Australian Model Railway Association NSW Inc.

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The Move to Mortdale

Colour picture: a meeting at AMRA's Rockdale clubrooms. The kitchen is at left; the N-scale layout is at the back; to the right is the Read area of the HO layout. The tinsel is suspended to show the extent of the demolition caused by the widening of Chapel Lane.In 2002, Rockdale Council finally began to act on the widening of Chapel Lane, which had been their intention since the Rockdale premises were bought by AMRA in 1968. The proceeds from the sale have been used to purchase our current new premises at 48 Barry Avenue, Mortdale. The building's former tenants, Thew & McCann, moved out on the specified date of Wednesday 24th April 2002, leaving the space very neat and tidy. This left little more than a bit of rearranging on the 25th before the Open Day on the 27th. The only thing that was required was to tidy the garden, cut the grass and trim the edges. The next day was taken up with having the locks changed and the phone connected.

In excess of fifty members turned up for the Open Day to inspect the new clubrooms. Everyone was impressed with the building and there was much discussion about its layout, pacing out the different areas with one of David Bennett's floor plans in hand. To the delight of many members, all fixed layouts increased in available area, but it was said that the space allocated to the HO fixed layout was such that locos would wear out just doing one circuit!

A structural engineer was employed to design a first floor for the building, and to prepare plans for submission to Hurstville council for the Development Application.

Colour picture: interior of Mortdale premises - currently still tenanted.

Following Open Day there were a number of Saturday workdays to dismantle the internal rooms and wall and ceiling cladding from the ground floor, plus the mezzanine floor. The dismantling was a tiring and dirty job, but was enjoyable for those performing the work. The building effectively became a (de)construction site with a strong focus on safety, and a Site Induction sheet was created for everyone working onsite during the renovations to sign-off on. There was also a practical limit to how many people could be actively working at any one time during this phase — around 10-15 for each workday.

Colour picture: the brick wall in the photo above was demolished down to the ground floor ceiling level before the Spantec floor was installed.All the floor coverings, carpet, vinyl and tiles were removed. The flooring was lifted, the ground floor stud wall frames were dismantled and some internal brick walls demolished. The brick wall dividing the two halves of the building was lowered by 2.4 metres. Bricks were cleaned and stacked, timber was denailed, sorted and stacked. Even though all that was recoverable was being saved for reuse, a 7.5-cubic-metre bin was filled twice. The in-house electrician tidied up the electrical circuitry to make the building safe, and prepared it for the new building works.

Colour picture: the Spantec floor before cladding with boardsIn the second half of the year, construction began in earnest. The new floor was constructed by Spantec Pty Ltd of Braemar with a galvanised steel framework and pineboard tongue-and-groove sheet. A plumber was employed to relocate the sewer services for new toilets, shower, hand basins and sinks. The concrete floor was jackhammered for this work and the resulting large holes reconcreted by AMRA members. The steel-framed stairways were designed and constructed by Dave Bennett, Neil Watson and Chris Olsen. A spacious, fully equipped kitchen was constructed by A&M Kitchens of Mortdale (... Barry Avenue, Mortdale in fact!) who also supplied the office cupboards.

Colour picture: N scale peninsula is moved off the pantechnicon.After many months of planning, relocation of layouts and everything else from the Rockdale premises began in November 2002, only a couple of months after the original earliest date. The N gauge was the first to be moved, and as the layout with the most scenic detail, it was subject to meticulous advance preparation. Damage was minimised by making just three cuts. The four sections required just two trips in the covered pantechnicon that was hired for transferring furniture and other large items over two weekends.

The O gauge layout was cut up into many pieces. Sections of both layouts were elevated up to the first floor through the roller shutter door using a cherrypicker. All pieces had to fit through a height of just 700mm. It was reassembled in a slightly altered form.

As part of the agreement with Rockdale Council allowed for layout relocation, the existing HO layout was also brought across, but a competition was instigated to design its replacement in the area set aside at Mortdale.

The club was granted a three-month extension of the lease from the original handover date of 4th December 2002. There was a final flurry of activity to be ready during this time. There were many items to be transported to Mortdale and lots of rubbish to deposit at the local waste transfer station. On Tuesday 4th February 2003, the council inspected the site, and on 10th February 2003 the keys to the Rockdale premises were delivered by president Barry Wilcockson to Rockdale Council. As the furniture factory next door is leased for another three years, the clubrooms may serve other purposes in the short and medium term. Eventually they will both be demolished to make way for a carpark for the new Rockdale Library.

From then on, working at only one location united the labour force and progress was more rapid. Mic Wade oversaw the installation of fluorescents in all areas and the removal of the temporary festoon lighting. Graham Larmour refitted the recovered doorjambs and architraves into the new doorways — not always an easy job as the doors and jambs were not always the same size as the opening to which they were being fitted. Robert Merrick helped with modifying and fitting doors. A contractor installed the kitchen and a plumber connected toilets, hand basins, hot water and the kitchen sinks. The small meeting room acquired a large wall cupboard for the computer, fax, photocopier, and communications closet. The room was then carpeted and all the office equipment was moved in. Being able to move office equipment and kitchen goods into their appropriate places freed up a lot of space from other places intended to be open.

Installation of the N scale layout progressed rapidly on Monday nights, with the layout quickly positioned and a masonite false wall curved around the brick the wall above the layout and painted sky blue. Next to it the O scale layout was supported with heavy, sturdy legs, forming a complete oval once again, and then began the repairing and re-gauging of track that was damaged in the move. The HO scale group started with a completely new layout. The baseboards were purchased and laid on the floor in their proposed position, and track were plans marked using photocopies of Peco points.

This has been the first move in the Branch's history. As the Mortdale clubrooms are located in a quiet street in a light industrial area, it should also be the last.

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These pages last updated 16 June, 2017 by Damien George.