More Lineside Detail

Way back in the late 1970s Model Railroader published an article by Earl Smallshaw. It was Earl’s view that the front of a building wasn’t half as interesting as the back of a building … especially when it came to the tenaments found in major US cities .. and that idea has always stuck in my mind.

Even here in Australia the back of a building can be a whole lot more interesting than the front … and modelling the back of a row of town buildings can deliver a much more interesting scene than modelling the scene from the street.

I took this photo in Childers (Queensland) a couple of weeks ago when the lineside detail caught my eye.

The street side of this view is your usual bustling and prosperous country town. Lots of cars, lots of trees … and quite a few people. And that would be interesting to model but what’s out back … along the railway line … is even more interesting.


Click the image for a bigger version of the photo minus all the numbers and arrows.

There are public toilets sheltering under a shady tree (1) … a pile of used tyres (2) waiting to be shipped off to a recycler … 40′ containers (3) … an open shed that you could load up with detail (4) … the back end of the town’s swimming pool complete with pumps and filters (5) … a beautiful old wooden structure that has a very imposing facade facing the street (6) … and the 610mm gauge track that’s part of the Isis sugar mill’s cane line network.

On the town side of the track the grass is neatly cut while on the other side it’s not so neat. There are plenty of trees and they tower over most of the buildings … and there aren’t many fences.

This might be a cane railway but that doesn’t mean that the trackwork isn’t kept in top condition. This photo was taken before any pre-season maintenance work was done yet where are the weeds and the grass growing between the rails.

Here at least the trackwork is in good condition with plenty of clean ballast in place … and there are warning signs for the loco drivers too. The one facing away from the camera warns drivers that they are approaching a busy level crossing.

You could spend weeks modelling all the lineside detail that you can see in this photo and it would be a real talking point for visitors.

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Railway Sheds

Long before recycling became fashionable … and a necessity … the various state railways around Australia were into recycling in a big way. Of course they weren’t thinking of recycling … they were just making sensible use of equipment that still had some life left in it.

For example when an open wagon was surplus to requirements you could remove the sides and ends and use the frame as the basis for a container wagon.

The need to carry horses may have passed but there was plenty of life left in the underframes of the wagons that had been used for horse transport so why not build passenger carriages on those underframes.

Suburban power cars might have passed their use-by dates but the bogies still had plenty of life in them so why not have Clyde use them under a new class of branchline locos?

And there were times when the reverse applied and the body was fine but the underframe was beyond repair or no longer suitable for a use on a modern railway.

Here are two examples:

At some stage there was a need for a simple storage shed in the yard at Bathurst and somewhere on the system was an old HG guards van that was no longer required and here is the result photographed sometime after 1978.


It may have fairly dilapidated to begin with but after years on the ground in Bathurst it looked even worse.

In Queensland the move away from 4-wheel rolling stock saw a number of wagon classes removed from operation despite being in relatively good condition.

The ALY steel louvered vans were one group of wagons that still had a lot of life left in them and what better use for these steel-bodied vans started finding their way into various railway yards.

I photographed this one in the yard at Mungar on the North Coast mainline a couple of years ago.


While modelling the old HG may be something of a challenge modelling the QR ALY is going to be a little easier thanks to Southern Rail Models who have grounded bodies available with or without graffiti.


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Modelling Grain Storage

These days there are some great individual kits available if your modelling grain storage facilities but if you live in the city it can be hard to know just how all these kits can fit together.

A couple of weeks ago my partner and I headed west … a long way west … and I spotted these two grain storage facilites just west of Dalby (in Queensland). Both examples could look good on a model layout and the photos should give you some idea of how these facilities are set out.

Trucks obviously feature in the supply chain for these facilities and, being Queensland, you just know that they’re going to be big trucks. Just out of view on the right-hand side of the second photo was a B-double that appeared to be empty and on the way out the gate.

The facility in the first photo can ship by rail while the second larger grain storage facility may not be served by rail at all even though it does sit beside the railway line.

grain storage facilities

Grain storage facilities

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Chasing Cane Trains

Here at the southern end of the Queensland sugar belt harvesting is in full swing so the weekend before last we decided that we would go and do a bit of cane train chasing. At this time of year you’re sure to see plenty of trains … at least that’s what we thought.

So we headed north to Childers where there was nothing to be seen and some of the rails looked a bit rusty. We pressed on up the Isis Highway and took the turn off that leads down to the Isis Sugar Mill.

The yard was stuffed full of loaded cane bins but there was not a loco in sight. So we headed down towards the Cordalba pub … there was bound to be a cane train working somewhere along that line … but of course we were wrong.

We did see Isis No.10 and two ballast hoppers stowed in the small yard that’s just south of where the dual track ends but that was it. There was nothing happening around Cordalba so we followed the road down to the Isis Highway and turned north.

cane trains

I expected to find something at Alf’s Pad … and we did but I wasn’t quite ready for Isis No5. It had put together a long string of full bins and was waiting to leave. Unfortunately we were stuck in a long line of traffic turning around was not going to be easy so we decided to continue north and take the shortcut across to Wallaville … surely there would be something happening there.

Burnett in the Wallaville compound waiting for its next outing on local cane trains

Burnett in the Wallaville compound

Wallaville is an out depot of Bingera Mill and two of the Mill’s smaller locos are usually stationed there to work the branches that radiate out from Wallaville. They take the empties out and bring the loaded bins back so that one of the Mill’s larger locos can collect them and take them back to the Mill.

Invicta in the Wallaville compound ... that fence sure does ruin some good shots :(

Invicta in the Wallaville compound waiting for its next call to duty on local cane trains

And of course when we got to Wallaville nothing was happening. It was so not happening that Invicta and Burnett … the two locos assigned to Wallaville … were locked in the compound and the yard was empty apart from a couple of short strings of empties.

Somebody had an 'oops' moment at the end of one of the sidings in Wallaville yard

Somebody had an ‘oops’ moment at the end of one of the sidings in Wallaville yard. That’s the main line back to Bingera Mill in the foreground.

Ok … so maybe we should head for Millaquin Mill … there’s sure to be something loco action there. But of course there wasn’t … just another yard stuffed full of loaded bins and not a loco in sight … and no sign of anything along any of Millaquin’s lines that we passed on the way home.

So after 400km we managed to see just four locos and not one of them was moving … but there’s always next time.


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The End of Signalling

No trackside signals and trains following each other with 4 minute headways … it’s impressive technology but I wonder what happens when it stops working and takes some time to recover?

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Coal Trains in Queensland

When you think of coal trains in Queensland it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to be thinking of high-horsepower locos … distributed power … and long trains of high-capacity hoppers snaking through central Queensland heading for the ports of Gladstone or Mackay.

And that’s pretty much the way it is … in central Queensland. But these are not the only coal trains in Queensland. On the line that stretches inland from Brisbane coal also dominate but the coal trains in this part of Queensland are quite different.

Unfortunately the big hoppers used on the system in central Queensland won’t fit the smaller loading gauge for the line west of Brisbane and nor will the locos used in central Queensland so you can forget long trains, high-horsepower units and distributed power.

The coal trains that service the mines west of Toowoomba are shorter, use older, lower-capacity hoppers and fewer, lower-powered locos too. In fact these trains have just two 2300 class diesels on the front.

Locos in the 2300 class are rebuilds of two earlier classes. They feature a turbo-charged EMD 12-645E3C engine that produces 1655kW/2250HP1.

Here are three videos that feature the arrival, loading and departure of a coal train at one of the loading points west of Toowoomba.

1. Info from

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Behind the Scene at Flinders Street

What’s it like to work in one of the busiest signal boxes in the southern hemisphere?

Well here is a short movie produced in 1953 that takes you behind the scene at Flinders Street railway station in 1953.

It will give you some idea of what it was like to work in one of the two signal boxes that controlled the yard at Melbourne’s Flinder Street Station.

Ironically … while the movie is all about a location in Victoria … the producers had to use some footage of the NSWGR’s O gauge layout as an intro.

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Taking Weathering to the Extreme

Down in Tasmania there’s a regular freight train that Tasrail operates from the cement works at Railton to the docks at Devonport. Powedered cement is conveyed a unity train of covered hoppers from the works to the docks where it is tranferred to a freighter for shipping to mainland Australia.

The train is a little unusual in that it operates in push/pull mode with a loco at one end and a de-engined (for want of a better term) loco at the other. The loco is always on the Devonport or western end and the slave unit … which is only there to provide a driving cab … is always on the Railton or eastern end.

The train loco is changed on a regular basis while the slave unit has been on the train for many many years … it was there when we left Tasmania 10 years ago … and it’s still there today.

From memory the livery for the slave loco is the same as what you will see on the train loco in this video but you really wouldn’t know. Over the years the slave unit has acquired a thick coating of cement dust … as you will see … and this is weathering taken to the extreme.

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Cutting the Cane

Cutting the cane … getting it off the ground and on its way to the nearest sugar mill was once done by teams of men who cut the cane by hand. It was hard, back-breaking work that most of us would never consider doing these days.

And apart from all that, it wasn’t a very economic way of harvesting sugar cane but that’s all there was until mechanical harvesting came along. The early mechanical harvesters were fairly primitive machines compared to what we have today and looked nothing like the latest machines that wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction movie.

You wouldn’t want to get in the way of this machine:

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Scratchbuilding Tips

scratchbuilding for model railwaysHave you seen the latest edition of the Australian Model Railway Magazine yet? It’s the April 2013 edition and not only does it celegrate 50 years of publication but it also has some great articles and three in particular caught my eye.

Scratchbuilding for railway modellers
Two of the articles are of great interest to anyone who models Australian outline. The first one, by Andrew George, begins on page 33 and it’s all about modelling buildings that use Colorbond for cladding.

Not only do you some tips on what material to use to get something close to the correct spacings in both N and HO but you also get some tips on how to produce the correct colours too.

The second scratchbuilding article by Garry Kahler. It begins on page 42 and is for anyone (like me) who has always wanted to build models of prototype passenger cars but has never been brave enough to start because of all those window spacings and roof curves.

Garry gives you a complete list of the parts and tools you will require for this scratchbuilding project and then walks you through the steps you’ll need to follow to produce a NSWGR ACX composite sleeping car. Will I start one? Maybe this time I will.

A unique tool
Even if you’re not into scratchbuilding you will still be interested in the third article … especially if you’ve lost more than your fair share of coupler springs somewhere on the floor around your hobby desk.

Graham Larmour shows you that the tool you need is a large plastic box witha large hole in each end. The holes are big enough to allow you to slip a model into the box and also big enough to allow you to put your hands in so you can work on the model.

Once inside the box those springs can bounce around as much as they like but they’re never going to escape.

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