When we asked Brett Jurmann to take over the reins of Slot Machine Addiction, we were inquisitive about the track he had at home. Surely Brett had an interesting permanent set-up? Turns out, he does: an interpretation of the Mt Panorama circuit.
When I took over the reins of this column, Mr Ed was inquisitive about the track I had at home. Surely I had an interesting permanent set-up? As it turns out, I do. So here, dear readers, is my home track, an interpretation of the Mt Panorama circuit.
To my way of thinking, permanent home tracks are a real window into the personality of the owner, so no doubt you will have your own opinions of me by the end of this month’s column. Creating a home track is usually born of the need to get up off the carpet and not have to pack your slot set away after every use. To get there, you can go two ways: a proprietary plastic set, or rout your own in timber. Routing and electrical wiring I considered too ambitious, so I went with a plastic set from the Spanish brand Ninco.
I then started working out where in the house I could keep it. Taking over the double garage would have meant some domestic conflict, so I borrowed inspiration from others’ ideas and mounted it on a foldaway timber frame that pivots off the garage wall. The frame is similar in design to a wall frame, topped by plywood to stiffen it. The height at which it met the ceiling determined my maximum layout size, so with that set, I then began the layout design.
Design is constrained by a whole bunch of factors, the key ones being circuit type, preferred curve radius and inspirations. For me that meant a road circuit, and really there was one clear choice – attempt to replicate Mt Panorama. It’s here that I faced one fundamental truth: the popular ready to run cars are 1:32 scale and 6.12km in that scale equals 190m in length. There is no realistic way to make a scale replica of the best circuit in Australia that is able to fit in a space at home.
So, home tracks are about taking what inspires you to and turning it into your piece of work. In my case I wanted a track that I could use that made me feel like I was driving that iconic piece of bitumen west of the Blue Mountains. To make best use of the space available, I used an Oran Park-like figure-eight shape, which also works to equalise the lap length for both the left and right lanes. There is a climb after the Pit Straight, a tight Cutting, a McPhillamy Park, some Esses, Forrest’s Elbow and then Conrod Straight.
To make it feel like the real thing, I incorporated scenery with elements from Mt Panorama in the early ’70s, all mounted on topography carved into Styrofoam. I read up heavily on model railroad techniques, and poured over slot car forums to learn methods from the tracks I had seen and admired most. The shaped Styrofoam was then coated with plaster and painted in an earth-colour.
There are multiple techniques and materials for finishing it off. It all comes down to having an eye for detail, working by trial and error, and being patient. Some of the materials are from specialist suppliers such as Woodland Scenics, some are ready-made items such as scale trees from China, but some of it is simply craft items like paddle-pop sticks and cardboard from Spotlight. Anywhere that was bare of vegetation
was made to look like Mt Panorama soil using coloured grout which was cemented in place with diluted PVA glue.
My inspiration was the slot track work of others around the world, and to be honest there are many who have masterpieces beyond my modelling abilities. Having said that, I’ve seen a worthy Monaco track made with nothing more than scenery hand-drawn on cardboard, but it worked because it captured the essence of the harbour-side track.
I worked with this ‘essence’ mantra, making a whole bunch of elements I consider Mt Panorama icons: the old wooden pits, the McPhillamy Park gates, the fruit orchard in the centre of the track, the earth cuttings, the post and wire fences, and old advertising signs. I’ve been working on it for years, sometimes with large gaps between additions. My most recent work is a vertical backdrop of the Bathurst skyline, printed from a series of photos I took on one of my visits. I don’t know that it will ever be complete. I’m always hunting around toy stores and bargain shops for little additions.
My track doesn’t make for great race events – that type of track is best constructed using routed timber techniques. I’ll probably go that way if or when I build another track. And what would I do if I built another track? I’ve got my sights set firmly on Le Mans from the 1960s.