Operations & Roster

Here's an overview of how I operate such a small layout

Philden is a fictional model railway set in New South Wales, Australia. The layout is set between 2002-2005 and designed to be the smallest possible HO scale bookshelf layout that could simultaneously accommodate a modern 2 car Australian passenger train and a single diesel locomotive capable of performing some simple to rather complicated switching operations. The 9 foot long bookshelf layout features two separate scenes. A 3' foot scene containing two simple stub-ended tracks controlled by an on/off toggle switch that also double as staging, and a 6' foot portion of operable layout that includes a variety of sidings.

CountryLink Xplorer


Built by ABB Transportation, Melbourne between 1993-1995
514 hp Cummins KTA-19R prime mover - top speed 145 km/h
HO scale model by Southern Rail Models

This train is a favourite of mine. The now sold-out models in real life were introduced to New South Wales in 1993 to restore passenger services to the north-west of the state. The trains were capable of being operated in two, three or four car sets and were also able to be divided en-route to head to two different destinations. Just for kicks, I'll often pull out a CountryLink timetable and simulate train movements to and from my station to mimic a train running from Sydney's Central Station to Moree, Armidale, Griffith or Canberra. My humorously named South North West Xplorer heads wherever it wants to, and is decorated in the Mark I Countrylink livery as introduced in 1993 that lasted right up until 2007 when the trains were repainted into the Mark II livery.

42109 - NSWGR 421 Class


Built by Clyde Engineering, Sydney between 1965-1966
1,800 hp EMD 16-567C prime mover - top speed 114 km/h
HO scale model by Auscision Models
 (read my review here)

There's something about those classic American-styled streamlined locomotive noses that just captivates train enthusiasts around the world. Down Under we just call them Bulldogs. The New South Wales Government Railways' 421 Class were unique however, in that they have an operational flat cab on their number 2 end, looking more like they are two very different locomotives in one. Only ten of these EMD equipped locos were made, and all were withdrawn in 1986/87. Ten years later, four were returned for service in 1997 for the long defunct Northern Rivers Railroad. Later bought-out by its successor Interail in 2002, 42109 would continue working in its colourful rainbow livery up until an engine fire placed it out of use in 2011, making it a staple on my 2002-2005 roster.

42206 - NSWGR 422 Class

model coming 2019

Built by Clyde Engineering, Sydney between 1969-1970
2,000 hp EMD 16-645E prime mover - top speed 124 km/h
HO scale model by Auscision Models
review coming 2019

The twenty 422 Class locos built for the NSWGR by Clyde Engineering, were the first double-ended box cab locomotives designed and built in Australia. Featuring a two-stroke roots blown V16 engine that was more often heard before it was seen, they were largely confined to the southern lines whilst in government service up until 1995, when the entire fleet was loaned to National Rail during its formation years. Between 1999-2001, all twenty class members were sold to private operators, including 42206 which joined the Northern Rivers Railroad stable in 1999. 42206 would later pass into Interail ownership in 2002, but in 2018 the survivor still retains its colourful rainbow livery for current owner Aurizon. On my layout, 42206 is a staple of operations on my 2002-2005 roster.

JL406 - NSWGR 442 Class

model coming 2018

Built by AE Goodwin, Sydney between 1970-1973
2,000 hp Alco 12-251C prime mover - top speed 120 km/h
HO scale model by Auscision Models
review coming 2018

The five JL Class locos to enter service in late 2001, were the result of Great Northern Rail Services overhauling five of the fourteen ex-NSWGR 442 Class locos (from the full fleet of forty) it purchased from the government owned Freightcorp. JL406 became one of only three ex-442 Class locos to be repainted in the attractive CFCLA livery. All were subsequently purchased by Chicago Freight Car Leasing (CFCLA) after Great Northern collapsed in 2002. Between 2003-2004, CFCLA stripped twelve of the former 442 Class locos for use in their GL Class rebuild program, with JL406 sadly being included by end of 2004. On my layout however, JL406 is still alive and well on my 2002-2005 roster.

The Cement Train



NPRY/NPRF hoppers built by Mittagong Engineering 1978-1981 and later Comeng 1987
HO scale model by Southern Rail Models

The cement train provides the main source of traffic on my layout. Their relative short size and interesting shape make them a personal favourite of mine, and you'll almost always find them shunted at the Cement Australia plant in Philden Yard. Some original 1979 built NPRY hoppers still survive to this day in their weathered silver aluminium finish with L7 logos. Their 1987 built Comeng NPRF counterparts differed only slightly, unlike the NPCF Tulloch built hoppers, of which only 10 were built back in 1973. These were later repainted white by Freight Rail and passed into Pacific National ownership in 2002. As such, I run a mixture of these unique hoppers as a block cement train.

NPCF hoppers built by Tulloch, Sydney, 1973
HO scale model by Casula Hobbies

The Steel Train



NSWGR NCTY open coil steel wagon, build dates unknown
HO scale model by Auscision Models

The steel train became a late addition to my layout, thanks to the release of the NCTY open wagons, which were effectively former NSWGR NODY open wagons with the doors removed and cradles fitted inside to carry two coils of rolled steel from the steel works at Port Kembla. The NCNX coil steel wagons also feature on my layout, and these were capable of carrying more than two steel coils, while the tarp support brackets enabled tarpaulins to be tied over the wagon after loading. In latter years these were cut off. On my layout, the steel coils are unloaded for trans-shipping on the concrete apron beside the cement plant. 

NSWGR NCNX coil steel wagon, build dates unknown
HO scale model by Auscision Models

The RH/RV coil steel containers were the next evolution of carrying steel coils, with the lift-off top lid of the short height container earning them the nickname of 'butterboxes'. They were built in batches from 1995 onward under the National Rail program and all passed into Pacific National ownership post-2002. On my layout, two of these are loaded on each NQTY container wagon, making for an interesting addition to my steel train.

National Rail RH/RV coil steel containers, built between 1995-2005
HO scale model by Auscision Models

The Container Shuttle



Freightcorp NQTY container flat wagons, built by ANI Engineering 1998
HO scale model by Auscision Models

The NQYY/NQTY container wagons were the result of 190 former 15.1 metre long NODY open wagons being converted to skeletal container flat wagons by ANI Engineering for Freightcorp back in 1998. The wagons fitted with automatic twist locks were later coded NQTY. In real life they were at first confined mainly to the Sydney area before the Patrick Portlink service was discontinued and they began to be spread far and wide. As Philden only has a small inter-modal capacity alongside the concrete loading apron beside the cement plant, the container shuttle service provided only consists of a few wagons being positioned at a time, or in some cases attached to the rear of the cement train or steel train. Although I plan to add a couple more varieties of container flats to my roster in the future, for now the NQTY's are the most worked rollingstock item on my layout.

20' foot and 40' foot high cube domestic containers, various build dates
HO model by Auscision Models

Another favourite loading that I operate on Philden is the Australian 20' foot side door containers. These containers look visually interesting compared to the plain sides of the domestic shipping containers, and enable goods to be unloaded directly from the train courtesy of their 4 side opening doors. They also add a splash of colour to the layout from a modeller's perspective!

20' foot Australian domestic side-door containers, various build dates
HO model by Auscision Models
 (read my review here)

Here's a look back at some of my past operating posts

Here's a look back at some of my past reviews