Thursday, February 5, 2009

Liralau - a freelanced VR branch line

For some time now, I have been rambling on about my exhibition layout 'Liralau' on the likes of Railsa and Railpage, and after discussing the benefits of a blog with fellow blogger Iain Kennedy at the club rooms of the South Australian Railway Modellers Association on Wednesday evening, I decided it was time to make one of my own.

To set things straight, when I built the first module of Liralau (now retired, read replaced) it was nothing more than a diorama to photograph completed models on... oh if I knew what I was in for way back then!

Now the layout measures almost 6metres x 2.5metres and is a pretty typical Australian exhibition layout, with a sceniced front with hidden storage sidings at the back.

Prior to the NRMI exhibition at the former Mitsubishi Motors Australia plant in Tonsley (a southern suburb of Adelaide), I dropped the township module, so over the next two months I will build a replacement module complete with a SECV inspired tramway (with a Bendigo Birney tram) and a decent pub (See photo below).

The Commercial Hotel, and Bendigo Birney (A very nice JEM resin kit) under construction for the new module.

The newest loco to enter the Liralau fleet - Australian Northern Railroad locomotive 2201, New Lima International NSWGR 422 class modified and painted by yours truly - don't worry, it ain't my cup of tea, but Nick certainly likes it! Its fitted with an NCE DA-SR decoder, and has flashing ditchlights and rides on a modified Athearn SD9 chassis.

Below is a post I made on RailSA regarding the lessons learnt during the operation and construction of this layout:

I've been following a few different layout blogs over the past few months and thought it wise to discuss a few of my own ideas for those of you considering building an exhibition layout.

Over the past two years of exhibiting Liralau, we have had our fair share of joys and tribulations (as most layouts would).

When I designed Liralau, I was told by several members of SARMA, that it couldn't be done - not to worry, we did it anyway, so this leads to my first thought - don't listen to anyone who tells you it can't be done - of course it can! Secondly, some members told me, that I would learn a lot from the first layout - truer words could not be spoken - we already have plans for Liralau's replacement (probably two-three years away minimum) but a prototype location in western Victoria.

I built Liralau with its characteristic small modules (600mm x 330mm for most modules) with the ends being 750mm x 330mm, solely for the reason that I had to fit the whole layout in the back of my 2000 kia rio. Having completed this layout, I wouldn't ever, ever, ever, ever do this again. Minimum length for a new layout module would be at least 1200mm long, but I would retain, if possible the 300mm (or 330mm) width for ease of handling. To transport, a larger, more powerful car will have to be purchased, along with a trailer to move the layout, but that's already in the planning stage.

When building these modules, my trackbed's varied to try out different materials - admittedly using 3mm MDF craftboard probably wasn't the smartest idea - particularly as no-one bothered to inform me that MDF should be sealed with estapol or varnish first! Ply is definatley the way to go - Ive had no warping at all of any of the modules built with the ply trackbeds, however some of the MDF trackbeds have warped making joining at module ends difficult at times.

Track - new points are a must if you are building an exhibition layout - and use good quality ones too. Originally my layout was built with modified Atlas and Lifelike snap points which lasted SARMA's railshow OK, but started to show problems during AMRE 2007. Consequently all points are now PECO Streamline, but are manually driven via pull rods. Now I am getting into DCC, the new layout will most likely (may still be manual) be electrically driven via Tortoise slow speed point motors with stationary decoders fitted to allow complete control from infront of the layout, allowing discussion with the public at the front. I would also like to have all track on any new layout a minimum of code 80, as code 100 looks far too coarse for a VR mainline.

I should also make a note, that Nick was 12 and I was 18 when we started building Liralau, so funds were very limited, and we had little or no help from our parents during its construction (I can't say they didn't help as they always lend a hand when moving the layout to exhibitions and making the 100+ trees in the two weeks prior to the NRMI show last October).

Lighting is a major consideration, and shouldn't be a last minute addition - I used small spot lights available from Ikea, but when set up at home I use a string of party lights, fitted with the Enviro-Friendly fluro globes, which provides a far better light. Ideally fluro strips would be a better option, but the cost is quite high, especially as they need to be professionally wired and fitted. The new layout will most likely use these however. Also mount them out from the front of the layout, to prevent any shadows on the front edge of the layout.

Also, make sure you have a team you can rely on when it comes time to exhibit! Ash, Graham and Pete have helped us massively over the past couple of years and I thank them very much for their assistance, and hope I can rely on them in the future :) ;) If any of you have any thoughts about running on Liralau/things to be improved (besides switching to SAR, which isn't going to happen ;) ) put them down here!

OK so there's a few thoughts, but no doubt this can be added to.

Happy Modelling!

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