Category Archives: Exhibition

Layouts seen at Exhibitions in Australia and Overseas

Show report – January 23 – Corio

The Corio model railway club hold their exhibition each year on or about the Australia Day weekend at the tail end of January. This year it was on the 23rd and 24th of January at the Geelong West Town Hall. It is a very good location with plenty of parking locally and some great food and shopping close by. Close to public transport and easy to get to as well for those coming from out-of-town (like me).

As this is usually the first show I get to (unless i can get down to Warrnambool or Philip Island for their show at the beginning of January) my expectations are riding high and these are usually met on arrival.

This year however the show seemed to be a case of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

When it’s good, it was very, very good.

  1. Jackson’s Creek (Gallery view)

Jackson's Creek-01

This layout is a On30 layout showcasing the narrow gauge railways of Victoria. There were others apart from Puffing Billy though they all used the same or similar equipment to deliver their service. The presentation was outstanding. Well lit, presented and displayed (although a little more action would have kept people around a little longer) this was the outstanding large layout of the show. There are more pictures in the gallery available from the link above.

2. Murri (Gallery View)


Based on the Victorian South West, Murri provides a very well displayed layout for big trains running through typical Victorian countryside. I particularly liked the West Coast railway set running on the Saturday morning. For such a big layout though, there was little action happening and that downgraded it from best large layout for me. There are more pictures in the gallery available from the link above.

3. Micro Layout (Gallery View)

Tucked away in the back corner of the show, was what I consider the best layout in show.


Well presented, with a high standard of work throughout and ideal to help get people into the business of building small and interesting layouts this unnamed layout deserved much more attention from the club than it received. There were two other Micro layouts (and they’re in the picture, but they were put in the shade by this little beauty as you can see by the presentation, and the attention of the young man in the extreme right of the photo. The more you looked into the layout box, the more you got. The track plan was very simple but the level of presentation completely overwhelmed you.

What let the presentation down though was that it was not operating, and the builder was not there. The person minding the store had no idea and could not talk to you about the layout at all. Come on Corio, you have a real gem here, and this should have been shouted from the roof tops!

The bad

When it was bad, it was awful.

Rather than point fingers and show photos let’s talk about the standard of presentation. An exhibition aims to publicly display works of art, craft or other items of interest or provide a display or demonstration of a skill.

I am not sure that simply running a train on a layout is enough though. Especially when these were at very low height; which while perfect for 4 year olds do nothing for grumpy 50 year olds to whom they are of the greatest interest.

One layout in particular was very low in both height and presentation standard with cars derailing and operators not noticing. Talk about embarrassing? It was in a dark area of the hall and had no light rig to focus attention on the layout areas. I’ve seen this layout before and by comparison it looked old, dusty and tired. And not in a good way.

The ugly

I was disappointed to note the layouts at the show that were not ready to exhibit. Among the problems were layouts still being set up an hour after the show opened, very poor lighting on many of the layouts, and what appeared to be constant derailments on one of the vendor’s layouts already mentioned.

More so was me apparently missing out on a range of layouts and vendors tucked away in a part of the hall – according to the exhibition guide – that was neither signed nor pointed out by club members. That was a real disappointment when I reviewed the day on my return home.


Being one of the closest non-Ballarat exhibitions the Corio show is one of my favourite exhibitions and it really starts my railway exhibition year. It’s still a 190 km round trip to see it by car but normally is well worth the effort. I’ve written an email to the club about my views and while I don’t expect a response I hope that there is a change next year – for the better.

You can find out more about the club and the next show by visiting the website at:

Exhibition Report – Caulfield Victoria 2015

I travelled to Caulfield (some 130 Km) from home on Saturday the 22nd of August. I’m not complaining about the train ride, I never do, but I have to say that I expected better than I got at the exhibition.

The venue is large, well-lit, and well laid out. There is great vendor support, and there were some nice layouts on site. But – and I hesitate because I know that there’ll be some wailing and moaning when I say this – I did not enjoy my time at the show today and I did not enjoy seeing and photographing the layouts on offer; here’s why.

Issue number one: The vendors got all the light

If you’ve ever been to a race track (as in where horses race) you’ll know that the windows facing the track let in a lot of light. Why then do you put all the vendors there, who usually, but not always I agree, have their own lights. The layouts were by and large tucked away in dark holes in the venue, and the lighting on these layouts generally was not up to the task given the darkness that came about from the large walls and escalator spaces in which they found themselves.

I’ve got an idea. How about you give me the light I need to take my photographs (without a flash and without the need to run my digital camera at ISO 800 ) so that I can capture the model railway layouts in a reasonable amount of light. I understand that the vendors need light too. But since most of them had access to their own sources in any case, I wonder why they needed to be put at the windows. I guess what I’m wondering is: Was it a model railway exhibition, or a model railway manufacturer trade show, with a couple of layouts thrown in to keep the punters happy?

Issue number two: Layouts spread all over the place

I felt like I had to walk a mile to see the layouts. There was no logical layout to the layouts, tucked as they were about the space. Is there any reason the organisers could not cluster the layouts (with some natural light) and cluster the vendors in a vendor area? Don’t get me wrong, I bought three Athearn Blue box 50 foot gondolas (at $10.00 AU a pop – may I add my thanks to Casula Hobbies) so I spent some money beyond the $10.00 entry fees.

Some of the layouts were so well hidden that it was only on my second time walking around that I noticed them.

So what am I asking for?

Stawell Victoria’s Grampian Model Railroader (GMR) exhibition site at the SES Hall in Stawell showing what I mean about having lots of light for the viewing of the layouts (Courtesy of the GMR Website)

I’m interested in the modelling aspect of the hobby. I want to watch well modelled trains run through well modelled scenery. I want to see what other layout designers have come up with to dazzle me. I want to also see what the manufacturers have come out with. But mainly I’m interested in seeing layouts. 2015 will be the last time I’ll be visiting Caulfield. You may not agree, and I’m OK with that. I lived in the US for 10 years and the trend of having the manufacturers overwhelm exhibitions is long entrenched in the Texas modelling scene. It’s not something that I want to see happen here. Vendor support is critical for the success of model railway shows; they help offset the costs of hiring the space. However, it’s a model railway show. Let’s all think on that for a moment before we begin to pander too much to the vendors at the expense of the modellers and the layout exhibitors.

Your thoughts are always welcome, whether they’re bouquets for brick-bats. Have a great day.

Why I chose not to design my layout – Part 7

While I chose not to (over) design my layout, there are some aspects that simply have to have a structured and logical approach to simplify troubleshooting for the longer term. These need to be in place to allow me to add to and grow the layout in the future. This post focuses on the wiring standard for all layouts that I build going forward.

After watching the current work being done over at Everard Junction with the wiring of the new section of his layout (+ Link) one of the things I noticed was the colour code in use. I feel that in the future he’ll find that there’ll be more stress and confusion in the future when tracing and troubleshooting.

As a former telephone technician colour codes are very important to me. As a result I’ve written a module / baseboard wiring standard. If you are not worried about troubleshooting your wiring in the future you can ignore this post now. Each module / baseboard will have a dual wiring BUS. One BUS will power the Locomotives and DCC accessories (the DCC BUS) while the other will power the DC accessories and other non-DCC devices (the DC BUS).

You might be wondering why I’d have non DCC accessories. Think for a moment of LED lighting. LED Lighting is 12V DC so lighting the module / baseboard is made easier using the 12 volt BUS. Additionally internal building lights, signalling and repeater panel lights that do not use DCC to operate can be powered off this BUS. Finally there is no extra effort required to wire these up later; its wired into the module / baseboard from the get-go. There’s no extra work to get DC powered items wired up beyond setting up dropper wires to the DC BUS.

There’s a download!

Andrew’s Trains_Baseboard Wiring Standards_Andrew Martin

The wiring standard for the boards and modules is a work in progress. You are welcome to download version 1. Please keep in mind it is not in the public domain. You may use it for personal use only. Any commercial applications of the document should be run by me first.

I don’t claim that this is the standard you should be using; it works for me. If it works for you too, then please download and use it.


Sight seeing – May 26 (Albury, NSW)

Apart from better weather, warmer temperatures, gentler breezes and being in NSW, Albury has nothing on Ballarat. Well except for the better weather, warmer temperatures, gentler breezes, being in NSW and the recent Murray Valley Modellers exhibition that was held last weekend on 22-23 May 2015.

One of the junctions on Town and Country

Image 1: My current favourite exhibition layout – Town and Country

It was a relatively large show, for a country show, with a lot of vendor support from around the region.

Layout’s of note

1. Town and Country – HO scale – Gavin Shuttleworth

Town and country is a fictional HO scale layout of the Victorian railways 1970’s to 1980’s era where the country meets the city with a suburb in between. The structures are either scratch or kit built from timber and styrene while the power is from a mixture of analogue and DCC with computer controlled automation.

I think the best part of the layout is that we have electric heavy rail, running under wires. There’s a lot of pictures for you to see, as I took quite a lot of the layout this time. I only managed to get a few shots in when I first saw the layout at the Geelong West show in January.

You can see all of the photos here [ + Link ] .

Batlow - in HO Scale model form

Image 2: the standard of modelling on Batlow is outstanding

2. Batlow – HO scale – Andy Lawson

Batlow, a small town in the foothills of the snowy mountains is famous for its apples.
Featuring a packing house and cannery as the two main industries as well as the goods
yard this small layout has lots of shunting to be done. This layout depicts the railway
as it was from the mid 1960’s following the days of steam.

Image 3: a track diagram of Batlow (Source

The only issue I had was with the control of the layout. It looks like the layout is DC controlled; the lack of DCC and sound really hampered the layout in gaining my vote for best layout.

The shunter (a new model Alco 48 class) shot off from a standing start, screeched to a stop and had all of the problems of those nostalgic layouts I remember from my youth. The modelling however was first rate. As you’ll see in image 4 below.


Image 4: The packing house

For the Batlow gallery click here [ + Link ]

If you got the chance to go, I’d be interested in finding out what you liked.


Site Seeing March 22

Bound for South Australia

Small, smart, practical exhibition layouts are not as easy to find as I’d like in Australia. Most club layouts are huge affairs, requiring many willing hands, a box trailer or van, and a pioneering spirit to move from home to exhibition to home.

Site 1: “Commercial Road” – 1960s South Australian Railways (Link Here)

One such layout that just popped up on my radar on Thursday is the Commercial Road layout of Gavin Thrum of South Australia. If you’ve not come in contact with the railways of South Australia before then you are in for a real treat.

Commercial Road – view the website for more great pictures of the layout

The South Australian railways are an interesting study in Multiculturalism. Originally built to English standards,  and operating practices, in 3 gauges (Irish Broad at 5′ 3″, Standard Gauge at 4′ 8 1/2″, and Narrow Gauge at 3′ 6″) the states rail system was a hodge-podge of types and wooden bodies goods and freight wagons until 1922 when the state’s worst financial deficit reared its ugly head.

To the rescue rode Commissioner William Webb (of the Missouri Kansas and Texas RR) and from 1922 Mr Webb revolutionised railroading in the south.

Engine 502 – 1953 – Public Domain Image courtesy of Wikipedia (more detial below)

Speed signalling, large steam engines, metal freight cars, Brill railcars, and more became the norm. Today there are still three gauges in use and lots of action through the state and in Adelaide where electrification has finally arrived (link here); Very similar to the Victorian VLocity diesel railcar (link here) that I travel in down to Melbourne. (I love electric traction)

But I digress; back to the layout. It’s a great small layout measuring 10′ 10″ long by just 13″ wide. Hop on over to his site and take a look at the images and the modelling. Really well worth a visit.


Wikipedia article on the SAR – Link Here

More on the big steamers of the Web Era

Why I chose not to design my layout – Part 5

Somewhere back in a previous post I am certain that I published a basic op session. Today I wanted to update that in light of the new layout design, as there is a pretty big change to both the ops plan and the layout since I first set track on plywood.

A Modified Op Session

An op session will start where ever the previous session stopped. You should keep in mind that I am aiming to have roughly one 30 minute operating session per night, at least 3 nights per week. I’d like more but the realities of work and family mean that aiming for 3 nights is achievable.

Assuming that a full day’s work (around 90 minutes odd) is planned for say a Saturday op session here’s how the work would be done.

The yardmaster will go through the electronic system (more about that later on) and determine what cars are due to be picked up and what inbound cars are due to be setout for the day. The YM then hands the paperwork off to the switch crew and goes about his business.

We pick up with the switch crew after they’ve already travelled out to the interchange, connected on, pumped up the air and begun their return back to the Industrial park.

  1. Train arrives from interchange
  2. Loco runs around the train on the arrival track and moves the train over to the classification 1 track
  3. Cars are classified according to the switch list using the main, loop and the Class 2 track
  4. The crew checks the pickups and setouts for industries and then sets about doing the individual jobs for each customer. In cases where there are multiple customers on a spur, the job is handled as a single job
  5. Industries are pulled and setout as required by the switching documentation
  6. The crew then returns outbound cars to the yard, for storage while other switching goes on for other customers (if any that day)
  7. Once all of the industries for that day are switched all outbound cars are made up into a train (blocking is not required)
  8. The final work for the day is to pull the outbounds to the interchange
  9. The cars are set out, handbrakes applied as needed and the air bled off
  10. The loco crew return empty handed to the yard, carry out any further trimming of the class tracks as needed, and
  11. Run the loco back into the maintenance facility.

Here endeth the operating session.

As I said above this full operating session ought to take up about 90 minutes. Allowing the session to be broken down into shorter, easier to achieve 30 minute mini-sessions means I’ll be more likelt to play with my layout, and get more enjoyment from it.

Between sessions the paper work will be hung on clip boards off the front of the layout ready for me the next night.

Should I want to run a longer session I can do that and simply complete the previous sessions work as a part of that.

Exhibition Report – Labour Day Weekend March 7-9

In Victoria there are two exhibitions (that I am aware of) on the Labour Day Long Weekend (March 7-9). First is the very large exhibition at Sandown Racecourse; the second is the great little exhibition at Kyneton.

On Saturday March 7 the kids and I decided to head off to Kyneton only, as there was also a trade fair on showcasing all of the Ye Olde trades that my son loves.

Having finally gotten the video uploaded today on youtube, I hope you enjoy the overview of the show.

This is one of the best little shows around in regional Victoria. It is easily doable by public transport, with a nice walk into town from the railway station.  The food in town is really good, with a lot of great eateries.

If you are driving it is easy to get to, taking us only about an hour from Ballarat; roughly the same time from Melbourne. Quicker from Bendigo.

Site seeing – March 9


All of last week I was sicker than could be with the current Ballarat flu bug. I am almost over it just in time to see the cooler Autumn weather really kick in. As a result of the dreaded lurgy I did not feel in the mood to model or post or do anything beyond making a buck. The next few posts are a catch up from the last week and should bring me back up to speed.

Site 1: Trevor Marshall’s ‘The Peterboro Project

With the current layout build under way, I’ve looked about for inspiration for the scenic treatment. In both the model and the prototypical sense I’ve found inspiration for the look as well as the overall design. Today’s site is a source of my inspiration. I hope that you enjoy looking it over as much as I have.

Trevor’s S Scale Port Rowan layout has been featured here before. Before this S Scale masterpiece there was an HO Scale masterpiece – The Peterboro Project. In 2006 he and a friend, intrigued by the Free-mo modular standard, decided to build a module.

Not just any module though, this was a complete layout module set, that could then be joined to other modules with like-minded Freemo modellers. While the layout itself is fantastic, the experiment did not work out for Trevor and his friend. The layout .

However, the pictures of the layout still exist, and are very worthwhile to review.


Layout Builders of Note – Chris Gilbert


I’ve known Chris Gilbert for many years thanks to the Internet, specifically RMWeb. Chris has always managed to be a great mentor on things model railroad, even if he was not aware of his mentorship. He’s been successful in building, exhibiting and publishing a range of model small exhibition layouts over the last several years. What gets me is how quickly he puts these model marvels together.

Florida Springs (V 2.0) – An HO Scale exhibition layout

Chris in his own style said that he started the layout on Tuesday the 10th of February with a trip to his local hardware store.

Within five days he was at this stage:

As if that was not enough to make me feel like I need to pick up my game, his detailing is exquisite. If you take a link at post number 5 (link here) you’ll see what I mean.

Every time I see what Chris can do in so short a time, I am simply bowled over. He thinks about something and then he gets it done. It’s something that I am going to aim for in my modelling this year.

Before I can get there though I have to complete some other modelling projects to finish for my local model club show in April (you can read more about that on the Modellers of Ballarat blog (link here).

I’ve listed other sites in the resources section below. Enjoy having a look at Chris’ layouts. They really are magnificent works of art.


· You can find out more about the O scale Fort Smith Railroad layout (External Link) here.

· You can visit Chris’ YouTube channel (link here) – and watch his videos of Haston and North Haston – great stuff.

More on the new layout

Originally posted on the old DasBlog – Thursday, March 28, 2013

While I am not working on the layout of a weeknight, doesn’t mean that I am not thinking on the layout.

My son Ewan (who is 8) got me to thinking about a new layout after a Sunday morning spent switching on a plank I have setup for testing car and coupler heights and and so on. He enjoyed it so much, big smile – the works, that he asked me to build something bigger because he liked driving the loco up to the cars and switching and coupling/uncoupling the cars so much.

He is a mad gamer, and is asking me to help him learn to code so that he can write his own games. So I figured why not make sure that he could “role play” with the locomotives and cars. I have spent quite some time getting the physics of the locomotives right in the decoders and this has formed the basis of my thoughts for the new layout.

What I have currently

I have the following DCC loco’s:

  • 2 x Bachmann 70 Tonners (cause I love them – one in Red and the other in Green – and yes they are noisy enough without sound – working on a fix for this in the future)
  • 1 x BLI Trackmobile (which moves like honey in summer it is so smooth and oh-so-nice to switch with…)

I have the following DCC & sound equipped locos:

  • 1 x BLI EMD SW7 (in UP colours – my Wife’s favourite scheme)
  • 1 x Proto 2000 GP20 (also in UP colours)

What all of this means to the emerging layout design is this:

  • Long runs where ever possible: This allows the physics that I have programmed into the locomotive’s decoders to come into play. For sound equipped locos I have made sure that the SW7 takes a shorter time to load up before pulling away. This simulates the locomotive gearing, while the GP20 takes longer to load up before moving off for the same reason. Once a loco is moving, having watched a lot of videos on you tube, the power is usually cut and the loco coasts. I can now do the same thing with the Deceleration set reasonably high to ensure that the loco will slow if going up a grade, and maintain or speed up slightly when going down grade. When I need to stop I give a brake application (F7 on my MRC Prodigy Advanced 2 system) whence I get brake squeal, and the locomotive and train stop where needed.
  • Proto weighted cars where possible: I use Kadee trucks This ensures that the cars track much better than NMRA weighting standards. I use Kadee trucks under all stock and it they run much better when they are weighted properly to compress the main springs. I use a cubed root formula spreadsheet to track each car type and the weight they should be carrying. One nice side effect is that the clickety-clack as trucks go over rail joints sound much better in my opinion.

One location that is getting serious design time right now is a Miami Transload Facility. My version would only have three tracks in the Transload facility, the centre one being an overflow (99 off spot according to the SP) track that would also increase the switching.

In the background I am still thinking of adding the bakery that Lance Mindheim wrote about. This effective uses one switch for two long sidings. This would allow the two locations to be switched separately, but different operators that are still within arms reach, and yet still stay true to the area they are modelled on.

During my original planning I had though of extending the design from the 12 foot board through to the 8 foot return board, and using a rotating sector plate (rotates completely through 360 degrees) on the final four foot board with an overhang to provide staging.

Still thinking this over as well as the Boxcar Haven design. More thinking at the moment, will yield a better design in the end. Thanks for following the internal monologue; any comments are always welcome.