Monday, 4 November 2013


Most people will recommend that you glue and screw timber when you work with it. I’m glad that I didn’t as it meant that I was able to reuse most of the timber frames from the old layout.

Unlike the last layout, this was designed around two feet by four feet (or 600mm x 1200mm) modules. Two modules would need to be longer (1600mm) to fit into the shed perfectly. The last layout had baseboards of various shapes and sizes.

Another change was how the layout would be supported. Advice was sought when building the old layout. I’m a member of the Gosford City Model Railroad Club on the Central Coast and one member showed me how his layout was put together. There were frames made using the ‘L-girder’ technique. Essentially, two bits of 42mm x 19mm are joined lengthways to form an L. These are combined to make your rectangular frame. Make sure that the Ls, now upside down are facing the same way where you need to attach them to the wall. On top of these you place more 42mm x 19mm timbers going across the frame, adding 42mm to the height. These timbers can be as long as you need them. To these you can add risers to lift your track bed. On the shed wall you screw bits of off cuts into the studs of the wall. These provide something for the frame to rest on as you screw it to the wall. You also need a further piece of timber or two to support it. The best way was to place the support onto the skirting board and shape the other end to fit into the L inside of your frame. I was told that it would be very solid.

It was. However, this time I was dealing with a tin shed and not an old fibro garage.

I was given advice by another member. This was to make sure that I had at least 3mm at the end of the layout for expansion. I wasn’t sure if this expansion was for the shed or the layout.

When I bought the house, the shed had shelves with some pretty serious brackets holding them up. I decided that I would use those to help hold the layout up. To these were attached sturdy timber legs that the hardware store had on special when I picked up the plywood tops. This would mean that I didn't have to worry too much about expansion of the board or the shed. The frames were made using the L-girder thinking but this time I braced them internally and placed plywood on top. The layout is going to be fairly flat where the trains run and there is going to be a lot of track. Cutting out road beds to fill in where the track isn’t going to be is not going to achieve much. Also in the planning, I realised that I would need an extra 200mm for the front modules for a bit of urban landscaping.
Under construction.
Once that was done it was time to lay some track.

It took a while but the track came together fairly well. I lay the track on lino. It was more advice given to me as lino off cuts are cheaper than cork. I can lay the lino out and cut around the laid track. It worked out well last time so I stuck with it. I used the thickest lino that I could, to raise the track from the board.
For some points it was their fifth layout. Some of them didn’t make it. The track was recycled and some of this was second hand on the last layout. A few new points and lengths of track were needed and an auto reverse unit for the two reverse loops was installed. It was all tested with a couple of cars from a HUB set, a Lima twelve wheeled carriage and a Bachmann 44 tonner painted as a 79 class. The high speed was far from astounding but it all seemed to work.

Once the track was down and wired up, trains suddenly appeared.
The next step is to motorise the points and build a control panel but that may take some time. Trains started to appear and needed to be run.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Plan

For years I have been admiring a plan in the back of PSL Book of Model Railway Track Plans by C. J. Freezer. The plan, Grandchester (Plan 69), has a five platform station, which is perfect for a growing collection of NSWGR passenger vehicles. The station is in the middle of the space on an oval and the layout looks like an upside down ‘e’. The footprint is similar to my last efforts. C. J. Freezer planned a branch line coming from one of the platforms. This I have had to cut and with the branch line went the modest loco depot and turn table.

In place of the turn table I have added carriage sidings and a carriage shed. The sidings need to be long enough for a HUB set. They will enter a shed and curve away underneath what will be a raised section with a cathedral on it. The cathedral was purchased at the Forestville exhibition a couple of years ago. More on this when I get the scenery started.

At the other end of the station I have added a four track marshalling yard which will curve away to the rear of the layout. I have also added an arrival/departure road for goods trains to enter the yard. I plan that most of the shunting here will be done by an operator sitting right in front of where they need to work. The uncoupling of wagons would be done on the straight sections of track after the points, so that the sidings trail of into the distance should not be a problem. Ideally, I would have preferred five tracks here, as I ended up with on my last layout but space was a bit of an issue.

Despite my best attempts, I could not fit a turn table in. I have, however, been able to squeeze in some loco storage sidings for locos awaiting their next job. They will need to be turned in the staging yard. The large cupboard is stopping any further expansion.

The staging yard caused much thought. Reading Australian Model Railway Magazine in recent years, a couple of layouts stood out with grand designs. Kangaroo Valley in the February 2012 edition had a good idea, as did Weston featured in April 2012. They have two lines for continuous running and sidings either side where trains terminate and locos swapped. The layouts can be run as a point to point scheme. The yard for Kangaroo Valley looks as though it is operated during a session as another yard. A great idea but I wanted something simpler.

I’m not sure I achieved it.

The Plan
I want trains heading to Sydney, Melbourne or any other destination to turn around and come back, like my old layout so I installed a couple of return loops. These will be hidden behind a retaining wall and under the town. Trains will leave the station, go through a return loop and then get stored, ready for their return, regardless of which direction they leave.

This has led to a different design of staging yard. I have ten tracks (the plan shows 11) and a through road. The rear two sidings will fit a 38 class and a HUB set. There are two roads that will hold longer trains with the rest holding the equivalent of a loco and 10 BCH length wagons. Off to each side, the four sidings will hold the equivalent of the U-boat set. A couple of these will be used as extra loco storage and the rest will hold multiple units of sorts.

The idea that really captured my imagination with Grandchester was the urban scenic features. C. J. Freezer drew in a road behind the station with a couple of streets running of at right angles. These streets don’t go far and are blocked by other buildings. When drawn, the layout was planned for an attic. I could use the idea in my shed.

The plan was drawn up using Anyrail software. I found it easy to use. It was a lot easier than a compass and grid paper and a lot more accurate. The grid that you plan on can be altered to different sizes and when it came to laying the track, this was a very useful feature. The design was more accurate than I could have hoped for. The lost staging road was due to cramming a bit too much in the back too close to the wall.

The plan shows that there is a large station building covering the platforms and a couple of bridges. This is so I can create an illusion that trains are longer than they are. This idea came from Here Allen Walker describes his layout, Prince’s Cross, and how a three coach train can appear longer if you cannot see the whole train at once. Hopefully, a similar effect can be achieved to make my eight wagon coal train look a little longer, not to mention any other train.

All I had to do was to build it.
As an aside, The Heritage Express headed to Newcastle today. The planned locomotive, 3642, wasn't up the front, most likely due to a total fire ban. Instead 4520 and 4490 did the honours of leading the train. The first shot is at Asquith this morning. The second shot is at my local station. I nearly missed it as it was running early and I was walking down the wrong side of the platform building as it rounded the bend ahead of me.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Shed

The old shed 3.5m by 7m and was lined and carpeted. The new shed is 3.5m by 5.3m. Had the old layout not be bolted to the wall and built in large sections it would have fitted nicely. There was one small problem. The mower and push bikes were able to be stored under our old house and not in the shed. This is not possible at our new home. The solution of buying a new tin shed to store these in was soon realised to be impractical. There really is not sensible place to put this new shed. Any layout would need to be able to accommodate a mower and a couple of push bikes.

The mower was a simple solution. Just store it under the layout, preferably opposite the door. The push bikes however... It is amazing to think just how much space a push bike actually takes up, nearly two metres long and close to a metre wide.

Then there was the cupboard. It is 1.2m wide and is an old Department of Education 1960s vintage, storage cupboard, rescued from a fate in a skip bin. It is big, heavy and difficult to move but it is great for putting things in.

Taking all these things into consideration, furniture was moved about every now and then to see which shape would be the best. Various ideas were sketched on paper to try and find out what would work. I needed access for people to move about if I get a crew of operators, as well as a place to build models and the bar fridge. There are also two windows to consider as well.

Things to consider: bikes, desk, windows, bar fridge and a mower. And, somewhere, a layout.
In the end, the winner was a basic oval.  A simple design, with a staging yard at the back and the station at the front. It may seem too simple but I had to learn from old lessons that the last layout was too complicated for a single operator and it was an option that I had thought about building at our old house.

I started to build a small temporary folding layout in the meantime using some timber that I had saved from the old layout and had set aside before we moved. After a while this wasn’t going to do what I hoped it would. I came up with another idea. This folding layout involved moving furniture around the shed again. I couldn’t be bothered to do this and hinted that I could build it in the spacious back room of the house when I needed to. I mentioned this to my wife. She suggested that we should get the shed lined so that I could get on with the larger layout.
Lined, painted and ready to go. The cupboard is out of shot and didn't leave the shed during the entire process.

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.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

To Begin at the Beginning...

It seems that many well to do families of the 1800s always had one son who was the black sheep in the family. So it was with Kevin. While his older brother was the finest engineer Britain had seen, Kevin preferred wine, women and song. One night he stole a pig and a chicken for a bacon and egg roll for the next morning’s breakfast. The Bow Street Runners came knocking on his door and served him with a warrant. Before he knew it eight months later, Kevin was stepping off the boat in Sydney Cove for fourteen years.

He was assigned to a new whaling settlement near the NSW border where he worked as a convict labourer. The owner of the whaling station had a number of properties in the Monaro District and wanted a way to send his produce to the coast and his fleet of steamships.

Kevin had a great answer. His brother had been building quite a railway in the west of England and knowing a thing or two about engineering, he spoke to Boyd, the wealthy entrepreneur. Boyd loved the idea and commissioned Kevin to start building right away. The Great Eastern Railway was born.

However, there was a catch. Boyd didn’t want any huge industrial scene near his nice town so the main railway facilities were built to the south. Kevin was allowed to choose the name of the railway facilities. His brother had built a massive station in London; Kevin was going to build a city of the same name on the south coast of NSW, just to prove that he was better. With the facilities came a small settlement town for the people who worked there.

The railway spread to the north towards Sydney, where it met the Illawarra Line at Bomaderry. The line further south of Nowra was then known as the Sapphire Coast Line. The railway spread west towards Wagga Wagga through the Snowy Mountains and the Monaro district and south to Melbourne, especially during the Victorian gold rush. Though Boyd was long gone, as the railway spread, Kevin’s settlement of rail workers’ cottages at Paddington South Coast grew into a large town and finally into the city on the border as we know it today, the jewel in the crown of the Sapphire Coast.

That’s the historical justification of an HO scale model railway based on the New South Wales and Victorian coastal border and a start of a blog to record its progress.