Sunday, December 9, 2012

Coleraine Junction

One of the problems with modelling railways as a hobby is that unlike model tanks or model ships you really need somewhere to run and show off your models, otherwise they simply sit there taking up space and collecting dust and in any case, why then do you need more than one of a particular wagon or locomotive?

But of course for many of us there is the questions of time and space. Building a model railway requires time and lots of space. We are all familiar with the monster railways featured in  Model Railroader which take up all the basement of a house, are built over a ten year period by the author and a crew of ten “buddies”. Even “small” layouts are 9ft by 13ft (2.74 by 3.96m) or are in N scale.

Enter the “micro layout” concept. "Micro layouts are small model railroads, usually less than three or four square feet in area, that nonetheless have a clear purpose and excellent operating capability." (the late Carl Arendt see

The concept has been around for a while but I hadn't really paid attention as many of the miro-layouts seemed to be a model railway answer to the theological problem of how many angels on a pin – they simply tried to be as miro as possible. However one day I came across Chris Nevard’s  micro layout Polbrock (see his blog site which is at and search the tag cloud for Polbrock). The model is described as “a back of an envelope plan for a 3x1 foot (excluding fiddle yards) micro depicting a fictitious halt and crossing on the Wenford Bridge branch line” ( and he built the baseboard in a box in three hours!

For me the concept is good as the size is right - fits on the top of my bookcases and the time is right – a few days work would get the basic model up and running.

But of course I cannot duplicate Polbrock but what attracted me in the first place was thinking that there was some vague similarity to Coleraine Junction which I had often thought would be interesting to model. Coleraine Junction was where the Coleraine Branch line joined with the main line from Ararat to Portland and was immediately south of Hamilton. About 10 yards further south, the line from Port Fairy and Koroit joined and from the 1950s the engine depot that served Hamilton was located immediately south of Coleraine Junction.


There are a number of diagrams available but this box diagram shows the general arrangement. The trains from Hamilton run under a road overbridge (this would form one edge of the layout)  and the signal box is located immediately south of this on a small bank. The 1966 photo (below) which I guess was taken from the bridge shows the general scene with the lines branching off and the loco depot in the background.

Coleraine Junction in 1966, from the Portland p100

The box would make a pretty model and there would be no shortage of traffic goods and mixed trains mostly and I imagine, quite a flow of light engines to and from the depot. all of which would slowly pass the junction.

There are of course a number of design problems to be resolved – I have a good concept for the Hamilton end but am less clear about how to deal with the trains at the other end, probably a form of selective compression. I am not sure how to align the tracks once they leave the layout. I plan to have the trains run into cassettes in lieu of fiddle yards.

So this is the concept – what is the next stage? I guess the next stage is to rough out a design. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some photos from the Taipei Railway Workshops

We visited the Railway Workshops as part of the pre Congress tour – the congress being the TICCIH Congress which was held in Taiwan in early November 2012.

As I understand it the Workshops were established by the Japanese colonial administration c1900 and were part of a series of now redundant railway infrastructure forming a heavy rail corridor. The workshops are still open but seem mostly to use used for storage.


It was difficult to get a decent plan but this plan was seen in the works so may be accurate.



There was a large boiler in residence we were told it was from DT  668 but as we saw that loco in steam two days later maybe it was a spare, Here we see Neil Cossens inspecting the boiler.

Later we entered a workshop that contained numerous furnaces and metal working equipment such as steam hammers which we assume was for metal fabrication. The equipment was a mixture of German, British and Japanese origin.


We all expressed the hope that any conservation of the site understood the importance of the contents of the workshop as well as the buildings.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Heavy Metal in the Red House

The Red House in Ximending District of Tiapei was built in 1908 as an emporium to provide a modern market for Japanese goods to the Japanese community and to the Taiwanese as part of the process of trying to assimilate them (Taiwan being a Japanese colony at the time)

The building was designed by Kondo Juro, a western-styled architect in the Taiwanese prefectural civil engineering office at the time, the market entrance, incorporating both octagonal and cruciform shapes, was paralleled by no other in the east and west. The market entrance also took on the ‘eight trigrams (bagua) design considered boldly creative then. Octagon Building, Cruciform Building, and the adjacent South-North Square are now collectively known as ‘The Red House.’

Red House 1 

The interior of the central pavilion is very nice well restored and with excellent interpretive material and displays. The rest of the buildings are used as art space. Most were locked but we gatecrashed one and found a Taiwanese Heavy Metal Band.

Red House 2 They were great. This is what historical buildings should be recycled as!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


For those of you who have known me over a few years you may have noticed that I suffer from the problem effecting many Australian blokes – gaining weight.  I had put on about 30kg from 1988 to 2008. This has caused all sorts of niggling problems such as joint pain, insulin resistance, sleep apnoea and increased heart rate and has encouraged all manner of health professionals to test me and to extract copious amounts of blood for all manner of mysterious tests. As if I didn't have enough hassles with the symptoms already.

Anyway, I have tried to reverse the situation by doing various courses, dieting, increasing my fitness …etc. These have been of mixed success but since February 2008 my weight has been slowly coming down. In mid-July Jane and I decided to refocus on the weight loss program and this has lead to  greater success for me and I am pleased to say depending on various calculations of BMI either today or tomorrow I will become unmorbid.

I cannot really lecture to anyone about how to do this as there is obviously more work for me to do before I reach a weight I am happy with (I am about half way taking off the weight I put on since 1988). However there are some things I wanted to note.

Alistair requires walking and so we walk for about 30-45min per day with Alistair, this is very enjoyable and moreover it is exercise we all benefit from. We don't have to do “boot camp” style exercise we get enough from our daily walks and it is more enjoyable.

Jane and I go to a gym (Lets Get Fit) and our trainer Lil Bull is a trained exercise physiologist and guides us through the exercises  and mentors us rather than doing all the screaming of the TV Trainers. 

Simone Launt-Peters our dietician has really helped in educating us about what we eat and keeping us honest by weighing us.

We did a course called “Change Your Thinking” by Sarah Edelman (based on her book) that really helped me change how I thought about implementing dietary change (among other things).

Jane suggested putting the cheese in the spare fridge and this has effectively stopped my spontaneous snacking on cheese. I ate allot of cheese.

I thought about various alternatives to dieting such as the popular stomach stapling. But when you look into the alternatives they also requires extensive diet change. The stomach stapling for example requires massive diet change in order for it to work as does hormone therapy. So I felt it changing my diet was inevitable. Looking at Simone's meal plan and using Sarah Edelman’s techniques I got my head into a space where I could really make the changes to my eating patterns and stick with them.

I am sure others will find different routes but for me I have to report that I am unmorbid.   

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Trying to be good

I thought I’d reflect on my progress, or lack of progress, on my varying modelling projects and on why I don't seem to spend as much time relaxing with my modelling as I should.

I should warn you that  Jane and I have just spent 8 weeks doing Sarah Edelman's course Change your Thinking at CCE (which we liked allot) so there may be a bit of babble in this post.

One of the things SE is challenging us to do is to challenge non—productive thinking patterns such as mind reading, awfulness, catastrophising, black and white thinking and the terrible “shoulds”. The shoulds run like this I should be witty; I should be charming; I should be ….Of course I should be a good modeller, my models should be up there with the high quality models seen in various magazines and my model railway should be at least as good as Bowen Creek. Preferably my models should be scale broad gauge to fine scale standards.

Predictably they are not. I reflected on this when I realised I had two RY wagons with different sides instead of 1 RY with  hook catches and one with barn catches. My reaction was to stop modelling for a few weeks while I reflected on the awfulness of this error. People will know and think I am a terrible modeller who cannot even read Steam Era Models excellent instructions correctly. Whereas I should be a good as say James Brook, or James McInerney or Justin Moy or Grahame Brown or…

In fact, I have absorbed the ideology of the modelling elite probably through an early encounter with the Model Railway Journal and the high quality of the models therein. It is good to read about other models and modelling to see what’s going on and to develop an appreciation of things but not everyone can reach such high standards nor – and this is important, is it necessary to reach those standards to enjoy modelling.  

For me there is an enjoyment in battling with the models to get them completed and this does require skills which are learned from actually doing rather than endless reading about how to do things. Moreover they are simple mechanical skills which like all such skills develop as they are used and you remember so that basic operations become fairly automatic. Its rather like exercising in the gym. So the more modelling you do the better you are at doing it. Stopping because of an error means your skills get rusty and out of practice.

But it is hard for me to start because of the shoulds - I should be prepared, I should have the right tools (I always feel I need better tools), I should do more research (a big diversion this one) and so on. This results in time slipping away and nothing much getting done. I wonder how many others are like this or have other mental blocks to overcome.

Getting struck into the models makes me feel relaxed and I get a sense of achievement with each stage completed (or part retrieved from the carpet). Overcoming the self-inflicted pressure to be good makes me better able to achieve the goal of relaxing with model railways.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A little more light shed on Sunny Corner

Followers of this blog and friends will know of my on-going involvement with the Sunny Corner mining site. I thought I had pretty much mined all the Australian newspapers for relevant information. Imagine my surprise when I  found an article in Australian Town and Country Journal 23 Mar 1895: 31 on the mines at Sunny Corner.

Then I found it was illustrated!

Then I realised that apart from the Sunny Corner mine there was a rare illustration of the Silver King mine as well.

Smelting Works Sunny Corner

This is the Sunny Corner Mine

Silver King Works

This is the Silver King Mine

The Silver King image gives a really good sense of where the processing plant was located in the landscape.

It is exciting to be surprised by discoveries like this.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mr Thomson’s selection

One of the odd byways of my of squatting landscapes in the Canberra region is the case of the selection of William Ferguson Thomson.

On the 13th October 1862 Leopold De Fane Salis leasee of the Cuppacumbalong squatting run (situated on the west bank of the Murrumbidgee river near the current village of Tharwa)  wrote to the Chief Commissioner of Crown lands complaining of that a William Thomson had selected land on his run right where one of the lots de Salis had applied for as part of his pre-emptive right was located. 

Thompson was a married man who had worked for de Salis in 1861. Indeed de Salis was summoned to Court by Thompson’s previous employer Pemberton C. Palmer under the Masters and Servants Act for allegedly inducing Thompson to breach his employment contract with Palmer.  From the account of the court case in the  Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser  (27 Jun 1861: 2) it seems Thomson was trying to improve his circumstances by raising stock (on a system of half share with Palmer) as well as cultivating land. A dispute with Palmer about pigs seems to have resulted in Thompson leaving.

Thomson’s application was made on 4th September 1862 and his address was gardener at Cuppacumbalong. This address immediately raises the prospect that Thomson was “dummying” for de Salis. except for de Salis’s outrage and that the de Salis family did not begin extensive dummy selections until the 1870s.

There appears to have been some confusion in the Lands Department concerning whether Thompson had selected some of de Salis’s pre-emptive purchase. A note on the folio comments that “by the application”... and the maps we have” that the application is for land beyond de Salis’s land (18th October 1862). A second note mentions “Since writing the above Mr de Salis has called and says that it is within the above section”. In a second letter dated 18th October 1862, de Salis claims that despite Thompson’s description in his application of land “more than a mile distant”, Thompson had in fact occupied the pre-emptive land.

The advice to the Surveyor General from the Lands Office was that they agreed with de Salis and that the Surveyor be authorised to withdraw Thomson’s conditional purchase and the Police Inspectorate was authorised to move him however the Surveyor General requested the District Surveyor to measure the land and proceed from there.

Licenced Surveyor Thompson was urgently directed to survey the land on the 27th November 1862 but didn't get around to it. William Thomson wrote to the Lands Department requested that the description of the land be amended so that it didn't intrude on de Salis’s land. This seems to have been done as can be seen on the plan of Portion 22 which was surveyed in September 1864 by which time it seems Thomson  had abandoned the selection.

The land remained a portion until 1883 when Licenced Survey Lester accidently included it in Portion 115 and the portion had to be obliterated at Lester's cost.

I have georeferenced the original plan and overain modern drainage and contours.

Thomsons Land

You can see that both Thomson and De Salis were occupying flats adjacent to the river with steeper ground behind.

Apart from a mention in a court case in 1869 nothing more is known of Thomson.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Digitising Naas

Over the last two weeks I have returned again to the work I originally did for my thesis on squatting landscapes. I was always unhappy with how my analysis of the landscape worked out feeling that with Geographical Information Systems I should have been able to do more. in the end my GIS analysis was pretty pathetic.

However twelve years on (is it that long???) I am up and digitising Parish maps again and trying to make the Parish maps fit the topography of the area. This time instead of digitising paper maps with a special machine in a room at Uni  I am sitting in the office digitising scanned images of the Parish Plans using ArcGIS on my computer. I also have digital data for the ACT landscape in the form of contours and watersheds …etc. If things need to be clarified most Crown Lands can be ordered on line and delivered in about 5 min (I did this on Saturday night).

Things are progressing I have now got the Parishes of Tharwa and Naas done so I am about 1/3 the way through.  

Naas 1885 Cropped

(above is a section of the Parish of Naas)

One of the other things I can do now is search some of the selectors in the Australian Newspapers so once I finished Naas I searched some of the selectors like James Patrick Tong. He turns out to be Irish and to have has several court cases which are fully reported in the Queanbeyan papers giving colour to the people whose properties I have digitised.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunny despite the rain

Well after several days solid work (spread out over 6 months) I have finished the search of the Digitised Australian Newspapers for information regarding the Sunny Corner Silver mine. I have clipped the information into a MS Word document which is 111 pages and has 63,959 words! Supporting this is another smaller document on Mitchell’s Creek (the name Sunny Corner had prior to silver being discovered) plus two largish files of Mines Department Records. Downloaded from DIGS.

There was an earlier history of Sunny Corner by Vicki Powys published in 1989 (Powys 1989). It is an excellent historical study. However since Powys research, the on-line revolution has arrived. So much hitherto hidden or difficult to research information has become available on-line.

When I did my first research in late 2008 I had access to Powys book and the Mines Department Records (via DIGS). The digital Australian Newspapers project was only just beginning meaning that I got some accounts of Sunny Corners that were reprinted in the Courier Mail. Last year, when I started this current research, I decided to search the digitised Australian Newspapers systematically and comprehensively as hundreds of papers had been added. Notable among these were the Sydney Morning Herald, the Town and Country Journal and the Bathurst Free Press which covered Sunny Corner.

Newspapers have been available for historians for many years but the difficulty has always been the immense task of systematically searching the newspapers for items of interest to a particular topic. The searchable Australian Newspapers allows a detailed searching of available newspapers so that general topics such as “silver smelting” can be searched as well as “Sunny Corner” or more specifically individuals like “John LaMonte”. This tool has transformed historical research by allowing a more systematic search across a number of publications in seconds.

Supporting such research is also the invaluable Google and the less known Internet Archive which contains numerous on-line copies of old manuals on arcane topics but which tell much about the process of silver smelting and other methods of processing silver-lead and zinc ore prior to the invention of froth floatation.

The Challenge

The challenge now is to turn these words into some form of understanding of Sunny Corner and the mining that occurred there in a reasonable number of words without getting bogged down in the detail.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Experimenting with location

I am experimenting with adding the location of a post to this page.

Cockatoo Janes 053

Here is a picture of a slightly belligerent seagull at Cockatoo Island.(taken November 2007)

Map picture

This is a good approach although it is difficult to pin point exactly where the seagull was.

Map picture

The Bing Map is at its max zoom in and it is really difficult to insert the pushpin.

As I edit the posts using Windows Live it will only accept MS’s silly Bing maps (have you ever heard of a sillier name?). Anyway the experiments continue.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Cannon that isn't the one at Yeppoon

Following on from the previous posts showing a 6” Breach loading Armstrong gun on a hydro-pneumatic carriage, I thought I’d tell a bit of the story of the cannon that features in the Yellow Pages add. The add shows a cannon inspector inspecting a large gun and commenting that “one of these went off at Yeppoon a few years back”.

The gun being measured is one of two 1867 Armstrong RML guns on the foreshore at Williamstown (there are two more at Fore Gellibrand). RML stands for rifled muzzle loader and therein lies the story.

Newcastle (UK) industrialist and inventor William Armstrong was inspired by reports from the Crimean War to develop improvements to British artillery. There are three major improvements attributed to Armstrong; the use of rifling, breach loading and the “build up” method of construction using wrought iron hoops. These produced a lighter more accurate artillery piece and Armstrong’s weapons were tested and adopted in the period 1855-58. 

The original weapons were smaller pieces such as 40 pounders but despite some misgivings about the forces involved Armstrong was persuaded to make 110 pounders for the Royal Navy without trials.    

During the bombardment of these fortifications at Kagoshima in 1862 some of the Royal Navy’s Armstrong guns suffered from the breach mechanism failing.

By this time some improvements were made in shells which facilitated the muzzle loading of rifled guns and Palliser developed a method for inserting wrought iron rifled barrels into old cast iron cannon converting them into rifled muzzle loaders so the Armstrong breach loader was discontinued and Armstrong produced RML weapons from his factory at Elserwick. He produced some very large weapons indeed probably reaching the limits of what was practical using gunpowder and wrought iron.

80 pdr RML Guns at Williamstown

Here is one of the Williamstown guns in all its glory.

80 pdr RML Guns at Williamstown

But lacking any real context.

80 pdr RML Guns at Williamstown

It is easy for the “Battlefield Archaeologist” when the manufacturer puts so much information on the weapon.

The Armstrong guns mounted on the H-P mountings were a generation on from the RML’s they had a new improved breach mechanism and were made from steel.

Steel? Well in the 1850’s steel making on a large scale only had just been developed with the development of the Bessemer converter but a decade or more was needed to develop a steel that would take the stresses in artillery tubes so the original Armstrong guns were wrought iron.   

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More Taiaroa Head

The breach of the Disappearing Gun was working so I borrowed Janes camera and took some video of the guide (and I think Neville Ritchie) operating the breech.

Closing the breech
The development of a successful breech mechanism was the key to development of modern artillery. Armstrong’s original breech-loaders exploded at the Battle of Kagoshima in 1862 (part of my Japanese work) setting back development several decades. I thought showing the breech on a later gun might be of interest.