Corrimal Colliery and its Incline Model

John Garaty

Hi all,
This topic is about a model of the Corrimal Colliery and its Incline in 1/43rd scale using 16.5mm gauge track for the 2' tramway and 3' gauge stone disposal track at the screens and 32mm gauge track for the standard-gauge track near the screens.

This layout features an operational incline simulating the operation of the self-acting continuous-cable type incline that operated at Corrimal Colliery from 1890 until 1955. The key distinguishing feature of this type of incline is of individual coal skips dotted along the incline, travelling down one track and back up an adjacent track. The haulage cable does not reverse like most other incline types.

The layout was planned for exhibition use rather than a home-based layout. This decision brings with it a whole flock of design constraints that might not apply to a home-based layout that is not intended to be movable.

The idea of building a model of The Corrimal Incline goes back to 2005. It's been a long haul, but we are now in the final detailing phase. 

Some of the stuff that might appear here has appeared on some other forums. It's a whole lot easier to lift it from elsewhere and then bash it into shape here, where I feel there may be a slightly different focus than mainly on the modelling. 

Please feel free to skip over any postings in this topic if you wish.

If you decide to follow along, remember its taken us 15 years to get to where we've got to so far. You might need a coffee or two (or maybe something stronger??) as you follow along. 

There is a lot of stuff to cover like:
  • the design decisions behind the layout and their ramifications,
  • the "right" turns,
  • the "wrong" turns,
  • prototype mining practices and their impact on the model as far as buildings on the model go, (two main mine sites and their history)
  • prototype transport rolling stock. practices and how to model them (two different narrow-gauge systems plus standard gauge equipment),
  • how to "cheat" to create the illusion of "what was"
  • some of the assistance that we've had along the way from various sources
  • and a whole lot of other stuff that doesn't fit neatly into any of the above
 That ought to do for an initial list of things that might be of interest to forum members. Please feel free to add comments, ask questions and we'll see how things go, 
John Garaty

John Garaty

Hi all, 
So just how did this layout get started? Watch out for embedded links, there will be a few along shortly in this and subsequent posts. 

Way back in October 2005, after the AMRA Liverpool model railway exhibition, a friend of mine, Guy Gadsden, myself and our wives adjourned to a nearby Macca's for a post-exhibition "feed" (I suppose you can call it "food"). Guy is a fan of a certain Welsh railway. In conversation, he mentioned that he wanted to build a layout with an incline. We tossed around several ideas about how to make a slate incline railway. But then I asked an innocent question- "What about a model of an Australian incline instead?"  

We did have incline railways in Australia.  And quite a few of them - if you know where to go looking. Australia had incline railways that ranged from common carrier type railways to small industry specific inclines serving mainly the mining and logging industries and in gauges ranging from 2' gauge in industry to standard gauge on inner-city trams. Both Sydney and Melbourne also had extensive cable tram networks that went close to or exceeded San Francisco's in length. Powered haulages using cable-tram type technology were used in multiple mines across Australia.

As the discussion progressed, Corrimal was chosen as the target for the model incline.  After much scribbling on Macca's serviettes, we had a plan. Over several rounds of drinks, the formulation of this plan involved much hilarity from the 4 of us, some odd looks from both patrons and staff (??What are this lot drinking??), and measuring up Macca's with a tape measure. We still have that serviette with its initial mud map of 11 modules. In the end, it was surprising just how close we had kept to that original plan.

So why Corrimal? 

Corrimal was one of the best documented colliery railways with at least 1 dedicated book, significant references in at least 2 other books and at least 2 articles in railway historical journals. So perhaps this could give us a "flying start"?

Also Corrimal was a choice that had some significant links to both Guy and myself. In a previous career Guy had worked on a unique 3'6" gauge, 40 tonne bogie diesel-hydraulic underground locomotive built for Corrimal colliery by E.M. Baldwin of Castle Hill NSW. My father was one of the senior Australian Iron & Steel engineers that wrote the specification for this locomotive. As a schoolkid, I also had seen the 2' gauge underground haulage in operation, just prior to its closure in the mid-1960's. For a time, I also had got to fire "Burra", one of the two preserved narrow-gauge steam locomotives that hauled coal from the mine to the top of the incline. "Burra" is preserved and operational at the Illawarra Light Railway Museum at Albion Park NSW.

The other ex-Corrimal narrow-gauge locomotive that is preserved in the "Robert Hudson" at the Campbelltown Steam & Machinery Museum. Two of the standard-gauge locomotive that worked the Corrimal Colliery railway have also been preserved. Both were ex-NSWGR locomotives, #18 at Thirlmere (it was never that GREEN in colliery service) and 2535 now at Dorrigo. 2535 arrived to late to serve the 2' gauge incline. 

Initial Research

Surely someone somewhere had built a model of this type of an incline? So we went and looked at a lot of online forums, magazines and other resources. Yes there were incline models but none were of the self-acting continuous rope type. After almost 4 years of looking, we were not able to find anyone anywhere who had built this type of an incline with individual skips dotted along the haulage ropes. (Now we know why no-one had built on first, but we didn't way back then). All other types of model inclines we have found so far are variations on a theme where one or more wagons are attached to the end of the haulage rope or are placed on a platform that is raised or lowered the length of the incline. That is. there is only a single wagon or a single group of wagons moving over any incline track at any time. 

By mid 2009, it was now very obvious that we were on our own. No-one had got "there" first. 

This small narrow-gauge industrial railway, was only just over a mile long and with a fall of over 300' on the incline itself for the prototype. In exact 1/43 scale, this layout would not fit in 2 basketball courts and would be well over 10' high. 

If this layout was ever going to be built at all, it was going to require that we did something different and take a very different path for the build process. That ought to do for an introduction to the scope of the modelling project and the research job in front of us.

John Garaty

John Garaty

Hi all again,
Either I've explained things very well or else I've bored you all to tears and silence already?

One of the weak points of this forum format is that you can't create a direct link to a photo in an album that remains unbreakable. The link to a photo in the album includes some type of a position number. As you add photos to an album you can break the link to the initial photo because the link now points to a different photo that is now in position "x" in the album. Maybe I'm missing something, but, so far I haven't been able to find a way around this problem.    

I added a sketch of the Module Floorplan showing the various modules comprising the layout and how they fit together to the "Corrimal Colliery & Its Incline Model" album in the Photos area. The link to the Module Floorplan should be,,,20,1,0,0

Here's some words to hopefully help you all make some sense of what is on each module shown in the Floorplan. This also should help you to work out what is actually in photos of the model when they arrive in the album. The Module Floorplan sketch is not to scale as far as the trackwork goes, but the module sizes are drawn to scale. Modules are either 1200 mm (4'} long or 1400 mm (4'8")  long by 600 (2') mm wide.  Here follows a brief description of each module, its purpose and key features, as we head to the mine:
  1. Bottom End - contains the Tipple and Screens buildings and the kickback siding for the 2' gauge track from the incline, the non-operational 3' gauge stone disposal track from the Screens, and the standard-gauge tracks arriving from Corrimal that feed the empty wagon standage sidings for the screens and the Screens themselves. This module is the downhill end of the operational incline
  2. The Incline - contains the 2' gauge tracks on the operational incline itself, including a catchpoint, and the rest of standard-gauge empty wagon standage sidings below 
  3. Top End -  contains the end of the incline, where the empty coal skips pass over the loaded coal skips waiting to go to the tipple. The significant structure on this module is the Incline Brakehouse. This module is the uphill end of the operational  incline.
  4. Dead End - contains the headshunt to feed loaded coal skips to the incline top and a culvert for a creek. 
  5. Water Tank - contains the iconic water tank (as seen on the back page of LR60), an ashpit for the steam locomotive, standage sidings for skips diverted from the incline top, The Fulls skip track that is used to feed loaded coal skips to the incline top via the Dead-End module, and, is the pickup point for empty coal skips going back to the mine, hauled by the steam locomotive. There is also a sand drying shed. 
  6. Trestle - this is a scenery module that features a timber trestle over a larger creek and is the change over point from steam to the battery-electric locomotive that is used to feed loaded skips to the incline top. The position has been moved, but it represents the Big Bridge on the map in LR60.
  7. Jump - this module exists as the "jump" to and from the two Brokers Nose modules.The use of this module avoids a difficult 4-way module joint. 
  8. Brokers Nose 1 - this is a scenery module that features Brokers Nose and a "recent" landslide.
  9. Brokers Nose 2 - this is another scenery module that has the locomotive shed and a waterfall with culverts. A non-operational track diverges here that goes to the Workshop on Mine 1 module.
  10. Mine 1 - contains the exchange sidings where the steam locomotive takes over for the run to the Trestle module from the battery-electric locomotive used for "underground" haulage. Key buildings are the First Aid Cabin, Workshop, Mine Office and the Rope & Cable Store. . 
  11. Mine 2 - contains the tunnel portals and the end of the exchange sidings at the mine. Key buildings are the Electric Lamphouse, Weigh Cabin, Spare Powder Magazine and trestles to feed the Powerhouse coal bunker..This module is mainly required to swing the tracks through almost 270 degrees to enter the Main Haulage portal for coal. There is also a separate "Men and materials" portal.
  12. Underground: - a simple balloon loop behind the portals that serves as the loading point for loading coal into the coal skips, behind the backscene and tunnel portals. The radius here is down to 250 mm in places.

How we decided what we needed to put on each module based on how the prototype was worked and what was technically possible in the available space is the real story of this layout.

That ought do for this post.

John Garaty

Stuart Thyer

John, feel free to continue. I'd be interested to see the model the next time it makes it to public display.