My favourites from the Canberra Model Railway Expo

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo

This week you’re getting a bit of commentary on my favourites from the Canberra Model Railway Expo. Sorry for a bit of a rehash, but there were lots of photos in the Expo gallery and I didn’t really get to talk much about most of them.

This week has been a bit busy with Uni work and feeling a bit unwell (it wasn’t COVID though!). As a result I haven’t finished off a couple of posts I have in the pipeline. I have some photos from the Canberra Balloon Festival, the Canberra Railway Museum, another Zoo trip, and autumn in the Arboretum to come. To get those up, I need to finish editing photos and prepare them for publication, and I haven’t got that done. The Balloon Festival ones aren’t far away, and they should be ready soon. Not sure if I’ll get to them this week though – I have another Uni assignment due in a couple of weeks (the last assignment for the semester). Once that is done, I’ll have some breathing space for a month or so before the next semester starts to get some of these things finished.

For the blog post on the expo itself, click here. For just the photo album, click here.

The Lego Layout

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
One end of the LEGO layout by Canberra Lego Users Group.
Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
LEGO layout – revisited, Harry Potter edition.

This was one pretty amazing thing, and my published photos only show about half of it, if that. No pretence at scale or realism, but a real good mix of fun. I’m afraid there were people (the proud builders, no doubt) standing around in the background of the other shots. I don’t have their permission, so I was unable to share those photos.

A few references to local trains, made of lego (of course). This included (if I remember) engine 6029 (the Bayer-Garratt (sp?) BIG loco restored by the Canberra Railway Museum folk, but now housed at Thirlmere. I believe 1210 and 3016 were also represented. These are still local engines. Sadly they are not currently operational, but are in the sheds at the Canberra Railway Museum awaiting a chance to be restored to running condition. I do not have photos of these lego models, unfortunately. This layout also included the (inevitable) Thomas the Tank Engine references; a Harry Potter station and associated characters (visible in the second photo); and I don’t remember what else. Lots of things, including many references I have forgotten or completely missed.

As an aside, I saw some advertising recently that indicated Thirlmere intend to be running 6029 on a weekend at the end of June. Go along, and see the biggest operating steam locomotive in the southern hemisphere. I’m still grumpy that things worked out the way they did and 6029 is no longer Canberra based; but it is still an amazing piece of machinery and you should go and see it. And no, Thirlmere are not giving me any kickbacks!

The Graffiti’d trucks

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
Graffiti’ed grain trucks on the “Bethungra Spiral” layout.
Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
Trains passing on the “Bethungra Spiral” layout

This layout appealed for an entirely different reason. I absolutely adored the detail in the graffiti on the grain trucks. I can’t say that every single truck was unique, but I didn’t spot any duplications. It looked like the real thing! I don’t know if they were modelled off photographs of real graffiti’ed rolling stock, or whether this club just has a frustrated graffiti artist in their midst.

Don’t get me wrong, the layout itself was pretty amazing too – you can see dead wood on the ground under a tree on the right-hand side of the photograph. And the dry patches under the trees, so very reminiscent of eucalypts. Even the colouring of the larger trees is in keeping with eucalypts found in the geographic location this layout models. Amazing eye for detail. As and added bonus, the loco on the passenger train is sporting the Sydney 2000 Olympics colour scheme. Some (I have no idea how many) NSW locomotives sported this livery in the lead up to and during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

But the graffiti on those trucks… that’s just something else!

N Scale layouts

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
Two passing trains on a layout by the CMNSG.
Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
Ironing board layout “Gaye Saint Ediths.

Both my father and grandfather were HO scale modellers, and that was what I remember fondly from them. The HO scale layouts are pretty impressive, but the N scale layouts are their own version of special. You can fit so much more into the same amount of space, but it is tiny. I think, having never modelled N scale, they would be so much more fiddly to make it look right.

The Canberra N Scale group had a couple of layouts present, and this one was made of standardised modular components. Sorry to the N Scale Group, we were rushing to get though by this stage and I didn’t have the opportunity to spend as much time admiring your handiwork as I would have liked. The concept of a layout made of standard bits that you can plug together in almost any arrangement to suit your theme/space/whatever appeals to my exceedingly logical mind.

At the other end of the N-scale scale was the ironing board layout. I know I mentioned this in the previous post, but it warrants another mention here. As proof that you can build a perfectly functional and fun to use layout in a tiny size, it was a stand-out. About the length of an ironing board and just slightly wider than a standard ironing board, this would have to be the ultimate proof.

When my father died and we dismantled his train layout, we salvaged the main station complex from his layout. It was nearly as big as this entire layout! Of course, entirely different goals and purposes, but it is the sense of scale I am trying to convey here. [And for the record, when I say “we” here, I do actually mean my brother, who dismantled the whole layout, and preserved the station intact, including all the lighting and signals. I had nothing to do with it apart from a bit of cheering him on from a distance].

Big is … big

Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
One long side of the Coffs Harbour layout.
Canberra Model Railway Expo 2022 layout photo
Close up of a coal train on the Coffs Harbour layout

For it’s sheer size, I couldn’t fail to mention the Coffs Harbour Model Railway Club layout. As I mentioned in the previous post, this massive piece of engineering is about 12m long and 6m wide (that’s about 39 ft by 19 ft, for those that speak imperial). It was the only layout that could run very long trains without them looking completely silly, and they did so.

In case anyone is wondering the logic, HO scale is 1:87 scale. A real grain train, as used to occasionally come through my home town when I was a kid, consisted of 30 – 40 50ft grain trucks, and the trains on our little cross line were not big trains by any means. Thirty grain trucks is about 1500 ft or 450m in length, which at scale is a model train 5.2m in length. Even an N scale (1:160 scale) that would be a train 2.8m long. Not really practical on most home layouts. However, on the Coffs Harbour layout, trains that long didn’t look completely out of place. On a more “normal” sized layout, the engine would be going through one station while the end of the train was still coming through the previous station. On this layout, such a train was only half of the long length.

As I said, the sheer size of this layout was staggering. And, I hasten to add, that is not to say that it was inferior to other layouts in terms of detail or anything else. It was well modelled, with a variety of scenery components from urban to rural. It had all the ancillary details of trackside buildings, vehicles and people that you would expect. It’s just that it was also BIG!

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