Sunday, 3 July 2016

Weekend morning planning sessions

I love waking up on the weekends. Usually my day begins with a cup of tea at my desk and a quick check of what's happening in the world on the internet. And invariably I turn on the display lights on the bookshelf layout that straddles my desk. That in itself is usually more of a distraction than the internet. Having attended the Gold Coast Model Train Show the previous weekend, today my thoughts turn to my own layout, and what my wife Denise had suggested I should do to Philden, and that is; constructing another level. As you can see in the above photo, a small high-rise apartment lounge room doesn't lend itself well to a large layout. The compromise for sprawling ocean views is that you don't have room for a sprawling layout, but if a drew up plans for an upper-level extension before I add my 3 foot removable staging shelf to the right of picture, then I may just be able to double the size of my layout, without taking up any more space.

As you can see in the above photo, the height of the present layout is a concern for me anyway, especially when I take this to exhibitions. While the layout being able to straddle my desk may work for me at home, it's a bit of a stretch asking the smaller members of the viewing public to strain their necks to view it at the current rail viewing height of 1220 mm above the ground. Presently the base of the varnished timber framework stands at 1150 mm above ground level. By reducing the leg height by 120 mm, the base of the varnished timber framework will then sit 1030 mm above ground level and provide me with a more enjoyable rail viewing height of 1100 mm, while still leaving enough room beneath for my desktop items.

By substituting 39 mm timber instead of 70 mm timber for any possible upper level extension framework, the 1330 mm base height of the upper level would provide a rail viewing height of 1370 mm from ground level, only 150 mm higher than what the rail viewing height of my layout is now. In total, the two decks combined would then stand 1600 mm tall, or roughly 5 feet 2 inches above ground level. It could work.

The measuring tape and fluorescent marker show the platform length required on my upper level expansion.
In contrast to the rural quaintness of Philden, the new extension could involve modelling catenary and hanging overhead wires. The measuring tape and fluorescent marker pen on the lid of my present level give a clue as to what I have in mind for my upper level expansion, an obviously much longer platform. In doing my homework thoroughly before embarking on my next modelling adventure, I used Wikipedia to calculate the car lengths of the various HO scale Australian passenger trains that are on the market as of now, or are set to be released in the very near future. Each would have to fit the CountryLink era between 2002-2008 that I have gravitated towards over the course of building this layout. So that ruled out Southern Rail Models NSWGR interurban U-Sets that were retired by 1996, and the Eureka Models CPH/CTH railmotor set that once chugged into Philden but has since departed for greener pastures down the line. Currently I have a 2 car CountryLink Xplorer set that operates on Philden, and it was interesting to compare the following train lengths to determine what sized trains could be accommodated on a stub-ended New South Wales station that could be designed to fit a 6'1" bookshelf layout such as mine.

  • CountryLink Xplorer by Southern Rail Models. In real life, each car length measures 25.25 metres long, and a 2 car set in 1:87 HO scale measures 58.04 cm long from end to end. An obvious candidate since I already have one.
  • CountryLink XPT by Auscision Models. In real life, the two end power cars measure 17.35 metres long, while the 5 passenger cars that make up a 7 car working set each measure 24.2 metres long, and a 7 car set in 1:87 HO scale measures 178.96 cm long. With a layout length of 188 cm, and removable staging still only bringing my total layout length to 278 cm, it obviously ruled itself out of contention.
  • CityRail NSWGR U-Set by Southern Rail Models. In real life, each car measured 20.57 metres long, and a 4 car set in 1:87 HO scale measured 94.6 cm long which again is too long for what I had in mind. These electric sets had a long life operating interurban trains out of Sydney, being first introduced in September 1958 with the last of these sets withdrawn in November 1996.
  • CityRail NSWGR 620/720 2 car diesel train by Eureka Models. In real life each car measures 18.67 metres long, and a 2 car set in 1:87 HO scale measures 42.9 cm from end to end, made it a perfect candidate if I were modelling Newcastle Station where they saw out their final years of service up to 2007. So this train passed the test.
  • CityRail NSWGR V-Set by Auscision Models. In real life, these double-decker trains operate in either 4 or 8 car sets, depending on peak or off-peak services on longer interurban runs out of Sydney. With a car length of 23.96 metres, a 4 car set in 1:87 HO scale measures 110 cm long, which is way too long for what my staging yard will be able to accommodate. A real pity given that these are one of my all-time favourite trains.
  • CityRail NSWGR S-Set by Minimodels (Bergs Hobbies). In real life, these double-decker trains operated in either 2, 4 or 8 car sets, with the 2 car sets being predominantly used on the Carlingford and Richmond Lines for connecting services from either Clyde or Blacktown, and during the 1980's were even used on some local services in the Newcastle area. With each car being 20.22 metres long in real life, a 4 car set in 1:87 HO scale measures 93 cm long, while a 2 car set measured just 46.4 cm in length. Introduced in 1972, they were refurbished in the 1990's with yellow ends and destination screens and almost 200 cars still remain in service as of 2016. Lengthwise, a 2 car set also passed the test.
  • CityRail Tangara T-Set by Auscision Models. These double-decker trains also operate in either 4 or 8 car sets on suburban services across Sydney plus peak hour intermediate services on interurban runs out of Sydney. With a shorter real life car length of 20.32 metres, a 4 car set in 1:87 HO scale measures 93.5 cm long, making them only 35 cm longer than my 2 car Xplorer set. With some careful placement of overpass retaining walls leading into staging, it may still be possible to make a 4 car train disappear from sight.

Thanks to the recent sale of my CPH railmotor model, I would be able to pre-order a 620/720 railcar set, a 4 car Tangara set or the Sydney suburban S-set, all of which could co-exist nicely beside my 2 car Countrylink Xplorer train.

The measuring tape to the right shows the length required for my staging shelf.

Going up a level on a bookshelf layout is a whole lot easier than going up a level on a room-sized layout, and could be done without the need to check the gradients on each section of climbing track or construct a complicated and space-sapping helix, thanks to an amazing model railroaders tool that is affordable to everyone. The Hand of God, or HOG shelf as I like to call it. The Hand of God is an affordable and easy way to transport wagons, locomotives or even full length trains between levels. You simply pick the train up from the track on one level, and place it on the track on the other before making the train appear once more to the viewing public. Obscured the staging shelf from view with either a view block or a curtain is a simple trick that is easier than pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

See also; Visualising the upper level and Those Uh-Oh moments


  1. How about using cassettes to move rolling stock between levels?

    1. A cassette is just one thing I will be experimenting with when I construct the staging shelves. Another is creating some kind of manually or mechanically operated lift. As the levels will be only 30 cm apart, I could then wind the entire shelf up and down until the tracks align with the level above or below. I'm envisioning some kind of unique steampunk mechanism that could ultimately become a talking point in its own right.

  2. Phil, this might be what you are after to solve your two-level storage siding problems.
    James McInerney

    1. Excellent idea! A display cabinet and rotating storage shelf in one. I wonder how much these will cost in Australian Dollars? Thanks for the head-up James, I'm looking into it right now.


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