Thursday, April 23, 2009

Enjoying the Journey

With moving house the amount of actual modeling done recently has been zero. However I have had the odd moment to think and reflect on things.

It's a funny hobby we are involved in isn't it? At face value we simply run model trains around a model railway layout. If only it were that simple for most of us in reality!

Of course it's by choice that we make things so complicated for ourselves, usually as a result of the research we do into the models and areas we want to replicate. The more we learn, the more our perceptions change, and seemingly small things can in fact change the whole direction in which we are heading.

When I got back into my railway modeling at the beginning of last year after twenty or so years out of the hobby, I wanted to build a simple country single line style layout with the odd passing loop and siding to allow me to recreate a generic NSW scene and run my favourite trains from the 60's and early 70's.

At that point it all seemed so simple, collect a selection of NSWGR diesel engines like the 44's, 47's, 421's, 48's etc, a bunch of random freight wagons from that period, and maybe some passenger stock. How easy would it be to get what I wanted with most of this stuff either available or coming in the near future.

And then it began. Reading through some old AMRM's I read the articles by Keiran Ryan on the wheat silo's in NSW, and Gunnedah in particular caught my eye. For the first time, the realisation of the possible enjoyment that could be derived from actually operating the layout like a real railway became obvious.

And so with nothing more than an aim to try to recreate a likeness of Gunnedah circa late 60's early 70's I began to draw up the track plan in a HO friendly way, albeit with no actual space to build it. I now also had a idea of exactly what rolling stock I needed, lots of BWH's and RU's, cattle wagons and oil tankers. Twenty BWH's and two HCH's (with tarps) are now waiting to go into wheat service, and I have half a dozen or so random oil tankers that will need to be NSWGR'ised.

So the idea of a simple country line and random rolling stock had become somewhat more focused, as had the track plan and general location. This is a good thing though as it forces you to think about what you really need and work towards it without just randomly collecting stuff that down the track may not all go together that well.

Late last year, my wife and I saw a house that we wanted to buy, so an offer was made and negotiations began. The best thing about this place (train wise) was the 7x7 metre garage in the yard. Whilst not wanting to count chickens, I immediately began to think about how I might use this space for a layout. The initial track plans I have shown in previous posts on this blog. Gunnedah and its surrounding industries would be able to be modeled quite well within this given area and so the layout was really starting to have an aim.

It struck me soon after that this space would be great for a two level layout, but what to model on the other level? I could model more of the line that Gunnedah is located on, but I wanted something that would offer some variety.

I always wanted to have a black streamlined 38 and Garratt on the roster (the Garratt I have with a Eureka 3803 coming), and was aware that neither of these are really suitable for working trains to Gunnedah, so what other location would suit these engines. Talk about being right in front of one's eyes, but the station at Hawkesbury River along with the sidings circa 60's on the main northern line were a very busy place, and operationally quite interesting. Seeing as how I travel through this area twice daily commuting to work and it's a ten minute train trip away from home, my interest in it was suddenly awoken.

However once again as I looked into things, certain aspects became apparent. Steam traffic was quickly being replaced by electric power in 1960 with the electrification complete to that point, the 38's very very rarely hauled the Newcastle Flyer through there anymore as the 46 class electrics took them through to Gosford now, and the coal stage was no longer used for very long into the 60's, so that area of operation would not be able to be used in my given mid 60's to early 70's era.

But then it struck me, what if I was to model Hawkesbury River circa 1959/60 as opposed to the era for Gunnedah being later? I could then run the era of trains that I liked from the late 50's on that section, and run the later era stuff through Gunnedah. Of course I can operate anything anywhere I want if need be, but if a truly prototypical running session wanted to be run then the option is there.

I get to have my 38's on the Newcastle Flyer, and Garratt's, 59's and std goods engines as well as 42 and 43 class diesels and electric 46's grinding up the Cowan bank on various goods trains, and the 48's and other branch line diesels running through Gunnedah and surrounding areas hauling wheat, livestock and oil. Each area service by the correct engines for the line and time period, and not having to put up with those niggling thoughts of "as if" in the back of the mind as the 38 hauled Flyer trundles through Gunnedah!

I guess this has been a long winded way of describing how the more I learn about the real NSWGR railway eras, the operational aspect and how the trains I like were used within these areas, my ideas of what I want to model have changed and grown quite a bit in what has only been a little over twelve months.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this scenario, but I really do think that building a model railway can be so much more fun when coupled with the enjoyment of researching and learning a bit about the real thing and its history. The best thing is that unlike a lot of people who are interested in various historically based things, we can actually recreate on a small scale our interest and actually operate it like the real thing. Try doing that with your Spanish armada or lunar space travel!

In some ways our hobby is more about enjoying the journey rather than simply getting to the destination.