Sunday, February 18, 2018

End of the Line, for Now. . .

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.

Thank you.


South Coast Rail said...

Hi Blair,
Firstly I wish you and your wife the best in health. You are there as a team for each other.
I got excited when I saw your blog come up on my favourite links and on reading confirmed my thoughts that you had moved on from NSW modelling.
Thank you for letting us all know, as you say modelling is a social field and I hope you enjoyed enlarging your circle of friends in coming to Australia.
I was privileged to meet you and Lance way back on one of your trips 'Down Under'
You are entitled to change your modelling focus just as I have, so enjoy whatever you do in the future.
What's that Texas mate of yours up to? His blog has moss and fungus growing on it!
Keep well
All the best Bob and Deanne

Ray P said...


Well, a bit sad but certainly understandable. Life's 'events'can really cause us to focus on what is important. The social aspects of the hobby add so much to our enjoyment as well. I have watched some of your great photos come onto Facebook and they need to be published so good luck with the book.

Ray P

B. Kooistra said...

Bob and Ray! (Actually, you might recall the US comedy team by that name in the 50s, 60s and 70s. . . )

Yes, tis true. It's difficult to put down the NSWGR for a bit--I've got three big plastic tubs of locos and rolling stock and I'm going to keep that. . . I'd like to reach a point, probably in my retirement, when I can get back to an Oz-based layout, or at the very least end up living where there is a great model railroad club where I can run the equipment. It's been a great decade run, and I've greatly enjoyed it--made many friends, visited a continent TWICE I'd never thought I'd get to see, and learned a lot about the hobby by approaching it from a new perspective. And you guys have been among my greatest cheerleaders and inspirations, helping me along with my modeling from overseas as well as being great hosts during visits. I'd certainly like to get back again, hopefully in a few years. . .

Colin Hussey said...

G'day Blair.

Can understand your reasoning in the decision to go to modelling your preferred U.S rail system, it also helps when you have others of the same mind in what you and they are involved in during operations. Certainly there are a lot of similarities between the different countries rail operations but just as certainly there are heck of a lot of the opposite side, equally or likely that the biggest problem is learning something that is literally foreign to you especially trying to run the 1:1 gauge system as it does in real life, but with different concepts, operating conditions and the like.

All the best with the new direction, sure it will keep you occupied.

Brad H. said...


Hope everything is going well for you and your wife after the health scares. These health issues really bring out what is most important in our lives. Pity about the Aussie model railway but I fully understand your reasons. The new railroad sounds exciting so I wish you the very best with that.


mike.dccsound said...

Hi Blair,
I'm the opposite, I model the Dearborn Sub (GTW/CN) in MI, but am located in Australia. Hence I should consolidate and move back to just modelling branch line VR. Have fun modelling WA again, close to the great Camas Prairie RR!

Doug Polinder said...

Hello Blair. Good luck on your new direction. I grew up in Lynden during that time period--attended Lynden Christian School right next to the tracks--so will be fascinated to see what you come up with. With your Dutch surname it makes perfect sense to model Lynden.

I understand your feelings about Oz. I spent a month there looking at potential acquisitions for RailTex in the 90s--both Tasmania and the as-yet unbuilt line from Alice Springs to Darwin.