Strange as it may seem, I did not start out as an AN modeller. When I was a little tacker we lived in either QLD or VIC, sometimes that was only for months at a time. It was not until we moved to Victoria for any length of time, that things would start to settle down. I started with a Hornby 00 Express passenger set, all in BR blue livery. It had a Class 37 diesel, a groovy mail car that picked up mail on the move, and some MKI passenger cars, and the obligatory oval of track.
Well kids being kids, that set took a lot of punishment, the horn hook couplers were always a little hard to separate.
This set got chopped and changed, repainted, you name it, all in the purist of the modelling cause. Mum looked at the set and wondered why the set did not look like Melbourne’s red rattlers. Well that was it, I had to find out why. Down to the nearest hobby shop and I purchased red and brass paint. This was start of something big. I got a 8’ X 4’ piece of chip board, and after the initial flat design, we went through, design change after design change. We made one where the grades were just way too steep etc. Mind you, Dad did a great job making the grade profiles out of cardboard. It was surprisingly strong once you put a cardboard top on the profiles.
I learnt as I went, and discovered a few things such as:
The reaction you get when you add a water glue mix to track laid directly on chip board. Lets just say it took a while to get the track back into a normal profile after that.
Plaster is not a good substitute for ballast.
The plus side of all this is that I was learning by doing at a very young age.
Like all modellers I decided to model what I saw every day at that time. So one weekend I dragged Dad down to the Mornington peninsular, armed with the “Melways” we photographed every station between Baxter and Stony Point. And Baxter and Mornington. At that time the Mornington line was closed but all the facilities were still standing.
I scratch built a flat top T class from an Athearn Baldwin S12. It didn’t look too bad for m first job, but I over weathered it.
For all intensive purposes I was a VR V/Line modeller, until while walking to school a down steel train caught my eye with two brightly painted Green and Gold 930’s bracketing a almost no name maroon 940, as they went burbling and snarling through a slight grade dip.
I thought to myself, where did these beasts come from?
The answer was of course AN territory. I had to have some of these locomotives, and add them to my layout.
Well it just grew from there, visiting my local hobby store I found a stack of old magazines called “the Recorder” and “Catchpoint”. Carefully dividing my paper round money, various back issues were purchased, the more I read the more I became intrigued, by AN operations, by projects made in the “big scale” Building of the New Alice Springs line, construction of new Wagons and Locomotives. VR Vline stated to look very old hat, no ambition, no new projects, nothing.
The more I read those back issues the more I thought of Modelling further and further west and north.
I scraped up enough money and during the school holidays I took a trip on the Overland to Adelaide, sitting up all night was not the most comfortable, but it got me there. Watching the sun come up in SA for the first time, and marvelled at the Little desert type scenery and the weird “American” style signals at each station.
I craned my neck the whole way into Keswick, staring at the deep cuttings and sharp curves.
On arrival into Keswick I raced down the front of the Overland only to find X50 in Vline a Blue X and two 930s. All this way to photograph an X on the front!! Starting at the Mile End Locomotive depot, I then tripped around the suburban system. Spying stored 900 class locomotives when peering over the fence at Islington.
It was an overload of stuff to look at, after all that I had read about.
From a modelling point of view, I was still all over the shop. The southern region still held is unique feel, while the northern Broad gauge system also had a charm of its own. When I got back from my trip, if was obvious that I was looking further north. An AL class was put on lay-by at my local hobby shop, I paid it off one paper round at a time. The broad gauge 930s I had finished were converted to those on the standard gauge roster. Where was I going, I had no idea, just that I knew that was where I needed to be!
Like all modellers I went though a phase of planning the fanciful, this included detailed plans of layouts featuring locations such as: Snowtown, in the BG SG days. Brinkworth, and the piece de la renascence Crystal Brook, complete with a section of double track mainline and inside staging.
My first job was an apprenticeship, and scraping for money at the end of my first year, a couple of good friends and myself managed to do the first big trip to Port Augusta. I still have all the rolls of film I shot back then, and every now and then drag them out. Thanks to the digital age they have come through time quite well. When we got over the boarder I pretty much shot everything stations, wagons, trains, then repeat.
This inspired the first potential site I seriously looked at for a layout, Crystal Brook, and to this point created the first of three initial boards for said layout. Unfortunately this layout was flawed simply by the concept, to try and get one of everything, keep 930s while satisfying my desire for West-liners, East-Liners, Alice Springs Goods, The Ghan the IP, SP3 PS2, The lead train and grain trains. It was all too much, I had been collecting IP cars, and scratch building wagons, but would be an extreme long term plan.
I had the GHAN built to a point. GM30 and a Scratch built DL45, complete with The Ghan head board. Custom made The Ghan stickers, on 12 cars, complete with feathered red to yellow window band, all of which was followed by two scratch built flat cars, for carrying cars, a Wico 1968 Monaro yellow with black stripes.
I had joined SARMA and in 1991 travelled to the Adelaide Exhibition, I brought along some of my scratch built rolling stock, a EL class locomotive, AQWY, AQEY, complete with towing frame, and three road railers. Well the look I got from the SARMA guys I might have been the devil in carinate. But I still got a few of the public checking out the ultra modern stuff.
I was still enamoured with operations north of Port Augusta, the desert and trains that could have anything on them, anything from an amusement ride on the back of a truck, half packs, triple stacked 40ft tray trailers.
An example of my passion was caught on video, with me just missing a shot of a CL and GM snaking through Spencer Junction. Although there was no sound, every body got the opinion hat I was disappointed, the slumped shoulders and the kicking of the dirt. I was a victim of fashion, with a Jimmy Barnes “working class man” tee shirt, acid wash jeans, high top white seekers and long hair. At least I thought it was a good look at the time.
The attraction of the Alice Springs Goods was that it always seemed to have one of everything. TOFC (Trailer On Flat Car), most of which was emblazoned with slogans and trucking company logos, Containers, ATCO huts, the occasional double stack, lots of half packs, Tankers, vans, Stock wagons, concrete and or custom built concrete containers, opens, car carriers almost anything, including RoadRailers. And yes, I wasted shots on all those trucks, containers and wagons. It might have looked like a waste back then but now it’s a wealth of modelling prototype fact.
Additionally at this time AN was continually experimenting with new ideas, so there was always something new, but it all came at a price. It was a hard reality when the last 930 class was decommissioned on Standard Gauge, if I wanted to say true to my up to the minute modelling, they had to go. On the plus side new Locomotives and different wagons just kept coming. Modelling AN was never dull.
I read with great interest things like the 1992 AN ten year plan, which mapped the future as AN saw it. This included such projects as:
By passing Port Augusta – Tassie Street - Spence Junction, with a whole new line that would come off at Stirling North and run in a north west direction and re joint the main line just north of Spencer Junction. A new longer more manageable yard would be would built . I have always said AN were way ahead of there time, and when you look at the bottle neck that Port August is now, they were right on the money.
Another project on their drawing board was the by pass of the Adelaide Hills. The plan was to go north possibly using the Apamarra line as a basis, swing around north of Gawler, then join the Adelaide – Crystal Brook line near Two Wells. I am not exactly sure if there was talk of a marshalling yard at that location. But you can tell that the by pass was in planning, due to the fact that the original dual gauge concrete sleeper project was started near Murray Bridge an finished at Woseley. No point re-sleepering track you are going to abandon!
I also bought my first car a duel fuel XD falcon, three on the tree auto I could get almost 1000Km range using both tanks. It went all the way out to Tarcoola, some interior bits started to shake loose on the dirt road from Coondambo to Tarcoola but we still made counter meal time.
We drove up on the Tuesday to be set up for the Tea and Sugar’s arrival on Wednesday.
The Wilgena Hotel was open for business, except for every second Thursday, as that was Golf day, and the publican must have also been the greens keeper.
A few beers with the locals a counter meal, a perfect night in a desert town.
Tarcoola had a station master, and would occasionally be issued orders for various movements within their domain. Complete with two sets of working semaphore signals.
I still remember clearly taking a shot of and EL and a DL passing Tarcoola’s west end sticks and thought, that’s probably the last Mechanical stick this EL will every see. How wrong I was even in 2011 an EL can still do that working in NSW.
I also looked at other potential layout locations such as:
Pimba, pre red X ing of the all the buildings, I had designed something similar to the way Barcoola is setup now with the section of the triangle going out into the public. I had the tracks curving all the way around to the back of the scenery boards, and a valance built into the design so the lighting package stays intact and you can have a seamless back drop. Although still born, it did get me thinking. Limitations I found, is that a lot of British layouts are designed in a similar fashion in a two dimensional format, forcing the viewer to look at everything side on. Myself when I look at a layout, I try to find a vantage point where you can imagine yourself track side, and nothing looks better than a long train sneaking through an S curve. This is something you can’t do when there is a back drop built up an over the layout, it limits the viewing angles.
I also looked at the east side of Port Augusta, modelling the station building, triangle and the workshops. Talk about taking a big bite of the cherry, This one did get a bit further and I constructed the workshops area, triangle, station precinct and lake knockout boards.
Again just a too bigger bite, to accomplish, there was a lot of buildings which needed to be built the biggest of which would be the station building and just too many trees.
I had to simplify and get realistic.
I kept working on the Locomotive and wagons. Scratch building, CL, DL ELs, Even the then brand new AN class and kitbashing VR S class locomotives into GMs.
Its worth noting at the at the time, the only equipment available to the AN modeller was the Powerline BL, the TRAX 830, Lima 930. Rolling stock wise, was the ubiquitous 8300 Guards van, ELX, IP cars, and the BGB range.
I first met Glen back in 1992, at the time he worked in NSW, and have been good mates ever since. With the depression of having made at least two attempts to build an AN layout it took Glen to give me the right inspiration.
Finally we just planning to get a layout running, to display the rolling stock that we had been working on for all those years, that’s it. Thanks to Glen’s inspiration Barcoola was born, he named it and we planned on the dash of his VR Commodore (sorry Berlina) on the way back from another Railfan trip.
Obviously as it turned out Barcoola is a take on Tarcoola, and looking at its facilities it had or still has a fairly extensive yard, basically three track through lines, with a triangle, ancillary work sidings and end loading.
There was no way I was going to fit Tarcoola into 25ft available, but something that has the flavour of the area, yes we could do that.. For ever the over thinker, I remember paining over the length of the triangle board. I was worried about the size the board and not will the track layout be suitable.
Barcoola was exactly what was needed, it enabled us to run long AN trains, in a Desert setting.
Its not to say that I didn’t have other temptations, In the early 1990’s I made my first trip to the USA, and ended up modelling what I saw. My choice of locomotives to model left a lot to be desired. ATSF GP60M 144, FP45 97 and B40-8 520 (complete with scratch built cab) were all involved in an accident once I modelled them, I think 97 was scrapped!.
Mid 1990s I visited WA’s Pilbara Region, again more inspiration, resulting in models of all three major players.
In 1999 over a week railfaning Roger almost convinced me to model ultra modern. It is also true that Glen is powering ahead with Ultra modern Barcoola. I am happy to contribute, and have allocated locomotives and rolling stock for this purpose, but it will be more for Alice Springs, than Barcoola.
I have always stayed true to what I think was the most changing and innovative time in Rail Transportation in Australia and AN in 1993 was it. They did it all, and even today, everyone else is still playing catch up. They might have only been around for 21 years, but the mark this organisation left on the country is indelible.