Collectors Corner, Don Tydd

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We hope you enjoy our new interview series, Collectors Corner, which showcases local people and their amazing collections! Railway history is being preserved through the popularity of model train collections, and Don Tydd, our very first Collectors Corner guest, has sourced a variety of rolling stock, railway buildings and scenery …

What’s your background in the New England area?

I moved to Armidale in 1982 with my family, when I was appointed by the then Dumaresq Shire Council to a senior management position. I had, up to that point in time, lived in the central western region of NSW following my decision to move from Gunnedah in 1979 (where I grew up on the family property) to broaden my experience in local government administration.

In mid 2010, I established a new consulting business, Innovative Regional Solutions. As Principal of this organisation, I provide advice to local, regional, state and national private and public sector clients on emerging issues in economic and social development at the local and regional level. I am also the part-time CEO of an association of 22 local government Councils across NSW where mining is an industry.

What first sparked your interest in model railways?

Like many small boys growing up in the early 1950s, I was given several train sets as Christmas presents, which I really enjoyed. With many trips to see relatives or attend events in Sydney, I frequently travelled by train with my family, which allowed me to appreciate how important the railways were then to regional NSW. I really enjoyed standing next to the large 38 class locomotives at Central Station in Sydney and listening to the wonderful sound of steam.

My real interest started in 1958, when my parents took me to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. While they watched the Hereford cattle judging, I would go to the NSW Government Railways ‘O’ gauge model railway exhibition staged in the nearby manufacturers building.

The models were built by staff employed by the railway’s maintenance workshops and were based on actual working locomotives and rolling stock then currently in use throughout NSW. I came straight home and drew up my first layout (I still have the drawing). While the layout was never constructed, my interest in railways and transport generally went on from there.

When did you start collecting your own pieces?

I started to collect HO models in the mid-1990s based on the NSW government railway system in the period 1948 – 1982. Around that time I was also made aware of the existence of the New England Model Railway Club. This allowed me to meet like-minded modellers.

What’s the very first piece of model railway you collected?

The first pieces of railway rolling stock I ever collected were small models made by the ‘Lone Star’ Loco Company in England and purchased on a visit to Sydney. That was in 1958, and I still have them today. They are not powered, so you move them around on the small track by hand. In my current modelling era, in 1995 I purchased my first locomotive, a Lima 422 class NSW diesel from a firm in Sydney. I also still have it, although it has been updated with a new motor and weathering.

Describe your collection for us …

Since commencing collecting my current HO models in the mid 1990s, I have constructed rolling stock from kits available in Australia. I have also had locos made up from kits by professional modellers, which has saved me time over the years. I have also ‘scratch built’ some items from plans of structures associated with the former NSW railways. In the late 1990s, I built a trial layout, which developed my skills in tracklaying, associated scenery and electronics. This layout was decommissioned in 2012.

I have been planning a new layout since I built a special purpose 9 metre by 6 metre shed in 2000. Work commitments have meant I am just commencing to build the new layout. It will be extensive, but is needed to allow me to run all the models I have collected over 17 years.

Currently I have 6 passenger car sets, over 120 different examples of freight wagons and around 40 diesel and steam locomotives, all based on the former NSW system. In addition, I have various railway structures, including depots, stations and bridges as well as houses, hotels and shops.

It’s often hard to pick a favourite item when you’re a collector, but if you had to choose – which one of your items do you particularly like?

My favourite items are my steam locomotives, as they remind me of what the railways were like when I was a boy. The sheer power of the locomotives can be recreated if I decide to place sound chips in some of the locos, which are recordings of real locomotives. I also like the 44 class diesel locos, which also can have a sound chip fitted to them, providing realistic operating sounds.

Where do you find is the best place to source new objects to add to your collection?

I source my locomotives and rolling stock models from Australian companies. With scenery, I have also sourced items from the United States and the United Kingdom, where the range is much larger for some items. A lot of items I have purchased from Gwydir Valley Models in Glen Innes, which is a firm run by the current New England Model Railway Club President, Warren Herbert. I have also in the past purchased items for sale when they are advertised through the Model Railway Club by executors of past modellers’ estates.

You’ve mentioned being a member of the New England Model Railway Club. Do you also regularly read any model railway publications?

Yes, I have been a member of the New England Model Railway Club since the late 1990s. The Club celebrated its 20th year in 2012. I have received valuable assistance from some club members, particularly Jim Pullen, who is an excellent modeller.

I also subscribe to the Australian Model Railway Magazine and purchase American and English model magazines when there are articles of interest. 

Is your collection still growing?

I have a few rolling stock items on back order from several Australian companies due to the lead time for models, which are all now manufactured in China. I have enough items for my planned new layout, and its construction is now the number one priority.

For you personally, what’s the best thing about collecting model railway pieces?

I enjoy model railways as a hobby, as it provides an opportunity to be at home but at the same time a release from the constant responsibilities of running a business in today’s busy environment. I understand that worldwide, model railways are the second most popular hobby, with stamp collecting coming in number one.

I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with fellow modellers through the New England Model Railway Club, when family and business commitments allow me. There is a real satisfaction in building a layout and seeing your trains run around a structure with scenery which has been your creation. I recommend anyone with a possible interest in the hobby to initially contact any member of a model railway club as an entry point to getting started.

Thanks Don.

Interview by Jo Atkins.


We want to know about you! Let us know what you collect, and you might just be our next Collectors Corner guest!


This article can be found in issue 71 of New England Focus

ph. (02) 6771 5551.

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