Kangaroo & Cockatoo Railway

By Rev. Dr. Vern Cracknell

This is a layout built for exhibition. It has now reached the end of its exhibition life and is kept in exhibition order at its home address, housed in a garage. lt was exhibited first in June 2005, and last in March 2015, after having been shown publicly 47 times.

The Background Story and Theme

Imagine a timber cutting company in Australia’s high country, who established a narrow gauge railway to service their industry and link with the state system, with conviction and flair. They imported locomotives and rolling stock from the UK, Europe and the USA, and as well they built their own. They laid out timber towns along their line, one of these being Kangaroo Flat. They called their enterprise the Kangaroo and Cockatoo Railway.

It is the 1930s, the depression still bites, and timber workers must go further afield for suitable trees. Gone are the days of high confidence, although old patterns are continued. Daily train schedules are maintained. The pay car still tours the line to keep employees content. The mix of passenger and timber traffic keeps running. They service their gangers and fettlers camps. The management undertakes periodic inspections. They maintain their stock. They use an ambulance to transport injured or sick employees or family members. Such is the setting of the company Kangaroo and Cockatoo Railway.

Look into the life of the industry and community- the timber cutters, the shop keepers, the sawyers, the station master and porters, the gangers, the goods yard porters and shunters, the train crews, the townspeople, the passengers, young and old – for many human stories may be perceived from the scenes depicted. Baseboard captions invite your thought or suggest an interpretation.

All the buildings and structures (with interiors) are scratch-built, human figures (there are over 100) and animals are handcrafted and painted, motor cars and trucks are kit-bashed from model car kits (scale 1:25 and now with right hand drive) and trees, bushes, and ground covers use hand crafted shapes with various foliage and scatter materials. Some locos are LGB or Bachmann but are mostly heavily modified kits or built from scratch. The electronics are from LGB, using DCC control (multi-train system). Rolling stock is predominantly scratch built. Three hand throttles are used, with two using wireless transmission. All points are electrically operated. A number of sound effects are actuated by reed switches or track occupancy detectors.

The return loop takes the trains through rural and agricultural scenes. The loop with its spur line at Cockatoo Siding and the staging yard across the bridge allow for a wider range of train movements. Trains on the passenger route or the freight route are changed frequently.

The K&CR Logo

The basic design of the logo was provided to a graphic artist at Pan Print of Clapham in Adelaide, who developed the final professional rendition of the logo. The company motto is “Volens et Potens” (remember this was the 1030s when such embellishments were more common) which means “Willing and Able”.

Train Journeys

There are two main train movements, one known as the passenger route which moves over the full length of the layout; the other is known as the freight route which mainly restricts its travel to the main baseboards. Generally a freight route train can do two of its circuits whilst the passenger route train does one. On the passenger route the trains will vary between passenger and log trains. The freight route trains will haul maintenance of way, supplies, a diesel with local freight, or movements of a donkey engine load or a mobile crane. Meanwhile an engine may be seen moving in and out of the loco shed across the turntable to the water stand-pipe (activated by the third controller).

Brief construction notes:

Dimensions: the length of the layout is 8.37 m and width 1.8 m. The height of the track above floor level is 97 cm.

The main four boards are built using 9mm ply each being like an upturned tray, with the opening at the bottom. This allows space for the sound modules and wiring, but particularly for the Mountain Lake scene to be set down below ground level. On top is glued 50mm foam on which the scenery and structures are established. The foam also allows carving in order to shape tracks, mounds and wayside scenery. A further 10mm strip of foam has been used for the main line as track bed. These boards are bolted together and rest on trestle legs.

The return loop section comprises two flat boards, also covered with foam. These boards rest on a demountable legs support.

Two short segments bridge the main boards to the return loop section. These use wooden legs which nestle into steel pockets underneath for support. These two sections are in fact the isolated section which with an LGB unit copes with the change in polarity caused through the return loop configuration. The staging yard with its three tracks, are joined to the return loop by a bridge. The yard has built- in fold down legs.

The K&CR system uses LGB track, and the LGB Multi Train system, with LGB transformer and central station. A wireless control system is used for two hand controllers whilst a further controller is tethered.

The locomotives on the K&CR are varied – some are LGB (fitted with LGB decoders), some are Bachmann, some are kits, some are scratch built on Garden Railway Specialist or IP Engineering chassis, and some are scratch built, and these use high powered decoders form Orient Express.

The majority of the rolling stock is scratch built, although there are some LGB and Bachmann items.

The structures, trees, animals and figures are all hand made. The figures and animals have been constructed by the shaping of a copper wire (0.8mm) armature, then the application of DAS modelling clay, with filing, shaping and carving, and then final painting with tube acrylics. Buildings have interiors lit. Smoke can be seen rising from the chimney of the stationmaster’s dwelling. Sound effects include sawmill, standing locomotive, blacksmith, crow, steam train approaching whistles, and magpie sounds. These are activated either by train detection units or reed switches. The windmill turns as it is activated by a train detection unit.

There are captions on the sides which, often with a humorous touch invite viewers to interpret the stories being depicted. As there are numerous animals and birds depicted on the layout a listing is provided and many have taken time to find each of them.

The photographs of the Kangaroo and Cockatoo Railway provide a range of close up views of the people and places on this layout.