Private Coal

Normally I don’t post photos that aren’t mine because I’m very conscious of copyright: I don’t like people using my photos without permission and especially without attribution. However in this case I’m going to pretend it’s justified because I did pay for calendar this scan comes from, I’ve deliberately left the photographer’s name (Bob Grant) on the image and I fully acknowledge the source was this year’s SCR calendar. I would highly recommend buying a copy of the calendar each year because it’s one of the best going. The reason I wanted to post this photo (June 2018) is because it so beautifully sums up the atmosphere I’m trying to create on Morpeth at the moment. The photo was taken at Hexam in 1972, which is not a million miles from where the main northern line branches to Morpeth at East Maitland. This was and still is possibly the busiest stretch of railway line in the country and the fact that a private coal railway crosses the government lines at grade makes it fairly unique in this country where these sorts of crossings were rare.

The coal branch on Morpeth will be a far more modest endeavour than the activity shown in this photo, but the colours and movement type won’t be too far from my South Maitland Railway inspired efforts. I love the colour and heavy industrial nature of this sort of equipment: it may not have been terribly sexy or pretty but there’s a certain utilitarian beauty in this scene that I want to capture on my layout as the 10 class hauls a string of 4 wheel hoppers up the line to the coal tipple.

I haven’t been posting to the blog very much recently, mainly because the work I’ve been doing on the layout has been very repetitive, so there hasn’t been much to add to what I’ve written in the recent past: install some sub roadbed, make some track, lay the track and wire it up! That about sums it up. However I have reached a bit of a milestone by running a train right round the room so the track laying is progressing well although these is still a bit left to do. I need to make 3 more switches, sort out the track to the engine facilities at Raworth and finish laying the track in the yard at the coal loader.

This image shows Raworth yard. All the line has been laid and is now wired and trains are running. The big job left to do is to install a new switch leading to the turntable and engine shed at the bottom left. Once installed the track laying on this part of the layout will essentially be complete.

As I’ve worked on Raworth I’ve been thinking carefully about the type of operation I want to run on this part of the layout. The operation of the coal trains on this part of the layout will involve an exchange of wagons on the balloon loop in Raworth yard. A NSWR loco will either drop off or pick up a string of coal hoppers into the loop and this will then be picked up by the 10 class which will be waiting at the engine facilities just out of the photo above. After hooking up, the hoppers will be hauled up the coal branch to the tipple, loaded and pulled back down the line. I’m going to institute a rule on the branch that the loco must be running forward both up and down the grade so the 10 class will have to be run light down the line after loading at the tipple so it can be turned on the 60′ turntable that will be at the end of the line indicated in the photo above. All runs will include a dedicated brake van at the end of the train and this will not be permitted to be run under the tipple so this should complicate things nicely for any operator doing the coal run. I can envisage this operation happening twice during a normal 2 or 3 hour operating session.

I’ve now decided to go ahead with building a SMR 10 class in the next few months and have purchased the wheels for the project. The NMRA are holding their convention in Brisbane later this year and I’ve agreed to give a talk on scratch building locomotives at the convention. I’m also giving a talk on the same topic at this years Modelling the Railways of Queensland convention. I thought it would be a wise move to be actually building something for these rather than just talk about past projects. I’ve also agreed to open the layout up for the self drive visits of the NMRA convention so there’s a bit of pressure on to get the majority of the track installed and running. And finally I’ve also agreed to take the portable part of Morpeth to the New England Convention in November so you won’t be able to turn around in the second half of this year without seeing my ugly mug pop up 🙂

This image shows the progress of track laying on the coal branch. A loco can now be run up grade to the top of the line but I’ve yet to lay much track on the loop and the third and final section of sub road bed is yet to be installed. The sub-roadbed sticks out over the storage line in the centre of this photo to allow for a little more space to model the coal tipple which will be on this section.

I’ve been putting in quite a bit of work on track laying and I have run a train round the room but I must admit to feeling like a bit of a break from crawling around under the layout. I’ve moved inside today to make a new code 125 switch that will be used in Raworth yard and lead to the turntable there (not the one you can see at the end of the storage yards in the above photo). It won’t be long before I have to really make a move on getting the portable section of Morpeth ready to take to Armidale in November and I have decoders to install into a couple of locomotives so I have more than two locomotives to run on the layout during the open house.

This image shows the yard throat of the storage sidings with the coal branch flyover in place. I did a test on the DCC electronics I have installed in this section of track and (as I expected) I hadn’t set things up right. This required another order of DCC parts from my usual supplier and a wait of a week or so while the package arrives. I can’t install the track on the coal loop above permanently until this arrives and I’ve made some minor adjustments to the rail on this section of layout.


2 thoughts on “Private Coal

  1. Yes, those lines crossing on the flat were unusual in the UK too. But I’ve a picture of one in the North East of England funnily enough a private colliery crossing the main line.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s