Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Rolling Stock at West Ballarat

New rolling stock in the form of three SDS 63 foot VQCX container wagons arrived this week at West Ballarat. The container anchors have been fitted and they're now ready for service. I'll do a review on these great looking models shortly.

And that's about it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Review: SDS Models VPFX Bulk Flour Wagon

SDS Models bulk flour wagon VPFX 5 at West Ballarat Sidings.

As I write this post I'm watching North Melbourne vs Collingwood in the Australian Football League (yes we get live AFL in NZ) but instead of a Victoria Bitter I've got a hot milo, its another cold night in the lower South Island. So what better time to post my first ever model review of my newest wagon VPFX 5, a bulk flour wagon by SDS Models.

First a bit of background. 17 of these bulk flour wagons were built by the Newport and Ballarat North Workshops between 1966 and 1971. Originally classified as the FX (Flour / Exchange) class, they were mostly used between Swan Hill VIC, Albury NSW and Bridgewater SA and Footscray, Westall and Williamstown in the greater Melbourne area. Later on in the mid 1980's they were used on the standard gauge to Canberra and to Enfield in Sydney. 

In the early 1980's the wagons were reclassified as VPFX (Victoria / Pneumatic / Flour / Exchange). In their later lives several were used to haul burnt lime (VPLX) and dried locomotive sand (VZGX). No VPFX wagons or their derivatives are still in service.

The model I have is VPFX 5 as it was in Goodman Fielder bulk flour service in the early to mid 1990's. This is outside my mid 1980's V/line era but as the only person that models Victorian railways at my club and quite possibly in New Zealand, I don't think anyone will notice. 

This model is one that is sold in a single pack. SDS offers a wide range of FX, VPFX, VPLX and VZGX wagons in single and three packs. 

The model came in the standard cardboard box with a plastic insert that holds the wagon nice and securely. Bloody handy when you're hauling models back and forth from home to the club.

Straight out of the box this is a really nice model. The side beams and lower part of the silos are all moulded in one piece. The middle and upper parts of the silos are also moulded in one piece. Together they capture the look of the wagon really well.

The brake cylinder and rigging as well as flour discharge pipes and equipment is separate detail that has been added to the wagon ends.

SDS have done a great job with the end detail and the attention to detail extends to beneath the model as well.

The detail beneath the wagon is awesome. The silo detail and the piping used for discharging the flour is very well modelled. A real shame that this detail is not normally seen but nice to know its there.

My favourite part of the wagon is the detail along the top of the model. The silo hatches, foot plates and access ladders have been really well done.

With all the detail parts you have to be careful when handling this model not to break anything. This is not something unique to this model. I've noticed with the high detail models that are coming out you have to be a little bit more careful in how they're handled. I guess there's a fine line that manufacturers have to find between robustness and the detail that modellers are always wanting more of. 

Earlier in their lives these wagons had some very elaborate liveries advertising the different flour producers that used these wagons. The Goodman Fielder livery this wagon has is fairly basic but the paint and stencilling is still very good. The white paint is applied evenly with no obvious issues that I could see.

The stencilling is very good. Even under serious close up the smaller stencilling can be read pretty easily.

The wagon runs smoothly along the track and through points with no noticeable wobble. 

Overall I'm really happy with this model. SDS have done a great job in capturing the distinctive look of these wagons and should be applauded for their efforts. While I don't currently have a flour mill on my layout, I do enjoy seeing this wagon being shunted around by the Redan shunt. VPFX 5 has been a great addition to my small wagon fleet.

And that's about it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Y and a Flower Pot

Y146 arrives at West Ballarat with a short grain train.

Finally a Y has arrived at West Ballarat Sidings. The Cattle Yards / Redan line was mainly run by Ballarat based Y class locomotives during the 1980's so its good to have Y146 running on the layout. 

Y146 is a second hand Austrains model I picked up from Train World while I was in Melbourne earlier this year. The previous owner had already installed a DCC decoder so it was ready to go. After running it a few times I noticed that the headlight had dropped down into the cab area. After taking off the body I found the plastic headlight assembly had broken and was pointing downward. A short search on the internet found this is a common problem with this model. Nothing that some glue and a short length of styrene rod couldn't fix. With the light now shining from the correct location Y146 is able to take its rightful place on West Ballarat Sidings.

Headlight aside, Y146 is a great little model. It runs like a dream and is perfect for West Ballarat. 

Y146 with a VPFX bulk flour wagon in tow. 

Another recent arrival on West Ballarat is VPFX 5, an SDS model of a Victorian railways pneumatic flour wagon. I haven't seen any photos of these wagons on the Cattle Yards / Redan line (I haven't seen too many photos of trains on this line full stop) but they did run to the flour mill at North Ballarat. I'll write up a review of this wagon shortly.

And that's about it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My Layout Project - West Ballarat Sidings

V/line T368 holds the main at West Ballarat as it prepares to shunt the sidings.

Been a while between drinks on this blog but while I haven't been out getting photos of Kiwi Rails finest working hard around Otago I have been busy building a layout. Oh and I also fitted in a trip to Melbourne earlier in the year as well.

Photos from my Aussie trip will be on the blog soon but for this post I'll give a rundown on my layout West Ballarat Sidings.

West Ballarat Sidings is a small shunting layout loosely based on the short Cattle Yards / Redan line in Ballarat, a large town in the great Australian state of Victoria.The layout is set firmly in the V/line tangerine era of the mid 1980's.

My inspiration to build this layout came from a few sources. The first being Mark Baus Victorian Railways website . This website is basically the online bible for fans of Victorian Railways. Heaps of photos and track plans, a great resource for those modelling Victorian Railways and a site where I've lost a countless hours of my life. The second being flickr. Now if you're into railways I have no doubt like me you've searched flickr from top to bottom looking for your favourite trains and railways. There is a huge amount of photos of V/line trains running around Victoria during the 1980's which is great for research.
Another great site is the When there were Stations site ( This site has a huge number of photos of stations, yards and other rail infrastructure from around Australia and another great source of information for modellers of Australian railways. 

One site that really gave me a kick in the arse to build something was Ben Grays blog on building his 1970's NSW shunting layout ( ). Ben has done a great job documenting his layout and how he went about building it.

General overview of the layout so far.

So far I've got the bench work done and laid the track. The layout is 300 by 60 cm and is basically an inglenook with another two sidings added. Included is a petrol siding and another serving Ballarat Seed and Grain, although this customer could change. The bench work is standard grid type with foam board over the top. Track is PECO code 100 with insulfrog medium radius turnouts. Not the most realistic track but absolutely bomb proof!

First series T 322 with a short train on the main.

So far I've attached my controller to the rails with some small crocodile clips. Shortly I'll get started on the wiring but every time I get in the shed I end up running a few shunting services instead. 

 T 322 in front of the fuel siding.

As I get more things done on the layout I'll update the blog. 

This is the first 'proper' layout I've started and I'm having a blast. If you're considering building something, DO IT! The hardest part is starting.

And that's about it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The big yellow cats

Tamper ETM 255 leads a track maintenance train through Katiki. 30/10/16.

For the last few days Kiwi Rail's South Island based track maintenance train has been working out of Palmerston. I've been meaning to get down to Palmerston Station and get a few shots but other commitments meant this didn't happen. 
Luckily I was up to see these beast's depart Palmerston for destinations north and grabbed a shot as it made its way along the East Otago coast line at Katiki. I was expecting an easy chase but these things move.

Normally its Kiwi Rail's big freights and world class passenger trains get all the attention, but without the track maintenance equipment and the hard working people that keep our rail network in good condition I wouldn't be able to see my favourite trains moving freight and passengers across Aotearoa. Good work team.

And thats about it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Time for a chase

DXC 5379 and DCP 4761 climb away from the Waihemo Valley with a Dunedin - Middleton freight. 28/10/2016.

After finishing night shift and getting the kids to school, I had a few hours to spare. After doing some jobs around the house I heard the nearby rail crossing activate... What the hell, lets chase a train.

I got out the door and soon managed to grab my first shot as it climbed out of the Waihemo Valley towards Shag Point,so named after the bird and not the other thing. 

I then headed north to Hillgrove and the Moeraki railway crossing for my next shots. By this time there were a few showers coming through which definitely help the shots.

Through Hillgrove. 28/10/16.

Departing Hillgrove. 28/10/16.

With time starting to run short I decided to head up to Herbert for my last shots. Herbert is one of my favorite places on New Zealand's rail network so its always nice to get a few shots of trains passing through this location.

 Approaching Herbert. 28/10/16.

On the main at Herbert. 28/10/16.

It was time to head home. Getting back to Palmerston I decided to get a few shots of what's left of the gold ore infrastructure. 

The old gold ore storage shed.

Gold ore from Reefton was shipped down to Palmerston in wagon mounted bins. From here it was unloaded and transshipped to Oceania Golds Macraes Mine processing facility. With the Reefton mine shut down, wagons of gold ore no longer arrive in Palmerston. The gold ore storage shed is now used to store fire wood. The gold ore bins are now in storage near the old locomotive shed. 

Gold ore bins in storage.

Word has it that with recent increases in gold prices, Oceania Gold is looking at restarting production at Reefton. Hopefully this happens and we get to see long racks of wagons with gold ore bins back in Palmerston.

And that's about it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Victoria - November 2015

Flinders Street Station. 21/11/2016.

After arriving at Southern Cross railway station I had two days to explore Melbourne. I had a few things on my list, visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground, spend some dollars at Train World and get to Stony Point.

First up was a trip to Stony Point, an outer south east suburb of Melbourne. I've been wanting to get there ever since I started searching Victorian Railways on the net. 
As I waited for an electric multiple unit to Frankston I managed to grab a shot of P14. P14 is one of 13 locomotives rebuilt from Victoria Railways first series of T class locomotives. P14 was originally T330 and re-entered service with Vlinein August 1985. While looking work weary it is still soldiering on on suburban passenger trains.

VLine P Class diesel locomotive P14 at Southern Cross Railway Station.

Shortly after I was on an EMU and making my way to Frankston. Arriving at Frankston I had to change over from the EMU onto a Sprinter diesel multiple unit to complete my trip to Stony Point. It wasn't long before the Sprinter arrived at the south end of Frankston and once cleared by the home signal approached the station

Sprinters 7008 and 7012 enter Frankston Station from the South.

With rain now falling we made our way through to Stony Point. The Sprinters were great. A little rougher riding and definitely noisier than Melbourne's EMU's but what a great passenger train. It wasn't long before our train arrived at Stony Point where I managed to grab a quick shot of the train.

Sprinter's 7012 and 7008 rest at Stony Point before starting its return trip to Frankston.

After about five minutes, we started the return journey back to Frankston. A change back onto an EMU and I was quickly making my way back to downtown Melbourne. 

Getting off at Richmond I was able to visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground and have a tour of this famous sports ground. The tour was fantastic and I was able to tick off another thing on my bucket list.

As I made my way back to Richmond station I heard some diesels coming from Flinders Street. I missed getting a head on shot of the leading T class diesels working a Metro works train but did manage to grab a going away shot and one of B76 following up on the rear of the train.

T Class diesels approach Richmond with a works train.

B76 trails the works train into Richmond.

What a great way to end my first day in Melbourne.

I was out early on my second day in Melbourne to try and get as much as I could done. First up was a short trip through to Flinders Station, possibly the most famous and definitely the most photographed railway station in Australia. Here I was able to grab a few shots of this fantastic building.

Flinders Street station board.

I also managed to grab a shot of VLocity DMU as it came into Flinders Street. These things look awesome. 

VLocity DMU slows to a stop at Flinders Street railway station.

From Flinders Street I headed north to Kensington. I've been interested in Kensington ever since I saw a photo of a train unloading grain at the flour mill there. Unfortunately there was no grain trains when I visited but I did get some shots of an EMU, the flour mill and Kensington railway station.

Comeng EMU heads towards through Kensington towards Melbourne.

Boarding another EMU I headed to North Brighton to visit Train World. Billed as the Australia's premier train shop I was stoked to actually get to this store and I was not disappointed. What an awesome store. This is the best model railway store I have ever visited. I spent a few hours looking around and even bought a few things. Hopefully I'll be in Melbourne early in 2017 and I'll definitely be paying Train World another visit. 

If you can't get to Melbourne you can check out Train Worlds website at 

After finishing up at Train World I wandered back to the North Brighton railway station where I managed to grab a shot of another EMU, my last train shot in Melbourne.

Comeg EMU arrives at North Brighton on the Sandringham Line.

That was the end of my rail related adventures in Melbourne and that's about it.

New Rolling Stock at West Ballarat

New rolling stock in the form of three SDS 63 foot VQCX container wagons arrived this week at West Ballarat . The container anchors have ...