Australian Railway ERAs

  DQ2004 Chief Commissioner

Location: Hobart -where the rain has lumps in it
Hi all,
This is probably yet another almost completely pointless thread from yours truly, but, well, whatever, here it is.
If this is a repeat of another thread ages ago, well, I couldn't find it.
I noticed not too long ago Bachmann UK had created a set of Epochs to match those used by most European manufacturers to denote the era in that a particular model was representing.

Epoch I - from 1835 – 1920
Epoch II - from 1920 – 1945
Epoch III - from 1945 to around 1970
Epoch IV - from around 1970 – 1985
Epoch V - from 1985 to near present
Epoch VI – modern day privatisation (?)

-These 'Epochs' vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, but a generally similar, although not all of them seem to have an Epoch VI at the moment, but I'm not sure about that.
Bachmann went all out and created a much more detailed set of Era/Period ratings for the UK, as below;

Great Britain
Era/Period 1  1804-1875 - Pioneering
Era/Period 2  1875-1922 - Pre-Grouping
Era/Period 3  1923-1947 - The Big Four - LMS, GWR, LNER & SR
Era/Period 4  1948-1956 - British Railways Steam Era (Early Crest)
Era/Period 5  1957-1966 - British Railways (Late Crest)
Era/Period 6  1967-1971 - British Rail Corporate Pre -TOPS*
Era/Period 7  1971-1982 - British Rail Corporate Blue Post -TOPS*
Era/Period 8  1982-1994 - British Rail Sectorisation
Era/Period 9  1995 onwards - Post privatisation

For those that don't know, TOPS* was the British Rail computerised numbering system that involved renumbering every bit of rollingstock in British Rail.  Eg. before TOPS diesels all were numbered D### something, and afterwards the 5 digit class numbers were created that British modellers and railfans know so well.

So, if you can't get where this is going, you will now.  I doubt that Australian manufacturers will bother tracking eras in the same way, but I believe the practice does help newcomers to the modelling scene to easily work out what loco they need for their era, or what loco & what rollingstock goes with what.
So, here are my eras.

Era I      1855-1890 –Pioneer railways
Era II      1891-1923 –Growth and development of rail networks
Era III    1924-1949 –NSW renumbering & Webb era in SA to first diesels
Era IV    1950-1973 –Early diesels to end of steam era
Era V     1973-1978 –State owned government railways
Era VI    1978-1996 –AN era and introduction of four letter wagon codes
Era VII  1997-present –Privatisation

There is a bit of a NSW focus, but this is partly because;
A. There's more models from NSW available, and more modellers
B. These generally fit most state railways anyway, particularly with regard to dieselisation.
So, what do people think of these proposed Aussie Era's, would they be worthwhile using, would it be worthwhile suggesting to all of the Aussie manufacturers/importers?

Regards all,

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  allan Chief Commissioner

The German eras fit the SAR rather well...

My suggestion is

Era I: Pre-Webb, so 1856-1926
Era II: Webb era, 1926-1952
Era III: Early transition era, when goods wagons were blue-grey, 1952-1963
Era IV: Diseasles rule, goods wagons light grey, 1963-1978
Era V: AN four letter wagon codes, 1978-1994
Era VI: National Rail to the present, 1994-...

VR is little different, but era III begins when buffers were removed, in the late 1950s.

The system is good, especially if you can plan to model the break point between two eras!
  hanovale Deputy Commissioner

Speaking with my manufacturer cap on (and it's only a cap not a hat because, as a business, I'm too small for a hat) I think the suggestion, although otherwise worthwhile, adds an unnecessary layer of complexity and uncertainty. There is a simpler, more useful way to do it.

The complexity comes from forcing the customer to understand what Era II/III, for instance, represents. It might prove to be something that modellers learn early on in the hobby but it's still confusing to the newcomer.

The uncertainty comes from defining the era boundaries. Why, if you're modelling NSW, would you put a boundary at 1978 when NSW 4 letter coding came a year or two after that of the other states that took part. Perhaps 1980 would be better, or 1983 for the start of the candy era and the elimination of 4-wheel wagons in revenue service, or 1985 (?) for the start of WB working. When it comes to wagons and even coaches, the era boundaries tend not to have any significance.

What if you're modelling a fairly narrow time span? There may be many wagons (for example) that operated in a particular era that didn't operate in the restricted time that a modeller has chosen.

Surely it's simpler to comprehend and more accurate to put "1968 to Present" rather than "Era IV/VII" for the ARX, for example. And if I use the dates the purchaser won't infer the ARX was around in 1950. That isn't clear from the Era notation.

Having said that, I obviously believe there is merit in the concept as I've been putting dates on my header cards for two years. A couple of times I've been chipped (both by Bob Gallagher) about dates that he considered were inaccurate - and strictly speaking he's right. In one case my kit was of an "as modified" wagon and the earlier date I gave was the date of the original form of the wagon but my justification is simply that to backdate it required nothing more than sandpaper.

In the other case the model is of the earlier form and conversion to the later configuration requires a couple of pieces of a particular Evergreen or Plastruct shape. The hardest part about this one was finding the photos that would show what to do. The NSW rollingstock website has solved that problem.

Which dates should the manufacturer use (and this applies whether he's using dates or eras as he still has to find out the correct year)? I use dates that apply to the kit straight out of the pack and those years represented by fairly simple changes that can be made to it. Is that the way the average modeller would prefer it or should we be more exact?

There are also times that the information is difficult to find. Shortly I'll release a kit that is of the original version of a van. At various times they lost their buffers, the roof vents were changed, the louvres were boarded over and a number of other small changes happened. The first two don't concern me much as they are fairly minor changes that might, at worst, cause the modeller to go out and buy some torpedo vents. The last one is a different matter as it would require major surgery to the model to represent the later version. I don't know when these things happened. I know when the van was introduced; I know when the last one was condemned but somewhere in between was a major change that I think should appear as the second date on my header card. Eventually I'll find out but the extra effort involved in finding out won't make me any more sales and may cost me some. (And can anyone guess the van's code from the info above?)

Also, give a thought to the manufacturer - there is already a lot of information that has to go onto the packaging. The more that's added, the less readable any of it is.

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