Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Exhibition #6 Stafford 2018


August has turned out to be one busy month. Still trying to find the time for a million different projects that were waiting for me on return from a week's vacation, Denise and I were at least able to put everything aside for the weekend to take my layout down to the 2018 Stafford Heights Baptist Church Model Train & Hobby Show.

The view inside the 2018 Stafford Heights Baptist Church Model Train & Hobby Show.

Stafford Heights is a suburb located on the north-side of Brisbane, and since 2014 the Stafford Heights Baptist Church has organised it's annual model train show to be held inside the Church building, with the adjoining cafe and common areas hosting some trade stands, model boat and aircraft displays, second-hand sale tables and a cake stall. Despite being one of the smaller model train shows held in south east Queensland, the show is unique in that it is held over the Friday night and Saturday, with Sunday obviously being out of the question as the Church building is needed for the congregation.

Heading south on a Friday afternoon for the short trip down the Bruce Highway, our road trip playlist this time consisted of country artist Dierks Bentley's latest album The Mountain. Our view from the car window was of the Glasshouse Mountains, and the usual gridlocked traffic heading north in the opposite direction for the Friday arvo exodus from Brisbane. We on the other hand, arrived and were set-up with trains running well before the 6 pm opening time to the public. At first, I wasn't sure what to expect for a Friday night model train show. When 7 o'clock rolled around however, the Church building was filled with a good sized crowd. Visitors dwindled noticeably by 8.30 pm, and the show's organiser, knowing that Denise and I were travelling back to the Sunshine Coast that night, kindly offered for us to turn off our lights and head home early. We gladly took up his offer and were home by 10 pm.

I hadn't seen the Beauaraba Siding layout on display for years. It was there at Stafford Heights.

The next morning we up bright and early to once more head down the highway with Dierks playing in the car. Arriving early gave me the chance to have a wander around the other layouts and pick up something small for myself from one of the trade vendors, while my wife drove to nearby Westfield Chermside to buy a gift for our daughter. I was pleased to see Beauaraba Siding once more on display. I think it had been a number of years since I last saw this layout exhibited.

Once more, I exhibited Philden with the back of the station building facing the viewing public.

While Friday night was spent running my new Auscision Models 20' foot side door containers on a short string of NQTY wagons behind my 421 class, for Saturday I ran 3518 at the head of a 90's era cement train, all while the 2 car Xplorer that was featured on the cover of this month's Australian Model Railway Magazine racked up even more scale miles. And all weekend long, I donned my Glenapp Boys cap that was kindly sent to me by Rob and Dennis Sibson, the two blokes responsible for maintaining the Glenapp Signal Hut that featured on the cover of my book Last Train to Grafton and can be found on the Brisbane Interstate Line down near Border Loop. I promised them both I'd wear it at future model train shows. Thanks boys!

The show reached its busiest point on the Saturday between 10 am and lunch time, while behind the scenes volunteers from the Church ran the busy cafe inside and manned the sausage sizzle that was taking place outside the main entrance. Their service and enthusiasm was faultless. If Denise and I wanted a cup of tea or coffee, one of us would leave to order and moments later it would be delivered on a tray to our layout. The Church even arranged for a small HO scale model railway layout to be given away by random draw to a needy family, while a second HO scale layout was their silent auction fundraiser. Along with the gold coin donation collected from each admission, the Church will once more use the monies raised over weekend to help out those in need in the community. And for that reason, I was glad to have played a small part by bringing my layout down to this year's model train show.

With the layout back home safely in Caloundra once more, I'm taking the opportunity to do some more work on the beach extension while it is not assembled and standing against the wall. After straightening the beach extension, the overpass disguising the no. 2 mouse-hole entrance has been rebuilt, and the platform stonework finished for the new station. (I'm still trying to find a new home for the 46 class loco and stanchions from my abandoned plans to add an electrified section here on eBay, that will allow me to throw a pre-order Auscision's way for some RUB cars, if anyone is interested). This weekend should see me complete the scenery on the new extension, leaving only the modern Countrylink Travel Centre to be completed. The week after, Philden will be packed in the car once more, and again head south down the highway. This time for the Redlands Model Train Show on the 25th & 26th August. It's a pity that I'm not quite going to have the new extension finished in time for the Redlands Model Train Show, but then again, neither will I have finished the million other things I have waiting to do. Ah, that's life. Until next time, happy modelling!

See also; Exhibition #5 Toowoomba 2018

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Strange Saturday at Philden


Some absolutely downright bizarre movements occurred over the weekend, when a number of strange sightings were recorded passing through Philden late on a Saturday afternoon. It was if the hands of time were turned back, as one-by-one a procession of out-of-place, out-of-time trains time travelled through the mouse-hole portal and onto my layout. But before you jump to the conclusion that I've changed eras, the accompanying photos were all models belonging to another Sunshine Coast modeller, Anthony Veness, who stopped by for a much shortened running session after we were both waylaid in the north of Brisbane at the Pine Rivers Model Train Show. With the beachside extension now ballasted and operational once more, I captured the following images, beginning with the Berg's Hobbies Sydney suburban parcels van shown above, running between Philden and Phills Harbour.

Another Berg's Hobbies Sydney suburban electric set, this one with the blue & white 70's era driver car.

No sooner had the parcels van cleared the station, a 3 car single deck suburban set magically arrived without any wires, reminding me of the days I would see a mix of red rattler and blue & white single deck sets poking their heads out of the Hornsby car sheds as I'd ride the train from Gosford to Sydney.

A pair of heavily modified and beautifully weathered Powerline 48 class locos.

Next spotted in the yard at Philden, were a pair of Powerline 48 class locos, one in Indian Red and the other in the 125 Years of NSW Railways commemorative livery. It was around this point that I began to question my reasons not to have bought one of the recently released Auscision 48's.

As evidenced by this photo, the 48's would actually have suited my layout very well.

Fortunately the 48's were only brief visitors, and soon the pair departed light engine from the platform, taking with them any lingering questions as to whether I should still try to find some money to add the little Alco to my layout's roster.

What's a V/Line passenger A class loco doing shunting in Philden Yard? That ain't right!

It was around this time that things got really weird. Next spotted shunting in Philden Yard was an Auscision A class Victorian locomotive painted in V/Line passenger colours. I'm not sure if this loco ever ran on standard guage to be this far from home, and it looks about a strange as seeing Gary Ablett Jnr lining up for the Cronulla Sharks!

The newly released Wombat Models C30T class steam loco. What a delightful little engine it is to run!

Next to saunter into Philden Station was the C30T NSWGR steam locomotive recently released by Wombat Models. This loco is delightful to run, and the fire irons, driver and fireman figures and footplate details have me thinking that this model is a steal at the $350 it was released for. Apparently there were some minor issues for its owner to smooth out such as adjusting the spring arm that pushes the front pilot wheels to the rails, and removing some minor flash moulding that is visible on the top of the boiler, but that aside, it sure is a delightful little engine!

One nice little New South Wales steam loco!

Once the 30 had simmered at the station long enough to be admired and photographed, it too chugged out light engine and never to be seen again, as its owner plans to install a DCC chip inside it, thus making it unable to return for a visit. Still, it was nice to have the rare opportunity to photograph some steam at Philden.

Now that's nice! An Auscision Models pair of Interail/QR National 421's seen in Phiden Yard.

Things then started to return to normal, as my own 421 class Interail loco 42109 appeared, only this time coupled with visiting QR National sibling 42103. The QR eagle livery on this model is striking! Had I had the money and foresight at the time, I too would have added this loco to my roster.

Seen idling above the harbour, these 421's look right at home together. Pity only 1 of them is mine!

With the 421's last seen trundling off into the Port Authority Yard at the newly opened Phills Harbour, the eagle livered QRN loco was soon packed up into the time-travelling locomotive storage box along with its other friends, and I farewelled Anthony and thanked him for an awesome day of driving down the Bruce Highway to the Pine Rivers Model Train Show and for an afternoon of talking and running trains. Having the chance to run some different locos on my small layout was an eye-opener. It was a real surprise to discover that my small layout has a strong non era-specific nature about it when it comes to swapping locos or rollingstock. I hadn't quite expected that.

The beautiful character of Auscision's 46 class is there to be seen, but what do I do about the wires?

And finally to round-out the afternoon cavalcade of colour, I placed my newly acquired 46 class locomotive on the tracks to consider another case of the 'could-have-been's'. I've had this loco for a few months now, only I've kept its knowledge quiet from my model train friends on account of one thing.... the wires. Or lack of them on my layout.

Pent-up over the pantographs. They're beautiful, but running them up requires a rebuild of one end of my layout!

This model sold out the first time, and whilst the re-released version with the white roof was still available, I bought one and tucked it away while deciding if, or should, I add the overhead wires to the short beach extension of my layout. My thinking was that I could have a country/city transition between sections, with the wires emphasising the rails had reached Sydney's outer reaches. But the extension in its new form is still nothing more than a staging shelf, with the added bonus of having scenery in place. Adding wires? Well, that's just going to complicate placing and removing rollingstock from the rails. As for the pantographs? Unless I want to rebuild the mouse-hole beneath the overpass to make it 1.5 cm higher, then I'd have to always run this model with pantographs down. I wish I had the chance to run one of these locos first on my layout before buying one.

After such a strange Saturday at Philden, Sunday morning rolled around and I woke to start another clean-out on eBay, this time with a box of old railway magazines and timetables. And after a great afternoon of running some different locos on my layout, I thought the timing was right to place the 46 class up on eBay too. With only 20 minutes running time before I measured the height of the raised pantographs and discovered they were too high for my overpass, I'm sure I'll be able to get back near what I paid for it given the model is once again sold out. I'm a little past the point of wanting to write any further model reviews, so I'll just say goodbye to this little loco and send it down the rails to someone else.

You can find all the items I've listed on eBay here, including the 46 class.

I suppose chopping and changing locos is a way of keeping a small layout looking and feeling fresh to operate, but after also moving on my AustrainsNEO NR class recently on account of it being a little too long to work in and out of every siding with a wagon in tow, I'm hoping that the two 442 locos I have pre-ordered prove to be the final answer for establishing a core group of locos to operate on my roster alongside the Xplorer. The 421 class Interail and soon-to-be released CFCLA 442 class in the unique JL livery for my early 2000's era, and the 45 class in the 35 class rebuild Marlboro livery and a 442 class in the Freight Rail light blue livery for my early 1990's era. With that decision now done-and-dusted, I can finally have a little bit of fun building imaginary wish-lists for any new releases that would look great alongside them. Apart from that... there is always the option of having another Strange Saturday at Philden somewhere further down the line!

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Straightening the Beach Extension


Philden's track working crew moved in over the weekend to straighten the bottleneck that was hindering operation on the new beach extension. The three track configuration was lifted up and the turnout for the number one siding removed ahead of works commencing on the new Countrylink Travel Centre. The mainline and platform terminus track has been straightened and relaid over the original alignment of the number one siding, while the lead track to the future Port Yard was also lifted ahead of the bridge crew carrying out minor structural enhancements to the concrete spans.

I thought this simple detail addition made a simple balsa wood bridge more believable.

The signals branch also had to retrofit the port access bridge with steel arms to carry signal cabling across the right-of-way. The steel brackets, (leftovers from the Faller cement plant) were attached to the bridge on the harbour side, with the white plastic conduit carrying the cabling (unpainted white 2mm styrene rod) attached to the underside as shown in the above photo.

There's still more detail to be added around the harbour walls.

Port Authority personnel then moved in to finish the concrete harbour walls with timber capping, and attempted to secure the area with some chain link fencing, which unfortunately rusted the moment it was erected due to the salt air.

The bridge looks so much better with the spacing sprues removed from between each sleeper.

RailCorp workers then moved onsite to re-lay the Port Yard lead track across the bridge, cutting the spaces between each flextrack sleeper or tie to ensure closer spacing over the concrete span while also allowing a slightly wider gap for the rails to clear each of the steel signal cable brackets.

Realigning the platform road required cutting a straighter approach through the concrete apron.

Architects for the new state-of-the-art Travel Centre then had to consult with Port Authority and RailCorp personnel over the alignment of the new end platform road, with the result being that the concrete apron on the Port Authority Yard was trimmed back to ensure a straighter approach to what will be a stub-ended platform siding.

The original design looked better, but the space constraints made operating difficult.

Compared to earlier construction photos (above), the resultant changes will now mean that any freight locomotives will have to be stored between duties on the approach prior to the Port Authority bridge at roughly the location of the former turnout in the above photo.

The new arrangement has more room to get hands-on, and size enough to build a bigger station structure.

With Countrylink deciding to terminate all future passenger services at Phills Harbour, the new platform road will be provided with a buffer stop, and earthworks are already taking place at the end of the newly laid track. The concrete area to the side of the platform road will now be set aside for fuel and crew provisioning facilities for Countrylink Xplorer services, while work has already commenced on positioning the platform base and edging for the future station. The new arrangement will greatly simplify rail movements to and from nearby Philden Yard, while also allowing for massive expansion opportunities should the Port Authority move in that direction.

When contacted, the Countrylink Area Manager of Operations stated that the necessary track wiring had already been completed, with ballasting set to commence the next day. Plans for the new Countrylink Travel Centre were already finalised, and once finished, future passengers could expect a pleasant and modern station to greet them when boarding the train to Sydney. For the moment, road coach connections will continue to transport passengers to nearby Philden to connect with the daily South North West Xplorer. Phills Harbour Station is earmarked to be completed by Christmas 2018.

See also; The Port becomes operational