NZ120 Competition: Endearing Creek Timber & Mineral Co.

 This is one of two layouts submitted for the NZ120 Boxfile Layout Competition.  Please review this entry and the other entry and cast your vote. Voting will close on 10 August 2011 and the winner will be announced.  The names of those who entered will be revealed once voting is completed.  


A classic, freelanced bush tram operation featuring timber, coal and gold ore extraction. Heavily inspired by the Charming creek tramway, on the Westcoast of the South Island.

 This is one of two layouts submitted for the NZ120 Boxfile Layout Competition.  Please review this entry and the other entry and cast your vote. Voting will close on 10 August 2011 and the winner will be announced.  The names of those who entered will be revealed once voting is completed.  


A classic, freelanced bush tram operation featuring timber, coal and gold ore extraction. Heavily inspired by the Charming creek tramway, on the Westcoast of the South Island.

The tramway runs up the creek gorge, passing a goldmine called the Midway Mine. The mine produces gold bearing quartz ore, which is regular shipped down the tramway to the NZR mainline in the local township. The tramway owns a mill in the township and a significant coal mine at the top end of the gorge. The tram gauge is 3’6” and in reasonable order.

The location for this fictitious operation is somewhere in the region between Westport and Reefton,obviously featuring the likewise fictional waterway known as Endearing Creek. The time frame is the early 1920’s.

The intention is to create a relatively simple, conventional setting with plenty of operating and scenic potential, that is also justifiable in a historic sense, lending some weight towards realism. The area selected is known for gold, coal and prolific timber extraction, plus it has outstanding natural beauty, when it is not being cut down, dug up or set alight.

Ultimately, this set of three box files could be part of a larger set detailing the operation of the tramway as a whole. The boxes would be presented in the ‘limbo’ style, with no backdrops, black sides and on a black table cloth. A purpose built overhead lighting rig could also support the theme with spot and ambient lighting. Operations would be simple, but movements reasonably frequent. At least one cassette would be used to move trains in and out of the scene.

The layout is not intended to be compatible with anyone else’s, as it has curves and a setting that are not likely to be appropriate for regular rolling stock.

A brief (fictional) history

Sometime in the mid 1890’s a small timber milling operation is started at the lower end of Endearing Creek. This operation soon exhausts the local millable timber and must expand. Funds are raised and a tramway built along the creek and through the gorge to several new areas of good timber. Circa 1905, coal is discovered at the head of the creek, naturally the tram is extended to take advantage of this considerable deposit.

Not long after, a previously identified quartz reef, located in a somewhat difficult area of the small gorge, is surveyed, revealing some potential for mining. The existing timber and coal operation lacks the capital to start a mine, so sells the rights to a local consortium, who raise enough funds to drive a horizontal bore into the reef and install a modest 5 head stamping battery. They name it Midway Mine, as it is about halfway along the creek. Returns for the first few years are consistent and high enough to keep the operation going.

Regular heavy rains and flooding repeatedly damage the waterwheel driving the stamper, necessitating expensive repairs and frequent down time of the mine. Finally, a particularly heavy flood undermines the waterwheels foundations and destroys the flume altogether. This flood also damages the tramway, making access to the mine very difficult. The mine consortium decide to abandon the Midway mine, leaving it to rot for sometime. The tramway, however, is repaired and continues to operate it’s coal and timber extraction.

During 1912, a large mining company, Fine-Rock Mining Co, which already has a significant stamping and processing facility in a not too distant township, begins purchasing most of the remaining small mines in the area. While not totally convinced of the Midway mines potential, Fine-Rock decide to reopen the operation after the Endearing Creek Mineral & Timber Co agree to provide transportation of quartz ore down their tramway to be later moved via the mainline to Fine-Rock’s facility. Around 1920 (or so) having run at only a minimal output during the war years, the Midway mine has picked up again with good returns being seen. A steam powered electric generator has been installed for lighting the mine and charging the new-fangled battery powered mine loco, which has replaced the regular pit pony, Ned. This has also boosted the mines output, which in turn keeps the tramway busy moving ore as well as timber and coal. Things are looking good for both the tramway and the mine, with the only things likely to stop their success being an act of God, or perhaps a global economic downturn, but that’s not likely to happen, is it?

The Model

Consists of three box files and one double ended cassette with 4 tracks (300 * 180mm). Each module could also be independently displayed as a functioning diorama.

Track Plan

Track Plan
Scenic elements

The general arrangement is a deep, narrow gorge with turbulent water flow. The mine siding and bins are on the same level as the main tramway, but the mine entrance, offices and workshop are on a higher plateau, beside a rock face. The area is covered in dense bush and exposed rock faces.

Other elements:

  • Abandoned water wheel driven stamping battery.
  • Operating mine track.
  • Steam driven generator.
  • Ore bins and an elevated tipple.
  • Broken carts, wagons and other debris dumped around the place.
  • Main tram line with mine siding.
  • 2.5′ mine tramway.
  • Various auxiliary mine buildings.
  • Truss bridge carrying the main tram across the creek.


The file boxes would be filled with blocks of high density foam insulation, several layers high. This would be so arranged to follow the general contour of the scenery, then carved to suit. From that point, it would be a case of mix and match scenic-ing techniques to complete the scenery. The boxes are held together and in alignment by magnets and dowels. The cassette is arranged so to allow the accurate alignment of all eight entrances/exits, one at a time. The main tramline roadbed would be at approximately 100mm above the bottom of the box file. This allows for deep scenery below the track level, and leaves some room for further down stream modules to lose elevation.


Main tramline:

  • Hand-laid, code 40, 9mm gauge.
  • Mix of wood and PCB sleepers.
  • Stub turnout into the mine siding (unless impractical in NZ120). Manual operation.
  • 1.5 to 2% grade up the line.
  • Minimum radius = 250mm. It is a bush tram after all.

Mine track:

  • Hand-laid or adapted Z gauge, 6.5mm, representing 2.5 feet.
  • Small wagon turntable.
  • Minimum radius = 150mm.


Basic DC wiring only. Join between modules bridged with plugs, simple contacts for the cassette. Layout lighting most likely 12 volts. Any overhead lighting will be 12 volts or less.

Motive Power & Rolling Stock

Engines could be just about anything small and heavily weathered. Some options:

  • Rail tractor.
  • Small tank engine, NZR D class or similar.
  • Single Fairlie (R28 makes a come back!)
  • Climax/Heisler
  • Rebuilt Z scale engine as the battery loco for the mine.

And the Pièce de résistance :

  • 16 wheeler!

Rolling stock would be a selection of log bogies, vee tippers and some sort of Q wagon knock off used for the coal traffic. Also required, some flat wagons and a single bush carriage, suitably ramshackle in appearance.


Since this is a bush tram, the timetable is fairly loose. The cassette is moved from end to end as a train enters and leaves the scene. Trains would be slow. The cassette also represents a nearby loop which allows the loco to run around trains and split them up for shunting down the mine siding.

  • The steam driven generator requires coal, this could be delivered semi regularly by passing coal trains or attached to the regular mine empties train.
  • Quartz ore is regularly picked up and empties dropped off. This happens at least once per day.
  • Regular log trains, up to two round trips per day.
  • At least one coal train round trip per day.
  • The first train of the day has the simple bush carriage attached for worker transport up the line. This carriage is then attached to the last train back down the line in the evening.
  • Specials. Timber supports and supplies are occasionally delivered to the mine. Track maintenance trains also appear from time to time.

Extra fancy stuff

  • Animated steam driven generator.
  • Cut away views into the mine tunnels.
  • Lighting in the locos, mine and buildings.
  • Ambient sound system built into the modules.

Final comments

Yes well, ideally I would have built this, but life and Murphy tend not to be that accommodating. Still, a design is better than nothing. A couple of extra things to include: a fourth module featuring a loop on the down side of the mine siding. This would add another element of operation. Trains could arrive here and pass each other, as well be split up for delivery to and from the mine siding. Secondly, an extra cassette would make things a bit simpler when operating, reducing the number of times the cassette has to be swapped from end to end.

I do honestly hope to build this, sometime. I have actually purchased boxes, foam, rail and sleepers for this project. One day. Maybe tomorrow.

2 Replies to “NZ120 Competition: Endearing Creek Timber & Mineral Co.”

  1. Alas, 2012 has not proven to

    Alas, 2012 has not proven to be a particularly good year in many regards, until recently any modelling has been low priority. However, there is something in the works now, though it is not directly related to Endearing Creek. I hope to update on that situation soon.

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