Since updates on the Buggardine/Narrabri/Australian outline layout of mine have gotten less and less frequent, astute followers (or those those who still follow this blog, anyway. . . ) might assume that something's going on.
Well, for a long time, nothing was going on.
When I last updated, in 2015, we were on the verge of making a big change in our lives: an attempt at moving into a vintage 1950's Mid-Century home on the outskirts of downtown Fort Worth. I realized, of course, that making the move would involve some compromises--one being that the amount of space for a model railroad would be reduced once more to that of an average bedroom. But, it was a change I was willing to make for my wife and I to purchase a home we really wanted.
Because Model Railroads are really not a common thing to find in a house, our realtor suggested that I removed the railroad from our "game room" in which it resided. This being a big, open upstairs space with a big window overlooking the backyard, it would be a natural selling point for our home. I reluctantly agreed--in part. I removed two of the three walls worth of layout as well as the staging area in the adjacent bedroom and plugged up the holes in the walls. I retained the center part of the layout--the central area of Buggardine. Operations could still continue though without much for a staging area.
As it turned out, fate intervened. We listed our home at the end of summer--death for selling, as it turns out, as families most interested in our neighborhood had turned their interests towards the new school year, not in buying houses. Our contract period was nearing its end, the sellers of the house we were going to buy were getting anxious. . .and then my wife took ill: in the "doc in the box" for an unrelated issue, the doctors discovered an aneurysm deep in her brain that required immediate surgery. We elected at this point not to continue efforts to buy a new house, and put her recovery in the top priority.
A few months later, I had my turn at a medical issue: I suffered a very mild heart attack, and required two stents to improve blood flow.
The model railroading took a very back seat.
Around this same time, my immediate hobby interests had shifted back towards my photography, specifically to the work I'd done on the Milwaukee Road in the late 1970s and early 1980. Inspired in part by the series of books of NSWGR railroading in the late 1960s by the Wheatley brothers, I decided the time was right to get working on my own volume of photographs and essays on the Milwaukee Road in its last years of operation. With some luck, maybe I'll have this book on the market in some form by the 40th anniversary of the Milwaukee's last run out of Tacoma, Washington in March of 2020.
My research on the Milwaukee Road, which I'd largely ignored for many years, has reinvigorated my scale modeling interest, manifesting itself in wanting to model scenes and memories from my own teenage years. It's not that I was dissatisfied with my modeling of Australian subjects--not at all--it was just "time," I suppose, to bring those efforts back closer to home.
Frankly, modeling Australia from the United States was a pretty lonely modeling experience. Certainly that was the case living in Texas. As I think I'd mentioned previously, it was hard to generate much interest or enthusiasm or understanding in others about WHAT I was modeling. Most other modelers "just didn't get it." I can't blame them, really. And while I treasure the acquaintances and friendships I've made in the past 8 years researching, modeling, and traveling to see Australian railways, in many cases Model Railroading IS a social hobby: we want feedback, we want to feel part of a group, and we want to discuss shared experiences. I certainly got that from my Australian friends, but not so much from local friends. This was my fault as much as it was theirs. And it was time to reconnect with them on a common point of American railroading.
So, for now, the Australian models are carefully packed into plastic tubs. Easily accessible, by the way. But for the next bit, I'll be back to modeling an American railroad, the Milwaukee Road. It's not a "grand" concept, rather, a simple one, very much based in many of the Australian layouts I most admired: a single location. End of a branch line. Light traffic. A chance to really dig deep in detail in track and structures and equipment.
I'll be modeling the stub-end branch in Lynden, Washington, circa 1976-1979. A small town at the end of a five-mile branch off of another branchline in remote northern Washington state. Light rail--60 lb. was common, thus I'm using Code 55--with only seven turnouts. A half-dozen shippers. A mix of covered grain and fertilizer hoppers, insulated boxcars, mechanical refrigerators, and miscellaneous boxcars and flats. An industrial base of agriculture: feed and fertilizer in, frozen fruit, vegetables and condensed milk out.
I've not yet decided if this latest layout will have a blogspot home. but if it does, I certainly will post the information on North of Narrabri.