Some FAQs

I like the idea of fine-scale but would I have the hand skills for P87 or P4?

There’s no great difference in the hand skills needed for Proto scale work and mainstream railway modelling -- it’s more a case of developing an eye for doing things with the required precision, plus a bit more patience. In building trackwork, the precision itself is handled by gauges and templates. As with other wheel and track standards, there is no need to measure dimensions to a fraction of a millimetre.

But not everybody in our club lays track. Most of us have particular favourite areas among the wide range of activities involved in model railways. We get a lot of enjoyment in doing things as a group. Our club encourages realism and authenticity in all aspects of our hobby.

Do all members have P87 or P4 layouts?

A few do, but for many of us, P87 or P4 modelling is a group activity. Others have HO scale layouts (i.e., to non-Proto standards). Others don’t have any layout. It varies! The one common theme we have is enjoyment in making more realistic models.

Are all members based in South Australia?

No -- we welcome members from everywhere. Interstate and overseas members pay half the normal membership fee. Get in touch here.

Why are you located at St Kilda?

In the decade before we moved into purpose-built clubrooms in the grounds of the Adelaide Tramway Museum at St Kilda in 2012, we had to relocate on five occasions to premises that seemed to be permanent when we moved in. The best of these was a huge building at the Islington railway workshops, which we shared with five other model railway clubs. But that tenancy came to an end too. When yet another tenancy ended (by which time we had so many skills with fit-outs we could have started a shop-fitting business), we jumped at the generous offer by members of the tramway museum to build in their grounds. In late 2012, contractors erected the shell of our own, 22 metre long, purpose-built building, after which we lined it and fitted it out. We are now well settled in, and are again enjoying some serious layout-building.

SA P4 bldg under construction SDC 10913_w
After so many years of clubrooms that proved to be temporary, we knew what we wanted and were determined to get it. The scale is evident in this view of half of the 22-metre-long layout room. Contractors had left and we had started to reinforce the walls against break-ins and become gyprock experts…

Tom with paint roller, SAP4 clubroom interior 235_w
… and painters and decorators.

SAP4 clubroom interior -- cleared away while walls painted 002 0240_w
Lining finished, painting almost — and lots of kit from our old premises.

Ziggy -- WP_20150309_004
The Research, Planning and Development Room, aka the Members’ Lounge and Lunch Room. Many a ground-breaking and earth-shattering idea has been overlooked in here!

For more recent photos, click the “Next” button below.

Can I visit you and find out more?

Just get in touch to arrange a visit and be our guest. Contact details are here.

Here's what some of our new members said when they were asked what they liked most about our club:
  • "I've always wanted to improve my modelling but at first I thought I mightn't be up to P87 and fine-scale. But as I get more and more into it, I can see my skills and knowledge improving. I'm very happy with this."
  • "What we've been doing has been very instructive ... educative really, and fun. I'm learning things I never thought would be part of my hobby. And I'm contributing my own skills too."
  • "The camaraderie is terrific. My first welcome was warm and genuine. The friendly atmosphere is a real feature of this club."

I model broad gauge but I’m not ready for Proto standards. How can I represent broad gauge while retaining 16.5 mm as the actual gauge?

As we noted earlier, all forms of representation in miniature involve a degree of suspending belief. If you need to stick to HO 16.5 mm gauge (for example) but it bothers you that broad gauge is really about 10% bigger than standard gauge, there are a few tricks that go a fair way to giving the illusion of broad gauge (other than at turnouts). Essentially you model all components of the track other than the gauge at 90% of HO scale. Since the eye more readily perceives proportions than absolute dimensions, the track is perceived as broad gauge.

The most noticeable change comes when you cut your sleepers a little shorter so that the ratio of [length of sleepers] to [distance between rails] is the same as for broad gauge. It’s easy to modify flex-track this way. For example, if the flex-track sleepers are 29.7 mm long (= 2.6 metres in full size), simply trim them by 3.0 mm to 26.7 mm. Though it’s quickest using a jig, make sure you introduce some variation unless you are modelling new, machine-laid track: the data sheets here will show you how much.

When you’re looking at track side-on, variations in sleeper spacing become noticeable. For a start, broad gauge sleepers are more widely spaced than the US or UK track on which flex-track is based, but again there is considerable variation in the Australian prototype, depending on factors such as traffic and length of time on periodic maintenance. To get away from the total uniformity of flex-track, cut the plastic web connecting the sleepers under the rail and space the sleepers out to 90% of broad-gauge spacing. If you lay your own track, you can also make the width of the sleepers the right size, not just the length -- and importantly, skew them very realistically and quickly using a jig.

More on this subject -- including extensive data on track configurations, both “as specified” and as measured in various locations around South Australia -- is here.

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