A trip to Wattle Flat …


Several weekends ago, I had the opportunity to operate on Darren Lee’s fantastic “Wattle Flat” H0 scale layout. Darren’s layout – a proto-freelanced approach to modelling a railway in north western NSW, circa 1960s and early 1970s – was one of the layouts on the “open layout tour” which was a part of that weekend’s “Modelling the Railways of Queensland” convention.

Brendan, Mark and myself were invited to come along for the day and operate the layout, which as well as freeing up Darren to talk with visitors and answer questions, also allowed visitors to experience the layout “at work”. It was great to see a number of the guests join in and help with shunting and/or driving. What might seem like work for us was far, far from it … the time spent on Wattle Flat was thoroughly enjoyable.


Darren’s layout is in a BIG space … 9m x 6m. However, he has cleverly and not sensibly filled this with a spaghetti bowl of track. The track plan and layout “set out” are both extremely successful in maximising shunting/operation at the same time as giving a “branch line” feel. While Darren’s layout may be proto-freelanced, the station track plans for his four stations are heavily influenced (and in some cases exact replicas) of actual stations from across the NSW system.

Darren uses prototypical operating practices too (which adds to how enjoyable operations on the layout are) – one highlight of this for me was working with his “X2010” forms that detail the “where” and “what “of shunting, a different approach to the ABLO system in use on my Border District. Most times at Wattle Flat, two person crews are utilised for operations – but for the open layout, each of the three of us were both driver and guard (this helped free up room for visitors too, with only 3 bodies taking up floor space instead of a possible 6). The three trains operated at the same time … well enough spread out across the layout, but each one with its own shunting puzzle/s and taking plenty of time and thought to complete.


Recently, scenery has progressed at Wattle Flat (yet another case of a modelling friend putting my “shiny track and painted baseboards” efforts on the Border District to shame – there is a pattern here). Additionally, some of the structures, industries and mini-scenes across Darren’s layout invoke both inspiration and a degree of drooling! As the few images from this blog post hopefully convey, the experience is like being besides the railway in north western NSW.

For far better coverage of Darren’s awesome layout as it was on the “open layout tour” day, and also for some really great images, check out the post on PK’s blog here – but just watch out for some of the shady characters in some of the pictures. Thanks again to Darren for the invite and great afternoon.



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