Friday, 13 April 2018

Philden's Fantastic 442 Fundraiser

Will adding an Auscision Models 442 loco to my layout call for a complete roster overhaul? Hmm... maybe not!

Let me get something straight. It's not an impulse decision if you've mulled over something for a little over 2 years, right? But what if you've just completely overhauled your model railway roster to better fit the 2002-2005 era that you set out to model at the very beginning? Does a Candy coloured 442 Class locomotive that you've been wanting since you were knee-high-to-a-grass-hopper really belong on your layout? Can you really do such a thing and still be able to hold your head high amongst the purists? Well, not really. Unless... you re-envision your small bookshelf layout for what it really is, a stage.

The generic New South Wales theme is immediately evident when you take a look at my small layout, but as has been pointed out to me many times at exhibitions, Philden wouldn't take that much effort to wind back the clock. Except of course for the Countrylink sign on the station platform, and the fact that I run a 2 car Xplorer in the original Countrylink livery. But remembering that Countrylink as an operating arm came into effect on 16 January 1989, its fair to say that the Countrylink signage would have started appearing soon after. Given that the Xplorer train made its debut in October 1993, and the NSW 442 Class loco's that I mentioned above were included en-masse in the famous December 1994 Cardiff locomotive auctions, my homework reveals that I have a 12 month window that would easily accommodate a winding-back of the clock to the summer of 1993/94.

Click here to bid on my 99 cent 442 class fundraiser.

While I babble-on about the logistics of such an idea, I'm also cleaning out my desk this weekend for the last time. Next week the fit-out of my new work space and the framework for my new N scale layout that will be constructed beneath it begins. My massive eBay clean-out last month of my surplus models netted me a handy return. Handy enough to completely fund everything I need to build and operate my new N scale layout, plus secure the HO scale Pacific National 48 class loco that I really wanted to round-out my 2005 era roster.

Now, I'm faced with what to do with an over-abundance of railway memorabilia that simply isn't going to fit into my new work environment. Keep in mind, this sort of stuff is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for them. So I've listed a heap on eBay with a 99 cent opening bid price, just to see how far they go towards 'subsidising' the new Auscision Models 442 Class loco that will soon be available. I've dubbed it the Philden Fantastic 442 Fundraiser. (See how many times you can say that quickly after a few drinks in front of the football on a Friday night).

Honest, I feel like poor Barry Snelson (pictured below) who auctioned off his famous railway collection in Canberra in 2016. I later had a courier deliver 2 large crates from the auction house to my front door, and while my prized-pieces will soon be on display beneath my layout, just what do you do with the rest?

Flashback to 2016, and the Snelson Collection auction in Canberra. Guess who bought a little too much?

I'd rather have a memory from my own childhood of growing up in Gosford. Nighttime was an endless parade of 'name-trains' headed north up the coast, and Candy colour was the new cool. To add a Candy 442 loco to my layout in its final year of government operation would be pretty-neat. Or damn-near dirty if you imagine how much I will have to weather it. So with some careful selection of my current rollingstock roster to correctly utilise my NPRF/NPRY cement hoppers, NCTY and NCNX steel wagons and the lone V/Line VLCX louvered wagon that is still on my roster, I could easily switch eras whenever I want to, just by swapping a single locomotive. (Keep in mind I only run the Xplorer and 1 locomotive on the freight train at a time). And just to reinforce the time difference a little more, adding a highway advertising billboard to the overpass near the mouse-hole entrance could enable the advertising to swap as I please, between era appropriate early 1990's and early 2000's.

When you only require a small roster to operate a small bookshelf layout anyway, swapping between eras adds another whole new dimension. Best of all, adding a 1990's roster to Philden isn't going to require me to sell the farm, just a few unwanted pieces of railway clutter.

See also: Philden's Snelson Collection Additions

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Port becomes operational


The Easter Weekend gave me a chance to get the track laid on the short extension that has replaced the even shorter 2 track fiddle yard that once stood on my HO scale bookshelf layout. Although I was careful when planning the track angles that centred around the solitary PECO medium radius switch on this scene, the bend on the inside mainline did present clearance issues for my longest piece of rollingstock (the 2 car Xplorer passenger train) as it emerged from the other side of the mouse-hole. Thankfully all issues have been resolved, and the track is now wired up with trains running into my beach-side Port Authority Yard.

While not a problem, the bend in the mainline creates a tight clearance for my longest piece of rollingstock.

And its likewise on the No. 2 track with the angled overhang of the long hood of my largest locomotive.

The solution was to fan the wall abutments on the mouse-hole opening.

Though not completely hidden, my 2 car Xplorer now appears to be stopped just around the bend beyond the overpass.

The aerial view. Try to remember that this was once just a plain 2 track fiddle yard.

Once I was happy with the rail joins and the flow of the 3 tracks emerging from the mouse-hole entrance, I then soldered the feeder wires, checked that everything ran smoothly and spiked down the code 100 flextrack into position. With this layout built for simple analogue DC control, I used 2 on/off micro toggle switches to control the power flow to a), the concrete sleeper mainline, and b), the other 2 Port Authority tracks with the black flextrack. I left them visible because I think I can make them look like track side ground throws when I finish detailing the scene. Plus it keeps them handy when operating. I built the concrete slab loading yard from 3 mm balsa wood and painted it using the same technique I showed in my post Building an Abandoned Siding. The finished balsa strips were then glued to the plywood base with openings for the toggle switches to pop-up from beneath and be screwed down with the washer nuts they are supplied with.

I copied my own Building an Abandoned Siding post to create the concrete for the Port Authority Yard.

The two micro toggle switches remain visible and control the power to the mainline and the 2 Port Authority tracks.

The No. 2 track would make an ideal location for a locomotive provisioning point...

...while there is room for the loco to be shut down and still have 2 wagons occupying each track.

With the toggle switches in place, the track work is effectively finished, save for detailing and hand painting the individual sleepers as I like to do. While I can now resume running some trains for the first time in almost 2 months, I also turned my attention to getting the seawalls of the Pier finished. For this I used Busch HO scale printed card stressed concrete. Glued to 5 mm balsa wood which is then glued to the timber bench work, it was rather simple and gives me a starting point to scratch-build the short bridge section that will span the gap along the edge of the ocean.

I used Busch printed cardboard sheets for the concrete pier walls.

Glued onto 5mm balsa wood, I fitted them hard against the channel for the perspex sheet that will soon follow.

Trains are now operational on the new extension, while the first signs of the Port begin to take shape.

So the trains are running again. I can now rest easy knowing that I will have the layout ready for its third exhibition in a little over a month's time, given that it will be exhibited from the other side and the above scene will merely double as the hidden fiddle yard until it is completed and ready to be debuted to the public.

I suddenly have a 3D view of what constraints I have to work within, unlike the life-sized paper plan I drew up that first convinced me this would work. While the layout isn't grand in terms of size, I have to admit I am thrilled with the bones of what you see above. Just last year you would have been looking at a simple 2 track staging shelf against a painted black background where trains escaped from the visible layout through the mouse-hole opening. Now I have provision for a short bridge and some scenery that will fall away towards the waterline at the front of the layout. From this point on, it isn't going to take me long to finish the scene. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

See also; When paint doesn't match... and By The Beach Extension

Monday, 12 March 2018

By The Beach Extension


It's March, the Australian summer is now over, and the layout extension that I first talked about building just before Christmas is now in place after a rather inglorious past few months of set-backs and near misses. So much so, that for a bloke who isn't short of words, I don't really want to talk much about it. Believe me when I say there were more than a few times when I just wanted to palm the layout off to someone else, and start over. Or walk away from the hobby altogether.

Thankfully, the rebuild is now behind me. I can get to work laying some new track and having the layout ready to operate in time for Philden's next exhibition. So without going into too much detail, I'll let the following photos show you how I almost butchered a perfectly good layout, and how I somehow managed to bring it back from the brink of disaster to now have a great opportunity to build something that will be better than the original.

Remember the antique signal box plaques from my post Making Awful Look Awesome?

They not only disintegrated when trying to remove them, but gouged out my timber panelling....

....so I cut a new panel using 3 mm fibreboard lined with the same self-adhesive steel checker-plate film I used here.

Remember the exhibitor plaques from my past layouts that once guarded the mouse-hole door?


The panel is 3 mm MDF board with blue sky backdrop on the other side. Removing them almost tore through the backdrop.

It called for another cut-out panel to be glued in place over the top and a strip of film to cover the removed gold trim.

So after months of problems with matching the paint to the original layout's timber stain, almost butchering the sky backdrop at the mouse-hole end of the layout and destroying once valuable railway artefacts that were glued a little-too-well to the layout, I could finally remove the door that once covered the mouse-hole exit, and join the new section to the existing layout.

To do so required a flush-fit between the two sections, so I had to remove the gold timber trim that runs around the bottom perimeter of the fascia from the mouse-hole end of the current layout. This not only destroyed the paintwork, but also gouged holes from the timber fascia, calling for ample amounts of wood putty. Already aware that I was unable to match the timber stain on this original section, I simply cut a strip of self-adhesive checker-plate contact film and hid the mess. The two sections will bolt together flush, and no-one will ever see it anyway.

The former exhibitor's plaques from my past layouts now have a new home on the bottom of each end panel.

The re-painted leg panels bolted back into the same places. There are now only 3 instead of 4.

As for the vintage metal railway poster plaques featuring the retro poster girls I wrote about on my post replacing legs with panels, they bent completely out of shape when I removed them. At around $7 Australian plus postage on eBay, they are cheap enough to replace. I have another 4 on their way from the UK, so there will be another 2 to fit between the Blackpool girl and the gold trim above the exhibitor plaques, and likewise on the other end panel.

Before: the layout with a short 700 mm two track staging shelf and bulky lid that was clumsy to move.

After: the layout with a new 800 mm extension to be filled with scenery, and a new lightweight lid.

Most people might argue that for a small layout, this seems like a whole lotta' work for nothing. And I'd be inclined to agree with you. Once more having to work off a concrete garage floor in the heat of an Australian summer, and having everything go wrong, has resulted in my adding just an extra 100 mm of length to my layout. Hardly worth the effort involved you might say. What it has rid the layout of however, is the bulky and clumsy lid and staging shelf set-up that was an aftermath of my failed attempt to originally build this as a double-layered layout back in late 2016. The old staging shelf was a waste of space. I now have an extra 800 mm long section of 300 mm wide blank layout space to work with to complete a new scene. From "Somewhere in New South Wales, at a railway station far, far, away....." to "By The Beach", my small layout will soon have two very different destinations.

The new beach extension bolts flush to the layout and shares the middle leg panel.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I could have built this layout a whole lot simpler. Even an oversight with my measurements for the mouse-hole exits between the two sections called for some last minute cutting, filing and gnashing of the teeth. But perhaps the biggest disappointment I faced was not being able to match the original timber stain to any of the staging shelves, leg panels and finally this new extension. That in itself almost led me to walk away from this project and start over with a new layout.

While the gloss Indian Red spray paint is by no means a perfect match, with the extension bolted in place to the layout, I'm prepared to call it good enough and get on with working on the layout. The next step is to get the 3 mm clear acrylic perspex panels measured and cut to fit the new extension to the right in the below picture.

Let the IKEA fit-out below begin! Starting with the 700 mm x 800 mm EKET storage display.

Perhaps the greatest benefit from adding the new beach extension is that I built it to accommodate plans to replace my desk and hide the growing corner of model train clutter that just seems to accumulate. I needed the gap between the two above leg panels to be wide enough to accommodate the 700 mm wide x 800 mm high EKET storage display unit I'd had my eyes on at IKEA. Another of these will soon stand at the other end of the layout with a new, narrower desk to stand between the two, while the tall white stool that is visible in one of the above photos is my new operators seat and will accompany me to the next few model train exhibitions.

Not only has the first EKET halved the amount of clutter from the floor, but the few accessories I also picked up from IKEA help keep the area looking neat and tidy. After all, my small layout does occupy prime living room space in our small apartment. And you've gotta' love the sound of all those Swedish names they give their products. My model railway and train magazines are now all safely tucked away in the TJENA magazine holders. My modelling bits and bobs are hidden from view in the grey FJALLA storage box. The photo of my wife Denise and I enjoying the sunset at Margaret River in Western Australia on our recent 25th Wedding Anniversary is mounted in the RIBBA frame, while a scented candle and small artificial plant Denise helped me pick out are resting in white metal VACKERT baskets. And there's even room for my signed Marcos Ambrose model NASCAR (not from IKEA, obviously).

Next up, I'm going to dismantle the desk, sort through even more clutter then head back to IKEA to complete the make-over below the layout. By the time I'm finished, it won't just be a new desk, it will be a new creative work space environment, whatever that is called. But as usual, I'll let that be a story for another day.

See also; When paint doesn't match and Almost ready to re-fit