Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Exhibition #1 Brisbane Beginnings

All is well in the universe. After a successful debut at the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show over the weekend of May 6-7, Philden is back home, unpacked, undamaged and once more standing proudly above my desk as I write this. Unbolting a 2.6 metre (or just under 9 foot long) layout, and carrying it down 5 flights of stairs before packing it carefully in the back of our hatchback for the 90 km trip down to Brisbane wasn't as daunting as I'd imagined. Upon arrival, it simply bolted back together without any fuss and ran like clockwork until the final closing announcement was made on Sunday afternoon.

One tight squeeze, and it just fitted. Denise was worried it would look like we'd stolen a hearse!

Although I primarily built Philden as a space-saving measure, I always had one eye on being able to take the finished layout to exhibitions. As such, the layout was designed to fit into the back of our Ford Mondeo hatch. Having measured the space available in the back of our hatchback 2 years ago when I first started construction, we had one moment where Denise and I held our breath as we started loading the car. The back seats don't quite fold-down flat, and the angle that the layout sat in the back of the car required the front seats to be moved forward ever so slightly. Fortunately we didn't have to set off with our knees pressed up against the windscreen! So with Carrie Underwood blaring on the car stereo, we made good time heading down the Bruce Highway against the traffic on a Friday afternoon and arrived at the Brisbane Showgrounds around 4 pm to set-up.

Friday night lights! A quick test after set-up to make sure it all worked.

Donning our flouro-yellow safety vests, Denise and I soon set to work putting my layout together. The floor of Brisbane Showground's Marquee proved impossible to find a patch of level ground. Fortunately the event organizers were better prepared than I was. There were plastic bins full of ply and timber off-cuts at the ready, and a fellow modeler soon appeared with a spirit level in hand. Just over an hour later, the layout was all wired-up and a quick test with one of my locos revealed all was well. So finding ourselves in Brisbane on a Friday night, we headed off to visit our daughter before the drive back to the Sunshine Coast.

Saturday morning before the doors opened. I thought the curtains looked like they needed ironing.

Saturday. Day one of the 40th running of the Brisbane Model Train Show found us waking early for another 90 km drive down to Brisbane. Carrie Underwood sang in the new day on the car stereo once more, and after a couple of hot meat pies and an iced coffee while the crowd steadily built outside, Philden began it's new life on the exhibition circuit.

I had to set up so close to Walker Models' stand because of the slope of the floor.

It didn't take long for the crowd to pour in, and by 10 am our friends Stuart and Mardi next to us at the Walker Models stand were already doing a roaring trade. Stuart and I thought that being side-by-side would enable Mardi and Denise some time to chat throughout the day. It wasn't until around 2.30 pm however that the crowd calmed down enough to say more than hi. James McInerney from Australian Model Railway Magazine stopped by for a chat, and it was nice to finally talk face to face with someone I'd only previously shared comments with over each other's blog.

Clyde-EMD power made a stunning return, only my 421 came back looking even better in the Interail livery.

Without any infra-red, auto-reversing gizmo to automate running trains, it was left to me, or Denise whenever she took over the throttle, to provide a continuous up-and-back parade of trains for the general public. Being a little unsure of what glitches I may have encountered on the layout's first outing, I elected to set the layout up exactly as it stands above my desk at home, with me standing out front to the side of the little staging shelf. Being that little closer to the public gave me a great insight into what caught their attention.

Dimming the lights during the show made for some great night scenes such as this one of the Xplorer at Philden Station.

Over the two days of the show, I could almost sense that moment where the viewing public had seen enough and were about to turn and walk away. So I chose that sense of feeling to dim the lights on the overhead LED strip using my remote control, and listen to them say in return, "Oh, its night time. And LOOK! There's little people waiting inside the station!" I think the waiting room on my railway station became the most photographed part of the layout, and it was a reminder to myself that it is the little animations such as these that captures the general public's attention. I doubt I would have been able to gauge people's reactions as closely had the layout's backdrop been reversed and the layout been displayed from the opposite side with me standing behind it.

Easily the most photographed scene on my layout over the weekend of the 2017 Brisbane Model Train Show.

There were a number of glowing comments I received from people throughout the weekend, such as fellow blogger Craig Mackie saying that the layout looked better in person than on the internet. Being a perfectionist however, there's a number of things that I need to tweak before Philden's next exhibition at the Pine Rivers Model Train Show in August.

Firstly, while focusing so much on decorating the layout's timber work with some authentic NSW railway memorabilia, I'd overlooked the need to include my layout's name anywhere. I lost count of how many people stood in front and read aloud, "All stations to Granville," simply because that's what the signs said. I need to add a name somewhere for people to know that the layout is called Philden, and then I can avoid all the questions such as; "is that a model of the Granville Bridge?"

Secondly, I'd never had the grain of wheat light bulbs run continuously for that long and for two days straight. By Sunday afternoon the light in the station waiting room was just starting to become visible through a crack in the roof. It seems the warmth given off from the grain of wheat light bulbs caused the wood glue in the roof of the model to dry out and shrink by the umpteenth of a millimeter, but enough to let some light through. This week I'm going to take them out and replace them with some softer LED's. Fixing the crack in the roof will be a piece of cake, and then that problem will be solved.

Thirdly, I got to talk to a lot of people. While some recognized me from this blog, most had never heard of it when I asked them. They all then proceeded to ask me for the web address. I didn't even have a pen and paper let alone a business card. So there's something else I'll have to look at.

Overall however, the layout's first exhibition was a success, and I enjoyed having my wife Denise play such a big part of it, from set-up right through to pack-down. Her thoughtfulness even extended to the point of making sure she took my phone, the car keys and my wallet when I arrived on Saturday morning, just so that I could concentrate on running my trains without any phone calls or distractions. When I did get the chance to go for a quick walk through the venue late each afternoon however, I'd invariably find that I didn't have my wallet on me, and there were some nice specials on offer too! Ah Denise, you know me too well.

Almost lost in the crowd on account of being one of the smallest layouts on display.

By the time the last train ran out of Philden Station on Sunday afternoon, there were zero derailments for the weekend and only one close call from a curious young hand who was trying to pick the horn from my Xplorer set that was parked on the staging shelf. Both Xplorer and said child remain unharmed, (just). What the 2017 edition of the Brisbane Model Train Show did provide however, was a set of memories that now stretch back to 1991, when I'd first moved to Queensland and had attended my first model train show only to discover that by comparison my own modelling skills were purely dreadful. By 2002, I returned with an N scale layout that was built atop a 4 door pine cupboard, called the C&NW Overton Subdivision and by comparison was on the better side of okay. I've only missed attending the Brisbane Model Train Show a handful of times since 1991, and Brisbane for me will always signal new beginnings. I moved to Brisbane when I met Denise, both our children were born there and now Philden now becomes my second layout to have debuted in the River City.

So 45 minutes after the show was declared over, Denise and I pulled out of the Brisbane Showgrounds with the layout once more packed safely away in the back of the Mondeo. Carrie Underwood was singing on the 90 km drive back up the Bruce Highway to make it a 540 km round trip weekend of Country, and the memory of this year's Brisbane Show will provide me with plenty of enthusiasm to not just make a few minor tweaks on Philden, but figure a way to make it look even better the next time the layout is exhibited.

Until the next post, take care!


  1. Have a check of the link, your layout has been featured mate. Thanks for such a wonderful layout! Have a great one!

    1. Well done Anthony, and thanks for including a shot of Philden at this year's Brisbane Model Train Show in your YouTube clip!

  2. Nice write-up Phil, good to see that it all went well. It's funny how you put your time and effort into a certain aspect and the public pick up on other little things you hadn't expected. The difficulties of referencing the blog when you want to direct people to more step-by-step photos of how you built/painted/weathered various stages was something I found when exhibiting last year too. Was thinking a small sign people can take a photo of with the blog address on it might be useful too.

    1. Good observation Ben. I'm already drawing up plans for a replica CountryLink sign to sit on top of the layout saying PHILDEN with THE SOUTH NORTH WEST LINE beneath it. That should totally confuse everyone as to where the layout is set. I was also thinking of ordering some El' Cheapo buisness cards online with my blog's address on it, and sit them in a card holder screwed to the chain barrier stands. That should also cater for any folks too shy to ask a question.


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