by John Arrowsmith

My love for Model Railroading, and modelling the Santa Fe Railroad began when I was 7 years old, and was given my first HO scale model railroad for Christmas from my parents. In fact I still have that first Tyco switcher and 3 cars in perfect working order today. Dad had made up an 8 x 4 foot layout for me with handmade station and overbridge, and oval of brass code 100 rail, along with a river, handmade overbridge and tunnel.

From that 1st introduction to model railroading, I caught the bug. Next birthday a Santa Fe GP20 arrived, and later some Amtrak Passenger cars that set the scene for me selecting the early 1970´s as my era. The layout grew to two ovals and a siding. Buildings sprung up along the road way, and more and more freight cars were purchased with my pocket money savings.

By the mid 80s the layout still 4 x 8″ was now a busy little town, and I worked with dad to extend the layout by a foot on each side to form 6 x 8 feet. Along the outside of the main line I had loco facilities and a tram way that horseshoes around the main line and down the new busy main street. This layout lasted until the late 80´s when finally the chipboard in the baseboard gave way, and layout #2 was under construction.

The new layout had a solid pine frame and 12mm ply baseboard, again 4 x 8″, but this time a lot of planning went into the track design, which accommodated longer trains, an entire mountain side and small township with several busy railroad industries. Still all dc powered, there were carefully designed track blocks, signalling and electrified turnouts throughout. The problem I had however was my ever expanding multitude of trains was outgrowing the layout. I maintained this layout until 2003 when I sold it to my good friend Alan.

In 2003, I met David North at Tom’s Hobbies in West Ryde. We got chatting about modelling the Santa Fe, and he introduced me to the NMRA. I joined, and after attending a few meetings I also joined the module SIG group at Kellyville. The SIG was my introduction to DCC, and operating a layout with a group of modellers with the same interests. The modular concept led to be building a set of modules myself, and learning a great deal from members of the group.

Layout #3, began construction in 2004. It filled the perimeter of a 3 x 4 metre bedroom. The layout consisted of a large yard based on the old Barstow yard, and the township loosely based on Victorville. The main large bridge is of timber and brass and has been modelled on Canyon Diabolo Bridge on the ATSF in Arizona. The bridge is hinged and was used as a doorway into the layout room.

The yard could handle 10 trains, along with loco facilities, on 4 spurs and one spur used for car maintenance. Victorville has a mainline station, and branch off to a small yard leading off to three industries. The township was modelled on the 1950´s with Route 66 running through it.

Recently I have sold off all my 1970´s era equipment, and have changed era to 1952-1954. The idea was to be able to model the late steam early diesel transition, along with the streamlined and heavyweight passenger trains that to me have a character of their own second to none. I also made the conversion to DCC, after the introduction at the module SIG group. I investigated the different DCC systems available, and decided on the NCE powerhouse system.

In 2005, I assisted the Coffs Harbour SIG, attending their exhibition in January of that year with the NMRA Sweet Grass layout. There my first prototypical Santa Fe passenger train was on display on both the Coffs layout and NMRA layout.

In a reciprocal arrangement, The Coffs Sig also attended a train show that I organised in November 2005, at Bligh Park. The exhibition was organised to raise money for the Community Centre, and promote the NMRA, and model railroading. Along with the Coffs group, I had also arranged several other layouts and traders to attend. Though the weekend had heavy rain, attendance was very good, and a substantial sum of money was raised for the community centre.

In 2007, I formed the Mid West Model Railroaders Club. The club is a 100% NMRA club. Though only six members, we are all active in the 1950s USA modelling scene, and all willing participants in building an exhibition layout. By 2008 the layout was up and running, 8.4 metres long and 3.6 metres wide, it was DCC based and made its debut at our Mid West Model Railroaders Bligh Park Expo in August 2008. The show again was a great success. This time the weather was great, The Coffs Group attended with their new layout, along with six other layouts, including our club layout. On the Saturday afternoon, I organised a BBQ for Exhibitors, Traders, and NMRA members, followed by hands on running the Coffs layout and our club layout. Again the show was a great success, attended and officially opened by our local Federal MP, and raising a considerable sum of money for the Bligh Park Community Centre. The show was widely advertised, and we had model railroaders attend from as far away as Bendigo, Brisbane and Gulgong.

In 2009, the club layout was further improved and expanded, and in October was displayed at the St Johns Primary School Fete at Riverstone in October 2009. Along with my son’s Thomas the Tank Layout, the trains were a hit with the kids and raised money for the school, along with the other fete activities.

My current layout is under construction. The layout will is 30feet x 14feet, and be my interpretation of the Santa Fe 1st District Arizona Subdivision. Inclusive of Needles, Topock Bridge, Kingman, Hackberry and Nelson, Kingman Canyon and Crozier Canyon. The layout will be early 1950s era, using NCE DCC, Peco & GT Code 83 track. I am endeavouring to reproduce scenes based on photos of the area from the 1950s era, to achieve as realistic a layout as possible. Track plans have been sought also to copy as closely as possible to the prototype. To date, an attic has been built, layout framework erected, and the layout is now starting to take shape. My wife will be most pleased when my rolling stock leaves the cabinet in the kitchen and arrives in its soon to be new home under the new layout.

The NMRA has been a great organisation to meet new friends with similar interests, expand my knowledge of the hobby and promote model railroading to the community at large. As Secretary of the NMRA, I aspire to be able to contribute the knowledge and skills I have acquired from within the NMRA and modelling societies to assist NMRA members.