Greg McCarroll and Ross Wheadon from the Hastings Model Railway Group have spent years building and refining their wonderful layouts. Both men say that being a member of the group has provided them with support, helpful advice and the ability to make lasting friendships in a fun, social environment…
How long has the group been around?
Greg: The group’s been going since about 1989. It started with about 14 members, and today we have about 44 members.
How did you become involved?
Greg: I moved here in 1994. Prior to this, I discovered an interest in model railways in Orange through a friend of mine. When I moved to Port Macquarie, I was introduced to Peter Gannon, who owned Ezy Video Repairs – he had a model railway shop as well. He helped everyone with buying things and becoming involved with the club.
Ross: I’ve been a member since 2006, so around 6 years. My son had met Greg through his work, and we were introduced. We actually had a trip together on the old Tin Hare down to Newcastle in 2006.
I’ve been interested in model trains since I was about 18. I had an old Triang Hornby as a kid, and I never grew out of it.
Are the very impressive model train layouts you have now your first?
Greg: No, this is about number 4. Sometimes you keep going until you get it right – you can be lucky sometimes and get it right first time, but this is number 4 for me.
Ross: This is my first big layout. The other one I had was only a table-top set – a piece of Masonite on the dining table, and the trains only travelled around in a circle.
Describe your setup for us …
Greg: It’s an HO gauge with a double main line and a branch line. There’s quite a large holding yard and quite a bit of variety with the type of engines and trains. It’s taken about 6 or 7 years to get to this stage. This varies for everyone – I’m still working, so I don’t get as much time to spend on it as others do.
Ross: I’ve been working on mine since 2006. It’s an HO gauge, the same as Greg’s, which is 1:87 scale.
I was born and bred in Geelong, so my rolling stock is all Victorian. I have an 8 car set of the Overland, which went from Melbourne to Adelaide. I have a 6 car set of the Victorian red passenger cars, a B Class locomotive and blue and gold Victorian rolling stock.
Is there a train in your layout that’s a particular favourite?
Greg: I have quite a few … any one of the steam models. There are a lot more on the market today that are available from Australian manufacturers. The quality now is great – you can have lights and sound, which are just like the real thing.
People in the club have so much variety in what they’ve done. Some people have layouts based just on certain types of trains, but it depends very much on what each individual wants to achieve.
Where do you source all of your equipment?
Greg: Originally from Peter Gannon’s shop. He’d often buy collections off people and then sell them to others. I also buy things off eBay or direct from the manufacturers.
The beauty of model railway is that everyone can choose how much or how little they want to put into it – if their layout ends up too large, they can on-sell parts of it and downsize, or start again with something else.
What materials have you constructed your scenery, the hills and grounds from?
Greg: Styrofoam and plaster, with a scattering of different materials to provide colour. The grass is a special anti-static product that stands up to give a three dimensional look. There are so many different ways – even using rocks and dirt – depending on what it is you want to achieve.
Ross: It’s constructed out of styrene with plaster cloth over the top, or even some blue Chux. I’ve also used aluminium fly wire, which can be crunched and shaped before the plaster is placed over the top. I’ve used real stones, gravel and twigs. A lot of my trees I’ve made out of twisted wire coated with No More Gaps, which is then painted with colour.
I want to be able to control all of my trains from one handpiece, which I’ve been able to do so far.
What do you personally enjoy about owning a model railway?
Greg: It’s a good de-stresser! It’s hands on – you’re doing a bit of carpentry, electrical work, through to creating scenery, so there’s plenty of variety.
Ross: The relaxation. It’s fun to see things working as you hope they’ll work. When they don’t, it can be frustrating!
How often does the group meet?
Greg: We meet every third Saturday at various members’ places on a roster basis. Sometimes we might go to the Taree model train club for a visit, or we might go to the Dorrigo Steam Museum, or an exhibition in Sydney or Newcastle. It really depends on what members would like to do.
We stay in touch with members via email and the monthly meetings. If there’s something special happening, we may ring members to let them know.
We’re not a formal club, but a group of people who share an interest and enthusiasm for model railway who like to share ideas and experiences. The membership age is open, and we encourage the younger model train lovers to come along.
Why should people interested in model railways join the group?
Ross: It’s a great fun day out together. It’s good company.
Before I joined the group, I didn’t have any idea how I was going to do any scenery – not a clue! Then I saw how other people did it, and I put it all together. There are different levels of interest too – it’s not necessary to have your layout up to exhibition standard, but you can if you want to. With your own layout, you can do what you want.
Contact details for the club?
Phone Greg on: 0408 281 908 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Greg and Ross.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 78 of Port Macquarie Focus