Monday, 22 December 2014

Newcastle Station

Today I caught the 7:36 to Central and the 9:15 to Newcastle. After Friday, I won't be able to do that again.

I didn't have my camera out at my local station as the train pulled in. It was a K set made up of original carriages with the low upstairs windows. The train to Newcastle was a refurbished V set with the purple interior.

On the way we passed an Aurizon freight, 1MB7, as it made its way up the Cowan Bank, this was followed by quad 82 class on a coal train and two Danish locos on a container train. Two 81 class locos were pottering about near Cardiff with wheat hoppers. At Broadmeadow Yard three CEY locos were in the sidings. On the way back CM3303, BRM001, CM3302 and BRM002 were at the head of what I think was CA05 in Broadmeadow Yard.

At Newcastle there were a number of other blokes taking photos while they still had the chance.

Here are a selection of photos from today and other times.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Bit of Train Spotting

I found a nice view not too far from home. There is a wattle tree in the way but it's not too bad. I heard that there was a heritage train coming through so I took my camera to watch it go past. I saw a couple of other trains too.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Long Time Between Drinks

Yep. It has been a while. I occasionally have some workmates around for drinks after work on a Friday afternoon. One of my mates was interested to see the progress that I had made on the layout as I was grabbing a beer. There wasn't any. It seems that from early August work seems to get a little busy and the progress on the layout seems to come to a halt. I haven't even had people around to operate the layout.

I did however, find the need to clean the layout up a little as my dad picked up a Hornby P2 with sound. It's not quite the south coast of New South Wales but the Cock o' the North looked great with a string of LNER coaches behind it.

The following week I received delivery of a couple 86 class locos. Fortunately the layout had already been dusted off.

I've always liked electric locos. Having grown up in the northern suburbs they were what I saw everyday on anything from interurban services to Gosford, the Newcastle Flyer and the the various country trains such as the Brisbane Limited and that's not to mention the endless goods trains which they hauled.

New arrivals to the layout.

These two are a little out of my brown era but they were a great looking loco and they are great looking models.

On the real railway, we had a couple of railmotor tours go through on the weekend. I took these in the morning.

621/721 at Asquith.

CPH 1, 3 and 7 at Mt Colah.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Building a Fictional Rail Network

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.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

‘Where you won’t find any fancy overheads.’

With apologies to the lady from Best & Less.

For years I have wanted to put up overhead wires on my layouts. When I was a kid I built some out of balsa for my British outline layout. It was a 6’x4’ board and being somewhere around twelve years old it was pretty ordinary. I did make up a jig and solder my own wires from fuse wire. I couldn’t get the bends out of it and the solder joints were far from good. I had intended to save my pocket money and buy a Lima Cl87. As I was twelve with a permanent board, the layout lasted somewhere around six months before it was changed again. The joy of set track meant that the track plan changed often. The balsa overhead masts were disposed of and never thought of again.

With the old layout on the Central Coast, I did begin to make my own stanchions again using old track and paperclips. Finding the right little beads in a craft shop was too much of a challenge and they didn’t fit onto the paperclip. I made four of these to fit under an overall station roof and hammered them into the layout. They were a little short and needed a bit of work. I also considered using the Dapol masts. Model Rail, a UK magazine ran a feature on overhead masts and I did consider ordering some from the UK as they looked about right. Then came Southern Rail to the rescue.

When planning the new layout, I had the knowledge the Southern Rail Models had produced overhead masts. As I sold a few items surplus to requirements at the Epping Model Railway Club’s exhibition on the long weekend I was able to buy some masts for my electric trains to run beneath. I drilled a few holes and presto! The open station approaches were changed forever.

Looking from below the cathedral.

Looking from the goods yard. The line in the foreground leads to the loco depot and will the extension when it is built.
I know there will be some who will ‘Tut tut,’ as I write that I have no intention of installing the wires. Experience when I was twelve taught me that it is too awkward to clean the tracks with the wires in place. I had to rebuild some of the masts that I knocked over. The pantographs will be up and they will past safely under the bits that hold the wires up so the impression will be there.

I’ve spent a bit of time looking at the overhead wires and I think that I have the spacing right. At Hornsby sheds four cars fit between the posts. My station building is build above the platforms and is 60cm wide when including the road and tramway. The wires wouldn’t travel under this at the full height between the carrying wire and the contact wire therefore I would need about two car lengths between the posts and the station building structure.
I was able to buy enough posts for the station and parts of the goods yard. There are a couple of sections where the masts will need to cross four tracks but this will be a task for another day. However, I think the new masts are pretty fancy overheads.

Monday, 16 June 2014


It’s been way too long since the last blogpost. Since January, the street level went on, along with a small flurry of building work on top of it. Buildings were placed and moved, quickly painted, moved and adjusted a little bit more.

Looking across the Melbourne end of the station towards the town. The idea is that enough tall buildings will block the view of the staging yard when the operators are sitting down. The wooden wall is hiding the reverse loops. It will be lined with the same stone finish as the platforms as the station would have been built at the same time as the wall. The brick platform was added years later by the railways when it was realised that another platform was needed and bricks were cheaper than local stone.

The southern end of the station. The tracks disappear underneath the town. There will be a town hall next to the cathedral and a square with some shops. I bought the cathedral at the Forrestville Exhibition in 2012 at the bring and buy stand. I couldn't believe that someone would try to sell it. I also wondered who on earth would buy it. Turns out that it would be me. I was looking for a few small buildings to fill a block on my old layout on the Central Coast. I figured that one building would fill the gap nicely. I plan to light it from the inside and put a couple of spotlights on the outside. The carriage sidings will have a three road shed that will disguise the fact that the sidings curve to go under the cathedral.

This is the main station building. It will be built from Walthers Modular bits. It will occupy an area of an A3 sheet of paper. It will be four two storey buildings which will support a double length Peco overall roof. The Hornby platform canopies will be out the front of the main entrance and will house a tram stop. (I bought a cheap second hand one at the Castle Hill Exhibition last year.) The red and white shade shelters will have market stalls and the street will look down to a Walthers Grand Union Station which will be the city's art gallery.

Then things seemed to stop on the building front. After have a few blokes around and having them run the layout for the afternoon, I mentioned at a meeting that I wouldn’t mind setting up an operating night. There were a few who were interested.
The next step was to work out some sort of timetable or schedule for trains to run. There were a whole stack of questions that I had to which I had to find the answers.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Control Panel

Control for the trains is from a Digitrax Zephyr. When I started my old layout, I needed to buy a control system. I had a couple of locos on order that had sound chips factory fitted. It was the best that I could afford at the time and with a capacity to run up to ten trains at once, it was more than I would need. It’s a great little unit but with the number of passenger cars with lights in them it does lack some grunt. Some locos were not working well. Fortunately, it is possible to switch some of the lights off and this seems to have solved the problem for a while.

The reason for using Digitrax was fairly simple. I’m a member of the Gosford City Model Railroad Club on the Central Coast and they use Digitrax. Members had built up a depth of knowledge using this brand. They had also produced their own hand held throttles, designed by someone else and capable of having locos despatched to the limited function throttles.

On my last layout, I followed some advice. This was to produce the track plan for the control panel of paper, laminate it and glue it onto a suitable board. In doing this it should be easier to change the design. On my old layout, I did this once but in doing so I replaced the 3mm ply which I was using for some plastic that I had rescued from the skip bin as it looked like thick styrene.

The circuit diagram was devised by a fellow club member and drawn on a piece of paper in a way in which I could read it. I am not brilliant with circuit diagrams beyond a simple circuit.

I had saved the old board intact and had made a few notes. Before I started, I needed more switches. I use triple pole double throw switches. Two poles power the Peco point motors and the other pole powers the LEDs that indicate the direction of the point. Each point motor has its own capacitor to avoid it burning out. The LEDs not only light up in the direction of the points but also the points that have been set beyond them to light up the route.

After starting, I found that I was short on green LEDs I had enough for the station area but not the staging yards as well. However, I had a deadline to meet. I had some people coming around from another club in Hornsby Heights to look at and run the layout. When I made the offer six weeks earlier, I was sure that I would have had the panel wired up and looking good. With a week to go I got to work, regardless of the lack of LEDs. At least the switches will show the direction of the points.
In the staging yard, I mounted the point motors above the board. It is easier. I also used the Peco side mounted motors where there was lack of space for the regular Peco motors. I must admit that they were simple to install. Where needed, I moved furniture and mounted others under the layout. There was one motor which I couldn’t use either style of motor conventionally. I mounted the motor above the baseboard and had cut a trough in the vinyl underlay and used a piece of brass rod and a plastic tube to run it underneath another set of points.

I had allowed myself a week, from start to finish, to complete this task, however, I started on a Tuesday for a Saturday afternoon deadline. I didn’t think it was a problem. A long story short... I finished at 1:30am on Saturday morning. Over fifty points all working on a 90cm board and the LEDs on the station panel were showing the route well. There is some confusion with the double slip which is shown on the panel using two switches with red toggles. That’s a task for another day.

The Panel completed and ready for visitors.
The LEDs for the staging yard have now turned up so they will be put in over the next couple of weeks.

The next job will be to start on the scenery and develop a sequence for operating.

During the week we had a railmotor from the Rail Motor Society drift through our local station as well as a couple of other trains.