Saturday, 24 September 2016

Instant Diorama, just add MDF...

A month or so ago I made mention of creating further micro-dioramas of a similar size to the abandoned coach scene, i.e. 140 x 70mm. I felt this size worked well visually in my display case as some previous scenes had ended up looking too long. Having prepared a pair of new 6mm MDF bases I started to plan to build new scenes in both O9 and 1/24th, the latter to display my scratchbuilt Lister locomotive.

The Lister had previously sat on this base, which was one of the offenders on length and was taking up more space than strictly necessary:

This was a rebuild of an earlier diorama, which itself was reclaimed from an abandoned 2008 project that would have seen the Lister shuttling back and forth with a single wagon (!). As it was due to be replaced anyway I opted to see if part of it could be recovered as the basis of the new scene rather than start afresh. Very carefully, having mapped out the cuts, and then carefully separated just the top cardboard layer of the foamcore board, I found that it could...

The result above shows the result after some work to make up the gaps in the ground cover, some new areas of grass from hanging basket liner, additional ground cover from scatter applied over hairspray and some grass moss strands. The existing point lever, a vintage OO gauge item, was cleaned up, Grandt Line bolt heads added and suitably painted and weathered.

Although I have made preparations for another O9 scene it is on hold as the next project will be a reworking of 'The Path to...' to bring the textures and detail into line with the latest creations. Watch this space!


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Farewell Markeaton Park

The news came through this week that the Markeaton Park Light Railway in Derby had closed, with one of the reasons cited as non-renewal of the lease when it expires at the end of the year. It was also rumoured that track lifting would commence immediately and that a the rolling stock had been sold to a new home.
Happier times, 'Markeaton Lady' and matching Exmoor stock on 8th June 2008

I first became aware of this line in the early 1990s as it was listed as a location of a 15” gauge railway with a Maxitrax petrol locomotive. However, it was not until a news item appeared in the ‘Railway Magazine’ in 1996 covering the change in ownership to the Bull family and purchase of an Exmoor Steam Railway 0-4-2T locomotive and coaching stock that the urge to visit appeared. This duly occurred in April 1997 and whilst ‘Markeaton Lady’ was not in steam, we were able to view it in the cavernous shed and ride behind the Alan Keef diesel ‘Cromwell’. On subsequent visits we were able to travel behind steam until the locomotive was withdrawn for overhaul and subsequently sold to the Evesham Vale Light Railway where it now runs as 'Monty'.

Our last ride, 'City of Derby' with the ex-Fairbourne stock on 30th January 2016

The railway soldiered on with the diesel locomotive ‘City of Derby’ as sole motive power, although from some of the reports of cancelled services on their Facebook page, not always the most reliable of machines! Our last visit to the railway came by chance in January this year on the day of the 7mm NGA Derby Members day, when a sunny afternoon saw us call in at the park on the return home, simply on the basis that it had been a few years since we had visited. We had a ride in the rake of ex-Fairbourne coaching stock that had always been in the shed on previous visits but we did not get to see or ride in the refurbished Exmoor stock that will no doubt give good service to their new owner. 

The station area, taken on our first visit on 3rd April 1997

From a modelling point of view the main station area has (had) a very modelegenic air to it, a simple loop and two lines heading into the shed, itself a remnant of the armed forces occupation of the park in the 1940s where it served as the NAAFI (and inside still had the counter and shutters to prove it). Inside the shed another point provided a third line, almost as if it were a real-life fiddle yard, enabling the railway to store all of its stock under cover with space to spare. I’ve often thought that with some subtle adjustment at the Markeaton Park setting, especially with the curve heading out of the station, could lend itself to the ‘Shifting Sands’ format rather well…


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Introducing 'St Edwin' - Exmoor in Miniature

Custom produced etched name and works plates for my Exmoor project arrived from Narrow Planet early in August, and this weekend I have finally plucked up the courage to fix them in position. I can therefore present the third Exmoor 15" gauge 'Saint'* - '[i]St Edwin[/i]'...

After fitting the plates using matt varnish I applied a little light weathering to tone down the smokebox, cylinders, cab roof and buffer beams and added a finishing touch of an oil can sat in one of the bunkers, something I noticed in pictures of 'King Arthur' at Rudyard lake.

I'm really pleased with how this project has turned out, although there are a number of compromises I feel that it really captures the Exmoor 'look'. I just need to arrange somewhere to give it a good run as 'Shifting Sands' is in storage...


*following in the footsteps of 'St Christopher' at Bressingham (ex Windmill Farm) and 'St Egwin' at Evesham Vale.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Stuck in a Siding - an 'Abandoned Miniature'

The outstanding tasks on the scenic test piece seen in the last two posts has now been completed, including adding my usual light wood surround from bass wood and some final adjustments to the scenery in the form of some additional growth from dried grass moss and a discarded wheelset (modified Parkside Dundas) and some assorted junk.

As I commented in the first post on this series, there were a number of influences behind creating this scene. ones was the Abandoned Miniatures page on Facebook, a collection of photos of dioramas and models with a general theme of abandonment. The idea of an abandoned 15" gauge scene appealed and I realised that I was halfway there with my converted Avalon Line coach completed a few months ago. So this scene is actually designed to accommodate that coach...

The placing of the fence at the (nominal) rear is designed so that if viewed from that side, the open panel on that side is visible.

Inside the coach I have added all sorts of additional 'junk' from various sources. This includes bench ends from Port Wynnstay castings; a tool box from Black Dog Mining; a scratchbuilt carriage door balanced on the seats; a sign that reads 'Miniature Railway' (just to give a clue to the gauge!) and an oil lamp. All of these parts were individually painted and set in place using Tacky Wax.

I am really pleased with how this scene has come together and I've found myself contemplating another scene of similar size....


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Technique 2 - The Grass Grows Long

Progress on the test piece seen last week has come on at quite a rate. To say that this included a period where I wasn't too sure it would work out well...

I'm not going to go too far into what I have done - it's all based on rather basic work with paints, Woodlands Scenics 'turf' scatter, hanging basket liner grass and occasional Silfor tufts and Gaugemaster laser-cut flowers. Where I have differed from the last two scenes ('The Headshunt' and 'The Path to...') is that I have revisited some techniques that I had used several years ago to add to the textures and colours on offer. The blown leaves use a mixture of Green Scenes leaves (ground up a little to reduce their size) and dried tea leaves (PG Tips, probably), whilst I have added a few strands of dried lawn moss (home grown) to add to the textures in the grass.

I have also added a representation of small flowers in the grass. Having popped to the shops to get some cheap hairspray, I sprayed it on the grass and sprinkled in a combination of coloured scatters. I had forgotten how effective this simple step was. Following all this, the puddle had a couple of coats of 'Kleer' floor polish and looks suitably wet.

Having seen the effect these revisited techniques have had on this scene it is safe to say that both the other recent dioramas will be having a little enhancement, but first, I must complete a few outstanding tasks on this one!


Friday, 12 August 2016


With progress on a bigger diorama stalled, I have been creating a smaller test piece that will hopefully develop into something that will be easily displayed in my display cabinet alongside 'The Path to...' I have an eye on what the end result will be and what the inspirations are, but that can wait for another day...

The piece uses a couple of new (to me) techniques that I have been wishing to try for some time, but firstly Peco 009 track was modified with all sleeper webs removed in a similar manner to previous dioramas.

Rather than ballast this entirely I have used a technique described by Chris Nevard where modelling clay (in this case terracotta DAS) is used to embed the track between the sleepers (and in some cases over) and given a stippled texture using a stiff paintbrush. This technique has been used to gradually embed the track towards the end of the line to the right.

The other trial is the puddle in the foreground, this is based on techniques described by Gordon Gravett and uses clear plastic in place of the glass microscope slides he advocates. This has been bedded in with more DAS and will benefit from further treatment in due course.

The idea is to represent really sunken in yard track, similar to this seen at the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway.

This is the first occasion I have really used DAS and I'm very impressed with it's scope for small projects such as this. Some of the land at the back was raised with a further layer of card and blended in with the modelling clay, and a mound in the front centre formed in a similar way. Typically I have covered these areas with a plaster/paint/PVA mix before taking a photograph!


Monday, 8 August 2016

Shunting with Steam - Heywood Style

A few days in Cleethorpes last week meant a little time was spent at the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway (and as we were staying opposite, we can recommend the breakfast!). One day, whilst the Severn Lamb 'Rio Grande' was in charge of passenger services, Heywood replica 'Effie' was steamed for some attention from the workshop team, leading to a test run to Kingsway, which is where I encountered her and driver Aaron.

The offer of a ride was quickly accepted (the service train was very full), which logistically is quite tricky, literally sat on the coals! On arrival at Lakeside loop Aaron advised that there were a few yard duties to complete, as he needed to retrieve the wagon used to transport bagged coal, take it to the station to pick up the delivery, release another wagon from the sidings as it would be useful later, and take some bags of rubbish down to the station. Real work!

The first job was to draw a rake of coaching stock out of the station in order to get the wagon in to load the coal, this job completed Aaron ran 'Effie' around the loop and back to the yard.

The CCLR yard has a three-road sector plate that accesses the carriage shed. The plan was to retrieve the wagons from the right-hand road; move the two open coaches in the left-hand road in their place; deposit the ballast wagon at the back of the right-hand road in front of them; retrieve the van at the back of the left-hand road (with the pallet showing) and take the wagons down to the station. Rubbish would be loaded into the small grey open wagon....

The chance to take some atmospheric shots was not to be missed...

Aaron was clearly enjoying this too much! I was getting involved throwing point levers and setting the road, and failing miserably at coupling up...

By now the ballast wagon had been deposited in the right-hand siding and the other wagons backed down onto the coal van (yes, that doesn't sound quite right!).

With the rubbish loaded onto the open wagon the train was drawn down to the station to deposit the rubbish and load up the coal, before pushing the ensemble back up to the shed.

My thanks to Aaron Ellis, Peter Bryant and the CCLR team for their hospitality during the week.