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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Modeling History - Part 4 - Goodbye So. Cal...Hello NSW!

My 2007 trip to Australia completely hooked me on attempting to model the railways down under.  I returned to the states with a few models picked up during my travels:  a CFCLA 44 class, a Freight Australia X class, a couple of 4 packs of Train-o-rama freight wagons and a Train-O brake van.  

Now what to do with them?

I made the decision at that point to model fairly current operations in New South Wales (probably because I spent most of my gunzeling time in NSW), but where to focus?   I spent my time there on the Main West to Parkes and the Main South to Junee...both provided enough traffic and variety to make modeling interesting....but both had significant sections of double main line, which would complicate the modeling and reduce the amount of line I could model in the space available.  

In the books & magazines I acquired, I started reading about the Main North from Maitland to  the Northwest of the state.  Mostly single line working with Grain, coal, goods...multiple operators, AND  .....  Bankers!  (helpers or pushers to the yanks among us)  A quick mail order purchase of 2 Ardglen Banker DVD's pretty much made up my mind, but the below video found on YouTube sealed the deal:

It just can't get any better than that!! Alcos front and rear and mountain scenery...everything that I've always loved.

I started pouring over the ARTC website for track charts, maps and schedules and made an AMAZING discovery. The layout I had build for my Santa Paula Branch of the SP, would convert with virtually no changes to the line between Muswellbrook and Werris Creek!!!!

I just had to lengthen a couple of passing loops and remove 17 goods sidings and 1965 Southern California became 2006 Northwest New South Wales.

In the track plan below, Maitland Staging was Los Angeles, Willow Tree was Fillmore (the town I grew up in, Werris Creek was Oxnard, and Tamworth / Narrabri Staging was Northern California staging.

In the drawings, not all sidings are show.

The original railroad had a significant grade to transition from the main level to the upper level.  On The SP model, the grade had to be ignored since it wasn't there on the prototype...trains had to be powered up enough to climb it unassisted:

But it fell in the perfect position for Ardglen Bank, and, since I'm modeling current times and there isn't any loose goods business, the grade and use of bank engines will become the focal point of the new railroad:

Next up....I'll do a little cleaning and share a few photos of the current state of the railway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Modeling History - Part 3 - The SP of My Childhood

The year is 1965, the location is Fillmore, California...about 45 miles north of Los Angeles on Southern Pacific's Santa Paula Branch.  The train is the San Francisco to LA Coast Mail, detouring due to a derailment on the Main Line.  The boy on the right at the crossing is me, along with my younger brother.    This painting, a composite of several actual events was commissioned from noted U.S. rail artist John Winfield ( ), and pretty well represents my next model railroad attempt.

From 1964 thru graduation from high school in 1975, I grew up in this small, 4500 resident town...a mountain range away in distance, but a world away in culture, from America's 3rd largest city.   The Southern Pacific line came to town in 1886 as their main line between LA and San Francisco.  By 1904 the line was bypassed by a lower grade, more direct route and became a 50 mile parallel branch line for the rest of it's existance.  The route is the upper of the 2 in the map below (Fillmore is pretty much right in the middle of the branch):

Fillmore station sometime near the turn of the century

The eastern 3rd of the line (east of Piru) washed out during floods in the late 1980's and was never rebuilt. The Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) sold most of the line by the early 1990's and what remains is operated by a short line, and used mostly in tourist train, and Movie/TV work.

My modeling premise, was that the cut off had never been built and Fillmore was still on the main line in 1965.  

The job change and move to Fort Worth brought with it the chance to start a new railroad.  We bought 1.5 acres on the edge of the city and had our home designed to our wants by an architect  niece of Emily's.  I ended up with an "L" shaped train room, roughly 20' x 33'.  After a year or so of inactivity, I finally came up with the idea for the railroad and construction began.

What I ended up with was a point to point railroad, varying from 1 to 3 levels circling the room twice.  Los Angeles staging was on the upper level, the railroad traveled through Saugus, Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Montalvo and into the yard at Oxnard, before leaving for the lower level staging which represented Northern California.  The main traffic generated on line was from the citrus industry, with about 9 modeled fruit packing houses.  The yard at Oxnard originated several locals daily to service these locations.  Through freight traffic consisted of several trains each way per day, and there were 2 passenger and a mail train daily, following the actual Southern Pacific operations of 1965.

I used the new RR as my opportunity to switch to DCC, and used several trips to So. Cal to photograph the remaining infrastructure and disappearing fruit packing houses.  Track work was completed around 2005 and one half-assed operating session was run in 2006.

Credit for much of the motivation and help in construction go to all the members of the "Thursday Night Jazz and Pie Club", a group of modelers in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, that would meet every few weeks to work on each others' railroads.  Also credit to Donovan Furin for the beautiful Southern California backdrop (which is currently being reborn  in the Southern hemisphere!)

Unfortunately for the Santa Paula branch, I started receiving forwarded email photos taken in far away New South Wales by soon-to-be friend Charlie Harris that were capturing my interest and the sight of Alcos and bulldog locos still operating in everyday service proved to be too much.  

A vacation trip down under in 2007, and the purchase of some Australian models drove the last nail in the coffin of the Southern Pacific.   The boxes of SP equipment have been slowly disappearing on Ebay, and the proceeds from those sales will be used to buy up necessary equipment for the next phase of my modeling life.....but what will that be?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Modeling History - Part 2 - Cascade Railway

My first year working for Burlington Northern just happened to coincide with the final 8 months of operations of their Alco locomotive fleet.     Being around the smokey, chortling, four-cycle engined, beasts day and night had me hooked from then on.  Once you've heard a single C-636 start a heavy transfer drag on a cold, clear'll never be satisfied with the products of EMD.

Around late 1980, I moved into a rental house with a 2 car garage that immediately became the home of my new model railroad.  I eventually decided to free-lance this one,  a bridge road in the Pacific Northwest, connecting Western Washington with South Central Oregon.  In the manner of the yet to be created Montana Rail Link, The Cascade Railway would operate it's own freight trains and locals, but would also host long distance trains of the Burlington Northern.

The modeled Cascade was an E shaped point to point railroad representing 1 subdivision of the ficticious  system.  Home road power was an assortment of mostly 4 axle Alco roadswitchers with a couple of end cab switch engines for yard duties.  There were 2 paint schemes used,  a slightly simplified version of the Canadian Pacific gray & maroon represented the original scheme and the modern paint  a bright red and black  ( a la Washington Central).  The modern logo represented a volcanic mountain in front of a full moon (actually a CP Rail loco on its' side)

The Cascade wasn't a portable railroad, but it was built strong enough to make a move across town in 1989,  when the home I had built was completed.  I had a 3 car garage built with only a single car garage 1 stall for the vehicle and, after the railroad was hauled over on a trailer and moved in,  a 24' x 24' walled off room for the Cascade system.

The railroad was completed to a stage where operating sessions were held every month or two, using up to 6 operators.  It reached a point where scenery was just getting started...and the management decided to go out and sample locomotives from EMD:

Finally in late 1997,  I decided I needed to upgrade the railroad room by adding carpet.  Sooooo, being a normal modeler...I chose to tear down the entire railroad to make it easier....and to come up with "something even better!"  Alas, it never happened.   After 20 years in the rain of Washington , and the depressing prospect of spending another 20 as an engineer on the same piece of track in the rain...the opportunity came up for Emily (wife & also a BN/BNSF employee) and I to make  career changes....and a move to Texas of all places!

Next:  Part 3....Fort Worth and the SP Santa Paula Branch

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Modeling History - Part 1 - The BN Years

Like most people my age, I was initiated into model trains when I received a Lionel trainset for Christmas when I was about 5 years old.  It came as an oval of track mounted on a green painted plywood board that would slide under the bed.  Pulled by a steam engine, I eventually had a bunch of the "cool" freight cars like the giraffe car, and the car that launched a helicopter.

My first piece of HO equipment was an Athearn 40 ft. flat car with with the small jib crane.  I didn't even own track at the time, but I thought it was pretty neat, and if I remember correctly, cost around $1.95 worth of saved up allowance.

Through my teen years I had a layout of sorts in our garage and/or enclosed porch, but had no real modeling focus until my first visit to the Pacific Northwest in 1974.  A family trip to the World's Fair in Spokane Washington brought my first exposure to the Burlington Northern.  I had read about it in magazines since it was created in 1970, but seeing the "Glacier" green and black freshly painted on everything, plus a healthy assortment of pre-merger colors on everything from switch engines to F-units to Alcos, was enough to hook me.

My modeling was pretty well stagnant for the last year of High School and year and 1/2 of Junior College.   It finally blossomed again in late 1978 when I moved to San Diego to attend college.  When I arrived I found a LARGE Model Railroad club that was on display every weekend in Balboa Park and joined up.  My brother David was attending college in Denver at the time, and frequent visits were spent photographing the BN and its' unit coal trains running south on the Joint Line towards Texas.

I decided BN in general and a BN unit coal train would be my weekly displays at the club operating sessions.   It was GREAT!...because no one in San Diego had a clue about the BN, so I was pretty much free of the rivet counters criticizing my modeling.

I continued collecting BN & pre merger BN equipment for the next couple of years.  After 2 years in the club, we were going to have to tear down the layout (which was over 20 years old) and were starting the planning process to move to a newer, bigger location within the park.  At this time my current distaste for clubs was formed...politics and cronyism started replacing common sense.  Luckily for me, a major change in my life was soon to come.

For several years I had been corresponding with all the major (and many of the non-major) railroads in the US trying to get a job.   At the end of July 1979, I made a follow-up call to the BN in Portland, Oregon.  The personnel manager said he might have something for me...if I could get up there.  48 hours later I was in his office and by the next evening....I started my career with BN, not so glamorous as I first night was spent sweeping floors and cleaning toilets in the division office building in Portland.....but it was a start.

I worked for the next 2 weeks, living in a motel, before I got time off to race back to San Diego to pack my belongings and head back north to start a 20 year residence in Washington.  The models shown here are still with me to this day...don't know that anyone would want this old Athearn junk now.  But they were seed for my next modeling chapter....The Cascade Railway

Monday, November 9, 2009

My profile photo is pretty small, so here's a larger version....taken by well known Australian railway photographer Graham Cotterall of me behind the controls of Southern Shorthaul Railway locomotive GM-22 on the coal branch north of Wallerawang NSW. My 20 years of running locomotives came right back to me.....but the controls were on the wrong side!!
Hello all,

Decided I would give this blogging thing a try. I really enjoy keeping up with everyone else's progress and news, so I hope this will be a good way to keep in touch my friends in Australia (and those here in the old US of A).

Once I get it figured out, I'll try to use it to chronicle my currently under construction model railroad...but other things are likely to show up including travels, photos, and items from my other interests.

Stay tuned....