Friday, September 18, 2009

From the Archives: The Dead Sea Scrolls of NZ Model Railways

AmFet writes: While puddling through the ONTRACK archives at work on Wednesday looking for bridge diagrams (for Bridge 41 just out of Patea, if you must know) I came across something that really did make my ticker skip a beat: The plans for the New Zealand Government Railways display at the 1940 Centennial Exhibition and in particular the 1 Gauge railway that was included.

For those bought up with Joyce Roberts book on her father Frank, this layout will need no introduction: Frank Roberts is widely known as one of the first true model railway craftsman in this country, and many of his glorious models can still be seen at Te Papa in Wellington. For the show he built 2 new locomotives, K916 and Ab608 to go with the large stable of locomotives that he already owned. If you havent read the book, I implore you to do so.

However, up until now very little written information about the layout they ran on has been found. The journal had an article a while back which seemed to have rough pencil sketch of the layout with a few tidbits and personal memories. Hopefully, this wee blog post in an unassuming corner of the internet will change all that.

Drawing 1: Overall view. The stairs at either end led up to a mezzanine display floor. A viaduct was included at the left hand end and a through station with yard and engine shed filled the foreground. At the back, the main line divides into two (possibly the rear track was in a workshop?). The rectangle behind the station was the operators pit that included a fully interlocked signal and lever frame.

Drawing 2: Left hand end, showing the start of the double track (with left hand running) and the back track making a reappearance.

Drawing 3: Right hand end showing the extensive yard and the slightly out of place engine shed (with turntable). The back track seems to have a grade seperated crossing on it, but this doesnt show on the other plans? Curious....

Drawing 4: Being Railway Engineers, the lanscape was fastidiously documented. Here are all the cross sections and levels for the entire viewable section as well as a pencil sketch of the backdrop. The viaduct is shown here, and a small bridge over the "gorge" has appeared to the left of the first set of points.

Drawing 5: A construction drawing that will reward close study. Note the drawings for the "Control Pit" that includes the "Interlocking Machine" and that the viaduct and gorge now have topographical relief lines.

Drawing 6: A quick look at the mezzanine displays which included (among other things) a selection of trolleys mounted on some 85lb rail, a class "K" cab and front end (surely not real?), a sleeping cabin and a tablet machine. Phew!

Drawing 7: This is the viaduct at the left hand end which (using rough guess-timation) must have been about 600 high.

Drawing 8: A No 1 gauge turnout, anyone?? Just to put all this in perspective, the curve of this is 16' radius...thats big in anyones language! It seems the minimum radius on the whole layout was the 14' horseshoe at the left hand end, while the right hand curves were all a more sedate 16'.

Well, thats it....a fascinating look at what must have been a spectacular layout to view in action. If you lost the stupid out-of-proportion engine shed, it would make an ideal exhibition layout in any scale...any takers?

MD writes; Here is the link to the railway collection at Te Papa which includes Frank Roberts collection. Its amazing to think that these models were assembled with a minimum of tools, and possibly without plans (sounds like my workbench some evenings, though I don't know if Frank drank)


sxytrain said...

What an amazing find. Q-dos for posting this. I'd seen a few references to this layout but (not being around at the time) would have been a marvel to see. Could make an awesome nz120 exhibit layout. Gee, with 16' radius curves. How realistic!

woodsworks said...

Amazing find, and the rest! This is the NZ model railway equivalent of finding King Tutankhamen's lost tomb, methinks - bloody well done!