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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 2 (May 1, 1937)

Unique Model Railway — Strikingly Realistic Effects. — (By J. Meikle

page 45

Unique Model Railway

Strikingly Realistic Effects.

(By J. Meikle .

Operating on the roof of Hays Ltd., in Christ-church, is to be found what must undoubtedly be one of the most realistic model railway systems yet displayed in New Zealand.

A first impression is one strangely mixed with rapture and amazement. In all directions beautiful little trains are to be seen rushing over plains, winding into tunnels and twisting round the rugged face of a long range of mountains. The mountains, most realistically produced, form the background of the scene.

Half-way up the face of the mountains is located the mountain railway. Passing over numerous canyons and penetrating the impassable slopes the circuit affords every opportunity for the utilisation of realistic scenic and mechanical effects. Over the tracks passes a splendid streamlined express. This is modelled on one of the famous Union-Pacific trains and is an exact replica. It is lighted inside and as it passes across the track it creates a pretty sight. Flashing signals herald its approach and an accurately lighted track completes the scene.

Accessories always play a most important part in the makeup of a model railway system, and whether they “work” or not they have a great deal of influence on the ultimate effect of the railway. Hays have utilised a maximum of devices, the majority of which do “work.”

Two trains operate on this circuit, an express, and a mixed goods. Here, too, are tunnels and bridges; lights and signals. But more than that, for stations, crossings, towns, farms, road traffic, animals and people all combine to create an impression of realism.

At Lionel City, the chief station on the route, an attractive building houses the railway staff. On the platform is a scene of animated activity, for the “Limited” is due any minute! Already porters are bustling around, people are hurrying to and fro, whilst, outside, a fleet of modern taxis awaits the arrival of the train!

Each of the several stations on the route is artistically finished and situated amidst pretty gardens.

The entire system is lighted with miniature electric lamps and automatic signals accurately indicate and control the flow of traffic. Of especial interest are the level crossings. As the train approaches, flashing lights and ringing bells warn the traffic on the roads. At another an ingenious little signalman comes out from his box, waves his lighted lamp and then returns when the train has passed. Yet another crossing affords a device of particular interest. On the approach of the train a barrier is automatically lowered across the road, thus effectively checking any vehicular traffic over the lines.

All the traffic signals and devices are controlled from the lines by the weight of the approaching and passing trains. A peep behind the scenes does not reveal, as one might fondly expect to find, a hopeless confusion of wires and switches.

Instead, an orderly switchboard comprises four transformers. Of these, one controls the lighting, and each of the others controls one of the trains. From here the trains can be stopped, reversed, or made to shunt. Similarly another button produces from each engine a realistic whistle. The entire mechanical system was erected by Hays Ltd., whilst the scenic effects and artistic decorations were the work of the Dunford Studios.

The trains, which were constructed by the Lionel Company (U.S.A.), are all scale models of well-known American trains. Many of the devices, too, are peculiar to the U.S.A. railroad system. Of unusual interest is one signal which, by means of lights, indicates to a train on one track that another train is approaching on, or has switched over on to a parallel track.

The scenic effects on the plains are both varied and attractive. Of striking appeal is the raging waterfall which, after bounding down the mountain slopes, enters a lake and from there a river leads across the wide plains to the harbour. Ships are in the harbour and at the wharves. Across the lake a mighty suspension bridge carries the “iron horse” and at different other parts of the river bridges of various patterns convey rail or road traffic.

The fertile plains and grassy hills are well stocked with animals. Here and there a farmyard complete with every detail creates an atmosphere of rural peacefulness. Roads are in plenty and carry a large assortment of cars, buses and lorries. Along a country lane a farmer is taking his milk into the nearby city. The numerous bungalows, with their pretty gardens, are dotted here and there. Trees and bush flourish on the plains and up into the hills. The entire colour scheme is one of natural simplicity and a charming effect has been achieved.

At the rear of Lionel City station is the power house. This imposing structure supplies electricity for the entire district. Radiating from its walls high-tension power lines convey the heavy wires across plains and over mountains in marked similarity to the power lines of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme.

A general view of the model railway constructed on the roof of Hays Ltd., Christchurch.

A general view of the model railway constructed on the roof of Hays Ltd., Christchurch.