The Little World – Theatre In The Roundhouse

My visit to the West Australian Model Railway Exhibition is always enjoyable, but this year has been even more so…I have had time to reflect upon the theatre of what I was seeing. In some cases it was a complex thing and the layouts deserve praise for the sheer scale of their works.

None more so than that of the large-scale operators. I have a particular affection for them as I once owned a large amount of LGB rolling stock and track and took part in several of the rather crude early layouts at this exhibition. It was held in different halls on various years and we took advantage of hall tables and stages for the large brass track. It all arrived in boxes, we assembled a scratch layout on the floor, and then ran trains rather willy-nilly for a weekend.

No such crudities now. They have a large dedicated oval layout with three tracks available, plus shunting yards and steaming bays. They operate electric two-rail, battery-powered r/c, and live steam. I’ll bet they would run clockwork if they could get the mechanisms. The trains seem to be the same mixed bag consists that we used to lash up, but with better cars and more realistic operation. As the operation is of first concern, they are nor worried about mixing different rail systems on the layout…as long as the trains are accurate in themselves.

One thing I was bemused by was the different show that the electric trains provided vs the live steamer. The LMS locomotive with the wonderful carmine LMS passenger coaches was being driven by hand, and the minute adjustments needed to get it started and then trimmed for steady running around the circuit meant that the driver had to circle the layout at a fast clip himself. You got to see the train at intervals between seeing him. The electric people could stand in the centre and drive the trains past you for an uninterrupted view. I did note, though, that they had to contend with oil and material on the rails so there was a fair bit of wiping down after the steamers had finished. One thing – he got more healthful exercise that they did.

The temporary nature of the exhibition combined with the massive nature of the trestles and rail yards meant that scenery was kept to a minimum. It would be good to see some of these trains in a natural setting like a garden, or on a fully sculptured layout. The scale would hover between 1:22.5 – 1:29 but that is pretty consistent with the car model scale so there should be a fair supply of accessories available. Even dollhouse gear can be found in 1:24, if you wanted to get really, really detailed.

And I really, really think it would be a good idea.



Saturday Night At the Nightline


Britons and Europeans…and in a few days those will be two separate classifications…have been sadly deprived all their  lives. Oh, I don’t mean the missing out on milk and orange juice and bombing each other flat every twenty years – that is a legitimate part of their culture and heritage and they enjoy a bit of decimation now and then. Does ’em good. No, I mean they have never had drive-in movies.

Oh, they can go on about the Odeon and the Palais and the Cine d’ Whatever, but girls, unless you have sat on the tailgate of a Holden panel van in the hot darkness swatting mosquitos and your boyfriend you have not lived. I know – was one of the boyfriends and I remember the swatting.

Canada, the US, Australia, and I presume South Africa and New Zealand were all sensible and adjourned the motion picture theatre out into the night at an early stage. In canvas seats that cut the circulation off at your knees or stuffed five abreast in the back of an Oldsmobile, we all saw Ben Hur, or High Noon, or The Road Runner and loved it. The snacks from the snack bar were greasy, sugary, salty, and watered-down all at once and we loved them too. Half of our heart disease and diabetes started at the Snack Bar.

Half of our children started in the back row. I hasten to add this is something I heard from someone who heard it from someone else. I never owned a panel van or ute in those days. But Renault 10 seats were surprisingly comfortable…


Here’s two takes on toy drive-ins – the small N scale one at the Model Railway Exhibition used a cell phone screen to stream the actual movies of the day and there was sound as well – bigger sound than the cell phone could make. I suspect a Bluetooth speaker. Please note the delinquent sneaking in over the fence. And the sin bins parked with their tails to the screen at the back.I believe the maker of this diorama has lived a chequered youth…


The 1:18th scale drives is a project in progress. It was an experiment early in the Hot Rod Honeys series and shows the crude effects of plastic mannequins. In time it will be redone in black and white with real people and with a forced perspective – I have more cars in smaller scales to go down the front. The screen shot is from an actual movie made by the Goldfische Studios; ” Tarzan And the Bird Of Paradise “.


And here’s a toast – in watery orangeade – to the motorised cinemas of the past. We still have one in Perth and it is still fun to go and swat.


The Small World – No. 4 – Home Grown


All modellers have the key to the small world at their fingertips. They are allowed – as much as we are ever allowed – to be the creator and arbiter of their own universe. Some choose to make it truly their own – see the the works of the fantasy artists – and some choose to appropriate bits of the real world. In any case, they are as free as the air to travel where they like and choose what they like. And they can choose their own time.


Look at the little world of the WAGR seen in this post. WAGR stands for Western Australian Government Railways. It was the title of the state-sponsored railways here in WA when it was fashionable and economical to have railways actually attached to the state. Before the accountants decided that they could sell off the rails to hungry scrap-metal merchants and before the transport companies could persuade the state government that it was better to send goods by road. Before we were forced to use fuel supplied by overseas countries – and could still legitimately use the energy in our own ground to move our own goods and passengers….puff, puff, pant…oh dear, I need to stop being political in this blog. I will raise the ire of the Arabs and then where will I be…?


Right. Back on track. Three foot six inch track, to be precise. Narrow gauge, as reckoned by everyone else, but perfect for here. This is a model of the 3’6″  track of the WAGR about 196o near the hills station of Parkerville.


Parkerville still exists, though without the railway service. It is a hills suburb that contains the requisite number of fast-food restaurants, failing boutique gift shops, and suburbanites. It is in a high fire-risk area and will, one day, feature in the news because of this. Nothing will convince the residents to make it anything less, so watch the TV, folks. But in this small world it is served by WAGR steam locomotives and has a functional station.


Western Australian steam locomotives were generally derived from the UK’s North British shops. Some were imported, some were locally crafted, all were smaller than North American types but less finished than what might be found in the UK. If you think post-war British you are in the ball park – or on the cricket pitch , as it were. Not really delicate, but not that big. They burned local Collie coal, and it seems to have been pretty good judging by the size of the fireboxes. I remember seeing the last of them in use in the 1960’s and 1970’s and it was a valuable experience. They were mostly painted a Brunswick green with red and white trim and were kept in good order. Many still exist at a local museum and two or three are in steam on tourist railways.


I am sorry that there are not more of them and that they do not form the backbone of a state system. Times may come when their descendants do just that. Never mind – here is a depiction of the past that gladdens the heart.It is particularly appropriate for a Perth railway show – we love the overseas models but we really need to show our own small world.