Thursday, 13 February 2014

"Modelling the ordinary"

Brad H, in a recent post to his blog (, discussed some criticisms levelled at a layout featured in the December 2013 issue of Model Railroader. One of concepts that attracted adverse comment was the idea of ‘modelling the ordinary’. Brad’s discussion went on to address other issues, but I realised that the phase ‘modelling the ordinary’ put some context to what I am seeking to achieve with Philip’s Creek.

As an aside, the contribution of those individuals who photographed what was ‘ordinary’ at the time and have made these available over the years must be acknowledged. Without their efforts, modellers such as myself would have little to work with other than the fragmentary memories of childhood.
For some, the term 'modelling the ordinary' may seem a disparaging way to describe their pride and joy. However, as I pondered the concept, I realised that I have been doing it for years by implicitly applying a simple test to determine the ‘ordinary’; what scenic features are included and what should be excluded. I endeavour to ensure that landscape features, buildings, the flora and fauna are not so unique as to attract the attention of an average observer in the late 1960s. For me, this means no grand buildings, no major or unique engineering features or infrastructure, and geographic features that are non-specific and generic to the Upper Hunter.
Having said all of this, there are at least two instances where Philip’s Creek falls short of the criteria that I have just outlined.
The first is the narrow gauge logging tramway. I cannot find any examples of a logging tramway in around the Upper Hunter although I’d be very happy to be corrected on this. I am also not aware of any logging railway or tramway in NSW that was still an operating entity by the 1960s. I admit that its inclusion was an indulgence and a way of combining two railway interests. While the locomotive (a Roundhouse Shay seen on the right of the adjacent photo) remains operational, the tramway will remain as it is. However, if it does ‘give up the ghost’, then tramway will be converted into what was more likely by the late 1960s, a derelict relic of a bygone time.
The second is the gully and viaduct that do not seem in keeping with the typical undulating terrain in the Upper Hunter. Originally, it was installed as device to hide the entrance to a staging area,  but the river gully seems too precipitous and I am not aware of many brick viaducts being used as a means of crossing such an obstacle. Again, I'd be happy to be corrected on this. With the installation of the new scenic module, the original reason for this terrain feature has ceased and so it will be replaced. The major river will filled and become a small creek with a culvert passing under the track formation.
Well, that's the intent. Now all that is needed is the courage to start the demolition!


  1. Hi Phil.

    From my perspective modelling the ordinary, or is it capturing the ordinary has many & varied viewpoints as well as interpretations, so in the end what does the individual actually deem as being ordinary?

    Well, as a personal view, that word, ordinary really is what the railways actually is on a day to day, week to week proposition as the role of the railways is pretty well ordinary, within its field, & over time that has changed immensely, whereby I believe that the modern everyday railway today is very very ordinary owing to the sameness of it, or dare I suggest except for the same train type movements its just mechanical & lifeless.

    The only thing at times that seems to bring some form of life to it is when multi coloured container trains go whizzing by hauled by almost all identical looking & coloured locomotives. The area around the rail ROW is monotonous with so much of the old infrastructure now gone, & the towns where there was infrastructure also all but gone as well, near life less as if the very soul of the town has been removed.

    Thus in trying to capture or recreate in miniature form something of that ordinary life, at least of times gone by, is for me beyond the ordinary, or brings life to it. The lost soul of todays towns is actually recaptured in miniature when brought to life in modelling. Maybe what we do is not exact for bullamakenka township but, what we do is try to capture what goes on around a like type area, something I try to look at with Essence, essentially no where in particular, but anywhere in the State of rural NSW.

    Was there logging in the Hunter, no, but there was in many other locations in NSW, so no problem in drawing that image across from there, consider the amount of timber that did actually wind its way through the Hunter regions in steam days & up to the PTC days at least, & how many modellers thought of the shale line spur that ran out from Temple Court at Murrurundi.

    As for your brick arches, while not specifically upper hunter, Belford had a multi arch bridge just north of the road crossing, fairly highish IIRC. Also I have reccolections of another arch bridge somewhere towards MBK, which escapes me at this time.

    The other aspect to consider though is that if the brick arch bridge is of a concern, then perhaps consider a high timber trestle type bridge, as many of them were to be found in the Northern area, the old creaking one at Narrabri, or the wonderful structure over the Peel River at Tamworth, or out at Attunga, they can be reduced in span.

    Pages River near Pangella,had a nice short bridge, so there are plenty of alternatives to try if you want to replace what you have.



    1. Col

      Thanks for your comment.

      I agree with your comments on the current railways and I concede that I don't pay too much attention to current freight trains. For one thing, if you miss the locomotive, you can stand there for so long and watch box after box go by and not a brake van in sight.

      And yes, if we can, by modelling what was ordinary in an earlier time, recapture the spirit or the feel of the past, then we can be pleased with our efforts.

      Thanks also for your thoughts on the viaducts and timber trestles. I had considered a trestle when it was originally constructed but didn't feel I had enough information to do it justice. I do have more information now, so it is a realistic option instead of a culvert.

      By the way, your engine shed and water tower look impressive.

      cheers Phil

  2. Col

    I don't know if this will help but there was at least one logging tramway up near Dingo Tops (North of Gloucester) a long time ago. It might be argued whether this was within the Hunter Region or just outside. There was the remains of a timber trestle with rails still in evidence a decade or so ago but I have not looked at it since then. I don't know what motive power was used or when it was abandoned but it would likely have been in the early part of the century. There was also extensive gold mine workings in the area at that time and the remains of the mine infrastructure is still evident,


    Ron Pollock

    1. Ron

      This is where being too specific regarding location modelling has its problems, even though the Hunter Valley or Upper Hunter is sort of specific it does allow Phil a fair bit of latitude, but Gloucester is actually deemed as part of the lower North Coast.

      Same with Bulahdelah which is closer to the Valley & it too had a logging railway of some kind but not connected to the main railway, I have heard there is still some parts of it to be seen.

    2. Ron,

      Thanks for the information. My primary source was Timber Tramways in New South Wales prepared by Jim Longworth, September 2007 ( I thought I also had a document showing when most of them closed down but it seems to have disappeared.

      As I said, the logging tramway is indulgence and something that may have been rather than something that was in the Upper Hunter, and therefore, is an exception to my overall modelling approach for Philip's Creek.

      cheers Phil

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