How my railroad interests moved from the Pacific Northwest to Southern New South Wales .....with a stop over in Southern California

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July already???

I'm Back....for my seemingly semi-annual update.

Non- layout wise....I'm 10 months in to my return as a union Train Dispatcher and have enjoyed every minute of it (as much as one can enjoy working).  I am handling 3rd trick (nights) on the Centralia North desk of the Northwest Division.  This job basically handles 40 miles either side of Tacoma Washington and can vary in traffic from 8-10 trains up to 20+ during my 8 hour shift. 
My job happens to be one that's live streamed online...anyone interested in listening can go to:   
I work Tuesdays thru Saturdays  2230 - 0630 U.S. Central time

Two other personal items so far in 2013 were my June wedding to my long time (over 20 years) partner Emily: 

Think it might last!

and on a less happier note, the removal of a low grade bladder tumor in April that had me off my feet for far too long!

but I'm back to normal and have actually accomplished a good bit on the railroad in the past couple of months.

I'd been stalled due to being intimidated by building TWO helixes, but I finally broke down and tackled the first one, which will connect the 2 levels representing the NSW standard gauge line from Narrandera to Tocumwal.  I found a "how to" video on YouTube and here is the result:

It raises the track 16 3/4 inches in 5 turns of 27" radius.  The VR T class peeking out at center right is where the main line will enter.

Here's how it fits in with the different levels:

The lower level comes from Narrandera around the peninsula to the right and the standard gauge will exit on the middle level around the peninsula to the right to end up at Tocumwal.  The VR broad gauge will be on the upper level and will cross the back wall above the helix to staging to the left of the photo.

On the other side of the peninsula, I got the urge to lay some track and put down the southern New South Wales station of Jerilderie:

It's a fair representation of the actual location (Tocumwal is to the left, above):

Here's an overview of Jerilderie's location in the grand scheme of things:

Jerilderie is on the lower left...with Narrandera and the NSW staging area on the lower level at the right.  Above Jerilderie is a cross country section of the NSW Standard Gauge line that leads to Standard gauge/broad gauge interchange at Tocumwal, which will be on the middle level at the right.  

Behind the camera to the right will be the 2nd Helix which will take the VR broad gauge line from Tocumwal up to Shepparton on the upper level right and Maroopna on the upper level left.

It's been an interesting and somewhat busy year so far, but I'm fairly pleased with the progress the railroad is making.  

I'm thinking I will lay the Standard gauge line next and get it operating before I tackle the 2nd helix and the VR line.    

Subject to Change.......stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Yes.....I am still here and there has been progress on the new layout!

I am currently in the middle of a job change from management back to a union job.  The downside of which will be fewer days off, but the upside is that I will have more time every day to get things accomplished. And the under construction layout has benefited lately.

Above is the framing and lower level of the 3 level peninsula. The lower and middle levels will represent the standard gauge line from Tocumwal to Narrandera, while the upper will be the Victorian broad gauge line from Tocumwal towards Seymour.

This is the peninsula from the end where you enter the room.  The end and the 2 wings attached to it will be model display cases which will hide the turn-back loops at the end, eliminating difficult areas to scenic on what is supposedly a "flat land" railroad.  To the right can be seen the 3 levels, which from top to bottom will be Shepparton, VIC; Tocumwal and Narrandera.  To the left of the photo will be a helix connecting the middle and lower levels...and further to the left (opposite the wall with the window), will be Victoria Railways staging.

In this view, Victorian staging will be behind me, the middle to lower level helix to the left and the middle to upper level helix will be in the alcove to the right rear, along with a lower level turn-back loop below it.  

Aisles are approx. 6 - 7 feet narrowing to around 3 feet where the peninsula joins the rest of the Railroad.  

Thanks to Bob Stack for shaming me into an update...more soon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Layout Plan & Construction Begins!

My backdating has begun!  A box from Auscision arrived this week with my first four wheel wagons, a 6-pack of the ubiquitous GY wagons, they're kind of cool looking, and a little larger than I expected.  The problem is...I will need to purchase a couple dozen at least, might have to Ebay a few packs of NSW coal or container wagons.  

My Victoria Railways fleet now includes 2 Bendigo models flat-top T's, 1 Powerline high hood T, 6 GY wagons and 4 TrainO (or is it now Bob's?) Brake vans.  A modest, but solid beginning.

But where are they going to run?

To satisfy my newly grown fondness for Victorian equipment, I've come up with a plan that pretty much divides my railroad between NSWGR and VR.  Unfortunately, it will be a 3 level layout, and require 2 Helixes... thus a little more problematic in construction, but I believe it will offer a good variety of operations with the branchline action of the 2 state systems.

Since I can't (won't) actually model the 2 different gauges, my plan is for the 2 systems to be physically unconnected.  In Tocumwal, I'm debating whether to use 2 different sizes of track  (i.e. Code 100 for VR & Code 83 for NSWGR), or to just ballast the tracks a little different to make them stand apart from each other.  There is one Flour mill siding that is served by both systems which was dual gauge in reality.  I'm planning on using a gantlet track arrangement to keep the systems seperate.  It will be 4 rails instead of 3, but will be a decent representation.

Upper Level:

This level represents the Broad Gauge system north from Seymour.  Murchison East will have silos and Mooroopna and Shepparton will have yet to be determined industries.  The last modeled feature on the top level will be the Tocumwal Road / Rail lift bridge over the Murray River, just before entering the Helix down to Tocumwal.

Middle level:

Tocumwal will be the operating focal point of the railroad, being the terminus of state run railways.  The station sits between yards of the 2 railways and there are several industries served by both either on their on sidings or a dual gauge siding.  The actual yards at Tocumwal were rather lengthy with several exchange sidings where freight was transfered between the systems.  I believe I've compressed it, but have kept the flavor of this country terminal. 

Lower Level:

The lower level represents the removed in the 1980's NSWGR branch from Narrandera to Tocumwal.  Silos are present in each of the 3 modeled towns and staging will represent Junee  (may change it to Narrandera and model a little of it...haven't decided yet)

This weekend I actually started construction...starting (from top to bottom) on the Shepparton, Tocumwal and Junee shelves along the one wall of the room.

In the below photo, the alcove on the right of the photo, is the area I had designed into the room for the Helix:

That's all for now,  I would certainly be open for any information or photos that anyone might have on the modeled areas, especially the last years of operation of the NSW Narrandera to Tocumwal line.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A New Direction

One month back from our rain soaked 3 week visit to Australia...and it doesn't even feel like we went.  I made MANY new friends and reconnected with old friends....and I already can't wait to revisit.  Thanks to all who made the trip a success.  I hope I can return the favor at some point in the future.

Big news from the trip is that I have finally decided to back date, and have changed my modeling focus.  

Time spent in Victoria has given me a much greater respect for the Victoria Railway, especially in it's pre-V-Line blue and yellow glory.  Time spent chasing 1950's era EMD products has taken it's toll. 

The photo above shows the new focal point of my soon to be started railway.  Tocumwal was served until the 1980's by both the Victoria broad gauge and the New South Wales standard gauge rail systems.   The compact yard precinct had silos and stock pens served by both systems and also had facilities to transfer goods between wagons from each railway.

Also, how cool is a river lift bridge that used to be a combination Rail / Road set up complete with a gate keepers shack.

The announcement during our trip and subsequent purchase of the beautiful Bendigo Rail Models T-Class, set the design wheels in motion.  Between the T's and the "Soon to be released"  (maybe, hopefully) NSW 48-class Alcos, made Tocumwal seem like a perfect way to feed my interests.

In my next posts I will reveal my plan and outline my hopes for this new direction I've taken.    Anyone need  some modern era container and coal wagons!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another year passes

Happy Holidays to all!

New Layout construction begins in 2012
Watch this space!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Plans....Part 2

Here are the other 2 plans I've come up with...both OK, but not great in their own ways.
Once again, the plans are not to exact scale....the squares are 1 foot and the mainline curve radius is nominally 30"


Dubbo seems to be an interesting place....haven't been yet, but it's on the list for February.  I know it is now a shell of it's former self in terms of importance in the NSW rail operations.  Blair had been suggesting it for a model RR for some time, and co-worker, and fellow modeler Matt Sugerman came up with the basic design of this plan after spending some time with track diagrams and Google Earth.

In order to get as much space as possible for the yard at Dubbo, this is the only layout plan that is not a walk-in....there is a duckunder at the west end of the yard.  In spite of the space given, by the time the yard tracks and ladders are laid out, I don't believe the yard will be big enough to really be operationally useful.

This plan is mostly yard oriented, with the lines from Merrygoen, Coonamble, Cobar and Parkes all represented by staging that will feed traffic into Dubbo.  The one line segment that is modeled on the lower level is a portion of the line to Orange, and it terminates in staging representing Orange/Sydney.

While I'm not that familiar with operations at Dubbo, I believe grain, fuel and ore traffic predominate with Pac National, Silverton and Patrick (& LVRC?). But a yard with a road crossing through it that has gates that swing across the tracks....kinda cool!

 I would need to sell off my coal equipment, and stock up on 48's....And probably have to drop 800+ bills for an Auscision XPT.

...or back date to the time when Dubbo was a happening place.

Ardglen  2.0

When the plans for the new house were finalized and I saw the size and shape of the new layout room,  my mind went to work on how I could scale down my dismantled Muswellbrook to Werris Creek railway.  I decided that the most interesting part of the line to me was Ardglen Bank itself, and with a little thought, found that it seems to fit rather nicely in my new space.

The major downside to this plan is that, with the exception of the Silo at Willow Tree, and the ballast pit at Ardglen, this railroad would just be running trains back and forth, and thus, would probably get boring  rather quickly.

This plan would require less turns on the helix, because a good bit of the climb would be modeled, but trying to operate the bankers on the helix would present another problem.
Since the helix would be shorter, I included turn-back loops stacked with the helix on both the Newcastle and Werris Creek staging areas
Since the same operators/trains that go to Gunnedah, come thru Ardglen...the same equipment would be needed for this as the Gunnedah plan...and I have a good portion of that already.

The least interesting of them all.   And one that would require mountain building....yuck!

Well,  that's all I've come up with....I did download the signal diagrams for the Sydney Metro Goods line...thought about coming up with something really off the wall....but haven't yet.   Hopefully I can settle on something and get started soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Have Plans....Part 1

For the last couple of weeks now, I've been sketching up some layout plans based on a couple of preferences:

1.  New South Wales in approximately 2005.  This will allow me to use all the equipment I have collected over the last 5 years.  (as increasingly appealing as back dating is, I believe I'm a little too far along, especially locomotive-wise, to change now)

2.  preferably a good mix between main line running, yard shunting and online industry work

3.  Someplace I have already visited and/or can visit during my next visit down under in 4 months.

4.  Flat, or relatively flat terrain would be NICE (Mountainous scenery building "killed" my last 2 RR's)

Based on these wants, and after scrutinizing track charts and signal diagrams...I came up with 4 plans:

One that I am strongly leaning toward:                            Gunnedah
One that I like quite a bit:                                                 Parkes
One that is good, but don't think space will do it justice:  Dubbo
One that I have visualized since my space was known:   Ardglen

Tonights entry will cover the first 2....I'll try and post the others tomorrow.
The plans are only roughly to scale....with the squares being 1 foot and the mainline radius nominally 30".


Fits well with my requirements.  In 2005 (as it appears today) , seemingly every operator in the state operated into or through Gunnedah.   ARG held the Manildra Flour contract and ran these services with a great variety of Orange former GWA power.  Pac Nat handled grain into Gunnedah and also from the Northwest of the state to the grain export terminals in the Newcastle area.  Pac National also ran the former Freight Australia fuel services to Dubbo and coal loaded in the Gunnedah area to Kooragang Island.  Add to this the Lachlan Valley cotton services to the Narrabri area and the Southern Short Haul infrastructure workings and you have all the variety my equipment roster can support.

This plan focuses one level on Gunnedah itself...which in reality has a very linear arrangement which seems to work well in the space available.  It allows me to have all the basic features in their proper order, including the coal loading loop, with Narrabri staging beyond:
Heading southeast by using the helix to the lower level, you pass the only 3 "towns" between Gunnedah and Werris Creek which are Curlewis, Nea and Breeza...each of which has at least 1 grain silo to provide some rail activity. Then travel into staging which will be at a yet to be determined location...probably along the wall under Curlewis.

Additions to my equipment roster for this plan will need to be acquired as they are released by the manufacturers:   Auscision AGHX grain cars for the Manildra services, and NGTY grain wagons.  The long awaited 48 class locos from Train-O (or Powerline...whoever comes out with the Freight Corp blue first),  81 class locos from Austrains,  and a set of Explorer passenger DMU cars that reportedly may show up some day.  

All in all, I am probably best equipped to operate this plan over all others.


I had thought about Parkes when I started thinking about a new railroad, but didn't think it would lend itself to my space, due to the fact that there are lines radiating out in all directions from this western depot.   But after the suggestion from Brad Hinton that I  look at it, I decided that it could be done, IF I just focused on a single line.  

What I ended up with was a railroad that runs from Orange/Sydney staging to Parkes and then on Northwest to Narromine with staging for Dubbo and Cobar.  The lines to Broken Hill and Cootamundra will be dummies diverging from the modeled route.

Like Gunndedah,  Parkes has a fairly linear layout stretching from the Grain sub-terminal on the east, through the yard and station, and loco depot before coming to Goobang Jct. on the west side.  Like the Gunnedah plan, The Parkes area takes in the entire upper level with the Orange staging on the far left side of the room over my desk.

After traversing the helix, you pass through Goonumbla (Silo and container loading), Mickibri (Silos) and Peak Hill (Silos) before coming into Narromine where the line to Cobar branches off (staging) and the trip ends at staging representing Dubbo.

This plan will be basically a grain operation with branch trains coming from the Dubbo and the lower level towns and from the Cootamundra and Orange lines to the Parkes sub terminal, for reloading into trains going to export.  An additional operating element will be the ore trains to/from Cobar, which will require a run-around move at Narromine to access Parkes from Cobar (as the prototype does).  

Equipment wise, by not modeling the Main west to Broken Hill, or the line to Cootamundra...I don't have to by up a bunch of NR's or  build myself a steel train or an Indian Pacific.  But I will need more 48-class locos than I would for the Gunnedah plan..both Freight Corp/Pac Nat and Silverton versions.

If anyone is still reading after all this......As these are the 2 front runners...I would appreciate any suggestions or critiques. 

Next time:   2 more plans