The 15 Minute Challenge – 3&4

Ok Day 2 ended with high hopes of getting a lot of work done on Day 3 because it was a public holiday.

And of course the best laid plans of mice and men turned into frustration.

Frustration and wasted time

I managed to set aside most of the afternoon of Day 3 so I was hopeful that I would get all the wiring done but, to do that, I needed a drill, the right drill-bit and my soldering iron.

Of course, I couldn’t find the drill I wanted to use but that was ok, I had two others I could use. Yes, a hammer-drill is a little overkill but any port in a storm.

But then I realised that overkill didn’t really matter because I couldn’t find the drill bit I needed. I could find plenty that I didn’t need but the one that was right for the job was nowhere to be found. Frustration!

Even if I had found the drill-bit I would still have been frustrated because I then discovered that I couldn’t find my soldering iron. I could find the solder and the flux but the soldering iron must have been hiding in the same place as that elusive drill-bit.

I was totally pissed off with myself but the afternoon wasn’t entirely wasted because, while sitting there looking glumly at the layout, I began thinking about what industries my narrow gauge railway would service and this is what I came up with.

Not totally wasted

Apart from the required goods shed (freight house) there will be an aggregate dump at the left front that will ship loads out in open wagons. Loading will require nothing more than a skid-steer loader or similar piece of equipment.

Behind that dump will a shed for items being shipped into the quarrying company that ships the aggregate.

While the sign … that you can’t read … in the middle rear says ‘station’ it’s only going to be a very simple shed/office because there is no passenger service … not unless I expand the layout in the future and buy/build a carriage or two.

This kit of the office block at Culcairn in NSW from Model Train Buildings caught my eye at the Brisbane exhibition and I think that it’s going to look good as the ground-level ‘station’ building.

The siding at the back/right of the layout is going to be the engine servicing area so there will be some simple buildings there … maybe an open-sided shed and a disused wooden coaling platform left over from the days of steam.

The third siding from the front/right will be for loading fruit into covered vans. While many fruit loading points around the country had some sort of shed and/or cover over the siding there were some where the produce was loaded direct from the back of trucks and that’s what will happen here.

The second siding from the front/right will have a pedestal crane for unloading machinery and heavy loads the siding nearest the front siding on the right will serve the goods shed.

I stuck “labels” on those sidings to help me get a better visual impression of how the track layout would work and it’s also giving me an idea of how much rolling stock I’ll need to operate the layout.

That helped ease the frustration of not being able to find those items and kept me going till Day 4 when I could get down to the hardware store and replace the items I couldn’t find.

Day 4 in a hardware store

And what happened to the rest of my spare time on Day 4? When was the last time you were able to walk into a major hardware store, pick up the items you were looking for and be out inside five minutes?

There are just so many interesting things to look at in any hardware store …

By |October 3rd, 2018|15 Minute Challenge|0 Comments

The 15 Minute Challenge – 2

So yesterday was day 2 of the challenge and it also happened to be the Sunday of a long weekend. I should have had a lot of spare time … but I didn’t.

However, I was able to find 15 minutes, so I did get a bit more done. I might have even got more done if I had been better organised.

I used track pins to fasten the last three pieces of track in place. Those are the top two and the bottom piece on the left of the layout.

When I took the previous photo they had only been held in place by rail joiners.

I also took a few moments to mark the spots where feeder wires would be attached to the layout – I like lots of feeders because rail joiners can get dirty and cause connectivity problems.

Because this is a very small layout it will only ever see one loco in use at any one time so the wiring is going to be basically one entire section.

However, the thought of having a second loco sitting in the engine shed is appealing so I’ve used an insulated rail joiner on one of the rails in the siding at the top right of the photo. Power to that rail will pass through a push-button switch.

I was going to drill the holes for the wires but I couldn’t find the right drill bit in the time I had left.

So my next 15-minute session will start with a search for the drill bit and then I can start doing the wiring.

Did I mention that, for me, wiring is the least enjoyable part of layout building?

I’m going to need more than 15 minutes to get that job done but day 3 of this challenge just happens to be a public holiday so maybe I can get through it in one session.

By |October 1st, 2018|15 Minute Challenge|0 Comments

The 15 Minute Challenge – 1

This is a challenge for me and I’m publishing it here in the hope that knowing someone is reading/watching this thread will encourage me to go on with this series.

Background 1
Way back in 2012 I wrote about a simple baseboard solution for anyone who was challenged by space and ability.

I intended to use that baseboard as the foundation for a micro-layout in N Scale.

model railroad benchwork

Unfortunately, good intentions don’t build layouts and once the workbench was assembled I hardly touched it. It languished under the house after one move and then shoved down the back of the garage after another move.

A couple of years ago I dragged it out of the garage and placed it against one wall of the room I use as my office. I even put some track down … and then tore it up … only to lay it again when I decided that what I really wanted was a Hon30 layout.

And then I got busy with other things.

Then one day I found some spare time and I tore that track up because I decided that the track layout was way too involved to provide enjoyment.

And then I got busy with other things.

About 12 months ago I found some more spare time and decided on another track plan and started laying the track again.

Then I got busy with other things and the layout languished again.

Background 2
Earlier this week member of one of the hobby groups I follow on Facebook had a grumble about The Australian Model Railway Magazine.

According to him there was rarely any content in the magazine for N Scalers and he wasn’t going to waste his money on the magazine anymore.

I had to smile at that … if there’s rarely any N Scale content in the magazine then HOn30 content is even rarer so why do I bother buying the magazine?

Because there’s lots of inspiration in the magazine and when I looked in the current issue of the magazine there was the inspiration for this 15-minute challenge.

There was part 3 of a series of articles on building a minimum space layout in HO. I had missed the second article in the series and when I went back to read it I discovered that the author had given himself a 15-minute challenge to help him get the layout built.

The 15 minute challenge
So what is this 15 minute challenge?

It’s based on the idea that all of us are incredibly busy every day of our lives … but all of us could find a minimum of 15 minutes a day to work on our projects if only we make the effort.

Now 15 minutes may not sound like a lot of time but if you stick at it every day for a month you’ve spend almost 8 hours working on your hobby projects.

That resonated with me and the first thing I saw when I looked up from reading that article yesterday was this:

15 minutes later it looked like this:

I had removed all the junk that was on the layout. Some of it had nothing to do with the layout but I had dumped it there when I needed a convenient spot.

I also trimmed the last two pieces of track that needed to be fitted to the board.

Tomorrow I’ll post I’ll post another photo that will show what I’ve achieved in another 15 minutes of work today.

By |September 30th, 2018|15 Minute Challenge|0 Comments

Something to Model

It’s about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and we’re in Ipswich looking down on part of a stabling point for the western arm of the Brisbane suburban network.

You’ll notice that the yard here is long and narrow with part of the old town on one side and the double-track mainline to Toowoomba and points west on the other.

There’s not a lot of room here but the designers have managed to find space for quite a few trains. While there are still empty tracks that will change as more trains terminate at the adjoining station during the late afternoon and evening and run into the sidings to stable.

By 6am Sunday morning this small yard will be quite crowded although at least one train will have moved out to form part of the Sunday services on the network.

The mainlines will have also seen a reasonable amount of movement with full and empty coal train movements and perhaps even a wheat train or two during spring and summer.

On this particular line, the size of the locomotives and wagons are limited by a narrow tunnel located closer to Toowoomba so older stock rules here. You may even see a working steam engine now and again as a tour train passes.

An exhibition layout that followed the track arrangement here would certainly be interesting with suburban trains … of any sort … coming and going and it might provide some interest as part of a larger home layout too.

One detail that you may have trouble modelling is the razor wire that is strung along the top of the security fence that surrounds this yard. You may not notice it in the photos but it’s there to deter those who might want to vandalise the trains.

And just in case someone thinks that I took the accompanying photo using a drone in a public place … an act that would have been illegal … I can hold my hand on my heart and say that no drones were used at all.

My partner and I stayed the night at the Oakes Hotel and this was the view from the apartment windows on the 12th floor.

By |August 16th, 2017|Queensland|2 Comments

The End of Steam on the Yass Tramway

When the NSW Main Southern Line pushed south from Goulburn in 1876 there was no easy way for the line to serve the bustling little town of Yass and so it bypassed the town and the idea of the Yass Tramway was born.

That was not so popular with the townspeople for they had an additional 3 miles (4.83km) to travel … and their produce to travel … to reach the railway.

Things were no different then than they are now and if you make enough noise and political agitation you could usually get what you wanted and the people of Yass wanted a railway and so it came to pass … eventually

In 1890 the Minister for Public Works called for tenders for the construction of a branch line to run from a junction on the Main Southern Line to the town of Yass.

Construction of the line was fairly basic … although the Yass River was crossed by a fairly substantial bridge … and the route took the line down the main street.

Tramway operations were used for much of the line’s existence and small locomotives were the order of the day almost to the end.

The first loco on the line was a small 0-6-0 saddle tank … P127 … and others, including a B Class 2-6-0 tender loco saw service on the line. But perhaps the most well-known steam locos to be used on the line were members of the 13 Class.

These 4-4-2 tank locos first appeared on the line in 1917 and stayed right to the end of steam operations.

Despite being just 3 miles long traffic on the line was so great that, for many years, two 13 Class locos were housed in Yass Loco but by 1957 things were changing.

In that year a bus replaced all passenger workings on the line and by the late 1960s the last steam loco was replaced by an X200 rail tractor.

The passing of steam on the Yass Tramway brought a lot of enthusiasts down from Sydney and this old Super 8 movie was shot at that time.

By |January 4th, 2017|New South Wales|0 Comments


Let’s take a little look at a modular layout system that’s popular in Europe.

If you’re an Australian or US modeller, then it’s quite likely that you haven’t heard of FREMO because it’s a modular system that has grown up in Europe and is yet to catch on in other countries.

That doesn’t mean that FREMO is small … in fact it’s quite the opposite. There are at least 1900 FREMO members and the numbers seem to be growing.

Unlike other modular model railway groups FREMO is not about getting together at exhibitions and displaying large layouts. FREMO layouts are more about operation and the enjoyment of running prototypical trains for the group members rather than entertaining the public.

That doesn’t mean that visitors aren’t welcome, they certainly are but they are not the reason that module owners get together.

Unlike some of the other module based groups FREMO doesn’t just cater for one scale or gauge; their members cover the full range of scales and gauges and that even includes 1 Gauge, TT and N.

Check out the cab-ride video and you will see that the modelling standards are definitely high.

You can find more information about FREMO at their website at

By |November 27th, 2016|General|0 Comments

Bunyip – who built this locomotive?

Meet Bunyip … an 0-4-0WT locomotive that comes with a mystery attached.

We know where it worked … at the Wallaville sugar mill from 31st August 1896 to somewhere around 1962. Wallaville is a small town, roughly west of Bundaberg in Queensland, that once had its own sugar mill and network of cane lines.

Bunyip was the first locomotive purchased by the mill but there are no records remaining that show where the locomotive came from and there are no records from the usual builders of the time e.g. Krauss, that relate to this locomotive.

Bunyip the loco on display at Gin Gin

The similarities that Bunyip has to other similar locomotives is clear but there are enough differences to make it almost impossible to know who built this loco.

Obviously Bunyip does have some similarities to Krauss locomotives of that era but there are also a number of differences.

To add to the mystery there are no identifying marks or brands anywhere on the locomotive that could help to identify the builder.

So where Bunyip came from is a mystery that may never be solved.

If you want to take a look at Bunyip for yourself then you will find it at the Gin Gin Historical Museum. It is on display in a part of the Museum that is always open to the public.


Bunyip on display at the Gin Gin Historical Museum

By |August 31st, 2016|Cane Railways|0 Comments

An Amazing Coffee Table Layout

I’ve got to admit that coffee table layouts are just not my thing but this layout … and the presentation is outstanding!

By |August 3rd, 2016|N Scale|0 Comments

Budd Railcars

Both the Commonwealth Railways and the NSWGR operated Budd type railcars.

The Commonwealth Railways imported three from the US in 1951 while Commonwealth Engineering built five for the NSWGR.

The first for NSW entered service in 1961.

In the US these self-propelled railcars (known as RDC’s) were quite popular with east coast and Canadian railways

Models of similar railcars operated in the US have been scarce for some time and about the only one in HO that I remember seeing was produced by Athearn and featured a rubber band drive.

But now Rapido Trains Inc are about to release a brand new version of the RDC and you will see the finished product in this video.

While it’s not an exact model of the NSW Budd Railcars it may be a good starting point.

It’s definitely worth watching. Even though the video mostly deals with the model you will see, and hear it, running on a great layout.


By |March 1st, 2016|HO Models|0 Comments

Compact Track Plan for a Terminus

When space is a real problem getting your terminals right on a point to point layout can be a challenge.

However, here’s one on a real narrow gauge system with a very compact terminus that seems to work rather well.


By |January 28th, 2016|General|0 Comments