Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ingredients for a layout


With my layout now assembled and safely carried up 5 flights of stairs to our top floor apartment, it is time to think of all the ingredients I need to cook up a fantastic model railway. Fortunately, I had saved all my pennies for the past year for a once-in-a-lifetime shopping spree at this year's Brisbane Model Train Show. What I came back with was enough to turn the blank canvas above, into the trolley full of model train ingredients below.

I always have a space or use in mind for everything I purchase. Its so important to get the right balance when designing a small layout.

Rather than just simply cluttering up an empty layout board with a showcase of goodies, unpacking your prized models is one way to visualize the scale of what it is you are about to build. After all, this is only a small sized HO scale layout, and like every good plan, everything fits when its on paper. There is no point in buying an array of kit buildings and fancy rollingstock that simply will not fit on your layout.

I couldn't wait to move all my boxes of train junk when the layout came into my apartment. I just had to see how everything was going to look.

Planning a model railway is a bit like baking a cake. First you have to buy all the right ingredients. To put it in perspective, I have just 6 feet of empty board to play with. That's not much longer than my desk. At only a foot wide, any line-side structures or even a railway station will come at the expense of track space. That is why most bookshelf layouts will model shallow relief buildings set hard against the backdrop. My plan to make the backdrop reversible still leaves me with room for 3 tracks, but I also need to allow enough lead track for a locomotive to shunt the cement plant, and clearances for the station platform and goods shed. That's why I set my plans in concrete before I started work on this project.

Cement hoppers for the cement works? Check.

I had my sights set on building a cement plant as Philden's centrepiece after seeing Southern Rail Models' NPRY New South Wales cement hoppers. In real life, the cement trains are often short, single loco hauled affairs. One of the cement works that these trains run to and from is in the Southern Highlands of NSW at a place called Maldon. And with my layout called Philden (a combination of my first name Phillip, and my wife's first name Denise), I've already made a subconscious connection that will leave some wondering where they may have heard of it before. The kit I will base the lineside operation of my fictitious cement works on is a Faller Old Cement Mixing Plant. At a height of 222 mm, it will fit beneath the perspex lid I have planned for the layout by just 8 mm, while the width will take up all 115 mm between the number 2 track and the layout edge. Cutting it fine? Yes. But when planned for, they are two perfect ingredients for a layout of this size.

Correct rollingstock for a small layout? Check.

Philden Railway Station will see a Southern Rail Models 2 car Countrylink Xplorer passenger train arriving and departing from the platform on the mainline. At 600 mm long, the 2 car train needs the platform at the non-escape end of my layout to be just a touch longer, and also the mainline to have just over 600 mm clearance at the escape end should I ever feel like operating without my removable staging yard and the mouse-hole door closed. So the PECO code 100 double-slip shown on my life-sized plans above needs to be situated in the middle of the layout. To set the layout in modern times, I'm using code 100 concrete sleeper flex-track for the mainline, and code 100 timber sleepers for the rest. For the railway station, I chose a Model Train Buildings NSW A-4 weatherboard station laser-cut wood kit. When constructed, the station building will be 250 mm long and look proportional to the 620 mm platform. They were also able to make some authentic custom made station signs to say PHILDEN. Finally, with the Xplorer out of the way, my On Track Models NSW 82 class locomotive will be able to shunt the cement works, goods shed and access the locomotive dock for stabling overnight if needed. On Track Models also put out a nice model of a V/Line VLCX 40' louvre van. I couldn't help myself, these were tramps that made their way throughout Australia on the standard gauge lines and being a relatively shortish goods wagon were perfect for my layout.

Even without my removable staging attached, I still want to be able to push some wagons around the yard once the layout is complete.

So there you have it. Despite only having 183 x 30 cm of modelling space to play with, the secret ingredients for designing a small railroad are; 1 - plan everything to fit. And 2 - avoid overcrowding your layout at all costs.

Although the next month will see me with a stack of research to do as I head to Melbourne to ride as many trains as I can before I sit down to write my next book, I may just find some time to either start laying the road base for my track or paint the backdrop sky blue. I do know one thing for sure. With the construction of the frame work behind me, I now have the right ingredients to start building my layout.


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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil