In the middle of researching the road numbers and liveries of several newly announced Australian model locomotives to ascertain which, if any, would fit my 2002-2005 era New South Wales layout, I came across the above YouTube clip in an email from a model railroad newsletter I subscribe to. Before I go into this post further, play the above 3 minute clip (with the sound on), so that you too will have an instant impression and viewpoint on whatever the hell it is I'm going to talk about.
Well, I'm sure that based on whatever it is that your own modelling interests are, you will have either answered yep or nope.
So what about me? Did I like it? Well to be honest, if I had asked myself that question back in 2015 when I had just started building this layout, (and started this blog), my interests were focused so strongly on finding a prototype Australian small train to base my bookshelf layout around that I probably wouldn't have pressed play.
Four years down the track however, and with my HO scale Australian layout nearing completion, my interest has largely shifted to the N scale layout I've already started building that will be mounted beneath Philden, purely because of the size constraints I'm faced with if I want to be in the enviable position of having two layouts on display in my small apartment. I played the above video clip more than a few times... and loved it. So much so that I bought the set, purely because it looked fun. It captured all the nostalgia, atmosphere and pure whimsy I've associated with model trains from when I was I young lad.
|My purely whimsical 1700 mm x 600 mm little N scale layout is slowly taking shape beneath Philden.|
The last thing I wanted to do when drawing up plans for a new layout, was to build another HO scale New South Wales layout. Don't get me wrong, I still go hunting for all that missing information that never seems to be there anymore whenever a supplier touts the coming release of a new model, like which locos operated where and which numbers wore what livery until when. But there comes a point where the purist approach wears thin and becomes a little anal-retentive. Taking that same approach to building a post-2012 layout depicting the BNSF and G&W's Puget Sound & Pacific seems like a huge buzz-kill. Adding a ghost train doesn't. Not if it means building a haunted abandoned mental asylum complete with looped sound effects as the layout's centrepiece, just to satisfy the whimsy in me.
I love all those 1st generation government diesels, like the NSWGR 421's, 422's and 442's that I remember from the Eighties. But I also have a tendency to cheer-on the old dinosaurs, whether it be on the football field or seeing the above locos enjoying a second lease of life in CFCLA or Northern Rivers Railroad colours. Throw in the 2 car Countrylink Xplorer that I've built my layout around, and the problem is that time-wise, it makes for a very narrow gap for me to work within. Beyond that... it all gets a little too modern for me.
By taking the purist approach, it seems the more you narrow down an era, the more limited you are with what models you can purchase and the more likely you are to be disappointed that you can't include a bit of everything.
I'm sure anyone who has paid over a thousand Aussie dollars for an XPT set to run on a layout of say the Murwillumbah Line, would be offended if I pointed out that to be prototypical in their execution, they would have to operate only in darkness as the XPT arrived at Murwillumbah at 21:00 hours and departed at 21:50 hours, and even then only if the train was on time! Instead we use whimsy. More often than not, that train would be making continual loops on an exhibition layout that was well lit in order to be able to see all the fine detail we put into our layouts.
Model railroading is supposed to be fun! While research can be a fun part of the hobby, for the non-historian, figuring out the what, when, where and why's of which locomotives or wagons ran in the era we are attempting to model, can easily lead to the fear of getting it wrong. Even if we manage to get our layout rosters right, we still need whimsy to come to the rescue if we want to see our spectacular Indian-Pacific or Ghan trains run anymore than their once-weekly Wednesdays only trip around our layout.
My point is, I don't believe we can achieve purism with a healthy dose of whimsy. Just as I don't believe you can champion whimsy without first recognising the purism that our models are based on. The Ghost Train in the video is still after-all an F7A EMD locomotive, without or without the whimsical sheet draped over its nose.
|Double the fun! I'll soon have two layouts to distract me at my desk, and the laptop folds away beneath it.|
So as I put the Ghost Train aside to concentrate on preparing the track bed and laying track on my whimsical sojourn into N scale, my thoughts return to the number of new Australian models that have been announced across 2018. Entertaining any thoughts about which models may make for a suitable addition to Philden once more becomes an exercise of overlapping time period schematics to decide which locos, if any, can technically stand alongside my existing 2002-2005 roster without looking more of the same only in a different number. However, I'd still like to one day see a Candy liveried loco running alongside my Xplorer. Perhaps a simpler option would be to stretch my layout's era from 1993 to 2004. That way I could add the Candy 42216 loco with the buffers removed, just to satisfy the whimsy in me, yet still be technically correct!