Sunday, 27 January 2013

Where should I go?

Where, oh where should I go? As discussed in my last post I would like to use N-gauge track. The scales that are most common for N-gauge are based on standard gauge. This narrows the location settings for my model railway to, well, most countries in the world. Maybe the best thing to do is look at ease of acquiring locomotives and rolling stock.

Locomotives and rolling stock are produced ‘ready to run’ in n-scale for several different countries.
Main manufacturers
Australia-N, Powerline
Central Europe
Arnold, Guarniero, Lemke, Liliput, Minitrix
France/Eastern Europe
Arnold, Guarniero, Jouef?, Lima, Minitrix
Fleischmann, Liliput, Minitrix
Kato, Tomix
United Kingdom
Dapol, Graham Farish
United States
Bachmann, Kato

Well, why not stay here in Australia? The first ‘why not’ that comes to mind is that until recently the liveries of the railway rolling stock was specific to each state and therefore it was unusual for mixing of different corporate (usually government owned) colour schemes. Standardisation was also a big factor in operating railways in Australia, each operator limited themselves to a small number of locomotive types. However, This can also be a good thing since you can buy two products and just change the running numbers to differentiate them. Australian Railways are also governed by huge distances and infrequent services, so running lots of trains would not be very ‘prototypical’ Additionally, although quality is becoming extremely good it is a little hard the cost is a bit more than in other countries.

Continental Europe? Hmmm… well, lovely scenery in many parts of the continent but, well, I just don’t know anything about European railways.

North America? This is a possibility for me because US cultural influence is great in Australia so my familiarity is ok. There is also a huge range of locomotives and rolling-stock and all available for a very cheap price compared to most other locations. This is probably due to the enormous market in the USA. So maybe Canada or the USA are an option for me. Importantly I am horrified by the English used to describe railway models in North America – “model railroading”

Japan? My brother lives in japan but I’m only familiar with the bullet-trains, not the local railways. Additionally, Japan has one gauge for the main lines and another for the high-speed lines which may make designing a layout difficult.

What about the UK? Well, this is my preference. I think it is because the UK has a very strong railway modelling population, was the first place to develop the steam engine and steam locomotive, used steam locomotives until relatively late in the 20th century, and much of my family heritage is from the Lancashire or Wiltshire and my wife’s background is southern Scotland. The potential for scenery is great, the diversity in rolling stock and locomotives is great, the price is middle of the range, the quality of ready-to-run stock is very high and I already began model railroading with some British models. The thing that gets me is that the UK model railway stuff is slightly out of scale with the 9mm track. It should be 1:160 scale but is instead 1:148. I don’t know the reason for this weird scale.

Since ease of start-up is one of the biggest considerations other than what interests me I think I’ve narrowed the selection down to either the UK or USA. Obviously, I’m leaning toward the UK at this stage.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Gauge Issue

Railway gauge is a big issue, especially for an Australian. We Australians still have not figured out how to have a ‘standard gauge’ across our country. We’ve got three major incompatible gauges which has historically made rail transport across the country inefficient. This was because all the states originally only thought of themselves as individual colonies and selected the gauge solely on local considerations in isolation of what the other colonies were doing. Standardisation of new interstate lines has recently been adopted but there is still a huge variety of gauges.

Main Gauge
Other Major Gauges
New South Wales
Standard (UK)
Wide (connecting Vic)
Northern Territory
Standard (UK)

Narrow (Cape)
Standard (connecting NSW) , 2ft (sugar cane trains)
South Australia
Wide (Irish)
Standard (connecting NSW and WA), Wide (connecting Vic)
Narrow (Cape)

Western Australia
Narrow (Cape)
Standard (connecting SA and in the Pilbara mining region)
Wide (Irish)
Dual Standard/Wide (connecting SA and NSW)

Creating a model railway using any of the above gauges requires a lot of room… many kilometres in fact! So I’d best look at scaling down.

Some of most common railway modelling scales and gauges are:

Name of Gauge/scale
Gauge width
G and ‘1’
Numerous (G), 1:32 (1)
1:43.5 (UK), 1:45(Europe), 1:48 (N. America)
’00’ and ‘H0’
1:76.2 (00), 1:87 (H0)
1:148 (UK), 1:160 (most of the world)
Note, that there are many variations based on real life scales and gauges.

It given the range of gauges and scales it seems that model railways are as standard as the Australian Railway system! But, the gauge I like most is N. That is 9mm gauge which is 160 times smaller than standard gauge. The reasons for this are:
  • The gauge corresponds to N-scale which is 1:160 (or 1:148) which are commonly used scales good for scenic model railways;
  • N-gauge allows a lot to be packed into a small area including fairly tight radius curves;
  • Because it is commonly used there are many manufacturers of 1:160 and 1:148 scale products meaning it may not be as necessary to scratch build too much stuff, especially locomotives.
  • N-scale products are often available set up for either DC or DCC operations, with only HO and OO scales being better represented for DCC. This allows me to decide whether I want DC or DCC.
  • I also already have two DC locomotives in British N-scale (1:148) as well as coaches, wagons and some scenic items that I’ve previously used for my small experimental DC layout.
Because of all the above points N-gauge is my choice of gauge. Now… that is figured out… where will I set my layout? Australia, UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Argentina or somewhere else? This will also help me to answer what scale I’m going to use.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The very beginning of the railway journey

I'm soon to commence work on creating a new railway layout. I've only done a single small layout before which essentially a single loop with a passing loop and a siding using only direct current (DC), but I have something slightly more ambitious (hopefully not too ambitious) this time.

We recently purchased a new house and this has provided me with the opportunity to make some room for model railways again. The new house has a lock-up garage which is currently filled with odds and ends, parking the car in it is not essential because we have a car-port and will be putting in a solid gate. There is also a small garden shed and a lean-to shed so storage of the odds and ends that is currently filling the garage is not going to too much of a problem either. The garage does get hot though. Lismore has very hot summers so I might have to scratch my head and think of some way to alleviate this.

I've already began painting the inside of the garage, done about a quarter at this time. I've set up some storage areas for tools and general house maintenance equipment (some of which will be used on construction of the layout). Slowly sorting out the odds and ends to make room will be done at the same time .

My first thoughts are that I would like a moderate sized semi-mobile main section of layout with future modules attached to two sides. The Garage width means that I can comfortably fit something about 1600mm  and have room to easily walk past (and carry bulky things past) on one side. One side will be pushed up against a wall and the future modules will probably all be located along the same section of wall. There are also several other things I know for certain:
  • Will use digital command control (DCC)
  • Will use British n-gauge (1:148) scale rolling stock and locomotives
  • Will  use either code 80 or code 55 track, flexible where possible
  • Will have the ability to attach future 'modules' to certain parts of the main section
  • The 'modules' will be semi-mobile
  • Will not have curves on the mainline greater than about in 300mm radius and on the branch lines no greater than about 270mm in radius
Each of the points above I will discuss further in future posts. There are good (and bad) reasons for doing the layout.

My first 10 things for my approach are (researching other peoples approaches at every stage):
  1. Save money
  2. Continue to prepare garage
  3. Planning - develop concept plans
  4. Planning - detailed design of favoured plan
  5. Planning - create works plans using SCARM and develop concept electrical plans
  6. Planning - plan construction of baseboards and support table
  7. Purchasing - purchase materials for baseboard and support table
  8. Building - main baseboard support table
  9. Building - main baseboard
  10. Purchasing - order track based on SCARM
The Garage - A lot of cleaning and preparation still to do
Being my first decent sized layout and my first DCC layout I want to proceed carefully and plan things as much as possible so that I can minimize mistakes, but I'm sure there will still be many. I don't have a lot of time at this point so I'll be slowly be working on each aspect. But for the time being I need to take a picture of the starting point and get on cleaning, sanding, painting and generally fixing up the future work site at every opportunity I can. I also need to start saving so I can afford this.