Saturday, 1 September 2018

What's next after Philden?

A new layout is in the making for 2019. Or is that two new layouts?

It's September 1st. August is over, and the four model train shows that I took Philden to in 2018, along with making the August cover of Australian Model Railway Magazine, are now all yesterday's news. And apart from adding a backdrop and final touches that will finish transforming my former two track staging yard into the fully scenicked beach extension, Philden is finished. Anything beyond this is just tinkering with a good thing simply for the sake of tinkering.

I've tried and toyed with the idea of extending this layout before, only to wave the white flag at each dead-end. So when remodelling the staging shelf into the beach extension, I included a sneak-off track that can enable this layout to be expanded into an L-shape layout in the future. If that ever happens... it'd be nice. I just can't see it being anytime in the next decade. For now its going to remain what I originally envisioned. A 9' foot long bookshelf layout encased in perspex.

There's as much room beneath my bookshelf layout as there is within the confines of Philden's cabinet frame.

The aftermath of taking Philden to 7 model train shows, is that it makes you want to try something new. Case in point is this; I recently emailed Keith Jordan over in The States to inform him that my layout had made the cover of Australian Model Railway Magazine. Keith's almost finished HO Scale layout 'The Patch', was featured in Great Model Railroads 2012, and was the layout that first inspired me to build Philden. I heard back from Keith, and was a little bit surprised to learn he had since fallen out of the hobby, moved onto restoring muscle cars and sold off all his HO stuff. I say a little bit surprised, because its easy to lose interest once something is almost complete.

As you can see in the photo above, I only have the station building to complete on the beach extension and the blue sky backdrop to replace with a full-length photo backdrop. Whatever I do next is just tinkering for the sake of tinkering. Change this, add that, maybe start collecting rolling-stock from a different era. Wouldn't it be better just to build another layout?

After collecting enough N Scale equipment to build a small 2' foot x 5' foot layout that I first planned exactly a year ago, I have since moved into a larger apartment and replaced my desk with an IKEA work space. Suddenly there is that little bit more room. While I still plan to build a small N Scale tabletop layout, just to satisfy the roundy-round in us all, it's not something that I haven't done before.

You know you've been living in a place long enough once you start to reminisce on the good ol' days.

While I grew up in Gosford and shall always consider myself to be a New South Wales boy, moving to Queensland in 1991 was the beginning of the best 10 years of my life. I met Denise, we married and had two kids. For us the Nineties were awesome! It's safe to safe that you've anchored yourself long enough in the one place when you start recalling the good ol' days. If I was trying to recall those days by tinkering with new rolling-stock to build a Nineties NSW roster on Philden, why not just build a second layout instead, and model Queensland? And not just HO scale, but 12 mm narrow gauge HOn3 1/2. Both of which I haven't had any previous experience with.

It always starts with a locomotive, in this case a HOn3 1/2 Queensland 1550 Class by Wuiske Models.

I snapped the above picture of this loco sitting atop Philden to a model railway buddy of mine the day after the Redlands Model Train Show and seconds later got the reply, "Oh no! What have you done?" After assuring him it was for a new layout, and that I wasn't about to tear-up any track on Philden, I received an email containing all the forms for the upcoming Modelling the Railways of Queensland Convention in October. That's left me thinking, 'why not?' I know very little about the eccentricities of the railways in the state for which I've strangely spent most of my life. And the locomotives that I remember from 20 to 30 years ago are now slowly disappearing from the modern railway landscape. So I'm now going to my first model railway convention ever.

Next May's Brisbane Model Train Show will mark four years since I rocked-up and purchased everything I needed to start building this layout. Four years is a long time. Just ask an Olympian. I think it will make a good time to semi-retire my layout from the exhibition circuit. I say semi-retire, because I'm sure that like John Farnham, there will always be one more final showing somewhere down the track. But you get a new locomotive like the narrow gauge one you can see above, and suddenly there's a new enthusiasm to start planning, researching, learning the advantages of working with 12 mm guage track and so on. If I don't, then like Keith, I too stand to lose interest and move onto something else.

So while you're reading this on a Saturday morning, I'll be sitting in a bakery overlooking the North Coast Line in Landsborough, having breakfast with my wife of 25 years Denise and hopefully seeing a train or two pass by. All the while the mind will be ticking with the options I have in planning a layout that will be as long as Philden, yet able to be twice the width. Unlike Philden, this time I won't be blogging its progress every step of the way! Read my post on ending a career positively on my author blog here, and you will sympathise with where I'm coming from. I feel like I finally just need to do something for me. So come May I'll also retire this blog. In fact I've already started tidying up some obsolete posts and reviews of items and locomotives that have long gone from my layout.

The upside is, that by no longer having to update both blogs, I reckon I'll have the next layout finished and ready to replace Philden on the exhibition circuit come 2020. Until then, there'll still be a few more posts to follow this one as I finish the layout and prepare to show it again in Brisbane in 2019, before I head into the bold new world of narrow gauge. As they say; 'there's no looking back now, its onwards and upwards at all costs!'

Monday, 27 August 2018

Exhibition #7 Redlands 2018


The recent Redlands Model Railway Show was somewhat of a homecoming event for Denise and I to draw the curtains on a busy model train show season in south east Queensland. The 4th and final exhibition for Philden of 2018, saw us once more head south down the Bruce Highway with our country playlist blaring with everything from Morgan Evans to Kenny Chesney in the car. This time we continued south over the Gateway Bridge to an area that was once so familiar to us. The Redlands.

The calm before the crowds stormed in on Saturday morning.

Held in the Smith Street Hall in the bayside suburb of Cleveland, 2018 marked the 7th anniversary for the Redlands Model Railway Show. There was no model train show in the Redlands back when Denise and I were living in the nearby suburb of Capalaba a decade ago, so to be included in this year's show was special, in that it gave me the chance to bring my layout down to the shire I once called home. We also have family still living in Redlands, so the weekend also became a chance to catch up with Denise's brother and his family, and dine out on the Saturday night at an Indian restaurant at nearby Wellington Point.

The Lindfield station indicator board sign was a new addition for the Redlands Show to complete the presentation.

For once I was able to turn up early for the opening day, cashed-up and with a shopping list of what I wanted to buy. Normally the timing of exhibiting my layout at a model train show doesn't coincide with me necessarily being able to afford to buy anything whilst there, and the expense of taking my layout to a show, (especially if a couple of nights accommodation is required), only further eats away at what I can justify as 'hobby money'. Instead, I only added another pair of 20' foot side door containers to my roster from Don at Railco before the doors opened to the public.

From the opening 15 minutes on the Saturday morning, there was a constant stream of paying public marching through the door on account of it being a rainy weekend in Brisbane. So before it got too hectic, I walked the floor to take these few photos of some of the layouts on display over the weekend.

I was set up beside Clive Collin's Snap Shot layout. Each square was a different scene from around the world.

Turnpike Land, featuring London's underground, is still a crowd favourite on the south east Queensland circuit.

The Urangan Pier at Hervey Bay was across from my layout with its cool blue water...

...while Philden stood opposite with its scorching hot outback sunset lighting effects.

The view looking across the hall inside the Redlands Model Train Show as the doors opened on Saturday morning.

Inside the hall became quite crowded during the peak Saturday morning and afternoon periods, and Sunday turned out to be busier still, as the wet weather gave the locals something to do on a rainy day. There were still paying customers arriving at 2.30 pm on the Sunday afternoon. The organisers surely must have been very happy with the numbers over the two days.

Being positioned up on the stage gave me the best view of the venue, and a chance to watch what was going on down on the floor below. While it is inevitable that some of the 'old timers' will always succumb to some shut-eye at some point in the afternoon, a visit to the bathroom on the Saturday made me laugh when I recognised the sound of snoring coming from one of the cubicles. Some-one had fallen asleep on the toot-er!

The new extension once more doubled as hidden staging for the weekend, and while the layout and trains performed faultlessly, the inevitable finally caught up with me when I had two wagons take a dive off the layout onto the timber floor. The first occurred when I hurriedly steadied the layout after a young child tried avoiding being caught by her parents by running beneath the white safety chain to hide behind the curtains of my layout. With one hand on the layout and the other quickly cutting the power to the train that was running at the time, my own knee caught on the wiring that ran from my LED lighting, which in turn whip-lashed the cement hoppers that you can see in the photo above. While the NPRY bounced on its side with out damaging any of the walkways or ladders, I later stepped on a piece of the under frame detail that obviously came loose. The second was just one of those accidents when my wife had her jacket sleeve catch on the steel train as she reached in to throw a toggle switch. Turns out those NCNX wagons don't bounce so well as you can see in the photo below. I've already rebuilt this model once after it arrived in the post in worse condition, so I can easily rebuild it again. I'm just fortunate I found all the pieces.

Some minor post-show repairs waiting for me to see to.

Two exhibitor plaques in the space of two weeks! Now for a well-earned rest.

Philden safe back home once more after two model train shows in just two weeks!

So having just spent two full weekends only two weeks apart, running trains up and down my 9' foot long bookshelf layout, Sunday pack-up couldn't come quick enough. Despite it only taking just over half an hour to pack-up, load-up and be driving out of the car park, its the long drive back to the Sunshine Coast and the trek up and down the stairs from our beach-side apartment that is the most exhausting part of taking Philden on the road. Sure it's a great feeling of accomplishment when its all over, but after such a busy 2018, I've promised Denise that we will only take Philden to one exhibition next year. That now looks like being the Brisbane Model Train Show in May, which gives me 8 months to enjoy having my layout stay still long enough to complete it like I'd first envisioned.

Redlands marked the 7th exhibition that I have taken my layout to, and as you can see in the photos above, the exhibitor plaques have nicely accumulated along the front timber fascia of the layout. There's only room for 3 more plaques to be mounted on the front side, that only doing one show per year will take me through to 2021. By my own reasoning, that might just about do it for this layout.

What's wrong with this picture?

Another funny thing to occur from the Redlands Show, was that somewhere over the course of the weekend I screwed up my shopping list, and threw it in the bin. With my paid-for 442 class loco waiting only on word of its arrival, I took another look at what I had written down on my list, and decided that the pair of 20' foot side door containers I'd bought before the doors opened on Saturday was enough. As far as adding anything new to run on Philden goes.... I'm done. It's time to start planning a new layout.

As for what? Look closely in the picture above and you can probably work out what doesn't belong. And for that I can blame the Redlands Model Railway Show. It will go down as the place where I screwed up one shopping list, and ultimately replaced it with a bigger one! But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

See also; Exhibition #6 Stafford 2018

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Building the Beach Station


Work is continuing on my layout during the two week break that I've had between model train shows, with the former two track staging yard now looking more and more like a finished diorama.

I was also lucky enough to find another brass-coloured station name to match in with the four other NSWGR destination board signs that are already mounted on the rest of my layout. Lindfield, for those who aren't familiar with Sydney, Australia, is a station located on the North Shore Line via the Harbour Bridge.

The foundations for the brick platform edging were laser cut by Stuart from Walker Models.

Constructing the curved brick platform for Phills Harbour was a lot more difficult than the platform that I built for Philden Station three years back, but was made a lot easier by the fact that the brick platform edging was laser cut for me by my good friend Stuart from Walker Models up at Coolum Beach. All I had to do was paint it, which consisted of nothing more than mixing a white-ish wash of mortar mix to swear over the brickwork and gently wipe away before it completely dried, leaving it congealed in the mortar lines only. The bricks are simply unpainted MDF board, (that with the white smear of paint) are a great match for the modern orange-cream brick that was used on Grafton Station on the North Coast Line.

I used two A4 sheets of paper to trace the outline for the top platform area.

I made the platform surface from 4 millimetre MDF board, and to work out the clearance and overhang for the rail side of the platform, I simply used two pieces of A4 copy paper to outline the platform edge with a lead pencil. I then cut the outline using a pair of scissors, and traced the outline of this with a lead pencil direct onto the MDF sheet, which was then cut using a sharp hobby knife before sanding the edges smooth with some extra fine sandpaper.

An overhead view to test that the 2 car Xplorer actually cleared the platform edging.

The single piece platform was then placed into position to test the clearance with my 2 car Xplorer train, (the longest piece of rollingstock which operates on my layout).

The single piece 4 millimetre MDF board platform showing the cut out area to house the lighting.

I want the station building, or in this case the Countrylink Travel Centre, to be removable for if I ever need to change LED lights which I will install from beneath once this scene is completed. So I cut a large opening beneath where the structure will stand on the platform before I began painting.

The overpass at the southern end of the station area includes these cool banana trees from Modellers Warehouse.

While I kept coming back to apply several thin coats of acrylic paint to the platform over the course of a week, I also rebuilt the concrete overpass that disguises the number 2 mouse-hole entrance/exit between the two layout sections while I had my layout in pieces. With the third track now removed and the remaining tracks straightened out into a more gentler curve, there was no need for me to have the concrete walls fanned out into such a noticeable angle. Especially with the larger locomotives such as the NR and L Class locos I once had on my roster now long departed. What that required however, was for me to build the concrete abutments double-sided as you can see above. I painted these to match the concrete abutments on the other side of the mouse-hole highway overpass that leads to Philden Station at the same time that I painted the platform.

Once finished, I glued the new highway overpass into position, patched the ballast on the areas beside the concrete abutment, and super detailed the rock scenery with over 200 individually applied grass tufts and the great banana trees you can see in the photo above which I purchased from Modellers Warehouse at the recent Strathpine Model Train Show.

The finished platform glued into place showing the box housing for the removable Travel Centre.

The entire station area then had the same scenery treatment applied, with a couple of gum trees added in areas that won't impede operation, some rubbish bins behind the far end of the platform and another of the fantastic palm trees from Modellers Warehouse added down at the beach level. I almost used all of the 420 grass tufts I bought on this extension alone. Finally, I then glued the single piece platform into place and stood back to admire the scene so far.

The first look at my Countrylink Travel centre sitting snugly on the platform inside the box housing.

I used unpainted white polystyrene strips to build the box that will house the Travel Centre on the platform, and the base of the structure fits perfectly inside. I've never worked extensively with styrene before now, but its something I'm going to have to do as there are no Australian models available of anything that resembles the modern era Countrylink Travel Centres that were rolled out in the early 1990's, around the same time that my 2 car Xplorer train was introduced into service. As a starting point, I bought a cheap one-colour plastic kit for $10 on eBay. For that price it was cheaper than buying a single sheet of 4 mm styrene and included the postage price from China! At least it gave me 4 walls that I could use as a starting point to construct my model around.

I then stocked up with the other sheet styrene I needed at the recent Strathpine Model Train Show, and can now begin building the platform awnings and angled roofing that will cover the road coach set down area that you can see in the photo above. The roofing will all connect to the rectangular Travel Centre building to create the effect of being one big, modern monstrosity.

The view from what will be the front of the beach extension.

So with next weekend's Redlands Model Train Show being Philden's final outing for the year, it seems I'm agonisingly close to having the new extension completed in time. Only, once more I will have the layout displayed from the other side, and the new extension will remain hidden for now from the public behind the reversible backdrop. After the Redlands Model Train Show, I will have a break of 8 months before I exhibit the layout again, which will give me plenty of time to complete the extension to my liking, including adding lighting, figures, more palm trees and finishing the Travel Centre with a complete interior. By the time I display my layout again at next year's Brisbane Model Train Show, the layout, including the new extension, will be as finished as it's ever going to be! And then I can move onto my next project.

See also; Straightening the Beach Extension