Saturday, 3 November 2018

Paper Paper

In sixties when travelled by train in highly polished wooden carriages, the windows were open and fresh air filled the carriage. For us train fans, the open windows allow us to poke our heads out and look at the action, looking forward towards the engine often ended with a cinder in the eye. But, it did allow us a second look after passing something interesting track side. It also allowed noise from the track and track side to enter the carriage.  

From time to time when passing track side fettlers leaning on their shovels, you would hear outside the carriage window in a loud voice “PAPER”  “PAPER”. Passenger having finished reading the morning newspaper or their magazines would toss them out the window for the fetters. This gave the boys looking after the track we are running on the latest news, many of them worked and lived in isolated locations. Even in the sixties paper was recycled, after being read by all in the gang the paper was using to light the fire for the billy or for ones business behind the big old gum tree.

On our layouts there are many aspects of track workers activities we can add beside the line. This will very subject to era. In the fifties they camped in tents, went to work on pump trollies and it was all manual labour with hand tools. In the sixties things started to change, portable huts and motorised transport. The seventies saw the introduction of mechanised tools. Little later things moved on to demountable building and hi-rail vehicles. Also over time there were changes in gang size and how and who did what.

 On my layout “Westgate” the period is set in the sixties. In this era a fettling gang was about six men and they were allocated about 15 miles of track. There main tasks were to “run the road” to inspect the track, this was done daily first up. At weekend one or two guys would get overtime to check the track and make sure it was safe for trains. Depending on the job location, one fettler may “run the road” on the trike with a couple of spanners for fish plate bolts. Once the road was run, he joins the rest of the gang. Other duties include packing holes that form due to substandard foundations to keep a good top and line, this could be a clay hole that may require extra ballast. Replace an odd sleeper or two to keep gauge when required, run ballast, unload sleeper, repair fences. Friday was yard day, oiling points, weeding etc. At isolated sidings and stations the gang would fold tarps, report wagon status to supervising stations and do signals (keep the kero light burning). 

 Each gang had a number relevant to the division and line. Their area of responsible had markers much the same as mile posts (24/25, 25/26). Each gang had a trolley shed at their home station, most being two or three stalls. They were nothing flash, generally C.G.Iron sides and back and picket sliding gates on the front. Only the valuable were locked up in the shed, Fairmont quids, tools etc. flat tops, pump carts, trikes etc. were chain up outside the shed. Outside looked a bit like a junk heap, 44 gallon drums of fishplates, bolts, dog spikes etc. You could also find a few sleeper and may be a rail stack near-by.
Some larger stations had a trolley shed each side of town, at other locations they could all be together. May be an inspector or two who have their own scooters and sheds. On the QR network there was generally two gangs every two stations, one working each way from home. At isolated locations were would be a few houses and portable huts for the boys to camp during the week at work. Gangers were entitled to a free house.

Gangs worked Monday to Friday, 07:00 am to 4:00 pm with one hour for lunch. The day started with the Ganger visiting the local Station Master for train times for the day. The Station Master would get estimated times from the Train Controller, and any track issued reported by train crews. The Train Controller would mark his diagram with these times and trains would not run before it unless the gang could be contacted. Between trains the boys would set off for work on the Fairmont quids towing a flat top of tools. Flat tops were also used to convey ballast and sleepers. At times, a length of rail would be required at a work site, “flat tops” were placed at each end of the rail. Sometimes, subject to the size of the Fairmont, they may tow two or more Flat Tops. The bigger gangs had “Flat Tops” set up to carried the troops, a frame for seating much like the Fairmont arrangement was added to the top. The section authority was not required for on track movements.
At regular locations there are “Take Offs” where the gang can remove their on-track vehicles off the main line to safety. These are made from worm rail with just a few sleeper to keep gauge. A white post is used as a marker, once again this could be a piece of worn rail. A small wooden platform is made between the running rails to assist in getting the vehicles off track. If the track is elevated, a few old sleepers are stacked in a pig sty would support the take off. Most of these locations will have some means to erect a fly (tarp) for shade. Plus you need a suitable place for a fire to boil the billy.

If there was a trouble spot, i.e. a clay hole that requires packing every few weeks. The boys will make a bin from old sleepers to store a small amount of ballast. This could be topped up from an open wagon arranged from passing train. The wagon may be spread over the a few bins along their section of responsibility.       

Fettlers are also call out outside working hours to remove stock on the line, derailment, washouts, etc.

On “Westgate” I have various gangs working around the layout on both the QR and NSWR networks. Some kits were used with many items being scratch built from the junk box.

The pump trikes are a Sequoia #12 sq Standard Gauge Velocipede available in the US for $ 8.99. The two on the QR network had the outrigger reduced for 3’ 6” gauge operations.     
Flying Gangs: - Each district had Flying Gangs that would move about doing major track jobs. These boys would do relaying work, replacing sleepers and rail replacement. As locomotives got bigger and heavier, the track needed to be heavier too. In the fifties and sixties the gangs camped in portable bond wood huts, as the gang moved from place to place, the huts were pulled down and loaded into open wagons. The contents of the huts were loaded into box wagons. The stove was placed in the open door to allow cooking during the move. Beds and effects were placed in each corner of the wagon. Toilets and showers were portable units, the showers were just a bucket on a pulley. The gang would consist of about 30 men, the youngest being 15 years of age, he was the Nipper. The Nipper kept the billy boiling and was a runner for tools etc.
                                              S Wagon with bond wood hut
The huts were set up facing each other with a small covered deck between them used as a meal area. One side had a stove recess for a wooden stove for cooking. As time moved on these gangs moved into modified old carriages and were called Mechanised Gangs. In the eighties demountable buildings were fitted to old carriage underframes and they had another name change to Migratory Gangs.
On “Westgate” I have scratch build a camp mainly from styrene.  

Bridge Gangs/Bridge Painter Gangs: - As the name suggests, these boys look after bridges and stock yards and move about similar to like the Flying Gang.  
 Concrete Gangs: - By now you have worked it out, Yes these guys mix cement and work on bridges and culverts and moved around their district.


As 8028 slows down entering a “Temporary Speed Restriction” zone (TSR) for bridge repair, the concrete gang labours take a break.  The roadside water tank was made from a cotton reel with C.G.I wrapped around it. Local shunt trains on set days of the week conveyed a water wagon and filled tanks that displayed a flag. The hard hats were made from styrene sheet using a leather punch, a hole was drilled in the centre for his head, paint to colour of choice. Bridge corbels are wooden dowel shaved flat on both sides and painted black. Sand heap was added near the mixer.
Fence Gangs: - Likewise, these blokes replacing the fences each side of the track in their district. 
Most of these gang moved from town to town and set up a camp and went to work on section cars.  
Other maintenance workers moved around their district in mobile accommodation called a camp wagons. Most were just box wagons with a few window punched in the sides and end. Both four and eight wheeled wagons were used subject to the number of men in the gang. Most have support wagons attached for tools and materials, these wagons were generally the oldest wagons on the network.   

26' C wagon made into a camp wagon. 
In the seventies QR started a project to replace and upgrade camp wagons, over the next  20 years over 400 new camp wagons were build. Bottle gas was installed to make life easier for the troops. 
Station Painters: - Painted stations, goods shed, railway houses. Support wagon could be a box wagon for paint, ladders, trestles, planks etc. 
Station Plumbers: - Plumbing activities to railway buildings. Support wagon would be a box wagon for tools and materials. May be an open wagon covered with a tarp for roofing iron.
Station Carpenters: - Repairs, extensions to railway buildings. Support wagons could be similar to the plumber.
Interlockers Fitters: - Maintenance on signal cabins. Generally a support wagon was a four wheeled box wagon.

Weighbridge Fitters: - Maintenance on weigh bridges, (rail/cart) and station scales. Support wagons could be a box wagon for tools and materials. Most rail system had an odd mix of weigh bridge test wagons.    

Signal Maintainer’s:- Maintenance on signals, boom gates etc. Support wagon would be a box wagon.   
Plant Operator: - This guy had a grader and worked trackside keeping drains clean and formation work. Support wagons would be a wagon suitable to carry a grader, an open wagon for fuel, oil, grease, spare parts, tool boxes, portable toilet and shower unit.            
Temporary Speed Restrictions (TSR).
Many of the jobs carried out by maintenance crews requires trains to travel over the work site at reduced speed.  To achieve this “Temporary Speed Restrictions” are put into place. In the sixties on the QR network, this was just two boards, one each side of the work. The approach side was green and the departure side was white. Lights of the same colour were placed on the boards. Location of speed restrictions was on train notice, drivers were to read these notices before leaving the depot. 
Today there is a minimum of six boards/signals each side of the weaken section, Caution Board is placed 2000 metres from the work site, Slow Board with speed required details 50 metres from work site and a Cancellation Board 50 metres after the work site. There is provision for repeat boards should there be a stopping location within the zone between the boards. The type of board will very between networks.

In this scene the pump trike is Sequoia #12 sq Standard Gauge Velocipede, the out rigger has been reduced for 12 mm. The billy fire is $ 2.00 cheap store “T” candle, the outer candle base was removed to expose the LED and terminals. A few dots of paint were added to get away from just a bulb appearance. A few fallen twigs from the back yard were painted black and placed over the bulb to give the camp fire look. A billy stand and billy was added. The “Road Runner” was painted, a hat made and added. To give a bit of colour to the scene, a yellow tucker box was added to the trike.
When my skills improve I thinking of adding a push button animated voice call of “Paper” “Paper” to add just that little more.      
If modelling an era research could be required, in the sixties the guys did not have a set dress code, by the nineties hi visible clothing was the norm for everyone. Likewise with equipment, section car, flat tops were red in colour in the sixties, a few years later yellow was standard.   
Most of these railway activities can enhance your layout and set the scene just like the prototype. These can make a great little modelling project and can be achieved within a few hours.  


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