Wednesday, 20 July 2016

"It was twenty years ago today"

That famous opening line from the Beatles' Sergeant Peppers album seems appropriate for this post as it marks 20 years since work started on Philip's Creek. This somewhat self indulgent reminiscence seeks to show how the layout has evolved from its early days, what has changed and what has remained relatively unchanged from those early days.

As I mentioned in my first post (Philip's Creek, a well travelled railway), Philip's Creek was started in the garage of a married quarter in the US Army Engineer School in Missouri. However, this was not my first layout. For about 15 years before that, I had been building an N scale layout also with a NSW steam/diesel transition theme. By the mid 1990s, the hobby in Australia had seen a significant increase in the availability of local prototype in HO scale. Unfortunately, this expansion was not matched in N scale. In addition, I was also finding that N scale models were a bit small for a pair of eyes that were starting to show the first signs of aged related
near sight deterioration.

I remember working through a formal analytical decision making process although, in reality, it was probably more a verification of a decision I had already made. However, many of the ideas incorporated into Philip's Creek concerning modular sizing and construction can be traced to lessons, both positive and negative that evolved during my N scale modelling phase.

When I started construction of Philip's Creek, I set myself the objective of building something that would last, not be pulled apart and rebuilt several times as happened to its predecessor. Yes, there have been some tweaks,changes and refinements as the layout has evolved and the it has certainly grown in size but the first two sceniced modules are substantially the same as they were in that garage in Missouri.

There aren't too many photos of those early years of Philip's Creek prior to my first investment in a digital camera around 2005. However, I have created a few from a home video taken around Christmas 1996 to show the evolution over the last 20 years. My apologies for the quality of these images. 
They show one end of the layout in its very original condition. These photos also show my use of styrofoam as a base for the track work as well as a scenic medium. This method has withstood the test of time and moves, and is one of things that has really worked for Philip's Creek. The technique to lay track over the styrofoam was described in more detail in a 2013 post, Moving forward at last While the base course material has migrated from homasote to canite and currently, cork floor tiles the concept has remained unchanged for 20 years.
I have to confess that there never has been a grand or master plan for Philip's Creek. It  started out as a basic oval (3.6m x 1.8m) with one half as an unsceniced staging area.The end of the layout shown in the 1996 photos evolved over time. A few moves later, more room became available and I decided that the layout could be extended by another 1.8m. The existing main line curve became a siding and the siding just visible to the right of the 1996 photos became the main line. Initially the sidings serviced the local coal mine as shown in the 2005 photo. Later, the mine was relocated and the track became a siding with water and coaling services as can be seen in the 2012 photo.
Further adjustments to the main line were to follow.  

The other end of the layout has remained relatively unchanged although the station facilities have expanded. The photo at the bottom right was taken in 2005 while the photo bottom left was taken around 2015. Incidentally, the A3 station was the first structure built for Philip's Creek around 1997. 


As noted previously, Philip's Creek was originally established as an oval but it has always been operated as point to point layout albeit with both ends collocated. As the layout grew, it was convenient to move away from the oval arrangement. The photo below shows the construction of the Mount Windeatt station with one of the separated staging area behind. The photo also highlights another feature of Philip's Creek's development, decentalised construction of specific modules as I moved around for work reasons. In this case, this photo shows the module under construction in an attic in London.The second photo shows the same area in 2014. The backdrop now screens the staging area.

Finally, the ultimate reason why Philip's Creek exists is to provide a home for my collection of locomotives and rolling stock. Like the layout, there has been a defacto 'no disposal' policy for rolling stock. Sure, there have been some conversions but even the first wagon purchased to test the track laying still exists in some form on the layout. (Grandfather's Axe) However, the bulging staging areas indicate that this approach may need to be revisited.

Given my affection for the humble 48 class, it was inevitable that the first locomotive for the layout would be a 48 class. This poor quality photo on the right shows it operating in 1996. Twenty years on, 4856, like its prototype continues to provide sterling service albeit with a different chassis and motor.

When one looks at what other have achieved in shorter time periods, my efforts look pretty ordinary, but to return to the Sgt Peppers theme, the band continues to play for Philip's Creek, and hopefully, it can continue for another 20 years.

PS. My apologies if the formatting is a little astray in this post. There have been a few challenges this time and it has been very frustrating.


  1. Phil,
    Nice history reflection. Sometimes its good to look back to be able to see how far you have come. Our modelling surely improves over the years.

  2. Thanks Bob. Yes our modelling does improve with age so long as the project is not so infrequent that one forgets how to do specific tasks.It's happened to me a few times.
    cheers Phil

  3. Phil,
    It may have taken 20 years to get where you are but it's an impressive layout and one you should be proud of.

    1. Rob,

      Thanks for the kind words. In some respects, it's a bit hard to believe that it actually has been 20 years but the layout does continue to evolve.

      One always has grand plans but whether there is an opportunity to implement these remains to be seen. As always, space is the primary determinant.

      By the way the Russians seem to have slowed down a bit.

      cheers Phil

  4. Phil,
    It may have taken 20 years to get where you are but it's an impressive layout and one you should be proud of.