I have always been an operator. As a kid with an English layout from a Hornby train set, I would draw maps of somewhere in England for my trains to have their journeys and give meaning to what I was doing. Having trains trundle around a layout for numerous circuits isn’t the part of the hobby which interests me. I will grant that I once spent a great afternoon with a couple of blokes at a local club one Saturday watching a Hornby Dublo 8F and some wagons complete some circuits on some three rail track. It was rather therapeutic.
However, my trains need a purpose.
I’d like to say that I model freelance. My prototype is in essence NSWGR and V/line... and Northern Rivers Railroad ... and National Rail. Austrains produced some nice models in the early 21st century. The location is totally freelance. I have dumped half a million people onto the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales, just south of Eden. To add to the freelancing, I have added a rather large chunk of coastline which you won’t find on Google Maps.
What would be the public transport needs for half a million people? A direct line to Sydney would be a start, a link with the state capital. This would mean that I could run a mail train and a daylight service. How long would it take to reach my gem of the south? Probably about 7-8 hours. With some artistic licence, it could be cut to 6-6½ hours. Continuing further south, a line could meet the existing Victorian Railways line from Melbourne. This would be handy for the Powerline V/Line carriages which I had picked up second hand some years ago. A couple of trains could run from Melbourne to meet trains from Sydney. There would be no through passenger trains as passengers travelling from Sydney to Melbourne would be better off on the Inter-capital Daylight, Southern Aurora or Spirit of Progress as the Sapphire Coast Line would take longer. Along these two stretches of main line there would need to be a suburban service. These are just the passenger services. There would be goods services as well conveying wheat, ballast, containers, vans, oil, milk and frozen products and a long steel train. Most of the wagons for these industries came from a layout sometime last century and would need to be accommodated.
A trip to the region a few years ago spurred a few more ideas. Why not install a northern suburbs line to the southern headland? It would mean knocking down hundreds of hectares of Ben Boyd National Park but this is the realms of fiction. Another idea would be to send a line from Bega west up the Great Dividing Range to Cooma and Canberra. This opens up another passenger route and freight opportunities.
How about the local urban spread? I figured that these suburbs could be served by a frequent electric train service or railmotor service. To add to the north-south route I had also planned two passenger only lines and two other lines heading west into the hinterlands.
All this planning was for the old layout. For the new layout things would not be too much different but with a fictional local rail network established, my trains have reason for running.