Tuesday, 14 May 2019

End of the line...

What took the best part of two years to complete took less than a day to salvage, dismantle and ultimately reduce to the pile of scrap you see above. I suppose with it comes a sense of finality, that Philden has indeed reached the end of the line. Unable to sell the layout by the close of its final public showing at this year's Brisbane Model Train Show, and ahead of moving house, a week later I made the call to strip the layout of its usable parts and pack away the buildings into some small storage boxes in case called upon in years to come. Finally, I cut the timber-work into pieces small enough to shove into a wheelie bin.

I managed to save the timber decking in one piece to re-use on a later layout.

The goods shed and railway station building were made to be removable, as such never went back onto the layout following pack-up from the Brisbane Show. The scratch-built timber deck for the goods shed however needed to be cut away from its balsa wood foundations. I found a long-bladed hobby knife extended to full length was enough to gently slice back and forth until it came free without damage. I intend to re-use the goods shed and timber deck with some slight alterations on my next layout.

The exhibitor plaques and station memorabilia were all able to be removed from their adhesive tape backing.

Having kept the beach extension section of my layout to convert into a display case, I really wanted to salvage the exhibitor plaques and railway memorabilia that decorated the timber fascia on the layout. Fortunately they were all applied with either double-sided adhesive tape, or had been screwed and glued using a few blobs of clear silicone adhesive. It took some time to use the same extended hobby knife to shimmy them free, but they came away without any damage. After cleaning the tape residue from the back of each one, are all now safely packed away, ready to be re-mounted and displayed on the next layout.

Trees, buildings, signs and whatever else could be salvaged for my bits-and-bobs box came next.

Unlike the station and goods shed, the cement plant and signal box were glued firmly into position. To remove the signal box I first saturated the area around it with soapy dish wash liquid, and used a stiff knife to cut around the edge of the foundations and pry the little building away in one section. It suffered only a little damage to the base beneath the stairwell, something which will easily be hidden with some ballast when next gluing it alongside the railway tracks. The cement plant however was fused to the plywood base from a combination of balsa cement and PVA white glue which had managed to seep between the scenery and the base of the building. It finally came free after a cracking sound followed by a light shower of tiny handrails that came loose from the tower feeder and top of the silo. I'll need to make some repairs with some plastic cement if it were to be re-used in the future.

Before cutting the layout into scrap sized pieces, I removed all wires and steel hooks from beneath, and made cuts through the track where I would run a jigsaw through the baseboard. With the rail joints all soldered and the points all heavily ballasted right up to the delicate switchblades, I decided against wasting any further time trying to soak, cut and pry the few turnouts loose from the layout. Finally, my wife Denise and I carried the six foot long section of layout down the stairs for the final time, and the jigsaw took care of the rest.

Another former layout destined for the dump.

Cutting up a layout isn't a fun feeling. But neither was not being able to sell it. I'm now two from four when it comes to selling completed layouts, and it seems the bigger they are, the harder they are to sell. With the layout no longer standing in our apartment, and moving boxes quickly beginning to accumulate, the excitement about building the next one strangely isn't there. I guess its going to take getting the house move out of the way first to see if it returns.

As always when faced with starting over, there's usually a list of notes as to what you would do better or differently next time. Building this layout has left me with plenty of ideas. While I work through them however, there's one thing that I'll be trying to avoid at all costs. Pre-ordering anything.

Case-in-point, a locomotive that I first pre-ordered not long after I started building Philden in 2015, only arrived two months before taking Philden to its final show in May 2019. Another model promised last year still isn't here. Neither is the layout. Between these two examples, I've also given up and cancelled another two pre-orders, both of which at the time of my writing this final post are still 'in-production'. Coughing up a $50 cancellation fee on an un-produced model stinks. Its akin to billing your customers for your own bad service. Without wanting to single out any company in particular, it simply isn't good enough when it comes to promoting the hobby. Particularly when there are Australian manufacturers who seem to be able to produce a model for the same price without the pre-order hoopla. It's a bit much to expect brand loyalty down the track, when there just doesn't seem to be any form of customer loyalty in the here and now!

That said, a model railway market that is so niche as Australia has never had it better. Thanks to trailblazers in the hobby who 20 years ago pioneered ready-to-run accurate plastic models of Australian trains, I do believe we are enjoying a golden era of model railways in Australia. Yet as everything quickly becomes DCC, sound equipped, more highly detailed and expensive than ever before, I wonder where the jumping off point will come for those in the hobby. Like real estate, there eventually comes a point where the average Joe simply can't afford to build that dream model railroad anymore. What happens then? Well, I hope that I've managed to offer something to the hobby in showing that a small bookshelf layout can still offer an alternative that's at least better than nothing!

While I've toyed with the idea of starting another blog to outline my next layout, ultimately I decided not to. In the four years that I've documented Philden's construction and progress, my own author blog over at phillipoverton.blogspot.com.au has fallen by the wayside. I've more books to write, promote and generate sales for, and despite the railway books I've published over the past few years, a blog such as this sends very little traffic the way of my book sites. Another how-to model railway blog only seems like more of the same, and my time has since become very precious to me. Especially if I'm going to balance writing that elusive New York Times Bestselling novel and trying to finish my next Aussie model railway layout. So why not follow it instead? I'll soon be once more concentrating on sharing my Lineside Liaisons posts featuring the railway photography from my current and forthcoming books. And I promise I won't make you pre-order any of them!

May 2019, and the curtains come down on a layout that has been a pleasure to build and operate. Adieu!

So I've arrived at the end of the line. The part where I thank all who have taken the time to read and follow the goings-on of a layout that satisfied my desire to build a HO scale Australian outline model railroad after 30 years of modelling U.S. N scale. Along the way I've shared what has worked, and what hasn't. For all the nice comments on this blog I say thank you. To everyone who enjoyed seeing it in person at a model railway exhibition, I hope it gave you some entertainment value. To the rude bloke at the Gold Coast Show in 2017 who commented that it was a waste of space and shouldn't even be there, I say Ppphhhlllttt!!!

Any layout comes with its own unique challenges, and taking this layout to no less than 8 model train shows when there were 5 flights of stairs to go down when I left, and the same 5 flights of stairs to lug it back up when I returned was my greatest challenge. To that I'm forever grateful to my wife Denise. Having her beside me at each model train made this 'our' layout. And strangely enough, long after I've sold off all the models that won't be making their way onto my next layout, her collection of Swarovski earings that I bought her as a reward for each model train exhibition we did will live on as a lasting reminder of how much fun we turned this into.

And finally, what does one do with a blog about a model railroad that no longer exists? My guess is you do nothing. Much like the books I've written in the past, I'll just let this blog be, and hope that it gets discovered or re-discovered by other model train enthusiasts in the years to come. Hopefully I've left behind some helpful insights into how you too can build a nice bookshelf layout such as Philden.

Why did I do it? Because I love the hobby, and I'm sure I'll be back at an exhibition soon with a new layout to share.

Phillip O

See also; Exhibiton #8 Brisbane Finale

Monday, 6 May 2019

Exhibition #8 Brisbane Finale

Four years after first venturing to the Brisbane Model Train Show to buy the stuff necessary to start building Philden, the layout has just made its final public appearance. From May 2015 to May 2019, this layout has spawned its own blog, made the cover of Australian Model Railway Magazine and has now completed it's eighth and final exhibition. What a four years it has been!

AV's 42103 in QR National colours spent most of Saturday running short trip trains from Phills Harbour to Philden...

The 2019 Brisbane Model Train Show held in a new venue for the first time at The Exhibition Building in Bowen Hills, should have been an exciting enough thought on its own. However, having only found out a fortnight ago that the lease on our lovely ocean view apartment in Caloundra wasn't being renewed, and with plans for a new QR narrow gauge layout at a dead-end on account of not having enough space to proceed, I made the snap decision to put Philden up for sale. The Brisbane Show appeared to be the golden opportunity to have someone make an offer to move the layout onto a new home. If I could sell it, that would be one less thing I would have to worry about packing and storing come moving day.

With a good friend of mine Anthony Veness volunteering to come down for the Saturday to help run the layout, I was pleased that my wife Denise could have the day to rest at home and just come down for the Sunday to help run the layout and pack up. So Friday afternoon, Denise and I headed down the Bruce Highway from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane to set the layout up in the new venue. A new venue always has its bugs, and we soon discovered that the only ramp in and out of the building soon led to a Friday arvo traffic crush of cars, vans and trailers all trying to drive into the building to set up their layouts or shops. Despite having a map and knowing what layout number I was, I managed to strike the one very unhelpful member who simply stayed behind his little table near the entrance, gave me an envelope and said "your over there," before pointing me to the wrong corner of the hall. No sooner had I stepped out of the car, I realized I was in the wrong place and was quickly parked in three vehicles deep.

Thankfully helpful folks do exist, and I was soon able to find where we were to set up, lug everything by hand from one side of the venue to the other and begin setting up the layout. Only for the PA system to call out my license plate and ask me to move the vehicle as I was about the join the final track section in place. Despite downing tools, reversing the car out and having to drive three times around the venue before risking a parking fine by parking in a loading bay, we had the majority of the work done and the layout set up in under an hour before hightailing it in Friday night peak hour traffic out of the city and all the way back up to the Sunshine Coast, a round trip exercise that was a little shy of a six hour affair.

Saturday morning was a lot more chilled, with Anthony meeting at my place for a 7 am start to the day. After a coffee stop on the highway at Wild Horse Mountain, we pulled into the parking station across the road from the venue with less than half an hour before the 2019 Show opened, but with the track cleaning and final details that Denise and I had left from the night before still needing to be seen to. I think we only put his 421 Class loco on the rails the moment they announced the doors were opened!

...only for me to return from a quick shopping stroll to find 4914 working an out-of-era goods train!

I love the opening moments of a train show, and this years' Brisbane Show had a special buzz about it that I'd not felt since the days I exhibited my Chicago & North Western N Scale layout back in 2002 in the poultry pavilion of the Brisbane Showgrounds. (I don't think that building is going to be there much longer judging from the look of it). However, with my layout for sale, I had that sinking feeling in my gut. One that I didn't know whether to be happy or excited about. Most of my rollingstock and locomotives were already accumulating bids on eBay, and the 'layout for sale sign' took away a lot of the excitement I'd anticipated in showing off the Beach Extension for the first time.

With a colour-coded prioritised shopping list of all that I needed to get for my new layout in hand, I left AV at the controls and headed off to do a quick sweep of all the traders in the hall. I bought the NQIX container wagons and a pack of 40' foot refrigerated RACE containers from SDS Models, only to find out that the yellow Banana Growers Federation containers were all sold out. Anything else on the list was coded a different colour, not to buy until Philden had sold!

Having felt good that I'd made a start with what I needed for my next project, I took over the controls from Anthony so he could head off on his own shopping quest, and began fielding questions from the public as they filed in. I met Phill from Grafton who'd traveled up to see the show and my layout for the final time, (hi Phill, hope you're still enjoying the loco you bought from me on eBay), and another blog reader from Melbourne who remembered seeing my layout on its first showing two years ago. Anthony excitedly returned with a pack of the yellow Banana containers he'd found after talking with Matt from Col's Australian Railway Books, and I later found that Alco-World from Sydney were selling individual wagons from four packs of Auscision Models NLJX louvered vans. There's no way I wanted to buy a four pack of these, but I did need at least one to handle banana traffic for my next project, so I also crossed a single weathered grey NLJX from my shopping list.

Speaking of Auscision, 2019 made four straight years of not seeing them north of the border. Neither was Eureka Models come to think of it, and a lot of the vendors and hobby shops had only a smattering of anything New South Wales related for that matter. To understand the impact that has on the marketplace, Stu Walker's Model Train Buildings shop display layout Oldetown and Philden were the only NSW layouts on show. Compare that to the Brisbane Model Train Show ten years ago!

Philden went from being sold on the Saturday afternoon, to unsold when the layout couldn't be collected until October

Settling back to run some trains for the remainder of the day, I very quickly had some serious inquiries from potential buyers. After spending a good half hour talking with two potential buyers, I had a handshake and an agreed price of $1,400 which would have enable me to go to the next colour on my shopping list requiring a trip across the hall to Wuiske Models to purchase a 1720 class loco, and some QLX and Tautliner vans.... Only to have the buyer return an hour later and say that he couldn't get back up from Sydney until October to collect it. That and a few other issues saw the deal fall through, and the layout was unsold. Just like that.

A second potential buyer returned, agreed to the price only I had to throw in everything that was running on the layout as well. I don't think Anthony would have liked me selling his train I was running at time. I wouldn't budge, he wouldn't budge and the buyer walked. After that it was just a procession of people wanting to make silly offers on my Xplorer and locomotives.

By 2.30 pm on the Saturday, all I wanted was for the weekend to be over! If someone had given me $800 cash then and there, I would have taken it and said they could come back tomorrow and run it themselves.

The only thing that cheered me up on the Saturday afternoon was closing time, and watching the procession of exhibitors who had parked in the undercover parking station across the road from the venue trying to get out. Forgetting that you had to pay at the pay station BEFORE exiting the car park, the place was gridlocked from cars parked at the boom gates while the driver ran back to the pay station to join an already long queue of frustrated exhibitors trying to figure out how to use the machine and forgetting their own rego number that they needed to type in before the payment could be processed. It was a very poorly signed and designed set-up to begin with, only made more comical by the same scene repeating itself over and over again whenever the boom gate when back down. At one point, a group of four model train club members were trying to reef the boom gate up by sheer force. I timed it, and it took me 35 minutes to get out of the parking lot after I had pre-paid before exiting. It was like watching a flock of chickens trying to teach each other sign language!

The stupidest thing about trying to get out, was that as soon as we did, Anthony and I spotted the Bavarian Bierhaus a few doors down, and parked only 50 metres or so from the parking station exit. What a pair of geese. If we'd known, we would have left the car in there and had dinner first! We had dinner, some drinks and a real good laugh about the whole shenanigans. I wouldn't have been surprised to turn up the next morning to find that the boom gates had been dismantled by a bunch of angry model railroaders.

I was set-up for the weekend alongside the Logan District Model Railway Club's Walloon layout.

Walloon in HOn 3.5 was superb, and would have been my selection for best-in-show!

Disappointment behind me, Sunday morning came around and I headed south on the Bruce one last time with my wife riding shotgun. Whenever we travel in the car together, we play only two types of music. Country & Western. Sale or no sale, I was going to enjoy operating Philden for the last time. We stopped at Wild Horse Mountain for breakfast and were at the venue well before opening time.

I tried to make the most of the rest of the weekend by taking a good look at the layouts that interested me. Fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be set up alongside the superb and extremely popular Walloon layout for the weekend, gave me the chance to observe how the staging yard operated behind the scenes. I was given a break down of how the layout uh... breaks down when it comes time to packing up, and at least got some ideas how I could build better wiring connectors between layout sections for my next layout/layouts.

Two other layouts caught my attention for completely different reasons. Irgendwo was a nicely presented N scale layout running European trains that got me thinking some more about my Puget Sound & Pacific N scale layout that is currently under construction. The composition of buildings both modern and historic was quite pleasing and probably would be one of the better N scale layouts I've seen in recent years. You only improve by studying other modelers' work, but the layout also reminded me of why I built the channels to hold my perspex hidden in place rather than they had (and I had done on my old C&NW layout), attached in sections that were screwed to the fascia.

Irgendwo was a nicely presented N scale layout running German & Swiss trains.

What was listed in the program to be alongside me on the other side of Philden but ended up being shuffled a little down the aisle, was a great little Queensland Railways layout making its first appearance called Comoyba, a similar sized layout to Philden but built to Sn3.5 scale.

The Sn3.5 scale layout Comoyba was another gem of a layout not much smaller than Philden.

I would have liked to have spent more time studying how Comoyba works before starting my own QR layout.

I tried several times to spirit myself away to talk to the operator about how it operates, only to find him too busy with interested onlookers. When I finally got the chance to speak to the owner shortly before pack-up on Sunday to ask how his first show had gone, I found out someone had made him an offer to buy it and so he'd sold it. Talk about all the luck!

So with the looming bedlam of packing-up fast approaching, I made several trips to our car which was parked in the parking station across the street, taking anything loose that I could carry out of the venue and leaving Denise to run the Xplorer to entertain any 3 pm stragglers in the crowd. By the time I returned from my last trip, she had turned off the lights and was busy unplugging power cords and rolling up curtains. I'd missed seeing the last train to run on my own layout.

With only one vehicle ramp into and out of the building, we decided to unbolt the layout and carry it out of the venue like a coffin. It only took two trips for us to have the layout packed safely in the car in less than 20 minutes after the show had finished.

Just down from The Exhibition Building, the Brisbane Showgrounds have been re-purposed into trendy eateries.

Following my own lead from the night before, I took Denise two doors down the street to the Bavarian Bierhaus for some drinks and dinner, leaving the other show-goers to their shenanigans as they exited the venue. Over the noise of the crowd and music, Denise half-shouted "why don't you just keep the Beach Extension as a display case, and see what you can re-use from the rest of your layout?"

It wasn't until we went to leave a little after half-past six that I stopped to take the final photo above. The trendy dining area opposite Rydges Hotel that has sprung up where the heart of Brisbane's Ekka once lay dormant for 50 weeks of the year gave me an idea. Leaving behind the pink neon lights to pay homage to the building's past as a snack bar in the middle of the meat & dairy pavilion, we drove back to the Sunshine Coast with me talking about how I could preserve the timber fascia of Philden to be built into the staging decking that I'll need to construct for the new double-deck layout. It's a bit like incorporating some of my own model railway history into the new layout, and the Beach Extension can fit nicely on top of our bookcase with the LED lighting illuminating whichever model I choose to place on display.

So that is it. Over. Finito. Another of my model railway layouts now just a memory for whoever enjoyed seeing it these past two years as I lugged it around the South East Queensland model train show circuit. A fellow modeler consoled me on Saturday that the hardest thing to sell was a completed layout. I can now vouch that its true. Some sell. Some don't. All for different reasons.

I came home to find that the locos, Xplorer and rollingstock I had listed on eBay had sold for more that what I was asking for the layout. So I'm fairly happy with that. Monday morning was spent unpacking the car and the rest of the week will be spent packing up eBay items for the post. Come next weekend, I'm going to pry what I can from Philden, pack what I'd like to keep away and take a jigsaw to the timber work that I'd like to salvage. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

Till my final post, happy modeling and take care.
Phillip O

Thursday, 11 April 2019

PHILDEN is For Sale!

PHILDEN is being offered for sale following this year's Brisbane Model Train Show

Here's some news that will either delight or disappoint you. I've decided to sell Philden. After having this layout on the cover of Australian Model Railway Magazine and taking it to 7 model train exhibitions in the past 2 years, its time to say goodbye and move onto another project layout, with the Brisbane Model Train Show over the weekend of the 4th & 5th May, 2019 being its final exhibition. I'm hoping to see this layout live on in someone else's hands, so I'm offering the complete layout for sale (trains not included) to be collected at the close of show 4 pm Sunday from The Exhibition Building, Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills in Brisbane. The reason for this sudden decision is that we are moving and need to be packed and vacated by the beginning of June.

As regular readers are aware, this has been a great little layout to build and operate, and has spent the past 12 months receiving a total face-lift since appearing on the cover of AMRM in August last year, including adding a full length photo backdrop featuring my own unique photography and turning the former staging shelf into a beachside scene complete with modern station.

I have a lot of mixed feelings in placing this up for sale, but a move into some larger surroundings is going to open up another opportunity. So I'm just going to enjoy taking Philden to one last show before deciding how to go about my next layout project, whether the layout is sold or dismantled and re-purposed is now out of my hands. But with a shift in my modeling focus to more of a prototype-freelance approach based around the NSW Murwillumbah Line, there will also be a bit of a post-show cull of Philden's current rollingstock collection on eBay in the weeks following. So keep an eye out if you're interested in my Xplorer, Austrac 48 Class, new CFCLA 442 Class, some containers and steel wagons and coils.

Otherwise feel free to ask any questions below. Hope to see you at Brisbane in May!

Kindest Regards,

Phill O