Monday, 20 March 2017

Reaching the 100,000 Milestone!

It looks like this blog will pass the 100,000 visitor mark in the next couple of hours. Given that this is also my 100th post on Philden Model Railway, not only have the two milestones collided, but its fair to say the past two years have flown by so quickly!

When I started this blog with my first post back on the 14th May 2015, it was due to the excitement of having just come back from the 2015 Brisbane Model Train Show here in Queensland, Australia. Having sold off the final remnants of my former N scale collection, I'd wandered the aisles of the exhibition marquee with eyes wide, calculating what I could afford to buy as I prepared to delve into the world of Australian HO scale modeling. It was something I had wanted to do ever since I was a young boy caught up in the excitement of school holiday trips to Sydney by train. Central Station was simply the grandest station that ever did exist, and surely every other railroad company on earth must be trying to emulate what the New South Wales Railways had achieved. It was a blind-sided mix of one-eyed ignorance and bliss all wrapped together in a giant sesame seed bun! And somehow, I thought it would be wise to document it every step of the way.

The completed framework from 2 years ago.

From knocking-up the framework for a small bookshelf layout on my garage floor, to completing the layout in time for this year's 40th edition of the Brisbane Model Train Show, I've made my fair share of mistakes along the way. But like any good modeler, we simply put these discoveries down to trial and error. They are after all, what makes us better model railroaders in the long run. Not having a lot of room to build a HO scale layout in our small ocean view apartment, the 6' foot bookshelf layout with an additional 3' foot of staging became the limit for what I could construct. Try as I may, extending the layout beyond these dimensions just wasn't going to work. Those who have followed my layout's progress will appreciate that as in life, any good result only follows a lot of hard work.

The night time view of my near complete bookshelf layout.

As a writer, projects such as this blog always stretch your imagination as to where you can take it. Over the past two years I've courted numerous ideas that each required a time and money ratio that was simply beyond what I was able to entertain. There's only so many cottage model railway industries that the hobby can sustain, and in the end, each and every idea I came up with was a case of trying to reinvent the wheel. The amount of time and effort I have put into creating this blog however, is something that I shall be forever proud of. I can honestly say that with the amount of time I've spent creating the pages, links and writing these past 100 posts, I could easily have built this layout three times over!

In the end, Philden has been a fun layout to build, and one that I hope will stand above my desk for many years to come as a form of inspiration for my writing. With the final touches to be completed in the coming weeks, I'll be saving any further updates until after the layout makes its' public debut at the 40th Brisbane Model Train Show on May 6-7, 2017. Following the Brisbane Show, I will of course keep readers updated with the final two additions to this layout, those being the Neath Signal Box to be constructed on the concrete slab that presently stands beside the bus set-down area, and the steel receiving shed that will be constructed over the vacant siding opposite the cement plant. Each of these structures will continue to keep Philden looking fresh as I take it on the exhibition circuit over the coming years. And don't forget, this layout was built with reversible backdrops, meaning I can exhibit it from either side for a completely different perspective.

Finally, to all those readers who have bailed me out over these past two years by purchasing the models from me on eBay that I'd inadvertently discovered were either not compatible with the limited space I had to work with, or the era I was trying to place my layout in, I say a big thank you. After announcing that I had scrapped plans to add a second level extension to Philden, I sold almost everything overnight. I hope you were all happy with getting something for a fair price. To me, it is a reminder of how good this hobby has been to me. I always get enjoyment out of it, and it always gives you something back when you are ready to move onto the next project. For me, that is going to be a return to N scale, and I hope to have my next layout well underway by the end of this year.

Could there be a new blog on the way? I'm really not sure. With a new book project slated for me to start on this year, I'm mindful of burning the candle at both ends. I need some relaxation time too. As for a hobby? I couldn't recommend a better hobby than model railways. But don't just take my word for it, click on the construction page and start reading for yourself. There's 100 posts I've left for future readers to discover and be inspired by.

Until May rolls around, take care, and happy modeling!

See also; Celebrating the 50,000 Milestone!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Those Uh-Oh Moments

Sometimes things don't always go to plan. I'm sure everyone has heard of the saying 'you miss by an inch, you miss by a mile,' well.... in this instance, it's a case of 'I missed by 30 millimeters, may-as-well missed by 300.'

The extra gap required for the perspex barrier proved to be the downfall of any extension plans.

The reason behind this unforeseen glitch in calculations for my upper level expansion can be traced back to the clear perspex panels I added when I originally built my layout. Take a close look at the above photo and you will see the top view of the perspex sitting in the timber channel of my layout's frame. This allows the perspex to slide up and out whenever I want to operate or work on the layout. The uh-oh moment was that I should have allowed a few extra millimeters clearance in my track plan for the perspex panel to clear the upper level framework. Allowing for an indentation on each side of 15 millimeters, makes the upper level 30 millimeters narrower than the current level. Unfortunately this had a ripple effect with my proposed track plan.

30 mm less width soon becomes 300 mm less length with sidings and so on.

The ripple effect was that it altered the angle of the turnouts and the position of both tracks to keep them from being too close to the edge. As you can see in the above photo, sliding the base of the centre island platform to the right, in turn forces the number 2 platform track further to the right until it can no longer reach the end right corner of the layout plan, coming up about 300 millimeters shorter than I'd marked on my paper track plan.

My first thoughts turned to the 4 car Tangara set I had pre-ordered with Auscision Models. At 935 mm long, it was no longer going to fit. It was one of those uh-oh moments where despite my best intentions, I'd ended up in a dead-end street just the same. The Tangara order would have to be cancelled.

Changing the angle of the points then effects the angle of the track and the placement of each structure and so on.

The next uh-oh moment came courtesy of the angle of the pair of turnouts. My plan called for the number 1 platform road to also double as the lead track to the main industry on the upper level, a OneSteel receiving shed based on the impressive saw-toothed Wacol Carriage Shed laser cut kit building released by Walker Models. The position of the three adjoining turnouts was critical for this track plan to work, and the two staging lead tracks needed to align with the upper staging shelf visible in the bottom right of picture. The ripple effect was that the track plan now impeded on the designated space that I had allowed to model the shallow relief building. The only way to avoid this was to shorten the length of the building, or have one of the turnouts removed and reduce the line down to one track leading to staging.

These uh-oh moments have a way of sneaking upon you. No matter how much time and planning you put into building a layout, sometimes you have to wave the white flag. With everything I needed to commence constructing the upper level extension at the ready, the extra compromises needed to incorporate it on top of my current layout had me questioning why? Especially when the track plan for Philden was so good to begin with. Philden is about as small a HO scale bookshelf layout that can be built and operated for fun. Try going any smaller, and well.... you may as well jump down to N scale.

So with just 7 weekends until Philden is set to make its debut at the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show, I feel it is more important to forget any possible upper level expansion plans, and simply give my HO scale bookshelf layout the finish it deserves. That will involve cutting back the upper staging shelf view block, and instead giving the layout a high quality piano-top finish of richly stained Australian Jarrah from end to end. As for the steel shed? Funnily enough, it will fit on the spare siding that currently stands opposite my cement plant. I'll get to work building it after my layout makes its debut at the Brisbane Model Train Show in May.

Sadly, my newly purchased 86 class locomotive, Sydney double-decker electric set, overhead double stanchions and PECO points that were all purchased for the upper level expansion, suddenly find themselves without a future home. The amount of times during this layout's 2 year construction period that I've purchased a model, found it to be unsuitable, sold it, and then had to re-purchase a model that was more suitable has become a bit of a sore point with me, and tested the patience of my wife whom I'm also trying to get involved in the hobby. We're off to Railco in Brisbane this Saturday to purchase a new locomotive to alternate with 8243 in time for the Brisbane Show, as our list of pre-ordered Australian items that were promised last year and still won't be available before May has now reached the point of ridiculous. I'm happy enough to say that after Saturday, whatever HO scale items are in Philden's collection, are going to be good enough for me. Cancelling all my pre-orders, and selling my now unwanted electric rolling-stock that was to be for the upper level extension will at least put all of that money back into our bank account.

When I'm ready to start building a new layout in 2018, I know I'll be ready to try my hand at something a little different to Philden. Most likely I'm going to return to N scale, something of which I've been extremely familiar with over the past 30 years. Although whether it is of American, British or Continental outline, remains an exciting thought for the time being. Until next time, keep an eye on my eBay listings this Saturday 18th March as I list a lot of my as-new items for sale. The link is here, plus a list of what is left can be found on my Collectibles page.

See also; Weekend morning planning sessions and Visualising the upper level

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Review: Auscision Models JLX/NLJX Vans

I treated myself to a new model this week, as a small reward for having finally completed editing a manuscript for a fellow Author over the past year. With my scheduled now cleared for the remainder of the year, and a calendar that now includes two model train shows in 2017, I thought that Philden could really do with another box car to swap in and out at the goods shed. Auscision Models JLX/NLJX louvered van looked like it would tick all the boxes. So what did I think of this 56' foot New South Wales HO scale offering?

As always with Auscision, there is some rather nice underframe detail on the model.

Auscision's JLX/NLJX vans retail for $260 for a pack of four individually numbered vans. Not being sure what I would do with four identical models on such a small bookshelf layout, I chose instead to buy a brand-new State Rail liveried NLJX model being sold individually at the time by Alco-World in Sydney. It made adding another Australian prototype model a lot more affordable. Underneath, there is the usual high quality that I've come to expect from Auscision's models. Best of all, the center-beam underbelly frame on the JLX/NLJX vans makes it possible to view all this detail from side-on. Measuring 20.5 cm over the couplers, this is going to be the longest wagon or van that I will be able to operate on my 9' foot long bookshelf switching layout, based on using an 82 class locomotive (25.5 cm over the couplers) as my longest locomotive. So far it appeared that I was on to a winner.

Can you spot what's wrong with this model however?

The model rolled beautifully on my level track, and joining my small fleet of other Auscision models had no problem coupling on with even the lightest of touches. The bogies, (that's trucks for my U.S. readers), are the standout feature of this model. The detail extends to the point of the manufacturers cast iron raised lettering on the bogie side frames, something that gives this model a wow factor! The louvered panels, although not see-through, still look great when viewed through a camera lens. Unfortunately my camera also picked up one small problem. Can you see it in the photo above? Yes that's right, underneath the Kadee style coupler you can see that the white handled uncoupler arm had come loose from its hole and was dangling in mid-air.

Another loose part on a new model that needed to be fixed.

It's one of those things that you can sometimes miss with the naked eye, and after removing the van from the track and turning it upside down, it was clear that the small metal pin link that holds it in place in the hole immediately behind the coupler, had just come free. Getting the bastard back in with a pair of tweezers was trying at the best of times, and the thing would just pop straight back out with the slightest hint of movement. Eventually I was able to fix what was most likely a small issue missed at the factory, and applied a speck of plastic cement to hold the pin in place.

Fix it right, fix it once!

While doing this, I also noticed that the black air brake piping that hangs down beside the coupler box and connects to the brake piping that extends the length of the van, was also loose. The small bracket that is a part of the moulded piping wasn't attached to the coupler box frame at either end, and only further continued my run of bad luck with missing or broken pieces on new Australian models. With another speck of plastic cement applied to the area in question, the model now appears sturdy and not likely to cause any problem in the future.

How it should have looked.

Back on track again, you can see the difference that the air hose and uncoupling arm being attached in their correct positions has made. The waffle end panels on this louvered van also lend some uniqueness to what could otherwise be described as a boorish prototype. At one time there were a lot of vans running on the NSWGR with these near-identical louvered side panels, and although the background to the history of these vans is a bit hard to come by, many of these former NSW vans were eventually cut down and had their underframes recycled to become container flat wagons, (RKQX/RKQF conversions for these vans around the late 1990's early 2000's is the best information I've been able to come across so far).

One thing noticeably missing from the model is the shunters steps, that should be located one per side on opposite ends on the NLJX vans. The earlier coded JLX vans pre-1979 didn't have these, but the re-coded NLJX vans from 1979 on did. Justin Moy posted some excellent photos on weathering these NLJX vans and adding shunters steps on his Killawarra blog, so adding the shunters steps is now well and truly on my to-do list somewhere down the track.

This model is just begging for a Rustall treatment. Stay tuned.

The detail on the model is otherwise quite nice, with much of the fine print around the brake wheels and carriage side frames only readable under magnification. The wheels are metal RP25-110 36" inch scale wheels and the model is suitable for code 70, 83 and 100 rail on a radius as tight as 18" inches, which I think covers most HO scale modelers. The underframe detail is different on either side of the centerbeam as shown in the photos above and below, with the below photo showing the real metal chain used for the hand brake rigging. The all-over SRA Indian Red livery applied to these vans didn't stand up too well over time in the blistering Australian elements, and many vans simply ended up wearing a much faded blue or red coat of rust and peeling paint. Something I just know I'm going to have to emulate with my Rustall kit in the very near future!

I can only imagine how nice this model would be with opening doors. Oh, well.

Although the NLJX van is a worthy addition to my layout, I've kind of shrugged my shoulders with the doors on this model. It seems such a missed opportunity given that the doors are so big and wide, to not have made them able to open, when by comparison, there are many N scale box cars on the market that feature sliding doors. I love peeking inside models, and a pair of opened doorways makes a great model photography vantage point. Maybe its the inner-hobo in me, but parking a covered van beside my goods shed with the doors open stirs the imagination more than a box car that is, well.... essentially a box on wheels. Still, with some slight modifications, heavy weathering and perhaps even a graffitti attack or two, this model is going to come up a treat!

Review Card: Auscision Models JLX/NLJX 56' Louvered Vans

My Rating:


Final Thoughts: A nice take on what could be considered a boorish prototype. Aside from a few niggles, the model really could have benefited from opening doors, just to satisfy the hobo in us all.

See also; Auscision Models NCTY/NODY open wagon