Monday, November 29, 2010


I had a little project in Lidcombe (NSW). I had never really been there before. I’d been through on the train but on foot I found a neat little shopping centre. Compare this photo looking down Joseph Street taken c1941 with a photo taken in November 2010


From Wayland, S. C & Lidcombe (N.S.W. : Municipality). Council 1941, Lidcombe and its development as an industrial centre Council of the Municipality of Lidcombe, Lidcombe, N.S.W

(source Wayland, S. C & Lidcombe Council 1941, Lidcombe and its development as an industrial centre, Council of the Municipality of Lidcombe, Lidcombe, N.S.W)

Railway hotel, Lidcombe 

Not much has changed except for the cars and the car parking. Quite refreshing to find these gems.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VR delivers sleepers

On the VR Enthusiast discussion group Forthbridge asked about how the Victorian Railways delivered sleepers to their worksites. This reminded me of an incident when at the first Lake Condah Mission test excavations. When on returning from a trip to Heywood (14/09/1984) I spied a sleeper train at work on the line from Ararat to Portland (just south of Three Waterholes Road).

I deviated from my route and took some photos:

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

Sleeper laying between Haywood and Three Waterholes Road, 1st September 1984. Looking west

After I finished I took the next track through a pine forest back towards Condah Mission. I promptly got bogged so bogged that it took a 4wd and two tractors to get the Nissen Bluebird out. To be fair to me the 4wd bogged itself trying to get me out and one tractor also bogged itself.

My employers – the Victoria Archaeological Survey were not amused however members of the Aboriginal community who were with me thought it was a huge joke and I was often asked “seen any good trains lately”?

The images record an interesting scene of railway life.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Austrains IA wagon - opinions

With the arrival of the over speculated about Austrains “mystery” wagon – the VR I wagon and derivatives, a new era for the VR Enthusiast has arrived. Following on from the I, IA and B from Austrains are Auscuision’s U. T. KMQ as well as a GY and SDS models is promising another GY and a KQ wagon. Can a Z guards van be arriving in the not to distant future?

For the sum of between $25 and $35 per wagon a VR modeller will be able to build up a train of classic VR four wheelers to run behind their diesels. Previously this could only be achieved by assembling the excellent BGM/SEM kits which are about half the price (when you include painting, detailing and couplers but not costing assembly time).

Many modellers have expressed difficulties with the kits, although in comparison with injection moulded kits of AFV’s and Warships, the BGM/SEM kits are uncomplicated and easy to assemble requiring only basic modelling skills. However the RTR manufacturers must sense there is a market for VR four wheelers as there is allot of Chinese moulded plastic en route to Australia (some of which is heading to Concord).

I bought a "combo pack" which had I 15868, IA 14438 and B 69 at the "Our Town Show" on the 4th September 2010. Having some spare time on a Sunday morning, I ran the callipers over IA 14438 and had a detailed look at my purchase.

The sources I used are the usual culprits – the Peter Vincent website, Rob O’Regan’s website and Mark Bau’s website. From these several official diagrams of the IA were obtained which gave wagon dimensions. I converted these to HO scale and then went measuring with my trusty digital callipers.

At this point you need to consider possible sources of error – the conversions (feet to metrics, real to scale) being one obvious one. Then there is the difficulty of measuring. Variations on how you hold the callipers can result in errors. You also need to make sure you are measuring to the same points on the model as on the diagram. for example length over couplers – where on the couplers and don't forget Kadees are over scale so this measurement is inherently inaccurate. In contrast distance between axle boxes is likely to be more accurate as the location of the axles is readily found on both the model and the prototype.

The results are:

Length over couplers: should be 8.7cm my measurements are consistent with this allowing for errors

Interior width: should be 2.97cm is 2.86 cm – probably the sides are over sized  as they are thicker than the SEM ones.

Wheel centres: should be 4.02cm and is  3.91cm

Doors are ok but difficult to measure precisely.

Side height: 1.28cm and is 1.34cm

So the model is possibly slightly larger than 100% to scale but this is less than 1mm so could also be a measuring fault. Comparing the model to one of my SEM IA wagons the Austrains model looks ever so slightly larger which confirms my feeling (assuming David got the SEM model correct).

The model is in some form of shiny plastic (POM?) and the underframe and wheels pop out leaving the wagon sides and a metal wagon floor.

Austrains IA wagon 001

The brake rigging is simplified and will need some beefing up – this is my preference. The brake cylinder is at a very odd angle, again it could be left or fixed. The grab irons, coupler pin lifter and tarp supports are all fine details. both the tarp supports and the coupler pin lifter move.

The interior has timber detailing on the floor but no side detail. I think the doors should be thinner than the sides according to the diagram. This challenge as been avoided by Austrains and SEM no doubt due to cost.  

The wagon weights 20g which is a bit light for both NRMA and NEM standards. The bulk of the weight is the floor which is metal.

The model is finished in a representation of VR wagon red with white steps and white squares in corners. Basically it looks far too clean for a wagon constructed in 1915 and will need to be detailed to fit in with the owners preferences. The photos of the wagons in the 1970’s show them to be fairly bashed and battered (reflecting over 50 years of work) and the Austrains model from the box looks far too neat and kempt whereas it should be IMHO unkempt.

So if you want a model you can plonk on the tracks and run, this will do the trick – it looks good and although it is slightly larger than it should be this is not really going to be noticed I think (unless you are wondering around with callipers and a VR diagram).

Austrains IA wagon 006

(above Austrains and SEM IA wagons

In contrast my SEM IA wagons are still not finished after intermittent progress since 2002 (or possibly earlier) and some of the handrail details are much finer than my attempts at wire bending, it’s back to the work bench for me to improve these details.

Also on the workbench at some stage will be the RTR  IA’s for weathering and minor detailing. My preference is for rolling stock that look like they have been used and the Austrains finish is too slick for my preference. I am also wondering whether it might be possible to scribe representations of the doors on the inside of the wagon.

To conclude; I am happy that I have got these wagons and that I have ordered more. They will complement my existing completed and to be completed SEM models. If I just want to run a train, then these wagons are ready to go. They will need some work to finish them to my personal preferences which to some degree negates the RTR aspect but consider the lack of progress I have made on the SEM kits. Therefore the Austrains wagons suit the time poor. 

Austrains IA wagon 005

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shipwrecked in Stockholm!

The last days of this trip were spent chilling in Stockholm from which we were to fly back to Sydney. What better way for us to chill than a “Hop on Hop off” Harbour cruise  with a stop off to the Vasa Museum.

The Vasa Museum is definitely one which exceeds expectations. After a short time queuing, we came in the entrance to see the truly astonishing sight of the Vasa sitting there in this vast dimly lit hall. It looked like a ghost ship, something, as Jane ironically noted, out of Pirates of the Caribbean. The impact is dramatic.


I did note a sign advising the more dim witted tourists that this indeed was the “museum ship”!

The ship speaks for itself but in the surrounding seven levels of viewpoints and galleries is a detailed explanation of the ship its construction, context and those on board. The latter was discussed in a really comprehensive discussion of skeletal remains.


The iconography of the Vasa is really important as the ship was dressed to impress with the elaborate carvings pronouncing on the Swedish Kingdoms superiority and place in history.

There is also a good display on the conservation work undertaken to preserve the Vasa – they literally wrote the book on preserving shipwreck  timbers.

Inspired by our 3 hours at the Vasa we hopped on the next hop on/hop off and stayed on while they visited their stops around the harbour. This was great a good end to a day which started at 5:00 am in our hot Helsinki room.

Then as we were getting ready to hop off at the quay at Nybroviken  the small ferry instead of slowing seemed to speed up. Jane and I were standing waiting to go off and we moved back from near the bow at the deckhands shouted warning. Then with a big bang we hit. Both Jane and I hit the deck. There was chaos. My first thought was to get Jane and I off the boat. Janes was for fellow passengers. 

We got off fairly quickly. Jane seemed ok but I had a very sore (bruised)bum. We were both a bit shaken but other passengers were worse off with a few being taken to hospital.

Here is the scene just after we got off with the Swedish police just arriving. I was quite shaken and sat for a while to recover and to be given the once over by the paramedics.  Jane later became quite sore in the shoulder – a form of whiplash I think and of course my bruised bum was a very sore outcome,

Two shipwrecks in one day!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Miniature Wonderland

This is supposedly the largest model railway in the World. Who knows it is huge and here are some photos to give an impression of the layout.

This is the server controlling the electrics.

The DCC Control room would shame many real life railways (they let women run the trains!!!)

I am not sure whether this is weathered but the detail is quite exquisite.

Especially when you consider the size of the layout (this is the Swiss Section).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tramway at Sunny Corner

Some of you may know that over the last two years I have been doing some work on the former Sunny Corner mining site. Last week I was on site doing some archaeological recording prior to remediation works. While recording the lower edge of the earthworks forming the Open Roasting Pit (where the ore was roasted to make it more suitable for smelting) I came across these remains.

Sc Tramway 1 (yes that is the correct slope!)

Care full examination revealed these to be two timbers held apart by metal rod on top of a metal frame with a bit of rail that again keeps the rails apart at a set gauge.

Sc Tramway 2

Here is a detail of the metal frame with the rail “in situ”.

Not much is known about how the open roasting pits worked but from the remains it seems that a small tramway network was used to move the ore and presumably firewood around.

Not much has survived since c1889 when the Mine closed. Presumably all the good bits were salvaged for reuse elsewhere while these pieces were thrown over the edge to rust.

Because I had a sub-metre GPS with me, I can tell you that the remains are located at

Northing    6303672.578
Easting    769197.279

GPS_Height    1095.101

I imagine that this form of tramway construction would have allowed the easy realignment of the tramway during the process of roasting the ore.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gems from the Epping Model Railway Exhibition (12th June 2010)

SDS Models released a 3 pack of MC Cattle wagons at the Epping exhibition. These were introduced from 1974 when the Victorian Railways trialled several WAGR 20' cattle containers. This trial was successful and the Railways placed an order for 50 MC Cattle containers with Loadmaster at Woodend. The versatility of this design meant the cattle containers could be loaded individually onto four wheeled flat wagons like KQ and KMQ or loaded in threes on longer FQF bogie flat wagons. From my perspective this versatility is what attracted me to the models as they could mix in with my SEM “M” wagons on a branch line.

Photos of the newly released Mc Cattle container by SDS

Side view (above), corner and roof (below().

Photos of the newly released Mc Cattle container by SDSPhotos of the newly released Mc Cattle container by SDS

They are quite light at 6g. You can slip a modellers knife in the slides and remove the bottom to add weight/cattle. A bit of weathering and they are good to go.

Team Alistair pounds the pavement!

MS Walk a serious dog

Yes, we did the MS –Walk on the 6th. Fortunately the threatened rain only emerged in the afternoon well after we had go home. Team Alistair consisted on myself, Jane, cousin Nic and his wife Jude and sister in law Margaret and her daughter Lou and of course our very own Alistair.

Ms Walk Iain and Al Here is Alistair encouraging the team to get a move on!

MS Walk Nic and Al Nic and Alistair celebrating the end of the Walk.

My GPS said we’d done just over11 km, not bad for a 9km walk! More importantly MS-Australia got over $3000 from Team Alistair.

The services that MS-Australia supply, such as lots of advice, for  the newly diagnosed, for families and on on-going research (every few months a “cure” is reported and these are often explained in realistic terms by MS Australia’s doctors) are really important to MS sufferers.

I remember being told that when Dad was diagnosed there really wasn't any support and he was left to stoically suffer as befitted someone with an “incurable” disease. Nowadays there is so much more in the way of support and guidance from initial diagnosis to support for various therapies and  living with MS.

So to all who supported Team Alistair – a big thank you, it’s a great cause you have supported!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MS Walk 6th June 2010

As you may know Jane and I are supporters of MS Australia. Multiple Sclerosis has touched our lives and through this we realise the importance of having a support organisation such as MS Australia to those with MS and their family and carers.

MS Australia has an Annual fun run and walk on the 6th June. Jane and I and another have formed “Team Alistair” (you can guess who the other is) to do the 9km walk (or trot in Alistair’s case). We are looking for sponsorship for our team or better still people to walk with us.

You can join in by going to the MS Walk page at and either elect to donate or walk our team is “Team Alistair” which you can find by entering Team Alistair in the search engine on the page. We are the ones with the cute picture of Alistair!

If you want to join us on the walk, which starts at 10:00am, you need to register first

Donations are tax deductable.

This is our third MS Walk and we are looking forward to it especially watching Alistair trying to steal sausages at the end of walk Sausage sizzle!

Team Alistair

Friday, April 23, 2010

It is a long trip to Broken Hill

As an outback town Broken Hill is reckoned to be not all that far away and from a South Australian perspective maybe it isn't, but from Sydney it is a long drive and for the organisers of the 2010 Outback and Beyond Conference is has also been a long 18 months or so. So here we all are ICOMITES and TICHS waiting for the Conference proper to start.

To get here I forsook the plane and the train for my car and the back roads of NSW. I decided on the route through Cowra, West Wyalong, Rankin Springs, Hillston and Ivanhoe. Leaving at 6:30 I got to Ivanhoe by 5:30. Ivanhoe was quite desolate so I decided to push on to Menindee some 200k by dirt. I stayed the night at the Menindee Caravan Park.

The landscape from West Wyalong onwards was essentially flat with the odd range of hills. We had been promised plagues of locusts and while swarms were not obvious there were enough locusts to force several window cleaning stops. The locusts are a sign of the good rains we’ve been having this year.

Another sign is the flooded Menindee Lakes refilling from Queensland flood waters from the Darling River.

Menindee has the lakes (a series of lakes with lunettes) and the Darling River. It was for a time the terminus of the standard gauge line from Broken Hill which reached Menindee in 1919. There it stayed until a lifting bridge (for the river boats) was completed and the line through to Dubbo and the rest of the NSW rail system was completed.

This is the bridge in question, shorn of its concrete weight that provided the counter balance to allow the bridge to open but also showing in the foreground the pump inlet – I think for the water pipe to Broken Hill.

After driving around Menindee i headed west towards Broken Hill. About half way Stephens Creek in encountered and after that the first sign of my destination – the Barrier Silver fields could be seen.

The blue line of the distant ranges. Therein lies the richest sliver lead zinc lode and 125 years of Australian mining history and of course heritage.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It was on fire when I lay down on it

The title of this post refers to the opening of an insurance claim regarding a burning bed and serves to point out the inevitable consequences of things not being right at the start.

I refer to my Steam Era Models IA “Tommy Bent” wagon. as a case in point. I think the kit was bought for me by Jane in 2004 when I was housebound with a broken foot. She made the trek to Toms in West Ryde and bought me some kits (much to the surprise of the Toms crew).

Now the kit is basically the short 4 wheel underframe from the M wagon kit and a new “box” to go on it. However, you do have to trim the M wagon underframe to fit the “box” as a bit projects on each side.

Now as I look at the IA wagon in 2010 I see misaligned sides, gaps filled with body putty which has got everywhere obscuring the interior details of the wagon all stemming from the indisputable fact that I didn't cut the body square!

Picture 65

All the fitting and fiddling stems from my neglect of this basic task.

The model is salvageable, after all the wagons did look quite battered and distorted by the ‘60s, and with something to go in the interior the odd blobs of putty will be hidden.

Still I should learn to cut straight!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The end of Z 102

Z 102 was a second series Z class tram built by Comeng in 1978-79 and issued for service on 2nd January 1979.

Now I am trying to recall what I was doing, but I think in either 1981 or 1982 when I was living in Dennis Street, Northcote I was at home. I recall hearing the fire engine and looking out from my house seeing smoke and thinking it was about the site of the Northcote RSL. Bruce Ruxton was the outspoken (arguably racist) leader of the RSL and Northcote was his club so I thought maybe someone has firebombed the RSL. Grabbing my trusty Mamyia SLR I popped around to High Street .

Tram Z102 Fire2_0001 At least one fire engine (an International Pump Escape) was at work and as you can see the tram was well alight.

Tram Z102 Fire2_0002

According to the tram driver the fire started at the rear of the tram in a seat. as it was smouldering they decided to head on to the Northcote Fire Station to get them to put it out. The trams didn't have fire extinguishers at that time so they had not means to put any fire out. But as you can see things developed! I wonder if in continuing the journey they fanned the fire. Anyway they abandoned Tram near the Northcote RSL. Tram Z102 Fire2_0006

Tram Z102 Fire2_0008

According to VicSig Z102 was scrapped following the fire. Nobody was hurt but I imagine the tram crew would have some explaining. Later that year I noticed fire extinguishers appearing on trams presumably as a result of this event.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Deaths in Web 2?

As some readers may know there have been two recent deaths in the Web2 world I inhabit. The first, some weeks ago now, was Railpage  which seems to have died on 22nd January 2010. the second was the Perth Military Modelling Site (PMMS) whose owner/operator Terry Ashley has decided to stop adding content.

Railpage was a great and unexpected loss. It simply wasn't there and all the Gb of useful and useless information has simply gone.I am feeling its loos as I would browse the Railpage forums at least once a day – particularly the Model Railway and Railway Archaeology forums. There seem to be a number of knockers – some complaining about over moderation, others like Bob Cooke accusing posters of being slanders and stating that legal opinion was some posts were libellous (posting on the Aus Model Rail Group 3rd March 2010).

There was certainly a mixed bag of posters, some seemingly naive in their view of the hobby and the businesses that support it, others seemingly delighting in taking a view and defending it to the death and others were trolls. But in all that there were some who genuinely tried to provide good creditable information to help modellers.

I hope it comes back but its been almost 2 months.

PMMS was a reviews site which mostly dealt with model tanks, guns and other military items. It proprietor Terry Ashley was known for his detailed and accurate reviews of kits never being afraid to point out errors and omissions. as such he ran foul of Dragon and some serious nutters from “the Panther Project”. As a result I felt he seemed discouraged and drifted away from his site leaving the Review field to the ignorant and the hagiographers.

Again as someone who would view the site about every 2-3 days this development is a big disappointment.

We rely so much on the Web these days that when favourite sites disappear it leaves a hole in life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The mysterious workings of JCIS

For various reasons in late 2009 various projects that JCIS had worked on but had stalled came to life and so we are busy writing reports. We finalised one last week and so this week we have been getting ready for the next one.

The problem is finding all the items that allow a report to be written. There are images and videos on my computer, PDF’s of previous reports. Paper files and reports from the depths of the filing cabinet. Plans and excavation notes along with the artefacts were last seen (by common recollection) in the garage. However they were not obviously there.

Two days later I can report that – the garage is clean and reorganised. A car load of material (and a small brown dog) has gone to the recycling depot and we have come back with nothing new! My office is cleaner and more organised. My model trains have been catalogued and joy of joys the plans and field notes have been discovered on top of a considerable pile of material on Japanese Industrial History.

They were placed there as I recall just before everything went down to the Yass project. Phew!.

Picture 57