Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To stage or not to stage?

Things have been slow on the layout at the moment. School holidays, extremely hot weather and a post harvest slump have conspired together to keep me from the shed. I have also been working on a diorama to take to the 11th Australian narrow gauge convention . A couple of weeks ago I realised how little time there is until Easter and how much work I have to yet to do, so that will be my priority for the next month or so.

While I may not have been doing much physical work on the layout I have been thinking about making some major changes. I had always planned to have some hidden staging that would allow for continuous running, but to achieve this I needed a duckunder or lift out bridge at the door into the shed. I have never been keen on the idea, but haven't been able to work out how to live with out it.

I recently listened to a podcast interview of Doug Gurin on the The Model Railway show (episode 45) were he talked about your layout telling a story. That interview set me thinking about my layout and I realised that most Australian narrow gauge railways are simple affairs with their main yards at the interchange point and at the terminus at the other end. This is how the Victorian narrow gauge lines are as well as the North East Dundas tramway and Mapleton tramway. If I was to put an interchange on my layout, I would no longer need staging or a duck under to get to it.
The layout plan with changes marked in red

The advantages of going down this road would be no duck-under, no hidden staging and the ability to have a few standard gauge pieces of rollingstock to demonstrate the size difference. I am keen to show the difference between standard gauge and narrow gauge as many people have trouble understanding how much smaller narrow gauge trains are.
I also realise there are some negatives. With no staging there is a good possibility of the layout being crowded with too much rolling stock. I think if I make the changes I will need discipline. The Victorian lines usually only had 2 or 3 locos on a branch at any one time so the logical conclusion is that if I have more  locos than that they shouldn't all be on the layout.
  There is also no ability to have continuous run. I have had continuous run as a must have on my list of layout requirements for a very long time. I realised a few weeks ago that I haven't had a layout with continuous run for nearly 7 years now so I think if I have survived this long I can survive a bit longer without it.
A friend raised the point that without staging operations could be quite limited. I do have to agree with him, but it is a narrow gauge railway. Operations on the Victorian lines traditionally operated from the interchange station to the end of the line and then back. Depending on the line they did this daily until the end of World War II and then quickly cut back to as little as weekly on all bar the Gembrook line. If I lived in an area that had lots of modellers for an operating session I think I wouldn't be considering these changes. The reality is that most of the time it will only be me operating so that should work ok. I do have concerns that I may get bored with only one or two trains a session.
  Another concern I have is that I may be making the layout too crowded and could loose the open empty country look that has been my goal. I am a great believer in less is more and  have tried to have reasonably large areas that have little detail between small towns.
To choose a track plan for the interchange yard I have again looked at the Victorian lines. The two that appeal are Wangaratta and Colac. Wangaratta is a compact yard but isn't as interesting as the one at Colac.  The Colac yard does fit in the space I have, but if I flip it top to bottom it fits a lot better. That would mean the standard gauge yard would be in the aisle. This would mean very little of the wider gauge tracks need to be modeled and I wouldn't need any engines.
 The one feature of Wangaratta I want is the narrow gauge spur in the forecourt of the broad gauge station. If I flip the broad gauge yard but leave the narrow gauge yard as it is I can achieve that. I want to put the large station I built a few years ago as the interchange station building.I know that all sounds complicated and it took me an afternoon of laying out points and flextrack to see what would work.
I am keen to have feedback on this idea before I commit to it. So if you have an opinion either positive or negative feel free to comment.
Cheers Murray


  1. I was going to ask why you don't make the duckunder a swing gate or liftout to get across the aisle. If you already have the staging built, you could leave it out most of the time, but put it in place when you wanted the continuous running option.
    I have to also say absolutely stunning job on your modeling so far! I love the airiness of your trees and even without all the scenery being done, you can definitely see where the layout is going!
    Can't believe I haven't checked out you blog before. :)

  2. Thanks Toni for the kind comments. If I decide to leave the duckunder as part of the layout it will definately be either a liftout or gate

  3. Murray,

    I love the "new" concept. I think that eliminating hidden tracks, staging or otherwise is almost always a good thing, as is eliminating a potential swing bridge or duck under. I also think an interchange yard would give a real sense of meaning to the layout as a whole--like a point of embarkation. I also like the idea of eliminating the roundhouse; there are an awful lot of roundhouses on model railways. . . .the interchange seems much more interesting to me. . . . .Of course, I am more a model builder than an operator, so, I might not be the best person to ask! :)

    1. Peter, thanks for your comments. The sense of meaning is one of the drivers for making the change. I think modelling both ends of the line gives a sense of purpose and the standard gauge still links the railway to the "rest of the world" like staging does. Roundhouses are nice which is why so many layouts have them but it doesn't really fit with the rest of the concept. I think the layout will be better off without it

  4. Murray,

    Is it possible for trains leaving Geehi, travelling towards Gidgerbung to access the Staging under Mt Bogong via a set of points? This would give you the uncluttered look you want but also add a major off site destination and additional operation patterns, eg Staging-Geehi-Mt Bogong. Perhaps a locomotive change might be 'required' at Geehi, so leave some loco facilities.

    1. Lloyd, a friend suggested exactly the same thing last night on the phone so great minds think alike! Thanks for your thoughts


  5. Murray,
    Glad to be of help. Telling the story. Give the staging 'branch' a name, eg Maragle Creek. The line was originally built in 1897 to serve the Maragle Timber Company that had its own Climax locomotive with running rights to interchange at Geehi. After World War 1 the line was extended to serve Soldier Settlement orchards, a butter factory and potato growing. A gold mine was opened in the 1930's. Additional rolling stock and locomoives were acquired post World War 2 to handle traffic for the building of the Snowy Mountain Scheme. All of these possibilities and you do not have to build a single structure. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

  6. Thanks for your ideas Lloyd. Lots to think about....

  7. I really like how he added the NA class locomotives and Climax from the Puffing Billy railway on his layout "Bogong & Geehi Railway" and besides, I've been to Puffing Billy three times in both 2013 & 2016, and I shall also go to the said railway for the fourth time, and I hope 7A, 12A or G42 shall pull either the coaches since I was riding on locomotives 8A, 6A and 14A, anyways, it is also one of my favourite Australian narrow gauge railways along with the West Coast Wilderness Railway, the Illawarra Light Railway Museum and the Lake Macquarie Light Rail! Which I might go to the Lake Macquarie Light Rail soon since it is on Toronto, which is north of Sydney