I am currently in Ghana, West Africa undertaking some work for a gold mining project. The locals are very friendly and the accommodation is more like a tropical resort than the ‘utilitarian’ mining camps that I’m accustomed to in Australia.
Knowing that I would be here for a month, I decided to bring some kits with me to monopolise the otherwise slow evenings. I had purchased a Broad Gauge Models (BGM) 5-pack of the Victorian Railways' GY four wheel wheat wagons quite some time ago. Used primarily for bulk wheat transport, these wagons were fabricated in the UK and in various government railway workshops throughout Victoria during the 1940’s and 1950’s. They eventually numbered well over 6000 and were found widely across the rail network. A VR ‘icon’, one might say. The other kit being a VR Products' GH conversion kit.
During a recent visit to Melbourne, I dropped into the Victorian Hobby Centre and noticed the 5-pack GH kit and thought ‘that looks interesting’. Using GY underframes, this ‘conversion’ kit enables the construction of five GH wheat wagons. Like the kits, the real life GH wagons were converted from older GY wagons. According to Mark Bau’s web site (http://www.victorianrailways.net), the conversion was “...a major undertaking and you have to wonder how many new bogie hoppers could have been built with the money used to convert the GY's into GH's. By the late 1970's VR was so seriously short of grain wagons that drastic measures like this had to be undertaken...” With all this in mind, I carefully packed my kits and modelling gear, and ‘set sail’ to Ghana.
One warm and wet evening (it’s rarely anything else in southern Ghana), I pulled out the kits to read the instructions. What a pity I hadn’t done this back in Australia... The VR Products kit does not include all the material required to complete their kit! Materials I have in abundance at home in Australia, and are not so easily sourced in Ghana (ie impossible). After some mumbling and cursing, I was forced to make a decision; should I wait until I get back to Australia to make the GH’s, or make some GY’s instead? I noted that the original BGM GY kit included etched brass brake gear. These, along with discovery of 5 Kadee couplers in my modelling box, were interpreted as ‘providence’. That was it; I decided to construct the first (and possibly last) Victorian Railways GY wagons in West Africa!
I have managed to complete 2 of the GY kits so far. The etched brass braking gear, along with some additional breaking rods, makes for a kit that really captures the prototype. Anyway, find attached a picture of the two completed GY's, a drill rig in the middle of the jungle and some rather large snails and millipedes found here in sunny (and very steamy) Ghana.
Growing up in Central Victoria, Australia exposed me to the dying days of the once mighty State Government owned and operated Victorian Railways. Family picnics in the bush beside closed branch lines and stories of my grandfather getting a copy of the The Age newspaper from the morning ‘paper trains’ set my imagination running.
Like many modellers of railways, there is often a forlorn hope of recreating images from childhood. If I’m honest, this too is mine.
I live in Bellingham, USA with my wife and two little girls.