed part of a return loop and go through the second station, past the freight yard and shed, through the third station where it would in theory disappear behind a wheat silo, reappear through the second station and then it would leave the mainline and find one of six roads in the staging yard. When the train returned to the terminus it went around the oval again, stopping at stations in the appropriate order and took an arm off the oval and headed to the terminus. Every train seemed to go clockwise with the exception of trains to the inner branch.

The idea was that I would have folks around and would hold operating sessions. It never happened. I didn’t have a shortage of folks, the layout never really reached a position where this could happen. Timetables and sequences were made up but they were complicated. Control panels were put in the wrong place; there wasn’t enough space and certainly not enough DCC control units to run the trains that I thought I would be able to run at once. After a while I realised that the only person who was going to operate the layout was me and ducking under parts of the layout to shunt trains was losing its appeal. I looked at other plans and wondered if I should start again. I could build a layout that was 18 feet by 8 feet but I didn’t think that I could handle wasting effort that I had already put in, nor that it could house all the features and industries that I had.

By this stage I had acquired a bit more stock and it was the Austrains FS/BS carriages that stopped the breaking up of the layout. The section of the reverse loop was controlled by a simple switch that I had to throw to reverse the polarities. It wasn’t a very big section and when the Austrains carriages went through it with the lights on, it caused problems.

The layout was tweaked. The timesaver section, with the pier and warehouses went, as it was hardly used, and it was replaced with three curved carriage sidings. Land was built up and a nice park with sculptures and three blocks of flats were put there. The inner loop with the fishing dock was replaced with three long sidings to hold suburban electric units and railmotors. Four long return loop sidings were build across the middle of the layout and the arm leading towards the terminus was cut and rearrange to form a couple of railmotor sidings from the station. The small single arm was duplicated and trains could now successfully run from the terminus to Sydney via the second station and then disappear into the relevant staging line. The third station was removed but now trains running to and from the terminus did so in a more sensible manner. Goods trains still went clockwise and apart from the steel works and the fuel depot, there were no other industries to shunt. However, time was still spent remarshalling trains for destinations near and far. The motley collection of buildings also had to be moved and was raised above the new return sidings. My little town now had a lot more space and instead of one road, I could put three or four streets.

The layout was now more manageable for the single operator. Although I still had dreams of a different style of layout, I decided that this was going to be finished and work on scenery was commenced. Lights on the terminus station were installed and I was excited to be working on and operating the layout.

The blocks of flats. They looked better at night.
The terminus station.
It was a small throw-away line from my sister-in-law that brought the whole thing of seven years construction to an end. “House prices in northern Sydney aren’t that unreasonable.” Less than sixteen weeks after those words were spoken we had sold a house, bought a house and moved back to the area where my wife and I grew up.
It was time to look at C.J. Freezer’s books again. I’d had my eye on one plan for a while.

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