08 April 2024

The first reveal

Until recently, around here work had waddled along on the modelling side of life at a rather leisurely pace. At Easter I reviewed a few photos from 2022.  It was immediately apparent that many things left undone in 2022 are not yet fixed one third of the way through 2024. 

Moreover, the way I was working meant that more issues were being created than resolved.  Some trackwork issues meant it was difficult to work the branch line and that large cardboard box placed on the mainline tracks just prior to Christmas, was still there. Yes, I had happily spent most of my time ignoring those things and just shunting the Dubbo area of the layout. Fascinating for the purist but rather turgid.

There was another Easter epiphany. Although I live in a small country town, there are a number of people who have sidled up to me over the last several years to whisper, "I hear you have trains in your shed". Probably not enough to create a model railway club, but enough for an ad hoc running day.  And I had never done anything about it.

So, I did. I actually fixed more problems than I made last week and by yesterday morning, had a functioning main line run and a decent branch line experience.  I had also moved about 937 items that should not be on a model railway, off the layout.  And I cleaned it up, thereby finding all sorts of associated running gear that had fallen off rollingstock over the last year or more.  

By 14:55 yesterday I could announce to the wife that I was as ready as I could ever be, which was timely as the first guests arrived five minutes later.  Yes, I invited a few lucky victims. Victim A has a well-established TT layout. Victim B models classic Italian sportscars (so I let him drive the closest I had - a 49 class).

After a perfunctory briefing ("you can't break anything any worse than I have, so let it rip"), we had a really good two-hour session.  Trains were run, there was shunting, drivers learned the road, Control did not lose his cool, womenfolk were amazed as their mean lept all over the place, shouting and laughing at each other. And, of course, as soon as someone pulled out their smartphone, things started derailing.

And it wasn't until after the guests left and several beers had been drunk it dawned on stupid here that we had finally christened the layout - yes, there have been private viewings etc, but this was by any definition, a "session". And before it gets cold in these here parts, I am planning another.  And I am also off to run some TT!

Here's a few very ordinary photos to record some of what got run.

Gee, I remain impressed with the Casula 12 class. Here it is, wheezing into Dubbo on a special tour train to mark the occasion.

Western division 4494 worked the West Mail. While the loco performed flawlessly, several recent expensive purchases of rolling stock on this train were rather disappointing. The wheel set on one purchase was well out of gauge and another was "lifted" once in Dubbo to show that the axle had never been placed in the bogie correctly.  I guess the lesson is to run the old stuff, and just show off the new stuff.

It wasn't all pretty-boy polished up stuff for the visitors. A well-weathered P class worked the branch, while a 49 ran a couple of goods trains. 

I am not sure I managed to convince either TT Guy or Italian Sportscar Guy to leap into NSWGR HO scale, but they both volunteered for the next session.  I am already plotting a 'run your old stuff" night in May.


15 February 2024

Happy New (Lunar) Year!

Well, I missed posting new year greetings for the calendar year and the new lunar year is fading fast in the rear vision mirror, so it is overdue for this greeting.

Not too much to report on the prototype Coonamble line, But I am planning on crawling all over the north end of it once it cools down and the Joe Blakes go into hibernation. 

Even less to report on the modelling side of the Coonamble line, the exception being the arrival of the Z12 from Casula Hobbies in January 2024. In a word? Stupendous!

I was deeply suspicious that any HO scale loco of these dimensions would be anything more than a show pony.  But my first purchase (1210 in centenary green) is a little workhorse that easily eclipses its prototypical cousins.  I will do better tests in the coming months but this loco can out-pull my Wombat 30Ts (I do need to ballast them up).  A five-car mail train composed of two Workshop 5 and two Lima heavies, plus a wonky Powerline van was no trouble. And it just screams "cute" at me every time I fire it up - on DC too.

So, congratulations to Joe and Therese for pulling off the near-impossible on this model.  I am planning on the smallest of augmentations - coaling, a crew and the lightest of weathering and blackening.

As to the value - I can't paint locos to this standard (see my earlier posts for evidence of that ha ha ha). A commercial paint job of this quality would be $300 minimum and probably closer to $400. Add sound and decoder chip and you are well over halfway on the cost of this loco.  Yes, this is how I explained it to my wife.  I also pointed out that I only buy my clothes from Kmart or Big W, thus saving the family $100s every year. She might speak to me again, soon.

If you are at all interested in picking up a highly detailed, well performing model, start wearing those Kmart flannos get yourself a 12!

Back soon (well, maybe Easter).



27 November 2023

A story about Those Days

This one is a bit of a blast from the past.  For much of his life, Dad was never much of a fan of non-Australian model railways.  It therefore came as a bit of a surprise to recently find two 1966-vintage Railway Modeller magazines in his collection.

I initially thought that the magazines had been purchased for the following advertisement, which was as close as he was ever going to get to a model of a Garratt.

After reading both issues, it became clear that he had purchased them for another reason - Cliff Young's Denver and Rio Grande Western layout of the month (no, not the shuffling Cliff Young).

Mr Young's dream of Colorado railroading had inspired him to create the following spaghetti junction model railway, which is fair enough if you want lots of practice in laying curved track. 

I studied Mr Young's dream for a while before realising that Dad had used this layout as a basis for his dream too - which was crammed into half of a very small double garage.  Dad apparently shared Mr Young's love of curved track, but also harboured an affection for steep (3+%) inclines.  It resulted in a second loop being built over the top of Mr Young's base layout, creating a triple dogbone affair. The Mount Pleasant Railway was not just Dad's dream but a real thing - registered layout Number 58 no less! (Yep, found this certificate too!).

Over the years this layout became known as "the first layout" even though Dad had built at least three beforehand.  It was the layout that I grew up with.  I learned to drive Triang Bo-Bo diesels which had been painted into NSWGR 44 classes by Mum at a scale 160mph on front of five Triang carriages, repainted into Southern Aurora silver. Another Triang 4-6-0, repainted into 3522, dragged whatever Austral card and Freidmont epoxy wagons I could gather.

Friday nights were always a bit special as Dad would sometimes carefully place his Model Dockyard 38 class onto the head of the Aurora, or even a freighter.  I never got a crack at the throttle on those nights, as Dad's father or his two brothers would be in attendance.  Seniority ruled on the Mount Pleasant Railway!

Later, Lima 44s and carriages, Protype kits, Workshop 5 carriages started to augment the MRC/Freidmont range.  A Bergs 32 appeared, followed by a standard goods in the early 1970s. Around that time I even got my own branchline.  I suspect this was to save wear and tear on Dad's rolling stock but I spent hours with my own Rivarossi Dockyard 0-4-0 shunter pulling two Northern Pacific carriages up and down that branchline, along with a couple of secondhand Fleischmann wagons which Santa delivered.    

The photos we have of that layout do not do it justice, for all of its design faults. Apart from the family nights, we had regular visits by the Illawarra Model Railway Association. On these nights I would be allowed to stay up past my bedtime to work the points at the hard to reach parts of the layout) as there were several popups.  I performed my duties under the gaze of 30 to 40 men, all seemingly smoking and laughing and all now dead from some form of cancer or another (the garage's one small window, painted shut, probably contributed to their demise). It was the place to be in 1973!

Enough chatter - here's a snap of the main (Central) station.  A Lima 3830 sits at the head of a Workshop 5 mail train, a Freidmont CUB set is in platform 2 while a Workshop 5 41 class is the yard shunter. Dad didn't believe in ballasting in those days.  

The northern yard (Denver) had a decent loco depot.  I post the following bird's eye view of it with the notation that it held our entire roster of locos - every damn one of them. Still no ballast in sight too!

The coolest part of the layout didn't involve trains but a certain fast food chain.  This is as close as I ever got to entering KFC as Dad considered such palaces as fripperies.  Mr Young would have been proud of the mountain overshadowing the Colonel's outlet. Very un-Australian.   

Around 1974/75, the local newspaper - the Illawarra Daily Mercury incorporating the South Coast Times - sent a photographer along one day to cover weird hobbies (only joking, an upcoming model railway exhibition at the local Police Boys Club).   While it needed none, to add appeal to the story the girlfriend of a certain well-known Illawarra modeller and member of the RTM was coerced into appearing in the article.  Sorry, I don't remember her name, but I do remember she didn't get into trouble for holding the models the way I had been taught not to touch them.

The exhibition was a raging success and I became king of the neighbourhood.  Over the next three months I think I hosted every boy under the age of 13 in a five-mile radius after that article appeared. 

Anyway, its owner tired of the inaccessible mountain passes and sharp curves so this layout was stretchered out of the garage in the late 1970s.  Before it went we didn't even take some farewell photos which is a shame as it owed us absolutely nothing.



22 October 2023

Really Uglies

When I was a kid, Dad would entertain me in those long hours put in waiting for trains which never ran by making up wagon codes.  For example, BWH was Bloody Wheat Hopper.  BCHs were Bloody Cheap Hoppers, WHs were Wobbly Hoppers. An FS carriage was Fairly Slow, but a ride on a BS carriage was Bloody Slow. RU wagons were just Real Uglies.  But this one is not.  It is the future.

This week a little parcel arrived containing a 3D printed RU.  I was skeptical about whether a 3D print could achieve the level of detail needed to resemble a RU, given its angular form. But the person responsible - Shaun Davies - has nailed it in my opinion.  Here is the wagon straight out of the bag, just sitting on a couple of wheel sets (i.e. after one minute of work).

With only a few free moments this weekend, I hit the wagon with a coat of spray-can undercoat, then another of Monument.  Disaster struck when I realised I didn't have RU decals, so I went for a temporary fix - UL (ULs were RUs recoded in 1967 to carry limestone from memory) and I model 1968 so the day was saved. I also went for a fictional wagon number, just to get the thing running. Finished off with a quick Dullcote and some couplings, and it is now running around the layout - as happily as any model and far more obediently than the prototype.  Here it is with a first run Trainorama RU on the left (black) and the later run version on the right).

RUs are like trees - a forest of them look more impressive than a single instance.  IMHO this print more than holds its own against the ready to run versions.  So, now to a quick product review....

I have already blogged enthusiastically about the future of the hobby in a 3D world.  It is a cleaner, more efficient and less wasteful way of manufacturing.  And I think I have written about my unease at having unskilled labour sitting at tables in factories, day after day, pushing tiny bits of plastic onto small bits of plastic.  3D reduces some of that form of manufacturing. These are pluses for the product in my view.

As to the model, the detail is crisp, there is nothing to file or sand, and the wagon lines up well against the Greg Edwards Datasheet dimensions.  Minimal work is required to get the wagon running - just removal of a small amount of flashing on the undercarriage, painting, decalling, wheels (24.7mm axles recommended) and couplers. The steps and rungs are thicker than the Trainorama versions, but this makes them more apparent and, importantly, robust. At $20 a wagon plus postage through eBay, this is value for money.

If you are interested, you can contact Shaun through eBay (search for shaun8998).  He has a range of HO and N gauge models on his site from time to time, including an S wagon and a CHG van.

So, I reckon Dad may have gone for Ugly but Lovely as a UL code.  Even though I am trying to thin the collection, I can't see myself stopping at just one of these.



10 October 2023

Bucket list tick

 It has been a beautiful spring down this way.  Great weather for being in the shed as the local snakes frolic in the nearby paddocks.  I have put hours into the most mundane of purposes - ripping up track, relaying the roadbed, painting rails and sleepers and ballasting. Slow and tedious work, but necessary.  But I have been playing with something else.

The world as a five-year-old is full of wonder, as was mine the day around Easter 1968 when we drove into Dubbo to see, for the first time, 3028T and 3144T resplendent in their new liveries of royal blue and mid-green, respectively.  I only got to see both locos a few times, but 3144T was my favourite as it was painted in green with red lining, the colours of the mighty South Sydney rugby league football club (yes, I am a Souffs tragic too).

Over the years I watched our one or two Agfa slides of these locos degrade and fade. Probably the tattiest is my favourite - here reproduced without any effort to clean it up or enhance it.

And in the interests of equal time, here's my favourite of 3028T.

Both of these photos show the locos after the western Sun had faded them pretty quickly, especially 3144T.  It isn't all bad slide film and neglect.

Just as I suffered over the years for supporting Souths, I was also crushed by the decision or inability of three successive manufacturers to produce 3144T and 3028T in these remarkable liveries. So, given that 2023 has been a bit of a wretched year personally, I figured I would take things into my own hands and repaint a black Wombat 30T into 3144T. Re-reading the wonderful yarn by Percy Suckling in the Roundhouse of the caper convinced me to have a go.  Afterall, they brush-painted both locos! 

(As an aside, the best part about Percy's story was how they got approval for the repainting.  Apparently, the local boss rang Sydney to suggest that both locos be repainted in a quiet time.  That enterprising manager neglected to mention the paint colour being used to repaint the locos!).

Back to the story, which comes with a parental advisory. Don't attempt this at home unless you want high blood pressure. Skill will only get you so far (further than my skill and patience, anyway). Of the two liveries, I figured 3144T was the hardest so I have started there.  And, as of today, I have got to:

This is a distance shot in the hope you won't notice that I am yet to clean the headlight (it is being replaced by one that doesn't shine).  The chimney is still to be replaced, the dome and slide bar covers are just sitting on the body and several smaller valves and whistles are still to be applied. The tender is to be coaled and there will be an Andlan crew climbing aboard soon. Weathering comes after that. But it is nearly finished.

I will confess to lifting and copying just about every photo anyone has published on these two locos as they went through their Bollywood phase.  I am glad as I am guilty for doing this.  It made me understand that 3144T went through the paint shops at least three times during its green days.  Notably, the dome went from polished to green but other smaller parts were repainted differing colours. even the buffer beams were repainted, with smaller numbers being applied to the front buffer beam at some point in 1969.  So what you have here is pretty much the original green loco livery.  

I went 'original green' because I have failed to be able to mix a faded green which gives that 'milky' hue of later months.  So I was headed for the green shown in this photo taken by Colin Rayner (thanks Colin if you ever read this, your photos were an inspiration!).

This next photo is shot under hi-bay LEDs, which doesn't help. My version is still far too green, by far.  I can even tell you how far - 19%. I have just cheated by de-saturating the colour on the following photo. Hopefully my weathering gets me closer. Otherwise, I will just need to park this model in the western Sun too.

3144T is now waiting for a Shapeways consignment, as is 3028T which is stripped and ready for its summer repaint into royal blue.  This job has tested me and found a few skills wanting, but the happiness of knowing I have a green 30T outweighs those many defects with the paint job.

One final thing for the people who know more than me.  Colin Rayner's photo shows some writing on the tender, in yellow. Here's a blow-up of the section I am talking about.

Any guesses? My money is on "Cobar".  Happy to be convinced otherwise.  


30 August 2023

Harm to Harmans

Just a quick post to mark the passing of the last Harman coal tower in NSW at Casino, which was destroyed by fire this week.  In typical fashion, I never photographed it properly. Just took a single snap as I passed by on a work trip.  At the time, which was the 29th July 2005 by the way, I was more interested in the colourful diesels in the foreground.

In happier times - not to mention earlier times - here's a snap of what could be 3004T adjacent to Dubbo's version of the tower.

Bugger of a thing, losing beautiful old edifices like these to neglect.  It makes me even more appreciative of the skill and time that Walker Models used to create a HO scale model of these now extinct beauties. 

31 July 2023

He's back. He hopes.

Looks like I have finally been able to break into my own blog.  No posts since August last year, eh? To be honest, I have tried several times to remember passwords and sign-in procedures, but there has been a fair bit going on over the last year so blogging has been a lesser priority.  But a recent email from one of my loyal followers (thanks Bob) has prompted one more go and here I am!

Of course, this is a blog about railways and increasingly, model railways, so I will get onto that stuff in a minute.  The other 99% of life threw me a few curve balls last year.  One of these got pretty serious around Christmas when my father (aka the Senior Train Hunter) became increasingly unwell and immobile.  Sadly, he left us for the great roundhouse in the sky in late April.  Fortunately, I got to spend a lot of time with him as he subsided. One of his many instructions was to 'get that bloody blog going again', so it looks like I won't get haunted for failing on that count. he also gave me plenty of other instructions. None were about digging up the family gold. Most were about how Saints were robbed and how Budd cars should have been used on western NSW branch lines from 1972, instead going to Denning buses. Useful stufff to think about.

I now know that dying and death is a messy and complicated business, which sucks a lot of time out of you.  During those sorts of times (which we all go through) it is important to have a refuge, just to get the brain back into calmer waters.  And I found that refuge up in the shed, and still do.  So, yes, it has been a bugger of a year and I really haven't done much to advance building the layout, but I have run plenty of trains around and around.  And around a few more times. 

In running those trains I have pretty much convinced myself there are only a few tweaks to be made to the trackwork, then it will be full-on electrics and then scenery time.  So, please excuse the lack of track ballast or more substantial items of scenery in the following photos. I am still trying to get the vibe right.

Pretty much the last model Dad got to see, arrived in early April. It is the Stephen Johnson Models ETP that will tail our/my DEB set when it arrives later this year.  In the meantime, it gets to run behind a Eureka 620 set, which means (from memory) it must be a Tuesday on the layout. Here is a snap taken as the train disgorges hundreds of passengers at Coalbaggie Creek (Eumungerie).

One day it will look something closer to this day - which was 12 April 1966.

I have also been running the big new power. Here 4915 heads an empty wheatie west through Dubbo station, while 4501 takes up the loop. Since this photo was taken I have started the ballasting of this area, which improves things 300%. The biggest change will come when I use proper corrugated tin on the verandah roof, instead of the temporary paper product.

The 45 is an AR Kits body with an Atlas RSD4/5 mechanism under the hood - a real baby of the 1990s. It needs a touch up and some weathering, being 30 years old but it can still drag the odd wagon or 50 with ease.  Atlas mechs are terrific for their age.

Finally, thanks to everyone who have updated their blogs more regularly than me. They are a joy to read.   

Anyway, let's see how I go at a follow-up blog before year's end.