Philden is now home to the Blues Brothers following my latest arrival of an Auscision Models NSW 86 class electric locomotive in the Freight Rail livery. So with my staging shelf now in operation, it was time to pose 8633 beside my On Track Models 82 class diesel for the customary photo shoot.
Being a New South Wales Blues fan living behind enemy lines in Queensland, I thought it might be fun to pose my talking Rugby League Footy Mates dolls of Paul Gallen and Brad Fittler beside the locos before making their first side-by-side run together. Like the 82 class loco Paul Gallen is a big NSW front row forward, while Brad Fittler (also nick-named Freddy) was an electric player, who like the 86 class loco, is also now retired. So I've nick-named my NSW Blues locos Gal and Freddy. Anyone who had purchased the Footy Mate dolls during State of Origin time would now be well familiar with some of their off-bat sayings. So when Gal suddenly spoke up with "let's go out the back and tackle each other," I cleared the line and let them race.
|An electric loco in un-wired territory? What's more of a worry is the overhang from my cement plant!|
Passing Philden's cement plant at slow speed, the overhanging office looked a little too close to the 86 class's pantographs for comfort, and sure enough the lead pantograph soon came into contact with the plastic kit building. Luckily I had stopped the train just in time to avoid any damage, but I'll have to keep that in mind for when I add the finishing touches to the cement plant. If you notice in the background, there is another new addition to Philden, a Southern Rail Models NPRY cement hopper number 18208 in the FreightCorp livery, which now gives me 3 different NPRF/NPRY livery variations to run on my layout.
|"I've got you covered Freddy. Don't let those Queenslanders knock your block off."|
By the time both locos had passed the cement plant, it was obvious that the Auscision Models 86 class was the faster of the 2 locomotives. While both locos are exceptionally smooth runners, whatever motor is in the Auscision Models 86 class kicks into high speed a lot earlier than the On Track Models 82 class. Despite stopping them a couple of times to shoot a clear in-focus picture, 8633 easily reached the end of the platform at Philden Station first.
|"No-one can catch me Gal, I'm still the fastest retired locomotive going around."|
Re-posing the pair at Philden Station for a final photo, I soon cleared 8243 from the mainline and placed my Southern Rail Models Xplorer on the rails at the staging end of the layout.
|"Did you know I won the Golden Boot in 2000? True story."|
Those familiar with the fact that some Southern Rail Models Xplorer/Endeavour 2 car sets were wired incorrectly will understand that this causes the model to run in reverse direction to what your control pack shows. So the 86 class on the return journey was soon passing the Countrylink Xplorer coming from the other direction on the mainline. I'm now glad that for my small layout I didn't re-wire the polarity on the Xplorer as the instructions that came inside the box suggested. Using only 1 power controller I am able to simulate 2 trains passing each other, just for something a little different.
|The mouse-hole door exit to my staging shelf is now complete.|
As for the staging yard and layout transition? I'm glad to say that it is a success. The highway overpass disguising the mouse-hole door exit on my layout is finally doing what it was designed for, enabling trains to disappear from view. The painted black surround of the staging shelf helps disguise the transition as you peer down the layout to see where the track disappears. It simply looks like the train has disappeared beneath the overpass. I'm also glad I built the overpass high enough that the pantographs on the 86 class pass beneath it at full height. Despite having no plans to string overhead wires on Philden, it gives me the chance to run the 86 class until my as-yet unnamed upper-level extension is completed with overhead wiring.
|"Gal and the Blues, what a combo!" No, "Freddy and the Blues, what a combo!"|
The simple staging shelf extension has completely transformed operations on my layout. No longer are trains confined to the 6 foot visible portion of my model railway. Allowing them to disappear from view has opened up a lot of different ways to have some fun running trains, which on a small bookshelf layout like mine is what it's all about. Fun.
So with Gal and Freddy continuing to argue about who was the better player, I have to admit that like our Rugby League greats, our former NSW locomotives are each unique too. While the 82 class were being re-badged with Pacific National lettering in 2002, the 86 class electrics were all being withdrawn. The only exception came in 2004 when some 86 class were reinstated for use on the Bondi Junction underground turn-back project. But for someone who is just happy enough to stick with modelling the Countrylink era pre-NSW TrainLink, if I can say it's somewhere between 1993 and 2013, than for a small layout I consider it good enough. I'll feature a review of the Auscision Models 86 class soon, and also share a simple trick that I used for making sure my trains don't head over the falls at the end of my staging tracks. But as usual, that's a story for another day.
See also; Making staging look sensational, or Review: Auscision Models' 86 Class and Review: On Track's 82 class and Review: Southern Rail Models' Xplorer