Sunday, 24 June 2018

Small repairs, big ideas


Fresh back from taking my layout to its fifth model railway exhibition, I had the dreaded task of moving house during the past week. Having built this layout to travel, you'd think that moving it from one apartment to another apartment on the other side of town wouldn't pose a problem. Maybe you could put it down to tiredness or fatigue, but despite leaving the layout to last, when it came to re-assembling the layout in its new location, I damaged the connecting track between the two sections.

The yet to be ballasted track on the new extension was only held in place with a few 9 mm fixing nails, and while reassembling the layout, it somehow twisted and ripped the nails through the plastic sleepers (ties). Being careful to separate the two sections to assess how to fix it then resulted in one of the rails prying free of the moulded sleeper plates and also damaging the concrete retainer wall on the mouse hole overpass. One of the signature gum trees then cracked a branch after I forgot to remove the perspex panel when lying the layout on its side to attach the leg panels. I can put this down to tiredness on my part. And finally, I noticed a lamp post beside the goods shed isn't working. Not wanting to waste time, I simply cut the track back to the soldered power feeds (as can be seen above), and reassembled the layout to be a problem for another day.

The removed damage section of track soon got me thinking how I could open up the new extension.

With the last box now unpacked, and the new apartment already feeling like home, it was time to assess the damage. Photos can be deceiving. Not only do they hide the scratches and gouges to the balsa retaining walls from my mini track disaster, but they also make the above photo of the 3 tracks appear wide and inviting. Truth is, it isn't. I had a lot of trouble operating within such a confined shadow box at both the Brisbane and Toowoomba Model Train Shows, even with something as simple as switching wagons from one track to the other. There just isn't enough room for hands to work beneath the layout lid in a section that measures only 800 x 300 x 300 mm. So before making some small repairs, I stopped to make a list of what I wanted to achieve, not only with the new extension, but with the layout as a whole.

Number One - The current mainline causes a pinch point as it passes through the mouse hole. Not only does the bend create a tight fit for my 2 car Xplorer to pass through, but on a quiet day I can actually hear the flanges squeal on the rails. Its not the sort of sound effects I was aiming for on my layout. By removing the L/H medium point, I can realign the mainline to a more gentle alignment where the middle track currently stands. This would allow me to build a more substantial overpass to disguise the opening on the new section, and provide a 100 mm wide x 650mm long space to construct a proper station building rather than resort to a 3D photo backdrop like my original plans. The cement plant road would then follow the alignment along the waterfront to my fake port authority lead track, ridding me of a clumsy 2 car siding while still being able to use a toggle switch to isolate the passenger or freight train. Operationally, its not much of a loss. Scenically, it sounds like a big win. I'm already thinking, do I take my time and try scratch-building a modern Countrylink station building such as the one at Coffs Harbour? Or can I kit-bash the Walker Models NSWGR A6 railway station building to fit into this space?

Though not clearly visible, this gum tree now has a large, but fixable, crack through the thick upper trunk.

Number Two - The poor gum tree by the signal box suffered a lightning strike when the perspex panel dislodged while setting the layout up again. Fixable? Yes. But the Walker Models Australian Terrace House kit I have waiting to be constructed was going to go between the signal box and where the gum tree stands anyway. Maybe I should just get a wiggle on and build it now the big move is over, and relocate the repaired gum tree complete with a new 'bees nest' to the backyard, along with Craig Mackie's scratchbuilt Hills Hoist clothesline of course!

The lamp post to the right of the goods shed stopped working. I have spare replacements on hand, but...

...wouldn't it look better to do something more with the siding beside the goods shed?

Number Three - The lonely lamp post beside the goods shed stopped working by the end of the Toowoomba Show, and is noticeably on a bit of a lean. I could pop a new one in its place, but do you see all that prime layout space between the working wire fence and the goods shed? Wouldn't it just look so much better if I could model some sort of industry there that wouldn't impede the view from this side of the layout yet offer some more operational interest?

This photo shows the angle of the new mainline alignment and the space I have alongside the left hand siding.

Number Four - See all that space alongside the siding against the blue sky? I've been wanting to do something with this siding since the beginning. Only its way too narrow to add a grain silo for my XGAY hoppers. Perhaps all it needs is the right backdrop to add a sense of depth.

So long as I can pull myself away from our new view that is...

The new waterfront view from our apartment balcony.

Swapping a high rise apartment at the top of Caloundra for a quieter waterfront location in nearby Golden Beach was an exhausting process. But with less stairs, and in my opinion a better view, I can now sit back and enjoy the view.

Protected from the morning sunlight, the layout gets prime viewing of the Pumicestone Passage.

The layout once more gains prime position in our apartment. Only this time with water views looking back towards Caloundra and across the Pumicestone Passage. I really hope that nice days aren't going to prove too much of a distraction for getting work done on my layout! I've never had the chance to live in such a nice location, and the water is literally only 25 metres from our front door. There's a 2 person kayak in our garage, fishing rods and folding chairs for if I can't seem to get anything done on the layout. So it will be interesting to see how slow I progress with my above four to-do's.

And with more room to move, the layout is already looking right at home.

Which brings me to the final item on my list...

Number Five - Me. To be perfectly honest, I feel stuffed. Moving house with a sore back and troublesome knees and shoulders, on top of running a small business that is keeping both Denise and I exhausted, has managed to push me beyond exhausted. I need a break!

Readers of my author blog over at phillipoverton.blogspot.com may have been surprised by my last post in May this year on ending a career positively. But when it comes to writing, that is exactly what I have decided to do. I've burnt the candle at both ends since setting out to establish myself as a full-time writer back in 2005. It's now 2018, and I'm certainly no closer to doing so then when my first novel was released in 2007. In that time I've released 15 books, with another one almost ready for release, and financially speaking its become obvious that this isn't going to be the answer for me to transition gently into retirement.

In three weeks I'm heading off through south west Queensland, across western New South Wales and down into Victoria for a weeks break, along the way visiting all the railway stations I've always wanted to photograph. It's a chance for me to get away from it all, to feel small against the wide open spaces of Australia that I've modelled Philden after, and recharge my batteries. Naturally it will provide me with enough material to finish a long-time project I have been working on, but beyond that readers can probably expect one final book from me sometime next year. Its sad in a way, but read my blog post here and you'll appreciate where the sentiment comes from.

Then it's on to planning next year's exhibitions. Do I take Philden to just one model train show and make it a good one like this year's Rosehill Show in Sydney? Or will that just be a waste of time given that there were so many great NSW layouts already on display? Do I take it to Toowoomba again in 2019? Or the Brisbane Model Train Show in the new venue? Bundaberg or the Pine Rivers Model Train Show that I enjoyed so much in 2017 and is only a short trip down the Bruce Highway for me? They're all good questions, and for once it will be nice if these are the only problems I have to sort out.

Finally, there's the new release model locomotive conundrum. When does the point come where you say this will probably be the last locomotive I purchase ever? Probably never! Beyond adding the 442 class, I'm keen to hear what Auscision Models have planned next.

Well, I really should get to fixing the track before Philden's next outing at the Stafford Heights Baptist Church Model Train & Hobby Show on August 10 & 11, but its such a lovely day outside, so I think I'll take a walk.

See also; The Port becomes operational

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