Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Wagga Wagga Signal box - details

Wagga Wagga Signal Box – details
Interior detailing is not something I have concentrated on in the past.    I had limited my efforts to models that could be seen, but in reality, I was more interested in the next project.

Automatic Staff exchange at Bomen.  A 44 class has just exchanged staffs on the "pop up" staff exchanger instrument in 1972.  Thanks to Peter Neve for supplying this great picture

But, it was time I challenged myself.  Over the years,  I have seen either first hand, or in pictures, some outstanding structure modelling.  The first was at the Pendon Museum in England – which I visited in 1985.  The models were modelled after real buildings, and the attention to detail absolutely amazing.  I now own many books on the modelling techniques used at Pendon, and these still inspire. 
More recently, with the introduction of 3D modelling via CAD, many detail possibilities are becoming reality.  One on the best modellers has been Jack Burgess, on his Yosemite Valley Railroad HO layout.  Jack’s structures were based on the real VYRR, involving much research.  Jack became very accomplished with styrene fabrication, but his modelling of interiors has bordered on the extreme – for instance, turning a HO scale Coke bottle, and half eaten sandwich on a desk.  His station at Merced has a full interior – and to get around the interior being invisible from the outside, Jack has installed a periscope which views the highly detailed interior, and any trains that happen to be passing outside the station window.  He now uses a lot of CAD in his modelling – and his view on 3D printing is that Shapeways have spent $100,000 on a 3D printer, why compromise with a hobby version.
Locally, it is hard to ignore Ross Balderson’s modelling efforts.  His Sydney Station, and Elizabeth Street N scale layout (featured in AMRM issue 288) was museum standard – and his current project of Newcastle takes that modelling standard to the next level.

My modelling has a long way to go to reach these lofty heights.  But, one has to start somewhere, and skills learnt, will hopefully make future projects easier – even if it is “what not to do”

My last blog post on the Wagga Wagga Signal box showed the levers, and the block shelf.  But I knew there were more parts to install.  The disappointment with the UK signal box interior, meant a lot had to be scratch built

I thought I would start with the desk - my Cooma signal box interior picture showed a roll-top desk, which seemed an easy one to start with.

I got the desk sizing by checking with a Carters Australian Antique guidebook that I happened to have.  This is not quite the Cooma style, but it was only the dimensions I was after

What 27 pieces of styrene, and a spare hour  can make.  The 10c coin is almost the same size as a US quarter for anyone not familiar with  Aussie currency
I also made a swivel chair, sized on my chair in the modelling room. It was only after showing it to others, was I informed that in 1970, swivel chairs would have 4 leg supports, and not the 5 that I have modeled. One is always learning  

One of the important items was the staff instruments.  But what style were they?  I didn’t have a definitive picture of the instrument in the signal box, but I suspected miniature.  I confirmed this after reading a passage in the book “Safe Signals” which stated that all the token staffs on the Junee-Albury section were replaced with miniature staffs in 1931.  Did anyone make a miniature staff instrument in HO?  Model Engineering Works does make a resin model of a large staff machine, and a purchase would have saved a lot of time.  But, I thought I would see if I could fabricate one.  My result is pictured.  The size was slightly larger than HO, but it was based on the thickness of the 10 thou styrene, and proportioned accordingly.

Scratchbuilt staff instrument, on a plinth.  The clock was one of the few parts I was able to used from the UK signal box interior kit that I had.  Very similar in style to a Seth Thomas clock, used widely on the railways.  The clock face,  hands and numbers are all pencil scratches. Don't look too closely 

The pot belly stove was another  part from the UK signal box interior kit that I could use.  Like the staff instruments, it is over scale for HO.  Was this the design used in NSW signal boxes?  Probably not, but until I have a picture, it will do.  A bucket is used to fuel the pot belly stove – which I turned to a conical shape from a large styrene sprue, painted, and filled with “coal”.  

I made 3 of those staff instruments - two for the main line north and south, and the third for the branchline out to Ladysmith.  I was advised by an ex railway signalman that the staff instruiments were most likely near the door, but their siting is a guess. Same with the desk and swivel chair.  I have put these on blu-tac in case I have to relocate them.  The pot belly stove, and bucket of coal are approximately in their final positions.
 The door for the signal box was missing.  Both Wagga, and Bomen had a window in the door, but Greg Edward’s data sheet signal box diagrams only showed a solid door.  I found a prototype window door at Stockingbingal a few weeks ago.  To make it, I tried a different technique.  I cut out a block of DVD plastic to the size of the door, and used a bow pen to draw the mullions to the window.  Then added the styrene strip to the outsides, and painted over the door.  Results are encouraging – and the painted mullions are a lot finer than the styrene ones I made for the windows.  I may have to revisit the signal box windows at some stage.

Stockinbingal in August 2019.  The station had been "restored" to a heritage scheme, although now sadly neglected.  The original signal box though had a sign saying that the signalbox was still operational.  With the alignment of the new inland rail coming through Stockinbingal in the future, who knows what is in store for this station

A railway padlock now secures the Stockinbingal signal box door

My Wagga Wagga signal box door.  I even fitted a door handle - actually the head of a pin.

Each staff instrument needs an external bell to inform the signal man of changes.  I have fitted a block shelf with 3 shelf bells on the wall behind the staff instruments

Clock, bells, stovepipe extension, and door added to the wall.

2 more block shelf instruments, and a station diagram added to the rear wall.  I am not convinced on the size of the diagram, but it does seem to fit the size of the pictures I have of the real diagram

On the outside of the signal box, I fabricated a stove pipe for the roof.  A “WAGGA WAGGA SIGNAL BOX” sign printed on paper, adhered to styrene, and dull coated to remove the paper look.  To finish, some powder weathering on the roof, and on the clapboard

Still missing is the porch light, and of course the signalman.  Something for the future when I rediscover the microLED lights I purchased last year

Stovepipe made from 2 styrene rod shapes.  The weathering on the roof, and clapboards doesn't show up that well in the direct sunlight
View of signal box from the Albury end

An old adage in modelling.  If you model something badly, it is worse than not modelling it at all.  The eye will quickly pick up an error, where an absence is not readily noticed.

Time to move onto something else.

I will leave you with some signal boxes pictures on the south that may be of interest.

Happy modelling.

Harden South in 2013.  The signals are no longer controlled through this box.  The "Bushells Tea" sign on the building in the background was also spied and later photographed   - never let a chance go by.
Interior of Harden South, photographed through the window on the door.  Most of the parts that can be removed have been.  Even this abandoned view can give clues on what was here.  The cupboard on the far wall is something I haven't modelled for Wagga, and maybe need to.  The colour scheme for the walls.  In time, images like this could be valuable for historians. I understand that the stairs leading up to this box have now been removed. 

Travelling to Stockingbingal, I stopped at Cootamundra West.  The signal box is on the platform.    Again, abandoned, with  asbestos issues, although I noted a newish looking Fujitsu split air conditioning unit installed   The telegraph pole looks like it was not rationalised before being abandoned

Inside of the West Cootamundra Signal Box.  Picture taken through a broken wall fitting.  Not much left

The telegraph pole next to the one on the Cootmundra west platform is being covered by a tree, but again, great details exist for modelling


  1. Great work once again Rob. You have once again sparked my interest in the rail network of the south west.

    In the future when visiting Yass I intended to stay a little longer allowing to make some rail discovery trips.

    Kind regards


    1. That is great Geoff. It is a shame that many of the branchlines down this way were abandoned, but if they stayed operational, perhaps there would have been fewer relics of a bygone age to explore. May you be successful with your discoveries.

  2. Fantastic work Rob on the Signal Box and its internal detailing. Looking forward for your next post.

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