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Layout Revamp Video Review

My Book review in the March 2024 Australian Model Railway News!

How the year has flown. We're in April already, but it still only feels like the beginning of the year! From the excitement of knowing my book Revamp An Existing Layout was queued for printing with my publisher as I rang in New Year's Eve for 24', to rolling-out the book to hobby shops across Australia, and finally organising some form of promotion on a shoestring budget, you know your book has finally arrived in front of the eyes of potential model railway readers once it is featured on Australian Model Railway News, (link to the YouTube feature above).

A huge shout-out to Will James, who produces the Australian Model Railway News each month on his popular YouTube channel Will James Railways. At last glance his channel had 9.67K subscribers. Will first reached out to me in late 2021, asking if I would consider allowing him to feature my Build A Bookshelf Layout book on his YouTube channel's monthly news feature. Back then he was still growing his YouTube presence and the 1st episode of the now popular Australian Model Railway News had only aired in April of 2021. Throughout my journey of self-producing a set of 6 Australian model railway how-to books I feel as though I have had Will in my corner all of the way.

If you haven't watched the March edition already, be sure to do so for your chance to win a copy of Revamp. For entry details, go to his website at 

The book is now available instore at a number of hobby shops around the country, and online through the links on my Bookshop page.

To look back through my set of books is to time travel through my Australian HO scale modelling journey which began with this blog back in 2015. Selling-off my American N scale collection was something that I look back on now and wish I didn't have to do. However, following the sale of our house and a shift into an apartment back in 2010, the 3 metre long pine cupboard monstrosity just couldn't make the journey up the stairs or elevator into the new complex, so a small Alaskan N scale coffee table layout followed. I find myself wishing I could have kept that layout too. Instead, I sold the lovely piece of furniture to help fund my switch to modelling Australian HO scale in 2015.

Then along came Philden...

My first Australian HO scale bookshelf layout, Philden. Photo taken in 2017.

Philden was a great little bookshelf layout, the smallest HO scale track plan that I could design to run some relatively modern Australian diesels. It featured at 8 model train shows here in southeast Queensland and on the cover of the Australian Modl Railway Magazine in August 2018. But then, like many modellers before me, I found myself wanting something that little bit bigger!

Philden Street Yard, complete with Puff'n Bill the puppet, prior to the layout revamp...

...and the same layout today after a complete budget-savvy revamp!

Now here I am in April 2024. Philden Beach is now complete. It's the layout I dreamt of building as a young lad. Big enough to handle some serious switching, yet small enough that I don't need to spend an entire weekend vacuuming the layout and cleaning track before a friend drops by to run some trains.

Given that my wife and I are now empty-nesters and enjoying the apartment life in Brisbane, a shift back to a larger house to expand on this layout is now firmly out of reach for a number of reasons. An over-inflated real estate market in Brisbane will only buy you a house that will bleed you dry of time and money in renovations. The crime rate and number of break-ins you hear about only leaves us feeling safe living more than 3 stories off the ground. And finally, like many people in our position, everything these days costs more money than it should. Insurance, electricity, rent, food, even a humble cup of coffee when you're out, all leaves you with no change to put into the model train jar, (yes, there was such a thing on top of our fridge that I would take from every time there was a model train buy-and-sell).

That is why I thought my latest book was necessary. I still want to be able to enjoy my hobby for years to come, but I couldn't afford to start over on any new layout project. This book firmly puts the punctuation mark on my Australian HO scale journey, by scaling-back, ironing out any operational flaws on the layout and giving it an impressive make-over that would leave even the cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy feeling proud. To that extent I'm damn proud to finish my book series with Revamp An Existing Layout. If you want to take an honest, thought-provoking, self-analytical look at what's not right with your layout, then this is the book for you!

I can honestly admit that I took this series of books as far as was possible, given the time, space and budget that I afforded it. Along the way I've had to battle against the self-doubt and negative noise that comes back from within the hobby as a result of putting your name to something. It's the horrible Aussie 'tall-poppy syndrome'.

I can't see why, but if you publicly voice an opinion on something as trivial as the cost of exhibiting a layout to an individual such as myself when it comes to travel, accommodation, meals and insurance, then you're viewed as not giving anything back to the hobby. If you write and self-fund a book on model railways, and then try to promote it or sell some of your own models amongst the various Facebook groups to finance it, then you're viewed as a scab that's trying to bleed money from the hobby.

Honestly, I see this as more of an ugly Australian trait rather than a reflection on the hobby. However, that's the reason why I have left so many Facebook model train groups in the past and will be closing my Facebook account for good now that my final book is out. It is also one of the reasons why I've never returned to a certain model train show here in Brisbane after feeling deliberately singled-out and having my time valued at nothing. For every person who likes or comments positively on anything I do, there's always going to be someone who labels you negatively and tries to bring you down in the eyes of others, no matter how hard you have tried or how much effort you put into something. I guess when there's no real need to be in that situation in the first place, why put yourself through all that anxiety?

Through it all, it's been nice to feel supported by those who are championing my books, stocking them on their hobby store shelves and even taking the time to message or email their personal thanks and congratulations. They are the encouragement I need to keep this blog going.

So, with book sales starting to come through, I can now take a break from all of the above-mentioned stress, and simply return my layout to being a hobby once more. Philden Beach can go back to being a YouTube layout rather than one you will likely see at an exhibition. I've revamped my layout and have now moved onto revamping me. I'm keen to see where my next creative ideas will lead me.

Links on where to buy my latest book can be found on the Bookshop page.

Happy modelling!

This post first appeared on Philden Model Railway, please read the originial post: here

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Layout Revamp Video Review


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