Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Signal Box Part One

I've purposefully held-off from building this NSW Signal Box kit despite having told everyone my bookshelf layout was finished. Regular readers of my blog would have noticed the vacant concrete slab in front of all the photos I've posted of busses pulling up beside Philden Station, and probably wondered why it was there.

The concrete slab for the signal box has stood vacant for almost 2 years.

Back when I was still constructing my layout, I purchased one of Walker Model's NSW small signal box kits, (the one based on Neath in the Hunter Valley), built the concrete slab to the dimensions of the model's base, and set it aside. All with good reason. Being a small layout I knew that one day the inevitable would occur, and I'd find myself sitting back, looking at the layout and ultimately becoming a little dissatisfied that it was now all finished. Well, that day did arrive, and rather than feeling disheartened that I still didn't have the room to expand, (or worse still tearing everything up and starting over), I took out the little signal box kit that I had set aside, and took my time enjoying working on something new.

The Walker Models NSW small signal box is a simple but rewarding laser-cut kit building.

The kit's inner shell glues together easily, and the outer laser-cut timber shell simply glues over the top.

In next to no time the building begins to take shape, although the stairs are a fiddly little item all on their own.

I next test-fit the stairs to ensure that everything aligned.

The instructions in the kit drew my attention to the roof pitch where the walls needed to be filed to the same angle as the roof-line. I simply used a sharp hobby knife to angle the top of the walls and also the roof pieces so they fitted perfectly.

After completing the basic shell of the building, it was time to consult my own photos to decide how I would finish the little signal box. Those who read my final Railway Reminiscing post on Neath over on my author blog, will appreciate that I wanted to try and capture the essence of what Neath Signal Box looks like today. I wanted a structure that would complement Philden Railway Station, rather than trying to model the signal box exactly. So the photo below served purely as a guide.

Neath Signal Box in the NSW Hunter Valley, as I photographed it on a visit in May 2016.

Look closely beyond the rundown appearance of the small stairway, and the first thing you notice is the metal security screens bolted over the windows. They have obviously done their job when it comes to stopping rocks being thrown through the glass windows. Also, the signal box door looks as though it had been replaced at some point. As it was nothing like the door that came supplied with the kit, I simply made a plain door using some 2 mm balsa wood. With my layout set between 2002 and 2005, I wanted to include these modern touches on a still existing remnant from the steam era.

I used some silver mesh ribbon glued to the inside of each window frame to get the desired look.

The ribbon was the same one that I used to construct the chain mesh fence along the cement plant siding, (see a between shows refresh for a recap). I cut and then glued each piece to the inside of the window frame for a neater appearance. The chain ribbon is see through and provided such a good effect, that I didn't bother fitting the clear window panes on the building.

I then put the finished security screen clad windows aside to paint the signal box and roof.

I next painted the building in matching colours to my photographs, of which the weatherboard colour also happened to be the matching shade of cream on my existing A-4 station. I used Tamiya XF-11 J.N. Green for the bottom brickwork and fascia boards, and a well watered down Senco Acrylic Off White for the signal box weatherboarding. The roof received a quick-and-easy treatment from my trusty silver paint pen, and when dry, it glued into position with a generous smear of craft glue.

The finished result looks pretty neat in broad daylight, and captures a lot of the feel from the prototype.

The silver bracket and square panel at the base were just leftover bits from my junk box.

I took the painted model outside to photograph it in broad daylight, although it does look a little out of place pressed against Caloundra's skyline instead of a small Hunter Valley town. More importantly, building the little signal box has breathed some fresh life back into my small layout.

Although I added some clutter to the building courtesy of some leftover bits from my junk box, the model is still far from finished. Next up I will add an LED light before installing the signal box beside Philden Station. To replicate the photo a little better, there is also some bright orange plastic safety barrier mesh and a white post and wire fence alongside the track to be added. While in the odd-shaped corner alcove of the building there is a twiggy frame of a dead bush clinging to the side of the signal box. They're both small details that will give the model a big dose of atmosphere. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

See also; Railway Station Part Six


  1. Neat job Phil. But you need some support struts for the awning over the walkway. Cheers

    1. The kit has a singular support post that you can see at the corner of the platform handrails, but strangely the prototype photo you can see doesn't have one. It looks like some electrical conduit or a very thin down-pipe coming off the roof that goes down between the stairway and the signal box cladding. Or it could be a steel support strut at the non-stair end of the platform roof. I was going to copy this in model form and try to keep the remaining platform looking a bit 'rough as guts' just like the photo of Neath signal box. Let me know what you think after the next post when its all finished. It's the first time I've ever attempted to make something that resembles the real life version, and I must admit, it's kind of a cool challenge for a freelance modeller.


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