Pine Ridge Construction Notes

Categories: Layouts.


The layout was built in the 9m x 4.2m packing shed at Panton Hill just north east of Melbourne. It is a terminus to terminus design in HO scale. It is based on an Australian prototype with a strong leaning toward Victorian Railways, although locomotives and rolling stock from all over Australia can be seen running on most running nights. Even some imports from America can be seen on odd occasions.

There was also a small section of H0n2 1/2 narrow gauge track under construction leading to a timber town.


The layout was built on the open type timber frame, with decking only where necessary for a solid base for the trackwork. All of the trackwork, with the exception of the narrow gauge points and a short section of flexitrack laid on a curve through the tunnel, has been hand-laid by the members using code 70 rail laid on copper clad printed circuit board (PCB) sleepers. Each fifth sleeper is copper clad. The ones in between are of balsa stained with diluted Indian ink. Included in this hand laid trackwork there are in excess of 95 sets of points, single and double slips, Ys and three-way points. All have been made by members either in jigs or where required in situ on the layout. The minimum radius of curves on the layout is 75cm and all points are made to standard No.5 configuration. This method of track construction allows for the running of both fine scale and proprietary rolling stock.

There are two tumtables on the layout, both being large enough to accommodate a loco of 85 scale feet long (i.e. built to handle the Victorian Railways H 220’Heavy Harry’ including tender). Both of these tumtables were scratchbuilt and accurate alignment is achieved by the use of roller bearings locating into notches in a disk on the underside of the layout.

The turntable at Henty loco Is powered by a motor from a photocopying machine, whilst the one at Pine Ridge is hand operated. After all wiring was completed the track was ballasted with genuine blue metal stone dust sieved to give the desired grade and fixed using the diluted white glue method.


Power to the track is by way of two commercial battery chargers modified to give a split potential power supply using the two transformers in parallel. This allows the running of one common rail and a common return wire for the whole layout. The controllers were originally purchased from the Melbourne Model Railway Society and were modified by removing the jug style of element from the circuit and replacing this with series connected diodes. This allows for a smoother operation of locos by varying the voltage rather than the resistance. Power is distributed by using the link section control method. This allows any section to be connected to any one controller, or linked to local controllers.

All points are powered by the tried and proven Telecom type 3000 relays, the power being supplied by a 32 volt DC transformer using the same common return as the track.


The scenery base is built using the hard shell plaster method over 12mm wire netting, for the greater ease with which contours can be formed. Paper towelling dipped into casting plaster was used, as it is easier to mould and sets quicker to give a stronger shell.

The plaster was painted with an earth coloured plastic paint. This was then covered with sawdust made from an old piece of very weathered treated pine (with the help of one masochistic member, who spent over two hours one cold winter’s night feeding the timber into a sawbench and collecting the sawdust in a specially constructed bin). This gives the desired colour to represent the grass in the typical summertime countryside of southern Australia.

Making Rocks

Rock mouldings were produced using latex moulds taken from faces of natural rocks. The plaster used when casting the rock moulds was tinted using concrete colouring. The castings were then pressed onto the hard shell and allowed to dry but not harden. The moulds were then removed and the joins disguised by carving with an artist’s palette knife. Once completely dry the rock moulding was painted with various colours of artist’s acrylic paints. Before this dried completely, they were washed with water. This has the effect of giving the correct colours in the rock and also highlighting the darkened crevices.

Adding Grass

Grass tussocks were made using natural, aged baling twine bound at the bottom with fine wire, then cut to the desired length and inserted into holes drilled into the hardshell. Fences are constructed from matchsticks, which were stained using diluted Indian ink. The wire for the fencing is enamelled wire from a Telecom relay. This give a rusty appearance and is held in place by shallow slots cut into the fence posts. Woodland Scenics ground foam is used along with lichen to represent blackberries, bushes and small trees.


The buildings on the layout are a variety of scratchbuilt and proprietary kits, modified to give an Australian appearance. Among the kits used were Heijan, Faller, DPM and Kibri. A number of L.J. Models card kits are also used on the layout. Careful construction of these kits gives an extremely desirable effect.

Gladys Offer, the wife of one of the founding members, has lent her artistic talent to the club by painting the back-scenes. Recently Ian Deans had brought out a hidden talent and has continued the the work painting the backscenes.

Operation and Activities

Members work on the layout every Monday evening. Once a month there is a running night, when one of several timetables is selected and run at scale speed using a 12:1 fast clock. There is a fast clock in each corner of the room, staving back to a master control. Trains are driven from the destination station rather than from the departure station.

On occasion the club plays host to various Scout and Cub groups as well as members of other model railway clubs. Club members are also interested in all facets of railways and whenever possible go on fan trips run by Steamrail.

The members have completed construction of a display layout “Murranbilla”. This has been on the exhibition scene on three occasions and will continue to be shown.

2005 – A milestone in our club’s history

August 2005 saw the owners reluctantly inform us that the building we were in had to come down in 2006. This meant we were had to start the search for a new clubrooms, and finally pull down the permanent layout that we have all enjoyed for many years.

It has been a opportunity for growth and change, and we all look forward to what comes in the future. New clubrooms, new layout plans = lots to do !

For now the immediate activity is clearing the good stuff we want to keep away. Then the removal of a few stations that three members have indicated they would “preserve”. Why not keep the station? We all have limited storage and it would harm the stations, and well the points are sharp ( no 5’s) and we all want to make something new. And what better way to help others start off their model railways!

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