Friday, 25 March 2016

CountryLink resumes Philden services

As Stephen King once wrote; sometimes they come back. Less than two months after the final Philden Xplorer left town, CountryLink have restored passenger services to Philden once more. Only this time, the period is the CountryLink Mark I livery as used between 1993-2007.

It's now 1994, and the South Northwestern Xplorer is making its scheduled stop at Philden.

In perhaps the biggest feel-good, good-news story of the year on Philden Model Railway, the 2 car South Northwestern Xplorer is once again pulling up at Philden Railway Station, somewhere in New South Wales. After reluctantly letting my Southern Rail Models Mark II livery CountryLink Xplorer go for a bargain price on eBay in the midst of a financial pickle, it seems that once more the hobby Gods have smiled down on me in the form of a Mark I Xplorer in the original CountryLink livery as worn between 1993-2007, at an equally enticing bargain price. I've always said that this hobby has a way of being good to me, and the old saying 'what goes around, comes around' certainly rings true in this case.

There's a lot to like about the Mark I CountryLink livery. It's clean, neat and now a modern classic.

The thing I like most about the original CountryLink livery, is that it represented a huge departure for railways in New South Wales in both the way they operated long distance trains, and certainly in the way they projected a clean, fresh corporate image to the Australian travelling public. The first new train to be born into this new corporate image in 1993 was the Xplorer, so named in a marketing exercise so as to tie it in with the existing, repainted XPT train fleet.

These are the kind of gorgeous models that my wife approves me looking at on the internet.

I have already posted a review of the now almost completely sold-out Southern Rail Models Xplorer based on the model I once owned in the Mark II RailCorp era livery. However, straight out-of-the-box, I think the Mark I livery won me over from a number of angles. Firstly, the livery captures a period in my life when I travelled extensively by train between Brisbane, Murwillumbah, Sydney and Melbourne. I just see that blue and teal pin-striping and immediately I recall all those wonderful memories of heading off into the night on an XPT. Secondly, the train represents a reminder of my Uncle Frank's involvement with the railways over more than three decades. Frank Overton was Reservations Manager for CountryLink at the time of the Xplorer's inception, and I'd often hear his stories of how he petitioned long and hard behind closed doors to reinstate passenger train services to the north west of NSW using a new train set. The result was the Xplorer, the newborn baby of the XPT fleet.

The number 1 end has the large CountryLink logo behind the door.

There are only small differences between the Mark I and Mark II Xplorer models. Most noticably being the single windshield wipers on the Mark I model as compared to the twin wipers on the Mark II, and the small cow catcher bar beneath the coupler box that I didn't recall being there on the Mark II CountryLink version.

The number 2 end just has the small CountryLink logo in front of the door.

After breaking the windshield wiper on the number 2 end of the train when removing it from the box, I once more cut away the foam packaging around the windshield area inside the box before gluing the wiper arm back on, and having to touch up the paintwork where the glue reacted to the painted surface. My advice to other Xplorer owners is to do the same to the foam insert inside the storage box.

Cutting the foam insert back will save you breaking a windshield wiper like I did when taking it from the box.

So with the Xplorer now firmly planted on the rails heading in and out of Philden, I really need to get a wiggle on to complete my station building to a 2002-2008 appearance, from when the 82 class were re-badged with Pacific National decals, to when CountryLink repainted their Xplorer fleet into the Mark II livery.

What I originally built my layout for, a 2 car CountryLink service coming and going.

Until I eventually expand with an upper deck, (and another railway station), the soon to be added removable staging yard will greatly expand the length of run my Xplorer can make on my bookshelf-style layout. For now, I can be content to know that although trains do occasionally leave layouts for a number of reasons, sometimes they do come back.

And finally, the view from my desk. Isn't she gorgeous?

Having had to say goodbye to this HO scale model once, I think this Xplorer will now join my 82 class locomotive on the protected species list. That is, if ever I head in another model railway direction in the near future, these two models shall remain untouchable on Philden's rails.

See also; Review: Southern Rail Model's Xplorer and The Last Philden Xplorer


  1. Hi Phil, I believe the cow-catcher bar you describe was part of the modificiations made - along with the coupler box - to the Xplorer set that was introduced out to Broken Hill in the mid-2000's to protect the train from hitting wildlife and livestock.

    I have to say, this livery seems to fit in a lot better with your other rollingstock too. Nice to see someone modelling the recent past :)


    1. Thanks Ben, and you're right. The original CountryLink livery does fit in so much better with my existing rollingstock. The 620/720 railcar set in CityRail livery that I've pre-ordered will be the perfect partner in crime for short passenger train services, (although I'm not sure where the green and cream timber paneled CPH rail motor set fits in). Thanks also for the tip about the cow-catcher bar. I wondered what it was there for.

  2. What is the length of the two car explorer?,
    Just wondering as I am planning a 2530mm x 400mm layout inspired by Philden and I need to know how long my staging has to be.
    Thanks :)

    1. I measured it as 600mm over the couplers. My platform that ends hard against the mirror is 640mm long and fits the 2 car Xplorer nicely. Make sure you allow a bit extra track length to clear any locomotives or rolling stock overhang from any adjoining points. I found 680mm of track to the rail join with a PECO medium turnout was cutting it a bit tight. Given that my layout is just 1860mm long, I'm allowing for my removable staging to be at least 900mm long to accommodate a pair of PECO medium turnouts and enough siding for the 2 car Xplorer to wait behind the scenes. That will bring my layout to 2760mm long x 340mm wide, so your plans sound about right. I hope that helps, and good luck with the layout. I'd really like to see it when its finished!


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