Sunday, August 31, 2014

Welcome to Buggardine!

 A classic 1980 view by Chris Anderson of a Gwabegar-bound goods train between Ryalstone and Mudgee, with a 48 Class up front followed by an assortment of S-wagons, a bogie goods van, nad several flat wagons loaded with RACE containers. RACE was  a cooperative effort by several Australian state rail systems to pool containers for domestic less-than-carload shipments of traffic (think: United Parcel Service). These cars would be set out at Mudgee.

That's what I'll call it for now--the new New South Wales branchline terminal layout I've decided to plow ahead with.

I like a little bawdiness in my Australian place names. South Coast Rail has a whole epistle given to unusual Australian place names. (Burrumbuttock--there's a name to fuel the imagination. How about Coonabarabran? I'm mostly intrigued on that one given the Wikipedia entry on how it got its name: 
 "It seems no one really knows the source and meaning of the word Coonabarabran. It may derive from a person's name or from the Kamilaroi language word 'gunbaraaybaa' meaning 'excrement', translated earlier as meaning, 'peculiar odour', this possibly is a bowdlerisation. Another meaning is derived from an Aboriginal word for 'inquisitive person'."  Quite a divergent pair of choices. I'm guessing the former is the real story, and the Aboriginals just told the settlers the latter to appease them. But I digress.) Walla Walla doesn't even make the list!

So, there will be no double-decked dual Walla Walla railway this time. I'm sticking to New South Wales, and proto-freelancing a rural branchline terminal. I'd been kicking this one around for quite awhile after seeing railway models in Australia based on this concept. Bowen Creek quite comes to mind. And most recently, Burrowa. I like the idea of a sun-baked, drought-stricken nowhere little town in central New South Wales. Call it late 1970s, when rural traffic was in decline. The franchise was on shaky legs. The inspectors weren't as regular out on the far reaches of the territory, so the paint is peeling, the weeds and high grasses are taking over the roadbed, and without steam, those Sellars turntables are starting to get a little balky in their operation.

I scaled back ambitions from Narrabri this time. I'm hoping that by concentrating on the visual and operating experience of such a branchline terminal, I can accomplish my goals. I'm still striving for operations, but realistically I know I'm somewhat of a lone wolf (with a few other wolfs time to time for company) and need to have a railroad that is fun to build and scenic, doesn't require an overwhelming amount of rolling stock or locomotives, and can be operated by two or three--or even one.

So, welcome to Buggardine. Okay, bad joke--but the original name, Dilgonga, was even more double-entrendred.

Where is Buggardine? The name is influenced by Baradine, on the Gwabegar line. I love the Warrambungles, and the idea that grain trains came off the plains and down the canyons of this rugged piece of New South Wales. I didn't want to be constrained by an actual prototype, so le's forget for now that Gwabegar didn't exist, and Buggardine did.

 Another 1980 Chris Anderson view, as the 4853, an earlier series 48 class, wheels 10 empty S-wagons and a GHG guard van along the Gwabegar branch near Yearinan with a Baradine-bound goods train. Light rail and minimal ballast!

It's a small town, maybe the council seat of the shire. To the south and west are the jagged Warrambungles. To the north and east, the flat plains of the wheat belt. A thrice-weekly goods train calls here, the timetable bolstered by conditional extra schedules for wheat, occasionally livestock movements, and depending upon contracts, containerized cotton extras (the cotton industry, as it has in the nearby Namoi region, has recently taken root in the area, and containers are loaded on a newly-paved apron adjacent to the old flour siding).

The infrastructure is typical of rural NSW locations: station, loading bank, light crane, goods shed. A silo. Livestock pens. There's a weed-grown track leading to a 60' turntable and unused coal stage, and near there, a decaying bunk house for crews that no longer stay in town. A stationmaster's home, water tank and ganger's shed complete the terminus scene; two parallel sidings run into town, serving two oil distributors and a flour mill, and the aforementioned new loading area for cotton containers.

Just outside of town, on a separate dead-end siding with a run-around track, partially obscured by trees and rising hills, is a new, modern wheat board high-throughput grain elevator complex, visited in season my tandem branch line locomotives and the new WHX/WTY wheat wagons.

Completing the scene is a panorama leaving town, dropping down into the Warrambungles, a peaceful scene across the paddocks where sheep and cattle graze.

It seems doable, and given the right amount of "restraint," I have the room to keep the layout uncrowded and believable.

 Just a sketch, but. . .you get the idea.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Emerging from a cloud of (probably toxic) dust.

 How I started the morning: destruction as a form of art. . .

Spent most of this weekend tearing down North of Narrabri. It's not really gone--somewhat careful demolition (you can never be too careful!) to recycle whatever assets of the old layout has allowed me to be "sustainable" (in the modern parlance) and not toss too much unwanted lumber out the upstairs window.

Seriously. After removing most of the lower deck, I was able to open the windows, letting the sunshine into the layout room for the first time in 5 or 6 years. My 10 year old son, Ian, exclaimed that he "didn't know there was a window there!".

It's tougher to tear down a model railroad than it is to build it. In my case at least, construction was problem-solving-as-you-go. And in the heat of wanting to make progress, construction proceeded not in the most logical, linear fashion. Meaning that lots of times, screws were driven in from the top side of the benchwork instead of below. Why is this important? When it comes time to tear that mother down, you'll discover that the screw heads you need access to are buried under the scenery. Something I mean to remember each time--but rarely do.

In the meantime, it's a godawful mess--as bad as it was the last time I tore down a layout, the Walla Walla Valley, back in 2008. Worst part is the dust from the pressed paper ceiling tiles used as sub-roadbed. It's like springtime in Lubbock in here. Everything is covered with a layer of white dust. I always ask myself why I insist on the ceiling tile--why not use pink foam? I guess with the foam I'd just be trading white dust for pink staticky dust.

The helix was generously donated to a UP switchman in town who could use it for his layout he hopes to build in the future. Lower level lighting and a chunk of excess NSWGR rolling stock ended up with my mate Lance Lassen. About half of the rest of my Aussie stock was offered up via Facebook, and all of it so far has either been sold off or spoken for. I'm guessing my asking prices weren't e-bay astronomical. I hope the new recipients of the models are happy with their purchases.

So this begs the question I get a lot now: So, are you done with modeling Australia? Are you going to do another version of Walla Walla Valley? I've been coy in the past, repeating the "conceptually linked" line one layout designer used in Model Railroad Planning to justify a two-level layout, with two different railroads, not physically linked. "Conceptually Linked?" Well, in addition to the Walla Walla in Washington State, USA, there's a Walla Walla in New South Wales. . . served at one time by the NSWGR. Could THIS be my next layout?

Stay tuned!

 By the end of the day: a bit tidier. . .and a clue as to what's next . . .

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The End. . . for now.

Not the beginning of the end--rather, the end of the beginning!

The End of a Model Railroad is rarely something to celebrate, and the case of North of Narrabri is no different.

Readers of this by-now semi-annual blog about building North of Narrabri have well noticed the lack of updates; those times I have updated in the past few years, it's mainly been to assure my dwindling number of followers that I'm still in the game, just not working as intently as I did before.

So with the deepening layer of dust on the layout from lack of use, inspiration and progress (measured at 115 scale centimeters at last count), it became obvious that as time went on, it was becoming tougher and tougher to get back on that modeling wagon without some big lightning bolt of inspiration to bring me back in there.

My kids had largely taken over the train room, which I don't really begrudge them, as one of the early tenants of the layout's design was to open up the room for use by the rest of the family.

In the past couple of years, though, other interests in my life have emerged to edge the modeling from priority status. We did a bit of remodeling of the house, which certainly diverted time and money from the model railway. Last November I acquired a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, which while not needing much work at all, called me either to the garage downstairs to troubleshoot the constant little nags, or to the open road to enjoy such a vintage piece of Michigan Steel.

And lastly, the acquisition of a new, smaller, lighter mirrorless Fuji X-series camera system has rekindled one of my earliest loves: photography. It was my photography interest which grew as a result of my initial railway interest in the mid-1970s, and eventually provided me 10 years of employment as a photojournalist. But photography for the sheer pleasure of making images of things that struck my eye became less and less of an occurrence once I left the profession to become a railroader in 1994.  Since starting a family, the only times I went out of my way to make photographs were family events or for railroad photography--and apart from trips to Australia in 2009 and 2012, I'd done very little of that. The Fuji cameras made photography fun again, and I'm fully vested in once again exploring my visual creative side.

Stifiling my layout progress were a couple of issues: the age of my DCC system (Easy DCC from around 2000), the unresponsiveness of CVP, the system's manufacturer, to respond to requests for help on upgrading the system; and the continued delay after delay of TrainORama to deliver three 48 class I'd ordered in February 2008. True, they're ONLY locomotives, but this was a layout based on Narrabri, and without the signature locomotive on the railroad. . .well, it just wasn't motivating to  not be able to run a full program of trains on one of my rare operating sessions.

So, I decided to start anew. I might be back working on a layout early next year, or it might be a few years. I'm not going to let a hobby pursuit drag me down. It'll happen when it happens. In the meantime, I can scale back some benchwork, remove other portions (and repair holes in the drywall I'd punched to situate a helix), and just not worry about model railroading for awhile.

The 40-or-so hand-built turnouts will likely be recycled on Lance Lassen's Tocumwal layout; I'll be thinning out my rolling stock collection by about 40%. And I'll get on with these other pursuits.

What might replace Narrabri? I'm leaning towards a streamlined, one-town layout that will extend along two walls of the existing railroad room, with a benchwork around 50cm deep. I'd imagine it being a mix-up of Coonabarbaran and Wee Waa: a modern high-thruput grain operation, the older concrete silos "downtown." A traditional stock, loading bank, goods shed arrangement. A small passenger station with thrice-weekly 620/720 service. A couple of oil spurs. A siding for containerized cotton. And a weed-grown loco servicing facility with small armstrong turntable. The era will be the same as Narrabri was: mid-1970s to 1980.  Hopefully, but the time I get back to this new layout, those 48's will have arrived--from TrainO, from Auscision--hopefully from someone.

So, while this is an ending, it isn't THE END. It's just a break. And when I come back to it, it'll be fun and exciting and something I will devote the time to.

Thanks for all your interest in North of Narrabri! Your own work has served as an inspiration for me and a benchmark to aim for.