It's all about the details

01:51, Jul 11 2012
HOOKED ON MODELS: Model railway enthusiast Peter Hook with his layout which will be on display at Rail X this weekend.

The green snake is about to strike an unsuspecting rabbit on the edge of the swamp and the water barrels and fire buckets are strategically placed to deal with steam engine sparks.

The station's chimney is puffing and a load of metal is ready to be taken to the scrap dealer.

It could be a scene in an American novel or Wild West movie, but it is Palmerston North model maker Peter Hook's American 1930/40 era railway layout.

The 3 metre by 1.5m layout is unusual as while the narrow gauge track is 1:87 scale the engines, wagons and buildings are 1:48 scale.

The layout is one of 21 on display at this weekend's Rail X model train show in Palmerston North.

Mr Hook has been working on the layout, his second, for seven months and does something on it every day.


One particularly time consuming task has been hand painting the castings of people and structures.

The realism extends to junk stacked outside the train station.

"There's a lot of little things that unless you know what you are looking for you don't actually spot."

The retired man has also remodelled Matchbox cars and used different parts for other layout features.

Even the wood is real – Mr Hook cut it with a modelling knife.

At one end of the layout is a gold mine, and at the other a logging operation complete with donkey engine to pull the logs onto the log trains.

"It's just details of what they had in those days, making things look right."

Eventually, he wants to extend the layout to include a town scene and a staging yard to park engines and wagons.

Staging yard is the American term, English model makers call it a fiddle yard – a place to fiddle.

Mr Hook is a founding member of Scale Rails, which began 12 years ago.

Scale Rails, the Manawatu Model Railway Club and the European Model Railway Club are organising the biennial Rail X.

Layouts from Manawatu, Wairarapa, Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga will be on display, representing New Zealand, British, European, American and Rhodesian railways – from vintage to modern.

Mr Hook is a fan of things American; he owns a Corvette and a sprint car.

His first layout is also American with quirky details such as a woman fainting as hands appear from under the coffin lid at a burial.

Model trains hooked Mr Hook when he was about 20 and could afford to start collecting pieces for a layout.

His passion is for the building of a model train layout rather than running the engine and wagons around the track.

"You get a lot of satisfaction out of making something that looks right."

As for any model maker, there is the thrill of making something with your own hands.

Building structures from scratch and handpainting bought castings means you can customise to your own perspective.

Rail X model train show is on Saturday and Sunday, Barber Hall, Waldegrave St, 10am till 4pm both days.

Adult $6, child $2, family $15.

Marriner Reserve Railway will be providing train rides in the carpark.

Manawatu Standard