22 May 2019

Dubbo - what might have been

I just love research, because anything I can imagine can usually be bettered by real life.  And so it is with Dubbo station.

Dubbo station is a fine stone building, capped with a slate roof. Its Victorian-era 'Great Western Railway' character oozes from this plan of the station building, and was equally apparent 124 years later when I photographed it.

I have written previously about just how cramped things got during busy times at Dubbo with its single mainline configuration and I could never understand why the Railways didn't have a plan to get things sorted. Turns out they did.  Once again, thank to my 'sauce' I have been able to peruse a September 1922 plan of proposed changes to Dubbo's yard layout.  There is a lot to absorb - like the complete disappearance of the loco depot, which I suspect was planned to head east (or west) away from town in a manner that depots in Lithgow, Bathurst, Goulburn and Junee headed out of town. But that is for another blog post.

In this short post I would like to focus on what was planned for the station precinct, which can be best summed up as a radical rethink.  The basic plan was to reconfigure the station to something more typical of a dual mainline station, complete with a large island platform facing the existing platform, a large building on the platform and a pedestrian overhead bridge for access.  Here is what was planned... to make it easier to read I have outlined the existing platform in blue, the planned additional platform in red and the pedestrian bridge in yellow.

In other words, a completely new modelling proposition!

Although it is indistinct unless you enlarge it, but the plan proposed an A9 station building.  These are the large brick dual-sided buildings, with parcels office, booking office, waiting room and lavatories.  Something quite out of character for Dubbo but it would have revolutionised the handling of mail, small freight and passengers at the location had it gone ahead.  And made it much easier for station staff for the next 50 years!

OK, writing history and modelling history is usually about what happened rather than what could have happened, but if this plan had proceeded the city of Dubbo would have developed quite differently to what it did, in so many ways).

Back to studying plans!

22 April 2019

Eumungerie's housing crisis

As Easter is always a good time to start a significant job I have started the planning for construction of a house.  Well, actually a model house.  And its not as easy as you may think, as I get sidetracked very easily.  The construction task should be straightforward - and has recently become easier as a much appreciated 'sauce' has come good with the plans for Eumungerie's station officer's houses.

Houses? How many houses did the Railways think Eumungerie needed? Well, more than I expected (that is, more than one).

I don't know what was provided at Eumungerie for the first decade of operation, as the station officer's house I was aware of was built as part of the 1911 remodelling of the entire railway yard.  Railway documents indicate that ₤686 was expended to construct the house. 

If you are a nerd like I am you will be aware that the Reserve Bank of Australia has a nifty calculator which can tell you that ₤686 in 1911 converts to $93,272.20 today.  That is a pretty tidy price for three bedroom home!  Anyway, finding this out sidetracked me for at least an hour.

So, what did this bargain bungalow look like? Here's the family's solitary photograph of the Eumungerie station officer's house.

Yes, even though the building was inhabited by our family for nearly a decade, apparently no-one thought to photograph it until after it was torched.

The only photograph I know to exist showing the house comes courtesy of the National Library of Australia.  Look hard or you will miss it. Hint, it is partially obscured by the gantry crane.

So, with this amount of photographic evidence I had put this project into the too-hard basket a decade ago.  Actually, I solved the problem by not modelling this part of the railway yard and by claiming to model 1968 - two years after the house burned to the ground.  With the new layout being in a much larger area, the luxury of just excluding the house is no longer available.

So, once I received a copy of the official plans, out of the too-hard basket came the project.  And isn't it just the cutest little bungalow?

So this is when I thought I would look at the full set of plans... and then I saw this...

I think you can click on that plan to make it larger, but here is an excerpt...

Yep, the location of the station officer's house is where I thought it would be, so no surprises there.  But to the south there is a plan for a caretaker's cottage and to the north, a fettler's cottage.  That's nearly more houses than there were in the entire village in 1911. 

I have my doubts whether the caretaker and the fettler ever got their cottages.  Maybe they burned down too?  So, I am sticking with one house.

Then I looked at the next plan, mainly out of academic interest. This plan was for the replacement station officer's house.  I approvingly noted that it was to be largely built out of fire-resistant fibrous cement sheeting.  I muttered at the utilitarian nature of the design, no architectural flourishes, just something to get a problem sorted. Here is the front elevation, which I guess was its prettiest aspect.

It sure looks more like a demountable school building than an abode for a tired station officer and family.  And its been moved!  This time the plan was to build towards the south eastern corner of the railway yard (to reduce the tired station officer's walk home from the hotel).

I consoled myself with the knowledge it was all academic.  No doubt the bean counters quashed funding for this project, as job security for staff in Eumungerie wasn't real certain.  And then I saw it, these plans were signed off on 19 December 1966... two years prior to the date I am supposed to be modelling.  What is more authentic, or less inauthentic? Building a house to model something which had been removed from existence prior to my 'modelling era'? Or do I model what should have been built except for that shortsighted bean counter? Or stuff it, build both?

Its taken until late Easter Monday but I am going for the 1911 prototype. It is cuter and if I start now it should be finished by Easter 2021 or 2031 on present form.  I better shuffle off to find the necessary building materials.  Enough talk.


12 March 2019

100 not out

For my 100th post on this blog I thought I would do something a bit different - thank people.  I seem to be forever the lucky recipient of information, things and advice.  And it is no different with this blog and my endeavours to record a few things about the Coonamble line (and to model it).

Not sure where I'll start with the thank yous, but an early one probably should be the bloke who has hosted my/our HO version of Eumungerie for the better part of 5 years in his garage (with once mentioning the rent) - thanks Dad.

Then there are the family and friends who send stuff my way, or who don't mind being pestered by my questions.

There are a special breed of people, known as readers of this blog.  Looking back at the comments and advice I have received over 99 blog posts, I think you can see a pattern of people very patiently explaining to me what I had failed to observe or adding to the story.  These comments are like gold.

And then sometimes it goes to a whole different level. A mate of Dad's who is no longer with us handed over his Roundhouse version of 2103. It is always good to see a 21 in action at Eumungerie, about a century after the prototypes plied those rails.

And then we get to the most recent piece of generosity.  Here is a shot of the nerve centre of Eumungerie, around 1985.  

Overlooking all the fancy levers was a diagram, sadly somewhat damaged by the local hoons.

A second sign was affixed to the wall inside what became the safeworking hut at Eumungerie.  I never photographed it because it never occurred to me it wouldn't be there.  But then it was gone.

But now it is back, thanks to a loyal reader. A call came out of the blue. Would I be interested? Oh, yes, indeed. Bob, thank you once more, you are a gentleman and a scholar!

Soon the sign will be back doing what it does best - assisting safeworking through the perils of the (HO scale) yard at Eumungerie.

So, thanks for sticking with me on 100 posts and thank you all once again for participating in my great folly.


05 February 2019

Lost from the 50s

Just when you think that the family photograph collection has been 100% plundered for near-publishable photos of Eumungerie up pop a few more - this time from another uncle who is pleased to share his bounty.

Last Sunday four more photos arrived in electronic form from said uncle. This first one is a version of one I have already posted, showing a slightly blurred 30T, suspected to be 3004T, taking water at Eumungerie. 

I also suspected that 3004T (tbc) was on No. 5 down pickup, which was supposed to depart Eumungerie around 7:00am every day except Sundays.  My problem with that theory is that the loco should be horribly back-lit. Maybe it was a cloudy day? Maybe.  Anyway, here is the shot.

Now  the exciting stuff.  There is a companion photograph!  And its less blurred!

In this second photo the fireman can be seen more clearly on the back of the tender, as can the decent coal load.  The driver is down at the base of the water column - though it could be one of my bloody relatives making a nuisance of themselves.  Again, the shadows are worrying me.  Also worrying me is the lack of cab numbers - no, I haven't been into Photoshop removing things.  The most excellent fillum used by our family just managed to ignore this detail.  Or less likely, the numbers have been removed by persons unknown (said relative is in the clear).

Now, this third photograph adds to the theory.  It shows a rather new two car diesel working through Eumungerie. Its pretty early on - early 1950s I am guessing - as there is no ETP/EHO on the rear.  And the collection of wagons on the adjacent line are a rich tapestry indeed.  A couple of Ks or like stuffed with hay for hungry beasts, a steel (?) S wagon loaded with fuel drums and a decrepit looking louvre van form part of the load. To this sad case, its gorgeous. And don't get me started on the lamp room, the telegraph pole and point levers.

If No. 45 Diesel Train is running on time, this photograph was taken at 8:48am, and its a Tuesday or a Thursday.  And if these wagons belong to 3004T, it might just explain why the shadows aren't where they should be at 7:00am.  Its because the pick-up is running late. 

And now for the final photograph...

First of all, the shadows are where I expect them to be around 9:00am!

Here we have the station officer (from the waist coat and hat) squeezing between the pick-up and a RU wheat wagon which is lined up for loading.  What's special - the lack of ash as ballast, the wagons forming the Pick-up, or the blob in front of the goods shed just to the right of the RU? You are correct if you answer 'all of the above'.

So, I have still not convinced myself that all four of these photos belong with each other (certainly the first two do), or that it shows a busy Tuesday or Thursday morning in Eumungerie in the 1950s. But it makes a good yarn and a decent modelling proposition.

But the best news is that said uncle thinks he has more!

Until then, cheers!

08 January 2019

From the 4th estate

I have accidentally just rediscovered a slew of newspaper clippings I have downloaded from Trove over the years. They show that a quiet country town can have its fair share of tragedy, natural disasters and entertaining moments over the years. Lets see if I can cover off a few of the rail-related ones.

The first noteworthy incident occurred prior to the official opening of the railway when, on 11 February 1902, a Mr William Carroll was struck by a train from Eumungerie.  The two reports (from the Sydney Morning Herald and Broken Hill's Barrier Miner respectively) differ in the circumstances of the accident. Unfortunately for Mr Carroll, the outcome was his demise later that day. Apologies for the gruesome reporting - it leaves little to the imagination.

In May of the same year drama occurred closer to Eumungerie when the special train returning patrons from the Dubbo show broke down.  The entire train returned to Dubbo to obtain another locomotive.

In 1915 a rail-related death in most unfortunate circumstances occurred when a telegraph linesman fell to his death after the pole he had climbed snapped. The telegraph line ran adjacent to the railway, and through the railway yard. Mr Prince went out in a seriously unlucky way.

It wasn't all death but gloom was no doubt widespread throughout the village in early June 1931 on the morning after the Eumungerie Hotel was destroyed by fire.

Perhaps gloom returned a couple of years later when the local church was also destroyed by fire.  I do think that perhaps the correspondent was having a lend of us by offering the only 'reasonable explanation' for the fire.  I personally can't think of a less reasonable explanation than the one proffered.

Getting back to the railway stuff, Mother Nature played havoc with the line's operation at times.  On at least five occasions it resulted in the Sydney Morning Herald reporting washaways along the line - in March 1914, December 1920, December 1929, November 1950 and August 1952.  All five reports are reproduced below. I think the people impacted by the 1929 washaway, who were put up overnight in the Eumungerie Hotel, probably got the roughest deal!





And now for the other dramas... it must have been a slow news day on 9 December 1933 as a minor derailment in Eumungerie yard was reported.

A potentially serious situation for the people involved in the following report in July 1935 has a fairly humourous backstory - the shadowy criminals at the centre of the story were most likely looking to tap beer barrels stored in Eumungerie yard.

The 'Mr Jones' in the preceding story is one of my paternal great-grandfathers. The other, 'Mr Hewitt', made the news for another effort in September of the next year.

I'll wrap up this post where it started - Dubbo - this time with a collision in Dubbo yard.  Hopefully the typeface is sufficiently legible to convey the circumstances of the accident, which caused another 'Mr Jones' to suffer a head injury.  Yes, another relative of your blogger, in this instance, a grandfather.

Until next time!


01 January 2019

Time for a change

Happy New Year!

I have only one (printable) New Year's Resolution for 2019 - and that is to take this blog in a marginally different direction. With the consent of my local Council's planning department, I aim to recreate Eumungerie's railway as it was in late 1968 in a yet-to-be-constructed shed on our new property.  And when I say 'recreate', it will be a 1/87th scale recreation.

Presently, the latest iteration of Coalbaggie Creek resides as a working diorama 250kms from home, thanks to the elder Jones. I suspect it may take the greater part of 2019 but perhaps this next shot can be reproduced... might even fix the signals!

I hope 2019 brings you whatever printable and unprintable resolutions you may have!


08 October 2018

50 years ago it did rain

Was just searching through a whole pile of railway photographs and was struck by the number from 1966 to 1975 taken in gloomy, rainy weather. Maybe photographers were tougher then, or the equipment was more susceptible to reflecting the local conditions.  I don't think it was the former because the photographer in this case couldn't be tempted off the front verandah of his grandmother's home.  

I have tried to lighten the photograph a little and clean it up a bit.  But it was a wet and soggy afternoon when this 49 (thought to be 08) trudged through Eumungerie on an up stocky.