Philden Museum



Since this blog first launched in May of 2015, there have been a number of variations and reincarnations of my modelling. After walking away from a fledgling career as a novelist to document my journey into the world of Australian HO scale model railways, Philden Model Railway has evolved from one modeller's ramblings into its' own brand of model railway books.

Always limited to the space available to the average apartment modeller, along the way my layouts have grown in complexity, and general appearance. As much time is spent in making each finished layout appear as an interactive piece of furniture, as there is in constructing the modelled portion of the layout itself.

PHILDEN: somewhere in outback NSW

SCALE: 1:87 HO / ERA: early 2000's / LIFESPAN: 2015-2019 / EXHIBITIONS: 8

The other half of Philden is my wife Denise. Very early on when deciding upon that all important name for the layout, we went with Phil (the first half of Phillip) and den (the first half of Denise). Philden just so happened to be available as a blogging domain, and only 3 months later would also become the name of our cleaning business in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. To our friends and clients we were effectively Philden whenever we walked into the room, and the name still sticks today.

Together, my wife and I attended 8 model railway exhibitions in south east Queensland with the first Philden layout, and along with seeing Philden grace the cover of the August 2018 edition of Australian Model Railway Magazine they remain some of the greatest memories a modeller could ask for.

The first Philden layout was built to be portable should we move ever move, which came in handy for transporting the layout to model train exhibitions. The problem was, that folding the back seats flat in our Ford Mondeo hatchback created a sloping angle. The main body of the layout then had to rest between the front seats, which in turn needed to be moved forward making driving uncomfortable. Whenever Philden hit the road in our black Mondeo, it looked like we were driving a budget hearse on our way to a funeral, and we did get the occasional strange look from passing motorists.







The track plan for the original Philden layout was a total length of 2600 mm.

Prior to writing the first of my Philden Model Railway Presents books, this blog became a diary of works in progress over the life of the layout. From planning to eventual demolition, here are some bonus behind-the-scenes articles that didn't find their way into the final draft...

...and prior to starting down the long and winding road to Philden Beach, I converted Philden's staging shelf into a scenic Beach Extension. The completed module was only ever exhibited attached to Philden once, and was intended to be repurposed as part of the new layout. Instead it spent the next 4 years holed up in my wardrobe awaiting a decision on whether I would do something with it one day, finally coming out of the closet at the 2023 BRMA Convention in Brisbane for perhaps it's final showing.




After four years of blogging and eight model railway exhibitions, Philden was dismantled following the 2019 Brisbane Model Train Show. Philden then became the focus of my first model railway book, Build a Bookshelf Layout published in 2021.

While the layout may now be history, the process of building Philden is outlined from start to finish in this colour 72 page book, and is a great example of what you can achieve within the confines of a small layout. After four years, the layout had served its purpose. It was fun to build, presented well and I was able to exhibit a layout for the first time since my N scale days back in 2002-2005.

PHILDEN ST YARD: a slice of Melbourne

SCALE: 1:87 HO / ERA: early 2000's / LIFESPAN: 2021-2022 / EXHIBITIONS: nil

What a great layout this is, was, I mean still is... I can say that, because although Philden Street Yard was set in inner Melbourne around the turn of the Millenium, building the layout with a removable backdrop turned out to be a stroke of genius.

With a new backdrop and a few subtle changes, Philden Street Yard was magically transported in early 2023 to the fictitious NSW North Coast town of Philden Beach. Before that however, Philden Street Yard had all the appeal of a non-descript gritty backlot of industrial inner Melbourne, Victoria. Not exactly the type of model that looks appealing as the centrepiece of your lounge room!

But nonetheless, it was, (and still is), a layout that has operated beautifully, and would later become the focus of my book Model Railway Trackside Tips. Built during the Covid-19 Pandemic, the layout was solely a YouTube layout, on account of the many cancelled model railway exhibitions in south east Queensland during 2021-2022.

I built Philden Street Yard to sit atop the same benchwork for what is now Philden Beach. The new shadow box layout module measured 1720 mm x 450 mm x 450 mm, and was joined to a 1580 mm x 450 mm staging shelf. In effect, this layout and Philden Beach are one and the same, with only the backdrop and a scenery overhaul being the most noticeable differences.

Despite being about 80% finished, it took a while to realise that the setting of the layout wasn't creating a positive escape for me as a hobby. The layout had somehow evolved into trying to rewrite my own childhood in Victoria by recreating memories that simply weren't there. After the passing of my father in late 2022, viewing the layout only brought up a string of negative childhood memories whenever I walked in the room, and by early 2023 I decided that I'd had enough!

The removable backdrop really was a stroke of genius, as I was able to simply slide it out and get to work on transforming the layout back into the original NSW North Coast layout I'd wanted to build. Just like that, Philden Street Yard closed rather unceremoniously, and I instantly felt relieved. The long road back to Philden Beach had begun!






A series of video updates on YouTube also highlighted the layout's progress. Little did I know when I filmed the Philden Street Yard Christmas Spectacular, that the layout's demise would follow just a few short weeks later.





PHILDEN CREEK: somewhere up the creek

SCALE: 1:87 HOn3.5 / ERA: 1990's / LIFESPAN: 2022-2023 / EXHIBITIONS: nil

Inspiration for each of my layouts comes from somewhere, and in the case of Philden Creek it was from several camping trips we made to Girraween National Park in the south west of Queensland while our kids were growing up. Despite only being a small 3 track Inglenook layout measuring just 1400 mm x 350 mm, it was these photos that inspired me to model the rocky granite belt country south of Stanthorpe in Queensland. The Southern Railway line to the NSW border town of Wallangarra skirts the edge of Girraween National Park, and the nearest railway crossing is at the locality of Wyberba, just 8 kms from where these photos were taken in the Bald Rock Creek campgrounds.

Bald Rock Creek in Girraween National Park, Queensland was the inspiration for Philden Creek.

The layout board has a well-traveled story. Originally it was the section of layout I'd accidentally sawn in half when building Philden Road. It was then rebuilt into an N scale layout board that I decided not to pursue any further due to lack of space. Finally it was saved from a trip to the rubbish dump and rebuilt into the little Queensland 12 mm narrow gauge layout you see below.






The downfall of this little layout can be solely attributed to the success of my NSW North Coast Philden Beach layout, as the little 3 track Inglenook shunting layout with its straightforward up-and-back DC operation just couldn't compete with it's larger DCC sound equipped counterpart.

Sometimes you have to be honest with yourself once you lose interest with a project and the layout lies dormant for 12 months. With a friend eagerly enquiring about Philden Creek throughout 2023, and my modelling interests already being pulled in another direction, it made sense to send it his way to complete. Some of the images of the creek scene (below), you may even recognise from my book Model Railway Scenery Secrets.

Philden Creek in its almost finished guise.

BACK IN THE DAY: My earlier layouts

SCALE: 1:160 N / ERA: 1990's / LIFESPAN: 1993-2012 / EXHIBITIONS: 2

So there you have it... that's a walk through all things Philden since the birth of this model railway blog back in 2015.

Of course there were other layouts of mine that preceeded all of the above in the days before the internet. I made a blog post back in 2016 to recap my earlier layouts in a little more detail. At some point in time they all meant something to me. The time I spent building each one, the care I took with each one when moving house, and the money invested over quite a few years... It all accounts to nothing, unless someone takes the time to read about it here. So, thanks for reading right 'till the end!


Over four decades of being involved in the hobby, I've modelled in N Scale, HO Scale, HOn3.5 Scale and more recently OO9 Scale, in an assortment of German, Australian, North American and British outline. Perhaps after all these years my hobby has found a happy medium between modelling the New South Wales North Coast along with some Welsh Highlands narrow gauge.

Time, money, age and health all conspire against the best of us. Even the cleaning business I once operated alongside my wife Denise that was named after the layout has come and gone. I only hope I've left behind some of the skills I've learnt for the next generation to discover, both in the form of my Philden Model Railway books, and right here on the pages of this blog... in the Philden Museum.

Thanks for reading!

In memory of Philden Cleaning, 2015-2022.