Queens Wharf Comes Home

Something like 3 years ago I was in a situation where I had sold the house I was living in but didn’t have the space to store my small portable layout Queens Wharf in my new home. I asked Phil, a modelling friend, if he could store the layout for a time and he agreed. I constructed a wheeled, wooden rack which the layout could be stored on in Phil’s garage and so, just before I vacated the house, we loaded QW into my trailer and transported it the 15km to its new “temporary” home. I’ve put the word temporary in inverted commas because at the time I really had no idea whether this new home would actually turn out to be temporary. In fact my memory tells me I offered to give Phil QW at the time for just this reason: I had no idea whether or when I’d have enough room to take the layout back. To give Phil the full credit he deserves he said “maybe” to the offer to take the layout and never once asked when I would get around to removing it, thus allowing him to get on with building his own layout. It’s HO so I never felt all that motivated to get QW back. If he’d been working on an O-scale layout that would have been different 🙂

Over the past couple of weeks, as I’ve got Morpeth up and running in the new train room, I’ve been going through a thinking and planning process of what I really want in the new space and I must admit to being more than a little torn. By changing prototype locations I will essentially have to start from scratch: new layout, new operating intensity, new locos (something like 12 of them), endless rolling stock kits to put together. Hey didn’t I get out of HO to avoid this scenario? If I stay with the Morpeth line I stay with a modelling theme I’ve been working on for something like 17 years. I almost have enough rolling stock and locomotives to populate the layout now. Even if I developed a bit of a “what if” scenario and added a bit of industry and some rail sidings that didn’t exist on the real line, all I would be doing is developing something I’ve already started rather than starting from square one. What to do?

I’ve been working on this plan on and off for 2 weeks. It has allowed me to test whether Morpeth and QW can be squeezed into the new train room and allow an operating scenario that will satisfy me. I envisage trying to keep 3 operators busy for a couple of hours. You might notice there is no provision for a continuous run.

Of course the answer to that question is to draw a plan and see if things will fit. The biggest problem I faced with this scenario is that Morpeth (the exhibition layout) was built to fit into a trailer on an aluminium rack, not into an 8.5m long room. Getting it to sit in a room at the heart of a permanent home layout at the end of the Morpeth line (as opposed to being a portable, exhibition layout) has not been easy. In going though a similar exercise three years ago when I tried to get both layouts to fit into a “permanent”  arrangement in my previous home I’d chopped 150mm (6″) off the end of one of Morpeth’s three modules in an effort to ease the radii on the curves. As I was never comfortable doing so this time round I set as an absolute minimum condition that I was not going to chop the layouts about. They’d suffered enough damage at my hands already: if they were going to fit into the new train room then they were going to do so without being chopped up. I was willing to add and enhance scenes or passing loops but I wasn’t prepared to chop them up. This applied to QW too. I also felt that I wanted to retain the ability to exhibit Morpeth if I chose to so this would mean any changes would have to work around the need to allow Morpeth to be dismantled, transported in my trailer and worked as a stand alone exhibition layout.

The first and most obvious victim of this plan is the pier module. No matter how I twisted and weaved about I just couldn’t get the pier module to fit into the plans I was drawing. So my answer to this was to stop trying and make the curved line that takes a locomotive out to the pier into a new industrial siding. The pier will continue to exist in exhibition mode, it will be stored in the trailer. I’ll just have to build a small add-on for when Morpeth is in home layout mode. It will hitch up to the layout using the same hardware as the pier and so nothing on the main layout will need to change.

Phil and I loaded QW into the trailer on Saturday morning and hauled her to the new home I’ve recently purchased. We got her out of the trailer and carried her upstairs to sit on the floor waiting till I can find the time to build some benchwork for her to sit on.

I have no benchwork as yet to store QW on so at the moment she’s sitting on the floor. If she ends up being used as part of a bigger layout I’ll extend the passing loop by adding a new section between the two modules. This will sit in the spot where the gap between the two parts appears in this photo.

While Phil and I were in the shed moving things about we took the pier section of Morpeth upstairs and hooked this up to the main layout. I have a feeling that this is the first time I’ve had the entire layout assembled together in one unit. I’d set up each part of the layout separately and also had the pier and the section it butts up to connected up while I did the initial work on it but this is the first time the whole layout has been assembled and operable. As I’ve started on the ship model I needed to have the bridge and pier sections hooked up again so I can finish the scenic work on the boundary between them. Taking the pier module upstairs and connecting them up was a sensible thing to do. I can work on the ship at my modelling bench in the house and take it out to the train room if I need to.


While I’ve had various segments of the layout set up over the last couple of years I’m pretty sure this is the first time the whole layout (minus the fiddle yard) has been set up and run since the start of 2014. Since then there have been major developments in the design that weren’t included in that set up.

As we had the layout set up and running Phil took the opportunity to test one of his loco projects as he doesn’t have an O-scale layout at home. So he got his new 48 fired up and ran it back and forth while I set up the camera and took some photos.

Phil had been working on a 40 class loco but when this stalled he decided to build a 48 from a kit. This is the result.

7 thoughts on “Queens Wharf Comes Home

  1. I like your basic track plan, which is a little like mine. Mine is a little like a paper clip in shape, twice around the room, under and over and then each end ending in the centre of the room. Creates a nice long run. Mk VI?

    • John,
      I’m not sure where the MK VI comes from. The plan reads Mk V (V1.3). As you might be aware from my blog I’ve been working on Morpeth as a modelling project for something like 15 years. I’ve built 3 different layouts based around Morpeth in various configurations. This version gets the designation as MkV because it’s the fifth configuration of Morpeth as a layout. Version I was my last permanent layout, built in a home I owned in Armidale, NSW. This layout survived about as long as I owned the house, which was about 5 years. QW was started in that home but survives because it could travel with me when I sold that house. It was Mk2. Mk III was the current Morpeth and Mk IV was when I tried to combine them both in a home I owned until about 3 years ago. This is Mk V because it combines them both but the new space allows me to expand them with my first attempt at Raworth alnog with some storage and perhaps even a little bit of the junction of the Morpeth branch at East Maitland.

  2. If the trackage was straightened at East Maitlnd and Storage was located under QW could Morpeth pivot to the left so the wharf could be attached?
    Either way keep up the good work and momentum!
    Bill Uffelman

    • Bill,
      The answer to the question is no, it wouldn’t work being attached to QW in its current configuration. The track has a curve leading out the the pier which is designed to allow it to sit at 90 degrees to the main layout and no matter which side it was to be located it still wouldn’t fit. A more likely plan is that I’ll make the ship removable, run a dock wall down the front of QW with a drop section in front of this and when the layout is at home I’ll simply transfer the ship to this so it remains in use. I can see short coal trains running from Raworth to QW and unloading into the ship’s hold. That’s the load this little ship was designed to carrry in real life anyway.

  3. Have you considered putting a link between the two curves at the top of the plan to give you a continuous run? It may be useful for times when you want to run-in locomotives.

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