Thursday, May 14, 2009

The inspirations for my train layout

One of my main inspirations for my model train layout are my memories of train travel in India where I grew up. I have been on many memorable railway journeys in India but the ones that stand out in my mind were in the mid to late 1970s when I often travelled between New Delhi and Chennai (then called Madras) by the Tamil Nadu Express (Click on photo at left to see the original photo taken by by Mick Pope in 1977 on the IRFCA web site).

Newly introduced in 1976, this train had a remarkable average speed of almost 75 Km/h. While this may be low by European or Japanese standards, it was a very big deal 30 years ago in India. At that time, the only trains faster than the Tamil Nadu Express were the Rajdhani Express trains that ran, respectively, between New Delhi and Mumbai and Calcutta. The top speed of the train was 110 km/h which it touched on many sections. My brother and I used to time the trains with the help of a stopwatch and pocket calculator.
Apart from the high speed, there were several other interesting features on this train. The train had five classes of accomodation: air conditioned first class, air conditioned sleeper (one of the first in India), air conditioned chair car (yes, you had sit for 29 hours!), regular first class and regular sleeper. The chair cars had closed circuit TVs on which movies were shown. The train even featured a small on-board book store that sold magazines and novels.
My eventual (very long term!) goal is to model Indian Railways and the TN Express (as of 1977) in particular. Of course, there are no ready-to-run models of Indian trains - which means a lot of scratch building. To be sure, at the moment, I have neither the time nor the skill to scratch build rolling stock. Consequently, to get things started, I will be running American models. However, given that there is a fair bit of American derived running in India, this is not too much of a stretch.
The scenery, however, will definitely have a strong Indian flavor. I would like to capture the look of the Coramandel coast. My area of interest is near Ennore, an industrial area north of Chennai. The main line to the North passes over a backwater of the sea on a bridge and is quite picturesque. The scenery will mostly consist of palm trees and scrub bushes. There will be a big oil refinery on the layout. All railway structures will have to be scratch built. This should not be too hard since railway structures in India are not too ornate.

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