MRQC: Modelling
Selected images, assorted photographers.


As one presenter at the 2008 Convention wrote: There can be many reasons you choose to build models of Queensland prototypes, but the whole exercise becomes pointless if in fact the completed model does not look like a Queensland identity. [Les Downey]

This page provides some general tips on modelling Queensland prototypes. The two Downloads pages have a selection of clinic notes from previous conventions aand other materials that will provide more details.

Iredale (Toowoomba Ranges) exhibition layout, 2005

Another view of Iredale (see loco shed and steam loco in image sequence above), showing some of QR's unique livestock equipment as well as two different QR diesel paint schemes.

There's always been some tension between modellers of Queensland's 'standard gauge' railways... primarily Queensland Rail (originally QGR -- Queensland Government Railways) in its mainline, resource industry and branch line variations... and those modelling shire tramways or the seasonal sugar cane railways. Today you can also add in a feeling that operations of QR National and Pacific National, within Queensland or outside, are not really Queensland railways.

Steve King, 7/8

US modeller Steve King's 7/8" scale model of a Bundaberg Sugar 2' gauge wholestick cane truck, demonstrating you don't have to be a Queenslander to model our railways and tramlines.

And we won't talk about whether one should model the grafitti that covers many pieces of rolling stock, buildings, fences, etc.

The fact remains that modellers of Australian railways of any ilk are in the minority, so MRQ Conventions have tended to focus on QR operations, with at least one sugar or shire tramway presentation and plenty of "how-to" sessions.

Although modelling the railways and tramlines of Queensland is a niche interest, there are a surprising number of Books and Other Publications available on aspects of Queensland's rail heritage.

Link to for information on modelling sugar mill railway operations in Queensland and elsewhere.

Queensland's Iconic Buildings, Railway Structures and Modelling Locale

A selection of Jim Fainges' pencil drawings/sketches from The Turntable newsletter (808 Kb pdf file); or the full set (6.3 Mb pdf file).

Lynn Zelmer's photos and other details of Queensland's [sometimes] unique hotels, home, commercial buildings, railway structures, etc.

Arthur Hayes 1' diorama'

Westgate (Arthur Hayes modeller) won the "Square Foot Challenge" at the 22-23 October 2022 New England Convention in Armidale NSW.

Unique Queensland 'Standard Gauge' Features

Queensland's gauge is 1067mm (3' 6") except for a small amount of standard gauge track to enable NSW rail traffic to connect to Queensland and a Brisbane port. The size of the state led to far flung resource-based lines, primarily radiating out from coastal ports, relatively light locomotives and rolling stock and some distinctive tropical weather-related features.

HO scale models generally use 12mm gauge track, but S scale is more common, using 16.5mm gauge. Thus it's not uncommon to find modellers and clubs operating standard gauge HO (typically British or American prototype), S scale Queensland, and O scale sugar cane railways on the same layout and trackage with an appropriate adjustment in the loading gauge.

  • Relatively small steam locomotives and four-wheel rolling stock well into the second half of the twentieth century, although some larger locomotives (eg Garratts) were common in some areas. Diesels gradually introduced with local manufacture and assembly of overseas supplied components.
  • Relatively light weight rail and minimal ballast, etc., until recently, particularly on some of the branch lines and development railways. Many of the lines were built in isolation and the North Coast line, Brisbane to Cairns wasn't finished until 1924.
  • Goods trains and long distance passenger services common on main coastal line, with mixed trains and rail motor services more likely on branch lines. Commuter services in Brisbane and area.
  • Today heavy haul coal trains on resource lines, container trains on the main north-south corridor; passenger services include both older air-conditioned equipment and higher speed 'Tilt Train' technology.
  • Ron Aubrey's On24 Sugar Valley

    Ron Aubrey's On24 (note not On30) Sugar Valley exhibition layout at the 2009 Brisbane Train Show. The cane has been modelled using couch grass (details on the CaneSIG web site). The loco is an On30 etched brass kit and has been regauged for the more prototypically correct On24.

    Unique Cane/Shire Tramway Features

    While several of the shire tramways had the same 1067mm gauge as the QGR railways they connected with, most of the sugar cane railways began as 2' (610mm) gauge tramways and have retained that gauge into the modern era. Indeed, until the recent introduction of heavy haul coal trains and the like, the cane railways often hauled as much or more tonnage during their roughly six months of operation as the mainline railways did in their annual operation.

    Most shire tramways and cane lines were locally owned, thus each developed its own style of rolling stock, locomotives and colour schemes. Accidents, maintenance and upgrades further changed the appearance of equipment, resulting in some quite distinctive differences from line to line, or at least from mill group to mill group in more recent years.

    Sugar cane and shire modellers typically use 9mm or 16.5mm gauge track for HO and O scale models respectively. In both cases the exact scale may be mixed, with some HO modellers using OO9 (4mm scale) and others HOn30 (3.4mm scale) and O scale modellers using O-16.5 (7mm scale) or On30 (1/4" scale). True 2' gauge modellers in any scale are not common, although the availability of some shire and cane equipment in SM32 (16mm scale) has led to some modelling in that scale.

  • Primarily small steam locomotives (0-4-0T, 0-6-0T and 0-6-2T) until the mid-1950s, followed by small fixed frame petrol and diesel locomotives (0-4-0 PM, 0-6-0 DH) and then small bogie locos until the 1990s, when larger bogie locomotives, often rebuilt and regauged ex-mainline DHs, were introduced.
  • Primarily 4 wheel unbraked rolling stock, some use of radio-controlled brake vans but generally depending upon loco brakes.
  • Brightly coloured locomotives with mill specific colour schemes, but often no other obvious ownership identification. Many cane bins have white stripes or coloured reflectors on sides for better visibility. Minimal numbering and other lettering on rolling stock.
  • Traditionally two person train operation (driver and fireman or off-sider who doubles as guard/brakeman), although more recently some single-person operation.
  • Track runs along shire roads or in easements on farmer's land, not railway owned right-of-way; some shared use bridges. Until the 1990s trackwork was rudimentary, often without ballast, but modern standards are much higher and sometimes exceed mainline standards.
  • Copyright © Modelling the Railways of Queensland Convention, Lynn Zelmer or the contributor as appropriate. Last updated: 10 November 2022 [lz]; e-mail: Lynn @