Sandy Creek

Sandy Creek III

New South Wales School Students' Model Railway Club
HO scale 1:87
4.2 x 4.8 metres
Based on Werris Creek, New South Wales

All photos courtesy of Colin Clear unless otherwise indicated.

Diagram of the layout, Sandy Creek station on the left, Gwaragan on the right.

Sandy Creek Photo Gallery

Recent Developments

20/4/2001: For the last open weekend held over April 7/8 2001, Sandy Creek had a number of additions. The most noticable change to the layout was the painted backscene. At Liverpool in October 2001, we exhibited with only a sky blue backscene, now we have the rolling hills and mountains of the Liverpool Ranges in the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Thanks very much to Mrs. Curnow for her work.

Another major development for the layout was the installation of the turntable at Sandy Creek. John Hallett loaned his unused turntable for the purpose, and it was installed with a few locomotive roads at the Southern end of the yard. Although there will be no roundhouse facility, an engine shed is under construction for the yard. This vastly improves the look of the yard, as a gap has been filled and there is no more unused pointwork.

Additional buildings were placed on the layout before the open weekend. The first one is the most important building - without this building the town was just a bunch of houses. Yes, the Railway Hotel was placed at the northern end of town (uncomfortably close to the school, but we're restricted on space!!). Gwaragan, not to be outfone, finally got it's station building after a couple of disastrous attempts.

The creek area has to be redone fairly soon. Unfortunately we have been having trouble with the track over the bridge for quite some time, so we have to replace it and re-align it. This will hopefully be complete by the Liverpool Exhibition later this year.

Layout History

Sandy Creek III only exists because of our worst fears. In early 1996, the club was informed that the clubroomsthat had been provided for us free of charge by the local hospital were now needed for storage. With a little negotiationwe were able to stay on the hospital grounds, and a large laundrywas provided by the hospital for our use. However, although it was technically big enough to house our 16' by 8' (4.8m by 2.4m) layoutof the time, there would not be enough room to work on it and it would be tooawkward. Thus we got rid of that layout and planned a new one.
A small stack of plans was drawn up and systematically rejected as being unrealistic,impossible, too expensive etc. The final plan however was passed up and down and modifieduntil everyone was happy.
It started as a two track operation with fiddle yard, loco depot and some sidings in a similar designto the original two layouts. However several members were bored with this plan as it was simply tooordinary. So a track was removed at one end, and we had single line operation with a large passing loop and junction station. A branch line led into the fiddle yard from there.
Still not satisfied, a member suggested another module behind the fiddle yard which would lead to a branch line terminus. Sandy Creek III was born.

The final track design was ironically bigger than it's predessor. This was made possible through the useof an "L" shape to fit the contours of the room. Scenery and location was now planned. One member insisted in a drastic change of construction. He wanted to have baseboards at different levelsso that scenery such as embankments, bridges etc could be below the track. His insistence meant extra work, but it was well worth it when the lower module was finished. For the first time, we had a track going over a creek. This has had a remarkable effect on people, as it makes the layout less "flat", and more interesting than other layouts of similar design (it is a very commontype of layout).
Construction commenced within a few months (after we cleaned out the clubroom). I wont go into too much detail with the baseboards, exceptto say that 3ply modules with light wooden frames were constructed, and legs can be twisted in and out. There are many methods of making baseboardsand writing down how we made ours is of no real benefit.
The five modules, each roughly 8' by 3'(with some variations) were then put together usingbolts.

We always use the best type of materials for the simple reason that they last longer. One hundred metres of flexible Peco nickle silver track was boughtalong with about 40 sets of medium to large radius points. The point formations were laid first, cutting holes for the motors and pinning them directly to the baseboards. This took quite a while as curves had to be figured out, and there was a lot of trial and error (heavier on the error).
We then laid the track. Metre long peices of flexi-rail were bent into shape, pinned down and cut to size. Electrical continuity is achieved through both wiresand metal joiners on the rails. On the lowered module, track was pinned to wooden blocks placed at strategic points along the line.
Wiring is a boring, frustrating and seemingly endless task. The only adult in the group set to it with great gusto and was nearly at his wits end when he finished 6months later. However it all works very well, thanks to his perfectionist nature. All points except for the fiddle yard were installed with motors, which makes operationmuch easier.
All was tested and working well apart from a few bugs that were ironed out in due course. Because it is now single track operation, it requires concentration and skill on the partof the signalman to ensure the right person is running the right train. At any time up to four trains can be running at once. The branch terminus is operated by the driver of the branch line, but when a train goes from the terminus to the main line the driver cannot see his train, and an intercom system is being considered to prevent shouting across the layout.

The next task is arguably the most important of the lot. Changing a block of wood and metal into a fully senicked model railway.
Werris Creek again was the general area decided upon as country scenery is easy and cheap to model, we could add a reasonable amount of hills (and have excuses for the tunnels) and because of the depot/junction.The name Sandy Creek was recycled because the layouts were so similar, and for the sake of continuity.

First the basic landforms were added. The most difficult part of this was the creek area, simply because it is so complex. The creek runs under the track at a 45 degree angle, and winds around a steep hill and a grain silo. Polystyrene foam, expanding gap filler and flyscreen made up the basic shape.Plaster was then made up, and paper machaed on top of this form to make a strong light crust.
Of course there are problems with this type of construction. Like the day we found to our horror that miniature monsters had dug their way into the foam and made a little nest near the creek. Sensibly we poisoned the mice before they could do any further damage.

The plaster had been coloured with various oxides to look like dirt, so for ground cover all we had to add was sand and grass. River sand was scattered very thickly over the entire viewing area of the layout, and glued down with a PVA/water mix in spray bottles. Chuck's ballast was placed on the track, mainly the Ardglen and Milson's Creek type which was used in the area. After it was shaped in the desired way, it was glued down in a similar fashion.

Grass was then added. Many varieties of dry coloured grass were purchased (mainly Woodlands senics), and added to the layout. Estapol or varnish (somethin like that) was painted over a small area of the "ground" and the grass quickly added to that. This method minimises loose grass.Weeds were added using coloured hair provided again by woodlands senics. The drought look was sought after because the fiddle yard was short, and as a result trains could not be long. A drought can make short trains more realistic.

With the ground basically finished, roads, buildings, platforms and the creek could be built. Many kits of buildings, the bridge, etc were purchased, and some buildings from the old layout were used. Most buildings can be removed for transport reasons. Roads were a simple matter of flattening an area and using a bitumen materialto create the tar. All roads are wide as they are in real life - the reason for this is that old roads were designed this way to allow bullock teams to turn around. Grafton, Port Maquarie and many other country towns have examples of this.

Trees are not so simple to build. Most trees made so far have been constructed using twigs, grape twigs and lichen. But these make some pretty shrimpy and dodgy looking trees. A better type to be built soon is the wire tree, which can be made as complex, simple, and big as one likes.

So that is the story of the layout's progression so far. Little bits and peices, and photos will be added as the layout is improved. Watch this space!