Saturday, 18 June 2022

Boxing Clever

There's still very little action at the O9 Modeller workbench, however I have made a major change in the way the bench itself is set up, dropping it 6 inches in height from worktop height to a more conventional desk height. This does undo some of the original premise but needs must for ongoing comfort.

As part of these changes storage is being revised, and I have built this seemingly unassuming box.

The sides and back are some 9mm ply a friend kindly supplied in lockdown, whilst the top and bottom are some 3mm ply recovered from furniture that was otherwise headed for the skip last year. Lots of clamping and waiting for glue to dry has resulted in a reasonably square box... The strengthening strip of material across the top of the opening is left over from strengthening 'Shifting Sands' back in 2019. The box is now being varnished ready for use.

Its purpose directly relates to moving the desk downwards, those 6 inches gave access to vital storage space under and behind the desk. I've had to rejig several things to make up for this, such as moving a few things out to the workshop. My year-old work tray has been abandoned for now as it has nowhere to store as it too sat in the 6 inch gap on top of some stacked crates. I had balanced out these consequences with my desire to change things.

The photo above neatly shows how with the desk lower the top of the "work from home" monitor is clear of one of the shelves, where before it had obscured it. In the middle of the shelf there is a distinct air gap above my box of adhesives and I don't need all that space to get things out of the box, so the new construction will act as a 'riser' to push the box upwards and use the space underneath to slide things in and out. 

Looking at other things as a result of these moves, there may be a few disposals to ease space a little and having moved a few things around I've decided that 'The Headshunt' diorama should get a scenic makeover and a protective box along the lines of that I made for the Christmas Pizza - there is plenty more ply and hardboard available!


Sunday, 5 June 2022

Railcar Doodles II - A Potential Chivers 'Bash'

Whilst I rather liked the Avalon Line conversion drawing in the last post, I had rather come to the conclusion that it would be better as an item of coaching stock, 4w or bogie, rather than a railcar.

Prior to looking at the Minirail railcar I had looked at the Chivers O9 coach kit as the basis for a railcar. I had rejected this idea as I thought it would require similar modifications to those I carried out to create a semi-open coach using some Dapol railbus window parts (indeed I did consider rebuilding the coach a bay shorter to convert it...). After some thought I decided to take another look and realised that by rearranging the parts and using a spare 'high' end, something quite railcar like could be created.

The Kato chassis will fit nicely between the outer ends of the seat sections, the dotted line in the centre doorway is the top of the casing and it may be that half-height doors are required on this opening. The trick I have employed in this design is to use the high ends as the seat backs, therefore giving a sturdier support to the roof than any use of plastic section could achieve and a better bond with the sides than using brass. Rather than use the end based on the floor level of the part as supplied, I envisage it with the top of the vertical planking at the height of the kit seat backs, adding another crucial 2mm into the height. It will require more modification of the part but as a cut-out needs to be made the clear the motor casing it isn't too much in the grand scheme of things.

Internally seats would have to be raised over the motor casing and at the outer ends the space under the seats will be filled in, potentially using the original seat back pieces. It will be tight and any potential passengers in the centre section need to be aware that they are at risk of leg (and maybe hip) amputation to clear the motor casing!

The roof is envisaged to be a Dundas VoR moulding, which is again a sturdy moulding that will hold it's place. Looking at the drawing again there maybe needs to be some support at the upper ends of the uprights, maybe not complex scrollwork but there are some right-angled mouldings in the Dapol railbus bits that might suit, and keep another tradition going...


Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Railcar Doodles

It's been a bit of a quiet spell at the workbench of late, but this week I have at least been thinking about doing something, which is a start. I was given a Kato 11-105 bogie chassis for my birthday back in February and have been trying to find a use for it, maybe something a bit novel (for me anyway)... so I started to think about railcars.

Now there aren't many small 15" gauge railcars about, I did consider a 'caricature' version of the Ratty's 'Silver Jubilee' in the style of David Malton's 3D printed 009 models but even that would be pushing it. Then I saw photos on Facebook* that reminded me of a very obscure 15" gauge machine, the Minirail railcar that appeared at the Axe & Lyme railway and went on to Dudley Zoo. These online photos, and one rediscovered in a copy of 'Narrow Gauge Times' that I bought during lockdown, gave enough clues to dimensions, plus I relied on the prior knowledge that most Minirail items are 3ft wide.

As one of my friends said, it does rather look like two 1950s caravans back-to-back! I did put together a drawing but it isn't quite right around the cab side windows and maybe needs a little more overall in length.

There is a minor drawback to this scheme that will only make sense if you see a photo of the real thing (and I cannot share one here for copyright reasons). The Minirail railcar was actually a 4w vehicle, and the Kato chassis has bogies. The wheelbase on the real thing must have been 6-7ft which is a bit longer to scale than the Kato 4w chassis, so the bogie chassis does make a little sense.

But my main issue was that having got over my curiosity about it I wasn't really that bothered about building it. So I started to look for other ideas. I remembered that I had a pair of damaged Avalon line bogie coach sides that Peter Leadley kindly passed on a while ago, so I started to look at what might be feasible with them. One side is complete but the other is quite damaged, however a neat little railcar could result, maybe a battery unit to excuse the lack of engine bay. As a further alternative I part-drew a slightly longer version based on an A1 models chassis frame I have, with a short snout of a bonnet. I am actually less enamoured by that version if I am honest.

Even if the railcar version never gets built I can see a mini coach being built based on that drawing...


*the photos are in the Narrow Gauge & Miniature Railways of the British Isles group - you may need to be a member to see them.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Skale Tree Surgery - Revisited

I've been tinkering with trees again, not the 'tree two' I referred to in a previous post but certainly a second tree. This was last seen back in April 2021 in Skale Tree Surgery, being a new generation Hornby Skale Scenics tree reworked with new foliage. At the time I was pleased with the outcome but after the success of the half-relief tree I decided to revisit it again as with hindsight it wasn't the result I wanted, now finding that it looked a bit too "straggly".

April 2021 - the first attempt at new foliage

So, I again stripped back the foliage (luckily stuck with water soluble PVA), and started again. I was going to use Woodland Scenics medium green foliage again, but feared my supply was low (I had to restock to complete this tree first time around). Whilst drifting to sleep one evening I remembered that I had an unopened pack of Skale Scenics foliage from the original range, on checking the following day I discovered it was R8833 light green, medium foliage fibre clusters. Having had reservations about using similar material on the half relief tree as it had looked bit too flat, on opening the pack these drifted away and I set to work. 

There are no progress photos, I just dug straight in and got on with it over a series of sessions, this is the result.

Having deployed many of the tricks used on the half-relief tree, such as layering material and stretching it further, I am much happier with the result over last years effort, the foliage is much fuller and has much better shape, even if the other side is definitely the back!

From the top I used a trick in Gordon Gravett's book, spreading a single, teased piece of foliage across all of the top level branches, and trimming it back prior to adding further layers.

I think it is likely that this tree will be retained for a future 4mm scale project rather than 7mm scale, but we shall see...  


Sunday, 24 April 2022

Finished Business - a 15" Workhorse

Last seen a month ago, things have moved on with my O9 4w internal combustion loco build with it emerging from the paintshop. I'd say resplendent but it is clearly a little way from it, being finished in a work-a-day style befitting of a little workhorse, even on 15" gauge.

The first step was a coat of grey primer, allowing identification and rectification of any issues. 

Once tidied the grey primer was overcoated with Halfords red primer as a basis for a red livery, the chosen colour being Citadel 'Mephiston Red' (lighter I believe than the old 'Scab Red'). It is unusual for me to brush paint a loco but on this occasion I gave it a try. Three even coats were required, with a day between coats to dry and very light use of dry 1500 wet and dry to remove any blips in the finish.

The buffer beams were originally going to be yellow with black chevrons, to the point of being white primed and sprayed yellow! But I realised as this may need to represent a machine being used in the 1960s such things had not really reached the minimum gauge at that time so after rubbing down red primer was applied and three coats of Vallejo red applied instead.

The underframe areas are finished in an off black, black mixed down with brown to make it less "black". I had originally used Vallejo black-grey in this area but it looked wrong, although this colour did form the basis of the cab roof.

The headlights were painted off the model and given a fill of Araldite after vanishing. The whole model was sprayed with Humbrol matt acrylic aerosol varnish, taking care to pick a good day weather wise over Easter and not to over-coat whilst wet, which inevitably leads to blooming in the finish. As well as adding headlights after varnishing, the air horn was also added, being pre-painted from a previous life on SMR no.3. The cab front windows were glazed with 20 thou material, held in place with Johnson's Kleer. This is a single piece of glazing so I resorted to using a window weathering colour on the inside of the cab to hide any reflections from it, carefully removing paint from he inside of the portal windows with a damp cotton bud.

Weathering relies on washes and dry-brushing. I'm still experimenting with Citadel 'Nuln Oil' as a wash, using it on the bonnet sides around the doors and louvres. Dry brushing included a lightened body colour on edges of the cab and bonnet and some muck etc around the running gear. The final job was to fit Microtrains couplers, and on finding no built 1015 examples in the box I assembled the last three sets in a pack to build up stock and fitted one set to the loco, blackening the screw head and exposed thread. The visible parts of the shiny coupler boxes benefit from a matt brown wash to tone them down.

With the driver installed, set in place with Tacky Wax, the loco is now complete and ready for running trials. I have not added any weight as yet as the new style Kato chassis is an unknown quantity for me.



Thursday, 21 April 2022

Tree One - Completed

The half relief tree, also known as 'Tree one' is now complete.

It was a surprise to find that I have used a whole packet of foliage on 1/2 a tree! Towards the end I was getting worried I'd run out as the edge of the foliage mat was quite thick, rubbery and unusable. However, I was able to get all the foliage in place, including additional layers where desired for both appearance and to cover any gaps

The whole tree was then given a waft of hairspray and the loose contents of the bottom of the packet of foliage were sparingly sieved over to add a final layer to the foliage. I was very careful here not to overdo it. A light coat of matt varnish was then used as extra security and to remove any hairspray shine from the trunk, branches and foliage.

I do rather like that gap through the leaves where the big branch is exposed. I may have to consider adding wildlife of some sort here, maybe a couple of birds or even a squirrel. By some unplanned act this same area is actually visible from above too.

One final addition was a run of ivy up the trunk, this uses MiniNature oak leaf foliage carefully PVA glued in place and then sprayed with matt varnish to kill any shine. I've tried to be economic with material as it isn't cheap, but also to not overdo it.

I'm rather pleased with it, I was asked by family how long it all took, and I have no idea, but somewhere between 10-20 hours would be right including the original frame creation last year. Unlike the original build that lived on a shelf in the workshop, the Mk2 version has been swiftly placed in an adapted box ready for future use.

As for 'Tree two', that may have to wait until the layout progresses and the foliage is restocked!


Saturday, 16 April 2022

Tree Painting and Foliage

I have now worked up the colouring of the tree from the base colour of the DAS and bark mix. Sorry there is no step-by-step pictures but the process was fairly simple:

  • Overall wash of Citadel 'Nuln Oil', with a spot of water added in places to help it spread out. This darkened the tree to a dark grey, and was left to dry overnight.
  • A misting of Humbrol dark brown (29) from an aerosol, this isn't that dark, but a misting adds a nice beige effect to the mix.
  • Dry brushing with a mix of Vallejo colours, notably grey-green, London grey and WW1 beige. This varied in different areas of the trunk and branches.
  • Stippling with a stiff brush and the colours above, especially on the smoother branches to give an effect of texture.
  • More stippling concentrating grey-green and additionally yellow and off-white into those areas that might have a high traffic of birdlife, creating the effect of moss and guano!

The next step was to start to think about adding foliage, where I felt that I would need to improve on the original to add more depth to it. The original had used Hornby Skale Scenics mid-green foliage and despite having removed this for reuse the stiffness it now has from hairspray meant that it would not be reusable on this tree. New material from the same pack  was used but having got around several of the lower branches I was not too happy with the result, feeling it looked too flat and matted. I ended up taking it back off again and having a rethink.

Posing some Woodland Scenics mid-green material on some of the branches this looked a lot better in terms of texture but was a lighter colour than I desired. I quickly ordered in some dark green material from Broughton Rail via eBay and applied this as a test over a few branches. I suppose in theory each branch should have it's own bit of foliage, some do, but others share with a neighbour depending on how the mood takes me. Material is teased out and trimmed of excess fibres before being glued into place with a run of PVA down the branch.

Working in short sessions the foliage has started to spread around the tree, by the close of play on Good Friday the lower branches of the tree all had cover. Taking a tip for a friend who has been making trees for the Railway Museum layout at York I have added extra layers of foliage in places which does accentuate the texture of the foliage.

A couple of further sessions saw the next layer of branches covered, working methodically around the tree to try and avoid any issues with not being able to access some areas once the foliage is in place in others, though being a half relief tree you can sometimes sneak in around the back!

With any luck the next time the tree appears here it should be all but completed.